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.

Posted in House Rules, NPCs, World Building.

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