Monday, January 31, 2011

Roleplaying Animal Companions/ Cohorts

What happens when your character's persona or in-game abilities dictate that he gets a few mooks/ faithful animals to drag around with him? Well sometimes it can be an excellent and truly satisfying RP experience for the player. Other times it just turns into a sneaky mechanics-breaking combo to give your lion 49 AC at level 12 and have 4 attacks that hit harder than the 2-handed fighter with power attack. Whatever the case may be- it's always something of note. There are a lot of ways to get cohorts (human or otherwise). This refers can to the "Leadership" feat, the summoner's eidolon, animal companions, familiars, ect (more if you are not playing a standard OGL d20 game).

The real question in my mind has always been "who controls the cohort and to what degree"? A few years back I had the opportunity to play in a series of game that took 3 or 4 different groups though 4 GMs in one night in hopes of surviving and wining a prize. I took a Paladin/Knight of the Raven (A quirky knight-like prestige class from the Dungeon and Dragons v3.5 campaign "Expedition To Castle Ravenloft") into a this little trial. With me I had a celestial raven who was my guardian and spiritual guide. What was interesting to me was that each of the GMs took a different approach to how much I could control it. The first one let me DIRECTLY control all of it's actions and even speak for it. The second took control of it. I could give it orders, but he basically described what happened. He also spoke for it. The third GM (and our group's last) let me control it directly, but spoke for it. All the GM's let me control it directly in combat.

This made me raise and eyebrow. How could something this important be left up to the GM alone? From a Roleplaying perspective it changes the rules of engagement. Am I ONLY controlling my character in a world under the GM's thumb? Can I represent a "faction" or control SOME NPCs? Where are the limits? I also brought several guard dogs with my character. The first and second GMs (that's as far as they got...) let me both control them directly. Don't get me wrong. I like the concept that I have mechanic that is powerful yet out of my control slightly. I'm also gonna sit on the fence a bit here- I don't have the answer. So I ask you, what level of control should you have over cohorts?
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  1. Total control, but the GM should limit the game breaking mechanics to said mook/s. The player wants the said mooks for a reason, let them do whatever they want with them. Monitor their actions and come up with a reaction.

    If they break their mooks to OMFGWTFBBQ, is their own fault if they think the game is too easy...

    As for the lion thing, I have something even more ridiculous. A t-rex with improved natural attack, strong jaw spell, animal growth,+6 str belt, +5 enhancement bonus from magic fang, 2 points into str from HD, improved vital strike, power attack, furious focus, totaling of 44 str after the buff.

    +33(12BAB+17str-2size+5magic fang+1weapon focus) to hit, 24d6+51damage[average 135damage]. (34str+5magic fang+12power attack = 51)

    2d6 normally, 3d6 with improved nat attack, 4d6 from size increase from animal growth, to 8d6 from strong jaw, 16d6 more from improved vital strike. Totaling 24d6...

  2. doable with 1 round of buffing from quickened strong jaw, a 4th level spell; and animal growth, a 5th level spell.

    As for the AC, 10+ 19nat armor total(more with buff)+ ?armor+ 5 deflection bonus+ dex +5 natural armor enhancement bonus. it can easily get towards the 50's range.

  3. We buffed a celestial T-Rex last night from a summoner. If you are swinging at +50s (or even +40s) it's probably not even required to take furious focus. Even against a CR 20/21ish you don't need furious focus.

    But in regards to "who controls it" and "how much". In my opinion (if I was pressed to give one) control should be given to things described in class features. Anything with a high enough intelligence to be "played" should be within the players control. A dog you buy or a hired merc probably shouldn't be.