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Monsters as Cohorts


D&D 3.5/d20/OGL


A character in an upcoming campaign has the leadership feat (with a maximum cohort level of 8th) and wants to get a succubus as her cohort. Is this permissable? Can a monster serve as a character's cohort.


I think you can find in the DMG some monstruous cohorts.


There are monstrous cohorts and since henchmen are also allowed you could allow it. One thing to keep your eye on though is some of the monstrous abilities. Many monster abilities are very powerful for their CR. If you doing battle with monster X it can only use its ability a few times but when the monster becomes a cohort all that changes.

Examples of problem abilities are things like the ability to access spells that cost XP. One of the Sphynxs (maybe more then one but at least one) has the ability to cast a bunch of symbol spells. Symbol spells are very powerful but limited becuase they cost the casting character XP. Thus a character might keep a few symbol spells around for emergencies but is not going to use the spells constantly becuase it costs to much XP - with this cohort the players tactics would quickly devolve into all the players uncovering a different symbol every round and making the bad guys all make 4 save or be taken out of the combat every round.

With a Succubus I would be concerned about the charm and suggestion at will abilities a bit. I'd be more concerned about the Greater Teleport at Will - your players will never walk anywhere again - they'll just endlessly teleport. I'd be really freaken concerned about the etherial jaunt.

Thats invisible and insubstantial, its the ultimate scouting ability - if your players are smart they find out every last detail about a place before entering, secret doors, pits and traps, all the monsters and their location and defenses, look inside all chests, cupboards etc. etc.

This ability is at will - she never has to stop the scouting that means every last detail of a place can be checked before the players ever have to make their move unless their under some kind of time pressure and its extremely hard to counter her ability - basically you hand them the adventure and they read it. Once their done they tell you how their going to handle the various obstacles - if their smart the wizard leaves many spell slots open until after the Succubus returns and then spends time memorizing the spells that will be most effective at overcoming whatever obstacles are reported.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Arctaris wrote:
A character in an upcoming campaign has the leadership feat (with a maximum cohort level of 8th) and wants to get a succubus as her cohort. Is this permissable? Can a monster serve as a character's cohort.

There's a world of difference between Challenge Rating 8, and Effective Character Level 8, as powers that can challenge a group of PCs, in a short fight, are able to wreak havoc on the wider world when in the hands of the PCs.

Consider that even a moderately improved race, such as a drow gets +2 Level Adjustment, simply for having slightly better stats, darkvision, and Spell Resistance (meaning a 6th Level (ie 6 Hit Dice) drow character would reach the max cohort level 8 you require).

A standard succubus, according to the Monster Manual, is CR 7, but it's a 6HD creature, with a +6 LA, so it's already considered equivalent of a 12th-level PC.

That's assuming you actually agree with that LA, of course. Trouble is, they don't make the creature that much harder, just much more annoying (for all the reasons already listed), so regardless of the math, you'd be well within your rights to veto it as a cohort, even for a party of level 14+.

Or you could always allow the succubus cohort, and reduce all XP you give out to reflect the actual difficulty of their future adventures; does zero xp sound about right? ;)

PS: the teleport and ethereal jaunt are self only (plus 50lb of gear), so she won't be a party taxi.


I'd allow it. It's equivalent to a 12th-level character, of course.

And I can't remember ever reading that cohorts are absolutely loyal and will never get their leaders into trouble. }>

The character would have a hell of a time to get the little sex-kitten to behave. Any innocent remark, request or order can turn into disaster.

"You said I should get you supplies. I of course assumed you don't want me to go buy stuff. That's for paladins. So I seduced the shopkeep and drained him of life and got all his stuff.
"Oh, by the way: There's some guys from the city guard at the door."


