Another NPC companion? (Jade Regent spoilers)


Jade Regent

Silver Crusade

So the Forest of Spirits has a Kitsune Guide who joins the party in order to take on the BBEG.

Now that's great and all but don't we already have 6 NPC's kicking around the party? How do I give the NPC's sufficient face time if there are 7 NPC's tagging along?

One thing I have thought of is having a single NPC join the party on specific missions and vary this as the plot demands. Sometimes it will be Ameiko, sometimes Shalelu etc. The only problem with this is that I don't want it to become the NPC show. How do I balance this?

Oh and I think it would be a missed opportunity if there is a Kitsune in the party who is not a romance option. Kitsune legends are chock full of tragic and forbidden romances so it would be great to have romance rules for Miyaro put on a blog at some point.


I'm happy to have multiple NPCs. It's nice to inject some new ongoing personalities into the game.

I appreciate that having the Kitsune in question join in part 4 might limit the opportunities the Player Characters have to become friends/rivals with her, but I'd like to see her relationship score and related insults/gifts etc. Perhaps on the blog as was done with Kelda and Ulf.

It may be that her mysterious masters prevent her from engaging in mortal relationships, but I think my PCs are going to want to try...

Silver Crusade

The roleplaying aspect I have no problem with. The problem comes from "useless NPC syndrome". What are the NPC's doing whilst the PC's adventure? You can't have them all come on the adventure because that would make it too easy, but on the other hand if they don't contribute and expect the PC's to do all the dangerous stuff then the players will come to resent them.

How do other GM's deal with this?


*shrug* I think it's an easy disconnect for the players. They're the heroes. They're the stars. Everyone else is supporting cast.

As for how I'm planning to explain it, well I'm going to have the caravan-based NPCs, y'know, remain WITH the caravan most of the time. When PCs are forced into situations to resolve when with the caravan (and the bagloads of NPCs), I intend on having the NPCs take part in the early section of the AP but gradually have them take a back seat as the PCs become obviously more skilled/powerful/heroic than them. I think it will feel more organic that way.

In short, it all comes down to the caravan. The NPCs are more concerned with its protection and the protection of the other travellers, the PCs are expected to deal with the problems. As long as you make that clear early on: no big deal.


IMO the caravan takes the place of the town or other base that you would normally populate for the PCs. I wouldn't expect the captain of the guard or the old priestess from my local temple to go ninja hunting with me. Besides, someone has to stay back and make sure our meal ticket (Ameiko) doesn't get punched.

As long as it's presented in a way that makes sense (i.e. you have to really play up the support role that they fill) the players shouldn't have any trouble accepting that they are part of the background.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's a definite weakness of this AP that the NPC's have turned out to be completely useless baggage, who don't contribute ( besides of doing their job in the caravan ) and who, more importantly, are forgotten or ignored by the designers. I've come to accept that they won't have active plots in the AP's, but at this point ( module four ) we don't even get an indication a.) why they don't join the PC's and b.) what they do while the PC's are away actually solving the problems of the caravan.

The first module by James seems to have been so far the only one which actually gave good reasons for the NPC's to leave the limelight to the PC's. I fear more and more that the designers actually are unhappy for even having included the NPC's and are ignoring them on purpose.

Silver Crusade

This is yet another reason to not run an AP until it is fully released. Each AP has it's weaknesses and waiting for an AP to be complete allows you to recognise anticipate and avoid these weaknesses.

To be clear I love the idea of the NPC's. Shalelu is one of my favourite NPC's to play and I really like Ameiko too. In fact all the NPC's in this AP are really fantastic. I want more of this stuff not less.

The problem is that all the NPC's are written as active go getters who think nothing of going on a grand adventure. They are not the sorts to sit in the caravan whilst others go off and do the interesting stuff. On top of that after each NPC's first appearance they have nothing to do in the plot. Now I am aware that the AP is not done yet but the lack of plotline and development is a problem.

