Henchmen in 4E

Those familiar with the Dungeon Master Guide 2 will recall the addition of companion characters to the game. At first glance, these match up with the character type of the same name in the Character Progression post. Indeed, if you’re just looking to fill out the party, they work fine.

However, companion character in the DMG are meant to act as secondary characters. As such, they’re not set up or intended to develop into full characters. In this post I’ll look at adding a similar character type that fills the same position with the option to expand into a full PC.

Note: Given that “companion” is already in use for a different function, I’m changing the character progression to hireling -> henchmen -> hero.

Creating Henchmen

Henchmen can be built using a variant of normal character creation rules. The main differences are that henchmen creation uses certain shortcuts to make things go faster and trim down the feature set. Some of these shortcuts parallel the NPC creation rules in the DMG.

Race: You may actually be able to skip this step when creating the henchman. While this can make them harder to describe, it does let the player set the race during play.

Ability Scores: Use an array to set ability scores. Point buy is possible, but is somewhat slower and generally not worth it during initial henchman creation.

Skills: Henchmen start with only 2 trained skills.

Features: During henchman creation, you can choose to put some class features on hold. This should not be used on the class’s role defining features, but can work well for minor or supporting features.

Powers: As with NPCs, henchmen start with each of at-will, encounter, and daily attack powers. Henchmen can also start with a utility power if any are available. For paragon tier henchmen, add a second utility and encounter attack power. For epic henchmen, add a third utility and second daily attack power.

Feats: If there are any feats that are crucial to the character concept, add those first. Ideally, there should only be one or two of these. Once those are added, the henchman should gain an Expertise feat, the Improved Defenses feat, and a Weapon/Implement Focus feat in roughly that order.

Equipment: Give the henchmen any equipment they need, up to the wealth limits for their level. For level 1 henchmen, assume that’s 100 gp. For higher level henchmen, use the cost of a magic item one less than their level. For 5th level henchmen, assume their armor, weapons, and neck slot items are generic +1 magic items. For every 5 levels past that, increase those items enhancement bonuses by 1.

Promoting Henchmen

At any point, any details with minimal mechanical effects can be added. This includes things like the character’s name, appearance, personality, or mannerisms. If race has not been set, that can be added at any point as well.

At the end of a encounter, challenge, or scene, a henchman can gain one of the following. The henchman must be participating in the event to gain these perks.

  • Ability Scores: Readjust the character’s ability scores as desired using the standard methods (point bug, array, or rolling). This perk can only be used once.
  • Skill Training: If the henchman is below the number of skills allow for a full member of their class, they can gain training in a new skill now.
  • Class Training: Use this perk to enable any class feature that were put on hold for this henchman. If multiple forms of a given feature are available, the henchman’s owner can pick which on they get.
  • Power Training: Add one power that a full member of the class would normally have access to.
  • Feat Training: If the character still has feat slots available, they can fill one now. Alternately, they can retrain any feat they have. Each feat can only be retrained once this way.
  • Item Reveal: The character can gain a new item or upgrade an item in their possession. For first level characters, the total value of their items is capped at 100 gp. For higher level character, this cap raises to that of a magic item of their level minus 1. They can also gain one item at their level, one item of their level minus one, and one item one higher than their level. Essentially once all picks have been made, the character should be equipped as well as full character of their level.

Reusing Henchmen

Henchmen are meant to start of as generic and replaceable party members. As such, you may want to create a number of henchmen “builds” which can be used as the basis for creating more henchmen on the fly.

Next time I’ll take a quick look at adding hirelings to 4E. If anyone would like a similar treatment for other editions, let me know.

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Published in: on December 3, 2010 at 12:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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