Sidekicks instead of Extra Attack?

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
With the confirmation of Sidekicks coming to 5e in the Essentials Kit, I’ve been thinking about how they might be used in campaigns with more than one PC. My first thought was that they would make pretty good skilled hirelings. But that also got me to thinking about AD&D, and how a lot of classes would attract lower-level followers as class features. I always thought that was a pretty cool idea, but with the more complex classes of the WotC editions, controlling multiple characters obviously gets to be a bit much. But maybe sidekicks with their more streamlined builds could work as a way to bring the concept into 5e. Of course, since having an additional character would effectively multiply a player’s action economy, I thought it might be best for Sidekicks to replace Extra Attacks if they were to become class features. And maybe replace cantrip scaling for casters? I dunno, just spitballing at this point, but interested to hear others weigh in on the concept.
 

DM Dave1

Adventurer
With the confirmation of Sidekicks coming to 5e in the Essentials Kit, I’ve been thinking about how they might be used in campaigns with more than one PC. My first thought was that they would make pretty good skilled hirelings. But that also got me to thinking about AD&D, and how a lot of classes would attract lower-level followers as class features. I always thought that was a pretty cool idea, but with the more complex classes of the WotC editions, controlling multiple characters obviously gets to be a bit much. But maybe sidekicks with their more streamlined builds could work as a way to bring the concept into 5e. Of course, since having an additional character would effectively multiply a player’s action economy, I thought it might be best for Sidekicks to replace Extra Attacks if they were to become class features. And maybe replace cantrip scaling for casters? I dunno, just spitballing at this point, but interested to hear others weigh in on the concept.
I like where your mind is going with the AD&D reference. I just poked around at my old 1e PHB and it indicates that Henchmen should earn 50% of the XP that the character does. In 5e terms, I’d say that means that a Sidekick should count as half a PC when divvying up the XP for an adventuring day (similar to how XP is awarded to an NPC who gives substantial assistance to the party, DMG p260). For example, if 4 PCs with 2 Sidekicks earn a group total of 5,000 XP in a session, each PC should get credited with 1,000 XP. No need to track Sidekick XP, though - the Sidekicks can still level up when the PCs do.

Of course, if the campaign is using Session- or Story-Based advancement then... something else happens... someone who actually runs their campaigns that way can comment on how that might work...
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I like where your mind is going with the AD&D reference. I just poked around at my old 1e PHB and it indicates that Henchmen should earn 50% of the XP that the character does. In 5e terms, I’d say that means that a Sidekick should count as half a PC when divvying up the XP for an adventuring day (similar to how XP is awarded to an NPC who gives substantial assistance to the party, DMG p260). For example, if 4 PCs with 2 Sidekicks earn a group total of 5,000 XP in a session, each PC should get credited with 1,000 XP. No need to track Sidekick XP, though - the Sidekicks can still level up when the PCs do.
Oh, I like that!

Of course, if the campaign is using Session- or Story-Based advancement then... something else happens... someone who actually runs their campaigns that way can comment on how that might work...
I guess they could get a half share of the treasure? I don’t know, but I use XP, so your suggestion works plenty well for me.
 

Krachek

Adventurer
Sidekick will be great to make a decent number of character in a party, for game with one or two players.
to view them as a character option is pushing the concept off limits.
in a game with 5+ players, a dm should not use sidekick.
sidekick will be more a dm option than a player option.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
LOL We already award henchmen and NPCs in the party 1/2 share XP. I don't know why they need to relabel them "sidekicks" when they are simply henchmen or retainers, take your pick.
 
Of course, since having an additional character would effectively multiply a player’s action economy, I thought it might be best for Sidekicks to replace Extra Attacks if they were to become class features. And maybe replace cantrip scaling for casters?
What about characters who gain no extra attacks nor cantrips? Also, if all my cantrips don't scale, do I get my sidekick for free? The main problem here is that extra attacks and cantrips are not comparable with each other, and they are not comparable with sidekicks either.

In 3e there was a core feat, although in the DMG, called "Leadership", which granted you a cohort (plus various followers) of a lower level. If a DM wanted to give sidekicks as a character option (not mandatory), my first idea would be to consider it cost a feat, because at least a feat has the same cost for everyone (even if two classes get 1-2 more feats than others, in practical terms it matters little). Still I couldn't say if a sidekick is worth less or more than a feat...

