Thursday, December 16, 2010
Since I am a huge geek, I often look at things like books and movies from a 'gamer' perspective. One of the things I noticed about Star Wars is how there seem to be certain 'main' characters and then characters associated with them who serve as their sidekicks. The best example of this has to be Han Solo and Chewbacca. Of the two, Han is clearly the more 'important' to the story and Chewbacca is just there to be his buddy/comic relief. As the series went on, I noticed the same could be said for others: Artoo is Luke's Sidekick on Dagobah and elsewhere. Threepio seems to be the natural sidekick to Leia (her being a politician, him being a protocol droid). Heck, even Lando had Lobot. The prequels aren't quite as cut and dry, but do have some examples. Artoo seems to be Anakin's sidekick. Threepio becomes Padme's sidekick. Obi-Wan.. well, no, it kind of breaks down there, but still.. I think the point is valid.
So from a gamer perspective, I wonder if this couldn't equate to an interesting amendment to usual play- where each player would actually run TWO characters- his Primary PC (Han Solo) and a sidekick (Chewbacca). I can see where this might actually work, especially if you have a relatively small (2-3 person) group of players. I have kind of used this already in a campaign, though truth be told, the sidekick was often under my control as a GM rather than direct player control. And you know, I think that could work as well. So anyway, lets list the pros and cons...
Running a sidekick opens the door to more 'oddball' characters than a person might choose otherwise as their 'primary' character. Afterall, who would have wanted to play Artoo and Threepio as main characters? It would be a little boring, I think. But every once in a while it could be fun
In a small group, it helps bolster party strength and flexibility. Not just in combat, but in all situations. You could have a 'tech' expert for those situations that require it. You could have someone to 'stay with the ship' while your main PCs go out on an adventure. And of course you could have an extra blaster when the chips are down.
It could add more character dynamics, particularly to a smaller group. If you have only two characters total in a game, they tend to 'get along'- if only for the sake of keeping the campaign together. But when you throw more people into the mix, you have more variety. Sidekicks could have likes or dislikes that, while interesting, don't threaten the cohesion of the party as a whole. Or heck, the Sidekicks could have amusing 'issues' and encounters with other sidekicks (a-la Chewbacca vs. the Droids playing holo-chess).
If a sidekick was at least partially NPC (i.e. the GM had some say in their background/personality), they can be used to introduce RP elements: Perhaps they have a background issue that the player didn't know about- a secret history that may spark adventure opportunities. They have a family in danger or a dark secret, or whatever. A sidekick like this would be open to more 'abuse' by a GM, because they wouldn't be running roughshod over a player's concept of their main character. They would only be tweaking the background of the secondary.
A player could abuse the Sidekick from a game mechanic perspective. They could make the Sidekick specialize in certain skills at the expense of being well rounded- thus freeing up the main character to specialize in other skills (i.e. you could have your MAIN guy be a badass combat-monster while your secondary is a tech/support guy). Likewise, a sidekick could turn over all his starting wealth or other earnings to the 'main character' (though, the way I run my games, this wouldn't matter all that much).
In a large group, having a lot of sidekicks could make the group size unmanageable. A group of 6 players running 12 characters could get confusing- not to mention the fact that trying to balance a typical adventure to challenge a group of 12 could be a bear.
A sidekick could conceivably steal the spotlight from a 'main character'. If the player finds his outrageous sidekick concept to be more fun to play than the main character, he may focus instead on always playing the sidekick. Though.. truth be told, this would be an easy fix. Just reverse the roles.
A sidekick could be used as a method of 'lashing out' at other players. Say your main character 'likes' one of the other characters, but has his sidekick dislike and constantly torment the other character. Okay, so I'm going out on a limb with this one. Because honestly? I don't think I've ever played for any length of time with a person as immature as to actually do this.
I think the Pros have it. As long as you have a relatively mature group who aren't into power-gaming, I don't see why this rule couldn't be put into play. Even so, it does seem to work better for small groups. Next small group I run, I may even put this into play.