So, I was reading a great article over at Dungeon’s Master about adding Henchmen to your 4E game, and I was reminded of a game I played in a while back… Our PCs had gathered henchmen followers and used them to help us in a large battle – not a “thousands of soldiers endlessly hacking away at each other,” but a “these prisoners are asking for our help to escape, but we’re going to need them to fight alongside us” kind of fight.
It was great! Each of the PCs had about eight or nine NPCs, so the DM made up some quick and dirty rules.
- All attacks and maneuvers were done on the PC’s turn, and in fact none of the NPCs got any actions or had any turns; they simply enhanced the PC and his actions.
- A PC that had NPCs assisting him got a combat bonus. This bonus was added to a PC’s:
- defenses (not applicable to area and burst attacks)
- In order for a PC to gain this combat bonus, his NPC group had to stay in a collective group (two NPCs to a square, adjacent to the PC).
- The combat bonus was determined by the number of NPCs in the PC’s group:
- 1-2 NPCs = +1 combat bonus
- 3-5 NPCs = +2 combat bonus
- 6-8 NPCs = +3 combat bonus
- 9+ NPCs = +4 combat bonus
- When a PC was successfull attacked, the attacked player had the option to apply the effect/damage to his character directly, OR he could eliminate one NPC from his group.
- NPCs could be targeted by enemies, they simply got the PC’s defense bonus. On a hit, they were liminated (though they wre rarely targeted).
- We didn’t worry about what NPC’s could actually do to help the PCs (such as a group of non-magic users helping a wizard); we just assumed that the NPCs were doing what they could – hitting, distracting, etc.
Combat flowed very well because none of the NPCs got actions of their own; they simply augmented the player characters. It was pretty cool, and worked out well. The main focus was that this system needed to be functional and VERY easy to implement. Also, you don’t even need to make any changes because of who the henchmen are (sure, you could increase the combat bonus by +1 if the henchmen were highly-trained soldiers, but that should be it).
One thing to note: some players tried to apply most of the damage to their characters, thus “saving” the NPCs from getting killed (our Paladin made a valiant effort at this), whereas our rogue arbitrarily used NPCs as meat-shields. It was both dynamic and pretty awesome.
For some quick down-and-dirty henchmen combat rules, these just work great.