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The Leadership feat has always interested me, but many times I have seen people call it overpowered, unbalanced, and ripe for abuse by min-maxing players. And these are all fair points, not just about this feat, but about any feature that turns one character into several, regardless of whether it comes from a feat like Leadership or a class like ThrallHerd. Letting one player suddenly build an arbitrary number of extra characters for their use is dangerous, while forcing the DM to do it is a burden. Also, even disregarding the issue of their creation, allowing players to freely control them dramatically changes the game's difficulty.

On the other hand I do want some option to act as a leader among NPCs. I know some other options like the Mentor feat allow players to "recruit" level one NPCs, and various organizations have affiliation scores that reflect your standing with the group. However, what I am looking for is a way to start and run my own organization. Are there options for attracting loyal NPCs to work for me?

Please note, I am not looking for cannon fodder to accompany me into dungeons and I don't plan on doing something silly like gathering twenty level 1 warlocks around a Ring Gate and having them fire Eldritch Blasts through it all day long. My goal is to attract craftsmen that will practice weapon and armor smithing in forges I build and use tools I craft. My main concern is their loyalty, because I don't want to hand thousands of gold worth of enchanted gear to hirelings.

Are there in-game options for accomplishing this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I've removed the [leader] tag, that tag is specifically for questions concerning the D&D 4e mechanic (see leader for the tag description). I think the followers tag here has got what you need. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 9, 2022 at 21:07

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Good treatment (or hostages, if you are evil)

You don't need any special feats for this to make it happen. All you need is to build a good and trusting relationship with your retainers, by offering long-term employment instead of day-to-day hire, by paying them fairly, reliably and on time, by protecting them, by helping their families with healing when ill, by treating them well, by throwing the occasional party or feast, and by doing heroic deeds so they'll be proud to work for you.

Or, if your character is evil, you could take their eldest kids and hold them hostage somewhere, best also treating them well while doing so. That was very common practice in Earth's history to ensure loyalty. For example, if I recall right, Julius Cesar had the kids of the gaulic tribes that he was allied with as his "guests", just as a little encouragement to remember not to betray him.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The former (good) in non-theortical terms I think is semi-covered in hiring NPCs. \$\endgroup\$
    – joedragons
    Dec 9, 2022 at 23:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a great answer. As a nitpick, I'm not sure evil would be required to use hostages gently in a pseudo-medieval setting. As you mention, it was very common practice in the real world and frequently accepted. As long as they were treated well and the threat was implied rather than direct, I think it would not necessarily trip into evil. In fiction, Ned Stark did it and he was the closest thing to a "good" character in the first season. Also, consider adding in oaths of fealty. Also incredibly common historically with variations in time and place. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 29, 2023 at 16:27
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Leadership used to be a class feature for all classes, pre-3e. At a certain levels one automatically gained followers of various types, even real estate.

In third edition, this concept was converted into the DM optional feats of Leadership and Landlord.

Another way that players were supposed to gain help was the Hirelings concept. Basically, you paid NPCs (or their families) for help in finding traps and fighting bad guys.

Hirelings are still available in third edition, just hit up your local tavern or other local place of information exchange, some RP and cash later, and you're good to go.

Dipping into third edition sourcebooks nets you organizations such as Guilds, Houses, and more, complete with frameworks and suggested rules. Start a business, a guild, a mercenary band, a government, an army, or join an existing one.

Any of these balanced options are available without using the potentially problematic Leadership feat.

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Letting one player suddenly build an arbitrary number of extra characters for their use is dangerous, while forcing the DM to do it is a burden.

Note: This answer is just about DM technique for handling this.

The PC who takes this feat does not need to build various of NPCs, neither should they do. While the feat does say that they can get a group of followers as well as a cohort, it does not mean they need to build them on their own. At least, not for the followers.

The main benefit for this feat in-game would most likely be the cohort, which means this PC can control two characters at the same time. This could be beneficial, but should not be very imbalance since this also doubled the work this PC needs to do. So I would consider it as kinda balance. (If there's some broken combo that requires two characters to achieve, this PC can always grab another PC to achieve it. Adding a cohort just make it simpler, not making something previously impossible become possible.)

On the other hand, (I assume) what those min-maxing players are really utilising from this feat is not the cohort, but are those followers. A Lv.6 sorcerer with 18 charisma can get 10 Lv.1 followers at the beginning, which would grow in a very fast pace as their levels and charisma progress. Yet, as a DM, we can say that their followers shall not always "be following" them.

The campaign authors have given us some useful examples. You may find some NPCs have leadership feats but don't have their followers (sometimes even cohorts) sticking with them. Most of them are running some kind of organization (a guild, a commercial alliance, etc.) and use this feat to represent the organisation they are organising. You can find one of the examples in the 5th chapter of The Age of Worms. Same for the PCs. If they are taking Leadership, put most of their followers into the character's background (since they will be handling the organisation's day-to-day operation), and just let them bring their cohort and perhaps 1-2 extra (and likely non-combatant) helpers. This will not only balance the feat but also make it much more interesting (story-wise).

For attracting NPCs work for you, rule-wise, I don't think there's an official option for that. But a DM may allow you to pay for someone to work for you using a similar rule of Planar Binding. Story-wise, if someone takes Leadership when they level up, I won't let them simply "suddenly build an arbitrary number of extra characters". Instead, I will let some NPCs come and ask to join the team when they enter the next town. It would make the whole story go much more smoothly. If you are that PC, put your feat into the story and fit it into the campaign settings. Your DM will be grateful for your act.

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