Guide Companions

“On one hand it’s hard to believe that some noname like me is special. On the other hand, maybe someone who talks to a squirrel isn’t the best judge of character.”

Many adventurers start their careers under the tutelage of an experienced mentor.

Oftentimes this role is played by a wizened philosopher or retired adventurer hidden away in the annals of a character’s history. But sometimes that advisor plays an active role overseeing their charge, carefully dispensing just enough advice that the hero will have the tools necessary to achieve their destiny. And quite often that means taking the form of an innocuous, talking, magical critter—a guide companion. This product explains what guide companions do, and how PCs can acquire them.

Mascot or Master: The Guide’s Role

A guide can be used to fill many roles. Players should take time to discuss the role of their guide with their GM. These roles are meant to inspire your character and what the GM can do with your guide over the course of a campaign. A guide can easily fill multiple roles, and there is no hard limit on which roles your guide serves.

Corrupter: Some guides work for dark forces. They often try to corrupt their charges. Some are magically controlled and can continue serving the same PC after being liberated and redeemed.

Fixer: Magical tournaments regularly send guides to candidates to prepare them for battle. Sometimes they are losers from the last battle royale, other times they are unconcerned with the results of the tournament and will even get along with other fixers.

Guardian: Sometimes a guide’s primary focus is the survival of the charge. This sort of arrangement works best when the character is a risk-taker that needs protection.

Mascot: Very often a guide will take the role of a mascot, often becoming a symbol of a party’s unity as they help guide the heroes toward their destiny. Very often this means the guide functions as a familiar for the entire party. In this case each character can invest magic into the guide as though it were their own, but depending on the nature of the bond between the guide and that individual the guide may have a different specialty and even a set of different guide abilities for each of its charges. The guide is still limited to acting as a single creature during combat, so will often defer to one character in the party who they believe needs the extra support. This is very common when a story shifts focus between developing different characters, and the guide itself can help serve as a natural bond between the characters to help remind them how important the rest of their comrades are to them during their time in the spotlight.

Master: A guide often has an easier time advising a subordinate. While some guides demand genuine respect to the point of punishing their charges, others are willing to accept even overtly sarcastic compliance.

Pact: Many guides have a magical pact to binding them to their charge. Some will even accept this role as part of a deal, such as losing a bet or in exchange for a favor.

Servant: Whether a familiar or a family bound spirit, guides can be servants who readily advise their masters. Being a servant doesn’t mean the guide has a subservient personality, and some may even be bound to serve despite the wishes of everyone involved.

Trickster: Many guides frequently play tricks on those they teach and their adversaries. They often use pranks to help teach a lesson, but sometimes they are just doing it for their amusement.

Timewarped: Guides might be from a different timeline. Those from the future usually push their charges to nudge the timeline in a specific direction. They can even be incarnations, descendants, or past lives of important characters in the campaign, including their charges.

Redeemer: Many guides work for forces of good to redeem a hero who has strayed too far from their divine destiny. Oftentimes a redeemer may even be working to redeem a campaign’s antagonist who used to be their charge.

Ancestor or Outsider: The Guide’s Nature

The nature of a guide is as enigmatic and varied as their roles, often hidden until the climax of a campaign. The following examples may help inspire your next guide, but the only real limit is your own imagination.

Alien: On rare occasions, a guide is a bizarre aberration from another world. Alien guides generally work beyond the scope of normal alignments and mortal logic but take on the appearances and behaviors of benevolent personas to increase the likelihood of their success.

Animal: Some guides find it much easier to bond with a mortal by taking the form of an animal companion, familiar, or even beloved family pet. This can help characters who want a guide who reveals themselves later in a campaign. It can also help to disguise a guide who doesn’t want to reveal their nature to the rest of the party, especially if they share traits with the campaign’s antagonists.

Constructed: Ranging from a child’s teddy bear to a famous sword, constructed guides are those that take on the form of normally inanimate objects. Sometimes these can be designed and built by the character, such as a construct built around a mysterious gemstone the character found in a cave.

Divine: Divine forces often send guides to aid their champions. The character may or may even know the deity exists, as many divine forces will send guides to naive laypersons specifically because the deity cannot intervene directly. This is also often the case when a deity wants characters to compete with other potential champions.

Fey: Immortal faeries often take an interest in mortals and are more than willing to guide them in exchange for the thrill of participating in an adventure. Sometimes they are assigned to a mortal by a more powerful entity, or bound into service as part of a bet, deal, or magical pact.

Illusory: Whether an imaginary creature or spirit only the guided character can see, this sort of guide exists without a body. Sometimes they are seeking an appropriate vessel, but other times they are a purely astral existence that can only communicate with their charge.

