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UA Unearthed Arcana: Sidekicks


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Nellisir

Adventurer
Class feature creatures have clearly defined methods of replacement, whereas a sidekick is gone forever once it dies, barring resurrection magic.
In the day to day harum scarum of adventuring, a paladin's heavy warhorse mount sidekick is not going to have a heck of a lot of difference from a heavy warhorse sidekick, and certainly not much more than any other two random sidekicks differ. Familiars & mounts ought to reinforce the bond between them and their character as they advance.
 

jmucchiello

Adventurer
So from what I gather from many replies in here, you wouldn't be happy with a "sidekick" unless it only "leveled" 3 times (tier 1-2, 2-3, 3-4), only got to swing a sword or cast a cantrip, had no other abilities other than swing sword or cast cantrip, and got about 4 hp per tier.

I agree. To me, I call this a burden. The party is constantly worried the burden will die and they'll have to tell its spouse. The problem with all sidekicks is their vulnerability.
 

Saelorn

Hero
A champion fighter of any given level fits into a 3x5 card or less. There is no difference in complexity between running it, or a hobgoblin, for instance.
Any character can fit into a 3x5 card. My level 14 cleric fits into a 3x5 card. That's a meaningless measurement. As to the complexity, that's another matter entirely, which I'll address below.
- Does it have to frequently compare a variety of actions to use? Or is there a clear default?
One of the things that detractors of the champion fail to realize is that they really do have a variety of options to choose between, because different weapons have different ranges and different attack parameters which need to be taken into consideration, and movement relative to enemies and allies is often even more important than that. It may all fall under the Attack action, just as the bulk of a wizard's actions are to Cast a Spell, but that doesn't mean there's a simple default. And all of that's before you take Action Surge into consideration.

To contrast, a hobgoblin has a longsword and shield, and a longbow. Given the action economy surrounding shields, it's highly unlikely to be switching between the two. It is significantly less complex than the champion is.
The champion places "Low" on all of them.
The most important metric for complexity, which you have overlooked entirely, is resource management. D&D is a resource management game, after all. Both the champion and the warrior have limited-use abilities that refresh both with short rests and with long rests. That's more resource management than any dragon has.

You also fail to account for fiddly little bonuses that need to be remembered, in case they come up. Warriors have advantage on Dexterity saves and initiative checks. Champions add half of their proficiency bonus to untrained physical checks, and increase their running long jump distance by up to five feet. It doesn't add much to the game, mechanically or in terms of changing your round-to-round choices, but it adds an extra degree of mental overhead to having the character in play; and while it might be worth it for the champion, which has an entire player devoted to tracking it, it's just one more thing for the DM to track for every warrior. (Although, at least it's Dexterity saves, and not "Wisdom saves against fear effects" like it would be if this was Pathfinder; Dexterity saves might actually be common enough for that to matter, once or twice.)
 

Any character can fit into a 3x5 card. My level 14 cleric fits into a 3x5 card. That's a meaningless measurement. As to the complexity, that's another matter entirely, which I'll address below.
One of the things that detractors of the champion fail to realize is that they really do have a variety of options to choose between, because different weapons have different ranges and different attack parameters which need to be taken into consideration, and movement relative to enemies and allies is often even more important than that. It may all fall under the Attack action, just as the bulk of a wizard's actions are to Cast a Spell, but that doesn't mean there's a simple default. And all of that's before you take Action Surge into consideration.

To contrast, a hobgoblin has a longsword and shield, and a longbow. Given the action economy surrounding shields, it's highly unlikely to be switching between the two. It is significantly less complex than the champion is.
The most important metric for complexity, which you have overlooked entirely, is resource management. D&D is a resource management game, after all. Both the champion and the warrior have limited-use abilities that refresh both with short rests and with long rests. That's more resource management than any dragon has.

You also fail to account for fiddly little bonuses that need to be remembered, in case they come up. Warriors have advantage on Dexterity saves and initiative checks. Champions add half of their proficiency bonus to untrained physical checks, and increase their running long jump distance by up to five feet. It doesn't add much to the game, mechanically or in terms of changing your round-to-round choices, but it adds an extra degree of mental overhead to having the character in play; and while it might be worth it for the champion, which has an entire player devoted to tracking it, it's just one more thing for the DM to track for every warrior. (Although, at least it's Dexterity saves, and not "Wisdom saves against fear effects" like it would be if this was Pathfinder; Dexterity saves might actually be common enough for that to matter, once or twice.)
Oh, now you're clearly being ridiculous. "Any character can fit in a 3x5 card!" Weird, most of the NPC statblocks don't (especially not the spellcasters!)

Did you really jump into "well lots of different actions and weapons exist so that's just like the spellcasters and battlemasters and paladins and what have you".

Please.

"Little bonuses to skills"
Generally included in the section that has you know, skills? They have the total bonuses added?
 

Ash Mantle

Adventurer
Those rules are pretty damn awesome.
Also, I don't know if this has been mentioned before, but the sidekick rules could work pretty well for 1 person parties or for those who still find roleplaying with others a bit daunting.
 

castlewise

First Post
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.

I don't think this really qualifies as a fix to the Beastmaster since you are, power wise, playing 2 PC's. One of the main challenges with the Beast Master is you have one PC's worth of power spread across two bodies so they each feel a little weak. Getting to play a full Ranger with a Warrior beast sidekick would definitely feel more powerful. But so would playing a Paladin with a Spellcaster squire that follows you around or a Warlock with an Expert familiar to pick all your locks. One thing I would like to see is some sort of statement saying that sidekicks take a full share of XP. If players want more than one PC (and they very well might) then that should be the main cost.

