Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 11
  1. #1
    Community Manager Berserkerkitten's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Location
    Nottingham, UK
    Posts
    1,088

    Update #40: Game Basics: a companionís guide to companions - Part 1

    Dear Pathfinders,

    Companions are the meat and potatoes of every good party-based RPG. Today's update is the start of a small series of articles about our approach to writing and developing the adventurers, who will accompany you on your journey across the Stolen Lands. These updates are brought to you by Narrative Designer Chris Avellone. Enjoy!

    Companions are a complicated bunch.

    They can run the range: Your buddy. Your crush. Your source of exasperation. Your sibling you always wished you had. Your dependent. Your source of unease. Your pal. Your one true love. Your sibling you wished you could throttle. Your (budding) arch-enemy. Your rival. Your dark mirror. Your better you. Your mentor. Your conscience. And sometimes, yes, your annoying fire support who you don’t give a submachinegun to because he unleashes burst mode on everyone – often spraying bullets on you and your own allies at the same time (Fallout 1 true story with the companion “Ian” – although it’s worth noting that this arguably unfavorable tactic gave ol’ Ian more personality than anything else – it became his signature move).

    I’ve written several companions over the years, and one key aspect to their creation I don’t often discuss is math.

    Yes, math.

    COMPANION ARITHMETIC

    I understand math is the worst subject for any ex-English Major to discuss with any authority, I know, but “the maths” have so much to do with companion design and companion arcs that it deserves some explanation. Or, in this case, a lot of explanation. Because you know us writers, we love them words.

    That said, here’s a list of system questions we ask about each companion for the sake of math – and why it’s important for narrative to take these mathematics into account when constructing a companion.

    - Every piece of data on a companion is important. By this, I mean all facets of data that define a character – including alignment. Factoring in alignment may seem strange to some, but when you have a game where the companions do pay attention to your actions, you’re allowed to play the game however you wish (good, evil, neutral, lawful, chaotic), and you can build a party, then you have to make sure you have a balance of companions that are suited to each character archetype. An evil player should have the chance to build a party of evil (or evil-tolerant) companions as much as a good character can do the same with a party of good (or good-tolerant) companions.

    - If you don’t have a lot of companions for the game (not a problem in Kingmaker), then it’s important you make certain choices in companion personalities or quest lines that would explain why differing alignments would work together (and they can, which can create interesting quests and moments if staged correctly). These “will work with anyone” can also be done psychology-wise and setting-wise as well – and I’ll use Firefly as an example. So every member of the crew on the ship Serenity arguably has a markedly different alignment, but they also have a dependency or psychological flaw – ex: Jayne’s not too bright, Simon has a dependent, Zoey follows orders, Wash is tied to Zoey, etc. – all of these psychological bricks are mortared together and it keeps them on board and working together. In Planescape: Torment, even though you could sacrifice and force people to leave, there was a reason your party of differing alignments were drawn to you – and they definitely still fought with each other.

    - Next question – if you do have a party limited by good and evil, are the companions that split along good and evil party lines balanced? (Ex: If all the Fighters in the companion list are Lawful Good, that’s an imbalance.)

    - How does the character systematically fit into this party – does the companion showcase one of the range of races the game offers, especially ones unique to the game and franchise? (Goblins in Pathfinder, for example, exemplified by the companion Nok-Nok in Kingmaker.)

    - Class is important narratively as well – not only for franchise-specific classes (hey, here’s a sample of one of the unique professions in the world), but also because you can’t divorce character class from a character’s backstory or their personality – a druid is likely to have a much different upbringing outlook on the world than a rogue, for example, and you need to know what “career” the companion fell into/choose in order to backtrack through their life to build the reasons they chose it – or why the class chose them.

    - Is the companion progression done in such a way where the introduction makes sense (ex: you don’t want 2 fighter companions at the outset of the game, but you might want 1, and perhaps also a cleric for healing because giving the player a tank or healer early on as a companion is a great idea – even if the player is a member of both classes). In Planescape: Torment, we introduced Morte first, not just for narrative reasons, but because he is a floating shield that can take a lot of damage, can intercept enemies for you (or lure them to you), carry your stuff (he’s a floating backpack), and inform you about the world.

    - Be careful on how you build the companion’s attributes and skill set – they need to follow the exact same rules as the player, and you want to build them in such a way that you don’t make them so specific they can’t make use of certain items in the game (extreme example – but if the paladin companion isn’t built in such a way that she can make use of the best paladin sword in the game, then you’re going to have some angry players – also, it goes without saying, that if the PC is a paladin, the PC gets the best paladin sword).

