Tuesday, April 2, 2024


In Return of Condor Heroes, Yang Guo, after losing his arm is aided by a giant bird called Divine Eagle. Companion of the great martial artist, Dugu Qiubai, Divine Eagle helps Yang Guo master his heavy sword technique. This allows Yang Guo not only to overcome his loss of an arm, but to reach the pinnacle of martial arts swordplay. 
art by Jackie Musto 

Animal companions are common in RPGs and work well in a wuxia campaign. In my Sons of Lady 87 Campaign book I tried to emulate the Divine Eagle with a master who had bear followers, Bear Saint Xiong Sheng*. Recently I had a player in one of my groups gain a monkey companion and attempt to train it in martial arts. Today I want to reverse engineer an animal follower system from the Master Xiong character, and adjust it to go for a more gonzo approach (the bear followers of Xiong Sheng are more in line with Divine Eagle, but I am aiming for something even slightly more over the top here). 

In the sons of Lady 87 book, Master Xiong Shen's bears are moon bears of high intelligence who have imitated his martial arts to a degree and can help transmit his knowledge by demonstrating it. They aren't ranked and they don't have a suite of techniques, just a general ability to imitate him. This entry is the key to how they work: 

Master Xiong Shen is Qi Rank 7, a Profound Master. He also has the Talent (Bear Handling) skill and Creatures (Animals) skill. In total he has 9 Bear Disciples. That is roughly 1 per Qi rank, with a couple that need explaining. I didn't have a formal system in mind for this because he was an NPC. But if I were to open this up to players, the way I would do it is allow players with the relevant animal handling skill to gain one 1-2 animal disciples per Qi rank by making a Talent (Handling) roll**. On a Success they gain 1 Disciple and cannot gain another until the next Qi rank. On a Total Success, provided they are trying to train multiple creatures, they gain 2. 

The abilities of the followers would be somewhat up to the GM. Generally they should have one Defense and one Skill above the norm for animals of their type. They also gain +1 Extra wounds. 

In addition they get the emulation ability which functions as follows: They can mimic the characters kung fu movements, allowing them to teach the techniques to others, and giving their attacks +1 Extra wounds if they are on the smaller side, and +2 Extra wounds if they are on the larger side (so a Tiger might do 2 Extra Wounds but a snake would only do +1 Extra Wound). Alternatively this bonus could be keyed to the player level, not their animals size. If done this way, simply give a +1 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of martial heroes, +2 extra wound bonus for animal disciples of profound masters and +3 extra wound bonus for animals disciples of immortal characters. 

However for a Gonzo campaign, I am thinking of opening up Qi levels to the animals. In this case, they retain the teaching through mimicry ability above, without the extra wounds bonus on their attack rolls. In place of Extra Wounds, they level like normal characters with some caveats. Each level they get the normal increase to Max Wounds, but only gain bonuses to Defenses every other level. In addition they can take only 1 Kung Fu technique learned from their master per Qi rank. In terms of advancement, I am still not sure what the best approach is for spacing out their levels. I was thinking of a flat 1 rank per year, but I may simply key it to the PC's levels in some way. 

*This character has a wide variety of names he goes by 
**They would need the relevant handling subskill: this is open and fairly infinite; you can take it in virtually any animal 

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