If you’ve been listening to the podcast you’ll be familiar with the beautiful, if naïve, Princess Camellia. There’s nothing that says old school fun like a princess in need of heroics, but once you’ve introduced a persistent NPC, like Camellia, you’ve suddenly got to answer a question - what the hell do you do with her?
Running NPC’s who follow the party presents a unique challenge to any DM. There is no sin more easily or more frequently committed than overlooking the NPC travel companions (be they people or familiars) of the adventuring group.
The stats are the easy part, the hard part is transforming an NPC from some puppet that stands in the background and fires arrows into a living, breathing part of your campaign world. In the past I’ve simply winged this, having NPC’s pipe up when I remembered they were around and occasionally turning their antics into adventure hooks. As might be expected, this has never really worked out to my satisfaction - when even the DM overlooks his ancillary characters the PC’s can be forgiven for not giving a rat’s ass about them.
With Princess Camellia I wanted to try something different – a systemic way of linking her to the PC’s and measuring her development. Rather creatively, I call it Princess Points.
The concept is simple, to track the affinity of the Princess in regards to each player. In order to give the players a reason to care about this ranking in the first place (aside from the tremendously rich role playing opportunities, that is) I’ve keyed the accumulation of princess points to a list of powers and bonuses that are unlocked. Ostensibly, the ultimate reward is the princess’ hand in marriage – and the kingdom that comes along with that, of course.
I based my system off the way artifacts work in 4e. Each artifact operates off of a concordance scale, granting greater powers to PC’s who can advance the item’s affinity along a sliding scale. The scale is affected by a handful of key actions that either increase or decrease the score, allowing for a range between 20 and -10.
I made a couple tweaks to the artifact system. First, I opened up the mechanic to each player, allowing each PC to track their own points individually. Thus, the princess can be favorable to certain players and turn an icy shoulder toward others, depending solely on their treatment of her.
Second, I ruled that there are a limited number of opportunities to earn Princess Points, and that only one player can be awarded each point. The points are decided by opposed skill checks, often moderated by bonuses I dole out for any notable suaveness. Essentially, this sets the PC in direct competition with each other for the princess’ hand. I use the Easy, Medium or Difficult value for the level appropriate skill check to set the DC. As a good and devious DM, I set up a couple possible Princess wooing events ahead of time, and keep a sharp eye out for opportunities to introduce more of the fly.
Finally, while players gain artifact affinity points simply for going up levels, I removed this feature for the Princess Point system. PC’s will have to earn her hand through the hard work of wooing alone. Mechanically, I left this out because it would have advanced the point track too quickly.
Princess Point Modifiers:
- +2 Significantly aid the people or nation of Mariposa.
- +1 Successfully charm the Princess (Skill Check)
- +1 Present the princess with a gift worthy or her nobility. (Worth at least 50 gp / player level, though creative or hard won gifts may be considered worthy as well)
- +1 Aid the Princess in attaining something she desires.
- -1 The Princess is denied something she desires.
- -1 Condescend to or treat the princess in a manner unbefitting her station.
- -1 The Princess is left in harm’s way.
- -2 Something is done to harm the nation or people of Mariposa.
You’ll find the Princess Points Scale available for download. The DM can either print it full size for his convenience, or print smaller versions for each player to keep track with. Although I have done my best to make it look properly princess-y, this same mechanical approach to relationships can be applied to any persistent NPC that a DM wants to develop. Simply substitute the Point modifiers above as appropriate.