I can see the idea that the NPC's are effectively home base and the PC's do the tough stuff but that does not scan with the strong, adventurous characters that the NPC's represent. It makes no logical sense that Ameiko would not want to explore and experience this grand quest to the fullest. Why therefore is she expected to stay back and cook dinner whilst others risk their lives for her? As Johnny Cochrane once said in an episode of South Park "That does not make sense!"

On top of all this is the fact that this AP can be construed as Ameiko's story, not the PC's. She's the rightful heir (PC interaction with the seal notwithstanding.) She is the one who is supposed to become the Empress, not the players. So if she's not doing anything the risk is that the players feel that she is not pulling her weight and she goes from being the fun, adventrous character that she is and becomes baggage that the players have to cart everywhere. That's the issue, the NPC's have to play an active role or they become a liability that the players resent.

That said you can't have 7 NPC's accompanying the party- that would get stupid. So my question is how do you involve the NPC's more fully without unbalancing the campaign?


FallofCamelot wrote:
... On top of all this is the fact that this AP can be construed as Ameiko's story, not the PC's. She's the rightful heir (PC interaction with the seal notwithstanding.) She is the one who is supposed to become the Empress, not the players. So if she's not doing anything the risk is that the players feel that she is not pulling her weight and she goes from being the fun, adventrous character that she is and becomes baggage that the players have to cart everywhere...

Actually that is the part I have the least trouble with. Rulers shouldn't actually go on adventures. They send others on adventures. When I get that far that is how i will handle this. Ameiko WANTS to go on adventures but knows she can't risk herself. So she will grumble, whine, and complain about not being able to go while she sends the PC's out. She will demand detailed reports on everything that happened. Moan about them leaving her alone so long. Etc...

I think it is harder to explain why the others want to explore the world, but don't want to leave the caravan.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

The number of NPCs who end up traveling with your PCs is up to the GM.

Sczarni

Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
The number of NPCs who end up traveling with your PCs is up to the GM.

As are the PCs dragged away during fights, never to be heard from again (until they come back as spawn)


James Jacobs wrote:
The number of NPCs who end up traveling with your PCs is up to the GM.

Exactly. Myself, I plan on making the journey over the crown of the world very challenging. So challenging that everyone just might not survive.

I imagine Koya's old bones won't take to the cold that well...

[insert maniacal laughter here]


I would have liked to see more info on the NPCs...and maybe have them a bit more fleshed out. Perhaps some suggestions as to things they say at certain parts of the AP. More than any other AP I've done so far, I find myself doing a lot of homework to have more history, flavor and personality to the NPCs. On top of that, I'm having to put a lot into the adventure itself. The trek from Sandpoint to the castle is only one page, yet it's a 16 day trip / 500+ mile trip that has one page or so providing an outline with little detail. I totally understand that AP's require the GM to read over them and fill in the blanks as necessary (it's impossible to make any AP all encompassing, especially with some player groups who don't follow the bread crumb trail exactly as written), but dang.

With that being said, GM challenges aside, it's fun so far. I'll have more to write on it once we get through the first book.

Shadow Lodge

FallofCamelot wrote:
The problem is that all the NPC's are written as active go getters who think nothing of going on a grand adventure. They are not the sorts to sit in the caravan whilst others go off and do the interesting stuff. On top of that after each NPC's first appearance they have nothing to do in the plot. Now I am aware that the AP is not done yet but the lack of plotline and development is a problem.

There are lots of reasons the NPCs would stay with the caravan when the PCs are fighting major battles. Sandru can't really leave the caravan. Koya wants to see the world, but isn't combat-ready. Amiko has post-traumatic stress for her time as an adventurer. They're not adventurers, no matter how adventurous they are. Regardless, the PCs will outstrip them in level and the NPCs won't be much good in a fight by the second module. For walking around cities, I want the NPCs to be with the PCs. It's more fun role-play for me.

That said, I agree with the second part of this. If NPCs are with the caravan, they should be important to the plot. Since they're not, I'm likely to horror-movie them, and kill them off slowly, one by one, whenever a player gets most attached to them. Alternately, I'm going to make them plot-essential myself: the caravan can't run without Sandru. Shalelu makes things go more smoothly with artic elves. Koya does Harrow readings for the PCs once per module, etc.

