Unearthed Arcana Unearthed Arcana: Sidekicks

New playtest material fro WoTC. https://media.wizards.com/2018/dnd/downloads/UA_Sidekicks.pdf I think this would be my DM's nightmare if implemented.


Nebulous

Legend
This is good. In fact, this is the kind of thing that should be in the core DMG. I *constantly* use NPCs with the party, but I have to scale them back so as to not overshadow the PCs (except for Artus Cimber and that damn Ring of Winter, but he's out of the picture now). Anyway, this is a well done little article.
 

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CapnZapp

Legend
I agree completely that this are more specific and can draw the focus away from the heroes. I really do like the flexibility of telling a story regardless of my party composition, or to allow me to introduce important characters that don't weirdly sit on the sidelines when facing important monsters. But they should have the following abilities:

Beef (Warrior): A sack of hit points that distract monsters and do a steady but low damage output. Finishing moves and damage spikes are all handled by the heroes, but allows the heroes to take on higher level encounters than they would on their own. Big boon for a party full of squishy heroes that players love.

Enabler (Expert): Can have expertise in a skill that the group lacks to keep the story moving (a pirate captain in a party where no one has water vehicles), and can dish out some advantage for the heroes to accomplish some important things, gives the help action to make the heroes do what they do even better. But never solves the lock the group's thief can't handle.

McGuffin (Spellcaster): I can think of only one reason to employ a complicated class like spellcaster to make them a plot point. While Warriors and Experts make good plot point characters I also use them to fill holes, like a critical skill or some survivability. I only include spellcasters as travel buddies for one major reason. The priestess who can cleanse the temple, the wizard who knows the sequence of runes that opens the portal to the Abyss, the Druid who asks the heroes accompany him to a harvest festival where the story eventually starts. I'd give them a Warlock spell progression to keep them lean on options and tracking and cantrip focused, and give them ritual casting to allow them to meet other needs. If they cast wish, it's only because there is a wish scroll at the end of the dungeon and no one in the party can handle scrolls.

I'd rather focus on the stories DM tells, and keeping PC's at the center than just trying to make sure equivalent groups are out there.
Thing is, only one out of those three is a combat role that need a complete stat block.

The Expert can be any simple NPC or monster straight out of the Monster Manual, that also succeeds at those skill checks the party can't do, but still need.

The Spellcaster; likewise. If you need access to a particular spell, that spell is almost guaranteed to be a non-combat spell. So use the Mage or Priest NPC stat block, or an Orc War Priest or whatever, and simply say that character has the spell on its spell list.
 


CapnZapp

Legend
I found this comment from Jeremy very interesting (from twitter):

"It's easy to forget that the Beast Master can get something like a sidekick in addition to a beast companion. The new option is additive; it doesn't replace the beast companion. And a DM might allow the beast companion to take the warrior class."

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/1074826244519124997

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That they are sh*tting all over the Beastmaster is nothing new.
 


Kurotowa

Legend
On the one hand, any sane DM is going to keep a tight rein on which NPCs qualify. Both to prevent party bloat and to manage how much work gets demanded. But as long as you remember that these rules are for the exceptional NPCs and not every random henchman... I can remember a lot of campaigns where they'd have been very useful.

Did a party member adopt a wyrmling or other exceptional creature? Did no one want to roll a healer so the party contracted an NPC for the job? Did everyone fall in love with the memorable NPC but you had to cut them loose because they'd die to the first stray AoE attack? The Sidekick rules are there to cover you.
 

I found this comment from Jeremy very interesting (from twitter):

"It's easy to forget that the Beast Master can get something like a sidekick in addition to a beast companion. The new option is additive; it doesn't replace the beast companion. And a DM might allow the beast companion to take the warrior class."

https://twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/1074826244519124997

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So I could throw away my subclass and make the existing Beast Companion actually useful in combat ...

... Or I could be a superior Ranger subclass such as a Gloom Stalker or Horizon Walker with an animal companion that's pretty much going to be as good anyway.

Yeah, let's not pretend this does anything else besides completely render the Beast Master obsolete. Which I don't necessarily have a problem with, mind you, because I never thought the Beast Master should've been an entire subclass to begin with, or at least not in its current concept. But it is what it is.
 

This is good. In fact, this is the kind of thing that should be in the core DMG. I *constantly* use NPCs with the party, but I have to scale them back so as to not overshadow the PCs (except for Artus Cimber and that damn Ring of Winter, but he's out of the picture now). Anyway, this is a well done little article.

Refinements need to be made, but yes, I love the concept and I agree it should've been in the core rules to start.

Heck, put this in the core rules, and then you can even retool the Beast Master Ranger so that, instead of needing the subclass to give you an animal companion to begin with, because these rules would already cover that for everybody, have the BM's subclass features instead enhance a Beast sidekick's abilities a la what Circle of the Moon does for the Druid's Wild Shape.
 


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