How To Use Leadership, Part 1: Understanding the Feat
Leadership is arguably the most overpowered feat in Pathfinder. In earlier editions of the most popular fantasy role playing game your character would naturally attract a cohort and followers. It was a built in, somewhat optional, feature that showed just how influential your character was upon the world around him. From the 3rd edition and into Pathfinder this has required a feat, which has only a few paragraphs describing its limits and abilities along with a couple of tables. For the munchkin, this feat can be abused to a point where GMs ban it outright. Used right, and given the correct limitations, this feat can actually be very balanced and useful to the whole party and the GM.
The leadership is somewhat confusing to those new to the game or to the game masters who have allowed a prejudice against it to prevent them from looking at it. Simply put, the feat allows the player a new kind of resource in the game. That resource is a loyal force of people who will do most any task. This isn’t a free resource, as I will point out later in more detail, but an affordable one. The specifics of how that resource works is often what confuses people the most. To fully explain it I will be splitting this into three parts. The first is going over the feat as it is written in detail and making it clear just how it works. The second part will be going over cohorts and the third will cover followers.
Let’s start by looking at the feat itself.
It is clear that it allows you to gain the loyalty of NPCs as both followers and cohorts. You need to find out what your leadership score is to find out what level these loyal minions are at. You should start out by figuring out your base score. This is done by adding your level and Charisma modifier together with any bonuses or penalties listed in the table labeled “Leader’s Reputation.” Your score for followers and cohorts are different from each other, this is important to keep in mind as you figure out the next parts. Use the second table to figure out what your cohort score is and third to figure out the follower score.
Cohorts are very different from followers. They gain experience and levels, they always use PC classes, and they are not limited in race. Followers are very low level, more limited in race and class, and never gain any levels. Cohorts will be following you around a great deal of the time, while followers will be the ones to stay at home base or running errands.
The most confusing part that I find is often overlooked is how cohorts gain experience. They do not gain a portion of the experience like they are a PC. Instead they gain a unique amount of experience points determined by an equation given in the leadership feat. That equation is (Cohort’s level divided by Player Character’s level) multiplied by the amount of Experience the PC gained. Do not forget that your cohort may never be less than two levels below the PC. If they gain enough experience to be one lower, they do not gain that level and instead stop just shy of leveling up.
Another point that you do not want to overlook is the alignment restriction on cohorts. If you try to recruit a cohort with a different alignment your Leadership score in regards to cohorts is one lower. You cannot recruit a cohort whose alignment is opposed to your own in any way. That means that if you are Lawful Good you cannot have a Chaotic Good or Lawful Evil cohort. You may have a Lawful Neutral, Neutral Good, or Neutral cohort.
As for followers, you should not forget that they do not gain experience and thus do not gain any levels. Once you have a follower set up, they can’t grow stronger or gain any levels, even if you have a higher level slot open up because of an increase in Leadership score. I will talk more about how to utilize followers, and what you can use them for, so this limitation isn’t as bad as it might seem.
Now that we have looked over and covered some of the confusing parts of the feat we can move on to covering the ambiguous nature of cohorts and followers. I will talk about these in future posts, covering how players and game masters alike can benefit from the resources this feat grants. I will also talk about how to keep this feat from being too powerful an option and how to balance it out in and out of combat.