Jeremy Crawford Talks Sidekicks

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
At https://www.sageadvice.eu/2019/01/23/if-a-lvl-11-pc-gets-a-sidekick-it-would-make-sense-for-the-sidekick-to-be-lvl-11-right/, Jeremy Crawford has a winding conversation about sidekicks. To me the big points were:

"The sidekick rules were popular enough that I'm tinkering with a new version, in which your sidekick's starting level equals your level."

"If a group has anxiety about their NPC companions doing well, I recommend not having NPC companions."

"There is an important distinction between an NPC controlled by the DM and an NPC controlled by the players.

The DM-controlled character/critter is rarely viewed as a party member.

But a player-controlled character/critter is often just as loved as a PC."

In response to "Yes, strong sidekicks can work if player controlled. But they're basically a second character then, more of a hireling or follower from old ad&d, than a non-player character" his answer was "Agreed. You just described the new sidekicks."

"If the players are using the stat block of a character/critter, that's what I mean by player control. Sometimes that turns into co-control with the DM. Either way, they're invested."

I figured the sidekicks might end up in the nautical book (crew as sidekicks, who wants their PC to be swabbing the deck?), but if he is tinkering with it, the sidekicks might show up later.
 

Henry

Autoexreginated
Weirdly enough, I've never found this to be the case ("The DM-controlled character/critter is rarely viewed as a party member...a player-controlled character/critter is often just as loved as a PC."). If a player is playing them, they are usually an extra set of hands on a piece of paper; However, DM controlled NPCs have frequently captured hearts and minds at the table - just ask some of the Critical Role cast, who spent something like an hour just taking fellow members to go talk to an NPC because the DM had brought them to life so vibrantly.

In my Waterdeep game, one of the players' PC pulled a nasty trick on an NPC, and the other players actually got a little mad at him because of how badly they had hurt the NPC's feelings. I had the NPC whine and cry at the table and everything, and I don't think they were prepared for that. :)
 

Dausuul

Legend
Weirdly enough, I've never found this to be the case ("The DM-controlled character/critter is rarely viewed as a party member...a player-controlled character/critter is often just as loved as a PC."). If a player is playing them, they are usually an extra set of hands on a piece of paper; However, DM controlled NPCs have frequently captured hearts and minds at the table - just ask some of the Critical Role cast, who spent something like an hour just taking fellow members to go talk to an NPC because the DM had brought them to life so vibrantly.

In my Waterdeep game, one of the players' PC pulled a nasty trick on an NPC, and the other players actually got a little mad at him because of how badly they had hurt the NPC's feelings. I had the NPC whine and cry at the table and everything, and I don't think they were prepared for that. :)
Yeah, that's my experience too. In rare cases, a player might become attached to a sidekick they created and run, but mostly their hands are too full with their actual PCs to give the spear-carrier much character development. But every campaign has certain NPCs that the party latches onto and loves.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
Yeah, that's my experience too. In rare cases, a player might become attached to a sidekick they created and run, but mostly their hands are too full with their actual PCs to give the spear-carrier much character development. But every campaign has certain NPCs that the party latches onto and loves.
Agreed. NPCs can become favored of PCs, but usually a player is too busy with their primary PC to give the time at table to strongly develop bonds between their sidekick and other PCs.

Not that it can't happen - back in AD&D 2nd my swashbuckler-y urban Paladin had a intelligent eagle mount who stole the show. Became more memorable then the primary character, and she was pretty memorable. Ah, back when 10 hours was a short gaming day.
 

guachi

Visitor
My view of sidekicks, and it's what I put in the feedback, was that they were unnecessarily complicated.

I already have the basics of the classes memorized but sidekicks required me to remember new classes that were *almost* like actual classes - enough similarity that it was easy to confuse what the features were.

I liked the idea of a sidekick, but not the execution.
 

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
I was going to wager if he was going to name Mearls or Perkins, but I see I misinterpreted the topic for this thread.

(My money was on Mearls, btw.)
 

MarkB

Hero
Yeah, that's my experience too. In rare cases, a player might become attached to a sidekick they created and run, but mostly their hands are too full with their actual PCs to give the spear-carrier much character development.
There's also something proprietary about a specific PC's companion. No matter how personable they are, they'll tend to feel like that player's PC's friend rather than a friend of the party.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
The appreciation for secondary party members has, historically in my experiences at least, been more a factor of how they were played than who played them.

In the old days we had a party with no healing except an NPC cleric named Ontzlake that the DM ran. It provided the DM with a conduit to work in adventure hooks, redirect when the game was going off course and to provide him with his adventuring fix... he loved to play, but only had time for one game which he ran as a DM.

