Directive companions

I am playing with some conversations for Salt and I am finding myself leading the direction of play through the companions. So the question I have is:

How much should the personality of the companion direct the decisions the player is allowed to make?

I have very few companions and the plot is very story driven so, in the end, the companion will have to back down but they cannot leave the party. The personalities I have (one in particular) would not stand for certain decisions by the PC. Do I force the PC to the companions way of thinking or mute the companion and lose the diversity of dialogue she provides?

Example - the party come across a child. The child is being forced to work, they are dehydrated and malnourished. The child is a slave and is in this condition because his recognized master is dead and the new master who would be supporting him is not aware of this responsibility.

Without the companion this is straightforward:

  1. Actively do something positive about the situation (good/lawful)
  2. Allow the situation to attend to itself perhaps with some slight intervention if this is easy to do (neutral)
  3. Ignore the situation or actively make it worse (evil/chaotic)

The PC has all these choices, with many shades according to alignment, but the npc companion will not accept the latter option due to her good alognment. So, should I force the evil pc to be good? Or should I make the npc more neutral or mute to allow the player to play his/her own game?


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This is something I’ve wrestled with a lot!

If you have the time to do it, I think it’s always better to involve the companion’s opinions in major decision-making - especially if you’re already making a very story-driven module.

There are a couple of ways you can make an influence system have genuine consequences without forcing the companion to leave outright:

  • Buffs and debuffs based on influence. If you take the evil option, the companion won’t leave…but they will be ‘demoralised’, becoming less effective in combat, and you’ll have to win them back around.
  • Influence checks in other dialogue. Perhaps you’ll come across a locked chest in dialogue which your rogue could help with…but with low influence, they’ll pretend that it’s beyond their skills. Or you’ll find an old elven artifact…which your elven companion will refuse to explain to you.

The only problem then is balancing your influence system effectively - making sure that there’s an ‘evil’ companion to balance things out so that an evil playthrough has appropriate advantages of its own.

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The constraint that the companion can’t leave the party makes life difficult.

In my modules, I allow the player to park & rehire companions. So, for example, they can refuse to enter a “forbidden” temple - the player has to park them before undertaking that quest. If treated badly, or unhappy with the player’s decisions, they can go off in a sulk, forcing the player to find them & talk them round. They go off and get drunk / kidnapped, or even sign up for a war on a different continent. You get the idea.

With your constraint, you might apply some minor penalty to the companion (reflecting poor morale) or have the companion make frequent interjections (“if only you’d helped that child, we wouldn’t be in this mess”).

Ultimately, the player must make the decisions, but companion consequences make it more interesting…


I actually liked how Pillars of Eternity did it. Right at the start, you have an argument with a companion, and if you don’t decide things her way, she (secretly) takes off. It’s out of your hands, outside of that moment when you decide things. Later, you discover that it had a tragic end.

But, I liked that there was a consequence. I’d like to see more of that in games. You chose one way, and you get to see a divergence. Not really how modern games a made, by the way. Since the story usually becomes far too complex, very quickly.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, that companion was a temp one, so it essentially didn’t matter if she stayed or left. A bit different than your situation, but still. I liked that a companion would have their own definitive view, and then act on it, regardless of what the whims of the PC are.

I don’t really think the story should place absolute control of the situation over to the PC. But, I like stories. Stories are stories. I wouldn’t care of the PC is railroaded into a deadend, if it had a good story leading up to it. But, that’s just me.

They may be “evil”, but how do they actually feel about slavery/children? Evil can have standards, and they probably do have some standard since they are working with the presumably good aligned pc.

They may oppose slavery due to personal (former slave/family member is slave) or philosophical (“People need to be able to decide their own fate”, something that works with chaotic).

Same for want to assist because it’s a child, as opposed to an adult where they may not care.

They may not care one way or the other about slavery/children, but assisting the child may give them some personal benefit, such as the child knows something useful for themselves.

PC can tell the evil companion to shut up about it and impose this on/convince them them by the pc’s will/charisma/intimidation/diplomacy.


