Author Topic: Animal Companion  (Read 9415 times)

Nitrosyncretic

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Animal Companion
« on: September 03, 2012, 10:56:00 PM »
How do you experience DW GMs run the animal companion?

In the first game of DW I ran, the ranger sent his wolf, an animal companion, to go attack an NPC while the ranger did something else. The animal companion move didn't list any stats for the companion.

As it happened, I just fudged some narration about the result, so I didn't have to figure out a dice roll. The wolf did take hit point damage though and I fudged that to because there's no stats for animal companions.

So

1) How does an animal companion attack separately from its master? What damage does it do?

2) How do I apply hit points when they are scored against the companion?

(not that) adam

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2012, 11:02:29 PM »
The way I handled it, it's the same thing as per npc vs. npc conflicts; that is, in short: the gm decides.

The long version is here.
Oh, the things we tell ourselves to feel better about the long, dark nights.

noofy

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2012, 03:48:22 AM »
Think of the animal companion as a resource, something the player (and character) obviously cares about! Player resources are antagonised by the GM, either through specific GM / Dungeon moves, or by 7-9 results on player moves.
Put the wolf in a spot, deal damage on it fictionally; say with a broken leg, or knocked out, or bleeding heavily. Invoke the wolf's weaknesses... Remember to give the player a difficult choice with consequences, let them decide on how important their companion is to them via their actions.


Scrape

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2012, 03:52:22 AM »
I kinda felt like the companion is supposed to stay by the Ranger's side. The move says "when your animal companion and you attack the same target..." Like, it's just an animal so how hard is it to kill? It's not a D&D style thing where it gains crazy hit points, it's just a well-trained dog or whatever, right? Sounds like he was really throwing it in harm's way by sending it off on its own to fight someone.

Anyway, I think Adam is right, it's up to you as the GM to arbitrate the results. Was it a trained wolf fighting a commoner? Or a trained owl attacking a master archer? You can pretty easily see which way those fights would go. If it's more ambiguous then you could always use the "it kept the enemy distracted but now it's time for you to step in" approach.

Edit: while I was typing this, noofy replied with the same line of thinking that I had. You don't deal hp damage to the animal, you hurt it.

noofy

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2012, 05:54:02 AM »
We HAVE to play sometime Scrape, we'd have a blast :)

Nitrosyncretic

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2012, 09:37:57 PM »
Thanks for the advice! Here's what the situation was: the party had just encountered a drawbridge across a chasm in the dungeon. The platform on the other side held four archers and a large jailer cranking up the drawbridge. The ranger sent the wolf to jump the gap between the corridor and the rising drawbridge, then attack the guy cranking the bridge.

I gave him that in one move -- wolf over gap to interfere with the guy raising drawbridge. Then I described how the jailer picked up a huge club he had leaning against the wall and asked the players "What do you do?" Some other players acted and when it got to the ranger he shot another target. I declared that the wolf took a blow but then we had a discussion about how that worked.

Thinking about this now, I allowed several players including the ranger to take moves before I made my next move. Because there were archers also involved, I think I would do it differently next time--let fewer players move before I brought a hard moves. Just learning how to pace the alternation of player and GM moves was a factor that made this feel awkward. I mean that I understand that the turn taking is not strictly alternating one for one between player and GM. I think my impulse was the right approach, it just felt strange.

noofy

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2012, 01:20:41 AM »
You did great Nitro! Sounds like a very tense scene.

Just share the spotlight amongst all the characters and think like a movie director.
Your wolf leaps the drawbridge and wraps his jaws viciously around the Jailer's leg. Groaning in pain, the brute lifts his club in defiance and is going to smash your valiant puppy to pulp with his spiked log,

[zoom  in to the Ranger's worried face]

Arrows are flying left right and centre, its all you can do to avoid being skewered yourself... What do you do?

Scrape

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2012, 04:06:01 AM »
Yessssss thinking about DW combat as if it was an action movie instead of a board game is exactly how to learn to pace it. Instead of worrying about how many "actions" happen each turn, just make sure you're always setting up tense or threatening camera shots. Then turn to the players to resolve that moment; their actions will allow you to set up the next threatening shot, and so on.

Sounds like you definitely took advantage of having the wolf in harm's way, just remember what you learned next time: the wolf doesn't take damage. It gets hurt.

Option

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2013, 08:07:43 PM »
I kinda felt like the companion is supposed to stay by the Ranger's side. The move says "when your animal companion and you attack the same target..." Like, it's just an animal so how hard is it to kill? It's not a D&D style thing where it gains crazy hit points, it's just a well-trained dog or whatever, right? Sounds like he was really throwing it in harm's way by sending it off on its own to fight someone.

I envisioned the animal companion the same way but my player created a ferocious burly polar bear that was trained to fight monsters. I had a hard time thinking of a reason why his polar bear had to stay at his side and couldn't be sent on it's own to attack a small group of gobins.

For the other smaller and more nimble companions, I can really see how they can assist in a fight by adding or reducing some damage but the bear just doesn't seem to fit that roll. It's fiction is too big, powerful and meaty to just absorb or give a few additional points of damage. Maybe I should have ruled the bear is a runt?

