View Full Version : Small Groups

03-03-2011, 06:40 PM
So despite efforts to find more players it looks like my group is going to push on with 3 players and a DM. We are all fairly new but one of my players had a great idea of how to make the group viable despite its small size. He intends to play a Dragonborn Paladin who will have some type of amulet that allows him to summon an ancestor to fight alongside him. This keeps him from having to roleplay 2 separate characters but still gives the group a strong enough party for combat.

My question for the community is what should this power look like? I am thinking about making it an encounter power to summon them and maybe requiring some kind of ritual to "repair" the amulet if the summoned character dies. Obviously the summoned character will be the same level as the Paladin.

Has anyone ever done something like this or seen rules for it somewhere. Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

03-03-2011, 08:34 PM
Sounds something like the old 1st & 2nd ed "Horn of Valhalla"

03-04-2011, 09:18 AM
DMG 2 has companion character rules. Also advice for larger- and smaller-than-assumed groups.

03-04-2011, 05:51 PM
My Advice: Don't Do It!

I don't know what level you intend to start, but in 4th Edition summoning an "ancestor" is pretty high-level stuff, and besides, if you use the magic item rules as they are, then it would have to be usable once per day. Making it an artifact is even worse.

Three PCs with a DM is viable. It wouldn't be that difficult to scale down the encounters.

03-04-2011, 06:58 PM
Both choices would work: having a summoned ally, or going it with three PCs and no assistance.

First, as Raineym notes, there is no problem with the viability of small groups. I've found no great issues in running the game with even a party of one character, though I should note it's less than ideal if that one character is a leader-type. The one thing I would have qualms about would be pitting a single player against a "solo"-rated monster, but even fighting a single "elite" should be doable.

I would agree with Sascha that if you're going to go forward with your plan, the Dungeon Master's Guide 2 provides very valuable advice. In fact, my first thought when I read your post was "make the summoned ancestor a companion."

You can certainly do this using the rules for artifacts. I imagine the Concordance rules would enliven the experience. Regardless of whether this is a technical artifact or simply a powerful one-off item, I would make the following suggestions:

As you suggested, the summoning should be an encounter power.
This item should not be considered as part of the campaign's "Rewards." It is outside of the reward structure, in the same way that artifacts are.
Do not treat the summoned ancestor as a character when awarding treasure and items; that should be done as if the party had three characters.
However, treat the summoned character as a fourth party member when calculating XP rewards, i.e. divide the total XP by four when assigning individual rewards. Also, don't worry about tracking XP for the summoned character, just have that one be the same level as the lowest-level party member (not simply the level of the paladin who happens to be "holding" the amulet).
Do not have the owner of the amulet be the sole person to control the actions of this character. This is an item that is supposed to benefit the entire party, so run the character in one of the following ways:

You, the DM, runs the character.
The party decides on the character's actions as a group, similarly to how grogs are run in Ars Magica. This option is clearly for groups that have a good degree of cohesion.
One player runs the character for the duration of a combat. Then a different player does for the next combat, and so on, each player taking turns.

Repairing the amulet should the summoned character die would work. I would suggest a ritual that is similar in construction to the Raise Dead ritual. Alternatively, you could simply require an Extended Rest before the character can be summoned again, and, if you're running the item like an artifact, lowering the Concordance. Depends on how easy you want to make it, as well as the players' propensity to have this character take the brunt of the risks.
If your players are prone to abusing this, come up with some creative penalties for low Concordance or the like. If they really need to get the message driven home, you could have it swap sides at a crucial fight and then vanish, along with the amulet. It could even stuff the most abusive player's character into the amulet as it goes, as the new resident "ancestor."

If you don't have access to the DMG 2, while it would be inappropriate to reveal the exact rules for creating a companion, here is a broad outline that would roughly approximate a companion:

First, make the character like an NPC.
However, give them the same number of healing surges that a PC would have. (Assume your ancestor applies the healing surges while waiting inside the amulet.)
Scrap the Daily Powers; you don't want this character doing anything flashy.
Consider generating the character's attacks and defenses the same way you would do for a monster with a similar role, but keep the penalties associated with armor and other equipment.
Limit the class features the character enjoys. I, for one, would jettison or streamline those features that require more than a minimal level of bookkeeping, scrapping things like Combat Challenge and Combat Superiority for fighters, and so on. Be ruthless. If the character winds up with no class features to speak of, that will just make things easier for everyone.

Finally, while stuffing the character into an amulet like a genie in a bottle is a nice take on it and can potentially lead to some interesting scenarios, you can achieve the same mechanical effect by having an NPC tag-along, hireling, or whatnot. That's of course the reason this sort of character is termed "companion" in the DMG 2.

03-04-2011, 08:30 PM
Putting a bit more thought into this, I'd ditch the encounter power bit and the item status of the amulet. Seems like more bookkeeping than necessary for flavor text. But that's me :P

Other than that, Umiushi's got it covered.

03-05-2011, 09:07 AM
Thanks so much for all of the opinions on this! I don't have the DMG 2 yet but I have a $20 B&N credit so I will order it ASAP. Alot of what you guys said reinforces what I was thinking. The "ancestor" will be the same level so I don't need to worry about them being too strong and I was planning on ignoring XP for it. I was also thinking about making it an artifact thereby giving myself an easy way to get rid of it if we pick up some new players, but also allowing it better equipment and such with higher Concordences.

Again thanks so much I think I have some designing to do this weekend :D

03-05-2011, 11:27 AM
Glad to help ;)