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Hurlanc

Abstract NPCs

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hi there,

as one of my PC is growing into a wealthy smuggler, he's asking for recruiting bodyguards to protect him against other villains or maybe bounty-hunters.. I'm pretty reluctant in giving him full control a 2nd and possibly third character, and dont really want to play these NPC myself (what actions they have/they spend/ fatigue/stress/wounds and so on..)

I'm thinking about an abstract NPC that would work this way :

- NPC is figured by a single card.

- NPC has only 2 stats ; Loyalty (LY) and Health (HE) ; may health reach 0, he dies ; may loyalty reach 0 he leaves the party

- NPC has a number of "actions" (varying on the NPC type and strength)  that can be used by the PC, for a given cost of LY
sample action for mercenary :
"+1 purple on an incoming melee attack -2LY"
"+2 white on a melee attack, -1LY"
"soak 2 wounds, -2HE -1LY"
other sample actions :
roadwarden : "+2 white to nature lore while travelling -1LY"
acolyte "+1white to a prayer, -1LY"

- NPC lose 1 Health for each comet when helping in defense, and 1 health for each chaos-star when helping in attack

- Health may go up with healing (indeed!),  Loyaly may go up with paying a salary (money, typically) sample : +5LY for 1gp

- optional : Loyalty may go 1 down every (week, day, encounter, your choice)

 

your thought ?
 

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Not exactly generic, but this is what I came up with for a follower card. Loyalty is the single stat, working like a Small But Vicious Dog's obedience -- I like the idea of a single stat to track. His one attribute (Piety, in this case) is used for any rolls that he would make. The idea for Magnus is that he doesn't lose loyalty if he's not with you, but if you fail to live up to his expectations, he goes elsewhere.

In the case of a hired hand, something like pay 4s -> +1 Loyalty. For enough coin, he'll follow you to the ends of the earth... but if you too much happens too quickly, nothing will get him to look back.

We had the same idea of spending loyalty to give the PC a boost as opposed to having the NPC act separately.

Magnus Gottschalk

 

Name sound familiar? I created this to further entice one of my players in The Gathering Storm adventure to become a witch hunter and based his effects off of his version in the book. Now that my player is a Witch Hunter, I will allow him to take the Follower at the cost of 1 class Advance. For this cost, I wanted to make sure he was capable of benefitting the whole party. In hindsight, I would rewrite one line as "You may spend 1 advance to restore Magnus to 7 Loyalty.

(And in case anyone wonders; I used the previewed mount card as a template and used photoshop to alter it into its current form.

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 nope he photoshoped it, but i will consider making one such sheet in SE

 

Amehdaus : great ! I like the idea that the PC actions may alter NPC loyalty, but i would not refer to specific dice results. chaos stars and comets are only results on a die and not really a player's choice. It may be frustating for a player to see his beloved NPC leaving because of a serie of bad rolls.

I'd rather give him some beliefs/expectations, and if the PC acts accordingly, loyalty goes up, if not, it goes down.

I also like the idea of giving a bonus when over a certain amount of loyalty

I don't know if we should give up health tracking. It's a second track, but if NPC cant die, it seems odd to me in the perilous world of warhammer, be him a fighter or non-fighter NPC. 

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 My logic of single track follows FF's logic of the canine companion. If it dies, it is due to a plot effect of the GM. If it's Loyalty reaches 0, it could be that it runs off or that it dies -- GM's fiat. Not giving it health, as such, keeps it from being an actual combatant in a mechanical sense. It also gives the GM more control if the NPC is expected to be progressing the plot or needs to die heroically (or inanely).

I tried to tie the beliefs/expectations to the die rolls that trigger loyalty gain/loss (in this case, fighting in the name of Sigmar). The dice results are random, but the beauty is that a PC can dismiss the NPC at any time during a scene... he would lose any benefits, but no longer risk his failure (bad dice) being noticed by the follower. I wanted the PC to have to make decisions about whether to bring the NPC on a given "mission" or leave him behind.

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This could also be interpreted as applying the Chaos Star results ONLY if the GM deems it fitting (i.e. there is a story related reason for such a thing happening).

Example: Magnus is fighting (in an abstract sense) with the PCs againsts some Greenskins....one of the PCs rolls an attack, misses and rolls a Chaos Star in addition.  Magnus, watching how the PC handles himself out of the corner of his eye during the battle, later comments that the PC seemed to be pulling his punches so to speak, and wonders aloud if his loyalty to Sigmar is true! Magnus loyalty rating then drops one space on the track. FIN

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nope he photoshoped it, but i will consider making one such sheet in SE

 

Amehdaus : great ! I like the idea that the PC actions may alter NPC loyalty, but i would not refer to specific dice results. chaos stars and comets are only results on a die and not really a player's choice. It may be frustating for a player to see his beloved NPC leaving because of a serie of bad rolls.

I'd rather give him some beliefs/expectations, and if the PC acts accordingly, loyalty goes up, if not, it goes down.

