Posted On March 15, 2023
Last time we looked at how to build a great big, whopping mercenary army for your D&D fighting-man. Spoilers: it was expensive.
Today, let’s look at things from the perspective of a freshly-minted 1st level fighter. This is the kind of guy who did a tour in the soup, cashed out his pay, and is ready to strike out for fortune on his own. Instead of buying a Company ex-nihilo later, he is looking to build one from the ground up, right now.
Our fighting man starts with up to 200gp, but let’s use the average roll of 120gp for our budget. We could spend 75gp on chain mail, but what if we saved 70gp by purchasing leather armor instead, and spent the savings renting some friends?
For the low cost of 20gp per month, he can hire the services of ten heavy foot. Normally, these ten randos would require the shouting and shoving of a 1st-level sergeant to stay pointed in the right direction, but we already have a 1st-level fighter – our character!
Unfortunately, this only includes salary and room and board. If we want to equip these guys, we’ll need to buy arms and armor. It costs 6gp for leather armor and a spear. That breaks our budget as the first month’s payroll and gear sets us back 80gp and we only have 70gp to spend. We also might not score that first haul 8n the first month (remember the weekly delve rate), and we might need to hire some replacements over time.
So let’s just start with five employees, and use some of the cost savings to buy them a shield, too. That’s going to cost us 35gp for startup costs, which leaves us with enough cash on hand to rent their sword arms for three full months with 5gp left over.
What a bargain!
Particularly given what you get in return. You traded out a two-point hit to your AC, and in exchange you got five extra attacks per round of combat. You bought five more sacks of hit-points. You have five frens to watch your back.
Now that’s what I call a deal!
And here’s where Gygax’s genius really begins to shine. You know how starting with a town and dungeon and allowing the world to grow from there helps ease everybody into the broader campaign? This process allows you to organically grow your domain as your character rises to Name Level.
With a starting squad of just five hirelings, you can easily track who they are and what they carry. Using the XP rules, and giving these guys some bonus cash over time, you have a ready-made pool of talent from which to draw your own sergeants. You should hit 2nd level before they hit 1st, and when they do – if you are smart and lucky – they’ll hit first-level just about the time you have the cash to hire and equip another ten guys. Appoint a couple of the first hires as sergeants, and you can command them as a lieutenant. Now, it may be that sergeants acting in this capacity cannot gain XP – which implies they can never become 2nd-level Fighting Men capable of serving as LTs – but there are ways around this. Send them out on a few non-command missions here and there, and the ones that prove their mettle will earn their way into command.
Over time, you can grow your army organically. Eventually, the number of men will exceed your ability to know them all, just as in the real world. But doing things this way means that instead of a faceless army, you’ll at least have a faceless horde of soldiers led by named men whom you know and trust – men with whom you came up through the ranks. Men with some personality developed through play.
As your mercenary company grows, your concerns will move from the everyday concerns of a sergeant, to the broader view of a captain commanding scores of men. Eventually, you’ll grow your bank account and concerns to the point that you’ll have to hire Captains of Men to lead multiple Companies. Luckily, Gary has rules for that.
He also eventually gets tired of waiting for you to do this on your own:
A lot of people wrongly think that this process starts at Name Level. Au contraire, mon frere! This table is triggered by achieving 9th-level, but your fighting-man doesn’t need to wait that long. That he gains bonus troops attracted to him by reputation in no way prohibits a fighting-man from being pro-active and pursuing troops on his own time and his own dime. In fact, given that he wants to maintain a freehold, he should really start thinking about, planning for, and building, his army from Day One.
You know, like he talked about on Day One?
Don’t wait for the good stuff, guys. Get after it!