Refining Entourage

I started thinking about the entourage system a while ago, but got sidetracked. I think this streamlines the current system and makes it more flexible for players – while still keeping numbers reasonable (almost) 🙂

Entourage-Assistant

  • Free at L2 in campaign games.
  • Purpose= Junior assistants / followers
  • NPC class
  • Can’t go adventuring
  • Max number= CL/2 + Char Mod
  • Can take one per level.  All start at L1.
  • Cannot exceed 1/2 PC level – max out at L5.

Advanced-Entourage.

  • Available at L6.
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • NPC Class
  • Can’t go adventuring
  • Bring BP’s
  • Can promote a L3 Entourage-Assistant to an L4 Advanced-Entourage
  • Max number= CL/4
  • Cannot Exceed 2/3 PC level.
  • Advancement after L5 = very slow.
  • Entourage-Cousin Vs Entourage Ally

Minor Cohorts

  • Available at L5 – by spending a feat/trait.
  • New Trait  (Minor Cohorts:  Convert two of your entourage to Minor Cohorts.  Counts against Entourage limits)  Can have this  Trait alongside Leadership.
  • Feat  Recruits  (Lots of minor cohorts, who don’t count against your entourage limit)  Cannot have this feat alongside leadership.
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • PC Class
  • Does not bring BPs
  • Can go adventuring
  • Max number (feat) = Character Level/2
  • Max number (trait) = 2
  • Cannot Exceed  PC-level – 4
  • Advancement steady – gets to higher levels
  • Can take one per level. 
  • Does not count against entourage number limit.

Cohort

  • Available at L7 – by spending a feat
  • Purpose = senior assistants, companions, allies.
  • Does not bring BPs.
  • PC Class
  • Can use Squire or Torch Bearer  feat to get Cohort early
  • Can go adventuring
  • Max number= 1
  • Cannot Exceed  PC-level – 2
  • Advancement steady – gets to higher levels quickly
  • Does not count against entourage number limit.

Entourages again!

I can almost hear the players groaning already.  Why is he doing this to us again? 

I have been thinking about the core concepts behind the Campaign Rules.  Don’t worry, it isn’t the Economic Rules again, or a swathe of changes in building stats – but the Role Playing and Character Building aspects of the Campaign Rules.  Not character building, as in optimisation, but ways in which players can grow their characters and add new life experiences to their back-story.  While I have had conversations with many players that impinge on this, four come to mind at the moment – so you need to blame  … thank Andalon, Alisa, Dom & Zelona for this  :}

The various subsystems give (homes, entourages, businesses, merchant houses, strongholds etc) are the building blocks for Character development.  Because of these I can say, for example that:

  • Andalon is the Bishop of Tusk, an astute businessman, a significant member of Tusk Council and respected across the region.  His main assistant is called brother Florin.
  • Adoven is a merchant with international and regional connections.  He is a minor noble with a broad range of business, religious and political interests.  Robert, one of his trusted men, runs a large sword school in Tusk.
  • Marik is a minor noble, landowner and a mining magnate, with land spread across Midmarch.  Gabriel, his main supporter, has a military training school in New dawn.

I could use other examples, and I could say something similar about every character who has been in the game for a while.  Not something that I have been able to do in many games – so (for me) that is a big win already.  As players create their life stories, they create the ‘world’ around them, and I can take little credit for the settled areas in The Stolen Lands game.  Land distribution, management, politics, rulership and cultural development has mainly been controlled by the players – either directly or indirectly.

The biggest change (so far) came because a couple of players wanted to run independent holdings and one wanted to be able to have adventuring parties work for them, rather than for Lord Henry.  That brought about sweeping political changes, and the formation of Greater Tusk and Old Keep as independent holdings.  Exploring the area around Old Keep could have been commissioned by Zelona, although that didn’t come off.   Tusk has decided to ‘sponsor’ an expedition to Candlemere Island, with a view to settling and incorporating it into Greater Tusk as a secondary town/settlement under the control of Lord Adoven.  I foresee similar expeditions in the south and east, at a later point in the game.

So far so good.  However, those changes have put pressure on the Entourage system – and that needs to be refined to meet the needs of this new reality.