The “Good versus Evil”-conflict isn’t as cut-and-dry as “there are good people and evil people, and good things and evil things to do, and if you do good things it pisses off evil people and if you do evil things it pisses off good people”.

Situations like these are where writing can really shine. Give them the opportunity to argue more standpoints than just “you’re either for or against slavery” and “you’re either for or against hurting children”. Use the opportunity to flesh your characters out. Your NPCs may well disagree with what your PC wants to do - vehemently, even - and perhaps resent them for doing it and bring it up again later. Perhaps an “evil” NPC will make snide comments about the PC’s hero complex, trying to save every mewling brat they find along the roadside. Perhaps a “good” NPC will intercede, and temporarily leave the party to help the child on their own, and be all “I can’t believe how callous you can be sometimes” when they return. Perhaps the “evil” PC will be pissed at them for that insubordination (Lawful evil), or imposement of the NPC’s will onto them (Chaotic). Perhaps they will be making snide comments at eachother for the remainder of the adventure.

I’m not a big fan of the entire “disagreement/conflict equals parting ways forever” thing in general. It’s actually possible to like and respect people for having different opinion and temperaments from one’s own. These folks are tramping around together for a reason, right? I mean, as people, they could be anywhere, doing anything they want, but they’re there, in this party. Something’s already motivating them to be there. Psychologically, they may already be attached to these people, and well see cause to try to argue and change the other group members’ minds rather than just leaving. Perhaps your “good” NPC will feel driven to try to change the PC’s mind. Perhaps your “good” NPC can be group pressured into going against their morals, drawing some very uncomfortable parallels into real life that many people will recognize having experienced themselves. Perhaps repeat occurrences of this can completely undermine their confidence in their moral values and eventually corrupt them into no longer being “good-aligned”.

I rather expect if you consistently act against somebody’s deeply-held convictions of “right” and “wrong”, they’ll, given the opportunity, eventually turn on you, though. No doubt if the PC does that a lot, that NPC is going to grow to hate them.

As with Kamal’s examples, there are plenty of arguments for or against helping children in need - from “evil” and “good” viewpoints alike. That’s where charisma/intimidation/diplomacy checks come in, for either NPC, as well as outright lying to your companions. Perhaps an “evil” PC will send the “good” NPC away, to check for other prisoners while the PC “helps” the child. Perhaps your “good” NPC will believe them, if they haven’t been given reason not to, so far.

Perhaps they’ll find out later, and be completely appalled at what they’ve unwittingly been a part of.

If you’ve got an “evil” and a “good” NPC disagreeing and the player needs to make a choice, I’d laugh a lot if you can manage to create an option where the player pisses both of them off equally and actually winds up making them get along better by presenting a low-grade mutual enemy in a ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ case of Not So Different. :+1:

Well for permanent companions, I update influence either automatically by script or directly according to the companion personality.

For instance if you pick the good way, you lose influence among evil aligned companions, gain influence among good align companions, randomly gain/lose influence among neutral ones. But if you praise a companion it’s likely you gain influence regardless of his/her alignment.
If the choice is significant permanent companions intervene in the conversation and say their mind according to their alignment or overall personality. They also may be consulted before the player makes his mind.

Influence can be used afterward for many purposes as Grog mentioned it. I’m not using stock NWN2 influence but my own counters, so influence shifts are hidden. Up to the player to figure it out (like in real life). The status is given from time to time.

For a temporary companion, if it’s relevant s/he can leave or turn hostile.


Babylon 5 turned that cliche on it’s head in this part of an episode -


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Thank you for the replies,

It’s not just you, that’s the way I like to play and write, I am not into railroading though as I have seen in some mods. One reply option always leave me feeling a little left out. This is why I am finding this part of the writing hard. I did not lose the character in PoE you mentioned,(not at the trap anyway), but I liked that kind of interaction too.

That’s an interesting point and very pertinent to these two party members. I will consider that some.

The whole good vs evil thing I have had to leave behind anyway to some degree. I mostly am trying to give the PC some choice.

