"Co-operation amongst party members is a major key to success,
particularly when the characters are relatively low-level. Later, when
players have characters of 9th. 10th. or even higher level it will be a
slightly different matter, for then some adventures will be with but
one or two player characters participating, and the balance of the group will be
made up of henchmen whose general co-operation is relatively assured."
Gary Gygax, AD&D Player's Handbook, page 107, Successful Adventures
One or two players plus henchman? It's very interesting to see Gary's take on how high level games could, or should be run. It makes sense though. As the character progress in levels, they develop as characters. Their history grows, as does their place in the world around them. The game becomes focused more and more on the characters as they become more important in the world around them. I find this an interesting adjunct to the Story vs. Sandbox debate. There's nothing wrong with story in my opinion, as long is it comes from the characters and the players.
As a side note, I wish that we had used henchman and hirelings more when I played D&D as a kid. I think of all the times we wanted to play but never had more than 2 or 3 players, so we did something else. This probably occurred because TSR published so many tournament modules during the early 80's and because no published module I recall every made reference to the possibility of the party having retainers. More on tournament modules in a future post.