Free the Animal (Simple Immersion Exercise: Fauna For Now!)

2016-06-27 08.45.55Whether it’s at an Organized Play Event or the precious four hours at a friend’s house, sometimes in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game we want to get into character fast. Rapid immersion helps get a game moving, improves verisimilitude, and helps characters (and their players) get to know one another… And it can be really easy to do with a quick exercise. Today we present – Fauna For Now!….

Simple Immersion Exercise: Fauna For Now!

Chances are someone in any Pathfinder Roleplaying Game party has a critter. Sure it isn’t always an animal companion or bonded mount. It isn’t always a familiar or spiritual vessel. Maybe it is just an flickering summons that barely lasts the minute or even the round. But chances are it’s there. A feathered, fuzzy or otherwise frisky friend who is part of party, if even just for a few magical moments. Just as a cat can’t jump on a game table without comment it is highly unlikely that an animal can adventure without raising an eyebrow, opinion or voice!  A player’s character doesn’t even have to be the critter’s commander to initiate this exercise:

  • Where did the animal come from? Even long time adventuring companions might not know how their friend bonded with his polar bear mount or just exactly where those celestial lions Esazustryl keeps calling forth are coming from. When dealing with the exact nature of magical summons in a game, it helps to have a bit of GM support. The same may be true to determine the geographical origins of more mundane animals.
  • What does the animal look like? What are its other sensory qualities? Players may lose sight of the fact a 600 pound tiger sleeps next to them every night, but their characters are probably going to have a hard time missing that. Descriptions of an animal or images from a book or website can really help engage the reality of being next to such a creature for significant portions of daily life. Some animals wouldn’t be fun to sleep next to either…
  • What is the bonded character’s relationship with it like? Are they partners? Are they more like family, brother an sister? Mother bear and baby dwarf? Does the bondkeeper treat it like her own child? Or is the relationship more mercenary? Warhounds returning for treats dripping in goblin blood? Devil dogs rising in response to a tribute of 13 blood-tallow candles?
  • What is the animal’s personality and how intelligent is it? Every animal possesses some level of intelligence, but sometimes the animals in our games can be far more intelligent than their cousins (or even the half-orc barbarian!). What quirks does the animal have? Who does it like and not like. If it can talk (via magic or natural vocal apparatus) what does it say? Do you or your GM roleplay the companion or familiars actions?
  • Who likes the animal and who doesn’t? Not everyone wants a cat at the gaming table and similarly, not everyone wants a tiger splattering them in orc gore as it mauls the enemy, ally or not! Particularly entertaining is the  (oft seen in real life) situation of  a companion animal that doesn’t match the other PC’s feelings. Bear mounts that love to lick the halfling rogue or an offish raven that shuns the admiration of a gnomish alchemist (or critiques his technique!).
  • Where is the animal in the party order (and pecking order)? How do other party members feel about it? The marginalization of companion animals to the back of the healing line is common place in a lot of parties but might not be the case. The life shaman or animal bond druid may offer their healing to nature’s allies before helping the party necromancer. The necromancer is likely to have opinions about that that can make for great roleplaying. Do animal companions get their own shares of party resources or loot?
  • How do other characters feel about the animal companions treatment? A hunter and druid in the same party may have some distinct opinions about each other’s behaviors regarding animals. Similarly the party’s mage may draw ire for recklessly endangering summoned animals.

Roleplaying around the presence of an animal companion, familiar or summoned creature can really help distance yourself from the reality of the table and engage the furry, snoring bulk of your character’s day-to-day. Just remember if you start to get on the bad  side of the druid’s lion, which one of you has pounce.

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