With all the talk recently of the use and non-use of henchmen and hirelings in old school Dungeons & Dragons, my thoughts soon turned to this 1979 TSR product, the Non-Player Character Records. Plus, I'm a big fan of record sheets in general, making this product a fun subject for a post. Non-Player Character Records came shrink-wrapped and, if you look at the cover image, you'll see that it's three-hole punched on both sides. That's because the record sheets it contained were half-page in size, so each sheet contained two record sheets, one printed front-to-back and the other printed back-to-front.
The sheets were an ugly orange color, a hue no doubt chosen for its ability to foil the photocopiers of the day, thus ensuring that gamers would be forced to buy more packs of these sheets. I can tell you from personal experience, though, that the color wasn't very effective, even against "public" photocopiers of the sort you found in libraries. I photocopied these things without too much trouble. They were a little dark, true, but they were perfectly usable and paying 10 cents for one of these was a lot more cost effective paying whatever price it was for a pack ($5.00?).
The sheets themselves are quite interesting in my opinion. First, they're a terrific example of economy of space, being able to provide more than enough space to record ability scores and associated modifiers, hit points, weapons (with AC adjustments), spells, equipment, magic items, background information, and class-specific on the front and back of a half-sheet of 8.5" x 11" paper. They're not pretty, true, but they're very usable. On the other hand, I have a huge soft spot for the appearance of 1e record sheets, which showed every evidence of being designed by someone who actually played the game rather than a graphic artist who just went with what looked attractive to the eye. Would that more record sheets were designed that!
Among the information included on these sheets, near the very top, right next to the NPC's name, was a line for "employer." That suggests very strongly not only that one of the intended uses of these sheets was to keep track of henchmen and hirelings, but also that the use of such NPCs was considered a common practice in 1979, when this product was first released (a second printing was released in 1981 and I don't believe a similar product has been released for any edition of the game since). Later on, there's a section of the sheet entitled "employment record," which also strongly implies that a great many of the NPCs the referee is likely to keep track of in his campaign are going to be hirelings and the like.
I can say, from personal experience, that these sheets were used primarily for henchmen and hirelings, who were the main NPCs in our games with sufficient personality -- and, ironically, lifespan -- to justify writing down their game stats on a record sheet. This proves nothing about the wider world of gaming at the time, only that, in the circles in which I moved in the late 70s and early 80s, henchmen and hirelings were used and they weren't treated merely as human (or demihuman) sandbags who warranted neither names nor personalities. And I think the fact that TSR bothered to produce the Non-Player Character Records at all lends credence to the notion that the way we played back then was not some aberrant outlier but was instead reflective of a style of play recognized and endorsed by the game's creators. Clearly, this style largely disappeared over time, for a variety of reasons, but it was real and we enjoyed it.
Terrific reproductions of these sheets, in PDF form, are available for download over at the Mad Irishman's amazing website.