In the middle days, when Sunless Citadel was first released, my group adopted Meepo. The DM never advanced him in levels, but he adventured (hid) with us for nearly a year in real time... until he was kidnapped and murdered by an enemy force. We avenged him, but I consider that year of adventurig to be amongst the best D&D I've ever had the priviledge to join, and it was due in no small part to the presence of a DM run Meepo.

I've had multiple experiences with multi-PC games where each player played two characters. Ther was good (characters in the game designed with secrets and ties), and bad parts (optimizing them together or using one to optimize the other). In the end, those games tended to have less, not more, role playing as people were juggling too many stats, too many actions, and too many concerns for their PCs to really fully embody either.

To me, the sidekick needs to be an NPC that the player can direct as a guiding force, but that the DM can grab at any moment and for which the DM is the ultimate controller. The DM should be the one to know the sidekicks secrets, the sidekicks hidden fears, the sidekicks innermost desires...

They also need to fix those rules so that a Warlock sidekick spellcaster doesn't get all of those warlock spells. It is not right to give a sidekick something mechanically that a PC can't possibly have when they emulate the same concept.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
The problem with the advance of the editions is hp proliferation. In 1e, your henchmen didn't need masses of hp to help out and survive. The principal need in 5e is to make sure they can both survive and dish out enough damage to be relevant to the xp budget when the DM is encounter building. Beyond that, it's their personality that makes them endearing. If they are filling a missing niche then they may need extra abilities but they could be bolted on to the basic henchman chassis.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
The problem with the advance of the editions is hp proliferation. In 1e, your henchmen didn't need masses of hp to help out and survive. The principal need in 5e is to make sure they can both survive and dish out enough damage to be relevant to the xp budget when the DM is encounter building. Beyond that, it's their personality that makes them endearing. If they are filling a missing niche then they may need extra abilities but they could be bolted on to the basic henchman chassis.
I would say that just about the only thing a henchman needs is hit points.

Why? Because you can't keep something alive unless it has level-appropriate hit points.

That it doesn't do much is not a large problem - leave that to the player characters, it's their show.

Don't forget: just standing there, soaking damage, is not nothing. In fact, making the monsters distribute their attacks over more party members is a huge deal, and a large help to the party. (If the players don't want to bring along henchmen unless they deal the same damage as themselves they're simply wrong - that's an unreasonable expectation, and my message to those players is simply "so don't bring any")

PS. You can't expect players to bring along NPCs that doesn't have hit points. That's just not how 5th edition works. There are very few ways to protect your allies above a very small number of limited "attack redirection" abilities. You can't even stand in the way in many cases (since the rules for opportunity attacks generously allow you to move around your foe freely), unless you have defensive terrain. (This is a big part of why the PHB Beastmaster is a failed subclass design)

That you didn't need hp before is a lost battle. That ship has sailed.
 
My view of sidekicks, and it's what I put in the feedback, was that they were unnecessarily complicated.

I already have the basics of the classes memorized but sidekicks required me to remember new classes that were *almost* like actual classes - enough similarity that it was easy to confuse what the features were.

I liked the idea of a sidekick, but not the execution.
I agree completely...

Let's wait until the second iteration of Sidekicks, but IMHO it's a terrible idea to just design them as "slightly inferior" PC classes. If that's what you really want, you don't need "sidekick classes", just use PHB classes and make basic obvious choices (e.g. Champion Fighter with Defense fighting style, Wizard with iconic spells...).

The level of the sidekick should really just be a gaming group's preference, not a hard rule. Because if the level is too high (relative to the PCs) then it won't feel much of a sidekick, and if it is too low it might be too squishy. But how high is too high? For some group the same level as the PC is already too high to call it a sidekick, but others groups wouldn't mind a dumb Fighter bodyguard of higher level than you, and others yet won't tolerate even a close level and would want it maybe 3-4 levels below at least. If we all start to house rule the level, then why having a hard rule at all?

The UA article also had another critical miss: many of the new unique features in these sidekick classes are actually good. So it creates a situation where a player would actually want the PC to have some of these features, and will inevitably ask "why sidekicks can have these features, but not regular PCs"?

In my feedback, I suggested that these new features could be introduced as variant/alternative class features for PHB classes. Then all we really need is guidelines for (a) designing sidekicks using PHB classes + variant features, with suggestions on what to choose (with the purpose of keeping the complexity as low as wanted, so that sidekicks feel less than regular PCs) and (b) handle XP sharing and/or level advancement in a simple way but without hard rules.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
To be honest, what I really want out of the sidekick system is less rules about henchmen/companions, and more simple classes with no decision points. I'd love to see the Spellcaster broken up into a Healer class, a Blaster class, and a Buffer class, with all the spells known choices already made, for example.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
I really dislike what this says about the Beastmaster - the sidekick is pretty much universally superior to a beast animal companion. There is 'no cost' to having it while the Beastmaster gives up a lot.
 

