Friday, July 26, 2013

In Search of Strongholds, Part 5: Hirelings, Soldiers, and Wages

I know it has been forever since I posted anything in this series, and I apologize. I was compelled to finish the first issue of my zine 4e Forever, and it of course took waaaaay longer than I would have guessed. That said, a day has not really gone by that I haven't thought about stronghold rules. You can check out the earlier installments at these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

I had contemplated doing an entirely new list of mundane gear in order to fit the new "economy" I am working with. I say new economy, but what it really amounts to is throwing 4e's "expected wealth per level" in the trashcan. I added random treasure tables, with lair treasures being the mother lode, the source of fabulous wealth. As I researched different prices of mundane gear over multiple editions, I started to realize that every edition is pretty much in line with the prices. There is a little variance, but overall they are pretty close. The biggest difference is with things like armor; old editions priced plate armor out of reach of low level PCs as a balancing factor, whereas with 4e, characters can afford plate at level 1, but they cannot all benefit from it. I was going to have to use the 4e prices for weapons and armor anyway, so the fact that the rest of the prices were in the same ballpark meant that I really didn't need to make new gear lists after all. It would have been a lot of work for nothing.

All of that aside, I still needed to nail down wage rates for hirelings. You cannot run a stronghold without them. You need staff to maintain the property, not to mention to support and supervise your armed forces. Your soldiers, of course, are also hirelings in and of themselves. If you have not already, you can read the current hireling rules in 4e Forever #1 in the Grimoire. I provided the basic "formula" for hireling wages: 2gp x hireling level = their daily wage. That said, to go any further we must talk a little bit about how hirelings and levels are defined.

First of all, none of the numbers you are going to see represent real history or medieval demographics. I try to maintain an internal logic and consistency, but I am not a scholar and do not purport to be. I do not personally care if stuff in my fantasy game matches up exactly with real life. I am trying to use simple formulas and concepts (such as "hireling level") to make rules that are easy to use. So, every number or gp total you see may not feel "realistic" to you. If that is a crucial factor, these may not be the stronghold rules you are looking for.

Second, hirelings and soldiers need to be differentiated. Soldier wages (but not their leadership's) are much lower than typical hirelings. This is for several reasons. The main ones are that their supplies, armor, weapons, food, and lodging are all provided to them. There are also many of them, so in the same way that buying in bulk might save you or me some money at a grocery store, the costs for your soldiers are also lowered as the costs are spread amongst many. There are also many "one-time" costs; you don't need to repeatedly buy a barracks, for example. Low-level "grunt" soldiers may also be less skilled, illiterate, be former criminals and/or mercenaries, or any other balancing factor that you need to justify it.

Wages per day are provided below, with wages per month extrapolated from them. You might have a campaign world that does not use months, or has a weird calendar, or what have you. I am assuming 30-day months with 12-month years. You can use the daily wage to set your own wages or use an optional rule that smooths everything over, albeit at the risk of losing a bit of "realism": most hirelings require a "monthly" wage for any services that take two "weeks" or more. So if you are hiring someone for 15 days or 30 days, it is the same wage. If you have 40 day months, you could still use the "monthly" pay rate. This will allow most DMs to use the same prices/rules even if their calendars are different.

Ok, so we talked before a little bit about how hireling levels work. They are based on the rarity of their skills as well as whether they are in a supervisory role. Thus, an Alchemist is of higher level than a Fletcher, and a Sergeant would make less than his Captain. The levels may feel arbitrary in and of themselves; they only have meaning when they are compared against each other.

So here is a breakdown of hireling wages. These do not apply to your standard soldiers (i.e. artillery, cavalry, etc) but they do apply to military leaders. As noted in the Grimoire, hirelings have a level cap of 10. They do not typically accompany PCs on adventures; that is the purview of henchmen. Soldiers do engage in mass combat, and they will be integrated into the Scalemail mass combat system for 4e Forever (see issue #1) eventually. A sage's wages should be set based on how rare their purview of knowledge is within the setting. For example, in Serd (see 4e Forever issue #1), any sage with information about the location of ancient ruins would be very well paid (Level 10).  Typical hireling occupations are listed; if you utilize a hireling with an occupation or skill that is not listed, use whatever level makes the most sense to you based on the wages of those that are. Also remember that common laborers are not hirelings, and they are not paid according to these tables.

Hireling Wage in GP by Day/Month
Level 1-2/60
Level 2-4/120
Level 3-6/180
Level 4-8/240
Level 5-10/300
Level 6-12/360
Level 7-14/420
Level 8-16/480
Level 9-18/540
Level 10-20/600

Hirelings by Level
Level 1-Scribe, Pack Handler, Chef/Baker, Minstrel
Level 2-Blacksmith, Tailor/Weaver, Tanner, Potter, Furrier, Vintner
Level 3-Armorer, Fletcher/Bowyer, Weaponer, Sergeant
Level 4-Gemcutter, Lieutenant, Animal Trainer
Level 5-Captain
Level 6-Engineer (Architect), Barrister
Level 7-Spy/Assassin (hired by the month only)
Level 8-Sage (varies)
Level 9-Sage (varies), Astrologer
Level 10-Sage (varies), Alchemist, Apothecary

Soldiers are all paid 5gp each per game month, or 60gp per year. Soldiers are never hired by the day. For simplicity's sake, I do not differentiate between different types of soldier in order to determine their wage.

In the next installment of this series, I will lay out the costs of constructing a stronghold and the minimum staff needed to maintain it. This will include the military leadership needed to supervise varying totals of soldiers, and notes on building your own army within the Scalemail system.

***I am still looking for submissions for 4e Forever #2!!! If you want to contribute artwork, cartography, or an article, PLEASE feel free to contact me at


  1. Hi froths - I like the general approach but some of the costs seem very high to me. They fit quite closely with the default 4e hireling costs, and with 1e, but with reduced wealth at high level there seems too much disparity between 600gp/month hirelings and 5gp/month soldiers.
    For more plausible wages I tend to fit almost everyone within a 2gp-100gp/month scale; a maid or scullion might be 2 gp + accommodation, a soldier 6gp including cost of gear maintenance, while a master armourer or similar expert might be 100gp/m. Military officers tend to get ca 20-60gp/month as permanent castle staff.

    1. One thing I do is start from the notion of 1 silver/day as basic subsistence for an adult, then it's easy to scale from there. 3e's notion of 1 gp/day, 30gp/month as minimum for a 'middle class lifestyle' also works well as a guideline;experts and commissioned officers expect that lifestyle or close to it. 3e also gives 100gp/month as 'wealthy' lifestyle AIR, which makes a reasonable capstone for normal NPC wages; a Castellan of a major castle or powerful Wizard might expect more, but it's a good number for master armourers, expert Sages etc.