Friday, March 22, 2013

The Henchmen -- a campaign idea

Since Jason Packer posted an interesting idea for a fantasy setting the other day, and Douglas Cole has been embellishing on it, I thought it would be an opportune time to post a campaign idea I had.

Name: The Henchmen

Genre: Dungeon Fantasy

The Setting: Any Dungeon Fantasy world, or any setting that enables dungeon crawling at all

The Team: Sure, adventurers get all the credit, but they didn't loot that dungeon alone, did they? Did they carry all their own provisions? Polish all their own armor? Bandage all their own wounds? Of course not! You did. You are a henchman in the employ of the Heroic League of Mylenbrak, a legendary band of dungeon-delvers. You are perhaps a guard, a clerk, a cook, an acolyte, or even a mere torch-bearer. Where they go, you go -- but at a safe distance from the fire-breathing dragons and flesh-rending demons, of course.

The Mission: While the heroes enter the mysterious cave, you are supposed to stay behind and guard the horses. Oh, no, goblin attack! All right, this chamber has been cleared -- search for secret doors while we scout down the hallway. Oops, someone hit a switch and the door opened, revealing that thing, whatever it is. We're running low on healing herbs -- go foraging for some in that valley. Hey, nobody said there would be fairies here! Here, carry this magical figurine until we figure out what it does. What is this strange new voice in my head? Stay here while we scout out the lower level. It's been three days. Should we go and look for them?

The important thing here, since the adventurers are literally an entire party of GMPCs, is to keep them off-stage as much as possible and concentrate the game on what happens when the henchmen are left alone. Don't game out the climactic fight with the demi-lich, just say, "The heroes have gone down the stairs to the crypt. Now, while they're doing that, you're safe back here in the antechamber. But suddenly, the frescoes on the walls begin to move...." The NPCs are just there to serve up plots and then leave the PCs alone.

For a GURPS campaign, Dungeon Fantasy 15: Henchmen is an ideal source of character templates. I'd start the PCs at 125 points, because I think 62 points is just too low. Played straight, the PCs could gain experience and eventually become full-fledged adventurers heading up their own parties. The players would have the advantage of getting to know how the GM's world works before they have to set out on their own, so it might be less lethal than most DF games. Played for laughs, Nodwick style, the PCs become mightily competent henchmen as they gain experience, but they always remain henchmen.

I think the big trouble would be coming up with a gaming group who want to play, or at least start as, low-powered peons in a world of high heroic adventure. I already run a fantasy game in which the PCs started at 130 points and are working their way up in the world, so I don't think it would interest my group. Sigh. Another campaign I'll probably never get to run.


  1. Yeah, you need people who enjoy milking their Broadsword-11 as much as can be. I'm this kind of guy, I like steep learning curves.

    1. And, especially in a game played for laughs, players who don't mind taking the -2 to their axe/mace skill for using a cast-iron skillet to clobber a marauding kobold.

  2. I love that idea ... being a squire of a famous Knight, apprentice of renowned Scholar Wizard, "the guy with the drum" behind a well known Bard ... c'mon this would be nothing but fun ... I m in in case this happens.

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  4. I would totally play this. All this success wears. Maybe I should do more talking/non combat stuff.

    Like chasing young girls!