Do your characters have friends and associates who play a regular role in the game? What about henchmen and hirelings in the old D&D sense or Champions-style DNPCs? How does your group handle playing them? What sorts of things are they used for in the game? Is their influence good, bad, or indifferent?
Hmm. This bears some categorized responses.
One player’s picked up the Leadership feat, but ended up with an NPC that he doesn’t take anywhere — not exactly sure why he picked up the Feat, if that was his goal. Anyway.
Other than that, not really, although the mage has a ‘bodyguard’ in the form of an evil charmed rogue/fighter that was trying to kill her awhile back. She’s become annoyed that the woman hasn’t ‘come around’ — the charm makes her like the mage, but she still hates all the goody-two-shoes in the group and finds the few ‘acceptable’ characters in the group too… coarse. The mage has taken to sending her off into innocuous-seeming-but-likely-deadly scouting missions, so I doubt that counts as ‘friends’.
I’m actually playing a priest for this with Leadership and a cohort, but since I’m playing the cohort as well (to provide some firepower and comic relief), that doesn’t really count.
Despite traipsing all over the map, the group regularly encounters a few NPCs that they’ve known since session one — when you’re attending all the important social gatherings in an Oriental setting, certain people keep turning up. Tonbo Genso is probably the main one right now — everyone likes him, and refers to him as “the poet”, simply because he won a poetry competition the first time he interacted with the group.
There’s also a couple ‘foil’ characters from the shady Scorpion clan that the group sees every now and then, and Mako-styled Witch-hunter from the Crab clan that I want to use some more. We’ll see.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention Kot t’uk, the Nezumi (ratling) who swore himself into the service of Randy’s character Gu. I regret only that I haven’t had much time to play him up, but he fills a very needed gap in the group’s skill set (as a tracker).
Also, there’s Menho-the-Boss, who is normally too wrapped up in his curse to chit-chat. It’s ironic that I’ve roleplayed scenes with the NPCs who aren’t around all the time more than I have with the NPCs who are in this game. Weird.
If we’re discounting love interests, then Nayda doesn’t count, and if she doesn’t count, then there’s no other ‘yes’ answers in this game.
Bonanza. There are any number of peer-level, non-romantic relationships going on in this game, not to mention the fact that the game is designed to make sure that most players have at least one Important NPC that they deal with on a regular basis. To day, there’s Avrileros (who’s essential coming in as a ‘mutual respect’ sort of peer), Senachiel (Marquis of Lost Things and possible future love interest), Haley (the Power of Imagination whose sort of ‘adopted’ the stunted social growth of one of the characters), Hank (the Bukowski-like mortal anchor for one of the PCs), Cerny (a peer of Death and ‘professional acquaintence’, although he’s not exactly friendly at the moment), Byron, Goose, Tinkerboy, and a laundry-list of others that I haven’t had a chance to introduce yet.
And that doesn’t even include The Boss.
In TiHE, the main NPCs ‘friends’ where Kethos and Vaughn. Kethos was a sort of Lascivious peer to Jackie’s character, whom I had fun with here and there, while Vaughn (Flora’s son) attached himself to Dierdre’s kids (first Ander and then Brea). My favorite line of his was when he told Brea “I’m one of the princes, sure, but I’m not the sort of person that people write stories about — I’d rather play a supporting role in your story than be the hero of mine.”
So: I guess I use them to fill holes in the group (though I’m horrible about remember them when they’re needed), but mostly they’re there to provide a peer that people can talk with, work out problems with, provide advice (both good and bad and always biased, I hope). That sort of thing.