Yes, a succubus is level 12 (with 6HD), not 7 or 8. She will be very frail, thus useless in combat at Party Lvl 14, but her abilities could prove invaluable. What makes her very unpredictable is her ability to summon a Balor with a 10% chance. You could, if you have access to it, take a Lvl 8 Succubus with less HD and abilities. The other advantage is, that the succubus is most probably chaotic and might leave if she is bored (e.g. a pain in the foot for the game/DM) ;-)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
KaeYoss wrote:


And I can't remember ever reading that cohorts are absolutely loyal and will never get their leaders into trouble. }>

I agree. In fact, Succubi are listed in the MM as *always* Chaotic Evil. Expecting loyalty from such a being would be...unwise...at least, it would be if I were the DM. I'd probably have her get bored and try to betray the whole party--either for a reward, or just out of curiosity to see what happens. Then I'd have her laugh and leave.

Liberty's Edge

Kelvar Silvermace wrote:
I'd probably have her get bored and try to betray the whole party--either for a reward, or just out of curiosity to see what happens. Then I'd have her laugh and leave.

I would like to disagree with this piece of advice.

The succubus is chaotic evil, and should be played that way. But it is also an ability gained by your character and paid for by your character. There are times where the cohort MIGHT betray the entire party, but that certainly should not be 'planned from the beginning'.

Start with the fact that the cohort WANTS to join the PCs. Why? Maybe they saved her from imprisonment in an earlier adventure and she doesn't understand why they did something so nice, and wants too. Maybe she is sent by some other master to seduce and lead the PC to evil - but betraying him directly wouldn't further that goal.

I do think that playing her up as capricious, jealous and demanding are good places to start, but I think you should play any cohort like another character. Basically, allow the PC to play the character as he thinks is appropriate, but we willing to take over if the situation warrants it, or have a few 'secret goals' that the PC may not be aware of, and when it becomes important you can 'reveal' it. Cohorts may also be a good way to introduce information that the PCs don't already have. If you're in the habit of occassionally 'donning' the mask of the cohort, that shouldn't disrupt anything.

But the cohort should be for a 14th level character.


You should of course be aware that cohorts are not NPC's under the control of the DM, but rather are gained by the PC and controlled by the PC's Player (with DM apporval over the initial cohort of course). BTB there are no screwy actions the DM is supposed to play with the cohort nor should there be risk of the cohort leaving the PC over alignment differences so long as 1) the PC has already paid the Leadership penalty for differing alignments (if different), 2) The cohort and PC have established compatible motivations and goals and 3) the PC has done nothing to mistreat, abuse, or exploit the cohort. The basic gist of being a fair DM in regards to cohorts is, if you are going to allow a PC to take a monstrous cohort, look it over and get ALL of your doubts and misgivings out in front NOW, because it's unethical and unfair to start retro-actively changing the chort and the way cohort rules are written once the cohort has been approved and is in-play. Putting a genie back in the bottle is just overall harder to do in any game. It's made even harder if the Player sees that you've just broken the rules to do it. The only time an ethical DM should be able to justify "overriding" a cohort and taking control of the cohort away from the PC it is attached to, is if the PC is obviously abusing/exploiting the cohort in an OOC manner (IC exploitation is another story- some cohorts can be dysfunctional masochists after all) and/or the DM feels that the PC has undergone an alignment shift that no longer allows the character to remain goal-motivation compatibility with the cohort.

In the case of the Succubus though, honestly... only a Chaotic Evil PC ought to even consider having one, simply out of compatibility's sake. Even a chaotic neutral character would have a hard time in RP justification keeping that cohort around.

I know the above might seem reactionary compared with what everyone else has written, but I look at DM-ing as a trust issue. As a DM, I need to establish a bond of trust with my players that I am not out to screw them over or cheat them out of what they have earned, both mechanically and through roleplay. I always tell my players that I play *with* them, and not against them. Once that bond is established with them and they know I won't arbitrarily change the rules, cheat, or behave unethically, they won't blink or bat an eye if I sic Orcus against them and they get TPK-ed. Cause they know I did it fairly and with good reason. :-)

After all, this is a game to have fun.


Asturysk wrote:
You should of course be aware that cohorts are not NPC's under the control of the DM, but rather are gained by the PC and controlled by the PC's Player (with DM apporval over the initial cohort of course).

