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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Goober4473's Avatar

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    Default NPC Companion System Idea

    [Edit]: Here are my full companion rules, as they exist now: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1...it?usp=sharing

    Here is the most recent version of my Out of the Abyss companions:
    Spoiler: Out of the Abyss Spoilers
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    Companions.doc

    Some notes:
    - Keep track of the madness avoided with Buppido's Desensitized. It all comes back, all at once, when he eventually betrays the party.
    - Sarith's Restorative Salve also causes disadvantage on saving throws against spores for 24 hours. He's probably not consciously aware of that fact, or at least can't control himself enough to say anything.
    - Shuushar the Unawakened is in case Shuushar is cured of his madness, but still wants to stay with the party.
    - Dawnbringer's Restoration ability replaces the 1/dawn ability it normally has.
    - Khalessa and Aljanor, and the faction leaders aren't meant to travel with the party all the time, but may end up fighting alongside them in some cases. My plan is to have the various regular soldiers only sometimes accompany the players as well, with many more soldiers available in the larger picture, but that's just me.
    - I replaced Lanniver Strayl with Torea Strayl. Torea was a paladin in my last campaign, and I'd prefer to add more female NPCs in where possible.
    - "Edylyn" is my replacement for Ilvara, so maybe rename her if you want to use her. Her card is a fake-out which I plan to write "PSYCHE!" on the back of.
    - The earth elemental becomes loyal in place of gaining bonus hit points if the temple is cleansed.
    - An infant hook horror cannot be used as a companion. Once it is young (1 month old), the companion stats apply. Check off an age box at juvenile (3 months old) and adult (6 months old).
    - For the basilisk, check off an age box at young (3 months) and adult (12 months).
    - For the wyrmling red dragon, check off a box at 1 month and 6 months. At an age of 5 years, the dragon is no longer a companion, and becomes a full fledged young dragon.

    I also didn't include any damage immunities in the cards, but companions shouldn't take injuries from critical hits or area attack that deal a damage type they are immune to. For instance, Topsy and Turvy should be immune to injuries from damage dealt by non-magic/non-silver weapons, Glabbagool should be immune to injuries from acid damage, and the red dragon wyrmling should be immune to injuries from fire damage.


    This was prompted by Out of the Abyss, but I'll keep this as free of spoilers as possible.

    The issue: the party could end up with a bunch of NPCs following them around, all with their own full sets of statistics, their own turns int combat, etc. This is hard to run, but getting rid of them altogether is lame because there's lots of roleplaying opportunity there, and hand-waving them as "following a ways behind" makes them uninteresting and doesn't always makes sense.

    Proposed Solution: Let the NPCs function as a set of simple abilities/bonuses, instead of full creatures. Out of the Abyss has some other examples of this kind of thing when it comes to nameless NPCs, which I will not go into in order to avoid spoilers, but the basic idea is that you get things like a small damage bonus due to allies making "attacks", an occasional free reroll due to distractions your allies make, or you get to offload a hit onto an ally once in a while. I want to apply this kind of bonus to NPC companions to keep them fun and relevant, but not center stage or bogging down combat.

    My current thought is to give companions 3 abilities, which may or may not improve with level:
    • A regular ability, like a passive bonus to foraging for food, a once per short rest attack reroll, or a 3/day healing spell.
    • An ability that costs inspiration. I'm still torn on whether to give the NPCs their own inspiration when you have a nice chat with them (ala Bioware games), or require a player to spend theirs, but I want each companion to either have another ability, or an upgraded ability, when inspiration is spent.
    • An ability that requires high loyalty. Using the loyalty system from the DMG, this would probably mean higher than 10 loyalty, or perhaps a different value depending on the companion. Without the loyalty system, this would probably require completing a personal quest or otherwise solidifying the companion's loyalty. This ability might be an entirely new one, or a boost to one of the companion's other abilities.

    For example (these are not NPCs from Out of the Abyss; I just made them up):

    Urdok, Dwarven Soldier
    Push Comes to Shove (1/Minute). When a party member hits a creature with an attack, if that creature is Medium or smaller, Urdok can push the creature 10 feet away from that party member. If he does, the creature must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone.
    Shield Wall (Inspiration). Urdok imposes disadvantage on an attack against one of the party members.
    Bodyguard (1/Short Rest) (requires loyalty) An attack that would hit a party member hits Urdok instead. If the attack deals at least 20 points of damage, he is knocked unconscious until the party takes a short or long rest. Otherwise, it's a glancing blow and he's fine.

    Talala, Elven Alchemist
    Healing Salves (3/day). By spending a minute tending to a creature's wounds, Talala heals that creature 1d4 + 2 hit points.
    Invigorating Mist (Inspiration). Talala throws a flask of invigorating substance at a party member's feet, granting them 2d8 temporary hit points that last for 1 minute.
    Restoration (1/Long Rest) (requires loyalty) By spending a minute tending to a creature, Talala can produce an effect identical to a lesser restoration spell. If the party is level 11 or higher, she can instead produce an effect identical to greater restoration.


    So what do you all think? How's the general idea? Do you have any suggestions on improving it?

