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Campaign Systems


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 140
In a typical campaign, each player controls one character. However, there are several ways for you to temporarily or permanently gain the assistance of a companion, such as an animal companion, a cohort, an eidolon, or a familiar. The combat advantages of controlling a second creature are obvious, but having a companion also has drawbacks and requires an understanding of both your role and the GM’s in determining the creature’s actions. This section addresses common issues for companions and the characters who use them.

Controlling Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 140
How a companion works depends on the campaign as well as the companion’s nature, intelligence, and abilities. In some cases, the rules do not specify whether you or the GM controls the companion. If you’re entirely in control, the companion acts like a subsidiary PC, doing exactly what you want just like a true PC. If the GM is control, you can make suggestions or attempt to influence the companion, but the GM determines whether the creature is willing or able to attempt what you want.

Aspects of Control

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 140
Whether you or the GM controls a particular companion depends largely on the creature’s intelligence and level of independence from you.

Nonsentient Companions: A nonsentient companion (one with animal-level intelligence) is loyal to you in the way a well-trained dog is—the creature is conditioned to obey your commands, but its behavior is limited by its intelligence and it can’t make altruistic moral decisions— such as nobly sacrificing itself to save another. Animal companions, cavalier mounts, and purchased creatures (such as common horses and guard dogs) fall into this category. In general they’re GM-controlled companions. You can direct them using the Handle Animal skill, but their specific behavior is up to the GM.

Sentient Companions: A sentient companion (a creature that can understand language and has an Intelligence score of at least 3) is considered your ally and obeys your suggestions and orders to the best of its ability. It won’t necessarily blindly follow a suicidal order, but it has your interests at heart and does what it can to keep you alive. Paladin bonded mounts, familiars, and cohorts fall into this category, and are usually player-controlled companions.

Eidolons: Outside the linear obedience and intelligence scale of sentient and nonsentient companions are eidolons: intelligent entities magically bound to you. Whether you wish to roleplay this relationship as friendly or coerced, the eidolon is inclined to obey you unless you give a command only to spite it. An eidolon would obey a cruel summoner’s order to save a child from a burning building, knowing that at worst the fire damage would temporarily banish it, but it wouldn’t stand in a bonfire just because the summoner said to. An eidolon is normally a player-controlled companion, but the GM can have the eidolon refuse extreme orders that would cause it to suffer needlessly.

Magical Control: Charm person, dominate person, and similar effects turn an NPC into a companion for a limited time. Most charm-like effects make the target friendly to you—the target has to follow your requests only if they’re reasonable, and has its own ideas about what is reasonable. For example, few creatures consider “hand over all your valuables” or “let me put these manacles on you” a reasonable request from a friend. You might have to use Diplomacy or Intimidate checks to influence a charmed ally, and the GM has the final say as to what happens. Though the target of a charm effect considers you a friend, it probably feels indifferent at best toward the other PCs and won’t listen to requests from them. A creature under a dominate effect is more of a puppet, and you can force it to do anything that isn’t suicidal or otherwise against its well-being. Treat it as playercontrolled, with the GM making its saving throws to resist inappropriate commands.

Common Exceptions: Some companions are exceptions, such as an intelligent companion who doesn’t bear exceptional loyalty toward you (for example, a hired guard), a weaker minion who is loyal to you but lacks the abilities or resources to assist in adventuring tasks, and a called outsider (such as from planar ally) who agrees to a specific service but still has a sense of self-preservation. You can use Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate to influence such companions, but the GM is the final arbiter of their actions. For example, a PC might use threats to convince a caravan guard to hold back an ogre for a few rounds or to prevent her zealous followers from attacking a rival adventurer, but the GM makes the decision whether the guard runs away after getting hit once or the followers attack when provoked.

The GM may deviate from the above suggestions, such as allowing a druid to control an animal companion directly, creating a more equivalent or even antagonistic relationship between a summoner and an eidolon, or roleplaying a mentoring relationship between a veteran warhorse and the young paladin who inherited his loyalty. Before you create a character with a companion creature (or decide to add a companion in play), the GM should explain to everyone how much influence you and the GM each have over the creature’s actions. That way, everyone is fully informed about all aspects of dealing with the companion.

The specifics of controlling a companion vary for different campaigns. A gritty campaign where animal companions can’t do anything that real animals can’t do forces the GM to act as a check against you pushing the bounds of creativity. A high-fantasy game where familiars are nearly as important to the storyline as the PCs—or are played as near-PCs by other players—is a very different feel and can create interesting roleplaying opportunities. An evil campaign where companions are unwilling slaves of the PCs creates a dynamic where the PCs are trying to exploit them as much as possible—perhaps even sacrificing and replacing them as needed—and treat them more like living tools than reluctant allies.

Issues of Control

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 141
The GM should keep in mind several factors when it comes to companions, whether handling them as suggested above or altering the balance to give you more or less control.

Ease of Play: Changing who controls a companion can make the game easier or harder for the GM. Controlling a cohort in combat is one more complex thing for the GM to deal with. The GM must keep track of a cohort’s tactics and motivations and how those affect it in combat while keeping her own knowledge of the monsters separate from the cohort’s knowledge; otherwise, the cohort will outshine the PCs with superior tactics. Giving you control over these decisions (while still allowing the GM to veto certain actions) alleviates some of the burden and allows you to plan interesting tactics between yourself and your cohort, much as you would have mastered during times you trained together.

Conversely, giving a player full control over the actions of two characters can slow down the game. If you’re prone to choice paralysis, playing two turns every round can drag the game to a halt. If this is a problem, the GM should suggest that another player help run the companion or ask you to give up the companion and alter yourself to compensate (such as by choosing a different feat in place of Leadership, taking a domain instead of a druid animal companion, or selecting the “companions” option for a ranger’s hunter’s bond ability instead of an animal).

Game Balance: Even a simple change like allowing players to directly control companions has repercussions in the game mechanics. For example, if a druid has complete control over an animal companion, there’s no reason for her to put ranks in Handle Animal, freeing up those ranks for other valuable skills like Perception. If a wizard with a guard dog doesn’t have to use a move action to make a Handle Animal check to have the dog attack, he has a full set of actions each round and a minion creature that doesn’t require investing any extra time to “summon” it. If companion animals don’t have to know specific tricks, the PC can use any animal like an ally and plan strategies (like flanking) as if the animal were much smarter than it actually is.

