Saturday, September 13, 2008

Leadership: The Solution

To allow, or not to allow. That is the question. A lot of feats out there, primarily Item Creation feats, always beg this question. Do I want to give my players the false hope that they will actually have downtime to make these items? Am I denying a feat when in fact there will be downtime during which there will be nothing else to do?! Always a debate. Perhaps the biggest debate in my book is for the Leadership feat.

Leadership has the potential to get bad. It can wind up with a ton of figures on the map that are not unlike speedbumps as far as the characters are concerned. And suddenly I as the DM have to come up with how many different personalities? Unless of course I just want the player to manage them all and wind up with thirty followers with identical personalities.

So how can I keep my players and myself happy? Well, I'll allow Leadership - but I want to have fun with it to.

Followers aside for a moment, my solution doesn't work for everyone, because some people just really want to make a second character (their cohort) and get to fight with two characters during combat. Well, I've tried this method and it simply doesn't work.

Characters somehow find cohorts that perfectly accentuate their own abilities, and who get lost in the shuffle as two-dimensional characters with no real motives or backstory besides kissing the character's feet every night.

Hey! Cohorts are people too!

So, first off, I do away with followers. I allow characters to gather followers, but I do not allow followers to go adventuring. They can start a small village, run a store, manage a keep, or anything like that, but these folks will never join your party officially. As for the cohort, while I offer the player some control over the type of cohort, it will be me as the DM who actually makes and runs the character.

This takes a little getting used to, as not all DM's all knowledgeable enough at the game to run too many NPC's. With a well laid-out character sheet however, taking on a DM-PC can be done, and is actually fun.

Pro: You actually become attatched to your "PC" and get rid of that nasty tendency to stack the odds against your player.

Con: You have to be very careful about not making a character who can give the players too much info or who might be tempted to roleplay. You have to get used to the NPC being impartial, going along with the PC's and even perhaps feeding them faulty information sometimes. (This can be fun).

So what do I do when my players take Leadership? I have them fill out the following sheet, then I get to make the cohort and it's up to them whether or not the NPC is accepted. This is all done through roleplaying while I don't even show the sheet to the player. Then, I essentially add an NPC to the party, and take control of them in roleplaying encounters and combat.

Another Pro: Having NPCs under your control with the party can actually be really good. If the players are ever being really really stupid, if you're sneaky, you can nudge them in the right direction without them knowing. This takes practice.

The Leadership Form
My current leadership score:

1. Which type of character class:
- Warrior
- Arcane
- Divine
- Adventurer

2. Which alignment appeals most to you:
- Good
- Evil
- Chaotic
- Lawful

3. Which type of character concept:
- Brute
- Peaceful
- Explorer
- Scholar (book smarts/INT)
- Pious
- Tactician
- Sneak
- Artist
- Sage (worldly/WIS)
- Student

4. Which type of race:
- Same as you
- Humanoid (standard)
- Humanoid (nonstandard)
- Monster
- Animal

So, lets say that our good friend Kiikii-Jiikii wants a stalwart companion to keep him safe (since he's a chicken). Kiikii could specify that he wants a warrior companion who is primarily good. Since Kiikii is looking for brawn, he chooses the Brute concept. Feeling a little crazy, Kiikii chooses Nonstandard Humanoids as the race.

Kiikii's Cohort Options

Class: Fighter, Barbarian, Ranger (two-weapon), Monk, Paladin, Duskblade, Dragon Shaman, Samurai, Knight... and so on...

Alignment: Either Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, or Lawful Good.

Character Concept: Since Kiikii chose Brute we can probably start to narrow down class choices. This mostly has to do with the character's ability score dispersal however, and how they react. They are probably either a dumb thug, or someone who simply deals a lot of damage. They're not too tactical - they just hurt things.

Race: Since Kiikii picked Nonstandard Humanoid there are really a TON of options. Though the character has to be good, it could still be anything from a Kobold to a Gnoll.

Based on all these ideas, I would try to make a character that would add something unique to the party and who would also give Kiikii a fun companion to pal around with. Remember that you probably don't want to make a character who rivals someone else in the party. For example, I wouldn't make a Barbarian cohort, since there's already a barbarian in Kiikii's party.

Plus, I would want to make it something that I would enjoy playing, and that could be played fairly easily. Write up a sheet, pick out a figure, and you're good to go!

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