Well, thanks to Arref, my idea for a Game Wish got picked up by Ginger. It’s not precisely the point I made about Pets, its sufficiently broadened so that I should and will give a response.
What have pets and companions belonging to PCs and NPCs in campaigns you’ve GMed or played in added? What have their bad points been? How do they compare to sentient magic items in terms of their effect on play (good or bad)?
I talked about pets and companions already, so now I’ll talk about sentient magic items. Perhaps the classic sentient companion that one encounters in Amber is the bugbear of danger sense items. Nothing can kill the suspense of a tense encounter than having to constantly take a danger sense item into account. Often a GM, at least speaking from personal experience, will have to think in advance of how danger sense items will handle a particular encounter.
On the other hand, to play Devil’s Advocate, I as the GM am willing to use sentient magic items for my own purposes, for plotlines. For example, Larissa in Strange Bedfellows has a sword named Nightthread which she is not quite sure of, and I have intimated that there is more to her mysterious weapon than meets the eye. Priya’s magic item, Ykanga, has proven in the PCs short span thus far in the game to be interesting and I got ideas on how to handle it from the weird A.A, Attanasio “Irth” novels. One can’t and shouldn’t change what is already known and set (by points and otherwise) by the player, but if a character is going to invest, say 10 points in a sentient artifact, it should be a source of personal storylines.
As for myself, I generally don’t go for sentience in my own magic items. I’ve leaned more toward companions to fill that role. On the other hand, in a case of the GM playing with my own character’s history and item, Marcus, in his incarnation in Rob’s Shadow War, found himself at one point inside the Jewel of Judgement. (Looong story). Basically, though, while inside the Jewel, Myriad, his hitherto quiet multi-formed weapon, began showing signs of intelligence and communication. I think Rob stole the idea from Frakir and Merlin in Undershadow, but it was well done, and Marcus was rather surprised, to say the least!