With intelligent companions such as cohorts, giving you full control means you’re controlling two characters and can take twice as many actions as the other players. The GM can create a middle ground, such as requiring you to put ranks in Handle Animal but not requiring you to make checks, or reducing the action needed to command an animal, but these decisions should be made before the companion joins the group.

Sharing Information: Whenever you control multiple creatures, there are issues of sharing information between you and your companions. Some companions have special abilities that facilitate this sort of communication, such as a familiar’s empathic link or an eidolon’s bond senses ability, but most companions are limited to what they can observe with their own senses. For example, if a wizard using see invisibility knows there is an invisible rogue across the room, he can’t just direct his guard dog to attack the rogue; he has to use the seek command to move the dog to the general area of the rogue, and even then he can’t use the attack command to attack the rogue because the rogue isn’t an “apparent enemy.” If the GM allows the wizard to make the dog fight the invisible rogue, that makes the animal much more versatile than normal, and also devalues the special nature of a true empathic or telepathic bond with a companion. If the dog is allowed to work outside the PC’s line of sight, it devalues abilities such as a wizard’s ability to scry on his familiar. Of course, intelligent companions using speech can bypass some of these limitations (such as telling a cohort there’s an invisible rogue in the corner).

Advancing Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 142
Another issue is who gets to control the companion’s advancement. Animal companions, eidolons, and cohorts all advance much like PCs, making choices about feats, skills, special abilities, and (in the case of cohorts) class levels. Whoever controls the companion’s actions also makes decisions about its advancement, but there is more of a shared role between you and the GM for some types of companions.

Animal Companion: Advancement choices for an animal companion include feats, skills, ability score increases, and tricks.

If the companion’s Intelligence score is 2 or lower, it is limited to a small selection of feats (see Animal Feats, under the animal companion section). You should decide what feats the animal learns, though the GM should have a say about whether a desired feat is appropriate to the animal’s type and training—fortunately, the feats on the list are appropriate for just about any animal. If the animal’s Intelligence is 3 or higher (whether from using its ability score increase or a magic item), it can select any feat that it qualifies for. You should decide what feat it learns, subject to GM approval, although the creature’s higher intelligence might mean it has its own ideas about what it wants to learn.

As with feats, you should decide what skills your animal companion learns, chosen from the Animal Skills list and subject to GM approval. If the animal’s Intelligence score is 3 or higher, it can put its ranks into any skill, with the GM’s approval. Of course, the animal might not have the physical ability to perform certain skills (a dog can’t create disguises, an elephant can’t use the Ride skill, and so on).

Ability score increases are straightforward when it comes to physical ability scores—training an animal to be stronger, more agile, or tougher are all reasonable tasks. Training an animal to be smarter, more intuitive, or more self-aware is less easy to justify—except in the context where people can cast spells and speak with animals.

Because you’re responsible for using the Handle Animal skill to teach your companion its tricks, you decide what tricks the companion learns. If you’re not skilled at training animals or lack the time to do it yourself, you can hire an expert trainer to do it for you or use the downtime system to take care of this training.

Cohort: Advancement choices for a cohort include feats, skills, ability score increases, and class levels.

A cohort is generally considered a player-controlled companion, and therefore you get to decide how the cohort advances. The GM might step in if you make choices that are inappropriate for the cohort, use the cohort as a mechanism for pushing the boundaries of the game rules, or treat the cohort unfairly. A cohort is a loyal companion and ally to you, and expects you to treat him fairly, generously, without aloofness or cruelty, and without devoting too much attention to other minions such as familiars or animal companions. The cohort’s attitude toward you is generally helpful (as if using the Diplomacy skill); he complies with most of your requests without any sort of skill check, except for requests that are against his nature or put him in serious peril.

If you exploit your cohort, you’ll quickly find your Leadership score shrinking away. Although this doesn’t change the cohort’s level, the cohort can’t gain levels until your Leadership score allows for a level increase, so if you’re a poor leader, you must wait longer for your cohort to level up. In extreme cases, the cohort might abandon you, and you’ll have to recruit a new cohort.

Examples of inappropriate advancement choices are a good-aligned companion selecting morally questionable feats, a clumsy cohort suddenly putting many ranks in Disable Device (so he can take all the risks in searching for traps instead of you), a spellcaster cohort taking nothing but item creation feats (so you get access to plenty of cheap magic items at the cost of just one feat, Leadership), a fighter cohort taking a level in wizard when he had no previous interest in magic, or you not interacting with your cleric cohort other than to gain defensive spells from a different class or a flanking bonus.

When you select the Leadership feat, you and the GM should discuss the cohort’s background, personality, interests, and role in the campaign and party. Not only does this give the GM the opportunity to reject a cohort concept that goes against the theme of the campaign, but the GM can plan adventure hooks involving the cohort for future quests. The random background generator in Chapter 1 can help greatly when filling in details about the cohort. Once the discussion is done, writing down a biography and personality profile of the cohort helps cement his role in the campaign and provides a strong reference point for later talks about what is or is not appropriate advancement for the cohort.

Eidolon: Compared to an animal companion or cohort, an eidolon is a unique type of companion—it is intelligent and loyal to you, and you have absolute power over whether it is present in the material world or banished to its home plane. You literally have the power to reshape the eidolon’s body using the transmogrify spell, and though technically the eidolon can resist this—the Saving Throw is “Will negates (harmless)”—it is assumed that the eidolon complies with what you want. After all, the eidolon can’t actually be killed while summoned; at worst, it might experience pain before damage sends it back to its home plane. This means the eidolon is usually willing to take great risks to help you. If swimming through acid was the only way to save you, it would do so, knowing that it won’t die and will recover. The eidolon is a subservient creature whose very nature depends upon your will, so you decide what feats, skill points, ability score increases, and evolutions the eidolon gains as it advances.

