Runaway Hirelings digital and print cover.

Runaway Hirelings is a silly game for those who like to play weak characters who fail, cannot hope to even bruise anyone in a fight, and want to play dungeons as the Demi-Lich intended. Really weird descriptions of rooms that could never be mapped on a grid, and rooms meant to be run through screaming.

In Runaway Hirelings, players take on the role a hireling whose boss has died leaving them in the final room of the dungeon. They now have to make their way out of the dungeon without any heroes to defend and fight for them. Hirelings will die, and other hirelings will be found that were lost along the way.

… what started as Wirdum, the Lost City of Cogs, and home to an unstoppable mechanical army slowly morphed into a multi-millenia-old, ruined theme park with broken animatronics and an unstoppable army of maintenance and cleaning mechanicals.

James F.
Print copy of the game, photographed on haunted staircase.

Game Stats

  • Preparation Required: Game-Master needs to read the rules. Handouts are made available to all Players, and 4 six-sided dice are to be shared at the table.
  • Playtime: 1.5 hours – 2 hours.
  • Players: 1 Game-Master, and 1-5 player characters (as Hirelings).
  • Digital Contents: Rules book PDF’s and Handouts PDF. Rules are 36 pages (with blank pages left in for zine printing). An additional no-art compact version of the rules is also included for easy printing at home.

This game was intended to be read and then played in the same day, picked up and brought to the game table as quick as possible with little preparation.

Where to Buy

  • Print and/or Digital: You can get it from DrivethruRPG here.
  • Alternatively, you can purchase a digital copy through itch.io using the button below. Purchasing here is how you can give me tips, as well as on itch.io I receive a larger cut of each sale.

MORE for Runaway Hirelings

  • Player Handouts; this includes rules reference pages and character sheets for use in play. They can be downloaded for free from here.
  • Extra Sauce #1; Extra Sauce is additional rules and mechanics for RH. The first includes Dungeon Templates and an updated version of the playtest 0.5 dungeon “The Needlelands”. You can get the PDF for free here.
  • Extra Sauce #2; This extra sauce contains the weirdometer, some rules to help with adding cosmic strangeness and alien old ones to your game. Also contains a new dungeon template “The Temple of Al-Guratt” and a new hireling called the Candlekeeper. You can get the PDF for free here.
Booklet is opened to a page that has a picture of a person falling shirtless with a sword in a splotchy ink art style. The opposite page has the rules for The Dunarch player.
A page from a print copy of the games rules, photographed on my stairs.

Press & Podcasts

Our game involved a lowly farmer creeping along the floor with a barrel over his head pretending to be a worm to escape sentient statues, a torchbearer seducing a red dragon, a fool giving a lecture on the merits of a potato stuck on a stick as a form of art criticism as so much more. It was one the most hilarious games I’ve played in a while. You should all totally go get yourself a copy, and play the heck out of it.

Abigail L.

Credits

Text, art, and layout for Runaway Hirelings is by Thomas Novosel. The game full release was edited by Owen Kerr and Jarrett Crader.

Development History

This development history is written so that people who were not around when I talked about this game back on Google Plus can look through earlier iterations of the game before publication. I think, personally of course, that most earlier versions of the game were barely playable. But each version and draft was crucial to forming what would become the end product. My little silly fantasy game about trap pokers in caves.

  • Original Micro Game; Runaway Hirelings was originally written as a micro game for a fantasy game design challenge that involved making a fantasy rpg that didn’t use warriors, swords, or the traditional fare you would find in D&D inspired games. The original micro game can be downloaded here.
  • Playtest Version 0.2; this is the original playable version of the expanded game that was used for the first couple games of play-testing. The quality may be bad, but it is because it is a scanned version of my personal printout that I used. It can be downloaded here.
  • Playtest Version 0.5; this is a publicly released playtest version of the game that was put out as the first post on my Patreon to patrons. It pretty cleaned up, and much better, but still noticeably different from the final version of the game. It can be downloaded here.
  • Unrelated Development Videos; early on in development I started working on notes videos where I talked about some of the early ideas. While I didn’t continue the series throughout all of development, it still might be interesting to watch. You can watch them here.

The micro game was released in early 2016, early writing for an expanded version started a few months afterwards. All of the art in the final game was done in October 2017, the original art style that was going to be used was traded in for an art style that I was using while doing Inktober, making use of a Pentel brush pen. Final notes were made and the game was released January 2018.

Influences

Runaway Hirelings is a game that plays with the tropes of comedic-ly incapable people who work for mighty heroes. They can’t do much and often fail at whatever they do in tabletop role-playing games. That is where the hirelings come from.

As for game mechanics, Runaway Hirelings was inspired by two games:

Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker for its writing style and rules presentation, the idea of writing rules as individual if then statements came from here. Apocaylpse World also lead me to treat the rules book as the GM manual, and to create handouts to act as the core way that players would interact with the game. This turned out to lend itself well to my core design desires for the game. That it be quick and easy to pick up and play, as well as teach.

The tone of the character funnel from the game Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman Games was a primary setting influence. My knowledge of the game came from the art in the rulebook which presented chefs stabbing skeletons, and the actual play episode from Role-Playing Public Radio playing through one of the game’s published adventures fueled the main purpose and plot of Runaway Hirelings as a game. Low powered characters dying left and right while fumbling to survive in a comedic dungeon run.

Sales Reports

This section includes my copies sold, and any notable sales events. As of right now (July 2020) the Total Number of Copies of Runaway Hirelings sold is 946 copies.

  • Release month: 30 total copies sold
  • Release month of the One Shot Podcast Actual Play: 22 copies sold.
  • Pay-What-You-Want month: 52 total copies (average: $1.70 ea.).
  • Tabletop itch.io Selects Bundle: 495 total copies.
  • Lifetime itch.io: 509 copies.
  • Lifetime DriveThruRPG: 267 copies.
  • Lifetime Gumroad: 20 copies.

I update this post from time to time with new and updated sales numbers for the game. So if you are curious about how this increases, check back later!