FallofCamelot wrote:
It makes no logical sense that Ameiko would not want to explore and experience this grand quest to the fullest. Why therefore is she expected to stay back and cook dinner whilst others risk their lives for her?

She won't at first, absolutely. But if she's going to be Empress, she has to learn.

FallofCamelot wrote:
On top of all this is the fact that this AP can be construed as Ameiko's story, not the PC's. She's the rightful heir (PC interaction with the seal notwithstanding.) She is the one who is supposed to become the Empress, not the players. So if she's not doing anything the risk is that the players feel that she is not pulling her weight and she goes from being the fun, adventrous character that she is and becomes baggage that the players have to cart everywhere. That's the issue, the NPC's have to play an active role or they become a liability that the players resent.

"Defending the crown" is a classic plot for adventures. Usually (Kingmaker aside), the party doesn't want to have the responsibility of ruling a country (especially one they've never been to). They're not The Golden Child; they're Eddie Murphy. They're not the President, they're Snake Pliskin. They're not Sean William Scott; they're The Rock. Need I go on? The fun action characters almost never end up the ruler in the end. Their destiny is to keep Amiko safe and save Minkai, not to become bureaucrats.

FallofCamelot wrote:
That said you can't have 7 NPC's accompanying the party- that would get stupid. So my question is how do you involve the NPC's more fully without unbalancing the campaign?

Personally, I hope to have Sandru, Koya, Amiko, Shalelu, Spivey, Ulf, Kelda, two drivers and maybe others as NPCs. This doesn't even include the rival caravan or recurring villains. I think of a show like "Parenthood," which has more than a dozen major characters. There are really only four major characters, though, and all the others a there to provide conflict or assistance for the central characters. (Insert "Buffy," "Grey's Anatomy" or most any other modern drama, at your pleasure.) More NPCs means more role-playing opportunities for the PCs, and more interesting interactions.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Doram ob'Han wrote:
That said, I agree with the second part of this. If NPCs are with the caravan, they should be important to the plot. Since they're not, I'm likely to horror-movie them, and kill them off slowly, one by one, whenever a player gets most attached to them.

If you like to be a giant douche to your players, sure, do that.

Shadow Lodge

magnuskn wrote:
If you like to be a giant douche to your players, sure, do that.

Man, I wish you'd reread the last paragraph of my post before you call me a douche. That's not cool. One the one hand, if NPCs aren't plot-essential, then why shouldn't I treat a trek through the Arctic like "They Live?" It's called "upping the stakes." Stakes are the things that make players care about their characters and the game.

On the other hand, emotional connections are important. When major characters make emotional connections, killing them off is fair game. Check out every Christopher Nolan movie to see this in action. Leaving some alive is also important. I imagine I'll do both. That's just good GMing.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Doram ob'Han wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
If you like to be a giant douche to your players, sure, do that.

Man, I wish you'd reread the last paragraph of my post before you call me a douche. That's not cool. One the one hand, if NPCs aren't plot-essential, then why shouldn't I treat a trek through the Arctic like "They Live?" It's called "upping the stakes." Stakes are the things that make players care about their characters and the game.

On the other hand, emotional connections are important. When major characters make emotional connections, killing them off is fair game. Check out every Christopher Nolan movie to see this in action. Leaving some alive is also important. I imagine I'll do both. That's just good GMing.

I called the action you were proposing "being a douche to your players" because it's toying with the emotions of your players in an emotionally cruel way, if they are really working on establishing the necessary connections to those NPC's.

And killing of NPC's in slasher film style is not raising the stakes for the player characters, it's just showing your players that getting emotionally attached to NPC's in your campaigns is a bad idea, because you apparently enjoy making them pay for that.


Horror movie slashing = likely in bad taste

Wrapping the NPCs up in bubble wrap because they want an 'emotional connection' = boring.

