Houses Hirelings And Holdings

As you may have noticed, some of the Dragonmark rules interact with hirelings and strongholds. While strongholds get some coverage in the DMG, hirelings get a price per day listing in the PHB and little to no guidance beyond that. This is a problem.

Suppose the party is going to fight a group of bandits. One of the players asks to recruit some hirelings to help fight them. They have 50 gold leftover from the last time loot was divided up, and now they want to hire 25 mercenaries for the battle. Suddenly there are an extra 25 NPC turns being taken each round of the fight, with 25 attacks and 25 movements needing to be resolved. Combats drag on and the players start wondering why they were needed in the first place, when the person sending them to defeat the bandits could have hired these mercenaries directly and skipped the middleman. Some DMs take this line of reasoning to the conclusion that players simply shouldn't be allowed to recruit mercenaries.

On the other hand: hirelings clearly exist in the setting, and it will often make perfect sense for a character to want to hire someone else to do some work on their behalf, whether that comes in the form of hiring a smith to forge you a sword or recruiting a mercenary to wield it on your behalf. Refusing to allow players access to the same economy that the NPCs interact with makes the DM seem tyrannical and the world scripted or gamey. This is true even if the players understand why they're not being allowed to recruit hirelings. Balancing these competing desires can be difficult, but we hope to present a solution here.

Our fix is to associate hirelings with strongholds: If you control a stronghold and regularly pay its maintenance costs, it attracts one untrained hireling for every 500 gold the stronghold originally cost to construct. You don't need to do anything in particular to recruit these hirelings. They represent ordinary, unskilled workers showing up at your stronghold and asking for work. You can fill out your entire allotment of untrained hirelings in one month, regardless of how large your stronghold is, as larger strongholds draw people in faster. These untrained hirelings may be upgraded to skilled hirelings over the course of 250 days per skill they are to learn, at a cost of 1 gold per day in training. A stronghold can support one skilled hireling per 1000 gold in construction cost, and this same process is used to replace any hirelings who die, retire or abandon you.

Any hirelings you attract beyond those required for maintenance costs can be assigned to projects as you see fit. For example: a Keep costs 50000 gold to construct and therefore can attract up to 100 untrained hirelings. It can support, but does not initially come with, 50 skilled hirelings. Finally, it requires 50 skilled and 50 unskilled hirelings for its maintenance. Thus, to build a new keep and get it to be self-sustaining, you'll need a land grant, 50000 gold for construction, 400 days for the construction to take place, 50 skilled hirelings loaned to you from elsewhere to oversee the construction, and, at minimum, a further 12500 gold and 250 days to train half the untrained hirelings you attract as staff and garrison. Once this process is completed, your keep will attract an extra 50 untrained hirelings in excess of those required for the stronghold's maintenance. These workers can be assigned to manual labour in and around your new keep as you see fit for as long as your continue to pay their wages.

If you don't own a stronghold, you may still be able to recruit hirelings. Rather than negotiate with individuals, you negotiate with the owner of a stronghold who has hirelings to spare. Unless a substantial reward is offered, or the owner of the stronghold has a duty to their title to support you, skilled soldiers will not be assigned directly to an adventuring party's command or send dungeon delving on adventurer's behalf. Besides the obvious ethical issues with sending their loyal servants to their deaths, replacing skilled hirelings is expensive and time consuming. Further, most stronghold owners will not send their hirelings more than a week's travel (200 miles) away from home, nor onto the property of another stronghold owner without first obtaining permission from either the Crown or the owner of the lands they wish to enter.

On a more Eberron-specific note, these same rules apply to the Dragonmarked Houses, with one major exception: Under the Korth Accords, Dragonmarked Houses cannot legally own the title to lands. They instead lease their strongholds from the Crown for 10% of the stronghold value per month on top of the maintenance fees for the staff and garrison. These rates date back to the original establishment of the Kingdom of Galifar, and, though extremely costly to the Houses in the long run, have remained constant over the centuries. That isn't to say that the Houses are happy this this arrangement - all of the Dragonmarked Houses who are able to do so practically (Tharashk, Vadalis, Cannith, Ghallanda, Orien, Phiarlan, Thuranni and Lyrandar) have established permanent strongholds outside of the jurisdiction of the Korth Accords or otherwise circumvented some part of their payments - merely that the Twelve have yet to unite themselves long enough to renegotiate their terms with the newly splintered Galifarian successor states. Such negotiations could easily form the basis for an entire campaign.

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