Game Dream 12: Onward, Jeeves!
In my current DnD campaign, NPC companions make little or no impression on the game — wizard’s familiars, for example, seem to come packaged with a small bag of holding that they sleep in until they’re needed for a boost to Spot rolls, and human followers are pretty much the same thing.
It’s been much different in other games: certainly, the NPCs in my Amber game were quite a bit more (inter)active, the Sorcerer game had all kinds of NPC stuff going on (and I only rarely forgot that an NPC like Yvonne was ‘there’).
I have a lot of interest in games like HeroQuest, Fate, and DitV, where relationships are part of the character’s scores in ways that dramatically affect the outcomes of all kinds of conflicts. WIth that kind of in-game benefit it’s actually in the Player’s best interest to use and integrate such characters in the game as much as possible. This gives the players more influence on the events of the game and (bonus!) helps prevent me from my inevitable NPC-forgetfulness: when you’ve got a hunter-follower who gives you bonuses in combat by backing you up, you REMEMBER that guy — when the loyalty and love you feel for your sister gives you an edge in climbing the Cliffs of Despair after her kidnappers, then she really matters to the game (which helps her matter to the story).
Rambling. Now, finished.

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