Follower: Because a follower is much lower level than you, it’s generally not worth determining a follower’s exact feats and skill ranks, as he would be ineffective against opponents appropriate for your level. In most cases, knowing the follower’s name, gender, race, class, level, and profession is sufficient, such as “Lars, male human expert 1, sailor.” Since followers lack full stat blocks, the issue of advancing them is irrelevant. If your Leadership score improves, just add new followers rather than advancing existing ones. However, if events require advancing a follower (such as turning a follower into a cohort to replace a dead cohort), use the same guidelines as for cohorts.

Hirelings: Hirelings don’t normally gain levels. If the GM is running a kingdom-building campaign where hireling NPCs are heavily involved, you might suggest ways for NPCs to advance, but the final decision is up to the GM. If you want more control over your hireling’s feats, skills, and class levels, you should select that hireling as a follower with the Leadership feat.

Mounts: Common mounts (such as horses or riding dogs bought from a merchant, rather than mounts that are class features) don’t normally advance. If extraordinary circumstances merit a mount gaining Hit Dice, and you have Handle Animal ranks and take an interest in training the animal, use the same guidelines as those for animal companions.

Intelligent Animals

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 143
Increasing an animal’s Intelligence to 3 or higher means it is smart enough to understand a language. However, unless an awaken spell is used, the animal doesn’t automatically and instantly learn a language, any more than a human child does. The animal must be taught a language, usually over the course of months, giving it the understanding of the meaning of words and sentences beyond its trained responses to commands like “attack” and “heel.”

Even if the animal is taught to understand a language, it probably lacks the anatomy to actually speak (unless awaken is used). For example, dogs, elephants, and even gorillas lack the proper physiology to speak humanoid languages, though they can use their limited “vocabulary” of sounds to articulate concepts, especially if working with a person who learns what the sounds mean.

An intelligent animal is smart enough to use tools, but might lack the ability to manipulate them. A crow could be able to use simple lockpicks, but a dog can’t. Even if the animal is physically capable of using a tool, it might still prefer its own natural body to manufactured items, especially when it comes to weapons. An intelligent gorilla could hold or wield a sword, but its inclination is to make slam attacks. No amount of training (including weapon proficiency feats) is going to make it fully comfortable attacking in any other way.

Even if an animal’s Intelligence increases to 3 or higher, you must still use the Handle Animal skill to direct the animal, as it is a smart animal rather than a low-intelligence person (using awaken is an exception— an awakened animal takes orders like a person). The GM should take the animal’s Intelligence into account when determining its response to commands or its behavior when it doesn’t have specific instructions. For example, an intelligent wolf companion can pick the weakest-looking target if directed to do so, and that same wolf trapped in a burning building might push open a door or window without being told.

Remembering Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 143
Often, a companion is forgotten about when it’s not needed. A familiar hides in a backpack and only comes out when the sorcerer needs to spy on something or deliver a spell with a range of touch. An animal companion or cohort follows the druid silently and acts only when a skill check or attack roll is needed. An eidolon is used as a mount or an expendable resource in battle. You and the GM need to remember that a companion is a creature, not an unthinking tool, and can’t simply be ignored.

Tips for Remembering Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 144
There are several ways to make sure a companion doesn’t get lost or forgotten.

Props: Physical props can help you, the other players, and the GM remember companions. If the campaign uses miniatures on the tabletop, the companion should have its own miniature or token. If all the adventurers move forward, it’s easy to see that a lonely miniature was left behind. Even without miniatures, having a physical representation of the companion on the tabletop keeps it in mind. Whether this is a stuffed animal, a toy, an action figure, a cardboard stand-up, a GameMastery Face Card, or a simple character sheet with a colorful illustration, this kind of reminder gives the companion a presence on the tabletop.

Another Player: If you regularly forget the presence of your companion and the GM is busy dealing with the rest of the game, another player can take over playing the companion. If the second player has an introverted character or one whose actions in combat are fast and efficient, allowing that player to control the companion gives him another opportunity to have some time in the spotlight. The second player should roll initiative separately for the companion so the companion’s actions don’t get forgotten on either turn—giving the companion its own turn reinforces its role in the party.

Allowing another character to play the companion also gives the group additional roleplaying opportunities. You might feel silly talking as both your character and your cohort, but more comfortable having a dialogue with your cohort when it’s played by someone else (this also keeps the cohort from blindly doing whatever you say). Wearing a hat or mask, or holding up a small flag or banner to represent the companion can help other players keep track of who is acting when you speak.

Casual Observer: Some gaming groups have a casual player, friend, spouse, or child who isn’t interested in playing a normal character for the campaign, but likes to watch the game or be nearby when everyone else is playing. That person might be interested in playing a companion for one or more sessions (especially if it’s a creature that’s funny and cute). This is an opportunity for that person to get involved in the game without the responsibility of being a full contributing member to the group—and just might be the hook that convinces that observer to become active in the game.

If playing a companion goes well, the GM may create a one-shot spin-off adventure in which all the players play companion creatures instead of normal PCs (perhaps because the PCs are captured, incapacitated, or merely sleeping), returning to the normal campaign when that adventure is completed.

Remembering Followers

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 144
Followers are a little more complex because there can be so many of them and they don’t usually adventure with you. You and the GM should keep notes about each follower (or group of followers, if there are several in a common location such as a temple) and link this information to the followers’ base of operations. For example, the GM’s notes about the capital city should mention the thieves’ guild informant follower of the rogue PC. Artwork representing the follower (even a simple piece of free clip art found online) can be a stronger reminder than a name that’s easily lost in a page full of words.

Followers also have a unique companion role in that they spend most of their time away from you, and might use that time positively or negatively. Just because a follower is low level and you’re not doesn’t mean the follower stops being a person with needs, fears, and a role to play in your heroic story. Even if you dismiss the follower aspect of the Leadership feat as baggage, a follower is going to pay attention to what you do, and if this hero-worship grows tarnished from neglect or abuse, that very same follower provides an opportunity for the GM to demonstrate how bad will among the common folk can negatively affect an adventurer’s life (see the Reputation section for more information).

Companion Plot Hooks

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 144
Having a companion in the party is an incredible opportunity for the GM to introduce plot elements into a campaign—and more interesting plots than “the companion has been kidnapped!” The players have a general idea about their characters’ pre-adventurer histories, but a companion is a bit of a mystery. What did it do before it met you? What is its motivation for joining the adventuring party? What are its goals? What does it do when you aren’t around?

