Since the earliest days of this comic, Fighter and Lumberjack Explosion have been fast friends. But for nearly as long, there’s been a growing tension between the two. There’s only so much casual cruelty you can put up with as a magical, lawful good creature before you’ve got to put your hoof down. Things came to a head when, sick and tired of Fighter’s murderhoboing ways, Lumberjack Explosion donned the cape of a vigilante and dedicated himself to fighting Fighter crime. We may never know how the pair of unlikely friends met, but it’s clear that things have soured since the early days. Even though they started out as adventure bros, Fighter’s constant disregard for his buddy’s feelings has created a rift. This isn’t a sudden shift, but a slow and inexorable decline.The moral of the story? NPCs have feelings too. 

If you’ve got followers, minions, or cohorts attached to your character, then you’ve got to recognize that the way you treat them matters. Even if you spent points or feats or other kinds of meta-currency to acquire your companions, they’ve still got personalities attached to their stats. They’re still NPCs, which means that they still represent relationships that you’ve got to manage.

Should one difference of opinions result in a falling out? Absolutely not. Asking your magical rocket horse to suffer the indignity of a common stable is not grounds for reprisal. Dude can deal with roughing it for a night. But over the life of a campaign, if that sort of thing becomes a pattern of behavior, consequences begin to loom.

For me, the best illustration of this principle comes in the person of Wallace Shawn. Or more specifically, in his character from The Princess Bride, the Sicilian criminal mastermind Vizzini. Here’s a guy who mocks and belittles his companions at every chance. He reminds the barbarian that, “You were not hired for your brains, you hippopotamic land mass!” He digs at the Dex fighter’s weaknesses: “When I found you, you were so slobbering drunk, you couldn’t buy brandy!” And after his untimely death by iocane powder, it doesn’t take long for his one-time employees to join forces with his enemy. More telling still, when you’ve got dudes that can reasonably say, “I just work for Vizzini to pay the bills,” you know that you’ve got problems with company morale.

In my own games, the resident bladebound magus serves as a solid example of the principle. He knows that his sentient scimitar has a mind of her own, and he takes pains to please her. If he ignores the weapon’s particular obsession (she wants her bearer to distinguish himself by swashbuckling feats of daring do), he risks a sudden save vs. her ego. In this example, the mechanics are built into the character class: “In cases where a wielder and the black blade come into conflict, like any intelligent item, a black blade can attempt to exert its dominance.” But even outside the world of sentient magical cutlery, the consequences for ignoring or mistreating NPCs can be very real.

So what do you guys think? Does spending a feat on leadership guarantee loyalty? Is there any way a ranger’s companion would question its master? And if you’ve spent the gold to hire hirelings, exactly how far should they go in following your orders? Let’s hear all about your own (dis)loyal companions down in the comments!


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