November 20, 2008

[4E] Leadership Feat

I suppose you could say that I'm obsessing a bit about bringing more things from the earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons into the current age with 4th Edition. So, why break out into new territory? This seems to be fertile ground, yeah?

A quick blog search revealed that no one (that I could find) has updated the Leadership feat from 3rd Edition to 4th Edition. Nor have I been able to find any blog posts about bringing back the OD&D 'end game' to 4th Edition: I'm talking about Stronghold Building here. It is (in my mind) one of the glaring omission from the 4E RAW. In any case, I'm not sure if this is going to be a series about "end-game" for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, or a "one-off" - likely the former.

To get things started, today I'll present my own (unplaytested, mind you) version of the Leadership feat, as well as some additional feats that aim to support and modify the way in which the Leadership feat functions. But first, some background on my design choices.

Some Background on Leadership in Dungeons & Dragons
The OD&D Men & Magic book simply indicates that each character class (Fighting-Man, Cleric, and Magic User) can build a stronghold once they reach a certain level. There is nothing, that I could find, that specifically suggests this is overall goal of the game or how this process even really works. Maybe Sham has some insight that I'm missing.

In 1st and 2nd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the core rules are much more explicit. Each character class in the AD&D Players Handbook indicates that the players may choose to construct a stronghold once they are experienced enough. The minimum level required for stronghold construction varies from class to class, as do the numbers and types of followers attracted by choosing to do so. Again, the rules never say that stronghold construction is the overall goal of the game, but reading between the lines it certainly seems that it was. For players whose characters are prohibited from building strongholds (i.e. thieves), these players motivations would presumably be very different from their companions. Nonetheless, stronghold or not, all player character classes in AD&D attract followers at some point during their career. The general outlay for followers, based on character class in AD&D, looked like this:
  • Clerics at 8th level, who have also built a temple, can attract up to 200 congregants and an armed host of up to 190 low-level armed men-at-arms.
  • Fighters, once they reach 9th level, must construct a stronghold and clear the land of all hostile creatures within 50 miles of it (i.e. a freehold). Once this has been done, they automatically attract a Leader of up to 7th level and up to 120 heavily armed soldiers.
  • Assassins, Bards, Monks, Rangers and Thieves all attract lower level members of their own class once they reach a sufficiently high enough level. Monks and Rangers are not required to build a stronghold for this benefit.
  • Druids, Paladins, Magic-Users, Illusionists may construct strongholds, but they never gain followers automatically as part of their class benefits.
It is important to note that AD&D makes an important distinction between mercenaries, hirelings, followers, and henchmen. Suffice to say that the "spirit" of any 4E Leadership feat should draw it roots from the way the D&D game has dealt with followers and henchmen.

In 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons, the term "henchmen" was dropped and replaced with the term "cohort". The reasoning for this is beyond me, but they effectively represent the same type of underling:
"Cohorts are loyal servants who follow a particular character or sometimes a group of characters ... They are hired by or seek out a PC or PCs, and they work out a deal agreeable to both parties so that the NPC works for the characters. A cohort serves as a general helper, a bodyguard, a sidekick, or just someone to watch a character’s back. Although technically subservient, cohorts are usually too valuable to waste on performing menial tasks." -- 3.5E Dungeon Masters Guide.
The designers of 3E D&D removed automatic followers for the character classes, but added the optional Leadership feat which was detailed in the DMG. This opened up the possibility of attracting followers for all player characters, regardless of class, but had an important caveat - the players were limited in being able to attract only ONE cohort by taking the Leadership feat. Any additional cohorts, if any, would be attracted only by skillful roleplaying and specifically recruiting them in game (much as was suggested in AD&D for attracting henchmen). Taking the Leadership feat still allowed the PC to attract a host of followers (low-level NPCs) that presumably accompanied the cohort once the feat was taken. The level of the cohort and the numbers of followers was determined by the PCs "leadership score", a new attribute associated with the Leadership feat. A character's leadership score was a function of their level, charisma modifier, and a number of additional modifiers.

Lastly, there is no mention of hirelings, henchmen, followers or cohorts in any of the 4E core rule books. Thus, taking all this in, I've updated a 4E version of the Leadership feat so that you too might step back into time and play 4E rules in the spirit of OD&D.

