What is a Henchman?
In the original context, a henchman was the retainer who cared for a lord’s horse, literally a groom. The term hechman comes from the old english word Hengst, which in turns comes from the german word for horse. In more modern literary and game conventions the role of the Henchman is generally any role subordinate to either the primary villain, or the PCs and their direct allies. Unless soldier types or ‘elite’ henchmen, the general henchman is not going to be a match for even a single PC. The strength of the henchman comes from either specialization, or from massed numbers.
The principle Henchman is the Goon. Combat skills tend to be the Goon’s main skill and most are chosen for their ability to fight and follow orders with a minimum of fuss.
1. The Willing Goon
This goon, likely a large bruiser with sunken knuckles and a penchant for fighting signed on as a henchman with little bargaining required. As a minion of the villain, the Willing Goon is the eager henchman ready to brawl at a moment’s notice. The Willing Goon seldom works alone as he tends to have a good number (1D4+1) of other Willing Goons working with him.
2. The Coerced Goon
The opposite of the Willing Goon, the Coerced Goon is working against his will. Most often the minion of a the villain, this goon has a loved one held hostage, is bespelled, or only follows orders out of fear for the villain’s wrath. Captured enemy minions can be forceably recruited by PCs and function as coerced goons. Coerced Goons generally require regular pressure to keep them working, and they also tend to be sullen, moody, and likely canditates for traitors.
3. The Inept Goon
Often the first goon encountered, the Inept Goon is new to the job and not much of a challenge to overcome. Most are rookies, and after some time are able to become normal goons. Others, like Barney Fife remain inept and end up as sword fodder. In a game, Inept Goons can be pumped for information, offer comic relief, or a minimal threat to low level PCs.
4. The Specialist Goon
Rather an elite goon, the Specialist has a skill that sets him apart from the mundane goon stock. this could be a specialization in using ropes and snares, being a sharpshooter with a bow and arrow, or the like. While overall inferior to a PC, the Specialist is a peer in terms of their special skill. Thus the Specialist Swordsman goon can match blades with the PCs and survive, but can be outwitted, out-spelled, and such.
5. The Drowsy Goon
Mr. Sleepy Head is most often the goon assigned to guard duty, watching prisoners, and protecting weapon supplies, the horses, and anything else the PCs need to take with as little noise as possible.
6. The Sergeant Goon
The Villain can seldom be bothered to lead squads of goons in the field and often elite lieutenants are too busy on other dastardly missions to serve as leaders. The Sergeant Goon is an elite goon with tactical and leadership skills enough to operate a detachment of goons, generally between six to two dozen. Like the Specialist, the Sergeant can hold his own against a PC but deprived of his squad, he can be overcome.
7. The Goon-in-Training
A counterpoint to the Inept Goon, the Goon in Training is a rookie that shows basic competence and has the potential to become an elite goon with some character progression. Often encountered early in the game, the Goon in Training appears later in the game promoted to a lieutenant or other officer in the Villain’s retinue.
8. The Hooded Goon
Wearing a black Hood, this goon is the interrogator and torturer for the Villain. Doing double duty as executioner, the Hooded Goon is generally also the head of the dungeon watch and frequently berates the Sleepy Goon for not properly watching the prisoners. An elite goon, the Hooded Goon can be a danger with his killing skills, intimidation factor and cadre of lesser guard goons and enforcers.
9. The Groundskeeper Goon
Mazes of briars don’t trim themselves, moats need to be dredged, and the portcullis needs to be oiled to keep working properly. The Groundskeeper maintains the lair of the Villain, or even the home base of the PCs. Often overlooked, the Groundskeeper does his work and keeps his head down.
10. The Lieutenant Goon
Higher ranking than the Sergeant Goon, the Lt. Goon is on par with the PCs for basic abilities but primarily serves as a leader for two dozen to one hundred goons. The Lt. Goon will generally have one Sergeant Goon for each dozen normal goons under his command.
11. The Kitchen Goon
Nominally cooks and butchers, these goons can be surprisingly dangerous foes with their knives, cleavers, and meat hooks. Responcible for the Villain’s food, the head of the Kitchen will be an elite goon fanatically devoted to the villain.
12. The Seneschal
With terrible combat abilities, the Seneschal is the general manager of the Villain’s house and affairs while the boss is away. At any given time, he is accompanied by 1D6 Inept Goons, drowsy goons, and a 50% of a Sergeant Goon or better.
13. The Mutant Goon
Inhuman or a monsterous experiment, the Mutant has higher than normal combat abilites but balances this with abysmal social and mental skills. Either sorcery spawned lizard-men, members of the allied hobgoblin tribe or the like, mutants generally are encountered on their own and have Mutant equivalents to Sergeant and Lieutenant Goons. Mutant goons generally fight to the death.
14. The Green Goon
Most evil lords, and higher ranking PCs are going to have land that they have to survey and tax. In a typical setting, they are going to have at least some forest or timberland to cover. The Green Goon is a native of the woods, but is also a loyal henchman of the employer. Green Goons can be woodland bandits, forestals in service to a lord and even druids sympathetic to the cause.
15. The Menial Goon
The most extra of extras, menial goons include but are not limited to household servants, scullery maids, and other professions that have no combat skills and no real skills of value in the realm of adventurering. Menial goons are best used as petty sabotours and to take up attention in the form of prisoners to be watched, refugees to be tended to or possible accomplice criminal types, depending on their master.
