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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