Entourage Basics

Entourage-Assistants:   Entourages started off as a way for players to have a bit more role-playing in the Fuzzy threads and to help round out the character / game a bit.  They quickly became a ‘must have’ for people building towns, cities or strongholds – especially when they want to work alone, rather than with other people.  We tend to get two different types of Entourage-Assistant – quiet ones  who act as a part of a settlement’s council, and chatty ones  who are an extra RP outlet for their player.  There are, of course,  a few chatty entourages who fill a role as well.  And that is all cool.

These guys are meant to be a PC’s friends, colleagues and assistants.  They have NPC classes, aren’t proactive, and only do what they are told to do – they support the PC, but they also rely on the PC to provide a living for them.  They never go adventuring, and rarely even leave the safety of the home settlement and top out at  L5 – in the longer term, they become part of the gentry. 

It always surprises me when players build them in the same was as they would build an adventuring character.  These guys don’t need combat feats, but they should be the best administrator / managers around (if they have a council job)  or have an interesting personality / hobby /quirk / etc –  if they are chatty. Combat skills, not really required.

Advanced Entourages

Entourage-Cousins – were added to allow a bit of differentiation and reward, and to help sell the concept of Noble families.

Entourage Allies – do the same sort of thing but allows the PC to build small alliances, in support of their goals.  We have two alliances to date – both with local Dwarf clans.

These advanced Entourage members are the PC’s active supporters.  They expect to be given responsibility, to have a position in society, to have businesses, organisations or villages of their own to run – and they expect to become a part of the aristocracy.  Not very senior ones  (Lairds, College Principal, Commander of the guard, High priests etc) but aristocrats, nonetheless.  Unlike entourage assistants, these advanced entourages can advance beyond L5, although their advance is very slow.

It got complicated, when I allowed entourages (Assistants and Advanced)  to take a PC or prestige class when they reach level 5.  In hindsight, I shouldn’t have done that, although (In all honesty) it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference really. They still can’t go adventuring :} However, a level of Aristocrat at L5 would make for a better transition.  That said, there are a couple of PRCs that are suitable –  for example, Swordlord & Student of War are good alternatives for warriors when they eventually reach  L6.

Minor Cohorts

While I have seen the Recruits feat previously, I didn’t pay much attention to it – probably because I have never (personally) had a use for it, nor seen a player use it.  All of which meant that Minor Cohorts had passed me by.  However, a recent conversation made me look at it in more detail – and I realised how useful Minor Cohorts could be – both in its own right and as an extension of the Entourage system.

Wording, for the feat, is a bit vague – but it implies that all the (non-cohort) benefits of leadership apply, when the PC gets to L7  (Recruits can be taken at L5).

As  stand-alone feat, the PC gets up to half their level of Minor Cohorts who are four levels below them.  The minor cohorts have PC classes and  (one at a time) can go adventuring.  These don’t count against your Entourage numbers  so, in Game / RP terms, this means that you can have a much larger entourage, with a wider range of skills, some of whom can adventure …  However, you cannot take the Leadership feat as well.

However, I like the concept – so I think that I will draft a home-brew trait, that allows a PC to advance an Entourage (or two) to a Minor Cohort.  These minor cohorts will count against the PCs number of entourages –  so it is just another way of advancing (probably) an entourage assistant.  Effectively, the Trait is payment for retraining the entourage member – so they have PC classes, instead of NPC classes. I would expect the classes to be similar/close/compatible – so that it is an improvement rather that a rewrite.

Like advanced Entourages, Minor Cohorts will expect to be rewarded with lands, property and titles.  If, for example, the PC takes a Fighter as a Minor Cohort –  when the PC gets to L10, the Minor Cohort will be L6 and eligible to become a knight or a swordlord.  As soon as they go adventuring, they get inducted into the Southern Order, so they can own land and build defensive buildings – they might (eventually)  be able to qualify for Lord -Dominus status.  These are powerful and important entourage members.  While Cousins and Allies are the junior members of your ‘court’, cohorts are almost your peers.  If you want people with allegiance to you – build a large entourage  :}

The same set of thinking could apply for a Thief’s Guild (NO!), a Spy Network, a Religious Network – or any other organisation that is run by a single PC.