It says nowhere that the player basically gets another PC. Of course, DMs often let the player handle the cohorts' actions, but he has every right to control them. The player can be considered a superior who can command his cohort (the way a sergeant can command soldiers), but he doesn't have complete mental control over his cohort's every action.

Asturysk wrote:
BTB there are no screwy actions the DM is supposed to play with the cohort nor should there be risk of the cohort leaving the PC over alignment differences so long as 1) the PC has already paid the Leadership penalty for differing alignments (if different), 2) The cohort and PC have established compatible motivations and goals and 3) the PC has done nothing to mistreat, abuse, or exploit the cohort. The basic gist of being a fair DM in regards to cohorts is, if you are going to allow a PC to take a monstrous cohort, look it over and get ALL of your doubts and misgivings out in front NOW, because it's unethical and unfair to start retro-actively changing the chort and the way cohort rules are written once the cohort has been approved and is in-play. Putting a genie back in the bottle is just overall harder to do in any game. It's made even harder if the Player sees that you've just broken the rules to do it. The only time an ethical DM should be able to justify "overriding" a cohort and taking control of the cohort away from the PC it is attached to, is if the PC is obviously abusing/exploiting the cohort in an OOC manner (IC exploitation is another story- some cohorts can be dysfunctional masochists after all) and/or the DM feels that the PC has undergone an alignment shift that no longer allows the character to remain goal-motivation compatibility with the cohort.

Of course the DM should state his misgivings up front, tell him that if the player chooses that cohort, there might be problems.

But The DM can always override the cohort when he thinks that he's not portrayed properly. And when he's abused or exploited - in or out of character, that doesn't matter - the DM is free to let the cohort reacto to that according to his nature.

Asturysk wrote:


In the case of the Succubus though, honestly... only a Chaotic Evil PC ought to even consider having one, simply out of compatibility's sake. Even a chaotic neutral character would have a hard time in RP justification keeping that cohort around.

Not necessarily. A CN (or NE) disciple of the deity of lust could always justify having a succubus around, for example.

Asturysk wrote:


I know the above might seem reactionary compared with what everyone else has written, but I look at DM-ing as a trust issue.

This, of course, always goes both ways. The players need to be trustworthy, too. If they want to get an advantage they're not entitled to by bending the rules or abusing loopholes, the DM has to intercede.


The sheer fact that the Leadership feat that attracts the cohort in the first place is a Character feature purchased through a feat, makes it a character mechanic just like a familiar or an animal companion. It is not the DM's place to start running the mechanical extensions of a PC's features any more than it would be appropriate for a creature conjured through a Summon Monster spell to be run by the DM, for a DM to tell a PC what he/she is thinking or feeling (emotionally), or for the DM to tell the paladin player character what he/she can or can not do in terms of alignment-affecting actions. A DM can cajole, suggest, caution, or advise, but ultimately whatever is part of the character sheet itself needs to be handled by the player responsible, because that is, in the sheerest essence, what responsibility is. As I've said, if a player abuses or exploits a cohort, then the DM may tell him/her that those actions will have consequences, and if such actions persist, the PC may lose the cohort and have to attract a new one at penalties. It's no more or less different than a paladin or a monk having to follow a pattern of behavior, i.e. their code, in order to keep their class features. But to start using the cohort as a "spite" NPC or as the heavy-hand of the DM, is just the mark of a poor DM and a guaranteed way to piss off and alienate your players. This is not an adversarial game. If you play the DM versus the Players, then it's just a recipe for a self-destructive game.


Snorter wrote:


PS: the teleport and ethereal jaunt are self only (plus 50lb of gear), so she won't be a party taxi.

My PCs would get a Bag of Holding and climb in and out of it. She carries the bag.


Thanks everybody, no succubus cohort for her, at least not for a while.

Jeremy Mac Donald wrote:
Snorter wrote:


PS: the teleport and ethereal jaunt are self only (plus 50lb of gear), so she won't be a party taxi.
My PCs would get a Bag of Holding and climb in and out of it. She carries the bag.

And then they would suffocate.


Arctaris wrote:


And then they would suffocate.

Not if she lets them out again. If.....

(There's enough air in there for a couple of minutes - certainly long enough for her to teleport.)