Animal Companion

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 144
Unless you raised your animal companion from birth, it has its own history and secrets that are likely important and could surprise you. A druid’s wolf companion might have been saved by a famous ranger, fought in an orc tribe’s arena, or escaped a wizard’s experimental lab. What happens when that wolf recognizes that helpful ranger, savage orc, or mad wizard? Is the wolf aggressive when the druid isn’t around? Does it have behavior quirks like not letting anyone touch the druid when she’s sleeping, even allies trying to wake her? What if the companion was once a humanoid, but was cursed or polymorphed into a different shape and lost its memory about its original identity? What if another druid previously cast awaken on it, and it has been pretending to be a common animal so it can watch over or spy on a PC? The answers to these questions are the seeds to side plots or entire adventures.

Animal companions can also incite fear or prejudice among ignorant townsfolk. Most villages don’t want rowdy adventurers bringing wolves, bears, lions, giant snakes, and especially dinosaurs into the town square, and innkeepers don’t usually want the larger animals staying in rooms with guests. Stables might charge more to board exotic animals or entirely refuse to do so, and might not have appropriate food for them. If a village is experiencing attacks on its livestock, angry people might be quick to blame a carnivorous animal companion. Conversely, innocent children could have a circus-like fascination with exotic animal companions and help break the ice between visiting adventurers and suspicious locals.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 145
A cohort could have a former life as a criminal that she abandoned after being inspired by your heroic deeds. Just like a PC, a cohort has family and friends, with hopes and concerns for those people. The cohort might be a target for your enemies who are unwilling or unable to strike directly at you (though be careful to avoid making the cohort become a liability or look incompetent). A cohort who is critically injured by a monster might develop a fear about that kind of monster and avoid attacking it. She may have secret vices or virtues that become more prominent over time and can directly affect her relationship with you. If the cohort has an animal companion, you might also suffer some indirect repercussions for the animal’s behavior or reputation.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 145
An eidolon has the same mystery as a cohort, except its origins are far weirder. It might have been linked to another summoner before its bond with you. It might be a natural creature altered by planar energies and banished to a far realm, or a former adventurer lost in a disastrous mission to an unknown plane. If it resembles a more conventional planar monster (such as an archon, a dretch, or an elemental), it might have been accidentally summoned or called by a sloppy spellcaster and could have some familiarity with other people in the world. Though an eidolon’s soul is strongly tied to its summoner, it has an existence in another world when it is away, and in that world it might be a bully, champion, or slave. How it reacts to things during its limited time on the Material Plane is influenced by its unknown past and secret life.

An eidolon always has the appearance of a fantastical creature, and attracts as much attention as any unfamiliar animal would. Fortunately for you, you can send the eidolon away to its extraplanar home, allowing you to do business in town and move about normally without drawing unwanted attention. However, if you call the eidolon in an emergency without warning the local authorities, townsfolk might assume it is a marauding monster bent on tearing them limb from limb, requiring hasty explanations and diplomacy to prevent panic.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 146
Plot hooks for familiars are similar to those for animal companions, as they can have the same unknown backgrounds and instinctive reactions to people they knew when they were just common animals. Fortunately, familiars are usually small creatures that can easily pass for common pets as long as they don’t do anything that reveals their unusual intelligence. Most townsfolk aren’t averse to a common cat, a trained hawk, or even a snake, though innkeepers and merchants might ask that such animals be kept in a cage to prevent them from getting loose and causing any damage.

Remember that a familiar has an empathic link to its master, and its animal instincts can lead to plot hooks. For example, a toad familiar might project feelings of hunger whenever a member of a fly-demon cult is nearby, a bat familiar might express curiosity about the words a weird hermit is muttering under his breath, and a rat familiar might feel fear when a dangerous assassin walks into the room. A more powerful familiar can speak with other animals of its kind, and if left to roam, it could pick up interesting news about a town or an army camp.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 146
A follower should be more than an acquaintance or an employee. A follower is devoted to you in the same way a cohort is, but has fewer resources at his disposal and in most cases isn’t an adventurer. The follower sees you as a hero or celebrity—someone to emulate. Though it’s easy to treat followers as a single, nameless group, a smart player realizes that they don’t have to group together. Followers can be spread out over multiple settlements and have multiple roles. For example, if you have a Leadership score of 10, you can have five 1st-level followers: a city guard in the capital, an acolyte at the high temple, an informant in the thieves’ guild, an adept in a frontier village, and a strange child saved from a goblin’s hunger. Gaining followers is an opportunity for you to look back over your adventuring career, recall important or noteworthy NPCs, and solidify the bonds between those NPCs and you.

Choosing followers gives you a network of loyal contacts who trust and respect you. Though they might not have the resources or backbone to fight on your behalf, they’re always on the lookout for ways to help you in any way they can. In effect, they are trustworthy NPC contacts (Trust score 4; see Contacts on page 148). The city guard might invite you to gamble with the other guards or arrange to have your armor polished. The acolyte might have tips about an upcoming religious festival and the clergy’s concerns about a nearby plague. The informant might have news about mysterious disappearances or volunteer to keep an eye on your rival. A thug might bully the truth out of a tight-lipped witness or provide inside information on her employer. The adept might send messages about strange events from the wildlands. The strange child might have precognitive visions, perhaps from budding magical powers.

If you ever lose or dismiss your cohort, selecting a replacement from among your followers not only gives you an excuse to spend some downtime training that follower to become your new cohort, but rewards the loyalty of all the other followers, as they see that you treat them as near equals.

The GM should use these followers as plot hooks. Instead of having rumors from an unknown source reach your ears from no specific source, a named follower could present that information. Instead of having you hunt for information about a cataclysm prophesied to occur in 3 days, a scholarly follower could find a scroll or book about the prophecy and bring it to you. The desperate stableboy follower can approach you about money to pay off his father’s gambling debts to a crooked bookkeeper. The poor merchant can ask you for help dealing with a charismatic man trying to convince his daughter to become a prostitute. By using a follower for a plot hook, the GM lets the player know that the character can trust the follower’s intentions, and keeps the PC’s past involvement with that NPC relevant.

