One of my PCs for Lost Mine of Phandelver wants to hire help to kill the dragon. Is this cheapening the fight?

The group hired two guards to help kill the nothic. I want to know if they should be able to just get help if they are scared about fighting the dragon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What level is your party, and how many players do you have? \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2018 at 22:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ all level 3, its a party of 5 \$\endgroup\$ May 9, 2018 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking about the rules as written in general, the rules for that specific adventure, or just how individual DMs have ruled similar things themselves? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 10, 2018 at 2:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also, somewhat related: Is Lost Mines of Phandelver's Young Green Dragon too much for a group of level 3 characters? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 10, 2018 at 2:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "cheapening the fight"? Do you mean XP, players' satisfaction or what? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    May 10, 2018 at 17:30

7 Answers 7


Given how dangerous a young dragon's breath attack can be to low level players, I think you should let them do it.

If anything having a couple of cannon fodder NPCs can help liven up the experience should they get blown away.

Make sure they require a considerable sum of money to be hired for such a dangerous task. If they survive, then they might covet some of the items in Venomfang's lair, which could create some strife within the party as well.

In D&D you should let your players take whatever approach they want, you just need to make sure there are trade-offs to doing so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Great last sentence \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    May 10, 2018 at 6:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, see the rules on hirelings in pretty much every edition of D&D from 3rd on back to OD&D for background on this concept. I'm not familiar enough with 4th or 5th to recall offhand if there are hireling rules in them. \$\endgroup\$
    – nijineko
    May 10, 2018 at 12:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, you should make sure to make your players pay (at least partially) up front so they can't get away with not paying by letting the NPCs die. \$\endgroup\$
    – divibisan
    May 11, 2018 at 17:15

Per the SRD,

Adventurers can pay nonplayer characters to assist them or act on their behalf in a variety of circumstances. Most such hirelings have fairly ordinary skills, while others are masters of a craft or art, and a few are experts with specialized adventuring skills.

So there is nothing stopping PCs from hiring NPCs to help with the battle. Just make sure they understand that the NPCs will take a portion of the XP; so instead of dividing among the 5, you're dividing by 7. And they'll want to be paid in advance, or get a hefty portion of the dragon horde.


Let me introduce you to a hireling by the name of bromwyn*.

The adventures decided to hire some help to hunt down the fierce dragon, but none of the mercenaries wanted to. They feared that they would be used as dragon bait -- all save bromwyn, a kid from the slums of Metrocity* who had left the big city to escape prejudice and make a new life for herself.

Many days down the road bromwyn volunteers to take the midnight watch and disappears along with the adventurers horses and gold (side plot hook, to catch a thief)

Be creative. Give your hirelings personalities, give them life! Maybe they are cowardly so run away when they see the dragon. Maybe they are secretly thieves, who rob the adventures blind in the middle of the night. Maybe one of the people they hire is the dragon (who enjoys playing with his food before eating it)

Have fun with your hired NPCs. Make it a role playing opportunity, for both you and your party.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "one of the people they hire is the dragon". I'm so going to steal that one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    May 10, 2018 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erik I once played a game where the guy who hired us to kill the dragon was the dragon. I can only assume he didn't care for hunting so he decided to order carry out. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ray
    May 10, 2018 at 23:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ "The Usual Suspects"? \$\endgroup\$
    – smci
    May 11, 2018 at 7:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ The thing I like about this side plot hook is that it theoretically is a "mandatory" quest (they need to get their gear back before facing a dragon!), and the XP and loot gained doing so might be just enough to give them the edge they need to tackle the dragon without a hireling... \$\endgroup\$
    – Doktor J
    May 11, 2018 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ My DM has a wonderful story along these lines. He was invited to play an NPC for the final session of a different campaign as the players confronted a dragon. He introduced himself as the dragon's servant, who was looking for a way to overthrow his master. He asked to see the one weapon the players had that could kill the dragon, and the players decided to hand it over. He casually snapped it in two, transformed into his true form, and gave them one hell of a final boss battle. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kevin
    May 11, 2018 at 20:42

Of course you should let them do that! If they have the money to hire an army of crossbowmen to go kill the dragon, what's wrong with using it? What's the argument against? It doesn't cheapen the fight, it means they are so friggin scared of this dragon that they want to take no chances!

If your worry is that you don't want the dragon to DIE without presenting a greater real-world-time effort on the part of your players, why can't it just leave with as much of its loot as it can carry when it sees a column of mercenaries approaching its lair?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Alternately....fight like a friggin dragon. Dive bomb, Poison Breath the column, fly out of range until its breath weapon recharges. See how long those crossbowmen's morale holds up. \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2018 at 3:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah sure, that too. There's no reason for a dragon to just sit in melee or crossbow range and let you hit them while its most powerful attack is recharging. And this is where the DM can require more work / ingenuity on the part of the players! If the players are clever, they can train the mercenaries to stay spread out so they aren't vulnerable to the breath attack. If they just walk in there in a column, they'll get demolished. Although I think that particular dragon's statblock is sufficiently meagre that a volley or two would do major damage. \$\endgroup\$
    – K. M
    May 10, 2018 at 17:07

It is cheapening the fight

Even if the game allows it RAW, as Mr. Ouimet said:

Adventurers can pay nonplayer characters to assist them or act on their behalf in a variety of circumstances. Most such hirelings have fairly ordinary skills, while others are masters of a craft or art, and a few are experts with specialized adventuring skills.