    - It’s an excellent idea to give companions unique traits, unique inventory items, but take care that the companion is not “built” incorrectly (ex: he has higher attributes than the player would be allowed to have) – it’s irritating for a PC to traverse a game with a companion who has the same class as they do but they happen to have an unfair rack of stats, which means the player ends up being second fiddle, math-wise. And players will calculate each point and do comparisons, it’s a given. So mind the rules, even if you’d like to move points around.

    - A dash of systemic spice is always welcome. What I mean by this is that the companion may have some item, trait, ability, or twist on their skills that complement their personality. It can be a diary or a space hamster. It can be a unique weapon only they can use (just don’t make it better than any other weapon a player can get, and try to give it room to grow).

    - Be careful in assigning skills and attribute points to companions so that you’re not dumping points in skills and attributes they can’t even use. Example: Some games don’t allow companions to “speak,” which often means that giving them Charisma bonuses or adding to their Charisma is useless because it doesn’t do anything – if that’s the case, you might want to expand any attribute or ability that only the player can use but the attribute is shared by both the player and companion (this can be solved in other ways depending on the game design – either never allowing Charisma to be added to, or re-designing the dialogue interface – what I call “Tony Evans style” – so everyone can participate in a conversation and each one can use their stats).

    - Balance the placement of the companion so that they are introduced in an area where they systemically shine (not just narratively, but combat, exploration, and tools-wise). Make sure that when the companion is gained, he’s useful immediately and if possible, he’s awesome in the immediate environment. Example – during your adventure, you might be trapped in a field of explosive spells and deadly traps, and Nok-Nok suddenly walks up (perhaps walking across the mine field in his own special trap-detecting way). Perfect. You have your own goblin mine-detector (one way or the other).

    - But don’t solely have the placement be something that is a challenge or obstacle, introduce reward with it that the companion can help you reach (you may have encountered a locked chest you couldn’t open earlier in the map, or have a chance to unlock doors and cages in a mage’s storeroom). Maybe you’re a fighter who just found a wicked dagger called The Onyx Vertebrae which happens to be a dagger +2, +4 with Backstab – it’s a good weapon, but you already have a better sword. Still, when Nok-Nok appears, you know exactly who to give it to. After you teach him not to hold it by the blade.

    - It’s to your benefit not to let the player get too comfortable with their roster if you’re introducing a lot of companions or introducing companions late in the game. Some players “lock-in” their party and are resistant to change depending on when you introduce a companion (this is why Final Fantasy games often have specific intros for each companion where you are forced to journey with them long enough to get used to them, then they’d be free to be removed from your party – it’s more like forced exposure, but it’s done with the purpose of showcasing that companion).

    - Even death involves math – an extreme example, but the tragedy of having decide to save one of two companions is made cheaper when one has a skill set that nobody else does. And it’s worse if that same skill grants the player the ability to gain special items, access to more chests, or access to secrets and bonus areas vs. the generic “fighter”. The choice then becomes less a role-playing a choice vs. “well, if I lose him, I’d lose my ability to pick locks anywhere in the world.”

    - Lastly, the companions should reinforce or interact with the key systems in the game as well – for example, the player’s Kingdom. Having companions or not having certain companions should cause (and does cause) changes in one’s kingdom in Kingmaker, sometimes for the best, sometimes for the worst – each companion needs to have that “system kingdom arc” spelled out, as when writing them, you’d need to foreshadow and explain personality-wise and dialogue-wise why certain events may occur.

    So let’s take our squat little maniac goblin Nok-Nok as an example and examine his schematics. He’s franchise-specific (goblin), he fulfills a role rarely held by other party members (rogue – a class that I find not many people I know seem to take as their primary character, but every seasoned RPG’er knows they always want a rogue in the party to open stubborn locks and get to places only thieves can go as long as it’s not the player that has to waste the skill points). Furthermore, he’s evil-alignment-friendly and can round out a part of evil characters although arguably his trait of being doggedly loyal means he can bond with other alignments (though they may not appreciate this), and he has a few goblin and personality-specific skills that Owlcat and I have kicked around for him being a goblin – some examples (not set in stone) – he may have the ability to gain ugly pets (goblins have the worst “pets,” but Nok-Nok can help you gain them), or he may gain unusual “trophies” (junk) that bolster his confidence as he regards them as relics, and if possible, he may even have the ability to have a unique trap disarm that uses his body as a shield for the damage – and trap damage resistance as a result of being the victim of this ability once too often.

    Furthermore, his motivations are very much intertwined with the religion of the world and the religion of the goblins – and then takes it a step farther by wanting to be part of the goblin pantheon as their fifth god. He has impacts on your Kingdom (and on this, I can’t give spoilers). So there you go!

    Last word on companion math – I know maths are the unsexy stuff. Necessary, but unsexy. I say necessary because if you avoid the steps above, people are less likely to want the companion at all no matter how well you’ve written them and carefully crafted their backstory (and I didn’t say “don’t want,” I said, “less likely” – there’s certainly exceptions to the rules above).