Cap'n Kobold

Adventurer
I really dislike what this says about the Beastmaster - the sidekick is pretty much universally superior to a beast animal companion. There is 'no cost' to having it while the Beastmaster gives up a lot.
You automatically get an animal companion simply by virtue of playing a Beastmaster Ranger. You only get a sidekick if the DM specifically decides to grant you one.
(And it is quite possible that they would simply decide to allow your companion to use sidekick rules if they were running sidekicks in the game.)
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
You automatically get an animal companion simply by virtue of playing a Beastmaster Ranger. You only get a sidekick if the DM specifically decides to grant you one.
Understood, but assuming their non-use makes them irrelevant. The DM can also say, "No Beastmasters - I hate pets."
(And it is quite possible that they would simply decide to allow your companion to use sidekick rules if they were running sidekicks in the game.)
Maybe, but what about people that have a 5th level Beastmaster they've been playing for 5 months.. who suddenly see everyone else in the party pushing the DM to elevate that NPC into their sidekick.

I have no problem with them releasing 3 to 6 NPC classes that are intended to be used for "adventuring NPCs", but giving the NPCs to the players as sidekicks:

1.) Dilutes their focus on the character of their character(s).
2.) Allows for more potent optimization.
3.) Slows down the game.
4.) Creates jealously between players.

I've had great experiences with NPCs adventuring with the party, especially when they are acting at the direction of the characters (as opposed to being run by the players). I've rarely seen good things when players run multiple PCs.
 

Mistwell

Hero
The problem with the advance of the editions is hp proliferation. In 1e, your henchmen didn't need masses of hp to help out and survive.
The heck they didn't!

Henchmen died a lot. It's why, if you got a reputation for your henchment dying, that it became more difficult to attract more of them.
 

Imaro

Adventurer
Understood, but assuming their non-use makes them irrelevant. The DM can also say, "No Beastmasters - I hate pets."Maybe, but what about people that have a 5th level Beastmaster they've been playing for 5 months.. who suddenly see everyone else in the party pushing the DM to elevate that NPC into their sidekick.
I think assumption of usage is the point... and the advantage of choosing a Beastmaster... if the DM says no Beastmasters well it's a moot point.

I have no problem with them releasing 3 to 6 NPC classes that are intended to be used for "adventuring NPCs", but giving the NPCs to the players as sidekicks:

1.) Dilutes their focus on the character of their character(s).
2.) Allows for more potent optimization.
3.) Slows down the game.
4.) Creates jealously between players.

I've had great experiences with NPCs adventuring with the party, especially when they are acting at the direction of the characters (as opposed to being run by the players). I've rarely seen good things when players run multiple PCs.
Yeah but this sounds like an issue with the overall concept of sidekicks... but they are optional and at the DM's discretion... As a DM if you don't think they would be a good fit for your game... why introduce them at all? On the other hand the fact that they are not a good fit for your game doesn't mean they shouldn't be available for other games.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Sidekick are a good tools for game with one to 3 players. It is not an universal option.
Otherwise the npc slow down the game,

But we don’t need an official rule, simply pick any classes and don’t use archetype.
You got that way a decent npc without complexity. He will be a little edge under the pc.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
The heck they didn't! Henchmen died a lot. It's why, if you got a reputation for your henchment dying, that it became more difficult to attract more of them.
Yeah basic level 0 henchmen were generally screwed but we had several level 5 fighters who survived just fine when the heroes were level 9 or 10 because the damage likely to be inflicted by monsters in one go was typically not too high. In 5e the damage inflicted by monsters can stack up very fast with multiple attacks per round. Sidekicks with limited damage mitigation options will likely still go down faster than PCs even if they are of equivalent level. I think sidekicks should be a level lower than the associated PC (minimum 1) like 3e cohorts.
 

Mistwell

Hero
Yeah basic level 0 henchmen were generally screwed but we had several level 5 fighters who survived just fine when the heroes were level 9 or 10 because the damage likely to be inflicted by monsters in one go was typically not too high. In 5e the damage inflicted by monsters can stack up very fast with multiple attacks per round. Sidekicks with limited damage mitigation options will likely still go down faster than PCs even if they are of equivalent level. I think sidekicks should be a level lower than the associated PC (minimum 1) like 3e cohorts.
Traps in AD&D could easily slay Henchmen, who were gaining XP at half the rate and who insisted on going on adventures anyway with the party.
 

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