I'm not sure a bag of holding would work, though, due to size and all that. A Portable hole would work, though.

Asturysk wrote:
The sheer fact that the Leadership feat that attracts the cohort in the first place is a Character feature purchased through a feat, makes it a character mechanic just like a familiar or an animal companion.

Who says that he can completely control the familiar or animal companion.

It all depends on the DM of course. Some will let the player do it, but others say that you get to control only one character, the rest you can only command.

Asturysk wrote:
It is not the DM's place to start running the mechanical extensions of a PC's features any more than it would be appropriate for a creature conjured through a Summon Monster spell to be run by the DM, for a DM to tell a PC what he/she is thinking or feeling (emotionally), or for the DM to tell the paladin player character what he/she can or can not do in terms of alignment-affecting actions.

Cohorts, familiars and animal companions are not robots. They're no mechanical extensions. They don't have to follow every single command the character issues.

It's like saying "The starting money I get is a mechanical feature of my class, so I can buy what I will with it, so I get this drug now" even though the DM says that drugs aren't available here.

Asturysk wrote:
A DM can cajole, suggest, caution, or advise, but ultimately whatever is part of the character sheet itself needs to be handled by the player responsible, because that is, in the sheerest essence, what responsibility is.

I don't agree. Just because it's on the sheet doesn't automatically confer absolute control to the player. Especially since we're talking about living beings here.

Asturysk wrote:
As I've said, if a player abuses or exploits a cohort, then the DM may tell him/her that those actions will have consequences, and if such actions persist, the PC may lose the cohort and have to attract a new one at penalties.

I think you say the DM has no right to influence anything that's on the sheet. By your logic, because that cohort is on the sheet, the DM can't take him away.

By my logic, the DM can always say that a familiar, animal companion, cohort, follower, charmed individual, and so on will not follow an order if he thinks that it goes against that character.

Asturysk wrote:
But to start using the cohort as a "spite" NPC or as the heavy-hand of the DM

Who's talking about spite?


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

I'm not sure, but the "spite" comment may have been directed at me. Let me try to clarify. I certainly don't see a DM's job as being adversarial...if anything, I tend to be too much of a pushover. But I do think part of a DM's job is to try to instill some verisimilitude--how much is up to the tastes of each group, which only you can know.

And I think that means that when a player does something that is flagrantly reckless, sometimes there ought to be consequences--because if not, then there are no risks and therefore (in my opinion) the game is less fun. For example, if dynamite existed in the game (it doesn't, but bear with me), and if I had a player say, "I pick up the dynamite and hold it. Then I light the fuse." I'd ask, "Okay, then what do you do?" If the player said, "Nothing, I'm just holding it." I'd probably say, "Okay, that fuse is really getting short...are you going to do anything?" If he says, "Nope." Then it would eventually explode and I'd roll some dice for damage...maybe allow a reflex save for half. But if I said, "Whew! That one was a dud!" then I think the game would suffer.

Similarly, I run the sort of game where it is unwise to trust Chaotic Evil characters. Especially Chaotic Evil Demons. I'm not saying my way is correct, but it's just my style. I feel like the very word "Demon" should be a sort of red flag to the players. And my players know what to expect. I think it is a very good argument that to even get a cohort a PC must use a feat. I would certainly try to avoid punishing the player. I think I would try to warn the player that maybe she should choose a more trustworthy cohort...and I would strongly suggest that very bad things might happen from trusting such an entity. But I'd ultimately leave it up to the player. Again, if they want to play with dynamite, that's their decision.

If other people have games where succubi can be trusted implicitly due to their status as a cohort, that's cool. It's just not my vision of what Demons are. But to each his own, which is what makes our game so great.


Kelvar Silvermace wrote:

I'm not sure, but the "spite" comment may have been directed at me. Let me try to clarify. I certainly don't see a DM's job as being adversarial...if anything, I tend to be too much of a pushover. But I do think part of a DM's job is to try to instill some verisimilitude--how much is up to the tastes of each group, which only you can know.