    For Kingmaker, we strive to intertwine both the mathematical and narrative aspects to create a helpful ally as well as one with a deep backstory and an agenda of their own.

    Chris Avellone

    Narrative Designer, Pathfinder: Kingmaker

    Stay tuned for our next update, where Chris explains the narrative process of building outlines and character arcs!

    Hail to the Kings!

    Owlcats

    Update on Kickstarter
    Ye cannae touch this! - Clan McHammer

  2. #2
    Member Havoc1911's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Posts
    89
    Great article. Thanks for sharing this with us. I'd just like to take the opportunity to pitch the 'shared Exp' concept for Companions. If I'm going to be switching between them based on story needs, or whatever reason, I'd like to ensure that they aren't vastly under-leveled because I left them at home too long.

  3. #3
    Senior Member HenriHakl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Stellenbosch, South Africa
    Posts
    530
    Quote Originally Posted by Havoc1911 View Post
    Great article. Thanks for sharing this with us. I'd just like to take the opportunity to pitch the 'shared Exp' concept for Companions. If I'm going to be switching between them based on story needs, or whatever reason, I'd like to ensure that they aren't vastly under-leveled because I left them at home too long.
    But, conversely, if adventuring alone or with a small party I want more XP than when I travel with a 6-man army.

  4. #4
    Senior Member HenriHakl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Stellenbosch, South Africa
    Posts
    530
    It's a great article, I hope Chris takes a moment to give an example of one or two characters that ignore the "math". He eludes to such cases at the end, but I'd have liked a great "a-ha!" example to go with it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Pathfinder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Stolen Lands
    Posts
    653
    Really good article. I am glad to read that things what I (and some other people here) have been worried have been think through.

    Like no matter what aligment PC is how he should have if possible more then one or zero options for companion who fit for certain role. Allso it is good to read how everyone should be that special snowflake but still do not steal thunder from PC let it be stats, items or otherway.

    Naturally talk is cheap but I have deep trust in Chris. BTW reason why I wrote more then one or zero is: time to time some players just plain hate some characters, that is fact. So if you just do your best to not even get that companion with you, try to perma-kill him/her as fast as possible or so.. ..you still have some option to use in that companion "boots".

    Naturally if you feel that you just do not want any single companion or your PC to be let's say human or male/female it might get extremely hard to create working party for your lawfull good or chaotic evil main character but no game is perfect and there are way too many ways some player want to "play game in his/her way" that it is not possible to make it work for everyone.
    "Road to the man's heart go through the chest"

  6. #6
    Member |pillbug|'s Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Posts
    9
    (extreme example Ė but if the paladin companion isnít built in such a way that she can make use of the best paladin sword in the game, then youíre going to have some angry players Ė also, it goes without saying, that if the PC is a paladin, the PC gets the best paladin sword).
    I'd say Dak'kon's karach blade was a pretty glaring departure from this rule (though maybe they had yet to be established at that point). I actually probably was pretty jealous that my Nameless One couldn't use it himself, but even so I think that if they had taken care to ensure that Dak'kon didn't have any equipment that might be offensively exceptional/exclusive the game would have been the lesser for it. It may also depend on the item at least for some of us; Edwin's amulet was plainly superior to anything I could get in Baldur's Gate one but somehow I didn't particularly care.

    Still, I'd agree that the "companion with the weapon/item that's better than anything you can get and only they can use" hook is definitely not something to avoid overusing and it may be worth exploring other ways to add character appeal to avoid the potential negatives associated with it.

  7. #7
    Member Duncan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Location
    Washington State
    Posts
    2
    This is a great article, as well as good feedback. Look forward to more updates.

  8. #8
    Developer
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    1
    Some replies:

    - I think Rhin in Torment: Tides of Numenera was one of the narrative exceptions I suggested (to address HenriHakl's post). I do think that players are more than happy to take under-powered companions if there's free slots and there's no real harm in taking them, which brings me to my next point...

    - I prefer that everyone gets the same amount of XP per encounter, whether they are with you are not (Torment), especially in a story-heavy game where the companions add a lot to the experience. It doesn't make logical sense, but it does a few things (1) it allows you to focus on the story without managing companion XP bars, (2) it prevents the power-scaling issue mentioned in this thread (HenriHakl's post) where you may leave companions behind or be forced to manage their levels by bringing them along when you wouldn't normally do so, and (3) if a companion is reducing the amount of XP you get per encounter, the temptation to leave them behind is pretty strong. In short, for a companion-style RPG, I want your buddies to be as low-maintenance in these respects (but not all respects), and they are always an asset to your adventure, not a drain.