I also like the idea of giving a bonus when over a certain amount of loyalty

I don't know if we should give up health tracking. It's a second track, but if NPC cant die, it seems odd to me in the perilous world of warhammer, be him a fighter or non-fighter NPC.

 

OMG! Pleeeeaaaase consider making a Strange Eons expansion for HedgeWizard's stuff!

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Hurlanc: I dont think the idea of having a npc your players have to roll dice for. Instead I think u should give the npc som passive skills you can impart on the character having him as a buddy.

 

Helmût the Ironbreaker have trouble finding his way through the woods so he hires a Guide. The guide then "give" Helmût these abilities:

Teamwork: When the guide teams up, you get a additional white dice to your combat check and the flank bonus.

Skills: The guide is trained in the art of living on roots and mushrooms. You may use his Nature Lore check: 4 Blue and 1 yellow

 

I think you definitely should use the loyalty thingy as Amedhaus wrote. Give the npc better bonus on the passive abilities, more loyalty means he puts himself at greater risk.

 

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I love the look of the Twins, and the source is close to heart.

I feel strongly that the story is about the Player Characters and not their hirelings. On a player's turn, it should be the PC in the spotlight and so I feel that henchman-esque bonuses should modify the PC's actions, not act independently of them. For this reason, I personally don't like the idea of the NPCs acting independently or under orders and making their own rolls.  The precedent set by the Small but Vicious Dog makes me believe the game designers feel the same way, but I have a pretty large ego so the connection may be in my head. ^_-

Examples of mechanics I feel support this:

  • Allow the PC to use a yellow die for Nature Lore with a specialization in tracking as long as he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Allow the PC to make a Leadership test in place of a Nature Lore test as long as he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Passively grant the PC a white die to Nature Lore while he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Allow the guide to have "Trick" slots with the same trick effects as the Small but Vicious Dog. These need not necessarily be purchased as a Trick, but might be free options to switch out to represent the orders you give your hireling.
  • No tracking or single-stat tracking (i.e. Loyalty) to minimize book-keeping on NPC.
  • A maximum of 2-sided class-card sized (possibly with sockets) to record all stats relevant to an NPC -- only one side should have stats (the other, flavor). This equates to 1/3 of the board space used to track a PC (character sheet + career card).
  • Socketing the Henchman into a talent slot of the PC sheet or Party sheet is a fair cost to the mechanical boosts -- with the socket being mutable as a maneuver under the normal rules. While unsocketed, the NPC simply cannot provide benefits.
  • Cash and/or XP and/or Story rewards and/or Fortune convertable to loyalty, depending on how you typically reward players*
  • Flavorfully describing a Prepare or Assist maneuver to include how the NPC is involved.
  • Grant the PC a free Prepare or Assist maneuver in combat, as long as he has a skilled mercenary/combatant handy.
  • Boon/Bane effects reflecting how the NPC aids the player (i.e. [bo][bo] Mercenary increases damage by number of hammers reflecting a team attack). All effects are based off of the player's dice roll, requiring no wasted time double checking a hireling's stat line.
  • Using the Loyalty stat as a resource used by the player for singular effects.

*Having an option of Loyalty reward is a great way to reward players for a good scene that doesn't directly contribute to player advancement (as would xp or money) -- Alternate rewards are something I consider a great deal to find ways to reward players that don't lead to power creep mid-adventure.

Brainstorming this list, I realized a few new mechanics that are great generics to be used across a variety of NPCs, and I'd like to invite anyone else to add to this list of "generic" hireling boons that can be mixed/matched to create a hireling for any situation.

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That's good feedback and some wonderful suggestions.

I understand what you mean about the PCs being the focus of the story, though I think the design and use of NPCs and hirelings can be better and more broadly interpreted.  Sure, you can have NPCs that are arms of the GM, where the PCs merely interact with them (including hiring them). But why not also have another class of NPCs that are tightly integrated into the PCs agency model?

In my game, most often the players are included in the creation and development and use of hirelings.

The Bailiff in the party helped to create the characters of the "Twins"; they're tied directly into his backstory and his personal agenda, and the player provides at least 50% of the narrative & characterization of these NPCs.  He rolls for them, and determines their actions.  Together we determine their personalities and their responses to things. 

Likewise, when they were in a small village during a beastman raid, he used his leadership and influence skills to rally together small groups of the villagers, forming them into an ad hoc militia.  We quickly established these groups of villages as a controllable mob that he played (provided he made the necessary leadership checks).  He rolled for the mobs during combat.

So yes, I agree, PCs are the direct influence on the story and should be the centerpieces around which the action revolves, but limiting NPC/Hireling interactions to *just* modifiers to PC rolls is too narrow thinking for our table. Sometimes it's perfect, and sometimes you want more tools through which the players can direct the action.

