Controlling NPCs

“I don’t have a sidekick – no backup. When I go out there’s nobody to get in my way”

-Vyxen, Shadow of the Blackbear Mercenaries
(Drow Noble Psychic Warrior 10)

The following are both house rules and rule clarifications used to govern NPC’s who are controlled by the Party. To be honest we have been very liberal about NPC’s in the party and have been playing them wrong. Extra NPCs in the party means more action economy, more versatility, and lessened accountability. They are Very powerful tools. The following are to bring balance and ultimately more enjoyment by keeping the game fair and challenging without sacrificing the intended purpose of party NPCs. In all cases if a spell, feat, or ability contradicts the following house rules/clarifications the official rule is supreme.

There may be times when the DM will give up his control of a creature to facilitate faster and more enjoyable play, especially for player’s who have proven themselves to be trustworthy in keeping to the spirit of the rules.


Whether using Summon Monster, Nature’s Ally, or other conjuration (summoning) spells the summoned NPC will be technically under the control of the DM. However, the player will have control so long as the summoned creature is acting naturally. Summoned creatures attack enemies to the best of their ability (as per the spell) and act according to their nature and intelligence. Intelligent summons may or may not be willing to sacrifice themselves for the person who summoned them. It is assumed the summoner knows all statistics of the summoned NPC.

If the summon is intelligent and speaks a common language he can be commanded as a free action (within the normal limits of in-combat speech). If the NPC has animal intelligence or does not share a common language it attacks your enemies to the best of its ability. If your summon has animal intelligence and you want it to perform a different action you must use Handle Animal. If it is intelligent and does not share a language you may give simple commands such as “Come Here”, “Attack Them”, “Go There”. For more complex commands you may substitute a diplomacy check as if using “Push Animal”.


Cohorts and Thralls are more than temporary companions. They represent an investment in your character and are generally aware of your tactics and desires. They are also assumed to have been given general instructions outside of combat. They tend to follow your commands without question and for the most part may be controlled by the PC with whom they follow. They, however, are not automatons. There may be times when the DM will control the cohort, such as an abused cohort rebelling, a simple minded cohort misunderstanding directions, a fearful cohort attempting to save his own hide, or a brave/well-treated cohort rushing to his masters aid.

In addition (and somewhat off topic) cohorts are not as powerful as their PC masters. Their stat blocks are created using a 20 point buy or 6 × 3d6. If they have an LA, it may be bought off using the PC’s experience. They also do not earn Hero Points, but the PC may spend his hero points for the Cohort if desired.

Dominated NPCs

If an NPC is brought into the party through the use of spells such as Dominate Monster, Control Undead, Animate Dead, and the like it uses the rules for summoned NPCs when applicable.

For instance commanding a NPC with animal intelligence or an NPC with which you don’t share a common language generally requires the use of Handle Animal/Diplomacy and a move action. Like wise an Intelligent NPC with which you share a common language can generally be commanded as a free action.

Unlike a summoned creature, a dominated NPC is generally hostile to the player. This places the unwilling NPC under the control of the DM, who will (and should) attempt to twist commands against his master if not in his interest (or if he has a spiteful nature).

When given a command that grants a new saving throw, the new saving throw is per command (not action) or until 24 hours have passed. For example, a dominated Wartroll is commanded to kill anyone attempting to harm the party (which currently includes his former Wartroll allies). He gets a new saving and fails to shake off the enchantment. He does Not get a new saving throw every time he attacks his former allies. If 24 hours have passed (and the standing command has not yet changed) and he finds himself once again fighting his allies he would then gain another saving throw for the same command. He would also receive a new saving throw if the command is changed to something that also is against his nature, such as to pin one of his allies.

In all cases if a spell, feat, or ability contradicts the above house rules/clarifications the official rule trumps these house rules.

Controlling NPCs

Echoes of the Rising JosephZ JosephZ