Myself, I plan to place one of the non-attached NPCs in a challenging circumstance that they likely won't survive.
It's a different emotional level once you know that all bets are off and anyone could go at anytime. Like any book where the main character dies...then you don't know who's safe and who's not!

The Exchange

Killing a few NPCs is a great way to establish that something is at stake (not to mention it keeps the number manageable), but the order in which they die shouldn't be based on how much party cares about them. Avoiding their favourites is boring, and picking on them is cruel.

If the NPCs aren't going to be killed in a fair fight it's better to either roll for who dies randomly, or establish the order of deaths long before the party has actually made a connection with anyone.


I personally plan to just have the NPC's accompany the party when it is appropriate for them to do so. The NPC will get a 'cut' of the exp in these situations but also be at 'risk' during these times for potentially getting squished. I will also 'buff' encounters accordingly to compensate for the added 'oomph' the NPC's can manage. I can rarely see a situation where more than two NPC's would be accompanying the party at any particular moment. Someone

Ultimately, the NPC's are what you(The GM) make of them I think. You have a Backstory and general personality info for each of them so you should play them 'as true to their characters' as you would expect your PC's to play their characters. I like to think of the NPC's as my 'tool box' for this adventure. If there is ever a lull in play I can go to my tool box and have a quick scene to pass time, tell a bit of story, or nudge players into action.

If an NPC dosn't seem particularly popular with your players, give them less screen time in favor of the ones your players seem to enjoy more. Possibly only occasionally having the less popular ones pop in for a few words just so the players remember they are there!

Silver Crusade

Doram ob'Han wrote:
FallofCamelot wrote:
It makes no logical sense that Ameiko would not want to explore and experience this grand quest to the fullest. Why therefore is she expected to stay back and cook dinner whilst others risk their lives for her?
She won't at first, absolutely. But if she's going to be Empress, she has to learn.

Yeah, that doesn't work for me. Ameiko has spent her whole life living by her own terms. I don't see her suddenly abandoning that to become a meek and passive force in what is ostensibly her own adventure. That's just not in character for her.

I'm going to have the NPC's join the PC's for different parts of the AP. I think that works for me better.

James Jacobs wrote:
The number of NPCs who end up traveling with your PCs is up to the GM.

Well yes, the setup is always the province of the GM. However the question was not "how many NPC's should I have in the group" but rather "how do I integrate the NPC's into the group more effectively?" I'm looking for advice on overcoming this because I see it as a potential issue.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
FallofCamelot wrote:
Well yes, the setup is always the province of the GM. However the question was not "how many NPC's should I have in the group" but rather "how do I integrate the NPC's into the group more effectively?" I'm looking for advice on overcoming this because I see it as a potential issue.

Same here. Shalelu is a special problem, because her write-up makes her come off as a stoic. Those are quite difficult to give face-time to.


Is it wrong that after reading this thread I am going to perceive Ameiko as a less lovable Prince Tarn?

For the record, my Sorc/Druid(/MT at some point) is going for an adversarial relationship with the woman, so this may benefit me in the long run.


Hu5tru wrote:

Is it wrong that after reading this thread I am going to perceive Ameiko as a less lovable Prince Tarn?

For the record, my Sorc/Druid(/MT at some point) is going for an adversarial relationship with the woman, so this may benefit me in the long run.

I think this is the most unfortunate part of the whole thing. Based on her write-up, Ameiko is a perfectly good character. The problem is, if this was a novel or film, she would be leading the expedition. As an AP, it is necessary for her to take a bit of a back seat. Making her not come off as a spoiled princess who needs the big strong adventurers to save her is going to be a challenge. I think, ideally, one needs to have a player control Ameiko (or an Ameiko-like). If that person would be "the face" anyway and gets no special perks, the other players hopefully won't balk.

