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The game system is 4E. I am trying to get away from awarding just magic weapon here and there. Having the characters earn favors from NPCs is a pretty tried and true way to give value and move the story forward. One thought I had was to award a bodyguard, basically a Companion character.

Basically the character has proved his worth to his boss and the boss wants to give him a promotion, which includes his very own half-giant bodyguard. However, I do not want to mess up the game or overly complicate the flow, so I was thinking of using the Companion character sheet and keeping the bodyguard at 1/2 the player character's level.

Is a companion bodyguard worth . . . what? An above level uncommon magic item? I want to be fair, but I also want to spice it up.

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As per Schwalb's article Henchmen and Hirelings, there exist level appropriate henchmen at every level. They are, effectively, minions and priced like consumables of their level. Given that they die in one hit, that's about the right pricing model. A useful houserule could be that they are rendered unconscious in one hit, rather than diedie, and should probably price them as normal magical items of the appropriate level.

I recommend the use of hirelings in moderation. While they are excellent RP material, only players comfortable with tracking multiple locations on the board should engage with them: They are less work than an equivalent animal companion, but the necessity of tracking opportunity attacks and other out of turn attacks can be tricky. On the other hand, given that they get a free move and standard every turn, they can be a quite significant ablative meat layer that provides better "reward" than a level appropriate sword. Hirelings expected to take additional risk are valued at 2x or 3x the cost of a potion. (Don't think about this too hard in terms of "real" economics. Just.. )

In response to the tracking issue, given that hirelings act after the character's initiative count, have very simple powers, and 1 HP, they do not add much bookkeeping to the game for an experienced player.

Henchmen, on the other hand, use DMG 2 rules and are statted up as not quite full characters. I'm not entirely certain they're worth giving as a reward. They feel like they're more useful as cardboard cutouts replacing absent characters: they have a persistent presence at the table. If you're giving hirelings as a reward, use the item price (not potion) price, and make sure they can get back up after the battle's over. It's the GM's job to roleplay them outside of combat, and (if done well) they can take parts not dissimiliar to NPCs in KOTOR (the computer game) where they generally contribute to combat in a "yeah, sure" kind of way, but have lovely characterization. You may also want to adapt the artefact subsystem and give them additional abilities depending on how much they like the characters.

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I think an easy way to figure out a character's "worth" is to use the total experience the character has. In this instance I think I would just take what the character's experience is and equate that to how much gold the character is worth, then add the value of the items he's carrying.

So a lvl 2 character would be worth roughly 2k gold (1k exp + gold depending on their items).

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I understand the desire to keep things a bit different but I would suggest against it. Our own group tried this concept for a particular section of a campaign a few years back. Now we did it as separate character sheets, though simplified., but what we found was that it really didn't work.

For one, it became too much for the players to essentially keep track of two characters all the time. "What's X doing?" "Who? Oh, yea" was heard early frequently for the the first few months. When battles came, some of the henchmen would engage and have to be tracked and others kept out. Those that participated in battle would therefore then get part of the treasure and XP that was awarded, assuming they survived. As a result some would advance in levels while others did not. The occasional one would die and have to be raised like a "full" party member.

And for those henchmen that didn't participate in combat, the feeling quickly became one of "Why did we bother to bring them along?"

And that pretty much brought it to the central issue: Are they additional PCs or are they gear like your backpack? We couldn't see any reasonable way to have it both ways. If they were characters, then our party size doubled and XP/treasure was therefore halved for everyone. If they were gear, then it's just one more thing to keep track of that provides little use. Even worse that you would have to occasionally roleplay your gear in that case, which you wouldn't have to do with your sword or you belt.

So, while I respect your desire to be a bit creative, as a PC I would rather have a useful magic item and as a DM I would rather not have to keep track of more characters than I would normally.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ No offense, but it sounds like the reason it didn't work is because you were not following the rules properly. A companion or hireling or henchman, has the same moves as the regular player. Meaning, if you want to have the bodyguard go to the front line, it cost's the player his own move action to order the bodyguard to do so. Otherwise the bodyguard should be played as an NPC and controlled by the DM with input from the players. (these rules are explained with the druid build in the Heroes of X book) \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Sep 14 '11 at 8:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ in 4E yes, but we were playing 3.5. But either way, the point was that it adds unnecessary complexity that can often detract from the enjoyment. \$\endgroup\$
    – BBlake
    Sep 14 '11 at 12:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ What I think is nice about the 4e rules, is that it doesn't detract. It's just another skill/token a player has the option of having. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Sep 14 '11 at 14:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would make that clear in your answer, since the question is a 4e question. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMNoob
    Sep 14 '11 at 17:50

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