November 5, 2010

PCs as Companions

The concept of Companions for 4E is something that was presented in the DMG2. This is when a party has an additional character in their party, one that is not run fulltime by a player. In effect, this is an NPC run by the players. The core concept is, “DM built, Player run”. There are a number of reasons to include a companion in a party:
  • Supplement a party if they are missing a key class (such as no leader type for healing).
  • Cool factor (A recent Dungeon adventure allowed for a wyrmling to become a pet).
  • Allow an NPC to be something other than be a lump (for when in-story an NPC joins the party for a short period of time).
There is one more way in include a companion and that is as a companion version of a PC. This can be used on a night where the player can not make it and you still want the character to participate that night (perhaps because that character fills a specific need within the party). Using a companion version of a PC allows another player to run that PC in a much easier and smoother manner than if he tries to run the character off a standard character sheet.

 
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Recently the player of the cleric of the party could not make it to the night’s game. Normally, in my games, when a player does not show up the character comes down with a case of Nothereia (pronounced not-here-ee-a). This sickness is similar to a bad cold; the person can’t do much more than follow along. Fortunately, characters with Nothereia seem to always avoid being attacked and the sickness goes away soon enough (about the same time the player shows up again). Since its 4E, it’s easy to balance a fight on the fly by removing 1 standard monster.

 
However, in this case I knew the creature they were about to face was healing intensive. Without a proper healer the party would have lost a couple of characters. To compensate for this, I allowed one of the players to play the cleric in addition to his own. I picked a good player, who routinely has a good grasp of the various classes and their abilities. However, it was a lot more difficult than he or I initially thought. Combat was bogged down whenever the cleric’s turn came up. I can’t fault the player since it was not his character and I couldn’t realistically expect him to properly and quickly play the character.

 
After the night’s adventures, I got to thinking more about the problem. Then I was struck by the notion to write up the player’s cleric as a companion. I would choose some core abilities and see how close I could come to making a viable companion. Following the train of thought I decided to do the same thing to the defender in my second 4E campaign (for a while he was also missing many games due to work and it was painful for the strikers as they tried to do damage while taking damage meant for a defender).

 
In the end, I think they came out pretty good; certainly good enough to allow them to be used in place of the player’s character. The easier to use format of a companion should make fights run smoother, while still allowing a similar impact to an encounter close to the character’s full abilities

 
First up, let’s look at how I did the defender in my second 4E campaign. They are relatively new and he is only 2nd level. He is a Swordmage built as a full-on defender/tank. His job, as he sees it, is to get the attention of the monsters and keep other people alive by making sure they are not hit. Early on, he determined survivability was key. In trying to convert his PC into a companion, I tried to keep in mind how he plays the character; which abilities he uses each encounter.

 
This is what I came up with…

 

 
Hit points, defenses, stats are straight off his character sheet. I was using the Monster Builder to write this up and it wanted to calculate stuff as a monster but I forced in his character sheet numbers.
 
For powers the DMG2 recommends (for a companion based on a character class) one at-will, encounter and daily power along with an ability tailored for their build (defender, striker, etc). I decided to try and include as much of his character’s abilities as I could without it becoming too burdensome; after all, the goal here is to keep things as simple as possible for the player playing the character.

Aegis of Shielding is his main go-to ability and core to his tanking philosophy, so that was added first. 
Stone’s Endurance gets used a lot so I added that.
Sword of Sigils is another good defender ability so I added that as well. 
I also wanted an at-will that let him do damage, so I added Sword Burst.
He also has Lightning Lure (another at-will), but I already had 4 powers listed which I determined was my limit for powers. Since the player tended to use Sword Burst more than Lightning Lure, I kept Sword Burst (and they do the same base damage). 
He also has Whirling Blade, but I already had a daily so passed that one up. 
He has Host of Shields which is a daily utility that adds to defenses. I didn’t want to add a 5th power, so instead decided to make it a passive ability. It normally adds +2 to AC and Reflex. Since it’s a daily and used, on average, every two fights, I gave a passive bonus of +1 to AC and Reflex.
In addition he has a magic item, Flowform Armor, which allows an extra saving throw once a day. Again I made this passive and gave a +1 to saving throws.

In all, the companion version of the character has 6 powers, 4 as powers and 2 passive.


Next, I did the cleric for the other group. He is 9th level and heavily geared toward healing, in fact he took the pacifist healing feat.

 

 

He has a much larger selection of healing so I tried real hard to keep to the powers he uses the most as a guideline to make it easier for myself.

Healing Word is his go-to spell so that was the one I did first. 
I next wanted an at-will and decided on Astral Seal. As a pacifist healer he tends to avoid doing damage so of the two this seemed most appropriate.
He also tends to use Stream of Life a lot, so that got added.
Also Consecrated Ground is his most memorable spell so I had to add that as well.
That brought me to 4 powers which was my limit for powers. Powers I didn’t sue are Cure Light Wounds, Raven Queen’s Blessing, Divine Fortune, Divine Power, Healing Strike, Command, Healing Mercy, Hymn of Resurgence, and Beacon of Hope. The loss of those severely cuts into his usual assortment and longevity in a fight. I decided to add two more uses to Healing Word per encounter to help a bit.

I also decided to make Beacon of Hope a passive ability (especially since he usually casts it first in an encounter to gain the healing bonus). I added +5 to all of his healing spells. In addition, I added his Healers Lore bonus to all of his healing spells. On top of that I added his Pacifist Healer feat to all his healing spells as well. At the same time I added a trigger in case he ever did damage to a bloodied creature. I added the numbers directly to the powers so the player using the companion wouldn’t have to do any math. 
As a feat he has Human Perseverance so I added a +1 saving throws.

He is diminished as a healer, especially in the AoE healing department, but he should hold up well in an encounter.

Eventually I hope to make companion versions of all the characters, though I wanted to start with the ones that have key roles in the party. Of course as the party levels I will have to readjust the companions to reflect the new levels but I think I can get away with doing that every few levels instead of every level.
One thing I noticed was that each companion is unique, especially since I tried to base it on the player’s play style as well as the powers he has. It’s kind of amazing how diverse each class can be.

So, in conclusion, I recommend doing something like this for your own group if some are prone to missing a night’s adventure and you want a ready and easy way to keep including their character.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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