I don't even know what is the final version of sidekicks in the upcoming book, but in general I think it would be best not to try and see as something that is part of the character: if you do that, immediately the game is seen unfair if some player get a sidekick for their PC and others do not. So then everyone will want a sidekick, and the DM has double the amount of characters in the game.

The real point of sidekicks is explicitly to help a party with too few PCs (in the Essentials it seems it's even suggested only for "solo" games), without the complexity of a whole second PC for the player.

Instead, I have simply allowed experienced players to play 2 PCs at the table, when the number of players is small. It's not a privilege for such player, it's a burden to manage two whole characters, each one takes a single share of treasure and XP. Sidekicks can help lessen the burden, especially if the sidekick is chosen to be a spellcaster in order to fill a gap in the party's capability.

Since in both cases the motivation is to increase the party, there is no need to have the player pay a price by reducing the first PC's features.

Make sidekicks a character option, and competitive players will look at it as an opportunity to be better than other players, if the "price" is right. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem is that it's very hard to set the price right. As I said, I would start with something that at least is shared among all classes: feats, proficiency bonus or even XP. Thinking of sidekicks in terms of action economy is interesting, but problematic once you consider that some sidekicks may be useful only in combat while others may be designed to be maximally useful outside of it.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Isn't this what players hate about the Beastmaster? That their beast takes over and replaces their PC's actions for the round? If people despise the Beastmaster that much, I don't see how they'd be okay with what would essentially be humanoid beasts.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
The "don't view as character option" ship has already sailed.

I don't know why they need to relabel them "sidekicks" when they are simply henchmen or retainers, take your pick.
Precisely because WotC also intends for them to be used by players.

Henchmen and Retainers suggest people in your employ, i.e. people you boss over. That is not what a neophyte player wants.

The idea is to allow a newb to be Robin to the established player's Batman. Robin was never a henchman or retainer, he was a sidekick.
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
The most common issue I hear about extra bodies on the field, like summons or pet classes, is that that player's actions during an encounter take up more time. With this I see two cases:

1. Some players have sidekicks and others don't , leading to those players taking more time and slowing down play for everyone else.

2. Everyone has a sidekick. Meaning all actions take longer and there's a bigger gap between your actions. If you're going to be taking more time, wouldn't you rather be spending it on your PC?

My other thought is that doesn't sidekicks, available outside your class features, really dilute classes that get pets? On one side you're giving up class features to get them, but for sidekicks people have full class features and an extra and viable body.

I hope sidekicks are very simple to run to keep up the speed (no resource tracking outside HPs), and are enough weaker than pets that they don't make some of the classes into traps.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
The "don't view as character option" ship has already sailed.

Precisely because WotC also intends for them to be used by players.

Henchmen and Retainers suggest people in your employ, i.e. people you boss over. That is not what a neophyte player wants.

The idea is to allow a newb to be Robin to the established player's Batman. Robin was never a henchman or retainer, he was a sidekick.
To-Ma-To... Ta-Ma-To. :)

For decades of gaming I have brought in newbies or guest and let them play NPCs and hirelings or retainers without any issue. Simply because someone is in your employ doesn't give you mind control over them. Recently in our game we had three Veterans as retainers. Each player played one, but they played the one "employed" by a different player's character. Worked out fine.
 

CapnZapp

Hero
I'm sure you see that WotC went with a safer option by "renaming" the henchman-as-player - not all players want to play a subordinate.
 

dnd4vr

Hero
I'm sure you see that WotC went with a safer option by "renaming" the henchman-as-player - not all players want to play a subordinate.
And yet, that is still what they are doing, regardless of what you name it.

I don't think there is anything wrong with one player playing a subordinate to another and never have had a problem with it at any table I've played at. I recall in 1E with a player who had a Paladin, and the others player his retainers (low-level Cavaliers, even a 0-level one). Sure, they all looked to the Paladin as the "leader" but each contributed and a few times even saved the Paladin's life.