On the subject of integrating the NPCs, I'd say let the players choose their favorites and let the others slide into the background. Koya can be a friend and mentor, but will be appreciated as nothing more than a heal battery, fortune teller/plot explainer, and mobile magic item mart. Sandru can be a bud, or he can just be that guy that runs the caravan in the background and keeps all the NPC cooks in line. Ulf can just be Hans from "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Stoic, quiet, and there solely for his pay. Shalelu... can also be played by a player. Or fall into a pit. She is the toughest nut to crack, and would be a good candidate for "forced emotion through NPC murder."

Silver Crusade

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You can't kill Shalelu, you can merely change her hair colour.


Mort the Cleverly Named wrote:


I think this is the most unfortunate part of the whole thing. Based on her write-up, Ameiko is a perfectly good character. The problem is, if this was a novel or film, she would be leading the expedition. As an AP, it is necessary for her to take a bit of a back seat.

Yeah, it's awful for our uppity PCs to interfere with Ameiko's ambition to lead a caravan. /sarcasm

The way I look at it, Ameiko is tantamount to Danerys from A Song of Ice and Fire. She sits around looking pretty and sometimes words spill out of her mouth, but in reality, it's Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan and Illyrio who are pulling the strings around her and driving the story.

How I read it is that you as a PC are basically told that you must have some sort of care for one of the main NPCs when you're making your character as a reason for you as a PC to keep them around for the long haul, and be invested in their story. My PC took the Childhood Crush trait slightly refluffed so she has some attraction to Sandru. Her main purpose, though, is to fulfill her own curiosity/destiny to see the borealis from the Crown of the World. Now, her relation to Sandru is just about the softest thing there is to her, and the only bit that actively humanizes her, and I'm certain will be more fun as it and she develops, but her romance with him is certainly not at the forefront of her mind at any given moment.

Initially I thought the mechanic novel, but in practice, I think the rolls are rather superfluous and the rules are inorganic and slightly frustrating. Now, I'm not one to use PF as a dating sim, I'm a happily married lady, but it seems to me the mechanics leave out the element of interaction and just plain moods. My character's been slogging around in a swamp, covered in filth, soot and blood the passed two days, her proximity to the object of her desire at this moment is not improving her mood any. She can barely look at him and doesn't want him looking at her as she's observed in our game that he's most at ease in the Rusty Dragon and beside Ameiko, who my near six feet of Ulfen brick sh*thouse will never resemble. Apparently, though, if she gives him a nice gift and rolls real well on her diplomacy check, their relationship progresses mechanically.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I advocate drawing inspiration from old shows like "Wagon Train" and "Star Trek" when it comes to dealing with the NPCs and the caravan. NPCs don't always have to have screen time, especially if the PCs don't seem very interested in interacting with that PC. Also, the caravan doesn't exist in a vacuum. The PCs will come back to the caravan after a mission to discover something has changed (a romantic rival has joined the caravan, someone got sick, two of the NPCs are fighting over a PC and won't admit it, Shelelu is long overdue from her last scouting mission, someone or something was allowed to join the caravan that shouldn't have, something was discovered at camp/on the road, etc.), but not always - that would be too much and make the PCs not want to leave the caravan.

Sure, some of the NPCs will occasionally accompany the PCs on an adventure/mission, but doing so will be a major character development plotline for the NPC in question and, depending on how the PCs roleplay it, for the NPC's relationship to the PCs. These developments don't even have to happen during a scripted adventure, but could happen on a side trek I work up as part of a "random encounter" during the AP. For example, Ameiko might accompany them on an expedition only to examine some ruins in the wilderness on their journey only to discover that she is getting in their way or is creating a bad situation by playing the Captain with the Away Team. She might return to the caravan with the PCs to discover how badly she was needed in her role as Heir Designate or Caravan Patron while she was off playing adventurer. NPCs don't need to remain the same; they can grow and evolve through the AP as much as, less than, or more than the PCs and the times when they accompany the PCs are the best time to make these developments happen. It is a great roleplaying opportunity. Doing this, we can show Ameiko growing into her future role as the leader of a nation or we can show the PCs how much she will suck at it and the PCs could help her decide that she shouldn't become the queen and maybe sponsor one of them for the job.

