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Companion Feats – The NPC Advantage

December 30, 2013 Comments off

More than just an NPC?Non-Player Characters (NPC’s) form the backbone of any good campaign; they give a human (or demi-human) face to the world the characters live in and create motivations for the heroes to right wrongs and triumph over evil.  Occasionally, this is taken a step further as NPC’s that are heroic in their own right travel with the heroes to face enemies themselves.  Other times, heroes become burdened with caring for an NPC that is relatively helpless and requires the escort of the PC’s to avoid harm.  In the worst case scenario, there is a merger of these two later types, where a relatively vulnerable ‘heroic NPC’ is scripted to journey with the party, and the PC’s walk the line between heroes and babysitters.

A disgruntled party can find that role unrewarding, and this can throw a monkey-wrench into the flow of a story.  I’ve begun using the idea of Companion Feats to keep my party motivated, encourage good role-playing, and ease the burden of caring for a vulnerable NPC while adding a realistic benefit of their in-mission presence.

Companion feats fall into three categories: Minor, Major, and Bonded 

Minor Companion feats: An NPC with a Minor Companion feat grants a bonus to a predesignated skill or skills based on the particular skill set of the NPC.  The bonus affects all members of the group while the NPC is present, and reflects either their off-camera guidance and training of the PC’s, or their helpful advice, watchfulness, or direct assistance during the acts themselves.   Minor companion feats act as the aid another ability, but occur as a free action whenever a party member uses the benefitted skill category.  Example: the party befriends a smuggler who grants a +2 to stealth checks to all party members as long as he travels with the party and is present during the actions in question.

 

Major Companion feats: These powerful benefits derive from the presence and ongoing assistance of a major NPC, giving strong motivation to keep the NPC present, alive and happy, but also conveying a certain sense of power or significance to NPC in the context of the campaign. These benefits are closer to actual feats, or may be actual feats, but are shared amongst the party members (essentially giving a free feat to each party member).  Accordingly, use these with caution.

Example: the plucky northern trader that has lost so much and fought so hard for revenge against the White Witches of Irrisen grants the party a +1 to Will Saves while she remains in their presence.  The impression of her personal suffering and fortitude inspires the party to push on.

When gauging whether a Major Companion feat is too powerful, measure it against lower level spell effects the party has access to.  If it is on par with abilities that could be granted with a lower level casting, it’s less likely you have blown the top off your game. 

Bonded Companion Feats:  These powerful feats arise where an NPC has formed a close bond with one particular character.  This is reserved for instances where the PC and NPC are in love, or where an act has occurred to bring two friends together in a way in which only the darkest of betrayals could separate them. In this instance, the NPC grants the benefit of a full feat or feat-like ability to the PC.  Example: the PC is wedded to the NPC, granting him the benefit of the Toughness feat, as he struggles that much harder to survive, not for himself, but for his bride and unborn son. 

It may be recommended to progress through these levels in steps so that as the relationships continue to grow, the benefits similarly increase in measure, culminating with the Bonded Companion feat advantage for the hero that has truly connected with the NPC.  The GM can continue to use this as a source of motivation for the players, as well as finally using it to mirror a sense of loss should something happen to the beloved NPC from mishap.

Hopefully, Companion feats will create a bit of interest for players paired with NPC’s in your game and create some affection for the companions that help define the world the PC’s live in.

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Pathfinder Christmas Carol – Free Adventure

December 16, 2013 Comments off

08The Skyland Games elves have been busy crafting a holiday treat! Steve has updated our old DnD 4E Christmas Carol adventure for Pathfinder! Not only that, he included some of the new playtest material from the Advanced Class Guide. The updated version replaces the skill challenge with a chase, and features updated maps and detailed stat-blocks of the baddies.

It’s a 2nd-level adventure designed for two PCs. The holidays can be a tough time to get the gaming group together. This adventure is designed for when you can only muster a few of the regulars. To get it, check out the free downloads page, and happy holidays!

Beyond the Rim review: Star Wars Edge of the Empire

December 2, 2013 1 comment

SWE05-book-leftOur group recently completed Beyond the Rim. This will be a detailed review of the content and as such, spoilers will abound. If you plan on playing this, I would not suggest reading further. If you plan on running, or are considering buying it, read on.

