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Exasperated Rants

Miniventures with companions

Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.
It's not uncommon for an adventuring party to have a smaller creature in their company. It might be the animal companion of the Ranger, or it might be the Wizard's familiar. I had an interesting idea after the almost total party kill, which I think has been refined enough to be worth posting about.

The idea is very simple. Set up a situation where the companion or familiar might go off on their own. From here, it is basically a mini adventure for the companion or familiar, without the aid of the party. This can work really well as a quick solo adventure between sessions, or as a little break from the norm.

When using a ranger's animal companion this way, it's pretty easy to throw in some monsters for the companion to fight. I've almost always used minions in this. I will mention that I give the minions HP equal to one half their level as a houserule, but it doesn't seem to be a huge problem. Nonminions work great as a boss monster. I've found that the most important thing is to keep the action going. The point is to do something a little different for a while, and have some fun. Killing the animal companion isn't a goal. Being a difficult challenge isn't necessary. For this reason, I found that allowing the animal companion an extra standard action when they reduce an enemy to 0 HP works well in miniventures only. This way, the animal companion can blow through a couple tiny sized minions without the while thing turning into a tedious exchanging of at will attacks. I also found that littering the area with something that can heal the companion on occasion is also helpful because the Animal Companion has limited healing surges already.

For an animal companion, it works great to have a couple short combat encounters which they can rip through, and a couple skill checks to accomplish their goal. After the mission is accomplished, they can reunite with their Ranger.

Doing this helps to establish the animal companion as a badass in their own right, rather than just the Ranger's pet. It lets the Ranger have a moment of coolness where he overcomes a problem using his companion, and overall it can be a lot of fun as long as the combat is quick and the action keeps moving forward.

Familiars are a little more tricky to set up adventures for. Most familiars can't go more than 100 feet away from their master before they are yanked back. This is a rule that you may have force to to sit down, shut up and stay out of the way of the fun. If anyone starts to give you a hard time over it or wants to do it at any other time, you can always resort to the DMG. Remember, your DMG is big, heavy, and makes a good blunt object if you need to hit someone until they shut up. It also mentions something about the DM being able to make the final call on anything for any reason, but trust me, whacking players with a book can be fun!

When a familiar is out and about, their goal may be more skill check based than combat based. Avoiding combat might be what they need to do in order to accomplish the goal, and this can also be a nice change of pace.

This doesn't necessarily have to be limited to characters who have invested in a constant companion. Adventurer's Vault 1 includes several Figurines of Wondrous Power which can be perfect for this. However, you may want to be careful if you plan for such things. a party may be reluctant to use an item daily power specifically for a quick thing like this, or they may have already used it previously.

When you set a companion up as the star of a show normally dominated by the player characters, it's an unusual situation that can work well in moderation. but be warned, I've mentioned several times that it is important to keep the action flowing. Nobody wants to see the game come to a halt while the DM and 1 player take turns exchanging d20 rolls until the last monster drops dead. Keep the story moving, the narrative interesting, and the companion should always be progressing towards the goal.

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Updated 10-27-2010 at 07:30 PM by Teksura

Tags: dnd 4e Add / Edit Tags
Evil Plots , My Game


  1. Ao's Avatar
    That's a pretty darned good idea you posted there Tek. For sme reason though, I kept getting this picture in my mind of a whole party of animal companions and familiars trotting off on a sidequest. It puts me in the mind of one of those old animal movies like Homeward Bound.

    I then imagined a party composed of a ranger, a druid, a mage, and a shifter or something getting together. Your idea has some great potential for a published adventure geared towards the naturalistic characters.

    I like it.
    Updated 10-09-2010 at 05:05 PM by Ao