Sidekicks are interesting because they aren't quite player options but they aren't just DM options either. I think the UA does a disservice by calling them sidekicks because it makes them sound like something a player could just get, when they aren't really designed that way. They are bare bones versions of PC characters classes. I really like them and think they fill a gap in the DM toolkit, but the whole sidekick name is saddling them with a lot of baggage.
 

PCs can surive some traps, or eney spells, with area effect but any sidesicks wouldn't because they are lower level.

A sidesick could be useful to reload crossbows, even it could be done by a trained monkey, or one with a tower shield and the other with a hanberd.

What if a player would rather construct sidesicks to fight undeads, werebeasts or other menaces with contagious attacks? Maybe the idea is by the DM, a father who would rather construct allies to soft violence in their children's games.

If the sidesick is an animal, remember they have better senses to detect near predators, intruders or potential menaces. This is important when the rogue want to infiltrate in the enemy camp but he is smelt by the horses, dogs and other beasts. In the real life cats are used like watchers by elite forces because they are more silent than untrained dogs. Even a weak bird could be used to send a scroll with a teletransportation rune to a travel to a difficult target.
 


maceochaid

Explorer
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.

Which I've used, but that method has drawbacks,
  • can't level with the party
  • not at quite the right level
  • doesn't have quite the right abilities
  • isn't beefy enough to act in combat as a little extra bump

So I think this article actually helps a lot, but needs to refine itself based on go simpler, and needs to keep in mind "what can help, without upstaging." So stripping back the intense diversity and damage dealing of the Expert, and the Spellcasting options of the Spellcaster.
 

CapnZapp

Legend

vincegetorix

Jewel of the North
Which I've used, but that method has drawbacks,
  • can't level with the party
  • not at quite the right level
  • doesn't have quite the right abilities
  • isn't beefy enough to act in combat as a little extra bump

So I think this article actually helps a lot, but needs to refine itself based on go simpler, and needs to keep in mind "what can help, without upstaging." So stripping back the intense diversity and damage dealing of the Expert, and the Spellcasting options of the Spellcaster.

What I do: when a ''statblock NPC'' joins a party for some time, when the party levels up, I give them one more HD, ASI at each 4 HD, increase Prof bonus at same time as the party etc. Its not too bad as a result, you just modify some numbers on the statblock. I dont personally feel the need to give them extra features.
 

aco175

Hero
What I do: when a ''statblock NPC'' joins a party for some time, when the party levels up, I give them one more HD, ASI at each 4 HD, increase Prof bonus at same time as the party etc. Its not too bad as a result, you just modify some numbers on the statblock. I dont personally feel the need to give them extra features.

I have some recurring NPCs that have leveled up now and again along with the PCs. I give them some powers from 4e after a few levels. I gave a fighter-type a close burst 1 attack against all enemies. This takes away from needing to give much else except a few more HP and +1 attack. I think the PCs went from 2nd to 8th level and the NPC went from 2HD soldier to 5HD.

The example is for a NPC and not a player controlled sidekick, but could work.
 

JPL

Adventurer
I've decided that five skills for the Expert might end up being too many damn skills. Maybe, they get a total of five skills, including any that the baseline creature receives?
 

Nawara

First Post
Something that really surprised me is how pointless the "choice" of saving throws is. In 5e, there are three strong saves that cover up the vast, vast majority of monster abilities and spells (Dex/Con/Wis) and three weak saves that are only very rarely tested (St/Int/Cha). The developers are clearly aware of this, which is why every single class in the PHB has one strong save and one weak save.

But in these playtest rules, each sidekick class ostensibly gets to choose one of three saves but nobody who understands the rules would ever pick Str, Int, or Cha. The Warrior gets to choose between two good saves (Con or Dex), while the Expert (Dex) and the Spellcaster (Wis) only have one strong save available to them.

Given how thematically broad these classes are, I don't see any good reason to restrict the choice at all... if an Expert wants to have a strong Wis and a weak Dex, why not let them? It won't break anything.
 

Remathilis

Legend
Something that really surprised me is how pointless the "choice" of saving throws is. In 5e, there are three strong saves that cover up the vast, vast majority of monster abilities and spells (Dex/Con/Wis) and three weak saves that are only very rarely tested (St/Int/Cha). The developers are clearly aware of this, which is why every single class in the PHB has one strong save and one weak save.

But in these playtest rules, each sidekick class ostensibly gets to choose one of three saves but nobody who understands the rules would ever pick Str, Int, or Cha. The Warrior gets to choose between two good saves (Con or Dex), while the Expert (Dex) and the Spellcaster (Wis) only have one strong save available to them.

Given how thematically broad these classes are, I don't see any good reason to restrict the choice at all... if an Expert wants to have a strong Wis and a weak Dex, why not let them? It won't break anything.
Some creatures and NPCs are already proficient in a given save; this allows them a choice to pick another to add to.
 

Pauln6

Explorer
I thought the sidekick class replaces the monster's normal hit dice, saves and skills? I think I'd only leave racial features intact.
 


flametitan

Explorer
Honestly, I'd pass on this. This basically solves none of the problems with running sidekicks as PCs. The retainer rules from Strongholds & Followers are much more elegant, even if they need a bit more fine-tuning still.
 

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