Moreover, according to the SRD:

Trained Hirelings
The amount shown is the typical daily wage for mercenary warriors, masons, craftsmen, cooks, scribes, teamsters, and other trained hirelings. This value represents a minimum wage; many such hirelings require significantly higher pay. Typical equipment for a guard or mercenary warrior is studded leather armor and a club, shortsword, or shortspear. Most guards are off-duty soldiers or city watchmen, though some are unskilled laborers with a talent for fighting.

And this value is shown:

Hireling, trained 3 sp / day

Attacking a dragon, for these hirelings, amounts to suicide.

With respect for the contrary opinion, attacking a dragon is a heroic act that can only be done with PC classes or by some high power creature.
I would not allow my players to do it.
It would set an unfortunate precedent.
They should do some side questing, buy specialized equipment and gather information instead of just teaming up with another PC class NPC group.

Moreover, if the NPC dies, your PCs will probably be able to take their equipment, and get even more value out of the fight. IF you play with RAW, you will have to follow the Damaging Objects rules of the SRD, in order to know if they are destroyed by the fight. If you do it this fight and not every fight, it will seem inconsistent rule handling.

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    \$\begingroup\$ By the general rules, equipment from fallen creatures isn't worth any gp. This should probably also apply to items that remain after NPCs have just been charred/dissolved/electrocuted by a dragon. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    May 10, 2018 at 5:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I upvoted this one because while hiring guards is one thing, hiring people capable of dragon slaying is another. In LMoP the idea is that even the 4 PC's are unlikely to be able to slay the dragon, a few commoners with sticks are unlikely to even be willing to try. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    May 10, 2018 at 6:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, getting one or two idiots may work. But a larger force - the PC's are not lords of the land so they lack the legal backing to "force" their soliders to fight. Guardsmen are not dragon hunters. What one needs here are overconfident Psyhcopathic killer Characters. note the spellin - abbreviation for those is PC ;) I generally am in favoug of chracters using money to hire help - but this is an extreme edge case. Most people will look at them like "You crazy? whow" and then walk away, regardless how much money is offered. \$\endgroup\$
    – TomTom
    May 10, 2018 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your last paragraph is both erroneous and a least partly wrong (per @Erik 's comment) It is based on a number of assumptions that are not necessarily true. Removing that paragraph does no harm to, and would in fact improve, your answer. \$\endgroup\$ May 10, 2018 at 16:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ KorvinStarmast, This seems unsupported my any RAW. I modified it. \$\endgroup\$ May 11, 2018 at 7:39

I'm thinking you let them do it. You have a couple choices here:

  • Make the combat more meaty by throwing in some minions for the dragon, or
  • Make the guards treasure-happy. Perhaps after the dragon encounter the guards turn on them?, or
  • Have the guards turn tail at the first sight of the dragon. They thought they were brave enough to face it down, but turns out they weren't.

In each of these options, you gave the players exactly what they wanted (though the last is a tad cheesy), while getting the results you want.

Additional Thoughts:

You've stumbled into the DM's dilemma. While it's your world, they are the players. They have ultimate control, and it's your job to accomodate their fun. You want to make sure you have fun in the process, but you don't want to impede them unnecessarily.


You should absolutely let the players hire help, but play it as part of the adventure, i.e. it doesn't have to work out the way that they intend it to. The hired NPC(s) will have his own motivations and aims which could conflict with those of the players and add spice to the adventure. Maybe he lied about his credentials and is not the level/alignment/class claimed. Maybe he bails on the players, or even betrays them, at a critical juncture. Maybe he's a coward, a slacker, a poor decision-maker, or a thief (not the class, just someone who steals from the players). There are a lot of options here besides just providing the players some mindless meat shields, and you could really enliven your game if you do it right.

It's also worth keeping in mind that, within the world of the game, there might not be any obvious distinction between the players and the NPC. From the NPC's perspective, he has joined this group as an equal member not cannon fodder. Even if he's upright and honest, he's probably gonna want an equal share of loot and perhaps and equal say on strategy and group decisions. After all, he is risking his life, too. This provides additional role-playing opportunities.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just so you know, you don't need to specially mark up edits in your answer; the revision history of your post is visible to anyone who's curious (by clicking on the "edited X Ys ago" link at the bottom of the post) and answers read better if they're not broken up in that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – Carcer
    May 12, 2018 at 14:35

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