Just my $.02

 

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good feedback indeed and food for thought.

i think that amedhaus layout is a very good start for a SE ext:
- career-sized card, maybe altering slightly the palette, so it wont be confusing with actual careers
- loyalty track in the bottom, variable length, changing color at some point
- some place for in-game effects
- some place for a picture
- talent slots on the right side (optional) socketing to career maybe needs getting talent slots on the left side
- provide the editor with a sample list of "traits" and sample list of in-game effects

 

EDIT : did not see the twins pics from work. It is actually a different point of view (more complex) but still viable imo (I believe my idea was in between). Obviously, a twin-like card needs more work :) also i feel like the twins layout lacks space for fluff, i'll try to keep every in-game information on the front side, and keep the back for fluff and not-mechanic-related stuff

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 still working on an ally card based on HedgeWizard proposal.

what kind of loyalty usage would you see ? i'll get a dropdown list with a few samples..

for 1 LOY :
- add <f> to a specific skill/ attack
- add <m> to incoming attack
- attack target
- perform a specific skill
- your idea here

additionnally, i'd need a few samples of powers when the ally reaches a specific level :
- loyalty 5 : add <f> to all leadership checks
- ...

(this card will be in Liber Fanatica SE-extension).

cheers!

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 well i believe it's the same icons as FFG's cards

should be attack, soak, defense in that order (

However, these icons may disappear from the final release, or at least optional, since all this is about "abstract" npc, so they should not have as many stats as regular npc. I started with Hedgewizard design, since it has more statistics than mine, or amedhaus'

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Amehdaus said:

I love the look of the Twins, and the source is close to heart.

I feel strongly that the story is about the Player Characters and not their hirelings. On a player's turn, it should be the PC in the spotlight and so I feel that henchman-esque bonuses should modify the PC's actions, not act independently of them. For this reason, I personally don't like the idea of the NPCs acting independently or under orders and making their own rolls.  The precedent set by the Small but Vicious Dog makes me believe the game designers feel the same way, but I have a pretty large ego so the connection may be in my head. ^_-

Examples of mechanics I feel support this:

  • Allow the PC to use a yellow die for Nature Lore with a specialization in tracking as long as he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Allow the PC to make a Leadership test in place of a Nature Lore test as long as he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Passively grant the PC a white die to Nature Lore while he has a skilled guide handy.
  • Allow the guide to have "Trick" slots with the same trick effects as the Small but Vicious Dog. These need not necessarily be purchased as a Trick, but might be free options to switch out to represent the orders you give your hireling.
  • No tracking or single-stat tracking (i.e. Loyalty) to minimize book-keeping on NPC.
  • A maximum of 2-sided class-card sized (possibly with sockets) to record all stats relevant to an NPC -- only one side should have stats (the other, flavor). This equates to 1/3 of the board space used to track a PC (character sheet + career card).
  • Socketing the Henchman into a talent slot of the PC sheet or Party sheet is a fair cost to the mechanical boosts -- with the socket being mutable as a maneuver under the normal rules. While unsocketed, the NPC simply cannot provide benefits.
  • Cash and/or XP and/or Story rewards and/or Fortune convertable to loyalty, depending on how you typically reward players*
  • Flavorfully describing a Prepare or Assist maneuver to include how the NPC is involved.
  • Grant the PC a free Prepare or Assist maneuver in combat, as long as he has a skilled mercenary/combatant handy.
  • Boon/Bane effects reflecting how the NPC aids the player (i.e. [bo][bo] Mercenary increases damage by number of hammers reflecting a team attack). All effects are based off of the player's dice roll, requiring no wasted time double checking a hireling's stat line.
  • Using the Loyalty stat as a resource used by the player for singular effects.

*Having an option of Loyalty reward is a great way to reward players for a good scene that doesn't directly contribute to player advancement (as would xp or money) -- Alternate rewards are something I consider a great deal to find ways to reward players that don't lead to power creep mid-adventure.

Brainstorming this list, I realized a few new mechanics that are great generics to be used across a variety of NPCs, and I'd like to invite anyone else to add to this list of "generic" hireling boons that can be mixed/matched to create a hireling for any situation.

I agree with this philosophy and am 100% behind your design principle.  I normally handle the PC's attache's in the exact same manner, but I do not track their loyalty per se, but I will be using this I think from now on...I really do like it.  They normally, in my universe give assistance in the form of white, which you have tracked.  Better NPC's give better dice.  The dice do express additional bonuses like you call for. 

 

The principle is 100& sound.  You could have it on a talent card.  Loyalty could be a flat number, tracking tokens placed on the card to record how much it is effecting the party.  The NPC could then "switch' hands to reflect who they are helping, or be attached to the party card.  I like the idea of it being able to move and instead of granting a generic bonus across the board, it can only help one person per turn as a "free" maneuver, and everything else costs 1 loyalty.  Their loyalty is regained when any action says regain stress or fatigue, as you bolster their morale.  Just a quick thought before I'm off to bed. 

Happy gaming,

 

Commoner

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