Trait - Retainers Questions

WotC, I have a couple of questions about the Trait - Retainers from the Noble background. What are the limits of these retainers (no combat obviously being one)? Can they be skilled in anything? Have a profession? Or are all three just "red shirts" (Beastiary style Human Commoners) who exist for me to run faster then when the dragon is chasing us? ;)
Could a nobles 3 retainers be; an animal trainer, a cook and a smith for example? Or an herbalist, a tailor and weaver? I really like the idea of adding retainers, but I believe they should be more then just simply "bodies"... Providing each a single Profession skill would go a long way toward making these retainers useful as well as offer a tiny bit of depth.
Is the idea that they can just make ability checks to accomplish things (no skills)? Or that basic tasks of thier choosen "title" do not require a check. Example, a retainer who is a tailor makes no check to sew you some fine clothes, they just need the resources to do so?
Just some questions... Thank you!
Hi,

Since this is not a player session feedback I'll be moving it along to Playtest Packet Discussion.

Thanks,

Monica
I would say it's up to your DM, but I would encourage you to flesh out your retainers. As a DM, when I had a PC take this for a playtest, she had a maid, a laborer, and a cook. I had great fun with them, and I never really made a check for them (they passed unless I had a story reason for it). It really helped the PC act like a Noble, because she never did menial chores herself.

I would talk with your DM before making the character. Some DMs hate regular NPCs (they hate the tracking) and some DMs turn over the entire NPC to the player. Personally, I think 1 servant is enough, because I don't like too many NPCs, but having the others "hang around" didn't really ruin anything either.
Yeah that has been my feeling Shiroiken. I am currently playing a Rogue (Rake) with the Noble background. He is the son of an elven chieftain (think celtic clan stucture and environment), so servents by the "classical" example did not seem to fit. My noble has a cook (who can brew a bit as well), an animal trainer (to care for his horses) and a smith (who cares for and makes my characters armor and weapons). Sometimes my noble would drag the cook around and occassionally the armorer (who functioned as a squire at times) but generally a left two at "home" when the party would go adventuring (though on a longer journey, I would bring them all).
I will say, It felt rather "noble" to say "this is Nuada, my smith... his blades are strong and his scale tough" Yeah! That is a kick ;)
I like giving my retainers names, back stories, lives... etc. They have to be worth having at the game table as far as ALL the players are concerned (at least in my opinion), or they are just "dead weight" clogging the party. If they are fun and sometimes useful additions... Everyone seems to like them.
This helped confirm most of what our game group felt. Thank you! 
I suspect that they are intended to be personal servants, not trained craftsmen.  They are their to cook your meals, clean your clothes and tend your horses - not make potions and craft weapons.

As a DM I might allow some leeway with this.  But they are going to be very limited in terms of skills.  They perform mundane tasks.

They might have some smithy training -but it would be limited to blacksmithing (not armor smithing or weapon smithing) - perhaps they could repair arms and armor, but that would be it.
They might have some herbalism training - but they aren't going to be making potions (ie. no free herbalist feat).
They might have some animal handling training - but it would be limited to careing for your animals - no training guard dogs to protect you.

Look at it this way - compare this benefit to the other benefits that the other classes get.  It should be comparable. 


The way I look at is:  If you are trying to turn them into a tangible benefit (goods or services that would ordinarily be expensive or require specialized training) you are overstepping the intent.  Especially if those services are in any way helpful while in the wild.
If you are looking for ways to make the life of you character more comfortable and to help you to live in the style appropriate to the scion of a noble house - you are on the right track.