And I think that means that when a player does something that is flagrantly reckless, sometimes there ought to be consequences--because if not, then there are no risks and therefore (in my opinion) the game is less fun. For example, if dynamite existed in the game (it doesn't, but bear with me), and if I had a player say, "I pick up the dynamite and hold it. Then I light the fuse." I'd ask, "Okay, then what do you do?" If the player said, "Nothing, I'm just holding it." I'd probably say, "Okay, that fuse is really getting short...are you going to do anything?" If he says, "Nope." Then it would eventually explode and I'd roll some dice for damage...maybe allow a reflex save for half. But if I said, "Whew! That one was a dud!" then I think the game would suffer.

Similarly, I run the sort of game where it is unwise to trust Chaotic Evil characters. Especially Chaotic Evil Demons. I'm not saying my way is correct, but it's just my style. I feel like the very word "Demon" should be a sort of red flag to the players. And my players know what to expect. I think it is a very good argument that to even get a cohort a PC must use a feat. I would certainly try to avoid punishing the player. I think I would try to warn the player that maybe she should choose a more trustworthy cohort...and I would strongly suggest that very bad things might happen from trusting such an entity. But I'd ultimately leave it up to the player. Again, if they want to play with dynamite, that's their decision.

If other people have games where succubi can be trusted implicitly due to their status as a cohort, that's cool. It's just not my vision of what Demons are. But...

Well alright, to be clear, I am not saying that actions and choices should not have consequences. What I mentioned above about the responsibility of a player actually matches what you described above. I do feel strongly that risk is an important part of a game, and I've had very un-fun games with groups that are so intent on "winning" that they view any setback as a strike against the game and the DM. They then want to win all the time. This is partially what sets me against the intent behind the 4th Edition design philosophy (see the Mining Car Adventure article).

But assuming I as a DM agreed to let a player have a succubus cohort for his/her PC, there'd be more than just a rubber-stamp attached to it. I'd have to work out why they were together in the first place and what draws the cohort to the character; why would the character trust such a creature? There's many different permutations of this of course; maybe the character is a chaotic evil blackguard and serves the cause of lustful excess; or maybe the character is an exalted deeds style of paladin who tries hard to exemplify the qualities of mercy and redemption... He might have saved the succubus from a horrible fate and she actually becomes emotionally attached to him. After all, as Rich Burlew points out at his website, being evil doesn't mean lacking the capacity for friendship or affection, selfish though it may be.

But yeah, I wrote what I did in response to the suggestion that such a cohort could be used to sabotage or betray the PC who it is attached to. To me that just seems spiteful and "after the fact", if it's an emotional or passive aggressive response to not wanting the PC to have a cohort that you as a DM already approved. I'm not saying anyone did such a thing, but that's the kind of reaction it seems like.

I just have a hard time "training" trust in players I "adopt" who have been "broken" by previous DM's who were vindictive, ignorant, or adversarial in their past history. I feel these kinds of DM's create players who become paranoid, defensive, and distrustful of the Player-DM relationship. I work hard with these players in my groups, trying to teach them that they can and should trust me, and that I won't cheat them or break the rules to achieve a pre-determined outcome. So I react strongly when a DM casually advises to just mess around with a player's new cohort, especially if it's after the fact of DM approval. I feel it not only gives DM's everywhere a bad name, but also fosters the wrong kind of environment for friendly gaming.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Asturysk--Ah! I see what you're saying, and you make some very good points. I think the real trick is to strike a balance between being vindictive and being a pushover (as I noted above, I actually tend to be more of the latter).

I agree--if the player is going to spend a feat, then it shouldn't be used against him. But one thing I should have made clear is how my personal game world "works." And it works in such a way that any player in my game would know that having a succubus around in any capacity is just asking for trouble. If I were to have the succubus betray the party, I'd only do it in such a way as to create an interesting story arc, not a TPK. I liked your suggestions of how it might work though. Having the Exalted Paladin spare her life and try to redeem her would be an interesting scenario!

Ultimately, I guess my personal approach would be to discuss it with the player and make sure we were on the same page.

Cheers,
Kelvar

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