    Also, how would you handle companion inspiration? My thought was to perhaps have a note card for each companion, and give the card to a player when the companion gains inspiration, then let the player spend that inspiration by giving the card back. I'd probably want all of the companion's information on the card though, so it might be clunky to only give the card out while the companion has inspiration. I suppose a check box on the card would work too.
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2016-06-28 at 03:16 PM.

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Cool idea.

    Would the NPC's have any actual stats though? Perhaps a walking speed? Or will they be sort of omnipresent? Take Urdok, for example. If he helps Rigus the Ranger shove an orc ten feet, can he then go to serve as the bodyguard for Marek the Warlock if Marek is 50 feet away from Rigus (and therefore further than a normal dwarf can move in one round)?


    As for the inspiration aspect, maybe the PC that the NPC Companion's ability affects triggers said ability by using their inspiration. It'd be similar enough to how one PC can transfer their inspiration to another PC.
    Last edited by Stavrost; 2015-11-16 at 08:57 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Stavrost View Post
    Cool idea.

    Would the NPC's have any actual stats though? Perhaps a walking speed? Or will they be sort of omnipresent? Take Urdok, for example. If he helps Rigus the Ranger shove an orc ten feet, can he then go to serve as the bodyguard for Marek the Warlock if Marek is 50 feet away from Rigus (and therefore further than a normal dwarf can move in one round)?
    Right, I forgot to specify. The companions would still have full normal stats, in case it matters at some point, but they would rarely be used, and I wouldn't want to track their movement in combat. For instance, Urdok might be a guard with the protection fighting style tacked on, and Talala could be a scout with the extra healing salve abilities I gave her. In Out of the Abyss, all of the possible companions are already statted out, so I hadn't thought about going the other way.

    Perhaps the best way to do movement would be to assign companions to the PCs, and assume that companion approximately moves with them in combat. Effects could then have a range limit from that PC. For instance, Urdok may be able to protect only someone within 10 feet of his assigned PC (he can maneuver around the immediate area), and Talala could use her mist out to a range of 30 feet from her PC.

    As for speed, a particularly slow companion could slow the PC down until "unequipped" (probably not an action, just a choice on your turn). I think I'd hand wave small differences in speed, including things like a rogue's ability to move as a bonus action: the companion can follow their lead. But an extra slow companion, like one that's exhausted or one-legged, might impose some sort of speed penalty.

    A PC might also be limited to one or two companions "equipped" at a time, in case the DM wants to set some limits where a huge number of companions are available.

    As for the inspiration aspect, maybe the PC that the NPC Companion's ability affects triggers said ability by using their inspiration. It'd be similar enough to how one PC can transfer their inspiration to another PC.
    So when the player uses inspiration normally, they also get the benefit of the companion's ability, or they spend it on behalf of the companion to trigger the ability? The latter was one option I was considering. The former would probably be clunky, since when you need advantage and when you want an invigorating mist bomb are going to be different times.

    I think personally, I'd prefer the companions to have their own inspiration, especially if players "equip" them, and thus have their information, including whether they have inspiration, right in front of them personally. It's not information the entire party has to track all at once.

    But of course, this is just a concept that could be implemented in a ton of different ways. So I'd love to include a lot of options and suggestions to try out.

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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    If the NPCs are "equipped" to a PC, would they be able to be targeted by spell effects and attacks?

    Neat idea!
    Last edited by not_a_fish; 2015-11-16 at 11:34 PM. Reason: Wording clarification: wrote "subject to"; meant " targeted by "

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    This is a fine idea, and it certainly simplifies NPC control a good deal for the poor overworked DM.
    Sic Bisquitum Disintegratum - Thus Breaketh Ye Bisquit

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Ah, i have never read out of the abyss.
    Does it have anything about your proposed system, or does it just have some npc that you decided to convert? If it's the first case, i'll read it :D

    Anyway, i had the same idea a while ago, but it was intended for summoned creatures. I really don't like them in combat, to the point that i ask the PCs to not use them. They break action economy, and they make turns longer.
    Since we use a grid system and maptools, i was worried about how to use a system like yours to manage the creatures.
    Let's say you can, as a bonus action, make your skeleton servant attack an enemy within 30 feet. Where is the skeleton now? I don't want to use a miniature for it. Does it go back to you as soon as he completes the attack? In that way, he's basically a 30 feet ranged attack then. Is it targetable?

    How about we still use a miniature for companions/npcs/summoned creatures, but without stats. With your bonus action, they can attack a creature within 30 feet and they stay there. No movement rules, no AoO. What happens when they get attacked? What about something like "the companion has your AC (or a fixed AC for all creatures). If he takes damage, you can choose to take half that damage to your hitpoints, and he's fine. Otherwise he's incapacitated by the attack until the end of the fight"?

    HP sharing might make sense for a summoned creature, not really for a companion, unless we really really abstract HP.
    Last edited by Madeiner; 2015-11-17 at 06:26 AM.