Leadership [Paragon Tier]
Prerequisites: The character must be at least 11th level to take this feat.

: Having this feat enables the character to attract a cohort (e.g. a loyal companion) and a host of devoted followers over a period of a few weeks or months. See below for what sort of cohort and how many followers the character can recruit. The character's ability to function as a leader and attract followers depends on their leadership score. A PCs base leadership score is calculated as one-half their level plus their Charisma modifier.The construction of a stronghold or other base of operations should provide a minimum +2 bonus to the characters leadership score. Additional situational bonuses or penalties, feats, and even magic items may also modify a PCs leadership score as the DM sees fit.

: The starting level of the cohort is one-half the PCs leadership score + 2, rounded down. For example, a Level 11 character with a Charisma bonus of +7 would have a leadership score of 12 and the cohort whom they attract to follow them would be level 8. The cohort can be an NPC of any race, class, or type that is appropriate, but must always be at least two levels below the character. The DM should use the NPC Design Steps (Chapter 10, Dungeons Masters Guide) to create a fitting cohort for the player.

: Upon taking the Leadership feat, the character will attract a number of loyal low-level retainers as indicated by the table below. These retainers will usually share something in common with the PC such as a common race, class, religion or goal. Use the Monster Manual with your DM to help decide the exact host of followers the character attracts.
Leadership Score Total Levels Highest Level
Below 10 - -
6 1 1
7 1 1
8 2 1
9 3 2
10 5 2
11 7 2
12 10 3
13 14 3
14 19 3
15 25 4
16 33 4
17 42 4
18 52 5
19 65 5
20 80 5
21 97 6
22 117 6
23 140 6
24 166 7
25 195 7
Above 25 228 7
Total Levels: This value represents the total number of NPC levels for the host of followers.

Highest Level
: This value represents the highest level (HL) follower included in the group. There is only one individual with the highest level, two followers with HL-2, four followers with HL-3, eight followers with HL-4, etc.


  1. Maybe Sham has some insight that I'm missing.

    I'm getting there. Volume 3 has some sections that speak to campaigns and stronghold building.

    From what I gather, the ultiamte goal of D&D players, "back in the day", was to conquer the unknown (be it wilderness, dungeons, or a combination thereof), and to eventually establish a stronghold to serve as a base-camp for future adventures (with the protagonist, or with one of their hirelings/descendants). A never ending campaign of establishing order by eradicating chaos.

  2. Leadership is probably the most overlooked - but cool - yet probably unbalancing feature in 3.x, or at least in the circles I've played in. Glad you ported it to 4e.

  3. Leadership is my favorite feat, absolutely. I once ran a game that had two characters who had taken it, and it improved the game immensely. I'll probably hand it out for free if and when I run a d20-derived game again. (And your spiffy 4E version, if I run that again. I like the cohorts=NPC followers=monsters set up, way to keep it simple.)

    It does seem to work particularly well with stronghold play; I don't know that it would have been as much fun if they hadn't also had a ship, and eventually a whole fleet, to tool around in. Having a couple of ships to sail made having a bunch of low level (but decently skilled) followers really useful, and provided a convenient place to stash them when the going got rough.

  4. Hey all~ glad you liked it. Yeah, the table of followers you recieved in 1E D&D, and even in 3E, was unnecessarily complicated. I did however, being the nerdish person I am, model the total levels given out between the editions for followers and made a simple trendline for how many levels of followers you would receive based on your leadership score - if I remember correctly, it was something y=floor(.0005x^5) where x is your leadership score and y is the total levels of NPCs. In any case, giving total levels gives the DM and the player flexibility. Hopefully someone will make use of the feat. Now.. back to writing about stronghold building in 4E...

  5. wait... Odyssey... your in N.Va? I'm in rockville, yeah? Sheesh.. there are soo many RPG bloggers in the DC area. Chalker, Bartoneous, d20Blond, me, Sham, you, and a bunch more... haha!

  6. Huh. Cool. It's probably just a random fluke, but it kinda make sense, since the DC area is the other major tech center besides California, and a center of strangeness in general.


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