Incognito: Most guides take on innocuous disguises to make themselves more approachable and less conspicuous. This is often to earn the trust of an inexperienced charge, but can also be to keep their charges from being noticed by powerful enemies.

Parasite: The parasite is an uncommon guide that exists as part of its charge’s body. They can range from an entire limb to merely a face growing out of their charge’s body. This often limits the abilities the guide can choose, but some can detach using abilities such as transform.

Spirit: Deceased mortals and nature spirits will sometimes become guides. They often had a bond with their charge before becoming a guide, such as an ancestor or a spirit protecting the mortal’s family line.

The Guide’s Specialty

Guides have one of six primary specialties that each correspond to one of the six key ability scores. A guide with a specialty that does not match their charge’s key ability score can create a compelling dynamic, such as a barbarian being told again and again by their devoted guide to try a diplomatic approach. Certain guide abilities are more powerful if the guide is of the appropriate specialty. The specialties and their corresponding ability scores are as follows:

  • Determination (Strength): Determination guides will cheer on their charges to push through any obstacle and never back down from a challenge. They are likely to advise their charges on an enemy’s weakness. They can easily identify weapons. They are most likely to want to see their charges become as strong as possible.
  • Resilience (Constitution): Resilience guides are always looking out for their charge’s well-being and safety. They are likely to advise their charges about an enemy’s special attacks and what type of damage they deal. They can easily identify armor. They most likely want to see their charges become tough enough that nothing can hurt them.
  • Alacrity (Dexterity): Alacrity guides encourage their charges to be prepared for the unexpected. They are likely to advise their charges about an enemy’s resistances. They can easily identify consumable magic items like potions. They most likely want to see their charges try new things and think of different ways around an obstacle
  • Understanding (Intelligence): Understanding guides value eagerness to learn about how the world works. They are likely to advise their charges about an enemy’s special abilities. They can most easily identify alchemical items and scrolls. They most likely want to see their charges apply what they’ve learned.
  • Intuition (Wisdom): Intuition guides value the ability to make quick decisions and trust your own heart. They are likely to advise their charges about an enemy’s special defenses, or highest saving throw. They can easily identify non-consumable wondrous items. They most likely want to see their charges trust in themselves.
  • Devotion (Charisma): Devotion guides are the most loyal guides and want nothing more than to see their charges find and cultivate an important bond (such as friendship, a home, or love). They are likely to advise their charges about an enemy’s lowest saving throw. They can easily identify rings and wands. They most likely want to see their charges find and protect something they cherish.

The Guide Familiar Archetype

A guide functions very much like a familiar. But unlike your typical magical assistant, a guide typically plays a teaching role to their bonded charge. This functions as a familiar archetype, except a guide has a wider variety of forms dependent on the campaign and a guide ability dependent on its specialty. As you gain more power, you get access to more guide abilities. You gain an additional guide ability at levels 7, 12, and 17.

Guides otherwise use the same statistics as a familiar. GMs should adjust magical guides by selecting familiar choices with similar statistics, perhaps adjusting type as necessary to maintain verisimilitude without impacting balance. In most cases supernatural familiars physically manifest as tiny animals, so in most cases there shouldn’t be much need for adjust until they trust their charge enough to use the Transformation ability. You can improve a guide ability by investing magic into your guide as an action, losing the highest-level spell slot you have not yet used.

Cantrips do not have sufficient energy to empower a guide. If you are a prepared caster, choose the spell randomly among the highest level spells you have prepared that day. You can only invest once in each guide ability known. You cannot prepare new spells into invested spell slots as long as the spell slot remains invested. An invested spell slot that is used by a guide is considered used as if a spell were cast using that spell slot. If multiple PCs are sharing a single guide, each player tracks their invested spells separately and does not benefit from magic invested by other players.

Most Game Masters shouldn’t let a player easily swap out a guide, and doing so may cause the bonded charge to not regain their highest level spell slot at the start of a session until they properly end their contract. If killed, guides will usually return to their bonded charge after they finish a long rest.

Guide Abilities Without Spells

The same way many martial characters have familiars, guides find themselves supporting a plethora of varied characters. And while archetypes and feats can help these characters get their own familiar, many of them will find using guide abilities difficult without spell slots.

Consider allowing a single-use item or NPC casting of Find Familiar. Alternatively, characters may simply be approached and asked to bond by the guide in question. In a campaign that gives players hero points, a GM can allow a PC to empower their guide by investing a hero point or allowing the player to invest magic energy into a familiar by using magic items. Most guides prefer using the same categories of magic items they can identify based on their background and specialty.

So, one character with a Devotion guide can invest magic using the charge of a wand, whereas another character with an Understanding guide may need to invest magic by feeding them scrolls.