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Right, I forgot to specify. The companions would still have full normal stats, in case it matters at some point, but they would rarely be used, and I wouldn't want to track their movement in combat. For instance, Urdok might be a guard with the protection fighting style tacked on, and Talala could be a scout with the extra healing salve abilities I gave her. In Out of the Abyss, all of the possible companions are already statted out, so I hadn't thought about going the other way.

    Perhaps the best way to do movement would be to assign companions to the PCs, and assume that companion approximately moves with them in combat. Effects could then have a range limit from that PC. For instance, Urdok may be able to protect only someone within 10 feet of his assigned PC (he can maneuver around the immediate area), and Talala could use her mist out to a range of 30 feet from her PC.

    As for speed, a particularly slow companion could slow the PC down until "unequipped" (probably not an action, just a choice on your turn). I think I'd hand wave small differences in speed, including things like a rogue's ability to move as a bonus action: the companion can follow their lead. But an extra slow companion, like one that's exhausted or one-legged, might impose some sort of speed penalty.

    A PC might also be limited to one or two companions "equipped" at a time, in case the DM wants to set some limits where a huge number of companions are available.
    Sounds fair. Kinda makes the NPC Companions like magic items in a way, but still seems easier than the alternative.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    So when the player uses inspiration normally, they also get the benefit of the companion's ability, or they spend it on behalf of the companion to trigger the ability? The latter was one option I was considering. The former would probably be clunky, since when you need advantage and when you want an invigorating mist bomb are going to be different times.

    I think personally, I'd prefer the companions to have their own inspiration, especially if players "equip" them, and thus have their information, including whether they have inspiration, right in front of them personally. It's not information the entire party has to track all at once.

    But of course, this is just a concept that could be implemented in a ton of different ways. So I'd love to include a lot of options and suggestions to try out.
    I was thinking of the latter, where the PC spends their inspiration to trigger the NPC to use the ability. It would be another option for the use of inspiration (which admittedly, is a concept that I don't quite understand fully, but that's another discussion).

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    SolithKnightGuy

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    The shield wall one on Urdok seems a little underpowered considering he could've just taken the Protection fighting style and get to impose disadvantage for free every turn.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    If the NPCs are "equipped" to a PC, would they be able to be targeted by spell effects and attacks?
    No, they'd be totally abstracted.

    Ah, i have never read out of the abyss.
    Does it have anything about your proposed system, or does it just have some npc that you decided to convert? If it's the first case, i'll read it :D
    The only semblance of anything like this it has is a couple of situations where you have a large group of nameless NPCs backing you. The adventure then also includes various companion NPCs, who work jsut like any NPC, but the book suggests you let the PCs control them in combat.

    How about we still use a miniature for companions/npcs/summoned creatures, but without stats. With your bonus action, they can attack a creature within 30 feet and they stay there. No movement rules, no AoO. What happens when they get attacked? What about something like "the companion has your AC (or a fixed AC for all creatures). If he takes damage, you can choose to take half that damage to your hitpoints, and he's fine. Otherwise he's incapacitated by the attack until the end of the fight"?
    I'd personally prefer to leave their exact position as abstracted as the rest of their stats, and I wouldn't want them making attacks or being attacked. Otherwise, we run into the problem of having to advance them as the party gains levels, or they'll very quickly become obsolete.

    I was thinking of the latter, where the PC spends their inspiration to trigger the NPC to use the ability. It would be another option for the use of inspiration (which admittedly, is a concept that I don't quite understand fully, but that's another discussion).
    I think the main issue here is, you can already spend inspiration to gain advantage on a roll, which means the companion inspiration abilities have to be balanced with that pretty closely. If they're not as good, they won't be used, and if they're better, then players won't spend inspiration normally. I like the flexibility of giving the companions their own inspiration. Then their abilities can be pretty much anything.

    The shield wall one on Urdok seems a little underpowered considering he could've just taken the Protection fighting style and get to impose disadvantage for free every turn.
    He probably has the protection fighting style in his full stat block, but is a companion and not a full creature, and as such his abilities are abstracted. That's the entire point of this. He can't take reactions, or make attacks, or take damage. Instead, he's a set of simple abilities, which are balanced as free extras.
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2015-11-17 at 11:11 AM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Now I remember what this reminds me of: The Comrade rules from the game Only War. In that game each character has a Comrade, who is abstracted very much like you describe above. The Comrade acts as a kind of meat shield as well as a source of extra abilities.

    I very much like these ideas and I will be using them when appropriate in my games.

    Thanks for reminding me
    Sic Bisquitum Disintegratum - Thus Breaketh Ye Bisquit

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Mrmox42 View Post
    Now I remember what this reminds me of: The Comrade rules from the game Only War. In that game each character has a Comrade, who is abstracted very much like you describe above. The Comrade acts as a kind of meat shield as well as a source of extra abilities.

    I very much like these ideas and I will be using them when appropriate in my games.

    Thanks for reminding me
    Yeah, it ended up pretty similar, especially with assigning companions to move with a specific character. I had forgotten about Only War until my roommate compared this to it, but I wonder how much it subconsciously influenced this system.