I feel like the Game Book should have explained how companions are supposed to fit in the game in addition to including descriptions/ideas/examples for what the various companion tags mean (strengths, trainings, and weaknesses). My player asked if his polar bear could carry some equipment if he took the labor training and if so, how much weight. I really had no idea and couldn’t find descriptions for those tags anywhere in the book.

Nifelhein

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2013, 06:42:27 PM »
Bears hibernate though...
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Hitchcock

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2013, 04:53:13 AM »
It seems like some of the issue is about how to handle damage and consequences for ranger and companion. I look at it like the Ranger and Companion are essentially one being with shared hit points, stats and screen time, making moves as usual, but with a huge difference in the fiction.

I ran another session of Dungeon World last night with an elven ranger, Alaria and her cougar Rik. During the first part of The Black Tide, Alaria sent Rik (a cougar) to spook the Templars' horses. I asked for a defy danger roll with Dex to avoid the attacks of the Templars. The results should impact the fictional situation of the Companion. So when she rolled a 5 against the Templars, Rik was surrounded and trapped by mounted knights bearing swords and calling for their spears. That seemed to work and lead to more interesting events.

For Hack and Slash, I applied damage or backlash to Rik in the fiction. The character doesn't have to mirror the damage to feel it. If Rik had broken a leg or something, Alaria would have felt the harm to her essence or however you conceive of Hit Points, but she wouldn't get a broken arm.  If Alaria had taken a fatal wound during the adventure after any sort of mixed result, I'd always give her the option of having Rik take the hit and be killed, sparing her the damage just that once.

The cinematic style is certainly where I'm coming from. If you've got a bear companion, you have a BEAR with you. The things you can narrate with that ARE the benefit (or complication) you are looking for.The mechanical bonuses are minimal for balance,  they are not the meat of a companion's benefits. A bear could rear up to push things over, see over a fence, or pull down a flimsy structure. A wild cat could leap over obstacles or climb trees in pursuit. A wolf understands teamwork and might even call in a pack of wolves to hunt prey or villains. These aren't limits or denials of the abilities of other critters. They are guides for you to focus the fiction.

Your particular animal companion's strengths are the guide to it's nature. Is your bear Burly and Intimidating, or Huge and Ferocious, or Calm with Keen Senses? NPCs are going to react to those tags very differently. The way the player narrates the fiction for their beast should change, too.

Hack and Slash, as written, is a tough case because, for example, a bear companion would seem to be stronger than most Rangers. Of course it is, and it can perform feats of strength and weight, as needed, in the fiction. But for dealing damage, the character's Strength and Damage and the Companion stats you chose are the measure of the class's mechanical effects in different situations, not a simulation of it's realistic benefits. All the realism or fantasy you want in your game happens in the fiction. If there are significant complications or issues you have, and that fit with the DM's AGENDA, turn them into adventures. What DOES a ranger do when his/her bear wants to hibernate? Find a potion to help? Grab a blanket and take a long nap? Or train it to resist the urge? That's for DM and player to decide, right? And if it doesn't sound fun or suggest some wondrous adventure, how about just letting it go?

I really enjoy running DW, but I agree some things could be clearer. In general I take some of the rules as a source of inspiration rather than clarity. And I'd mention again, that screen time is an important balancing factor for characters who can literally be in two places at once, more or less.

I'm burnt from DunDraCon. Happy dungeon-eering.

Scrape

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2013, 06:58:37 PM »
That's a really excellent post, Hitchcock. DW presents a very different animal companion than most gamers are used to and I think you summarized it really well. I like the "one soul, two bodies" feel of your description and I'm gonna steal the hell out of it.

Gediablo

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #12 on: July 25, 2014, 07:12:50 AM »
Good comments above (sorry about reviving ancient thread, but seemed appropriate). However, what happens if the ranger's companion dies? I understand that you could add several things to reduce the likelihood of that happening, but ultimately if your adventures live in a world where they have a more than a theoretical chance to die so does the companions. If not elsewhere then at least when Death is offering the adventurer a deal between the ranger's life and the companion's life.

Besides mourning the previous companion, will the ranger be able to get a new companion? Of any creature or it has to be the same? How long does the new companion need to be trained to be able to do the same thing.

Anyone has any experience with this?

zmook

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2014, 12:39:39 AM »
Besides mourning the previous companion, will the ranger be able to get a new companion? Of any creature or it has to be the same? How long does the new companion need to be trained to be able to do the same thing.

This is the kind of question where I think the Dungeon-World-style answer is for the GM to turn to the player and say, "Okay, Ranger, how does it work?  The rules don't really say, but you're The Ranger, so you should know.  What happens now?"

Then engage peer pressure around the table to make sure the answer is not lame.

As far as I can tell, that's the point of the "you're not A Wizard, you're The Wizard" stuff in the rules -- the point isn't that there aren't other people out there who might set things on fire with magic, but that if there are, they don't necessarily do it the same way you do.

Gediablo

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Re: Animal Companion
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2014, 11:17:22 AM »
Good suggestion. I guess it is the same regarding the move "Unnatural Ally".