(ESO) Hireling Loot: Preliminary Results

May 15, 2014

One of the most interesting features of ESO’s crafting system is the ability to employ Hirelings. In general, the Hireling skill is a low-level passive that causes an NPC to mail you crafting materials once per day. Additional levels in Hireling increase the likelihood of receiving rare items (e.g., Honing Stones and Turpen). At rank 3 (the maximum), Hirelings mail out loot twice per day.

So far, so simple. There are, however, a few counterintuitive (and exploitable!) features of the Hireling skills as they currently exist. Here’s what I’ve been able to learn about Hireling loot so far.

Hirelings are per-character, but loot is sent to the player account mailbox.

Of the six crafting skill lines currently in ESO, four (Blacksmithing, Clothing, Enchanting, and Woodworking) have a Hireling skill available at level 3. Provisioning joins the party at level 28; only Alchemy lacks a Hireling skill entirely.

Craft Skill Name Rank 1 Rank 2 Rank 3
Blacksmithing Miner Hireling 3 12 32
Clothing Outfitter Hireling 3 12 32
Enchanting Hireling 3 12 32
Provisioning Hireling 28 38 48
Woodworking Lumberjack Hireling 3 12 32

These skills can be activated separately on each character in your account. In other words, with a minimal investment of skill points, you can have 32 goodie bags (8 per skill) waiting for you to collect every day. For truly industrious cooks and brewers, that number rises to 40, and a real craftaholic who chose to max all of the Hireling skills on each alt could take delivery of 80 bags per day. (At that point, though, you’ve signed up for an extended stay in the land of diminishing returns.)

The contents of Hireling goodie bags depend on who opens them.

Hireling mail “addressed” to a given character will appear only when that character logs in. However, there’s no need to open the bag then and there. In fact, it’s an excellent idea to leave the goodie bags in the mailbox and retrieve them using the character who actually does the crafting. That’s because the loot you get depends entirely on the crafting skill ranks of the character who opens the bag (hereafter the “opener”).

Hireling mail has the potential to include all of the types of materials used in a given craft. For example, the Miner Hireling (for Blacksmithing) will always send a few units of ore. In addition, she (the Miner Hireling is a Nord woman named Valinka Stoneheaver) will frequently send a trait gem and/or a racial style material. About half the time, you’ll get an upgrade material (e.g., Honing Stone or Dwarven Oil) as well.

Different items in the goodie bag depend on different skills. First and most important is the Hireling skill itself. If the opener doesn’t have at least one point in the relevant Hireling skill, the bag will be empty. An opener with a higher Hireling skill will get materials of all types more frequently. The main skill for each craft (Metalworking for Blacksmiths, Tailoring for Clothiers, and so forth) determines the level of the basic raw materials you receive; a Blacksmith with rank 1 Metalworking will get Iron Ore, while a Blacksmith with rank 3 Metalworking will get Orichalcum. Incidentally, because only the opener’s skills affect item quality, there’s no reason to train your alts past rank 1 in their Hireling skills. The bonuses from rank 2 will never be realized if you’re opening the bags on a different character anyway.

The pattern is nearly identical for Clothing and Woodworking hirelings; Enchanting and Provisioning are complicated a little by the presence of multiple “main” skills. (I’ll break this down further in a subsequent post.) In Willy Wonka terms, the basic pattern is always the same. The opener’s main skill rank determines the quality of the candy bar; the opener’s Hireling rank determines the chance of a golden ticket.

Changes are coming.

According to the public test server patch notes (as reported by ESO mapmaker extraordinaire Dulfy), the hireling system is due for some serious nerfing in v1.1.1. Since the “alt trick” is increasingly widely known and has the potential to seriously deflate the value of rare crafting drops, ZOS are all but certain to implement this change in the live version of the game. If you want to reap the maximal benefit from a hireling alt system, implement one soon. In the meantime, I’ll be watching my Hireling drops and offering a more detailed analysis in the days to come.

Data for this post was gathered on 15 May 2014 using version eso.live. of The Elder Scrolls Online. It may not reflect changes introduced in subsequent patches of the game.

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