    I'm glad you like it. I'll probably do a full write-up of the rules, including modifications based on discussion here, in a bit. But for now, it's just a matter of deciding how you want to handle inspiration, and choosing appropriate abilities for companions.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    This is brilliant and I love it.

    You are to be commended!
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Here are some examples from Out of the Abyss. Spoilers for those who might play this adventure!

    Spoiler: Out of the Abyss spoilers
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    I've finished the starting companions (but they're subject to change), and just have templates for the others. I wasn't planning on including the Society of Brilliance as companions, instead letting them be more of utility/information types.

    (See the editing original post for the most up to date version of the companions document.)
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2015-11-20 at 12:29 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Loving the Companions Document!

    Going to keep following it, and stealing everything in it, for my Out of the Abyss Campaign that starts on Saturday.

    This thing rocks socks and will make combat SO much faster!

    I may even create enemies that function in a similar way to tack on to some of the bigger encounters to minimize the amount of in-combat movement/target management. This system would work great for enemies the players aren't -meant- to kill, in a fight. Like a red dragon doing flyovers on a battlefield: Just apply it as a Companion Template to the enemy commander. When he drops it flies away, it's bond broken. Or off to plan vengeance for the death of it's master/friend/mate.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    I'm totally going to steal/use the Companions doc as inspiration.

    In addition to Steampunkette's idea to spice up enemy ranks (which is AWESOME), I've been trying to figure out a way to use this system as a replacement for the lackluster animal companion rules that the Beast Master Ranger uses.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    This...I like this. I'm going to run it past my group.

    I always thought the PCs should be attracting followers, but keeping them completely abstracted and out of combat seems useless, and using them in combat grinds the game to a halt.

    Might be hard to balance, but I'm going to mess around with it.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    This would also work well for a Magicite/Esper/Final Fantasy Summons style system, for those interested in having bigger or more interesting effects tied to characters without locking in a powerful physical ally.

    Just make the magicite take up the Companion slot instead of an Attunement slot and go to town! Have Ifrit and Shiva, Raiden and Bahamut as super strong, and very rare, companions.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    I am loving the ideas in this thread. Keep 'em coming! Responses to the ideas below, but first:

    I'm thinking about adding in the ability for companions to get hurt/die. I want to keep it super simple, and I don't want it to be possible for a random stray arrow to take one out, but I think I have a pretty decent idea, inspired by the death saves mechanic:

    Companion Injury: A companion has 3 boxes for injuries. When you take a critical hit, and when you are reduced to 0 hit points, each of your companions fills in one injury box. If all three boxes are filled, a companion becomes unassigned (or "unequipped" if you prefer), fall unconscious, and begins making death saves during your turn.

    Companion Healing: You can stabilize a companion as normal for any creature, and restoring any number of hit points brings them back from unconsciousness, but does not heal any injuries. A conscious companion with three injuries can't be assigned, but can talk and travel just fine. A companion recovers one injury box during each short rest, and all of them during a long rest.

    Under these rules, I'd make the Bodyguard ability give Urdok an injury if he takes 20 or more damage, instead of just knocking him out.

    For slightly more complexity, you could give different companions different numbers of injury boxes.

    What do you all think? Are there any other conditions you think should cause an injury?

    Going to keep following it, and stealing everything in it, for my Out of the Abyss Campaign that starts on Saturday.
    Lemme know how that goes. I won't be able to run it for probably a couple months at least. We're finishing up another campaign first. I'd love any feedback, especially on tracking inspiration, how you handle how many companions they can use at time, and if you use the injury system I set out above.

    I'll be making some tweaks and additions to the document over the next little bit. I'll keep posting new versions.

    More spoilers:

    Spoiler: Out of the Abyss Spoilers
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    I'll probably also add the earth elemental from the end of the Blingdenstone chapter as a temporary companion. Instead of bonus hit points, it becomes loyal.

    Also, a couple of things I'm planning with Buppido and Sarith: Keep track of the madness avoided with Buppido's Desensitized. It all comes back, all at once, when he eventually betrays the party. Sarith's Restorative Salve also causes disadvantage on saving throws against spores for 24 hours. He's probably not consciously aware of that fact, or at least can't control himself enough to say anything.


    I may even create enemies that function in a similar way to tack on to some of the bigger encounters to minimize the amount of in-combat movement/target management. This system would work great for enemies the players aren't -meant- to kill, in a fight. Like a red dragon doing flyovers on a battlefield: Just apply it as a Companion Template to the enemy commander. When he drops it flies away, it's bond broken. Or off to plan vengeance for the death of it's master/friend/mate.
    This is a super cool idea, and I'm definitely using it. Whether a swarm of otherwise meaningless weak enemies at the feet of a boss monster, an artillery dragon, or some kind of support creature, this is as great a way to add more enemies without bogging down combat as it is for adding more allies.

    In addition to Steampunkette's idea to spice up enemy ranks (which is AWESOME), I've been trying to figure out a way to use this system as a replacement for the lackluster animal companion rules that the Beast Master Ranger uses.
    That sounds like a really cool idea. It'd require a complete redesign of the subclass, but I think it'd be worth it. I'd love to see what you come up with. It seems like the inspiration/loyalty mechanics wouldn't apply, but everything else certainly could.

