I am not certain whether I like sidekicks or not.
In my Curse of Strahd game, our gunslinger had a sidekick. It straddled the line between an NPC and a player running two characters; we would both speak for the sidekick, which worked out fine (or at least the player never complained to me) but it also could have become a point of contention in a heartbeat if I’d suddenly given the sidekick an opinion. The sidekick was a Gnome Expert; in combat, he was basically a disappointing extension of the gunslinger’s turn. The player asked me to start letting the sidekick get its own round in initiative, and that made me see why the Beast Master Ranger works the way it does.
Imagine a fighter with Extra Attack and Action Surge. This is already a character who is, through no fault of his own, capable of dominating the table. Now give that fighter a companion who gets another set of actions. Your be-sidekicked player has two turns per round, one of which doesn’t do things very well. This devours the clock, and if you’re keeping track of how long each player takes in combat, you will notice an immediate trend.
How I’d Do It Differently
If I could do it again, sidekick would be like Teemo in the top lane – split pushing and shouting “I’ll Scout Ahead!” with enraging enthusiasm, and setting player-benefiting traps that could go off when the chips were down. The sidekick would be a story entity with bonuses that the player got to choose (such as receiving information ahead of time, distracting the villain’s forces, or finding items they missed) and be guaranteed to:
1) Not be a victim (He can be targeted by the bad guys, but this is foreshadowed when it happened and he doesn’t randomly die on a bad dice roll)
2) Have good information (and context for that information, if necessary)
3) Never betray the party (for real — otherwise it’s just another lame npc and not really a sidekick)
For the VERY IMPORTANT fights, sure, the sidekick will be there with his statblock. It’s a VERY IMPORTANT fight and the sidekick wouldn’t miss out. But for a game with no rails and random encounters, giving a player two modes of agency when the rest only have one becomes problematic a lot faster than you’d imagine.
If I get a bug up my butt about this, I might codify my ideas about Sidekicks into a splat book. In the meantime, though, I have comics to go make.
Some of you have already gotten your rewards. Some of you have not. If you have a signed copy, the virus lock-down order (and common sense) is preventing me from driving the pile of comic books to Zach’s part of the state for him to sign them. Sorry!
If you had the backer reward with both comics, those are at the printer and you should see them soon(tm).