The most recent session of Dwimmermount saw further exploration of the current sub-level, with several combats against hobgoblins and ogres, who seem to be the primary inhabitants of the place. Like the orcs of the earlier levels, the hobgoblins employed Thulian weapons and armor, including a strange device that appeared to be an "azoth projector" -- basically, an arcane flamethrower that used ignited azoth for fuel. Unsurprisingly, Dordagdonar, who's revealed himself to have quite a fascination with human technology despite his avowed disdain for "ephemerals," decided to dismantle the device -- it was mounted onto the floor -- and take it with him when he returned to civilization, in the hopes of re-mounting it on a wheeled cart and finding a way to make it function with another fuel source.
The session itself was noteworthy not so much for its actual events but for the way those events helped to give me some further insights into old school play. First, the characters lost another hireling, Drogo, and, rather than planning to replace him at the first opportunity, they didn't really see the need to do so. Indeed, Brother Candor is contemplating releasing Sam the Archer from his service, since Sam is just a 1st-level Fighting Man and is increasingly outclassed by the monsters they're encountering in Dwimmermount. The party, which once consisted of a very large number of hirelings, is slowly shrinking in size, with most of the remaining NPCs being either henchmen (like Henga the Shield-Maiden) or specialists (like Gaztea).
What this suggests to me is that hirelings are most useful in the earliest levels of a character's life -- level 1-3. As they reach 4th level or thereabouts, hirelings prove less useful, as the PCs can now handle much greater dangers without having to ring themselves with cannon fodder. Hirelings are thus the old school way of augmenting low-level effectiveness, which only makes sense, since low-level characters are quite fragile. However, managing hirelings is a strategic obstacle, requiring the players not only to locate their employees but also negotiate a salary that they can then provide. Likewise, as NPCs, hirelings cannot be totally relied upon: they're subject to morale and have goals of their own beyond being used as canaries in the coal mine.
I rather suspect that much of the early roleplaying in a campaign comes from interactions between the PCs and their hirelings; that was certainly the case in Dwimmermount. Over time, the players develop affection for some hirelings over others and it's these that wind up becoming henchmen. That was the case with Henga and would have been the case with Brakk, had the goblin survived the bucket of acid that fell on his head in Adamas. It's thus my experience that, far from being an impediment to roleplaying, hirelings (and henchmen) actually encourage it.
The other thing I noticed was that, when Dordagdonar suggested re-tooling the azoth projector for his own use, I didn't bat an eye at the suggestion. Certainly I suggested it'd take time and money to complete -- if it were even possible -- but I didn't even consider dissuading his player from this plan. One of the things I like about this campaign is that, because there's no grand plan, rolling with the punches is a matter of course. While I'm sure my players could come up with an idea that might derail my very limited plans for the campaign, the odds of its happening are pretty small. That's frankly very liberating for me, much in the way that not having a large and detailed map of the world is liberating: I can easily add new things as I need them.
At present, the only civilized places the characters have been are Muntburg and Adamas. They know about Yethlyreom, the city of the necromancers, but they've never shown any inclination to go there, which is why it hasn't yet been placed on the map. That gives me the freedom to make it near or far as required. The same goes for any other future settlements or locales I might decide to include in the campaign. This approach has really cut down on my prep time for the game sessions -- to nearly none at all -- but it does demand a fair bit of mental agility on my part, but then that's part of the fun of it for me. Having to make things up on the fly is one of the joys of being the referee; it's also why having lots of random tables was a hallmark of old school play.
Oh yes -- the PCs also found an old Thulian battle standard in Dwimmermount. They've decide they're going to offer it to Saidon, the priest of Typhon, since he's known to be a collector of antiquities. And of course their visit to him gives me the opportunity to further flesh out his faith and what it's up to while the characters are off exploring the megadungeon ...