We’ve seen Thief deal with a no-show. We’ve seen Fighter being a no-show. Now it’s Wizard’s turn. Her usual adventuring companions are MIA for the day’s adventure, but our heroic mage does not miss sessions. Pity poor Commoner and his nine hit points.

Sending your under-leveled henchmen to the front lines might not be an optimal strategy, but sometimes it’s the only option. When you’re facing down a deep dark cave shorthanded, you make do with what you’ve got. I can sympathize with that impulse.

Allow me to take you back to the days of yore. Way back to my mythic wizarding days, when one particular session saw the party of five down to a party of three. It was me, the paladin, and emo cleric. We were mighty indeed, what with our mythic tiers and our phat lootz. Our GM had prepped mythic content designed to challenge five players though, and we were understandably nervous about adventuring with a skeleton crew. As such, we decided to bring along my temperamental behir cohort as our fourth. It would be tough going, but doable so long as we were cautious. It also led to one of my fondest gaming memories.

So no shit there we were, faced with a horrible mythic hag and a moral quandary. It was one of those Jeepers Creepers torture chambers (NSFW), complete with flayed bodies strung up all around the room. Typical day on the job for big damn heroes, right? Only problem was that one of those bodies—the elf we’d been sent to save—was still horribly alive despite her current skinlessness. No points for guessing who was wearing said skin.

“She can still be saved,” said the hag from within her Edgar Suit. “Surrender your weapons to me, and I shall restore your companion.”

If it was any other party we might have cut our losses and stabbed away. I was rolling with team holy-bro though, so the hag’s innocent-threatening ultimatum left us well and truly boned.

“Damn,” I said. “This would be a perfect time to cast regenerate.”

“Um,” said emo cleric.

“But who actually prepares regenerate? Obviously it’s great as a scroll, but it’s so niche that I couldn’t see anyone actually having it prepped and ready.”

Ummm,” said emo cleric, a little louder this time.

“I mean, if we had access to regenerate right now, we could just cast it on our elf pal, regrow her skin, and then dogpile this horrible hag no questions asked.”

UM-HMM!” said emo cleric through his shit-eating grin.

Yeah he had it. And it worked out even better than you might expect.

“Get her!” shouts the paladin. And oh boy did we. First my behir cohort grabs the hag. Then the paladin activates aura of justice, giving all of his allies (behir included) smite. My well-prepared cleric companion begins wailing away with his mace. The hag tries to cast dimension door to escape, but I’m on the spot with a readied dispel magic for the counterspell.

“Curse you!” shrieks the hag.

Jog on!” says I.

The next round was the good bit. My behir begins to swallow-whole. The holy bros begin jabbing their weapons down behir-bro’s gaping gorge, smacking the hag about the face and head. Ax, mace, and behir throat are all glowing with celestial radiance and doing smite evil damage. It was like watching the world’s holiest plumbers trying to exorcise a demon clog, and the onomatopoeia was magnificent. There was much giggling at the table, and none of it would have been possible without the last-minute substitute.

So if you ever find yourself shorthanded, I say to look at it like this. Your allies and minions and cohorts might not be as powerful as the regular party. But when you change things up and roll with an unusual party composition, you’re more likely to get unconventional tactics. If that means Commoner gets to go Flynn Rider with his mithral frying pan, or Warrior gets to test out his weird intimidate skills, or Wizard gets to roll the dice and mage-tank with mirror image, then for my money that’s an interesting change of pace. At the very least it means that game night isn’t cancelled.

What about the rest of you guys? Have you ever brought your hangers-on into battle with you? Did they go down like under-leveled chumps, or did they manage to surprise you with their resourcefulness? Tell us your tales of substitute adventurers down in the comments!


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