Recently I discussed how important hirelings and followers were to the OD&D game. For this post, I will focus on Holmes and B/X and if/how it may have changed from the original version of the game on this topic.
Holmes is pretty similar to OD&D on this topic. Hirelings are first discussed in the Charisma section. The paragraph explains that Charisma is largely a leadership statistic and that "a character of charisma below 13 can not hire more than 5 followers" with a loyalty of luke-warm at best. It elaborates that if the "fighting gets hot there is a good chance they will run away." Conversely, anyone with a CHA of 18 can win over a large number of followers (men and monsters) who will stand by him to the death.
The section on NPCs states that most parties will want to hire into service a "band of mercenaries" to share in the profits of adventure. Like OD&D, Holmes suggests hiring monsters, characters, and even building an army. It goes into some detail about how to recruit low-level hirelings, suggesting a cost of 100-600 gold pieces to "advertise." You then have to "tempt" them into service, at a suggested cost of 100gp for a human, and more so for a dwarf or a wizard. Monsters can be "lured into service" if of the same alignment as the PC and offered a nice reward.
Many of these concepts are very similar to OD&D, except that OD&D offers more details (such as NPC "loyalty" score, a 2d6 check to lure monsters into service, and more specific ability bonuses for charisma. Holmes is oddly vague about the specifics.
Charisma factors into the maximum Number of Retainers and Morale of Retainers. For example, a PC with an average CHA of 10 will have a maximum of 4 retainers, and they will have a morale of 7. On the other hand, a PC with a CHA of 18 can have 7 retainers with a morale of 10. This is significant because it means the retainers are very unlikely to break and run!
Page B21 covers Retainers. In B/X, Retainers are "more than just men-at-arms." They are expected to be "lieutenants or assistants" to a PC, lend their skills and knowledge, and take "the same risks" as the PCs. B/X sets a high bar indeed for Retainers!
B/X then has a Retainer Reaction Table. This is cool! When the PC makes his employment offer to the Retainer, the DM rolls 2d6 on a chart - the higher the roll, the better for the PC. A roll of 2-5 means the offer is refused. A roll of 9-12 means the offer is accepted. A roll of 6-8 means a re-roll is required. Rolling a 2 or a 12 leads to a spectacularly Bad or Good result.
In B/X (unlike the other versions), Retainers can be any level up to the level of the hiring PC. This is potentially much better than hiring mooks every time. Loyalty is checked during very stressful situations and/or after every adventure. Good or poor treatment can increase or decrease loyalty, as can PC charisma.
It is recommended in B/X that beginning PCs not be allowed to use retainers as they "tend to use retainers as a crutch." Retainers in B/X gain 50% of normal XP.
In B/X, Specialists and Mercenaries can also be hired, but these types will not generally go on dungeon delves! Specialists are people like sages and alchemists. Mercs are "army types," who can help with military operations but not adventuring.
In summary, Holmes is very similar (but less comprehensive) than OD&D. B/X has a very organized, robust system for hiring and handling Retainers and allows PCs to more readily and easily hire higher level, productive NPCs.
If I feel up to it, I'll next discuss how AD&D handles this.