Look, I don’t mean for this blog to only contain articles about adapting this or that mechanic to D&D, but I was talking to someone who runs a game for a single player and was worried because his NPCs kept dying. Amongst the advice I gave, I mentioned Fire Teams, which might fix some of his issues.
Let’s take a look at what I can whip up here!
First, let’s be super clear. Fire Teams are an abstraction not a simulation. They do not have hit points. They are not NPCs. They don’t make deacons, they are not creatures that can aid you in things. They are a mechanical abstraction to simplify and streamline what having a small group of warriors is like. They do not wield weapons, they do not wear armor, they have no backgrounds, no race, and no class.
The snark says: “Sure, You’re one to talk about not having class…“
In Planet Mercenary, you select from 5 or 6 types of assistance. You don’t get that here. I’m going to give you a single one. A generic Adventurer.
What can you do with your Fire Team?
First, ordering a Fire team to act takes an action. (Unless you have the Leadership Feat, which would let you do it as a Bonus Action.) The Fire Team will act for a number of rounds equal to your Charisma Modifier. Outside of Combat, they will follow an order for 8 hours for each point of Charisma Modifier you have. If they aren’t following orders, they’re just going to hunker down and do nothing.
If ordered to attack, they’ll fire off a shot each round, or make a melee attack each round. Their attack bonus is twice your proficiency modifier and their damage is 1d8+ your proficiency. The attack bonus and damage is the same for both melee and ranged attacks. Treat their range as if they were using short bows.
If the Fire Team is ordered to do something involving a skill check, they roll with only your proficiency as a modifier. They can’t take the Aid action to give you advantage on the check, but they can roll their own, concurrently, with their paltry modifier.
A Fire Team acts immediately after their player in the initiative order.
If you would take an attack and the Fire Team is in a place where this would make sense story wise, you can spend a point of Inspiration. If you do, they take the shot for you. You take no damage, and the Fire Team member takes the damage, bypassing their Damage Threshold (if you had them take the hit when it was below their damage threshold, you are likely an evil person)
How to Kill a Fire Team
Fire Teams are an abstraction, so they have some special rules on how they interact with the battlefield. First off, they don’t have hit points. All members of your Fire Team have two states; they are either alive, or they are dead. The Fire Team still acts just as competently no matter how many of its members are alive. As soon as your whole Fire Team is down, however, they’re gone and you’ll have to replace them when you’re back in town.
A Fire Team’s stat’s are based heavily on your proficiency bonus, a bit of which we saw earlier. All of their numbers are based off your proficiency and it is hoped that they will scale decently well with the party without any play testing (if you have any actual numbers for me, please let me know!)
Armor Class: Fire Teams have an AC of 10 + twice your player’s proficiency.
Saving Throws: Just like Ability Checks, Fire Teams make saving throws with only your Proficiency as their sole modifier.
Damage Threshold: As part of their abstraction, Fire Teams straight out ignore some damage. Their threshold is equal to twice your proficiency. If they would take damage under that amount, they ignore it. (Matt’s Note: This is the number that I’m least sure about.) A Critical Hit against a member of a Fire Team automatically bypasses the Damage Threshold.
AOE Defense: It would suck to have a single dragon breath drop all 3 of your Fire Team. Here at Matt’s Shelf of Awesome, we don’t support things that suck.
The snark says: “We have to maintain our monopoly.”
So your Fire Team is only threatened once by a source. Only one member is potentially burned by a dragon breath, or dies to a troglodyte’s multi-attack (They get three, as a party of mine found out last week, much to their dismay.)
With no hit points, your Fire Team either thrives, or immediately dies. If an attack passes the Hit threshold, randomly determine which member of the Fire Team is taking the attack. Once that’s decided, pull out a notecard. A new one if this is the first time this member of the Fire Team has been hit, the same old one if they’ve been through this before. Ask the player something about the member. Start with race and gender, maybe age. ASk about the gods they worship, love interests, family waiting for them back home. Try to ask questions that’ll bring this random, faceless Fire Team member alive as an NPC. Then, roll a Death Saving throw. On the standard, 10+, they’re fine, they survived the hit. If not, well.
If they roll 9 or below, rip up the notecard in front of them. They are dead.
Replacing your Fire team
This is up to the DM, of course, like most of this. I’d say you’d have to get to a town, maybe a large one. I’d probably require a recruitment roll, a Charisma check of some kind. I’d probably accept Persuasion. I’d make up the DC on the spot. Depends how nice the PC has been to their Fire Team.
It wouldn’t cost money though. The fire team is getting a cut of treasure, which is already calculated into the DMs stuff. Don’t worry about it. Ditto with food. You shouldn’t have to think about the Fire Team at all in such regards. They’re a mechanic, not members of the team.
A Word to DMs
This can very well be unbalanced. It’s meant as a way to give a sole player (or maybe a pair) a bit of survivability. Most adventures are built around 4-5 players. This does not equal that, although it brings them closer.
It’s up to you what the Fire Teams can get up to outside of combat. Players will try to do shenanigans. I’ve tried to have the spirit of the mechanic laid out in clear words. It might help.