Carl
In the case of the character I was playing a bunch of servants did not seem "setting" appropriate. Think of a noble like Rob Roy... Yes he was actually a minor noble. Him having "servants did not seem right. Also... Traits that offer things like "free food and accomodation for the duration of your stay" can rapidly add up to a larger benefit then a smith you need to go back home to gain any real benefit from (unless you happen to find a forge with a nice owner during your travels). Imagine how much "fine" food a noble and your average adventuring party consume... room space... servants time... As my DM stated, if they are not getting toted around often, they do need some worth. He prefered that they have some usable non-combat skill best left at home. Not that they had to be... but that most of the time they just should be to keep things speedy and less "clogged".
The issue I see with retainers is one we used to run into playing Star Wars Saga Edition... soon everyone has droids... helpers... etc. and there just gets to be to many bodies to keep track of. The retainers get reduced to "red shirts"... You should not be able to take away something gained in creation or by experience so even if your current retainers leave you... new ones should be able to be retained. As a player and DM, I do not want to see bodies just tossed into a party for no "real" reason... Simple servants... not enough (in my opinion). In reality they WOULD stay at your home, like a major domo, contributing nothing to the game for as long as you are away (which for most campaigns seems to be most of the time) nor at any other point really. At that point... Why even list them? Just make them "window dressing". Which still gives things like the Knight's Station trait or the Soldier's Rank trait (and its requisitioning) a BIG advantage in game terms over a guy who will dress you... Just saying. How often will a noble need a new sword compared to how often will an adventuring party need a good bed and food? Or equipment and horses to borrow when they need them?
I do see you point CarlT. I do, I just do not see much issue with said retainers having a bit of worth. I honestly can see both sides here, which is why I asked WotC, in hopes they could chime in. 
Traits are supposed to be mostly for RP, it seems, but some do have mechanical benefit, like the knight's trait that gives free lodging to the party, thus having material value.  With that in mind, there's no reason a retainer could not be a weaponsmith who occassionaly provides the PC with a new sword, but I believe it should only be for that PC to carry and use.  They could make weapons for the entire party, but that should come with a gp cost, and really amount only to a small discount on the gear.  And still, it should be RP appropriate.  "Smith, we have to go out and hunt down a werewolf, it seems.  What do you need in order to make us silvered weapons?"  And I like that scenario better in RP terms than going to the local weaponsmith in town and buying silvered weapons off the shelf, unless an area is known to have long-term lycanthrope problems.
Interesting. I founs retainers very useful for carrying stuff, helping builing baricades and so on in the caves of chaos (unskilled rolls). I did find a lack of noble houses in the goblin to take me in to tea however. I also found so much treasure that "hospitality" became a non issue.
I find the simple bodies very useful. Especially as it is a background trait you cant expect them back if they die. That is an assumption that is not based on the text of the trait. They even leave you if mistreated.
 
Traits are supposed to be mostly for RP, it seems, but some do have mechanical benefit, like the knight's trait that gives free lodging to the party, thus having material value.  With that in mind, there's no reason a retainer could not be a weaponsmith who occassionaly provides the PC with a new sword, but I believe it should only be for that PC to carry and use.  They could make weapons for the entire party, but that should come with a gp cost, and really amount only to a small discount on the gear.  And still, it should be RP appropriate.  "Smith, we have to go out and hunt down a werewolf, it seems.  What do you need in order to make us silvered weapons?"  And I like that scenario better in RP terms than going to the local weaponsmith in town and buying silvered weapons off the shelf, unless an area is known to have long-term lycanthrope problems.



This was my thought to a T. It just RP's well.

@Keendk: the same sort of "diminished value over time' claim can be made over a basic smith retainer (helpful early... not so much later) and hospitality (such as a knight's benefit as you brought up). But as an example of the value of a Background Trait... The Bounty Hunter one or the Sage both of a BIG value throught the life of the character... Where to find bounties easier and thus money (for certain character types) and where to find that "bit of strange knowledge"... both of those traits, for the characters they are helpful for, are a big value.
Also... I do not find having an extra body to dig a hole "valuble"... I can, after all, do it myself and with less bodies clogging the game table... Which at the table I play at (10+ gamers at a time) matters a lot!
As for them not coming back if they die... So... How is that "balanced" with the Bounty Hunter trait... Which cannot be removed (and is potentially more valuble over the life of the character)? In Saga Edition any "resource" like the said Traits "retainers" are replaceble... Otherwise you can get "ripped off" right out the door. If I knew my DM could, by choice, just kill off the retainers... I would NEVER choose this option over ANY of the others which cannot be taken away... That just would be a bad choice.
But... Without WotC offering some clarity here... We may just have to make our own assumptions here... At which point I would say... "I like your ideas for what you are doing and mine for what I am..." 
For the most part, the retainers shouldn't be in a postition to get killed off.  They shouldn't be going into the dungeon with you, unless your DM likes the idea of your party having a porter or three.  I don't really think they should be digging pits and foxholes and the like, but you're free to use them that way if your DM allows.  And if they happen to be travelling with you, it's just bad DMing, imo, for them to be attacked.  That's not to say something doesn't drag them off and you have to go rescue them, but that's just a good way to lure your character into an adventure, and could be done even if you thought they were safe at home.

I'm playing a character who is a noble, and having great fun using them in RP.  In fact, my character hasn't been in a fight yet, though the other PCs have.  My character has a squire, more or less to take care of her horse though she's also training him to take up arms and deal with courtly life, a varlet, her own personal servant who is always there at a snap of the fingers, and a major domo type, to take care of mundane things like overseeing day-to-day business, buying supplies, hiring prostitutes, etc.  But even the squire will not be entering real combat, unless my character dies and the DM and I decide for me to play him to continue the story.  These three are obviously role-playing tools, but that's more what our game is about.

You could, if it would be good for your game, play Robin Hood with your retainers being his merry men, though that's not how I think the retainers were intended.  As always, whatever makes for a better game experience, however you play the game, is a good way to use the resources you have available.