Just us GMs, now? Good. I’ve been a big fan of Edge since its debut, and have played quite a bit with various groups both running and playing, so at this point I feel like I can give a proper review of this adventure compared to other published material for Edge. Overall I was a bit disappointed. It isn’t bad, per se, but needed a lot more home-brewing than I would have imagined at first glance. I’ve run the beginner box and the free RPG day adventure, and while smaller in scope (if you don’t count the very generous Long Arm of the Hutt extension to the beginner box) they both seemed to capture the spirit and the flavor of what I think of as Star Wars more than Beyond the Rim. Granted, Beyond the Rim is more of a wilderness/survival adventure, but even the opening act doesn’t really start with a bang. When I think Star Wars, I think action! This start with more of an exploration of the setting and NPCs.

In my opinion, the best Star Wars adventures/books/movies/episodes all start with a little bit of setting the scene, and then an explosion or a battle. In medias res is always the order of the day. This adventure starts with a The Wheel, very cool location, but as written, it takes awhile to get to any action. Most of the first act is just exploring the wheel, shopping for supplies, learning who is who and what to do when, THEN the Yiyar clan makes their move for IT-3P0. GM confession time: I did not tie in the obligations and sub-plots as well as I probably should have. The first session of this for our group was the first Edge session for many players so there were more pressing concerns like, “What do all these crazy symbols mean on the dice?”

sa-nalaorWe had all that ironed out by the time we got to the second act. Here again, it starts out with a series of dice rolls to scan for the wreckage on the planet. YAWN. I spiced it up by immediately having the empire attack with a lambda-class shuttle. The party failed to detect the maintenance droid attaching the tracking device (hey, I warned about the spoilers), so rather than start the session out with a bunch of rolls to determine how much time you waste tracking down the wreckage, I started with a battle! I would highly recommend this to make sure you have your players attention when starting Act 2. It was pretty awesome.

The second act is really the heart of the adventure, as the party searches the planet, gets jumped by wild beasties of Cholganna, and explores the various wreckage sites. By far, the highlight was surprising the party with the cybernetically-enhanced nexu. Nexu themselves are challenging for the party, but with the enhancements it made for a very challenging and memorable fight. Our astromech droid combat-sliced into one of the collars controlling the nexu and made it his pet for awhile, before setting it free. He was nearly smashed in the process, but it was pretty incredible. We also had fun encounters with the Yiyar clan and the Nightflyer, and had a fun time exploring the survivors camp and learning more about Captain Harsol and Cratala. Once the empire arrived, that battle could have been closer, but I held the second lance of scouts in reserve to warn Imperial stations about these troublesome interlopers.

The third act was a lot of fun as well, because finally we start off with a battle! Not only that, but we had a fascinating astrogation roll to start out the session. Astrogation in this instance determines which side of Raxus Prime you end up on: the side near the IsoTech base, or the side near the Imperial shipyard. The check was a spectacular failure, with threat, but also a triumph! We interpreted that as them dropping in to normal space and immediately smashing into one of two TIE fighters patrolling the area, destroying it completely. That led to the very cool chase scene thru the canyons, and I utilized the ships from the X-wing game to represent distances and relative positions.

The team had a bit of a break once they landed and explored scrapheap point. Some of the team went off to gather some salvage, while others remained behind to repair their ship after the chase with the TIEs. This lead to a really close battle, because half the party got jumped by “Too-low” Talo and his “Jawas” and the other half were attacked by the Trandoshan mercenaries. It was touch and go for a bit, but the party persevered, and were able to launch the Blockade Bandit and their own freighter while under imperial attack. Our astromech M1-K3 made such a great missile spoofing roll (two triumphs) I ruled the imperial patrol craft ended up shooting missles at each other as the corvette split the space in between them. A very cool ending!

Overall, I think Edge adventures are what you make them. But in this case, I would encourage GMs running this to try and start each session with a bang, boom or battle! I would NOT recommend this as people’s first adventure with the Edge system, and would recommend the very awesome beginner box instead. I may run this again for a different star wars group I’m playing with. We’ll see how it stacks up when run a second time. It took about five four-hour sessions to run. At an MSRP of $29.95 and weighing in at 96 pages, I think its worth buying. Just make sure you have plenty of time to read everything over, and spice it up if you get stuck in what could be a dull spot.

Categories: Adventure, Books, Reviews, Star Wars