The Pet often takes the role of The Tank or The DPSer.
The Petmaster then plays a support role, as The Healer, The Mezzer, the Glass Cannon, The Nuker or Character Buffer to keep the pet from getting overwhelmed.
Game and Story Use
- You don't see a lot of this in tabletop RPGs, at least not as much as in on-line and console games. There's a couple reasons - which also serve as potential problems for the GM to be aware of.
- Spotlight Balance - Even having just one pet means that player gets twice as many actions each round. This can be solved by having the GM roll for the pet, but that's not really any better. Best solution is probably just to streamline the pet - so you get an extra action, but it doesn't come with nearly the same number of tactical options that the PCs action gets. Also, never let a player who suffers from regular Analysis Paralysis play The Petmaster.
- Power Balance - Often, the pets are weak and go squish - and then aren't really worth the resurrection costs. But if you crank up pet power to compensate, they'll end up overshadowing the other PCs. The proper balance is probably making both the pet and the master just a little weaker than other PCs, so you get two actions at slightly less potency than the one that most other players get. Some players egos can't handle this, however, and truth be told it's hard to get the balance right so that you don't end up Master of None.
- Pet Experience - The power balance issue has an additional wrinkle when it comes to experience. Either you don't level up the pet, and it becomes relatively less effective over time. Or, you do level up the pet, and have to address the perception that this one PC is effectively getting more experience than the others.
- Not to say it can't be done. The GM will need to be mindful of all the possible hurdles, though, "taking the pet's temperature" every few levels, and possibly making adjustments to restore balance as things go.
- Another unrelated problem is that players tend to ignore their pets when they aren't actually using them. This applies not only to Petmasters, but to the characters' mounts if they ride horses/hippogriffs/war dogs, or have familiars which augment thier powers. Like Vaarsuvius' raven which tends to pop into existence only when someone remembers it.
- Summoners tend to be the most closely related role in Tabletop RPGs - their "pets" are called in by magic and disappear once they're done.