Long-time readers may recall Bill the ability toucan. Poor little dude was a living magic item who could confer ability score bonuses upon his owner… so long as he remained perched on their shoulder. While I’m happy to report that Bill has since recovered from his encounter with cloudkill, subsequent reincarnation into a rainbow-colored rabbit, and re-deadening thanks to a failed save vs. unholy blight, he remains my icon for inconvenient animal companions.

You see, even if they’re non-magical minions or mundane pets intended as cosmetic items, creatures still have weight in a game world. They can trigger traps, fall prey to hostile environments, and suffer the consequences of AoE effects. And even if you and your GM have a gentleman’s agreement in place (e.g. “If your pet doesn’t participate in combat, I won’t target them in combat.”) critters have a way of remaining active elements of the game world. They exert narrative force within fiction, meaning that they can act and be acted upon. This can come as a shock depending on circumstance. Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before.

“You saved. What about your mount?”

“You made your Stealth check. What about your familiar?”

“You’re under the weight limit. But can that broom lift your pet?”

“20 sp should cover your fare. Are you leaving your retainers on shore?”

“You manage to make it up the cliff. Your horse looks plaintively up at you from below.”

You see the pattern. These creatures may recede into the background during regular play, but they have a way of showing up when it matters most for the story.

So for today’s discussion, why don’t we talk about all those suddenly-inconvenient companions? Because even if Bill is enjoying his retirement as re-reincarnated ability eagle, I suspect that the rest of you folks out in Handbook-World have hangers-on of your own. Tell us about the time you suddenly remembered their inconvenient existence. Was it fair ball, or did your GM happen to recall your NPC companions at the least convenient moment? Whether your tale features arrowed unicorns or exploded toucans, tell it to us down in the comments!


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