Companions & Apprentices

In my group’s latest session, a level 2 elf PC managed to convince a runaway magician’s apprentice (for whom I used the stats of a level 1 magician) to join up with the party. This appealed very much to how I had conceived this character, and fictionally I can’t think of any reason for this to fall through. So that’s what happened!

Now I’m stuck.

There are rules for companion characters in the core rulebook:

"Level 5 – Henchman: You gain a follower. This henchman helps you with abilities native to your class. Add +1D to your roll when your henchman is helping. In a conflict, assign one of your hit points to your henchman. If there are no extra hit points, then your henchman can’t help. A henchman never acts on his own (page 112)."

But this is only ever mentioned as a level benefit. It seems against the spirit of the rules to allow a level 2 PC–one who, when viewed in relation to her new level 1 companion, doesn’t actually have all that much to teach–to have something otherwise only available at level 5 (and 6 for elves) as a reward for good roleplaying. At the same time, this development follows perfectly from the fiction: this magician is a young girl desperate for adventure, she has no reason not to tag along if there’s an open invitation.

I’d know exactly what to do in Burning Wheel. Here, not so much. Does anyone have advice?

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They join for an adventure, ask politely for a reasonable share of the loot, and head back to the wizard tower to re-enroll (assuming they survive).

When a player character dies, maybe that player can reintroduce the magician.

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Have the player character take Apprentice-Wise. The NPC would just be the flavor for the wise. We had a character with Minion-Wise and he had “followers” that with his Minion-Wise. Maybe at level 6 or 7, instead of getting a new spell, they could get the full companion benefit.

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I like the wise idea a lot. It encourages fictionally positioning this new character into the narrative and also sidesteps any chance of fucking up level advancement. That’s probably the direction I’ll try to work this.

Making a person into a wise is likely more powerful than the level benefit you are trying not to outpace.

Not only could you weasel more types of help out of it, you can reroll failures and advance skills. It also drifts the rules unnecessarily. Someone with Apprentice-wise knows a lot about Apprentices; they don’t necessarily have one of their own.

I consider level benefits a kind of guaranteed benefit (unless otherwise stated). Someone with the Companion level ability can freely rely on their companion for in the manner the rules describe. A magician’s apprentice they meet on the road might offer similar aid for a time, but they can be lost on a Twist, or decide to head home as soon as it makes sense in the fiction. In the meantime, it’s still on the player to describe how their companion can help.

Is the apprentice only providing +1D help?

If they are not hired from town, NPCs could be very needy friends-a double-edged sword of sorts. They pull the party away from their goals or test beliefs in painfully excruciating ways.

There should be some cost or consequence for the help-nothing is free. Added lifestyle in town, food and resources during the grind, share of loot, dangerous side quests, etc, are all good options.

Use the hireling rules, specifically the Thieves Guild hiring rules from The Secret Vault of the Queen of Thieves. Substitute the Wizard School for the Thieves’ guild, and follow their format for having single-skill specialities for hirelings.

In this case, I would think the apprentice could help with Arcanist and Lore Master, but probably cost Lifestyle +2 or even +3 for each town phase you want to keep him around. Otherwise he goes off to study. That first adventure phase is free, otherwise his Lifestyle cost accounts for his “cut” of the loot.

FWIW, I love the wise idea mentioned above, but @moconnor8 is right that it is way too powerful. If a character wants to use their own starting wise or winter wise for such a thing, that’s fine. But no bonus wises in my opinion.

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“Apprentice-wise” is definitely not what I’d use in this situation. I’d have to come up with something more appropriate, but it would reflect this character’s ability to be extremely helpful…in very specific situations. Since there is precedent in the rules for granting wises via magical item (dwarf and elf weapons published on the TB blog by Thor), it makes sense to me to have her, mechanically, be a magical item that demands food and treasure instead of inventory space. And like a magical item, she’s still subject to loss via twist or compromise.

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