As for Shelelu being stoic, I can use that quite well given that she is an elf with a long life span. I will play how young she appears, but also play her as a grizzled veteran. I will focus on contrasting how young and nubile she can be with some gruff mannerisms that she doesn't even realize makes her seem rude. She can impart lessons to others through stories of past, tragic experiences. This way, she can still be stoic, but still talkative enough to interact with the PCs and can be caring at the same time by trying to teach the youngsters lessons through the examples life has given her.

Just as Wagon Train and Star Trek didn't always focus on all their characters, I don't need to focus on all my NPCs; I think it is okay for a couple of NPCs to just be background flavor and eye candy if the PCs aren't warming up to them. The important part is focusing efforts for a short duration at the appropriate time on 1 or 2 NPCs at most, then move on to letting the PCs work without any NPCs for a while or bring in the next NPC who they would like to work with. I don't have to kill off any NPC, but if the story makes it feel right to do so... I will. Also, if the PCs don't seem interested in any particular NPC at all, then I can always have that NPC not join up with them, leave, fade into the background of the caravan, or do something to shake up that NPC's story to make them more appealing to the PCs. Killing NPCs isn't my only option if they aren't working out too well.

Also, I like to reward PCs for pursuing roleplaying opportunities that don't end up in obvious, material gains for them in some manner. For this reason, I will probably work up romance and rivalry rewards, scores, and a list of possible gifts and insults for any NPC they seem interested in pursuing a romance or rivalry with and not just use the main four NPCs for those purposes. This means the new Kitsune NPC, the geisha in part 5, or any other "important" NPC they recruit or convert to their cause in the course of the story.

Just to be clear, I am not bashing anybody else's approach to this AP. I am just voicing how I think I will run it once I get my Jade Regent campaign under way.


Hu5tru wrote:
The way I look at it, Ameiko is tantamount to Danerys from A Song of Ice and Fire. She sits around looking pretty and sometimes words spill out of her mouth, but in reality, it's Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan and Illyrio who are pulling the strings around her and driving the story.

Tangential, but that's not really a fair description of Daenerys.

Massive spoilers for A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords:
She figured out how to hatch the dragon eggs herself; Ser Jorah thought she was just committing suttee. Nobody accompanied her into the House of the Undying; she dealt with the visions and the warlocks on her own. Neither Ser Jorah nor "Arstan Whitebeard" knew what she was planning in Astapor until she ordered the Unsullied to turn on their erstwhile masters, thus drawing all of her followers into a war against the slaver city-states. And it was her idea, not Jorah's or Ser Barristan's, to send the two of them and a few Unsullied through the sewers of Meereen to open the gates. I haven't read the fifth book yet, but based on the sample chapter she appears to be making her own decisions about how to rule Meereen, not acting as a mere puppet of her advisers.

Now, that's not to say that one couldn't run the AP with Ameiko being as dynamic a character as Daenerys and the PCs taking on rolls similar to Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan, Strong Belwas, Daario, etc., but your players would have to be content with taking orders from her and scrambling to keep up with the events she sets in motion. As either a player or the DM, I'd prefer to have the PCs take a more active role in the story, and certainly not have Ameiko do anything as significant as the first three things under the spoiler tag without involving them in the planning and execution. That doesn't mean I'd want the PCs "pulling her strings," but they'll act as her protectors during the journey, and as trusted friends and advisors once they reach Tian Xia and begin the struggle to reclaim her kingdom.

It should help that most of Ameiko's character levels are in Bard -- her natural role in a fight is to stay behind the front lines and buff the party with her spells and performance abilities, not wade into the thick of things.

FallofCamelot wrote:
You can't kill Shalelu, you can merely change her hair colour.

Ah, yes, PFRPG's favorite Memetic Badass. "Some say she was the first elf to ever set foot on Groeteus. Some say her face appears on ancient Azlanti coins of high denomination. Some say she overcame a troll's regeneration by insulting its mother. All we know is, she's called Shalelu." -----William Staples

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