Author Topic: Animal companions  (Read 2524 times)

zmook

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Animal companions
« on: November 28, 2012, 10:36:27 PM »
Getting ready to run a game, I'm looking at the Ranger, and trying to figure out what I'll say when the players ask me about companion trainings.  They're obviously pretty important, but the description is minimal.  How do you guys play them?  This is what they sound like to me:

Hunt:  the animal is trained to cooperate with the ranger in finding, chasing and killing animals, everything from ducks to bison.  In some circumstances (cougar vs hare, perhaps) the animal can be unleashed to hunt on its own, and will return with prey to share.  This training carries through to generally being able to coordinate attacking anything the ranger can point out.  The ranger may be able to get the "attack the same target", "track",  and "take damage" Command benefits in the right circumstance.

Search:  the animal is a skilled tracker, a bloodhound.  Here's the missing person's sock, now let's go.  Or, somewhere near here is a base of bandits - let's find it.  The ranger may be able to get the "track" and "discern realities" Command benefits.

Scout:  the animal can be sent out some distance ahead of the party, and will spot and stalk any potential ambushers.  The ranger may be able to get the "discern realities" Command benefit.

Guard: the animal can be told to protect any friendly person (or group), and will follow them and attack anything that threatens them.  If the animal is guarding the ranger, he can get the "attack" and "take damage" benefits, but if the animal is guarding anyone else, they don't have Command, so they don't get any mechanical benefit, just the advantage that attackers will have to deal with the wolf first.

Fight monsters:  the animal is particularly trained to fight the more horrifying and unnatural sort of opponent, and is much less likely to be cowed or to flee before the undead, demons, slime lords, and the like.  The ranger may be able to get the "attack" and "take damage" benefits.

Perform:  the animal knows entertaining tricks, and may be used to get a good reaction in civilized places (where otherwise a wolf may be completely unwelcome).  [Might "tricks" may extend to such things as snatching items from unexpecting hands, or delivering messages or small packages?  If so, these things seem like the kind of thing where I'd like to see a roll to determine success, but I'm not sure what move it would be.] 

Labor: ???

Travel:  The companion is big enough to ride, and will bear the ranger with unusual swiftness, dexterity and/or endurance.  The ranger may be able to get the "attack", "track", and "take damage" Command benefits in the right circumstances.

Command also offers a bonus to working with a trained companion and Parleying, but I'm having trouble wrapping my head around the circumstance where this would occur.  When can an animal companion help with Parley?  I suppose there's "if you don't do what I want my wolf will rip your throat out", but then why is it +Cunning instead of +Ferocity?

Curious what other people think, before I start making house rules.

sage

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Re: Animal companions
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2012, 11:21:53 PM »
Labor: typical farm animal-type tasks. Pulling a plow (or other heavy load), herding sheep, that kind of thing.

Travel: That, but it can be broader too. A dog might be helpful in travel just because it's trained to set a pace and keep walking. It might even carry some weight.

In general, it's a good idea to work with the player and ask questions to figure out exactly what the training means for that animal. If a player tells me their owl is trained for labor I'm going to ask what that means. Then I'll work with them on the answer—maybe something like owls are trained in the Old Woods to harvest honey, or whatever.


An animal is useful to parley most regularly as leverage, as in your example. It's not ferocity because the important thing is not what the animal does, but how it can sell it. A bear might be ferocious in combat, but not be very good at threatening—it's either content or ripping your throat out, nothing in between.

That said, an animal could be involved in parleying in other ways. Maybe the service it provides is leverage, or it's mere presence is a status symbol. So long as it follows from the fiction, go for it!

zmook

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Re: Animal companions
« Reply #2 on: November 28, 2012, 11:44:46 PM »
Couple more questions:

I can imagine circumstances where a hunting or guard companion ends up fighting on its own, or alongside the wizard or something.  And the animal might make an attack on a 6hp guard, and not kill it, and then the wizard zorches with Magic Missile and does 3hp damage.  Is the guard dead?  Depends on how much damage the owl did.  How much damage does the owl do?   So it was an npc (owl) on npc (guard) attack, so I guess I'm within my DM rights to pick a number by fiat when it happens, but I'd prefer not to do that if I don't have to.  Should I just go with "damage = ferocity"?

In general, it seems like companions acting independently are going to raise a lot of npc-vs-npc conflicts, and I would prefer not to do everything by fiat.  It could be very important, for instance, whether the owl can snatch the scroll from the sorceress' hands before she finishes reading it.  If I don't want to just arbitrarily decide whether the ritual is completed, does it make sense to roll Defy Danger +Cunning for the owl?  Or should I have the Ranger roll it?  Or should the roll be something else?

sage

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Re: Animal companions
« Reply #3 on: November 28, 2012, 11:56:14 PM »
In general an animal companion acting without the ranger is inviting a soft move, maybe even a hard one, from the GM.

As always, follow from the fiction.

So the ranger says to his owl "get the scroll!" as the sorceress is casting her spell. Cool. They're looking at you to find out what happens and no move applies so you make a (soft) move.

Showing sounds of doom might be a good one: "the owl grabs the scroll, but the sorceress's grip is too much, they're struggling over it, what do you do?"

Maybe use up their resources: "the owl gets the scroll, but now the sorceress is chasing after it as the owl tries to flap away, what do you do?"



Likewise, in a fight, not by the ranger's side, an animal companion doesn't really do (or take) damage. If the animal reasonably belongs in the fight on its own (say, against a rabble of villagers) it's a soft move. Maybe the animal takes out a villager but it comes back badly wounded (-1 ferocity until it recovers). If the animal is outmatched, perhaps against an angel or something, it's a golden opportunity. Taking the animal out of commission until the ranger does something to recover it is a good choice.

zmook

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Re: Animal companions
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2012, 01:19:28 AM »
Thanks, man.