Monday, November 10, 2014

Suggestions from a GM that allows the Leadership Feat

The Arm's Commander

GM_Solspiral’s approach on utilizing the Leadership Feat at your table without breaking your game.

Introduction: I see it all the time on just about every Pathfinder board and blog, no sane GM allows the Leadership Feat. It left me with two choices, I could accept that as a comment on my sanity or explain why and how the Leadership Feat can be a GM’s best friend.

To do that we’re going to have to deal with that fellow hanging out below this line of text.

Leadership can be quite OP, I do in fact see the pink elephant in the room. On paper the player gets to trade in one feat for a minimum of 1 additional character sheet and likely more of feats and actions. A high Charisma character with the leadership feat could well turn into a quasi summoner and to borrow a term from online gaming LAG the SERVER!

Basically this guy:

The first step in taking care of any problem is recognizing the problem and the facts are that if we allow it as GMs players will abuse the rules and with the Leadership Feat that is not a difficult matter. I see it and I get why folk don’t bother but there is one very good reason to not throw the baby out with the bathwater and that is this…

Players with the Leadership Feat are typically much more invested in the game. They care about the story, they care about their cohorts, and they care about their followers (or basically lose them by the mechanics of the feat.) As a GM you have at least one NPC that your player cares enough about to actually listen to and that character can have any number of motives and plot hooks attached to it to draw the PCs ever deeper into your plot.

Here’s a few reasons beyond player engagement to consider:
-Cohorts are a great way to let a player that gets bored with their PCs a way to change out characters as needed in the story (simply flip cohort and character.)
-If a player dies the Cohort can serve as a backup if the intention is to resurrect the fallen PC.
-Cohorts can handle roles no one else at the table wants to play that might be necessary (like being the party healer.)
-Cohorts and followers can divert a wealthy PCs resources into something other than making themselves an optimized Frankenstein.
-Cohorts can absorb some damage if you are prone to “throwing hard” or can be a way to work out some logistics in a dungeon crawl (like guarding the door out for example.
-Cohorts are a great way to incorporate inconsistent players who weave in and out of the game because of scheduling difficulties.
-If you're table is short of having enough players.

I’ll get more into cohorts in a bit. I want to talk about followers next.

A simple houserule with followers can be this: the player has to provide some sort fo reason and structure for the followers to attract them. This can be a ship, caravan, business, or castle, the bottom line is people aren’t going to drop everything and follow your hero without some sort of livelihood.

I’d also encourage the following restrictions:
-No magic item sweatshops
-No body doubles among the followers, a follower isn’t there to take an assassin’s arrow for you.
-Followers take at least 50% of the income they generate.
-No daisy-chaining leadership (a cohort cannot also be a leader unless the PC is swapping prime characters.)

Back to cohorts, again some simple restrictions make this work a little better.
-Only 1 cohort can act in a round if the party has multiple instances of the Leadership feat, unless the GM has specified otherwise.
-Cohorts do not gain their own wealth by level.
-Cohorts level with the PC they are attached to and act on the same initiative.
-Cohorts can only share a primary class with the PC they are attached to, basically your PC doesn’t attract followers that are too similar to the other party members your character already travels with.

We can have nice things…
There’s a social contract when you game with someone. As a GM your role is to facilitate the telling of a good story and keeping your players entertained. When there’s conflict you are the arbiter, you get to run the show and essentially play god and in exchange you do the bulk of the work of making the game function. This means talking to players that are ruining other people’s good times or accepting that sometimes your own fun needs to take a back seat. At the end of the day your players are the stars of the show, you’re the director this needs to be a give and take.

As a player it is your job to fulfil your role in the story (typically the hero) and have a good time. You are responsible for one thing, not letting your good time harsh on everyone else’s. This occasionally means letting the other players have the spotlight. This means making a character that others will enjoy, not just you. Optimization is an excellent way to entertain yourself outside the game, it is a rather boring way to play it unless you really like playing games in easy mode.

When players and GMs can be reasonable and responsible you can play a drow, or have the leadership feat, or even play with mythic characters. We can have nice things if we all agree beforehand not to break them.

***Thanks to Wheldrake for the suggestions.


  1. Interesting approach, I allowed my party's bard to take leadership and he ended up asking if he could switch the feat out at a later point as he wasn't enjoying all the micro-managing. So now we have a trustworthy NPC keeping tabs on things back in town while the party goes adventuring.

    Perhaps I should have found ways to tie the cohort into the story better.

  2. Over a year later. . .

    I have one player who consistently takes the Leadership feat. The others don't seem interested. He also happens to be the player who, as they are clearing out cool dungeons or other locations, consistently comments on what could be done to turn them into a base of operations. Basically, he's a stronghold builder. It's the sort of thing he enjoys. He also regularly takes his turn as DM (as do all of us, we're a small group of longtime gamers). I have never worried about Leadership breaking my game. I worry more about the seemingly innocuous purchases a different player likes to make. I'm pretty sure he's part tinker gnome in real life because he always turns a string of innocent purchases into some monstrous invention that makes my brain hurt.

    1. Please elaborate on these purchases... I may need to buy some innocuous stuff...