It works well for newbies and guests, but I would just use monster npc-types like veterans or priests, etc. as "sidekicks". If the players stay and want to develop it into a full-fledged character, that's cool. Or maybe after playing for a bit they find they want to make else and abandon their previous role. I guess I just don't see a need for such a mechanic feature as "sidekick."

Maybe the way they do it will change my mind, but since nothing I say will change what is already done, there is no further point in berating the issue.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
The really important question is can I have my sidekick ride my animal companion so I can begin my plan of world domination using dog-mounted halfing calvalry. Or maybe Sprites with little tiny lances mounted on squirrels ....
 

aco175

Adventurer
I can see giving them half XP, but give them the players half. They will add power to the PC so why not make him pay with half of his XP. One could also argue that they add power to the group as a whole, so give them all a penalty of some XP. I mostly have given them a static boost in level every other time the PC gains a level. This leads to them falling behind the PCs and becoming less valuable as time winds on. I have played in games where the henchmen split from the PCs and form their own group of henchmen to complete part of the larger mission.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Point of order: the intent of sidekicks is explicitly not as something for less experienced players to play, but as a way to give a small party (particularly single-players) a bit of a boost in utility, and another character to interact with. You certainly can hand a newbie a sidekick, but that’s not what they were designed for. The reason for making Sidekicks instead of monsters/NPCs with class levels is so that a solo player can more easily manage controlling one in addition to their full PC, or the DM can more easily manage them in addition to the enemy monsters/NPCs.

Now, since those of us who haven’t gotten early copies haven’t seen the final Sidekick rules, I am taking it as a given that Sidekicks will be simple enough for a even a new player to reasonably control alongside their character, since that is the explicit design intent. Obviously if they fail to live up to that intent, Sidekicks as class features won’t be a viable option. But for the sake of this discussion I’m going to assume they do live up to their intended function until the box comes out and proves otherwise.

So, with the knowledge that Sidekicks are meant to supplement small parties and the assumption that they will be reasonably easy to manage alongside a full PC, I’m interested in the possibility of using them as class features. Potentially replacing Extra Attack for martial characters, though that was just my first idea, I’m open to other possibilities.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
What about characters who gain no extra attacks nor cantrips?
You mean Rogues? Their damage scaling mostly comes in the form of Sneak Attack, so maybe Sneak Attack dice?

Also, if all my cantrips don't scale, do I get my sidekick for free?
All damage dealing cantrips scale, so if you haven’t taken any damage dealing cantrips, I wouldn’t exactly describe that as “free.”

The main problem here is that extra attacks and cantrips are not comparable with each other, and they are not comparable with sidekicks either.
Extra attacks and cantrip scaling are absolutely comparable, they fill the exact same role in the system math, multiplying the character’s average damage per round at specific level intervals. Are Sidekicks comparable to that? In some ways. Two attacks from a fighter is certainly comparable to one attack from a fighter and one attack from her warrior Sidekick. One 2d8 cantrip is comparable to two 1d8 cantrips. Obviously Sidekicks can do more than just damage, so in other ways that isn’t comparable, but I also think that’s kind of the point. If you want to run a game where the PCs attract followers as class features, you want them to do more than damage. Replacing Extra Attack and cantrip scaling is just to keep the party’s expected damage output in line in such a game.

In 3e there was a core feat, although in the DMG, called "Leadership", which granted you a cohort (plus various followers) of a lower level. If a DM wanted to give sidekicks as a character option (not mandatory), my first idea would be to consider it cost a feat, because at least a feat has the same cost for everyone (even if two classes get 1-2 more feats than others, in practical terms it matters little). Still I couldn't say if a sidekick is worth less or more than a feat...
Why not mandatory?

I don't even know what is the final version of sidekicks in the upcoming book, but in general I think it would be best not to try and see as something that is part of the character: if you do that, immediately the game is seen unfair if some player get a sidekick for their PC and others do not. So then everyone will want a sidekick, and the DM has double the amount of characters in the game.
I’m not sure that some characters getting Sidekicks and not others is any more unfair than some characters getting spells and not others, or some characters getting to throw a fistful of d6 at any enemy one of their allies is adjacent to and not others. Class-based design inherently gives certain features to certain characters and restricts those features from other characters. That said, giving everyone Sidekicks might still be the way to go if you wanted to do this, and in that case I think it’s safe to assume that DMs who are interested in the option are comfortable with doubling the party size. Otherwise they just wouldn’t use this house rule.

