Does anyone playing 2e use Keep Company?

Does anyone playing 2e use Keep Company?

Does anyone playing 2e use Keep Company? I am considering cutting it along with bonds. Experiences and opinions welcome.


When you spend time talking with a fellow party member, say who it is and what ability you use to find common ground with them. If they agree with your choice of ability, start a conversation with them about something (their past, their heritage, their intentions, etc.).

Then, roll +your chosen ability: on a 10+, describe or act out how the conversation goes well, and choose 2 from the list below; on a 7-9, describe our act it out, and choose 1 from the list below; on a 6-, mark XP, and describe what caused the conversation to go badly; you must make amends before you can Keep Company with this particular companion again.

– You gain 1 bond with them (max. 3)

– They gain 1 bond with you (max. 3)

– Refresh all marked bonds each of you has with the other

24 thoughts on “Does anyone playing 2e use Keep Company?”

  1. My group uses Keep Company and likes it a lot, as well as Bonds. I think both could maybe use some tightening or reworking, but it’s a fun element that reminds us of the more sort of pastoral style of RPGs like Ryuutama. I think it makes traveling a little more interesting and I like the idea of there being a sort of mechanical basis for creating a bond since that was always something my groups have struggled with a bit in DW.

  2. Using an ability to find common ground is a cool idea but I think is confusing in actual play. Do you have to do something that uses that ability? Are you just talking about something involving that ability? Or is that part not even meant to be roleplayed out and is meant to be purely mechanical?

    I sent out a message to my players for any feedback they may have as well.

  3. We use it. Combined with bonds it helps create connections between characters beyond “hey, let’s go kill things and take their stuff”. So I like it. It provides an opportunity for improvisation and adds another layer of detail to the story.

  4. I’ve not been happy with the the way using abilities for the move works out in play. How about this:


    When you spend time in close quarters or on the road talking with a fellow party member, roll +bonds you have with that person: on a 10+, describe or act out how the conversation goes well, and choose 2 from the list below; on a 7-9, describe or act it out, and choose 1 from the list below; on a 6-, mark XP, and the other person describes how the conversation goes poorly; you must make amends before you can Keep Company with this particular companion again.

    – You gain 1 bond with them (to a maximum of 3)

    – They gain 1 bond with you (to a maximum of 3)

    – Refresh all marked bonds each of you has with the other

  5. Keep Company remains the only way to gain a bond with someone, correct?

    I do like this since it reinforces that the party is together maybe more out of convenience than anything else. They get to know and like (or very much dislike, as is the case with two of my players) each other through their exploits. I also like how this new form of Keep Company makes it easier for people who already have bonds to get new ones, which feels “real” to me. Also gives bonds a little more usefulness.

    One question I do have about bonds: are they meant to be able to be “resolved” as in Dungeon World? If so, what might that look like? DW’s lack of guidance on that was always frustrating.

  6. Jeremy Strandberg it’s the only way of creating bonds isn’t it? Obviously I can’t speak for Jason and his intentions but in my group having a mechanism for this makes travel more interesting and encourages roleplay and sometimes interesting conflict between party members.

  7. Jeremy Strandberg, the goal

    is to bring RP (beyond discussions of logistics and tactics) explicitly into play procedure, with mechanical reinforcement for interpersonal relationships. I have mixed feelings about mechanical encouragement for RP, which is why I’m considering dropping it.

    Jeb E, bonds are not meant to be resolved and do not have any sort of narrative definition like they do in DW. They’re a simple resource that can be spent on the Help or Hinder move.

  8. Jason Lutes So there’s a difference between mechanizing interactions and proceduralizing interactions, yeah?

    For Stonetop, I’ve dropped all the mechanical parts of PC relationships (short of an end-of-session XP question about how your opinion of or relationship with someone has changed) and turned the Keep Company move into just a procedure:


    When you spend a stretch of time together (on the road, in camp, etc.) and you or the GM calls for it, take turns asking one of the following questions of a PC or NPC in camp.

    > What do you do that’s annoying/endearing?

    > What do I do that you find annoying/endearing?

    > Who or what seems to be on your mind?

    > What do we find ourselves talking about?

    > How do you/we pass the time?

    > What new thing do you reveal about yourself?

    No mechanics, no bonds, no XP. But it’s consistently worked to prompt little interactions and scenes between the PCs and between PCs and NPCs travelling with them.

    (Maybe you already knew this, but I figured it was worth adding to the conversation.)

  9. Jeremy Strandberg I actually considered trying your version of the move out in our Freebooters 2E game but we liked there being a sort of mechanical “reward” in the form of bonds.

    It’s been a bit since I’ve looked over the Stonetop stuff, but how do you handle Aid/Interfere w/o bonds? Is there any way to get a bonus to it?

  10. I played in a game a couple weeks ago. Keep Company was great—helped us create new bonds and make travel more interesting. Many AW type games forget to make new bonds since there aren’t often moves upfront about it. But the assignment of who gets the Bond advantage felt weird.