As you reach higher Leadership scores, you gain dozens of followers. Rather than these followers all being spread thinly across every possible settlement in the campaign, it’s more likely that many of these individual followers know each other well, possibly by working together, spending time at the same temple or academy, or being members of the same family, and you should expand these clusters of followers in an organic way. For example, the other guards who gamble with you could become new followers, the acolyte can train other acolytes or spread the good word about you, the informant might persuade others in the thieves’ guild that you’re a valuable ally, the adept’s entire village might begin to see you as a hero and savior, and the strange child could become a wizard’s apprentice and convince the entire cabal to befriend you. If you ever decide to build a fort or found a temple or guild, you already have a group of like-minded and skilled followers ready and willing to help.

Reviving and Replacing Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 147
Adventuring is a dangerous career, and sometimes an animal companion, cohort, or familiar dies or is lost. A change in your alignment or religion might drive away your cohort, or the cohort’s role in the story might end based on discussion between you and the GM. An extended voyage in a dangerous environment might convince a druid to free a trusted companion that would otherwise suffer and die if forced to travel (such as a polar bear in the desert). A ranger might discover a rare specimen of a favorite type of creature and want to claim it as his own in order to protect it from poachers. Regardless of the cause, when a companion dies or is lost, you need to replace it. This creates an opportunity for roleplaying.

Reviving a Dead Companion

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 147
A lost animal companion, cohort, familiar, or follower can be raised or resurrected with spells such as raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection. For a cohort or follower with character levels, these kinds of spells give the character one or more negative levels—a price worth paying if the alternative is death. Creatures with no character levels (such as animal companions and familiars) count as 1st level for the purpose of these spells, and therefore they take Constitution drain instead of negative levels. A nonsentient companion is assumed to be willing to return to life unless you were cruel to it or directly responsible for its death.

In most cases, the companion probably remembers its last moments alive and understands that you’re the reason why it is alive again. For a lower-level cohort or a non-adventuring follower, the gift of a second chance at life is something very treasured and earns you great respect and devotion. You can gain the reputation of “fairness and generosity” for the purposes of the Leadership feat.

Using reincarnate is an alternative option, but has a similar effect on a companion’s loyalty and affection. Few humans would choose to be reincarnated as a bugbear or kobold, but if the choice is that or death, a new life in a new body is generally preferred. For an animal companion, the GM should create a random table of creatures similar to its original form—for example, a lion might be reincarnated as a leopard, cheetah, or tiger.

Finding a Replacement

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 147
In some cases, replacing an animal companion or familiar can be as easy as purchasing an animal of the desired type and declaring it your new companion. Attuning a familiar to its new master requires a ritual. Choosing an animal companion requires 24 hours of prayer. The ceremony can also be used to attract and bond with an animal appropriate to the local environment. However, you might want to wait for the campaign to present an appropriate companion, such as an animal you rescue from a cruel enemy that you tame with the ritual or ceremony. In terms of game mechanics, there is no difference between any of these options, and you should work with the GM to find a replacement method that is appropriate to the campaign.

Replacing a lost or killed cohort or follower involves a similar collaboration between you and the GM to create a character who is appropriate for the campaign and valuable to you (and hopefully to the rest of the party). You might want to elevate a follower to a cohort, select another known NPC to become a cohort, or start from scratch by introducing a new NPC to the party. Keep in mind that your Leadership score might have changed, especially if you were responsible for the previous cohort’s death—and that sort of tragedy creates roleplaying opportunities for the new cohort.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 148
A contact is a unique NPC with useful skills or powerful connections. You can call upon contacts for aid to accomplish specialized tasks without getting directly involved. A low-level contact can dig up a local rumor, tell you where to find a good meal, or impart basic knowledge. However, as you earn more of a contact’s trust, he might perform greater tasks with greater personal risk, such as helping you track down an adversary, bailing you out of jail, or loaning you a magic item.

There are many types of contacts—a contact might be a childhood friend, a former adversary with whom you share a mutual respect, a war buddy, a former colleague, or a friend of the family. They aren’t limited to a specific social class or profession. A contact with few connections is capable of providing only minimal aid to you, but others might have more significant resources. A contact’s ability to aid you might even shift over the course of your adventuring career. Changes to a contact’s profession, rising or falling social status, and other personal events can alter his ability to provide aid.

Sometimes a contact needs compensation for his trouble, or at least reimbursement for costs incurred while working on your behalf. Criminal contacts in particular almost always charge for their services or demand favors in return. A contact from a temple or guild might expect you to give a donation to the temple or pay guild fees. Other times, costs arise out of necessity. A contact who needs anonymity to accomplish a task might require additional funds for bribes or to purchase covert access to a secret location. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect a spellcaster contact to pay for the expensive material components when casting a spell on your behalf.

Two factors influence the effectiveness of a contact: the amount of trust you share with the contact and the amount of risk involved with what you ask of the contact. A contact who doesn’t fully trust you won’t risk his neck to help you, though he might still perform some basic riskfree tasks to see if you warrant additional trust.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 148
In order for you to secure a reliable contact, you must establish and maintain the contact’s trust. A new contact won’t typically reveal the full extent of his abilities or covert affiliations. For example, your childhood friend might have close ties with a political organization, thieves’ guild, or street gang, but may keep this information secret to protect himself and you. At some point, the friend reveals this connection and becomes a contact for you. As the contact’s trust increases, he becomes more willing to perform or secure various services for you, provided those services remain within his means.

Trust is measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least amount of trust and 5 representing the highest. You build trust through successful interactions between you and your contact. As these interactions accrue, the level of Trust increases (see Gaining, Cultivating, and Losing Contacts on page 151). A contact can have different Trust scores for different PCs in the same adventuring party—a city guard could have a high Trust score for a paladin PC he’s known for a while and a low Trust score for a wizard PC who is new to town. For some contacts, the Trust score declines if they haven’t heard from you in a while, but rebuilding Trust to its earlier level is faster than starting from scratch.

The different trust levels are as follows.

1. Wary: A wary contact has no more trust in you than in any stranger. Though he’s willing to divulge minimal information, he’d just as readily sell your information to your enemies or turn on you in order to protect himself or his reputation. A wary contact performs only basic tasks that assume little to no personal risk.

