Thursday, January 3, 2019

A few more thoughts on retainers

Some random additional thoughts on the subject of the previous post (using retainers to help cement the different play style of Classic/AD&D compared to newer editions).

  • Make alignment matter. Retainers with the same alignment may have a morale boost. Chaotic retainers should be more likely to stab you in the back (figuratively or literally). Neutral aligned retainers may be the most in-demand.
  • Not all retainers need to be NPCs with class and level. Some may be monsters. Monster retainers should definitely have the same alignment as the boss PC.
  • Non-classed humans with interesting powers or abilities could come in handy. Gretta the Bag-Lady has a 20% chance to have any piece of normal gear in her bags (once per Turn), and a 5% chance once per day to have a potion or scroll useful for solving the current problem. But she's AC 9, HP 3, fights/saves as a Normal Man. Evelensk the Elf is merely level 1, but has learned EVERY language in his long life...but can only remember languages beyond what normal elves speak when he's drunk.
  • Could an intelligent weapon be a retainer?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thoughts on Retainers

I'm mulling over switching my 5E West Marches game to Classic D&D (or Labyrinth Lord...nearly the same thing). JB of BX Blackrazor had some good ideas about introducing BX (or your classic/retro-clone game of choice) to new gamers, including vets of newer editions who may be hesitant to switch to an old school edition.

Plus I've been leafing through my new print copy of Labyrinth Lord (the original rules, should get the new Advanced LL book that combines the basic rules and AEC content into one tome next).

I was looking at the chart of Charisma effects, and the number of retainers they have. I was thinking about JB's advice to start off players like mine at higher levels for a test run. I may do this. And if I do, each character will start with their maximum number of retainers based on their Charisma score.

WotC really doesn't seem to get the idea of retainers. Or they just don't like it. And lots of younger gamers don't seem to grasp the idea, or reject it for some reason. But retainers are a great addition to the game! Players control not just their character, but share control of some NPC helpers with the DM. Meat shields for magic-users, additional attacks and targets in combat, additional chances to pick the lock or cast that utility spell...

Due to my busy schedule in January and a trip back home in February, my West Marches game is on hold. When I get back to Busan at the end of February, I may just run a short campaign using Isle of Dread or another module I know I won't be borrowing from for the WM campaign for the group and see how it goes.

As JB suggests (and I've done before when starting with higher level PCs for short campaigns), I'll have a semi-randomized selection of magic items to choose from. I'll also come up with a bunch of retainers of various types (some with character classes, some without - but with useful skills/knowledge). Once the players roll their stats and select their classes, I'll let them select/distribute magic items, and then assign them their retainers (or let them negotiate over who gets which NPCs?).

The big challenge for me will be remembering to use the retainers' morale scores. Except for my son, whose 2nd character was the "knight" background and got three retainers, no one in the WM campaign has bothered trying to bring NPCs along, even when they see how useful it is for my son. One of the other kids tamed a giant badger who followed her PC for a long time, but then she got worried that it would die so now she leaves it in town. No one else has thought to go to the local inn and try to hire a few sellswords or sellspells. Maybe this would relieve them of that.