“Quiet dwarf, or I’ll cut off your testes.”
If you’ve been listening to the podcasts you’ve familiar with this and the other witty catchphrases of Dovana the Blue – Gub the dragonborn’s former partner in crime / perpetual love interest.
NPC companion characters are a unique challenge for any DM. Previously, I wrote on how I was managing the tag-a-long Princess Cameillia. Dovana is a much more traditional NPC companion – for one she was going to have to live up to her reputations as an ass-kicking assassin and enter combat. In order to run a traditional companion like this, you only really need two things – their a mini character sheet, and a good voice.
When it comes to running NPC team members like Dovana, 4e actually has a great system already set up – companion character stat blocks. First introduced in Dungeon 182 back in September 2010, this system has gone criminally overlooked by Wizards of the Coast themselves. As of the current date, only 4 companion character stats blocks exist, and they are of varying quality.
As a result I resorted to the Adventure Builder tool to construct my own companion character stat block for Dovana. You can download her here, for use in your own game, or as a starting point for further modification. Dovana herself is a modification of Sir Oakley’s companion stats from Madness at Gardmore Abbey, with some slight changes and a powerful “teamwork” attack for use when she is back to back with Gub.
The stat card is tool #1 for running a companion. Tool #2, and nearly as important, is her voice. I can’t tout the advantages of using a character voice (as a player or DM) highly enough. Character voices do two things very well – establish a character, and free you to say anything.
Character voice brings you into your character as nothing else can. In the same way that wearing a mask can make you feel strangely liberated, putting on apersona with your voice can lead to a whole dimension of your personality you had no idea was there. You’ll find yourself saying things you would have never considered a second ago and which suit the character perfectly. The opening line of this article is one example – I never planned on having Dovana threaten anyone’s testes, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word “testes” before in my life. Truth me told, I had very little planned for Dovana, and almost nothing in the way of character background. Instead, I found her through her voice. As soon as I altered my voice, my mindset naturally followed. Trust me on this, crazy though it may sound, and give it a try with your characters. A voice lends an authenticity to your character, and breathes real life into him or her – instantly.
Another thing character voice can do is save feelings at the table. This may seem a minor consideration, but one that is often overlooked to a DM’s detriment.
In the heat of role playing, NPCs (or player characters) can get down right nasty with other players at the table. Some players don’t have trouble with this, but brains are very simple things sometimes, and it can be surprisingly difficult to separate the actor from the character where feelings are concerned.
Using a character voice to call someone a “A worthless pile of rancid waste”, can make all the difference between a player getting riled up to kill an evil warlord instead of feeling rebuffed.