2. Skeptical: A skeptical contact has established some small amount of trust with you. Despite earlier positive interactions, the contact remains fairly cautious. He can be called upon to perform tasks of minimal risk, but refuses any task that might jeopardize his safety, public image, or finances. If questioned about you, the skeptical contact attempts to remain neutral when describing his relationship and won’t immediately turn on you.

3. Reliable: A reliable contact still doesn’t fully trust you, but is willing to make a greater effort to help. He might perform tasks that place him at slightly greater risk, such as hiding a fugitive on his property or loaning small sums of money or nonmagical items. A reliable contact is not willing to assume greater risk solely out of trust in you, and tries to protect his own reputation as a reliable contact.

4. Trustworthy: A trustworthy contact holds you in high regard. When you ask for assistance, he sincerely desires to aid you. He puts in extra time and effort to assure success, but still avoids undertaking tasks that would place him or his loved ones in significant danger. He will not lightly accept a task that would destroy his career, reputation, or finances.

5. Confidant: At this level, the contact trusts you with his life. He attempts to help you even if it stretches his personal means or involves great personal risk. A confidant never turns against you unless he’s shown absolute proof that you betrayed him.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 148
Risk represents the potential danger of various tasks. Like a Trust score, Risk is measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing little or no risk and 5 representing serious danger. Each level of risk includes the typical drawback or punishment the contact suffers if he critically fails at a risky task (see Negotiation Checks).

The different risk examples are as follows. The GM should use these examples as guidelines to determine how risky a task is.

1. None: No-risk tasks include carrying a message to one of your allies in a neighboring town, directing you to a reputable merchant, getting your equipment repaired, providing you with minor rumors, or getting a sage to show you a history book or map. These tasks might be inconvenient, but the contact doesn’t risk any sort of penalty for performing them.

Critical Failure: No consequences worth considering.

2. Minor: Minor-risk tasks include deliberately leaving a door to a private area unlocked, acquiring a semi-legal item for you, or finding a place for you to lie low. Negative consequences can include paying a small fine, provoking the ire of the local authorities, suffering a small financial loss, or enduring social embarrassment.

Critical Failure: Fine or imprisonment with bail. You must spend 1/3 the value of the contact’s gear (see Table 14–9: NPC Gear) to rectify this situation; otherwise, you lose the contact, and all current and future contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 1 with you.

3. Moderate: Moderately risky tasks include lying to authorities on your behalf, making forgeries, helping you evade authorities (such as by providing horses or casting a teleport spell), or loaning you money or equipment (worth up to 1/3 your estimated gear value according to Table 12–4: Character Wealth By Level). If the contact is caught while involved with this task, he may have to pay a fine, face shortterm imprisonment, or suffer a moderate financial or social loss.

Critical Failure: Fine or imprisonment with bail. You must spend 1/2 the value of the contact’s gear (see Table 14–9: NPC Gear) to rectify this situation; otherwise, you lose the contact, all current and future contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 2 with you, and the DC of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increases by 5.

4. Considerable: Considerably risky tasks are explicitly illegal (such as burglary or robbery) or are morally questionable even if legal (such as fraud conducted by taking advantage of obscure loopholes in the law). If the contact is caught performing such a task, he may be imprisoned, have his property seized, or lose personal rights (such as a formal title or high-status employment). He may be punished by flogging, torture, or enslavement.

Critical Failure: The contact is imprisoned without bail or his social status is reduced to that of a peasant. You must restore the contact’s status, possibly by legally freeing him and vindicating him, or by rescuing him and helping him establish a new life elsewhere. Failure to do so means you lose the contact, all current contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 3 with you, and the DCs of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increase by 5.

5. Great: An act of great risk describes any task for which the failure results in death, exile, or life imprisonment, such as murder, grievous assault, or treason.

Critical Failure: Within 1 week’s time of the contact being caught, you must get the contact’s sentence negated, overturned, or revoked, or otherwise save him from his fate. Failure to do so means all current contacts have their Trust scores lowered by 4 with you, and the DCs of any of your future attempts to raise the Trust scores of contacts increase by 5. Extraordinary measures, such as raising the contact from the dead, allow you to retain the contact (though his status and usefulness may be questionable if his reputation was also destroyed). Unless it is known that you used these extraordinary measures, the Trust penalty for other contacts remains.

Negotiation Checks

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 150
To use a contact, you must first determine the contact’s willingness to help you. Compare the task’s Risk score to the contact’s Trust score.

If the task’s Risk score is higher than the contact’s Trust score, the contact simply refuses to attempt the task. You can try to entice the contact by offering him compensation for his efforts such as gold, gems, a magic item, or a debt of service. As a general rule, you may temporarily increase the contact’s Trust score by 1 point by offering an enticement worth half the value of the contact’s gear (see Table 14–9: NPC Gear). You can’t offer more value to increase his Trust score more than 1 point at a time.

If the Trust score is equal to or higher than the Risk score, you must attempt to negotiate by making an opposed Diplomacy check against the contact to determine whether he’ll perform the task. The contact adds the task’s Risk score to his Diplomacy check. If your check succeeds, the contact is willing and able to attempt to help you (though he may have a price for his services). Failure doesn’t necessarily mean the contact doesn’t want to help; the contact might be unavailable or unable to help at that time.

Once a contact agrees to help, the GM must determine the extent of his success. The GM attempts a skill check on behalf of the contact using the contact’s most appropriate skill for the task (or an ability check if no skill is appropriate). The DC for this check is determined using the following formula:

DC = 10 + the CR of the task + the task’s Risk score + any other GM modifiers

“Any other GM modifiers” includes any modifiers the GM feels are appropriate for the situation, such as a high level of scrutiny at a noble’s party or a temporary shortage of certain black-market goods.

Failing this check by 5 or more results in a critical failure (see the Risk section for consequences of critical failures on tasks).

Most tasks require 1 day of work, with the check to determine the contact’s success or failure attempted at the end of the time period. When appropriate, the contact may decrease the DC of a task by increasing the time spent completing it, representing the time spent planning and preparing, gathering resources, and waiting for the right moment to attempt the task. Subtract 1 from the DC for each day spent beyond the first, to a maximum of 4 extra days.