    I was just thinking this morning a duel system might be weird but fun? Like such and such tries to console you OR mock you (help/hurt) when you are talking on the road and then you roll against each other to see if it has the intended effect. If both players succeed or fail they actual get a bond, but if it was one success and one failure your chemistry just doesn’t jibe. (Like an asshole thief who cracks wise actually endears a young cleric who thinks they actually have a heart of gold, two successes. Or two goodie two shoes clerics bond over how awkward they both are, two failures. Either can work, but both have to succeed. Or two thieves talking about how corrupt they both are but one isn’t convincing and seems like a noob, one success one failure)

    Ps. Love the game so far! The character creation is the most fun of any system. I’m still trying to figure out exactly why. Maybe the UI of the character sheet? I was at a coffee shop in Tokyo making my first character and somehow it was super fun and I look forward to making more

  11. What I really like about this move is the structure it brings to “downtime” roleplaying. Sometimes, little spontaneous bits of in-character play are pure gold and enliven the session. But it’s also easy for them to be “filler”, with everyone keeping their cards close to their chest and no-one revealing or advancing very much. In contrast, having a clear prompt for, “This is a short scene where Boggis and Rimes fall out over something,” is kind of awesome and gives clear direction to have something specific and emotional occur between the characters.

    Beyond my general liking for the mechanic, I’m totally neutral on whether it’s driven by an ability check or existing bonds or something else. I do value the die roll because it introduces randomness and I share the “old school” enjoyment of randomizing inputs which encourage us to discover surprising directions for the fiction to go in.

  12. Robert Ahrens good point re: the fact that the randomization forces a particular type of interaction that the players might otherwise avoid. Do you think the benies on a 7+ are important to that? Or would the move be just as valuable if the 7+ results just dictated a particular type of interaction?

    (Jeb E Aid in Stonetop is just “you give them advantage on their roll, but you’re exposed to any costs/consequences.” Interfere is roll +STAT, ala Defy Danger.)

  13. I love Keep Company! Not only does it give great scenes, it gives me as the GM a chance to make some improvised dungeon roles while the players are roleplaying.

  14. Jeremy Strandberg good question about mechanical bennies. I’ll preface my answer with the caveat that although I’ve run a lot of PbtA games — World of Dungeons, Dungeon World, Blades in the Dark, Night Witches and two drifted variants of my own devising, I’m still just a reader of Freebooters and don’t have any table time with it yet.

    That said, I think that the lesson of story games in general is that mechanically enshrining what’s important to the story is a good thing in and of itself. People talk a lot about Flags as a component of character construction that allows players to clearly signal to the GM what story-facing aspects of their character are important to them and available for development. Mechanical bennies are the way that rulesets signal to their players (GM or otherwise) what their available points of contact are.

    So for me having some mechanization of inter-PC relations … whether it’s Bonds, Strings, Gift Dice or any other Relationship mechanic does help highlight that those relationships are one of the concerns of the game.

  15. My experience is limited but I found it a very handy spotlight sharing tool. If players A and B are doing most of the rolls on this journey I can use Keep Company to give player C some attention.

    Rolling +bonds feels like it’d snowball bonds though – people with some find it easier to get more? While making it harder for people without to get their first one.

  16. Chris Gardiner the bonds “snowball” actually makes sense to me to some degree? Like people who are becoming buddies will have any easier time on the path to outright friendship, yeah? And there’s a maximum of 3 bonds any one PC can have with any other, so I wouldn’t be too worried about it spiraling out of control.

  17. Yeah I can see it making fictional sense. I’m just not sure it’s the effect wanted at the table? It disincentives characters without bonds forming one.

    Having said that, though, the way I’ve seen the move work at the table is the GM throws a couple of characters together, so maybe it’s not a problem.

  18. Quick thought Jason Lutes: if you need to roll +Bonds to create Bonds with other party members, it will make it really difficult to create that first bond and characters that don’t already know each other won’t have an incentive to Keep Company to each other. Maybe consider having the possibility to still create a bond on a fail, like: “On a 6-, it’s awkward but you may still create a bond with the other PC. If you do so, burn 1d4 Charisma and that bond starts tapped.”

  19. Chris Gardiner Nicolas Francart it may make things more difficult, yes, but I’m not convinced that it actually disincentivizes PCs from trying for bonds; the incentive for bonds is still there: the possibility of the bond itself, which can be used as a bonus for aid/interfere. If it got harder to make a bond after failing, that’d be a different story. The incentive shouldn’t be “this is easy to accomplish,” but what you get if/when you accomplish it.

    I’ll try this form of the move at the table on Saturday, though, and see how it actually goes. Since talking about it and seeing it happen in play are two very different things.

  20. Chris Gardiner and Nicolas Francart, points taken. Chris, I had been thinking of cutting the “When you Keep Company with yourself” clause, so it’s good to know you have seen it bear fruit. Nicolal, the idea of taking a bond optionally on a 6- at a cost is interesting.

    Following on Jeb E’s comments about Help or Hinder, the other thing is that PCs should be eager to make bonds with everyone in their party, because you never know who you’re going to need to bail you out in a tough spot. It’s easy to think of two PCs improving bonds together and shutting out others, but the more connections you make the wider your safety net. There might be some interesting tension there between BFFs and third wheels, in either direction. I’m going to try it for a bit, in any case. Hope to have the next version of the rules up in mid-February, after I get back from this trip to Germany I’m about to embark upon.

  21. Oh man, we love and live for Keep Company! In fact, I’ve got a special section for it on my character sheets now. When you’ve kept company successfully with the same companion 3x, you mark XP and reset the counter to 0. Should you ever FAIL to keep company with any companion, this also resets their counter to zero.

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