Do your players actually use NPCs during their adventures?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

There's a thread here that discusses the survivability of NPC hirelings in your games. This thread is even more general: do the players use hirelings or NPCs in your games? Also, do your games involve base camps, caravans and such?

I mean, part of this will depend on the type of game I guess. I run 3 games and none of them are specifically designed as a nomadic campaign involving pirate ships or caravans or anything. However, one of my games IS a megadungeon campaign, with the PCs constantly heading between a city and the dungeon. They COULD establish a base camp and have hirelings guard it, but so far (they're now level 5) they've avoided doing this.

Is this the average or norm among most games or do players typically hire NPCs to act as guards, minions and such outside of Downtime activities? I mean, my players might have contacts in the city they go to for info or gear, but when they're on an adventure they STRICTLY only involve themselves - no hirelings or NPCs, no mounts, animals, or even constructs to ease their travels.

Instead my players prioritize magic items with carrying capacity magic such as bags of holding. They also work towards someone in the party being a full caster AND someone in the party having some kind of magic item crafting feats, usually Craft Wondrous, Craft Wand, and Scribe Scroll. PCs move overland until teleportation magic is a thing, dealing with any and all obstacles to overland movement on their own. They bring gear for camping well into their mid levels (level 8 or even 9), and said gear is made to be something they themselves can set up and break down in an hour or so. Finally, because they get carrying capacity items as soon as possible, any Downtime activities they'll do outside a settlement (like making paper for scrolls or crafting shields) either doesn't happen or they bring whatever they'll need with them.

Please talk about your own campaigns and discuss whether or not your games involve the party relying on NPCs, hirelings, or non-class-ability animals/mounts in their adventures, outside of settlements that is.

My PC's make heavy use of NPC's. They like the whole "caravan" thing. In the last campaign I ran, one of my players took the leadership feat with the purpose of starting his own religion (and succeeded). They also "acquired" an airship and eventually paid for a full crew of NPC's to pilot it for them.

I think it's something to be embraced tbh, because it's cool to watch how creative they can get building their own little world within the world.

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

Depends on the campaign. In the last campaign I ran, a player had a very charismatic bard with leadership. He had dozens of NPCs with names and basic info, and dozens more not fleshed out. He used these contacts in cities across the realms to gather information, maintain small bases/rooms, and generate low-level magic items for the party. I even used some of them in major campaign plot points. He had to contribute a significant amount of his treasure to funding them and their endeavours. One of them even accompanied him on adventures (the one of the highest level). In the current campaign (Rappan Athuk), the party has freed / returned to life multiple NPCs, a couple of which are now traveling with the party. They tend to be in support roles (archer, mage) and not front-line roles, due to their lower level. Years ago I had a party start their own magic item / gear shop and payed someone to run it. They sold all their excess treasure items there, cutting out the middle man. They also had a bar and several other NPCs running their affairs in the city. The climax of that campaign was when the big-bad killed all their NPCs and brought them back as undead to demoralize the party before the final sequence of battles.

Lol, magic item creation. One of the games I'm running uses the Downtime rules and while the Investigator/Wizard has Scribe Scroll and Craft Wondrous, he doesn't do all the crafting these days. He picked up a Team during Downtime called a Mage, a 3rd level generic arcane spellcaster. Then at level 7 I gave everyone Leadership as a free feat, trying to encourage more engagement with the NPCs and setting.

The Investigator/Wizard asked if the Mage could be his cohort and upgrade to 5th level. I said sure, asked the player to come up with some details. What I initially received was a list of Item Crafting feats and a stat block for a human Universalist (Arcane Crafter) Wizard 5. Said wizard had a Valet familiar, several Craft skills and Spellcraft maxed out, and dump statted Cha for Int.

