Monday, March 25, 2013

The Shipping of Leaders

Sometimes I feel like I am a good GM. I feel like I give my players a lot of freedom to do what they want and for the most part play however they want. Outside of issues regarding my oh so sacred background material, I'll pretty much let most things slide and try to facilitate my player's wishes as best I can. Unless they want a feat that can raise the dead as a standard action that requires a healer's kit. Then something slaps me in the face and I am reminded that I am a retard and I am once more confronted with the taste of shame and failure. It tastes mostly like ash with hints of rainbows coated in industrial cleaner.

One of the big things from my Orcunraytrel campaign is Cary playing a Thrallherd and Eric, Jason, and my NPC taking the Leadership feat. Which leads to lots of low level flunkies and a few higher level guys hanging around. I have no beef with this, as it is kind of cool. The players are kind of setting up their own guilds and organizations. I actually really like the concept behind the Thrallherd, as it is something psionic that I have not seen duplicated with arcane classes and back in 3.5 psionics was mostly just copy and paste spell statistics into the psionics books but delete the description of what the spell does and replace it with something like "see spell X in book Y for a description of what this power does when manifested." I mean, how else was WoTC going to make their mandatory no more than 160 pages mark if they didn't slash and burn completely non-essential information like WHAT A FUCKING POWER DOES!!1! from a new book. Way to make psionics feel unique and special and different guys. Good call, you fuckheads.

Pathfinder's Ultimate Combat, Advanced Race Guide, and Ultimate Magic all have 258 pages and Bestiary 2 and 3 both have 322 pages (though those are the only Pathfinder books that aren't adventure modules that I can find with the same page count in my pdfs), so I guess Paizo does the no more than X number of pages thing too, but I feel like you can cram more content into 258 pages than in 160. Plus, Pathfinder books are like three cents cheaper per page than 3.5 books were, even at a full price of 30 bucks a pop for a 3.5 splatbook and 40 for a Pathfinder book.

Man. Went off topic a bit there. 

So I like Thrallherds and the Leadership feat. They're kind of neat and cool and offer up some interesting options for gameplay. That said, I do have some beefs with them. Beefs that should have been addressed earlier in the campaign and should have been fully considered and thought out prior to giving everyone the ok to do what they wanted. I did not do that, thus all the shame and ash and industrial cleaner coated rainbows and whatnot.

Now my interpretation of the Leadership feat is that it amounts to "Hey, you're a cool dude because [insert whatever reason]. We want to hang out with you." There are all kinds of modifiers to your leadership score that improve or penalize it on a permanent basis. Having a cohort die penalizes your cohort score, having a bad reputation penalizes your overall score, having a base (even if it is one that relies heavily on non-euclidean geometry and hammerspace physics to have room for everyone inside of it) improves your score with followers.

The rules for the Leadership feat are pretty vague after that point. There aren't any guidelines or restrictions on the possessions of your cohort and followers or what classes they use or whether or not you need to pay them or what might cause them to leave your service or anything like that. So the GM has to fill in all the little blanks with stuff, which I've done. My interpretation was that you have to provide food, shelter, gear, and pay them. Jason disagreed with paying them and I said ok. Partly because I don't like to say no, and partly because I didn't know how they would ever be able to afford to pay all the followers they would accrue from two players having the Leadership feat. Plus, they're really bad at handling money. Also, mainly, because this is a game and if someone wants to do something fun and cool and interesting and it doesn't end up taking a machete to my background material and isn't an aggressive abuse of some loophole in the rules, I'm predisposed to allow it because I want us all to have fun. 

This is not something I am planning to institute in the current campaign, but I feel like not paying followers falls under at least aloofness in the Leadership score modifier table. It isn't worth a -2 like cruelty, but I would still say it is worth a -1 like aloofness is. I'm not saying you need to pay followers well above what a hireling would make, or even at the base rate a hireling would be paid. But there should be some sort of compensation for being crammed into a 20 ft. by 20 ft. room with 20+ other dudes and being fed a steady diet of mushroom steaks and fungus beer with no diversions to waste time on within 200 miles. Not that you could actually engage in any diversions, as you have no money.

We'll set aside the fact that Karrak and Karl are complete unknowns that have done nothing noteworthy in their adventures as of yet. There are greycoats that have killed more undead and giants, there are pirates that have explored more of Orcunraytel, and others that have killed more Asosans. Freeing Andorian would be a big deal, if they were trying to recruit Sereth. Working as the Organization's agents to fuck with Vaux and Kusseth is certainly a bold as fuck move, but its nature makes it a secret that should not be spread around to attract cronies with your boldness. We'll set all that aside though.

So Karl and Karrak have this quality or reputation or musk (+5 to your leadership score if you have followers with the scent ability) or whatever that people see (or smell!) and go, yeah, this is a cool dude. He probably does cool things and I want to do cool things with him or help him do cool things. 

That's all well and good, but doesn't it make them assholes if they don't compensate their followers and cohorts in some way that is more valuable than mushroom steaks, fungus beer, iron chain mail, and iron spears? Plantation owners fed and watered their slaves, probably, and still had to chain them down to keep them around. Which is not to say Leadership is slavery or indentured servitude or anything like that. It is just an extreme example made for the sake of making an extreme example. These followers have free will and I can still make them leave if I feel Karl and Karrak are treating their followers and cohorts as slaves or indentured servants, which is really only an irritant, as more followers will show up after a while. 

I dunno, I've had bosses and supervisors that I liked and respected and thought were cool and would do things for that I wouldn't have done for other bosses (dicks might have been involved, not gonna lie). I was loyal to them and liked them and thought they were cool is what I am saying. That said, I wouldn't have worked for them if they weren't paying me regularly and probably would have only been willing to go a week or so without a paycheck before peacing the fuck out. All those overpriced, wafer thin 3.5 splatbooks weren't going to buy themselves, amirite?

If I could do it over, I'd probably institute a rule that says that if you're not going to pay followers, there needs to be compensation of some kind. Free whores, carnivals, drugs, good liquor, something that is a diversion that they don't have to pay for that you use to keep up their morale. The Fort is a shithole and they could die just from hanging out there. There's no room in it, it is in the middle of nowhere between natives with a strong military and invaders that piss them off, and it has been attacked twice after initially being stolen from the natives, it is full of giant rats (Goebleen rat dogs) that give you mange if you so much as glance at them, and the only food around is mushroom steaks and fungus beer.

Karrak and Karl both have friends from their background as their cohorts. That is a situation where I don't have an issue with payment. The cohort position is a closer bond than the followers. In my mind it is an ideal spot to place a friend or family member or person who's life you saved. Someone you have a somewhat close relationship to that wouldn't really have an issue not being paid for the pleasure of their company. I mean, Karl and Karrak and Gob are friends and it would be weird if they were all paying each other to continue hanging out with them, right? 

I dunno, just some thoughts on the Leadership feat.

Edit After The Fact: I remember now (after being reminded by Jason) that Jason's justification for having followers is him calling in favors and that sort of thing from various buddies Karrak had while  seafaring and whatnot, which I think is a fine excuse to use for attracting followers and such. 

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