    Going even further, it might be interesting to let familiars be companions too. Warlock familiars just get slightly cooler abilities.

    Might be hard to balance, but I'm going to mess around with it.
    The great thing here is you don't even need to balance much. It's just like giving out magic items. You can just assume they'll be a bit more powerful than their level suggests. The individual companions can vary in power/utility as much as you feel like.
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2015-11-19 at 11:39 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    The animal companion and familiar thing would make those class features a LOT more attractive!
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    I just included a link to a full write-up of the companion rules in the original post. I'll probably keep adding examples and additional alternate rules, like familiars and ranger animals as companions.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Okayso... Animal Companions need to be -always- loyal. Otherwise what is the point? An animal doesn't get a nice talking to to boost it's loyalty score, it simply -is- loyal. I'd downshift the power of Loyalty, maybe into a constant bonus, and instead give the beast's inspiration a higher overall level of power, then make the inspiration gained in a special way.

    Maybe all animal companions start the day Inspired, but can only gain inspiration if certain animal-specific events are met? Like the Bear companion only being inspired if the Ranger spends 3 straight rounds holding an enemy at bay without assistance from allies to protect those allies. Or the Wolf seeing a harrying of opponents and setting up openings for them as it's inspiring setup. Things like that.

    Then, look at giving the Ranger the ability to grant their companion -more- companion options. Two loyalties (one earned later), three baseline abilities, and three inspiration abilities to choose from when the Inspiration comes up. Things like that. Maybe have the various abilities -learned- through animal training the Ranger is doing while leveling up.

    It makes Animal Companions some of the more inherently powerful Companions, but if it's a class feature of Rangers I think it becomes very important to do it that way!

    I'd probably have familiars use a minimal set of these kinds of abilities and have less HP than Animal Companions or Regular Companions. Then have them "Not Count" as taking up the character's Companion slot.
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Steampunkette View Post
    Okayso... Animal Companions need to be -always- loyal. Otherwise what is the point? An animal doesn't get a nice talking to to boost it's loyalty score, it simply -is- loyal. I'd downshift the power of Loyalty, maybe into a constant bonus, and instead give the beast's inspiration a higher overall level of power, then make the inspiration gained in a special way.

    Maybe all animal companions start the day Inspired, but can only gain inspiration if certain animal-specific events are met? Like the Bear companion only being inspired if the Ranger spends 3 straight rounds holding an enemy at bay without assistance from allies to protect those allies. Or the Wolf seeing a harrying of opponents and setting up openings for them as it's inspiring setup. Things like that.

    Then, look at giving the Ranger the ability to grant their companion -more- companion options. Two loyalties (one earned later), three baseline abilities, and three inspiration abilities to choose from when the Inspiration comes up. Things like that. Maybe have the various abilities -learned- through animal training the Ranger is doing while leveling up.

    It makes Animal Companions some of the more inherently powerful Companions, but if it's a class feature of Rangers I think it becomes very important to do it that way!

    I'd probably have familiars use a minimal set of these kinds of abilities and have less HP than Animal Companions or Regular Companions. Then have them "Not Count" as taking up the character's Companion slot.
    My thought was animal companions and familiars wouldn't have inspiration or loyalty options, but would use the other general rules for companions. I might also drop injuries for familiars. That or they get one box. If you're using a companion limit, then any class feature or spell that grants a companion should break that limit. Honestly, I don't think the limit is necessary. I added a bit about it to my document.

    I'd give animal companions some standard abilities, and then have them make a selection, like with the totem barbarian, that gives other abilities. Instead of using loyalty to earn new abilities, they'd just gain them as you level up (at the appropriate sub-class levels).

    Familiars can pretty much work like they do now, but allow them to deliver touch attacks within some distance, like 30 feet, or go off and scout, at which point they become unassigned and can be attacked as normal.
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2015-11-20 at 01:12 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Steampunkette View Post
    Okayso... Animal Companions need to be -always- loyal. Otherwise what is the point? An animal doesn't get a nice talking to to boost it's loyalty score, it simply -is- loyal. I'd downshift the power of Loyalty, maybe into a constant bonus, and instead give the beast's inspiration a higher overall level of power, then make the inspiration gained in a special way.

    Maybe all animal companions start the day Inspired, but can only gain inspiration if certain animal-specific events are met? Like the Bear companion only being inspired if the Ranger spends 3 straight rounds holding an enemy at bay without assistance from allies to protect those allies. Or the Wolf seeing a harrying of opponents and setting up openings for them as it's inspiring setup. Things like that.

    Then, look at giving the Ranger the ability to grant their companion -more- companion options. Two loyalties (one earned later), three baseline abilities, and three inspiration abilities to choose from when the Inspiration comes up. Things like that. Maybe have the various abilities -learned- through animal training the Ranger is doing while leveling up.

    It makes Animal Companions some of the more inherently powerful Companions, but if it's a class feature of Rangers I think it becomes very important to do it that way!