I like that idea, I think I can work with that in this and other instances. The problem becomes tracking these decisions and making sure they get resurrected at the right time. I don’t know how I would apply a penalty but I can think on that some.

That’s a good point perhaps I can moderate the text a little to have a harder approach to a situation that does not antagonize the npc.

My main concern is the npc directing the course of the conversation if it goes off alignment, leaving the Pc feeling railroaded. there’s much food for thought here.

I’ve been on SOAR too long … (and will be again soon). I’ve lost my touch for writing. thanks for the help with ideas.


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/ it’s your fault readers if you get lost in tvtropes


First off, never force the player take any option. The player must always maintain agency, even if the choice is illusory. If the player’s choice leads to a dead end, then so be it.

Second, are the NPCs employees or subordinate peers? An employee will tend to be more passive-aggressive and avoid confrontation because they know that the PC can fire them at any time, which could be fatal out in the wilderness. A subordinate peer will speak their mind more freely knowing that the PC needs them just as much as they need the PC. But they will still be careful if there is a risk of being abandoned in the wilderness.

Third, why is the NPC working with the PC in the first place? Is the interview process hand-waved, or does the player have to work through it. Regardless, it is during the interview that the NPC will probably learn if the PC is of opposite alignment and/or intent from the NPC (doesn’t mean that you reveal the alignment/intent, just “she doesn’t like you”). What motivates a Lawful/Good NPC to follow a Chaotic/Evil PC and vice versa? Likewise if a Drow is in the party, will the High Elf join? If so, why? Design the interactions as if the NPCs also have some agency. Sure they’re desperate to adventure, but will they adventure with anyone? How low are their standards? Will the L/G NPC complain when the C/E PC acts chaotic and evil? Will the High Elf NPC constantly pick fights with the Drow NPC? If you allow unlikely combinations, then there better be a compelling reason to keep the peace.

Fourth, everyone has their limits. You the designer should know ahead of time, how far the NPC can be pushed by the PC before the NPC loses their temper, goes off and sulks, or quits. There is where having a morale or influence system really helps. And even the most passive/aggressive person gives off warning signs before they quit. It just might be subtle, but it’s there.

Remember in Baldur’s Gate II? The PC’s charisma had an effect on keeping the peace but that didn’t prevent opposing henchman from picking on each other. Also how “good” actions ticked off the evil henchmen and vice versa. I think it could have done a better job at warning the player before henchmen quit, but on the whole an good example for us all.


I’m a great believer that there has to be some kind of calming influence or you will never get good and evil to play nice together. I still like the 1st and 2nd edition DnD way of handling these kinds of conditions. I as a player would rather have all lawful if your going to add evil into the party. It could be all neutral or all chaotic but putting a mix of lawful, neutral, chaotic, good and evil is just wrong I hated both OC’s for exactly that reason. It is fantasy to think that in a world where good and evil are well defined that they will get along without a very good reason for them to work together. I just don’t believe the followers of the goddesses Mystra and Shar would get along unless there was a very, very good reason. I really have a real problem with followers of Tyr getting along with followers of Cyric since the two Gods are so opposed to each other. Granted I haven’t DM a game since 3.5 edition came to for. I also didn’t have time to play DnD between 1999 and early 2004 since I was overseas. When you move from one country to another things tend to get lost. That is my two cents.:four_leaf_clover:


You can also finesse an alignment conflict by introducing a personality trait (greed, vainglory, phobia, etc) that trumps some of the moral conflict. Also the specific issue at hand often should have a role playing option not connected to alignment; “I’ll owe you a favor” or “So-and-so will be absolutely livid if we do this”. In the later scenarios, the specific fate of mother/child might be secondary to an issue far more important to the plot and therefore to the PC/NPC. Of course (if you like to torture your players) this can still turn around to bite them if not well considered.

As a practical matter, a good proportion of players will choose the option they expect will give them the greatest reward in gp or xp rather than working out the finer points of Forgotten Reals morality so don’t get too wrapped in trying to sort our every possible combination in the ethical matrix.