Said cohort did not even have a name, but they could Scribe Scrolls, Brew Potions, Craft Wondrous Items, Craft Wands, Craft Magical Weapons and Armor, and had a Skill Focus with Spellcraft. I've since asked that this NPC be a bit more fleshed out. While he has a name, Rupert, there is no real background or setting specific info on him. Rupert just sprang into being when money was spent to hire him as a Team, and the rest is history.

There is ONE campaign that uses one NPC. Its a megadungeon campaign in the same world as Rapan Athuk and the initial party lacked anyone dedicated to condition mitigation and healing so the PCs hired on a half-orc Adept 2 named Kardag. After a couple levels and many exceptional Diplomacy checks by the party's paladin, Kardag began to actively fight alongside the party. He also converted from Adept to Cleric at -1 level, but he loses Channel Energy to keep the Familiar he earned as an Adept.

So far Kardag has existed to cast Bless and now Magic Stone spells. He fights by making sling attacks or using Aid Another with his Longspear. Since converting to Cleric however Kardag has also become the communications guy; he keeps scrolls of Comprehend Languages around, has Linguistics as a class skill and routinely fills spell slots with Touch of Truthtelling and such.

I've had different experiences in different campaigns. In general, I have found that Henchmen, Cohorts, and Animal Companions only exist for the GM to kill when the GM doesn't want to kill you. They also make good avenues for the GM to insinuate enemies to spy on the party and inform the BBEG of what your plans are. Sometimes, they are vehicles for policing the party's behavior.

In some campaigns, we have had extended relationships with some recurring characters. And I have had some Animals and Cohorts that lasted and played important roles.

In a game based around an airship there was certainly crew. The players took an occasional but distant interest in them, not using them for anything much besides crewing the ship.

I've seen a similar pattern a few times. While there's occasionally interest in using NPC mooks in a fight, when it gets them killed (not unlikely if they're noticeably weaker than the PCs) interest of all kinds fades rapidly when that happens. This also occurs if you get one of Scott Wilhelm's GMs.

We frequently make use of NPC Spellcasting services or the skill checks of allied NPCs. If an NPC is a decent level and nearby, there's a fair chance of them participating in combat.

The troop subtype is a great way to make some conscripts that can still be dangerous.

We usually focus on our group of adventurers, but we certainly include the NPCs in our world.

In our Iron Gods game we've made enough of a connection with some of the NPCs from Torch and Rustwall to go back and visit them, particularly Konnir's daughter Val (not sure if the GM changed names, the wizard who's missing at the beginning of book 1, we call him "ConAir" and he's played by Nicholas Cage).

In our Carrion Crown game my Occultist was raised by professor Lorrimor and his daughter is her closest friend. We also made friends with The Beast Of Lepidstadt, and more recently with a werewolf hunter from the Lodge in book 3 (Duristan I think, that game's on hiatus so I might be misremembering names). Our GM had Duristan kidnapped just before we went on hiatus, which I don't *think* was in the book at all, it was just a consequence of our being close to him (and probably a way to keep him in the story since we all like him).

So we usually don't end up with a caravan of NPCs, but we often have one or 2 hanging around wherever we go.

I am a player in an Ironfang Invasion campaign.
Partially to take some responsibility from the GM's shoulders and partially because my character is from Phaendar, I volunteered to write up the refugees rescued from the town during the first night.
I can name every individual person, know their backgrounds, and know how they're interconnected with other PCs/NPCs. I know which of them lost someone in the invasion.
Once we started meeting Rangers, I came to know them also.
Rose, the Taproot Inn's barmaid, was initially supposed to be my character's love interest but has fallen for the Elf Paladin because he's more heroic.
Ryna, an acolyte from the temple, stays away from the PC Magus because he's a 'lunatic child.'

They don't feature that prominently in the experience of the rest of the players but they are a HUGE part of the game that I'm playing.

We have a tabletop campaign on hiatus due to the current situation where the PC's make extensive use of NPC's.