Cohort

That favoured follower who comes with the Leadership feat – Minor-Cohort on steroids :]  All the same thoughts apply –  you only get one of them, they are PC Level-2 – and, therefore, more use when adventuring and quicker to gain levels, titles etc …

Note:  Some PCs will have a Squire or a Torch Bearer.  These both turn into a Cohort at PC Level 7.

More player controlled NPCs?

I started off thinking about Horse Racing.  I need some more downtime activities to act as ‘background’ for some RP.  I have Scrymball now, and I expect my next Fuzzy RP thread will be based around a scrymball game.   That will give me some sort of background activity to report, and gives the Characters in the thread something to talk about.  Perhaps a bit of betting on the side, or even a formal book maker …  Probably not the book maker.  Well, certainly not until I have tried to Write/Commentate a game, and have some idea of how it is going to pan out.

Scrymball has a second RP side –  PCs can own a Scrymball team and some of their entourage members can play in it as well.  Could I do the same sort of thing with Horse Racing?  Horse racing is really flexible –  there could be a hippodrome for ordinary horse races, perhaps even chariot or sulky races  (perhaps both) and there are cross-country style events too – all with a single rider / driver.  That give more scope for both PC/entourage races and NPC spectacle but, it involves horses – and horses can be trained to learn ‘useful’ tricks, so there is another variable for PCs to play with.  However, horses can also be animal companions and horse animal companions are, basically, super horses – which starts to make things complicated.  Would that blow all sense of competition out of the window?  Maybe if I make formal races NPC only – but that still leaves the possibility of a Ranger cohort …

Anyway, my research led me to a page that dealt with companions of all sorts – and I got distracted. I don’t need horse racing yet, so it will have to wait for a bit.  While I have read that page before, and some sections were very familiar, other parts were less so – and some sections started me thinking  :}

There are lots of feats on the d20PFSRD that deal with companions, although I discount third-party feats automatically, and I am not particularly interested in the ‘Kingdom’ related feats –  as I have changed the kingdom rules significantly, and this type of feat would need reworking.  However, there are still Leadership, Squire, Torchbearer and Recruits that are interesting.  Dynasty Founder would have been interesting, had I thought about it before the game started :}

However, it is the Leadership feat that is key – the other three can all evolve into leadership when the PC advances to L7(or 8 in the case of Lantern Bearer).   

The Webpage on companions speaks about the Followers associated with the <i>Leadership</i> feat, and suggests that some of them could be named and used as a network of contacts.  However, that has pretty much been subsumed in the home-brew <i>Entourage</i> feat and the staff associated with the campaign round.  The Leadership feat is mainly useful for the leadership score (Bigger Entourage) and the Cohort.

<i>Squire</i> and <i>Lantern Bearer</i>, are just ways of getting some Cohort Benefits by committing to the leadership feat early.  And while Squire has and some minor modification to make it useful at L3, they can pretty much stand as they are.

However, <i>Recruits</i> is different, and much more interesting :}  Taken at L5 recruits may be converted to <i>Leadership</i>  –  but it doesn’t have to be, and the PC could continue with a number of lower-level minor cohorts, rather than one conventional cohort.  However, they can only take one of these minor cohorts with them, when they go adventuring.  Realistically, this isn’t much good at L5 –  who wants to take a L1 NPC adventuring with a L5 party?  I can’t see that Minor Cohort lasting all that long.

I have been asked, in the past, whether I would allow a character to take both Leadership and Recruits – I said no because Recruits specifically says it can’t happen.  However, I am reconsidering my thoughts on this.  We have all those Entourages, Entourage-Allies, Entourage-Cousins and Cohorts – does an extra layer of minor cohorts make a difference?  I would, certainly, implement a one travelling companion per Character  (Gods know I have enough characters to worry about in game) – although I suspect I am going to have to deal with a Ranger Cohort and their Animal Companion at some point  (I like horses as animal companions for rangers  :P)

I need to think about this.  Are extra NPCs good value for a feat?  How about the flexibility of swapping out your main Cohort for a Minor Cohort with different skills? 

Perhaps, if someone were to take Recruits alongside Leadership, I should restrict recruiting to one new recruit per level?  In that same way as entourages are restricted. It might make an interesting upgrade path for Entourage Cousins/Allies – and would mean they progress to higher levels faster… 

Hmm.  More thought required.