The GM might decide that a particular task is longer term and requires at least 1 week to perform (such as pulling off a large heist or protecting someone for several days). When appropriate, the contact may decrease the DC of a long-term task by proportionately increasing the amount of time spent. Subtract 1 from the DC for each additional week spent, to a maximum of 4 extra weeks. Tasks requiring more than this amount of time should be broken into smaller tasks and handled on a daily or weekly basis.

If the task becomes riskier while the contact is still working on completing it, you and the contact make another opposed Diplomacy check at the new Risk score (even if you aren’t present to speak to the contact). This represents the contact weighing his trust in you and the risk of the task. If you succeed at this second check, the contact proceeds with the task. If you fail, the contact abandons the task.

Each time a contact fails at or abandons a task, he adds a cumulative +1 bonus on all subsequent Diplomacy checks made to negotiate tasks with you because of frustration, fear of being associated with you, or various other reasons. You can try to convince the contact to try again, but the contact usually must wait 1d4 days before another attempt, and trying that same task over again gives the contact a +4 bonus on his opposed Diplomacy check to negotiate.

Gaining, Cultivating, and Losing Contacts

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 151
The GM may allow you to begin the campaign with one contact (typically with a Trust score of 2 or 3), but otherwise you gain contacts through roleplaying over the course of an entire campaign. To gain a new contact, you must first establish the NPC’s trust through repeated positive interactions or a single profound one.

Positive interactions include things such as regular patronage of the NPC’s business, providing the NPC with some form of additional compensation for his efforts, performing a deed on his behalf, or using your personal influence to help the contact gain a position of greater power or prestige. Profound interactions include saving the life of the NPC or someone the NPC loves, protecting his reputation against ruinous slander, or preventing loss of his property or finances. Once you accrue at least five positive interactions or one profound interaction with an NPC, you can treat him as a contact. This means you can ask him to help you, and you can attempt to improve his Trust score with you.

A relationship with a contact develops as you spend time with him. Each time you have a positive or profound interaction with the contact (but no more than once at each of your character levels), attempt a Diplomacy check to improve the contact’s Trust score by 1. If the interaction is profound rather than merely positive, you gain a +5 bonus on this Diplomacy check. The DC of the check depends on the contact’s Trust score with you.

NPC Trust (Score)Diplomacy DC*
Wary (1)20
Skeptical (2)15
Reliable (3)10
Trustworthy (4)15
Confidant (5)20
* If the contact has a bonus on Diplomacy checks made to negotiate with you from failing or abandoning a task, add that bonus to this DC.

At the GM’s discretion, if you’re away from the contact for a month or longer, that contact’s Trust score with you might decrease as he forgets about you. If this happens, attempt a Diplomacy check against the above DC. Success means the contact’s Trust level remains the same, and failure means it decreases by 1 (minimum 1). At the GM’s discretion, some contacts with special relationships to you, such as childhood friends or old mentors, might not lose Trust in this manner, or you could have to make these checks only once per year instead of once per month.

Ending a relationship with a contact can be easy or difficult, depending on who the contact is and what kind of relationship he has with you. How you end a relationship with a contact can impact the Trust scores of your other contacts. In some cases, avoiding a contact for long enough (so his Trust score drops to 1) is enough to end the relationship with no hard feelings. It is up to the GM to determine what you must do to lose a contact in a way that does not affect the Trust score for your other contacts, but the GM should err on the side of leniency—if you made the effort to gain many contacts, you shouldn’t be punished with reduced Trust scores for all contacts just because you stop interacting with some of them.

Types of Contacts

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 151
Contacts are as diverse and complicated as society itself. Simple contacts only provide you with basic information, such as which roads have fewer bandits or which wells have the cleanest water. Contacts with greater experience, power, and influence are capable of providing more advanced aid. A politician’s scribe might leak information or alter an important document, and a high-ranking church official might lend you a sacred relic. Because of this diversity, associating with certain types of contacts creates greater risk for you than associating with others. A conversation with a local miller or lumberjack attracts far less attention than a conversation with the sister of a powerful guildmaster or multiple visits to the grand vizier’s chambers. Likewise, asking a notorious assassin to see whether an ailing wizard friend is recovering may be construed as a threat, asking a crazed wizard contact for local rumors is more likely to reflect poorly on you than asking a popular bard, and keeping company with criminals, outcasts, or other shady characters might implicate some amount of guilt by association in the eyes of local authorities.

Some of the following example contacts have a minimum Risk (MR) listed after them. When making the negotiation check, use the Risk score of the task or the contact’s MR, whichever is higher. For example, asking a contact to acquire a black-market item is normally a minor task (Risk score 2), but asking an assassin contact (MR 3) to acquire the same item makes the task moderately risky (Risk score 3), simply because the assassin’s nature and reputation make even common tasks more chancy.

The DC of the skill check to complete the task uses the task’s Risk, not the MR of the contact. For example, just because a master assassin is an inherently risky contact doesn’t mean it’s automatically harder for her to find a black-market item for you.

A particular contact may have a higher minimum Risk than what is listed; these are just typical examples within a general category.

Academic: An academic can provide knowledge within her areas of expertise. She typically has access to various libraries or other centers of knowledge. An academic researches a subject by drawing on public records and texts and then attempts to answer questions by making appropriate Knowledge checks.

Artisan: A PC can count on an artisan to get an honest appraisal of an item, find goods for fair prices, locate or create a hard-to-find mundane item, find hearty livestock, or repair a broken item.

Assassin (MR 3): An assassin will sicken, poison, or even kill someone at your behest. Most assassins charge a fee based on the nature of the target, though there are religious assassins who perform these services for religious leaders at no cost. In most lands, the penalty for hiring an assassin is the same as the penalty for committing a murder.

Crime Boss (MR 3): This contact is the leader of some type of criminal syndicate, such as a thieves’ guild, crime family, or necromantic cult. A successful crime boss usually has great wealth and knowledge of the region his organization works within. A crime boss rarely fails to complete a task given his resources, but usually demands some sort of payment for this service— typically requiring you to perform an illegal act that benefits the contact or his criminal organization.