The real point of sidekicks is explicitly to help a party with too few PCs (in the Essentials it seems it's even suggested only for "solo" games), without the complexity of a whole second PC for the player.
Agreed! Of course, the fact that WotC considers them simple enough that they could be played alongside a full PC by a single player who may be playing for the first time was what gave me the idea that they might be simple enough for all players in a party bigger than 1 to control their own Sidekick.

Instead, I have simply allowed experienced players to play 2 PCs at the table, when the number of players is small. It's not a privilege for such player, it's a burden to manage two whole characters, each one takes a single share of treasure and XP. Sidekicks can help lessen the burden, especially if the sidekick is chosen to be a spellcaster in order to fill a gap in the party's capability.

Since in both cases the motivation is to increase the party, there is no need to have the player pay a price by reducing the first PC's features.

Make sidekicks a character option, and competitive players will look at it as an opportunity to be better than other players, if the "price" is right. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem is that it's very hard to set the price right. As I said, I would start with something that at least is shared among all classes: feats, proficiency bonus or even XP. Thinking of sidekicks in terms of action economy is interesting, but problematic once you consider that some sidekicks may be useful only in combat while others may be designed to be maximally useful outside of it.
I’m not suggesting this as something players opt-into. I’m suggesting it as a rules hack, where certain classes (possibly all classes, if that’s what seems like the best option) get Sidekicks as inherent class features at certain levels. Since that would dramatically increase party damage output, I figured putting the Sidekick feature at the levels where a similar jump in damage output is already expected, and replacing the source of expected damage increase by the default rules, would be the easiest way to implement the hack.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Isn't this what players hate about the Beastmaster? That their beast takes over and replaces their PC's actions for the round? If people despise the Beastmaster that much, I don't see how they'd be okay with what would essentially be humanoid beasts.
I thought what players hated about the beastmaster was that the beast can’t attack unless you spend your action to tell it to, so after 5th level you’re trading two attacks for one.
 
Point of order: the intent of sidekicks is explicitly not as something for less experienced players to play, but as a way to give a small party (particularly single-players) a bit of a boost in utility, and another character to interact with.
Oh, wow, so exactly like a Companion character, then? That's nice. Odd choice of name, when Companion hasn't been used for anything else, and Henchman is so much more traditional... ::shrug::
… and in a product called "Essentials" it can hardly be just another example of the reflexive horror of all things 4e …

Edit: Oh, wait, maybe not "Henchman" because Villains have Henchmen (or minions or underlings) but Heroes have "Sidekicks?"


Companion characters proved quite handy in 4e, both for rounding out a small (or even just lop-sided) party, and as loaner PCs for guest players or extra-simple training-wheels options for new players who specifically wanted that (with the bonus that it could be whatever said new player was interested in, not just a Fighter(slayer) in 4e or Champion in 5e).
 
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FXR

Explorer
I believe it all depends if the DM actually wants characters to have henchmen (or companions, which might sound a bit more gender-neutral).

According to my experience, players really hate to have their characters become less efficient because they have befriended a wide-eyed orphan (rogue 1) or a slightly-unhinged farmer woman (paladin 1, an npc in my campaign which is now level 5) who joins the party (if you guess nobody wanted to play a beast master as written you would be right). So, as far as my group goes, saying that the companion can act if you sacrifice your action (or part of your action) would mean no companion in the game. It also makes little sense, as the main PC is always more powerful than the companion, so I don't see how Sir Hackalot, the level 9 fighter would want to sacrifice his actions to allow his squire to take a attack action with a lower bonus and, probably, lower damage.

Having an companion is a perk but it also has a cost. The henchman is entitled to a share of treasure and has its own personality, which may not always mesh with the characters' plans. Since the compaion is a weaker character, it also means to you have to spend some ressources to ensure it survives the tougher challenges which affect the group.

In my campaign, companions are always of a lower level than the PCs and receive half-a-share of XPs. If, for some reason, the companion contributed significantly to the success of the party during an encounter, he might gain a full-share of XPs, but this is the exception rather than the rule.
 

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