    I'd probably have familiars use a minimal set of these kinds of abilities and have less HP than Animal Companions or Regular Companions. Then have them "Not Count" as taking up the character's Companion slot.
    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    My thought was animal companions and familiars wouldn't have inspiration or loyalty options, but would use the other general rules for companions. I might also drop injuries for familiars. That or they get one box. If you're using a companion limit, then any class feature or spell that grants a companion should break that limit. Honestly, I don't think the limit is necessary. I added a bit about it to my document.

    I'd give animal companions some standard abilities, and then have them make a selection, like with the totem barbarian, that gives other abilities. Instead of using loyalty to earn new abilities, they'd just gain them as you level up (at the appropriate sub-class levels).

    Familiars can pretty much work like they do now, but allow them to deliver touch attacks within some distance, like 30 feet, or go off and scout, at which point they become unassigned and can be attacked as normal.
    I was thinking of doing a combination of passive, always on abilities and activated abilities for the animal companions, with some more powerful ones requiring an action on the part of the ranger (to help with the action economy issues of having two characters on the field). I've also thought about having some of those Companion actions deal damage similar to cantrips, because sometimes you want your wolf to bite someone.

    I think standard abilities would streamline things, for things that all companions can do. Also, having a selection that evolves over time would be cool. Say you choose "Wolf" for a companion. The wolf gets more abilities as you level up, and at a certain level, maybe instead of just one wolf, your Beastmaster now leads a pack of wolves. Or a troop of chimpanzees. Or a pair of bears. Or a swarm of rats out of your worst nightmares. Or so on...

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Stavrost View Post
    I was thinking of doing a combination of passive, always on abilities and activated abilities for the animal companions, with some more powerful ones requiring an action on the part of the ranger (to help with the action economy issues of having two characters on the field). I've also thought about having some of those Companion actions deal damage similar to cantrips, because sometimes you want your wolf to bite someone.

    I think standard abilities would streamline things, for things that all companions can do. Also, having a selection that evolves over time would be cool. Say you choose "Wolf" for a companion. The wolf gets more abilities as you level up, and at a certain level, maybe instead of just one wolf, your Beastmaster now leads a pack of wolves. Or a troop of chimpanzees. Or a pair of bears. Or a swarm of rats out of your worst nightmares. Or so on...
    Yeah, this all sounds pretty good. I was thinking you could keep the "when you make attacks, your beast also makes an attack," but the attack is more uniform, dealing the same damage no matter your animal (barring perhaps damage type), and then certain animals could have improved attacks, like a trip for a wolf.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    How about something that brings us back to automatic damage chargea?

    When you make a trip attack, which naturally forgoes damage in favor of knocking the target down, the wolf makes an autobite attack. When you bullrush an enemy, which also does no damage, your bear mauls them. Etc, etc, etc. It would encourage the Ranger to use more varied combat tactica, since unlike fighters and paladins the ranger would still do damage when doing those things.

    Or at least their companion would!
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Okay, so I've been working on the Beastmaster variant all day (in between cleaning the house, shopping, spending time with the wife, etc.). I'm all but done, just stuck on the Level 15 ability. I want to keep them similar enough to the original, but of the 15 spells in the PHB that would normally work with Share Spells, only 9 might work with these sort of companions.

    Here's what I've got so far:

    Spoiler: Beast Master Ranger Archetype (NPC Companion Variant)
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    Beast Master Ranger Archetype (NPC Companion Variant)

    3rd Level – Animal Companion

    At 3rd Level, you gain an animal companion that accompanies you on your adventures and assists you in and out of combat. Animal companions follow the rules for NPC Companions, with some exceptions. First, Animal Companions are considered Loyal by default, and therefore do not have abilities that require Loyalty. Second, Animal Companions have an amount of Injury Boxes equal to your Ranger Level. As a Standard Action, you can expend a spell slot to heal your Animal Companion, removing an Injury for each spell level expended.

    Any Animal Companion ability that calls for a saving throw, uses your Ranger Spell Save DC for its DC.

    If your Animal Companion dies, or you choose to dismiss it, you may obtain another one by performing a ritual where you spend 8 hours bonding with another animal that is not hostile towards you.

    Choose from the list below for your Animal Companion. (This list is by no means complete, and only holds suggestions for possible Animal Companions.)

    Bear

    o Powerful (Passive): Your Bear Companion is incredibly strong. It grants you Advantage to Strength checks to force open a door, move something heavy, or similar tasks.
    o Bearhug (2/Short or Long Rest): Your Bear Companion can grab an enemy and hold them still for you. When you hit a Medium or smaller creature with a melee attack, your Bear Companion can attempt to grab that creature. The target must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, they are restrained until the end of your next turn. They can escape early if they succeed on another Strength saving throw on their turn.
    o Bully (Inspiration): Your Bear Companion can knock smaller enemies around in combat. Your Bear Companion can spend its Inspiration to force a creature within 5 feet of you to make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, your Bear Companion deals 1d8 slashing damage to it and pushes it 10 feet away from you. The target must make a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw or fall prone. This ability’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 7th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 15th level (4d8).

