Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hirelings in D&D 5e According to the DMG

Last night I was contemplating the uselessness of the hireling in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. In this Edition, more so than in any previous edition, they're the faceless drones of our fantasy worlds carrying out the mundane tasks that our players find too trivial to do themselves. The Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) even goes so far as to describe them in the following way:

". . . Hireling NPCs rarely become important in an adventure, and most require little development. When adventurers hire a coach to carry them across town or need a letter delivered the driver or messenger is a hireling, and the adventures might never even converse with that NPC or learn his or her name. A ship captain carrying the adventures across the sea is also a hireling, but such a character has the potential to turn into an ally, a patron, or even an enemy as the adventure unfolds . . . (94)

Essentially what the DMG is arguing is that your average hireling, much like you average person behind the counter of a fast food restaurant, is a vapid memory that barely registers for your players. They are a means to an end and their fictional lives have no meaningful impact on your players. So what benefit is there to using a hireling in your game? A sense of the world's lack of technology? Tradition? Because you think your game should have them? 

Works Cited
Mearls, Mike and Jeremy Crawford. Dungeon Master's Guide Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast, USA. 2014. PRINT


  1. I don't know about you, but in my games (basic D&D) they usualy have a name and a small backstory (it could be only a reference of the number of siblings) and are almost everytime turned into hero if some character dies during an expedition (Just roll the attributes and be fine with the equipament it inherited) .

  2. Same as above. I hate the faceless Hireling trope.
    Several hireling have gone on to be important parts of our games over the years. In fact I can bet at least one to two of our current D&D 5th Ed party would be dead right now if not for the quick actions of their hireling boat crew.

  3. I'm with these two, above.
    5e weirdness; sad.

  4. These are clearly not the hirelings of old; they are not intended to go into the dungeon with your characters. They exist to bleed money from the PCs and yes, totally, do the things the PCs don't want to take time to do themselves. In Cook's Expert book, they were called specialists and mercenaries, and specifically would not go into the dungeon with the PCs.

    Need a coach to take you to the Duke's ball? Need someone to tend your house while you're away on adventures? Need a gardener to trim the verge? 5e calls these folks hirelings.

    Need someone to hold your torch or carry the loot in the dungeon? Sorry, 5e adventurers, you're SOL. ;p


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