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When a character takes the Leadership feat, how are the followers and the cohort obtained? Do you have to actively recruit them during the game and hope the DM gives you some decent followers, or do they fall from the sky the second you take the feat, micro-managed the way you want them?

Both options seem a bit silly to me.

I would like to hear some house-rulings. My DM hasn't ever dealt with this feat, and some advice would be nice.

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Typically the same way you deal with all of the other new resources / abilities that you gain on level-up (e.g. Wizard spells, new feats, etc.).

The most common way is to restrict leveling up to some kind of downtime. When the game resumes, the new spells have been learned, the new techniques mastered, and the followers have been attracted.

It all just happens "off-screen," because training and meeting montages get old pretty quickly.

This has the advantage of satisfying both the narrative and the mechanics reasonably well. The NPC cohort is "explained," and at the same time players aren't playing without one of their feats.

I have occasionally seen groups put off the acquisition of a cohort until the next time the party reached town (these groups typically allowed leveling up mid-dungeon). This works fine, as long as the delay is small (not more than a session or so).

If it's going to be a while before an opportunity for the cohort to be introduced shows up, I would recommend either the "poof" method (uh, he's always been here) or banning the feat until it's more convenient.

I have seen followers put off longer than that (trickling in over time), as they generally have less of an impact on the game. I have also seen some DMs have followers begin to show up beforethe PC took the feat, for the sake of making the narrative a bit smoother.

Roleplaying Cohort Acquisition

I would recommend against fully roleplaying the acquisition of the cohort in most instances. A few paragraphs of "this is how you met" combined with a character whose background explains why he's looking for a cohort is generally sufficient.

There are several problems with fully roleplaying it out.

  • It creates a spotlight issue. This is an encounter that only one player really cares about. Everyone else is just kind of along for the ride.

  • It undermines the feat. If you're going to the trouble of fully roleplaying the recruitment process, what purpose is the feat serving?

  • Things get weird in the failure state. What happens if the player fails to reasonably attract their follower? Sticks their foot in their mouth, doesn't rescue them from the big-bad, etc.?

    Do they lose the feat? Is the feat suspended until they can try again? And if so, how long until that happens?

    The general rule of not rolling the dice unless you're okay with failure applies here.

Cohort Control

So, who controls the cohort? On the one hand, the cohort is a semi-independent NPC, which falls under the DM's responsibility. On the other hand, the cohort is part of a PC's character concept, and should prioritize support of that concept over any plans of the campaign setting / DM.

As a practical matter, shared custody with the player taking the bulk of the responsibility is generally best.

During combat, there's little reason not to give control of the cohort to the player running it. Yes, this means that particular player will get more time as the active player. But that time will be spent regardless of who controls the cohort, and the DM already has a lot on their plate during combat.

The DM should mostly step in when the cohort's behavior is important for narrative purposes, or if the player is making the cohort do things that are a little too self-sacrificing (giving up gear, throwing themselves in front of monsters without support, etc.).

During narrative portions of the game, either the player or the DM can control the cohort (whichever makes sense at the time), with any conflicts defaulting to the DM.

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As a GM, I have created cohorts for players that take the Leadership feat that fulfill a need for the party (no party rogue so they get a guy who can't fight but can open locks, etc). I generally try to introduce them through the story in a way that makes sense; the cohort was a prisoner of giants rescued by the PCs, or approached the PCs in town, having heard they were coming -- that sort of thing.

A good GM will find a way to get you your cohort quickly so that your feat doesn't go wasted, but followers may take some time to obtain. It doesn't make sense that you would need to actively recruit a cohort or followers -- the Leadership feat is an abstraction of the idea that you are such a great leader that people want to follow you and have chosen to do so of their own accord. Similarly, NPCs dropping out of the sky or otherwise simply appearing all of a sudden is a very OOC, "video game-y" approach -- something I personally am strongly opposed to in my role-playing games, but some people just want to roll dice. Then again, it is possible in a fantasy setting for a cohort to literally fall out of the sky for good reason, too. Either way, that is something you should discuss with your GM.

I have heard of some GMs who allow their players to make their NPC cohorts -- in my opinion, this is wrong, and a bad idea, since it's an NPC and NPCs should be created by the GM, or you risk the cohort becoming a second PC for the player.

I also personally don't believe that the player gets direct control over the cohort but have heard that ruled differently as well. Again, it becomes a second PC for the player and has potential for spotlighting issues. The cohort should, however, generally follow the orders of the PC whom he or she follows, as long as it doesn't put the life of the cohort in direct danger.

Ultimately, though, the answer to your question is this: work it out with your GM. Leadership isn't a feat that can simply be taken, and should definitely require GM approval before even considering taking it, because of the extra work involved on both sides. The rules for Leadership are vague and give little direction in how it should be handled (probably intentionally, to give players and GM leeway in how they run it), and it can really change the dynamic of the game -- especially if you end up with a cohort full of PC class levels and is as optimized as any PC in the party.

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