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4 Groups in D&D that deserve more Independence

Written by MythicParty - Published on July 5, 2015

DND FireworksI would have bet all my jumbo dice that there already was a 4th of July column. We’ve previously written not one but two articles about Memorial Day as well as an attempt to process 9-11 from a gaming context.  But there actually isn’t anything in our archives, so to connect with the Independence Day holiday DungeonMastering.com presents 4 Groups in the D&D system that deserve more Independence.  In order for autonomy, here they are:

4) Henchmen, hirelings, and cohorts  HOW THEY ARE: too often these guys can be the Red Shirts from Star Trek.  Even if they aren’t deliberately put into harm’s way, when they do die, too they are just quickly forgotten.  INSERT INDEPENDENCE BY: while the Leadership Feat has modifiers to a character’s Leadership Score from followers dying (some of which are cumulative) this doesn’t prevent logic when it comes to how they behave.  Gold only buys so much loyalty, and common sense should prevail.  If an attendant is quite obviously in over their head, they certainly can ask for any outstanding pay and simply leave.  However if they do die on an adventure, then friends/family might seek out the party, either for an inheritance or at least a body to bury.  Either way if followers aren’t always properly equipped, the death rate can be high enough for no one to ever sign on with the group again.

3) Familiars, Animal Companions, and Paladin mounts  HOW THEY ARE: usually treated like obedient pets, albeit pets with very useful powers.  Heck, in some editions they even come back from the dead with a couple hundred GP plus an 8 hour ritual.  INSERT INDEPENDENCE BY: make sure their own needs, motivations, and goals are regularly brought to the attention of the controlling character.  Especially for basic requirements such as food/shelter/security, but as helpers advance along with their PC caretakers, their wants should advance as well.  Consult Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to see how these requirements grow from basic to much more complicated.  The pyramid starts with simple things like shelter then stability then moves onto affection then later respect, and at last are things such as self-fulfillment.  Bottom-line, while they only have a supporting role these figures should still have material worth making a backstory.  (fittingly, ‘independence’ is on tier 4 of Maslow, aka Esteem Needs)

2) Summoned Monsters and Nature’s Allies  HOW THEY ARE: suddenly pulled into our world to do a caster’s bidding, they last as long as villain’s guards in a James Bond movie before winking back to the plane from whence they came.  Beings summoned from spells often are the fantasy equivalent of personal mine detectors.  INSERT INDEPENDENCE BY: having the monsters summoned gradually having heard of the spellcaster, and react to him based on that reputation.  If the caster has treated previously summoned allies negatively, then word will eventually get out and any that have to come won’t work to the best of their ability.   They will be curt to the point of rude and while not hostile, not as helpful as they could otherwise be.  Conversely if the caster has been positive, indicating appreciation or simply being polite, summoned creatures could assist above and beyond the call of duty.  Perhaps they might personally answer the summons again if the experience was good enough.

And the #1 group in D&D that deserves more independence…

1) Intelligent magic items  HOW THEY ARE:  pieces of (expensive) equipment listed on a sheet, to be used as needed until the battle is over, then basically ignored until the next combat.  INSERT INDEPENDENCE BY: paying careful attention to the rules of how these special magic items work.  An item’s Ego score determines how much control they’ll exert over the wielder, which can be extreme.  For example in Pathfinder, “a score of 20 or higher always considers itself superior to any character, and a personality conflict results if the possessor does not always agree with the item.”  Even if there isn’t an immediate conflict, the item most likely feels the relationship at best as temporary given the lifespan of its mortal ‘owner’ particularly with the life expectancy for adventurers.  At worst the item sees the person as a meat puppet to do its bidding, exerting control whenever possible to achieve its own ends.  However, at the least, because intelligent items are created with a purpose in mind, they will want to pursue those goals.  Don’t let them stay simple swords or rings: have them be as special as they are, which means having them demonstrate a measure of independence.

Ok, that’s our choice of those groups in D&D that deserve more self-determination.  Any ones we missed that should be on the list?  Any ones on the list that shouldn’t be?  Or that should be higher/lower?  Let us know in the comments below.

Written by MythicParty

Dog-loving, movie-watching, pizza aficionado. Content Editor for DMing.com, Project Manager for AvatarArt.com, & player of the coolest characters in a weekly D&D game. Halflings are the real heroes.

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One Response to “4 Groups in D&D that deserve more Independence”
  1. MythicParty says:

    So after pondering on it for a bit, the 4th of July column I was thinking of was an idea to look at the movie Independence Day for ideas to use in D&D. Its something we might still do, especially given the upcoming sequel.

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