In a campaign that uses feats, a GM can add the following option for players who want a guide.

Obtain Guide

You can summon and bond to a guide using the Find Familiar ritual. You may only have one such guide and may not use the ritual as long as you are bonded to a guide. You gain 1 hero point you may only use to invest in your guide’s ability.

Guide Abilities

  • Advise: Your guide is a welcome wellspring of knowledge, even if sometimes they don’t know when to stop talking. Choose two Intelligence skills. Your guide can Help you with those skills.
  • Specialty: Different guides tend to prioritize different facts, as described in their specialties. These should be the first facts a guide gives when using a skill to identify a creature.
  • Attack: Despite their innocuous appearance, your guide is a skilled combatant capable of fighting with the rest of the party. Your guide may attempt to aid your attack using the Help action in combat. A guide can Help once per combat.
  • Invest: Your guide can flank with you as though it was able to attack an adjacent enemy. Your guide can spend their invested magic to use the Help action, even if they already did so this combat.
  • Specialty: A Determination guide with this ability and the Transform ability can use the Attack action of their transformed form. An Alacrity guide with this ability and the Transform ability can use the movement speed of their transformed form. A Determination guide with this ability and the Transform ability can use the size of their transformed form.
  • Bond: You have developed an unbreakable bond with your guide. Choose another specialty. All guide abilities you have function as though the guide had two specialties. You must be 12th level or higher to select this ability.
  • Invest: Your guide can tap into even greater power by spending their invested magic to gain three specialties instead of two.
  • Specialty: Devotion guides gain a third specialty while they have magic invested in this ability. They may spend this invested magic to activate any other guide ability.
  • Defend: While small in stature, your guide can still help defend you against potentially lethal attacks. Your guide may attempt to aid your AC using the Help action to cause one target adjacent creature to have disadvantage on their next attack roll against you. Your guide does not provoke attacks of opportunity entering an opponent’s space.
  • Invest: Your guide can flank with you as though it was able to make an unarmed strike against an adjacent enemy. Your guide can spend their invested magic to allow you to avoid the next Opportunity Attack you would provoke until the start of your next turn. This benefit ends once one such Opportunity Attack has been avoided.
  • Specialty: Any guide with this ability and the Transform ability may use the AC of their transformed form. An Alacrity or Determination guide with this ability and the Transform ability can use the reach of their transformed form. A Resilience guide with this ability and the Transform ability can use the HP of their transformed form.
  • Identify: Even experienced craftsmen are in awe at how well your guide can appraise goods. Your guide can use Intelligence to identify items specified in its specialty.
  • Invest: Your guide can identify an item as though it had one additional specialty and becomes trained in another one of these skills. Your guide can spend an invested magic to identify all items in one room as a single action.
  • Specialty: Different guides can more easily identify different items, as described in their specialties.
  • Heal: You’ve woken up battered and bruised with your guide sleeping on your chest more times than you can count, even when you thought you were mortally wounded. Your guide can cast Cure Wounds. They must take a Short Rest to use this ability again.
  • Invest: Your guide can cast Cure Wounds as a 2ndlevel spell. Your companion can spend their invested magic to cast Cure Wounds as a spell with a level equal to half its charge’s class level, rounded down. For example, the guide of a 7th level character can cast Cure Wounds as a 3rd-level spell.
  • Specialty: An Intuition guide can use the Cure Wounds spell one additional time. They must finish a Long Rest to use this ability again.
  • Transform: The meek appearance of your guide is merely a disguise. Your guide can transform into a beast as though it were the target of a Polymorph spell for 1 minute as an action, except they retain the same base statistics (see Specialty). They must finish a Long Rest to use this ability again. You must be 12th level or higher to pick this ability.
  • Invest (6th): Your transformed guide can use Transform to stay in their medium-sized form as long as they are invested. Your guide can spend their invested point to transform into a Large-sized creature for 1 minute, but this transformation ends even if you invest more magic.
  • Specialty: Alacrity, Determination, and Resilience guides can gain select statistics of their new form using the Attack and Defend abilities.
  • Translate: guides need to be able to communicate with their charges and yours is especially talented at picking up new languages. Your guide learns two languages, chosen from standard languages, exotic languages, and any others you have access to.
  • Invest: Your guide can effortlessly interpret and repeat your words in another language. Creatures who share a language with your familiar can be the target of your non-magic effects as though you shared the same language. Your guide can spend invested magic to use this ability with magic effects for 1 minute.
  • Specialty: Understanding guides learn four languages when this ability is chosen. Alacrity guides can change one of their two languages when they are invested.
Section 15: Copyright Notice

Guide Companions (5e), © 2022, Owen K.C. Stephens. Author, Dustin Knight.

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