16. The Platemail Goon
A freelance knight, the Platemail Goon is well armed, well equiped, has a mount and a good deal of combat skill and pseudo-noble education. He might be a disenfranchised noble, a pretender mercenary or the like. An elite combatant, he works alone and is likely at first seemingly a rogue threat rather than a pawn of the PCs or the Villain.
17. The Magic Goon
Wizards and sorcerers seldom sell their services out to petty masters such as most villains, and PCs for that matter. Apprentice mages, failed mages, and mortals with a magic knack are more than willing however. Lacking the full versatility of a full-fledged magus, the Magic Goon has a handful of spells, generally 3 to 5, that remain fairly useful but not overpowering. Magic Goons seldom venture out alone considering their skills, and as such are generally attended by a Sergeant Goon, and several normal or mutant goons as protection.
18. Beastly Goon
Not a mutant of any sort, the Beastly Goon tends for the Master’s animals, be they hawks and hounds, wyverns or flesh eating giant centipedes. Un unloving job, most Beastly Goons wear scars from their charges. On the other hand, when a Beastly Goon is called into the field, there is no telling what sort of beastie he is going to have in tow and chained with him. Warhounds are common, while more exotic creatures are not out of the question.
19. Mucky-Muck Goon
Pompous, self-serving and self-important the Mucky-Muck Goon is a functionary who works in administration beneath the Master. Most affect grand titles for their tasks, and the truth of the matter is that even if they were to vanish for weeks no one would really miss them. Lacking combat skills, the Mucky-Muck expects a retinue of protective goons and sycophantically sucks up to the master. Most of the other henchmen hate the Mucky-Muck.
Mucky-Muck is a term I have long used to describe self-aggrandizing middle managers and other less than important positions. As a rule, Mucky-Mucks tend to be better dressed, condescending towards normal workers and arrogant to their office peers.
20. The Skulk Goon
Assassins are expensive, and Goons are much more expendable. The Skulk Goon is trained to be a low level assassin, often using standard technique of poison in the goblet, the old knife in the back, or strangling with wire during the loud theatre performance. Often thin and of rogueish disposition, most Skulks avoid combat and are generally elite Goons.
21. The Whore Goon
No good villain goes with a suitable harem of women to please his every carnal desire and to demonstrate his mastery over that the most elusive of creatures, the female. The Whore Goon is part assassin, part advisor, part meat shield, and entirely expendable.
22. The Gypsy Goon
Not so much one of the Roma people, the Gypsy Goon is a fortune teller that the superstitious villain consults from time to time over various matters. Most maintain witch like appearances, are solitary by nature, and cause fear in the other goons. If pressed to combat, the Gypsy will flee, attack with a poison weapon or powder, and die quickly on the end of a sword.
23. The Hunchback Goon
There are certain tasks that mundane goons are not cut out to do. These tasks are relegated to the misshapen and deformed. Laboratory assistants, grave-robbers, disposers of bodies and other unsavory tasks often fall on the mis-matched shoulders of the often freakish and outcaste Hunchback Goon. The Hunchback is often the whipping boy for the other goons.
24. The Fool Goon
Generally kept close to the Master, the Fool Goon is an entertainer, acrobat, or musician. Fools can be canny political manipulators, terrified imprisoned musicians, or mutant freaks chosen for their ability to survive sadistic beating after sadistic beating.
25. The Goon of the Law
Having a legitmate claim to a domain, the Master of this goon has placed him as a traveling enforcer of the law. The Goon of the law can be a position of privelage for a well serving goon for the PCs, or can be a oppressive Sherrif of Nottingham Goon of the Law. This Goon generally has a rank similar to a Lieutenant Goon and associated ‘deputy goons’.
26. The Bounty Hunter
Only nominally one of the Master’s henchmen, the Bounty Hunter is a skilled goon who uses a variety of exotic weapons and non-lethal modes of attack. The bounty is generally better for a live capture, but sometimes taking a head and a cut in pay is acceptible. Often has his, or her own sense or code of honor.
27. The Family Goon
Being a person of some wealth and influence means that there is generally pressure from the family to spread some of the goods around. Sitting at the table of goondom are untold numbers of cousins, nephews, ambitious uncles, and scheming brothers. While skills vary from being inept goons on up to specialists and Lieutenants, most have a good understanding of the master and their goals. A Family Goon can be a boon in the concept of blood being thicker than water, or can be a liability in being not worth much but requiring close protection.
28. The Senior Goon
Not all goons have to be young. The Senior goon has a head full of gray hair and years of experience serving as a henchman. Full of anecdotes for PCs, and nasty surprises for villains, the Senior uses brains more than bull rushes and frontal attacks.
29. Automatic Goons
Hailing from the mineral kingdom Automatic Goons are animated objects that serve the Master. The most common form of automatic goon is the zombie and the lowly skeleton. More powerful versions of the Automatic can include bound elementals and golems. always combative type goons, Automatics seldom have skills beyond Hit Things Hard or Take it Like a Man.
30. The Henchman Goon
Horses require a good deal of care, from basics like feeding and daily brushing to advanced care like trimming hooves, shoeing, and floating teeth. Somewhere between a groom and veterinarian, the Henchman takes the best care of the master’s horse at home and in the field. Other tasks include the upkeep on saddles, bridles, and barding for the horse if it has any. The Henchman himself generally has a horse of his own just to keep up with his master, but it is always an inferior animal.