    Hawk

    o Eyes of the Hawk (Passive): Your Hawk Companion has keen senses. It grants you Advantage to Wisdom (Perception) checks, or +5 to Passive Perception.
    o Snatch (2/Short or Long Rest): Your Hawk Companion can swoop down and snatch an item away from an enemy. When you hit a creature with an attack, your Hawk Companion can attempt to disarm that creature, snatching one 5lb or lighter item of your choice that the creature is holding. The target must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, the Hawk Companion snatches the object you choose. The object lands at your feet.
    o Harrier (Inspiration): Your Hawk Companion can attack an enemy in a way that distracts them and undermines their ability. Your Hawk Companion can spend its Inspiration to force a creature within 60 feet of you to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, your Hawk Companion deals 1d4 slashing damage to it and it has Disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn. This ability’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 7th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 15th level (4d4).

    Panther

    o Stalker (Passive): Your Panther Companion is amazingly stealthy. It grants you Advantage to Dexterity (Stealth) checks.
    o Ambush Predator (2/Short or Long Rest): Your Panther Companion can catch its prey off-guard, striking hard and fast. When you have Advantage on an attack targeting a creature within 20 feet of you, your Panther can deal an extra 1d4 slashing damage on a successful hit.
    o Pounce (Inspiration): Your Panther Companion can pounce on its prey when it attacks, knocking it to the ground. Your Panther Companion can use its Inspiration to force a Large or smaller creature within 30 feet of you to make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, your Panther Companion deals 1d6 piercing damage to it and it falls prone. This ability’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 7th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 15th level (4d6).

    Swarm of Rats

    o Unsettling (Passive): Your Rat Companions creep others out. They grant you Advantage to Charisma (Intimidation) checks.
    o Swarm (2/Short or Long Rest): Your Rat Companions can leap from you to cover an enemy in a carpet of rodents, terrifying them. When you hit a creature with a melee attack, you Rat Companions force the target to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it is frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
    o Plague Bearer (Inspiration): Your Rat Companions infect your enemies in terrible diseases. Your Rat Companions can use their Inspiration to force a creature within 40 feet of you to make a Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, your Rat Companions deals 1d4 poison damage to it and it becomes poisoned until the end of your next turn. This ability’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 7th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 15th level (4d4).

    Wolf

    o Hunter’s Instincts (Passive): Your Wolf Companion is a skilled hunter and tracker. It grants you Advantage to Wisdom (Survival) checks.
    o Pack Tactics (2/Short or Long Rest): Your Wolf Companion is skilled at fighting in tandem with you. Your Wolf Companion can grant you advantage on all attack rolls you make this round.
    o Takedown (Inspiration) Your Wolf Companion can attack an enemy and bring it to the ground. Your Wolf Companion can use its Inspiration to force a Large or smaller creature within 30 feet of you to make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, your Wolf Companion deals 1d6 piercing damage to it and it falls prone. This ability’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 7th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 15th level (4d6).

    7th Level –Exceptional Training

    At 7th Level, you and your Animal Companion have trained together extensively and can act as one. Whenever you have Inspiration, you can expend it to activate your Animal Companion’s Inspiration ability.

    11th Level – Bestial Fury

    At 11th Level, your bond with your Animal Companion has increased. The number of times it can use its activated abilities doubles. (An ability that was originally able to be used twice per Rest can now be used four times before needing to rest.)

    15th Level – Share Spells

    At 15th Level, when you cast a spell targeting yourself, you can also affect your Animal Companion with the spell if the beast is within 30 feet of you.

    Notes:
    - I wanted the Animal Companions to have more staying power than the normal NPC Companions, hence the increased amount of Injury Boxes. I realize that 20 may be too much, making the Animal Companion virtually unkillable, and I'm toying with the idea of having them be somewhat targetable, or at least able to be damaged by Area effects. (Perhaps one Injury Box per damage die.)
    - I've shied away from x/Encounter abilities, preferring to emulate that with x/Rest abilities. Per encounter abilities remind me too much of 4E (which I was not a fan of), and 2-3 times per Rest equals out to about the same anyway.
    - I had a longer list of Animals, but pared it down because there was a lot of redundancies, and many that I couldn't think up ideas for.


    Let me know what you think.
    Last edited by Stavrost; 2015-11-21 at 08:05 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Stavrost View Post
    Okay, so I've been working on the Beastmaster variant all day (in between cleaning the house, shopping, spending time with the wife, etc.). I'm all but done, just stuck on the Level 15 ability. I want to keep them similar enough to the original, but of the 15 spells in the PHB that would normally work with Share Spells, only 9 might work with these sort of companions.

    Here's what I've got so far:

    <snip>

    Let me know what you think.
    I think this is a good starting point.

    For injuries, 1/ranger level sounds like waaaay too much. I might suggest equal to proficiency bonus instead. I still need to do some testing, but I imagine 3 boxes will be plenty to keep any companion from being truly threatened in almost all situations.

    Are you assuming the animal companion will be gaining its own inspiration? If so, how? Or are the inspiration abilities only for use with the level 7 feature? I'm not sure I like having a class feature that allows/requires spending your inspiration.

