Play the Domain Game at low levels too!

This is a post I originally published on January, 15th 2023. My original post was written in german. But since I figured it might be of interest to english readers as well, here’s a translation:

Back the other day, over on our Discord server, I was babbeling about hirelings and followers, and how to level up faster…

Before we start, we should be aware of the the difference between hirelings and followers:

Hirelings: they cost wages and money for equipment and upkeep. They get no XP and no levels, but their number limited only by cost(!). A low-level player character could bring 20 Hirelings as long as he/she can afford it.

But, wait a minute, wouldn’t 20 Hirelings be something like a 20 Hit Dice monster with 20 attacks per turn? πŸ™€

Followers: they also want equipment, but expect shares of treasure as their pay. And they get XP and levels. Their number is limited by Charisma.

You need both, I think: the hirelings to ambush the big monsters at a low level. So more gold, more XP, faster leveling up for the main character. You need followers to build backup characters and stronger teams for the even bigger monsters. For example, how about a level 3 mage with two level 2 warriors, a thief and 20 hirelings?

Example of 20 hirelings being hired as combatants:

I calculated the upcoming numbers using my new Swords & Wizardry rulebook … this is significant, because a german translation of S&W was published recently, makeing an early TSR-era, D&D compatible rules set available in german again for the first time since the mid 80s


20 x ringmail 600 gp
20 shields 300 gp
20 hand axes 20 gp
10 short bows 150 gp
20 sleeping bags 4 gp
20 Canteens 1 gp

2 handcarts 20 gp

total 995 gp

Monthly charges

Upkeep 20 gp
Lieutenant 6 gp
2 Sergeants 8 GM

17 infantrymen 34 gp

total 68 gp

So, with an initial investment of 1,063 gp, you could really rock it. Of course you should do everything you can to keep loyalty and morale high 😁

And the example also hints at why you shouldn’t do this setup during a game session. Don’T have the others wait, while you do the big shopping. Such strategic planning is perfect for the downtime between games, and when you tell your game master about your great new plans, they also have the opportunity to prepare a corresponding scenario πŸ€“

Mind you, three level 1 player characters and the above crew would have a substantial chance against a 9-headed Hydra (23 TW vs. 9 TW).

Of course, this presupposes that the player characters do (a) know about the Hydra and (b) have enough dough to but together their entourage. They could always try and get the Baron to pay (RPG encounter!). Or they might still have to do some tradional dungeon delving to come up with enough treasure. Anyway, getting rid of that old Hydra would certainly be widely appreciated.

Well, assuming it works, let’s say two of the three player characters and 2/3 of the mercenaries survive. They would come back with 850 XP each for the Hydra and a treasure worth about 3,400 gp. That would be around 2,550 XP per level 1 player character, all in one session: bam! leveled up! …

Aha, so that’s how you do the Domain Game at the low levels πŸ’‘πŸ€“

And while we’re talking big money, why not invite those mercenaries (and the GM) to a proper banquet afterwards!