Fence (MR 2): A fence specializes in buying and selling hard-to-find items, magical trinkets, and stolen or illegal black-market goods (such as drugs, poisons, and other types of contraband). Though fences often keep a low profile, many folks find their services useful enough that incidental contact with a local fence won’t totally besmirch one’s character.

Gossip: This contact could be a bartender, tavern owner, servant, prostitute, or stable hand who regularly encounters all sorts of individuals. Gregarious and chatty, the gossip leaks you information about various patrons or stories. Unlike a rumormonger, a gossip doesn’t actively seek to distribute information for money, and his knowledge is based on what he hears directly from others. Though a gossip provides useful information, rarely is it anything unusual or covert. Things a gossip might know include the type of person a certain noble fancies, the day of the week merchant ships usually sail into port, or reports of a wild beast savaging the surrounding lands.

Heretic (MR 2): A heretic might be the laughingstock of a temple or a dangerous cultist. The heretic could know which clergy members are the most corrupt, and might have access to dark secrets, hidden caches of money or magic, evidence of lies and conspiracies, or forbidden texts.

Lunatic (MR 2): This contact might be a wandering doomsayer, a reclusive hermit, or an insane criminal locked into a dingy cell and desperate for human company. Lunatics often know dark and forgotten secrets, can recount seemingly insignificant events that are full of clues, or recall seeing things most would rather forget. Though a lunatic might adore you and make sincere efforts to aid you, madness taints her judgment and interpretation of both the facts and reality. Sometimes her ramblings can be helpful, though other times they can be useless or even detrimental.

Manipulator (MR 2): A manipulator usually runs a clandestine network of agents who whisper in the ears of powerful merchants, nobles, priests, and politicians to effect change on the behalf of the manipulator’s clients. Depending on his personal motives, the nature of his network, and whether your plans affect his other clients, his services could be very expensive.

Merchant: A merchant owns or operates some sort of shop. As a contact, the merchant might impart tidbits of information about other customers and minimal town gossip. She might also give you a discount on goods or services, or extend you a line of credit.

Observer: This category includes vagrants, beggars, street-cart vendors, fortune-tellers, drunks, and others who spend their time wandering the city streets or country roads. So commonplace is the observer within his surroundings that most people ignore him as they pass by. The observer bears witness to all that goes on around him. He can tell you the time a specific event occurred and who was around when it happened. He knows the patterns of the city guard and which gates they watch most closely, and can keep a watch out for individuals who are hiding within a crowd or who are abroad at odd hours.

Outsider (MR 2): The outsider’s roots lie beyond the immediate community, and as a result she suffers the distrust and prejudices of locals. She might be a foreigner, a member of a primitive tribe, or an indigenous person in a land conquered by imperialists. The outsider provides information about the outside world, especially the lands of her birth and places she’s traveled. She knows sources for exotic weapons and other imports, such as spices and wines. Alternatively, the outsider might know and be able to teach you rare fighting techniques, secret formulas, or the esoteric spells of her people.

Pariah (MR 2): A pariah suffers the disdain of a certain group such as a city council, local religious leaders and their congregation, or even an entire community. Though not openly persecuted or hunted, the pariah has few rights and no privileges. What pariahs can offer varies from one to another. Use another contact type for the basis of that aid, but use the pariah’s minimum Risk.

Petty Criminal (MR 2): A petty criminal dabbles in minor nonviolent crimes, such as burglary, smuggling, and money laundering. He might also know about covert passages through a city and which officials accept bribes. He could be willing to introduce you to a professional criminal or crime boss.

Politician (MR 2): This person holds an influential position within the community’s current political structure. She might be a royal advisor, a tribal council member, or the scion of another politician. The contact maintains direct access to the ears and concerns of those with political power and can attempt to influence their decisions. This type of contact is highly sought after, so her actions are closely watched to prevent outsiders (like you) from bribing or otherwise manipulating her. Though she has great potential to initiate social and political changes, she remains under close scrutiny at all times. A politician who has fallen out of favor could become a gossip, outsider, manipulator, or even a pariah or traitor.

Professional Criminal (MR 3): This contact belongs to a known criminal organization, thieves’ guild, or street gang. Unlike a petty criminal, he might resort to more violent crimes such as arson, kidnapping, assault, and extortion. A professional criminal might know or work for a crime boss.

Rumormonger: A rumormonger keeps her ear to the ground for tidbits about the social and political goings-on as well as word of interesting current events or discoveries. She makes a living buying and selling semi-sensitive and personal information, and might also provide littleknown details about current events. A rumormonger usually provides more usefulness and amusement to her community than threat, and is careful enough to keep secrets that might get her killed. She occasionally repeats information that’s more dangerous than she realizes, however, putting herself or others in jeopardy.

Saboteur (MR 3): A saboteur is an expert at destroying objects and property, whether through arson, scuttling ships, weakening bridges, or setting deadly traps. A career saboteur typically works for a thieves’ guild or a resistance movement against local authorities.

Snitch (MR 2): Unlike a rumormonger, a professional snitch deals only in information that he knows to be true. He relies upon an extensive range of sources and checks the accuracy of their reports. A snitch also earns many enemies; thus he makes every effort to keep a low profile. He can be hard to contact, and his services are generally costly. He can produce personal information about nobles, clergy members, politicians, criminals, and other important people.

Thug (MR 2): A thug uses force or threats of violence to influence others. She may be an enforcer who collects on debts for his employers or a vigilante who treats villains to her own sense of justice. Often the only difference between a thug and a city guard is that the thug performs his jobs outside of the constraints of the law. A thug isn’t necessarily villainous, but others might consider her actions criminal. In addition to performing unsavory tasks, a thug can tell you details about her employer or those she torments.

Traitor (MR 3): A traitor has been accused or convicted of turning against the government and actively aiding its enemies. This contact isn’t necessarily evil; he just actively rejects the ideology or actions of the current rulers—a paladin who rejects the edicts of an unscrupulous monarch and a witch who hexes nobles are both traitors according to their local leaders. A traitor is often knowledgeable about the government and could have even once been a politician in good standing.

Watch Guard: This contact provides information about local criminals and suspects, as well as reasonable insight into the workings of the city guard and current political goings-on and trends. She can keep an eye on things, provide an escort, allow you to speak with a prisoner, or arrange a meeting with a superior officer.