  9. #9
    Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2017
    Posts
    1
    Quote Originally Posted by Berserkerkitten View Post
    So let’s take our squat little maniac goblin Nok-Nok as an example and examine his schematics. He’s franchise-specific (goblin), he fulfills a role rarely held by other party members (rogue – a class that I find not many people I know seem to take as their primary character, but every seasoned RPG’er knows they always want a rogue in the party to open stubborn locks and get to places only thieves can go as long as it’s not the player that has to waste the skill points).
    Really? Wow. Rogue has always been my favorite and go-to class of choice... well, unless 'rogue' simply means 'I stab things in the back and that's all I'm good for' (I find that so very boring!). If 'rogue' means 'I have a bag of tricks, which also includes getting to go all stabby stabby' then I am SO all over that and always will be. I often have to force myself to branch out in both tabletop as well and computer RPGs, because given my druthers I'll always be the party's rogue (something I always have to fight for with my current tabletop gaming group!). That often means I have to replay computer RPGs a second time, making myself play another class, just so I can add the NPC rogues to my party and enjoy them as party members. Oh, what a sad sorry thing, having to replay enjoyable games!

    Edit: Just have to add my appreciation for tanks & healers frequently being some of the first companions in any given games. That certainly helps my rogues out! ;)
    Last edited by Shaz; 08-26-2017 at 10:54 PM.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Pathfinder's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Stolen Lands
    Posts
    653
    One thing what I was thinking last night what have been kind of worried people here in forum allso:

    How 12 (was it 12?) possible companions fit for game if you have CE / LG character?

    I and I believe quite many other have atleast heard from game: Tyranny. In that game sure, you had option to NOT choose some of companions what were around certain areas. But allso in no matter what you decided it was possible to keep them with you. Even when you literally killed they leader, friend and so on.

    There was 2 factors, how your companion(s) love / respect you and how much they fear / hate you. So even when these companions might complain your certain choices they keep up with you based on fear / possible gain (after all they get XP, items and even status just by staying near PC)

    So on theory it is totally possible to build these companions avoiding LG and CE aligments but still well round enough that every aligment can have everyone of these Pathfinder: Kingmaker companions with his/her PC. IF player so choose.

    For example:

    If there is lawful evil necromancer (just speculating) as companion and you play game 2 times, first as good priest who encounter NPC necromancer lair, slay her and let this companion necromancer take her spellbooks (PC do not really know what is there, companion might say something that he will study it and let PC know if there is something bad or what ever), robe and other interesting items. This case companion is happy enough for free stuff and other things he get just by coming along with PC, he might not be able to rise dead (zombies and other stuff) as often as he might want to but still.

    In play time 2 PC is lawful evil priest who let this same companion hear how he actually IS law around here so go, have fun and rise all the zombies you can. This time companion might respect and admire this PC way more then in first playtime and have way more ways to "be like he really is" but it is totally possible to have same companion around both play times.

    Naturally trying to keep companions around who have strong opinnions and might backstab you or leave from party for good is harder then having companions who agree everything you do but I believe most of us want to roleplay and that is something what happen in most if not every P&P group anyway. People and they characters are not 100% same mind in everything and that is one of the great things for RPG. It bring flavor for the game.

    Second thing what came to my mind is:

    How NPC's and companions just know what you have been doing?

    I mean, I totally understand that if you go out with everyone along to town and do something what maybe hundreds of people including yor every companion will see.

    But if you go out solo, sneaking, using magic to not be seen and head out in the forest where you find hundred of yours hidden elven shrine and destroy it. How your companions who are good start to complain, why your elven companion leave you and your village is not happy from your decicion?

    Same go if you are with some party members doing what ever you are supposed to do and then encounter this elven shrine. Tell everyone to keep shut up and then destroy it. Will some of them tell the elf who was not with you but are your companion and do that same person keep telling everyone in countries around it?

    So I would really want to see bit more realism it that part allso. There should be option (let's say if your PC is even semi-intelligent) when your PC and party do something they know most people would think as insult for nature/law/people around/criminal or so to just tell them to never talk a soul about what happen. Sure some might slip something in drunk or later in angry for you or so.. but not instantly when you and your party get back. Not so fast that people all around realm and your "good" companions in front are waiting for you with torches.

    There are skills to bluff and lie, but honestly. If people do not even know the place (or it just remain in they mytology or so) how they can possible even suspect that you have even found it not to mention done something bad there?

    Edit: naturally there are some ways for clever GM to make others to see what happen. Is there some great item player most likely will take? If so it might be notised and regonized. Then questions might rise. That is totally OK and I would like to see something like that happen more. BUT only if player take that item with him in first place.
    Last edited by Pathfinder; 08-28-2017 at 01:21 PM. Reason: added second thing for this post...
    "Road to the man's heart go through the chest"

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •