Warrior for Hire by J. Eric Holmes

     This short article (1 page) appeared in the APAzine ALARUMS & EXCURSIONS, Issue #11, May 1976. It is the earliest known article that Dr. Holmes wrote for D&D, and appeared more than a year prior to the release of the Holmes Basic set (~mid-77).

      Thus, the rule variant described in the article was written for OD&D, but is easily applied to Holmes Basic, which has nearly identical rules for non-player characters (Holmes edited the original Basic rulebook from the OD&D rules, using mostly the LBBs and Greyhawk).

     Holmes tells the reader that “you have outfitted your expedition for the dungeons of Greyhead Tower" but that your unbalanced party would “feel a lot safer with a few fighting men along” and that "advertising takes time and money, though, and you have little of either". This refers to the rules in Men & Magic, page 12, describing hiring of non-player characters. The reference to the "Greyhead Tower" dungeons brings to mind the Blue Book Sample Dungeon describing the dungeons of the ruined tower of the wizard Zenopus.

     Holmes describes a building in town with a banner reading “Expeditions Unlimited: Hire a Warrior!” run by Ajax, a “big heavy set fellow” and “veteran of the dungeons” who “has a patch over one eye and is missing several fingers of his left hand”. Ajax guarantees that all of his 1st level fighters are lawful, 15+ strong, and fully equipped with chainmail, a helmet, shield and sword and that the terms are “full shares in any treasure, ‘stead of your usual hireling half shares”. I haven't found any specific OD&D references to half shares for hirelings. Men & Magic states that a minimum of 100 gp is necessary to tempt a human into service, although it’s unclear whether this is money given prior to the expedition or a share of the treasure. Greyhawk clarifies that hirelings gain only 50% experience but that any skimping on treasure will affect loyalty, implying they should get a full share of treasure (page 13,
"Awarding Experience to Non-Player Characters").

     Holmes describes the rules for generating Ajax’s fighters: "In practice, what I do is roll 3 D6 until I get a 15 or better. Those are Ajax's tryouts; those who don't measure up are turned away. Once a strength of 15-18 is rolled, then I roll the rest of the character's traits in the usual way, adjusting his strength if possible. Ajax usually has a stable of six trained fighters. Originally they were all from the local area, youths seeking fortune and adventure. Recently there has been an influx of Viking barbarians, big blonde fighters from the north. Casualties run high. Rarely does a fighter reach second level, since he accumulates experience points at half rate". The strength adjustment refers to the rules in Men & Magic, pages 10-11, where fighters can increase their strength by 1 for each reduction of intelligence by 2 or wisdom by 3, with 9 being the minimum any score can be reduced to.

     Ajax and his “Warriors-for-Hire” later reappeared in Holmes’ novel “The Maze of Peril” (1986). Boinger and Zereth hire two of his employees, Haldor and Olaf, who is described as a big blonde man – obviously one of the Viking barbarians. Olaf tells the party “We Warriors-for-Hire accept burial on the field of battle as part of the risks of the game” and that Ajax “loves us all as sons, of which he has none, and he begrudges each as dies, though die we do in this business”.

(This review originally posted on Dragonsfoot)