How To Use Leadership, Part 2: Followers
Followers are the little people, the help, and the minions. They go out and do the small tasks, the errands, and the dirty jobs that the player character just doesn’t want to do. They are not meat shields, cannon fodder, or the lemmings you throw at your enemies. They are all NPCs but are unified by their loyalty to the player character and his cause.
To start, how should followers be built and by who? A GM should be building them unless they can seriously trust the player and approve every detail. Followers should be built with basic NPC ability scores and wealth, mostly with NPC classes and standard races. Unusual races can be used, but only if they fit the Player Character or the setting. You can also use player classes, but try not to use them more often than the NPC classes.
We covered in the last post about how followers do not gain levels. As the PC levels they gain more followers of a variety of levels, but the majority of them are going to be 1st level. While this might seem like a waste of a resource to high level characters, this couldn’t be father from the truth. There are many uses for them that both the Game Master and player can benefit from. The imagination is the only limit here.
For Game Masters who are worried about a player marching twenty followers into a fight, I recommend discouraging that strategy. How? Try just saying no at first. You have that power and you should use it anytime you feel something is going to break or slow down your game. If that doesn’t seem to work, you can make it clear that dead followers will lower their leadership score. You should only lower it if the followers are killed because the player deliberately sent them into a fight. The last thing you can do is have the followers refuse to do anything overly dangerous. These people are not mindless drones, so be sure to make that clear.
Does this mean that followers shouldn’t be built for combat related roles? No, in fact many of the jobs they can be given assume they may find themselves in a fight from time to time. Guards and bouncers in particular are noteworthy in this regard, and though they may not stand up to the foes the player characters tackle they can still discourage low level annoyances. In this case it is okay to have followers geared towards combat, as their jobs mean they are not actively put into danger. Instead, they are passively providing security and should be in a place they can flee from if things get too hot. I suggest that Game Masters who are in a situation where these followers are going be attacked by very dangerous foes have the followers be at negative health but stabilized when the player character discovers them. The followers can then give valuable information about who attacked them and provide another plot hook.
Players should consider who they want as followers and if they are going to follow a theme or not. In some cases you can just assume certain types of followers are available. For example, if the player character runs a thieves guild you can assume there are some thieves available at all times. However, in most cases you should keep a list of how many of each type of follower you have and do your best to keep track of the jobs you are giving them. This might seem like a great deal of paperwork but in reality it is little more than keeping a list and making minor notes.
The majority of the followers are going to be at 1st level, which means low skill modifiers, poor combat ability, and only a single feat for most. While this may seem a bit limiting, there are plenty of jobs where low skilled labor is better suited to trained professionals. These are going to be jobs that the player character either doesn’t have the time for or doesn’t want to do. I’ll have a fuller list of ideas at the end of this article but a few quick examples would be house cleaners, runners, and builders.
Second and third level are a bit more skilled and have a few more abilities. You can start using these followers for tasks that require a bit of training but don’t really need too many levels to do. Book keepers, entertainers, artisans, and guards are good examples of uses for these followers. Once again, I’ll have a fuller list later.
Fourth through sixth level are for the truly trained followers. These are the people who are experts and professionals. You may not have these until much later levels, so be as wise as you can when you pick them. The GM may allow you to replace them, but making a habit of it could have negative consequences. While it may be tempting to use these skilled followers in dangerous situations, they will likely be up against monsters two or three times as powerful as they are. Instead, use them for out-of-combat purposes such as magic item crafting, healing, and scouting the surrounding wilderness.
While your followers will come with their own gear, you should still be setting aside funds and treasure to award them with. They need to make a living, and you should do what you can to be fair and generous to your followers. Providing a stronghold for them to work from is also beneficial to everyone, as it gives them a safe place to work and you a higher leadership score. It is up to the Game Master to decide just how much it costs to keep followers happy, but I suggest that it shouldn’t be anything like paying for a hireling. Followers typically have day job that they are making a living off of and so most of their services to the player character are done out of loyalty. That doesn’t mean that the followers won’t appreciate new gear or a gold piece thrown their way from time to time.
One type of follower that could benefit the player character a great deal is a steward. The steward is like a personal assistant, accountant, bookkeeper, and household manager all rolled into one. They can be used to manage the other followers, help manage your finances, and do the day-to-day work of running a stronghold. A good practice would be to give the steward a sum of money, say 100gp, and have them award it out to all the other followers. The Game Master can also use the steward to deliver news and make requests on behalf of all the other followers. This is a good candidate for 2nd or 3rd level, as stewards need some skill and training to do their job. I suggest using the expert class, but you could use the rogue class if you wanted someone a bit unique in their skill sets.
Other unusual follower examples include heralds, footmen, valets, lawyers, and scribes. These are followers that are going to be used often or really useful the few times they are needed. The lawyer and scribe are the later, and can become invaluable in certain type of campaigns. Of course, not all campaigns are the same and thus what followers are needed are going to be different. Using common sense and consulting with the Game Master is going to be the best policy, so don’t try to use everything listed below.
- Accoutrer: This is someone who would make or buy the clothing and equipment soldiers needed.
- Attendant: Someone who attends to small needs and performs menial tasks. They may literally follow the PC.
- Bard: While he could belong to the bard class, this is mostly a follower who writes the PC’s history and composes poems and songs about them.
- Boatsman: A boat’s pilot. He may not have the skill needed for combat with a boat but he could at least pilot one.
- Body Guard: At any level these are just to look tough and discourage attack, not to actually fight off an attacker.
- Bookkeeper: Looks after accounts and finances.
- Builder/Construction Worker: Experts and Warriors are good for these.
- Butler/Batman: a personal manservant, typically the head of the household staff.
- Camp Follower: Not just prostitutes, but people who would provide other services. In this case, it would be someone who would set up and take down camp, maintain camp fires, and do campsite chores.
- Caretaker: Looks after the PC’s property, mostly by keeping it maintained and in good condition.
- Carter: Packs goods onto carts and drives them.
- Cartographer: A mapmaker. Never get lost again.
- Chambermaid: A female servant who looks after bedrooms in houses.
- Coachman: Drives coaches
- Cook: A servant who prepares food.
- Craftsman: Any type of professional who crafts items. I could list hundreds of titles, as there isn’t a one craft fits all. Craftsman at this level are little better than apprentices. You could also have these assist you or other magic item craftsmen with the Cooperative Crafting feat.
- Doctor/Barber/Surgeon: The adept class is best for these professions.
- Falconer: A trainer and keeper of birds of prey.
- Footman: A messenger who would run ahead to taverns and inns and establish a room and board before the master arrived.
- Guard: Mostly just there to look tough and discourage theft.
- Guide: Either urban or wilderness guide. They are typically skilled and knowledgeable.
- Herald: Not just a announcer, but a diplomat, an important messenger, and a scholar. Look into their history for more information.
- Hunter: Hunters can be used to look for fresh food in the wilderness.
- Lawyer: They can assist the PC with creating, interpreting, and signing contracts, as well as representing them in legal maters.
- Maid: a female servant who cleaned house.
- Ostler: Someone who looks after horses.
- Porter: Someone who packs, carries, and transports his master’s luggage, loot, and gear.
- Scribe: Scribes are really good with words and can take dictation as well as write those letters you keep forgetting about.
- Servant: There are many titles for servants, mostly depending on the specific task they were paid to do. Some were nearly uneducated and others were highly skilled.
- Steward: Another title for someone who looked after households and property. In this case it would be someone who looked after the other followers.
- Valet: A bit higher class than a footman. They attend to their master’s needs and used for more higher class errands.