A character with the focus Controls Beasts gains a beast companion. Those with the Leads focus have followers or sidekicks. There are other ways to get companions in the game too (certainly the upcoming Numenera Character Options book provides more than a few). For some players and GMs, this is just fine. For others, the idea of having an NPC always around is cumbersome. The player involved basically gets to do two things in a round–one for her character, and one for the companion–and that can slow down play. If you fall into the crowd that finds it cumbersome, there’s an easier way.
Except in rare circumstances, when the companion is told to do something on its own (like guard the door, sneak ahead, and so on), treat companions as always assisting the main character’s action. This is described on page 101 of the rules in the Numenera corebook. So when a leader climbs, the difficulty is reduced by one step if the follower is a skilled climber or–more likely–adds a +1 to the leader’s roll for climbing if the follower isn’t trained.
The same is true for combat, with the companion NPC assisting. Here I’d probably cludge the rules a bit and simply add +1 to the damage rather than the attack roll, because that’s more interesting.
Now, this might encourage people to figure out all the skills and whatnot of their NPC companion, and that’s a pain. Instead, here’s what I’d do:
- Companion Level 1-2: +1 to the roll of whatever action is being assisted (or, if in combat, damage)
- Companion Level 3-4: +2 to the roll of whatever action is being assisted (or, if in combat, damage)
- Companion Level 5-7: Difficulty of whatever action is being assisted is reduced by one step (or, if desired and in combat, +3 damage)
- Companion Level 8-10: Difficulty of whatever action is being assisted is reduced by one step (and if in combat, +1 damage)
So the idea is that having a companion–a helper, a follower, or whatever–is pretty much always a boon, but doesn’t slow things down. I like the idea of treating the beast master and his trained seskii as striking together in combat (inflicting more damage than the character would on his own). It makes them seem more like a team. I like the idea of a follower not so much doing stuff on his own, but just sort of being a bit of a help to everything the leader does. It makes it clear that it’s a follower of that one character, as opposed to yet another member of the party.
This doesn’t mean that the companion should be overlooked in characterization or story. They should still have interesting facets and personality, and interacting with them should be a big part of running a character with a companion. But when the dice start rolling, this is a much easier way to handle them.