    I'd definitely replace share spells with something more fitting of the companion system. I'd probably either give the companion a new ability or give a new option for using the companion, at 7, 11, and 15.

    Level 3, i.e. their basic abilities, should be on par with the hunter's damage boosts. I like that you have a lot of more tricky/utility powers, to contrast with the hunter's pure damage. There's a lot of balancing to do there though, and I might recommend having only one special ability to start with. An "on hit" type ability might be good, with different companion providing different effects and ranged. A hawk might be able to apply its effect when you hit with an arrow at 100 feet, a wolf might be able to run around enough to apply its effects to enemies a bit close, like 30 feet, and a bear is probably limited to melee.

    You could also have some other small utility ability for each animal on top of it's "attack," but it shouldn't provide too much of a benefit.

    Level 7, I'd add on a new companion ability. Perhaps something more non-combat utility, or defensive to mirror the hunter. To keep it generic and allow you to swap animals later, it should be worded something like, "you unlock the ___ ability of your animal companion."

    Level 11 needs to compete with a hunter's multiattack options, and thus needs to be fairly potent, but I'm not sure if another attack is the way to go. More control and debuffing type options might also be cool. This could either be an ability of the ranger, or another companion ability.

    Level 15 is another defensive ability for hunters. This might be a good place for something like, "because of your strong bond with your animal companion, you get <some cool bonus> while it is assigned to you."

    For general design, I wouldn't have any limited use abilities, except probably for 1/Turn, like sneak attack.
    Last edited by Goober4473; 2015-11-22 at 02:25 AM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    I think this is a good starting point.

    For injuries, 1/ranger level sounds like waaaay too much. I might suggest equal to proficiency bonus instead. I still need to do some testing, but I imagine 3 boxes will be plenty to keep any companion from being truly threatened in almost all situations.
    Proficiency bonus is probably more reasonable. I feel like 3 might be too few for high level play.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Are you assuming the animal companion will be gaining its own inspiration? If so, how? Or are the inspiration abilities only for use with the level 7 feature? I'm not sure I like having a class feature that allows/requires spending your inspiration.
    I assume that the animal companion would be able to gain its own inspiration through interaction with the ranger. It'll encourage the ranger to roleplay the beastmaster role, if only even during rests.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    I'd definitely replace share spells with something more fitting of the companion system. I'd probably either give the companion a new ability or give a new option for using the companion, at 7, 11, and 15.
    I thought about adding abilities as the ranger advances, but I've had a hard time coming up with unique abilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Level 3, i.e. their basic abilities, should be on par with the hunter's damage boosts. I like that you have a lot of more tricky/utility powers, to contrast with the hunter's pure damage. There's a lot of balancing to do there though, and I might recommend having only one special ability to start with. An "on hit" type ability might be good, with different companion providing different effects and ranged. A hawk might be able to apply its effect when you hit with an arrow at 100 feet, a wolf might be able to run around enough to apply its effects to enemies a bit close, like 30 feet, and a bear is probably limited to melee.

    You could also have some other small utility ability for each animal on top of it's "attack," but it shouldn't provide too much of a benefit.
    I was trying to stick with the spirit of the existing Beastmaster archetype more than trying to balance against the hunter. That could be a good goal though. Contrast the Hunter's damage potential with utility and manueverish abilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Level 7, I'd add on a new companion ability. Perhaps something more non-combat utility, or defensive to mirror the hunter. To keep it generic and allow you to swap animals later, it should be worded something like, "you unlock the ___ ability of your animal companion."
    I could number them or label them in some way, or even just tag the abilities with a prerequisite.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Level 11 needs to compete with a hunter's multiattack options, and thus needs to be fairly potent, but I'm not sure if another attack is the way to go. More control and debuffing type options might also be cool. This could either be an ability of the ranger, or another companion ability.
    Perhaps a potential area effect of some sort, though it would depend on the type of companion if it is to be a companion ability.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    Level 15 is another defensive ability for hunters. This might be a good place for something like, "because of your strong bond with your animal companion, you get <some cool bonus> while it is assigned to you."
    Maybe, but the animal companion is always assigned to the ranger.

    Quote Originally Posted by Goober4473 View Post
    For general design, I wouldn't have any limited use abilities, except probably for 1/Turn, like sneak attack.
    1/Turn could work, but it would have to lower the potency of the abilities.


    You've given me a lot to think about. I'll continue working on this.
    Last edited by Stavrost; 2015-11-22 at 07:41 PM.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    I've updated the Companion System document, linked in the original post, with variant rules for familiars and my own version of the beast master, inspired by the one Stavrost put together.

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    Default Re: NPC Companion System Idea

    Absolutely loving the presented rules for animals and familiars.

    And the new cards for the Out of the Abyss companions? Perfect! :D
    Quote Originally Posted by Honest Tiefling View Post
    Not everyone has the resources or the ability to become a wizard or a sorcerer, after all. Warlocking just requires a pact, very democratic, really. Doesn't require wealth or a magical lineage, just a promise, and all of your problems will go away.

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