Takes place in Magnimar, one of the PC's has ended up becoming leader of a smallish Sczarni gang full of NPC's. Another started a clinic for the downtrodden and relies on NPC's to run the thing when he is adventuring, all of them (save one) is joint-owner of a business that makes them side-gold to gain standing and influence in the community at large and rely on NPC workers, supervisors, and accountant, lawyer, etc. that come in to RP play occasionally in between more arduous, traditional-RPG escapades that are the meat of the campaign.

Shadow Lodge

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For me this varies a lot from game to game. Sometimes it's due to the GM not liking npcs, so we don't use them. Other times it's about how the story goes. In one game we're nobility, so we constantly have a host of npcs on hand. In another we might be secret agents operating in enemy territory, so we have none. In another game I played, we were settlers starting a new village. My pc started a business, hired workers, and fell in love with an npc. He ended up retiring as the campaign moved away from the village and at that point he was married with a pregnant wife and was unwilling to abandon her to go gallivanting off, so I made a new character.

In games I run, I frequently introduce npcs with similar goals to the pcs, with the intent that they be prospective hirelings/followers if the players are so inclined to recruit them. I also often use npcs to drive the narrative, like having a sorceress who hires the pcs to accompany her to explore some ancient ruin in search of lost elven magic. My players will occasionally hire npc guides, but I can't recall them ever hiring porters or guards. As a gm, I really like having npcs in the party as it gives me an in game voice to disseminate information to the players. It also lets me proactively tell them things instead of waiting/hoping they ask an npc. Npcs are also good for showing reactions and illustrating how people in world act.

Again, it really varies depending on the story. In the last campaign I ran, it was based mostly in one city. It was seedy place, with different crews controlling different areas. So my players ended up taking over a neighborhood and building up their own crew (including a dryad who's tree they planted on their roof, a scarecrow one of them built, and a medusa who lived in the basement). My current campaign is more of a globetrotting adventure. My players have still picked up a few npcs along the way, and are currently traveling with 3.

The problem I find with using a large amount of npcs in pathfinder is that there's no good mechanics for dealing with them. If you want to run something like a turf war between rival gangs, the closest thing you got is some clunky mass combat rules. In the end it just becomes gm fiat to resolve something like that, which makes it hard to give the players a sense of agency in securing victory for their side.

Silver Crusade

I gave one of my players a kid NPC that's tied to his backstory (We're playing Strange Aeons). Right now he and me, the gm, have shared custody over that NPC.

In the same game, I did provide my Occultist player with a hired helper that purchased equipment and general help every so and then. However I replaced him with a doppelganger at some point.

In a homebrew game, I have a chauffeur who drives my caravan but otherwise she doesn't do much. She sometimes scouts social settings on my characters behalf but otherwise nothing combat wise.

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gnoams wrote:
I also often use npcs to drive the narrative, like having a sorceress who hires the pcs to accompany her to explore some ancient ruin in search of lost elven magic.

Once upon a time our three (level 5-ish) PCs were escorting a dwarf wizard to a ruined city of ancient knowledge. As we made our way across the steppe we were attacked by a group of trolls. Not having any access to fire magic we turned to the dwarf and asked if he could please fireball the trolls to finish them off.

"Why get a dog and bark yourself?" was the response.

Typically, yes. One of the DMs at our table always uses NPCs as traitors or hostages though, so when he's running we all tend to play characters who are less interested in relying on NPCs. Yes, it's metagaming, but it seems justified since all mechanical means of combating either traitors or hostages tend to be arbitrarily blocked.

In the game I'm running currently, I've made an effort to push enough tasks onto the players that they feel the need to delegate. The party has a few adventuring parties that work with them and those parties are made up of people they've helped along the way, who have aligned interests, or who were recruited specifically for the purpose. Even though the PCs are overtly evil, their need to recruit and retain leverage in negotiations means that their brand of evil manifests in a narratively useful way.

It's a huge pain in the ass, but it's been fun too and I'll try something similar next game.

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