[RPG] How to avoid running NPCs/allied groups in combat


My PCs are currently staying in a place with many allies including guards, soldiers and battle-hardened family members.

I have shot myself in the foot because for every mission and quest my PCs attempt, the obvious first step is to take 10 soldiers with them, or take along Sulkul, the dragonborn general to help with the battles. I want to avoid running NPCs or a mob in combat as it is just one more thing to think about. I have tried it before but I didn't really get on with it.

So far there have been valid excuses story-wise for the PCs to be unaccompanied but these excuses will only last for so long and whilst they haven't actually said 'Let's take a large detachment of armed guards with us', it's perhaps only a matter of time.

I would like to know how people avoid such a situation or if people always run allies in combat and how it works out.

Best Answer

The most likely reason to need the PCs to go on these missions in the first place is that either the soldiers are too busy with other tasks, or aren't up to handling the missions the PCs are being given. If the former, it's easy for your general to say something like "I'm very sorry, but because of the raids on the outlying farms and the bandit threat on the main road, I can't spare any soldiers for your mission at this time."

If the latter, the PCs should be able to tell the soldiers aren't powerful enough from other information -- perhaps they come back with significant injuries from fighting those road bandits, and the expected enemy for the upcoming PC mission is a creature or group that could eat the bandit band for breakfast.

Either way, the way to do this is to make the soldiers unavailable as backup for the PCs -- and certainly the general won't take time or (very slight) risk to himself for things other than his main mission, which is most likely what military organizations usually do: protecting the citizens.

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