With all of us right in the thick of summer, it’s likely one or more of your games is going to be missing a player or two thanks to a variety of summer vacations, parties and similar “get out of the house / get away” plans, celebrations and events. As such, it’s a great time to revisit the the idea of simple companion characters (SCC’s) first seen in Companion Characters: Gather Your Allies!
After all, you’re going to want (or almost need, assuming your leader’s player is away) someone to pinch play for the team so the heroes can continue their adventures with something close to full strength. Companion characters or NPC party allies fill that important role nicely when needed to flesh out a party, whether you use DMG2‘s two styles or my bare-bones simple version.
Powers & Properties: Frequency vs. Strength
The “always-on” magic item property-like bonuses of the original SCC’s worked well enough in my games and hopefully they worked well in yours. However, in keeping with a direction of keeping things like triggered actions associated with more exciting and important triggers, rather than mundane ones, here’s a “daily/encounter power” approach for companion characters by role you can use in your games. You might find their collective “oomph” a more memorable addition to your game and party without stealing the true heroes thunder too much or too often.
Plus, now they’re not something you always have to remember throughout an adventuring day or during every round of combat – instead, SCC II’s basically replace that effect or property with a shared encounter or daily power available to the entire party and for use during the most critical times. And who doesn’t like more powers?
Simple Companion Characters II: Daily or Encounter Powers
- Defender: Negate a successful attack that targets a single ally.
- Leader: An ally may second wind as a minor action, or if already a minor, as a free action on their turn.
- Controller: Deal 5 bonus damage/tier to all targets on a successful close or area attack.
- Striker: Deal 5 +5 bonus damage/tier on a successful melee or ranged attack.
All you’ve got do to now is decide how tactically influential you want your NPC party allies to be, as these are decidedly stronger than the original SCC’s thanks to the immediacy and urgency of the power’s effects. Look to existing immediate actions for ways to flavorfully describe the NPC’s momentous assistance. The effects here are intended to be direct, easy to execute, and in keeping with the flavor of the benefits of the role the companion character represents.
For example, if your NPC party ally is close to a bow-wielding ranger in style, his daily or encounter SCC II power could simply be called Combined Fire, named after the battlefield archer exploit, but working as detailed above.
Variant: Specific Powers
You could also simply select staple or classic powers similar to the effects and roles above and run with them as listed in the rules. That is, if you or your group prefers exactly how a given role or class’s particular immediate action or immediate interrupt power works, use that instead.
For example, keep the cleric’s Shielding Word prayer as an available party encounter power for when your cleric’s player misses a session. Or perhaps the paladin’s player suddenly can’t make it to the game – have a simple companion character bring a daily Noble Shield prayer to the table as part of the party’s arsenal. Or the previously mentioned NPC ranger’s Combined Fire now functions exactly like the paragon path attack power.
Variant: Fortune Cards
Other possibilities for SCC II’s involve D&D Fortune Cards. For example, you could instead pre-select a handful of defender-flavored cards for when your party’s defender is missing and use them as a group resource during play. Or you could replace any of the suggested powers above with a single Fortune Card power that fits the NPC’s role and personality, either keeping or changing Fortune Cards between encounters.
Combining SCC I & SCC II
You could also of course combine the original simple bonus effects of SCCs with these new encounter or daily options, reinforcing the theme of each role at the cost of a bit more shared options and information to manage. This approach pushes the envelope on the original design intent of simple custom companion characters: simplicity! Still, it amounts to basically a simple extra magic item and encounter or daily power for the party, and so it’s likely to remain an easily managed and tracked NPC party ally option for your games.