Allies, part 2

Way back in April I offered some words and crunch to help bolster your PCs’ numbers by introducing allies. Whether in a large scale battle scenario, an expedition to the holy land or just a few wayward soldiers you picked up along the way, allies can add variety to your party makeup and help build your world so that it doesn’t feel like the heroes are the only people trying to do the right thing.

As I outlined in the previous article, which you can read here, these allies can be fun, but should definitely take a back seat to the to players’ strengths, mostly because we don’t want to over complicate things. It’s tough enough making sure that combat runs efficiently with five players and a handful of monsters. To keep their stats as simple, but also as fun as possible, I’ve piggybacked on an idea I saw Greg Bilsland use once on his blog where the allies don’t get hit points, and rarely actually have attacks. Instead they get “hits,” and usually offer support rather than contributing too much to attacks. Any damage an ally takes equals one hit, and at zero hits, the poor dude falls. That’s okay though, they should come in bulk, and although I’m certainly not as heartless while role playing them at the table, in terms of drama, these allies often represent the masses who gave their lives so the world could be a better place. Or something.

I finally finished my bi-monthly adventure that included a large scale battle where the players took on some of these allies to fight seemingly never ending swarms of assailants and feedback was positive. It was great to play test some ideas I’ve been cooking up here on the blog and I’ve definitely learned a few things I’ll incorporate here. Do these allies add complexity, despite how simple their designs are? Yes, without a doubt. With tactics taking the longest time to grind in the heads of my players, even moving a one-hit soldier into the prime spot can take valuable time and consideration. But the point is to sacrifice a little of that to paint the picture of a massive battle, and so I learned that allies should either be used in small packs of 3 to 5 for a player or group to run, or used in a limited setting (I’d say once per tier) where having that many fixtures active at once is worth the extra time and effort because the final battle is just that freakn’ huge.

Last article I provided a human soldier, a human archer, and an ogre (as an example of an ally that actually has more than one hit and can make attacks). A good benchmark for how many of these allies to give to the players is best measured in hits, and 4 or 5 hits is the sweet spot. So, if a player wants to run with some Bloodcrown Lizardfolk Shield Bearers, who have 1 hit each, you could give them 4 or 5 to control. If they want to run some ogres, because the ogres have 2 hits each, then 2 ogres is a good number to have them control. I’ve designed several kinds of creatures for them to choose from below, not just your typical humanoid “civilized” races, so take from them what best suits your own game and let me know how they run at your table should you choose to offer them to your own players!

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