So You Want to Buy a Person? Old School Musings on Retainers

Retainers are a core part of the old school D&D experience. Specifically here as in all posts on this blog I’ll be focusing on the basic and expert system, and specifically the OSE expansion to this system.

There are a number of rules I use to help make buying retainers go quickly. I use a fair bit of homebrew glue to run the kind of style of game I’m looking for, and hopefully this blog can provide an explenation for my reasonings.

Lets start with the contract.

The adventuring party promises to pay this individual an amount equal to the total XP to increase them from their current level to the next level, of their class, divided by one thousand, plus a half share of the loot.

The party is therefore expected to provide an estimate for the duration of the quest beforehand, a full briefing on what the quest entails, and pre-payment for this estimate.

The Free Labour Union of Adventuring Assistants

It is of course, possible to offer above market rates for a +2 chance to have the retainer accept the contract, or beneath market rates for a -2 chance to have the retainer accept the contract. To generate what would be fairly considered above or beneath market rates, half or add one half to the total amount expected, and round it to the closest convenient value.

For maximum level retainers, just double their previous pay grade, but really they ought to be adventueres rather than retainers by that point.

This gives the following rough numbers.

LvlClericDwarfElfFighter
Halfling
M-UThief
11.5gp2.2gp4gp2gp2.5gp1.2gp
21.5gp2.2gp4gp2gp2.5gp1.2gp
33gp4.4gp8gp4gp5gp2.4gp
46gp8.2gp16gp8gp10gp4.8gp
513gp18gp32gp16gp20gp10.4gp
625gp35gp56gp32gp40gp20gp
750gp70gp130gp56gp70gp40gp
8100gp130gp150gp120gp150gp80gp
9100gp130gp200gp120gp150gp120gp
10100gp130gp800gp120gp150gp120gp
11100gp130gp120gp150gp120gp
12100gp260gp120gp150gp120gp
13100gp120gp150gp120gp
14200gp240gp300gp240gp

The logic behind this, is that a retainer who received no share of loot (which they consider unlikely) would like to level up over the course of a three year adventuring career, essentially for doing nothing more than would be expected of a normal human (carrying torches, looking after mules).

This does mean, like XP, that the cost of a retainer eventually stagnates. This is why it’s worth restricting retainer availability with a system like this. Yes they can hire a level 13 thief for the same cost as a level 9 thief, but only if they themselves are level 13, and have found a level 13 thief retainer willing to work for them.

You’ll be able to read more about my retainer attraction rules for an explorative fantasy game more on this blog when I finally get around to writing them up.

Oh, as a quick final note, if players want to hire a single day service with no chance of a share of the treasure, divide their XP cost by 50 instead of by 1000 to generate how much gold they want. You’ve found a level 6 cleric who can cast remove curse on you, but they want a 500 gold (25000/50) donation to their temple in exchange.

These numbers are all subject to change as I play around with them, but as of the date of publication these are the numbers I’m using.