Faith & Hirelings

Faith & Heresy is actually a pretty nice, flavor-heavy article that is useful for both players and DMs, which is something that happens all too rarely. Along with several paragraphs devoted to divine power and radiant damage, it takes an in-depth look at what might push a cleric--PC or NPC--down the road of heresy. Not only that, but each of the good and neutral gods get a paragraph on what sort of heretical stances their clerics might take. For example, Bahamut's clerics might decide to dispense "justice" upon those who have yet to commit any evil.

Player-centric motivations involve treading the line of defying your religion, or even conversely playing a cleric of an evil deity that decides to walk away. Unlike past editions, nothing in 4th Edition explicitly states that a DM can strip a cleric of her divine powers if she defies her god--and the sidebar in this section advises against it, too. There's even a ritual that allows you to essentially swap gods mid-game, if that's your thing. Finally, there's a few pages devoted to religious quests that you can use to hook divine characters.

It's refreshing to see an engaging, useful article that doesn't rely on a multitude of feats, magic items, or powers. It's not often that my group plays divine characters, but there're plenty of ideas for villains that I would readily use it--if my next campaign wasn't set in Dark Sun.

On the other hand, Henchman & Hirelings is crunch-heavy, and hearkens back to an age that I only vaguely understand from reading Knights of the Dinner Table. I'm told that, back in the day, you actually did pick up hirelings in order to try and "test" the dungeon before exposing your actual character to hazards of a save-or-die lethality. That being said, I actually kind of dig this article, too.

Hirelings are featured in a magic item format, and range from level 1-30. The baseline hireling is a minion with an undefined melee basic and ranged attack, modified by their occupation (if any, which costs more). For example, a beast handler has an aura that grants allied beasts a bonus to Fortitude and Will, while a mercenary has better attacks, defenses, and grants allies a bonus to AC and Reflex (unfortunately, he has a steep x3 multiplier to cost).

The section on pets briefly touches on familiars, animal companions, mounted combat, and companion characters. Mostly, it refers you to other books that actually pertain to those options. However, it does add a twist to backgrounds, suggesting the use of pets as a background element: a pet snake, trained raven, housecat, etc. I like the reminder on naming it. At any rate, they still provide the same benefit as a background, so you aren't really losing anything.

Finally, the final section is about henchmen. Henchman are just companion characters (featured in Dungeon Master's Guide 2). Yeah, there's a few bits on how you might "obtain" a henchmen, but most of it just features sample henchmen. I've used companion characters before with varied results, and I'm going to make sure to allow hirelings as an option in my upcoming Dark Sun campaign.

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