There will be spoilers in this thread!
I'm embarking upon the Jade Regent AP as a GM in a few weeks' time. During my preparations, I've been looking at the four major NPCs who accompany the caravan from the start (Ameiko, Koya, Sandru, and Shalelu) and some of the later potential caravan NPCs (e.g., Kelda and Miyaro).
Did you re-build the four main NPCs or any of the others? For example, making Ameiko a Bard/Swashbuckler instead of her official Aristocrat 1/Bard 3/Rogue (rake) 1 combination.
If yes, then how was the character re-built (classes, archetypes, levels)? What effect did it have on the AP?
Did you keep to the NPC level guidelines suggested? That essentially keeps them at cohort levels.
I rebuilt Ameiko as a Rogue-rake 3/Bard-thundercaller 6 when she returned to the 9th-level party at the end of The Hungry Storm. See my chronicles at Amaya of Westcrown for the full explanation for Ameiko's temporary disappearance.
I had eight players in The Brinewall Legacy, so the NPCs were marginalized to give more time to each PC. Ameiko organized the expedition to Brinestump March, but was distracted by other events and did not accompany the party there. Later I swapped out 6th-level Ameiko and replaced her with her half-sister 2nd-level Amaya. The caravan led by Koya and Sandru stopped at Riddleport and did not continue all the way to Brinewall Castle. Shalelu never appeared.
The party shrunk down to five members, not counting Amaya, for Night of Frozen Shadows. They lost the cleric, so Amaya multiclassed to oracle to serve as healer. I kept her at the same level as the PCs.
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My players are now in Book 6, and recruited roughly 40 NPCs on their quest. My campaign is something in between Banner Saga and Suikoden.
I had Koya get recruited by Desna to assist with some Cosmic Level shenanigans somwehere in the Crown of the World, because the players relied on her as something of a moral compass and I needed them to have a become the grown-ups moment. But while she was with the party she was growing as a Cleric/Witch (eventually aiming for Theurge)
Ameiko switched from Bard, to Swashbuckler (VMC Bard) when my players gave her Suishen.
I switched Sandru from a straight rogue to a Rogue (Driver archetype).
Shalelu is still a Ranger, and as she levelled up she gained Oni as a favored enemy.
Kelda increased her crafting skills and became a smith.
Ulf is a guide ranger, and so he can share his favored enemies, and some favored terrain stuff with the party.
My party recruited Skygni, who during a sidequest got turned into a wolfwere (I essentially just added Shifter levels, and he can turn into a human sometimes).
My party recruited Zaiobe, and I continued increasing her Oracle levels, until she sacrificed herself to defeat Katiyana in the Nameless Spires.
My players recruited a goblin from the swamp named Mogo, he started as a rogue, who also gained pyrokineticist levels.
My players resurrected and recruited Kikonu (don't ask), he continued to level up as a rogue.
Miyaro (who is named Sana in my campaign) has been retasked as a rogue (kitsune trickster), she's sort of a secret agent for the interests of the Forest of Spirits.
Jiro and Hatsue are pretty much as written.
Our heroes have also recruited tons of unique custom NPCs based on sidequests, caravan crew recruitment, former PCs who joined and left the campaign over the decade I've been running it, and circumstance. Players have had an absolute blast, and when they go on "away missions", I allow them to take 1 NPC who they think might be useful.
The NPC interactions are my players favorite part of the campaign, and they enjoy seeing the NPCs grow and change. Tying the NPCs backstories to the players throughout the campaign has also been a blast, and a joy.
Yeah, I've built out most of the relevant NPCs. It's funny; a lot of the advice for JR talked about how cumbersome the caravan and relationship/NPC focus could be, but that has not been the case at our table. The caravan rules are fine if you use some fixes. The relationship stuff is going amazingly. I'm using Ultimate Relationships and the NPC relationships have been the high point of the campaign so far.
For the core NPCs:
I rebuilt Ameiko to be an Oracle with the God Meddled curse. I did this after she was possessed in Brinewall. I think this helps fit with her sense of destiny, and gives some storyline reason for her to slowly start just knowing things about Minkai as she grows in power.
Shalelu I kept as a ranger. I'll probably make her a Horizon Walker for fun.
Koya was kept as a cleric with the Varisian Pilgrim archetype.
I rebuilt Sandru to be a bard with the Negotiator archetype. In my game, Sandru is less of a charismatic swashbuckler and more of a principled merchant and dad to everybody in the caravan.
There are plenty of other NPCs they've taken that I haven't built, like Spivey and Zaiobe. I keep them all a level below the PCs, except for Ameiko, who is equal level.