Controlling Player Connected NPC’s

I don’t really want to ruin my next week post at the Iron Tavern but I read something that came completely out of left field for me.  I am reading through the third chapter of Ultimate Campaign and I came across a section detailing who should run player linked NPC’s such as druid animal companions, familiars, Eidolons, Cohorts and Followers.  This honestly took me by complete surprise but it made some excellent points.

Animal companions…

The entire thrust of the section was which of the many sorts of companions should rest in the player’s control and which should the GM run.  As a GM I have always felt that if the player had a companion that they should run the companion (this may be because I am lazy).  The section discusses the different types of companions and suggests those companions that have animal intelligence or have a less than helpful attitude to the player should be run by the GM.  So you are looking at followers, animal companions and the like.  For cohorts and Eidolons etc. they suggest the player should be in full control with the GM having right of veto on matters of levelling (especially for cohorts) or risk assessment.

Then it goes on to discuss how levelling should be done and the style that the companions should be played in.  It also discusses how such companions can be used as campaign hooks and side track adventures surrounding them.  All of this material kept me reading for far too long as I was a little shell shocked at the idea that this is the style that some people play.  I was also a little shocked at the way that they described followers as well and where they actually come from.

Familiars…

They make excellent points on these issues though.  The first point that really hit home for me in regards to animal companions (note familiars are not included here as they are awakened creatures) is that the expectation of a character is take Handle Animal as the skill to train and control the creature.  What effect does this have if the player simply role-plays the actions of the creature anyway?  They will always do what the player wants them to do and therefore the points are useless.  It is a good point.  My daughter plays a ranger named Nala who has a dog called Toothy.  She spends the points in handle animal but in a crisis never advises what commands she gives to the dog and just narrates the actions.  For this to be a realistic situation I should be having her tell me the command she gives Toothy and I should have him respond in a manner that takes in not only the training but the situation as well.

Cohorts

The same for followers.  There is really very little description in any of the core rulebooks about what a follower truly is.  I am not sure if it was information from past versions of D&D that I am meant to have absorbed at some stage but I just did not make the following connection.  Followers are people that start as NPC’s and you try to make them loyal to you.  People from the campaign or adventure.  They are like contacts in Shadowrun!  I know you are all probably rolling your eyes at my naivety but I sincerely did not know this.  I thought followers were individuals that the person who took the Leadership feat had back at camp that polish armour.  Faceless nobodies who clean the character’s undergarments.  I was entirely surprised to see here them detailing followers like the friendly Thieves Guild member who hands you on a tidbit or two for a couple of coins and the details of your recent ventures.  I am that clueless!

Followers…

The problem here is there is no real major declaration of this anywhere.  They are hardly mentioned outside the Leadership feat itself which largely throws a bunch of mechanics about how many you can have and how you can recruit them.  No real flavour about what they can be.  In the history of my games I think I have only ever had three players take this feat and I gave control of it (apart from the Leadership score) to them to handle.  None of them used followers and all of them were really just after the cohort that they could get.

This revelation has caused me to really start looking at the style I handle my NPC’s in.  I believe that I have recently stepped up with my handling of them thanks to the Skull and Shackles adventure path which has a first module that essentially revolves around NPCs and how the PCs treat them.  Also the Reign of Winter adventure path also has a swathe of excellent NPCs with great motivation and styles to build the story around the PCs with.  I am really pushing myself to make as few NPCs cardboard cutouts that the players ignore, even having stock standard guards get riled when the PCs kill on e of their best mates and charge in wildly to add some character.  I think I am doing a lot better than the way I handled the Serpent Skull NPCs anyway.

Companions and Eidolon’s who controls them?

I am not going to go into any more detail as to what is contained in the section as I do not want to kneecap my Iron Tavern blog post next week.  If you are interested buy the book or pdf from Paizo or have a look at the PRD to see what they have to say.  It is a very valuable section to me that has obviously had quite an effect on me.  So now I want to ask you all a question.  Am I an idiot for completely missing this idea or have you not really thought about it either?  Have any of you utilised the followers that are included in the Leadership feat for anything other than polishing your armour?  Are you a GM or a player in a game where some serious plot hooks have come about because of your followers/cohorts/animal companions etc. other than the obvious one where Oh no they have been kidnapped?  I am really keen to hear your stories.  Until next post, keep rolling!

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