In a previous post I suggested a Pathfinder 2e subsystem for what I called “Follower Companions.” Since writing that post, I’ve had the chance to play test that subsystem rather significantly, and through it, my players and I have realized that… well… it didn’t quite feel great as it was originally designed. We’ve massaged the system through play and I’d like to give an update on where we’ve landed after several iterations.
Before we get too far though, I’d like to mention that I’ve always had a problem with the name “Follower Companions” but at the time of writing, I wasn’t sure what else to call them. Since then, I’ve come to prefer the term “Fellows” for these sort of companions and for the rest of this post, I will be referring to them as such.
Since the writing of the original post, Kingmaker 2e was released and as you’d likely expect, it included some “rules” for fellows (simply called “companions” in their parlance, which is arguably even more confusing than “follower companions”). Immediately after reading these rules, I tossed them out, since they entirely went against my original design philosophies for this system. For one, the fellows were just full-on PCs. That’s a lot of upkeep and such to deal with for the players. I wanted things to be simple and not a lot of administrative work for anyone. Secondly, every fellow took up their own turn in initiative. This again, was far from the tenant of simplicity I was after. Not to mention, it was jarringly different than the existing minion/companion rules that already exist in Pathfinder 2e, and are used by pretty much every other type of minion in the game.
Needless to say, my hopes for my own bespoke fellow system becoming obsoleted with the release of Kingmaker 2e were dashed almost immediately upon cracking open the book, so there was still a need to iterate on my own subsystem if I was going to continue to use it.
Issue #1: Commanding Fellows
In the original design, I proposed a new basic action Issue Orders that any character could use to command a fellow.
You issue an order to a fellow. The fellow gains one action during your turn. This action can be used to perform any Basic Action or one-action ability the follower companion has.
In addition, I added two new skill feats to improve this action, Leadership and Improved Leadership. These make the system work very similarly to the Animal Companions subsystem, so I felt like it would be familiar to players.
LeadershipFEAT 1Prerequisites trained in Diplomacy
Follower Companions gain 2 actions during your turn if you use the Issue Orders action to command them; this is in place of the usual effects of Issue Orders.
Improved LeadershipFEAT 2Prerequisites expert in Diplomacy, Leadership
When you Issue Orders to a follower companion, you may spend 2 actions instead of 1 in order to give the follower companion 3 actions.
The problem with this approach, we found, was that in our game in particular, none of the player characters had Diplomacy as one of their primary skill proficiencies. In fact, most PCs don’t unless they are a Bard or something. To combat this, I let the party choose a single PC to get the Leadership feat for free, even if they weren’t Trained in Diplomacy.
This caused me to take a step back and rethink this whole feat hierarchy. I realized that this might be a bit too far undertuned in general and gate keeps the general party’s ability to interact with the subsystem—something I wasn’t too happy about. I built this subsystem so my players could interact with it, after all.
My conclusion was to just make Issue Orders work for everyone as if they had the Leadership feat, and make the Leadership feat just work like the Improved Leadership feat (of course, this means the Improved Leadership feat is no longer needed).
Issue Orders to
You issue an order to a fellow. The fellow gains two actions during your turn. These actions can be used to perform any Basic Action or one- or -two-action abilities the follower companion has.
LeadershipFEAT 1Prerequisites trained in Diplomacy
When you Issue Orders to a fellow, you may spend 2 actions instead of 1 in order to give the fellow 3 actions.
One last change I made to how fellows took action in combat, was to allow any fellows to take one action at Initiative 0, provided that no one had already used Issue Orders on them that round. It felt weird that a fellow who wasn’t ordered just kind of stood there, and it also caused some hindrances when it came to mobility in combat. I found that this change didn’t really have any effect on overall encounter balance, since most of the time, this one action was just used for repositioning anyway.
Issue #2: Fellow Equipment
When I designed these rules originally, I envisioned players being excited about gearing out their fellows to be forcers to rekon with in their own right. In practice, this wasn’t actually the case. Players seemed to be unwilling to part with their own hard-earned funds to gear out their fellows, when they would rather focus on gearing out themselves. This meant that the fellows that were employed were always hilariously underpowered and when my players did try to use them for something meaningful in combat, they usually underperformed, if they even succeeded in their rolls at all.
The simple solution here was simply to remove the idea of fellow equipment. Since the original rules already used the rules in the GMG for creating NPCs, I leaned more into those and just used them verbatim. Since we were playing on Foundry, this had the added benefit of being able to use modules to easily update fellows stats as the party leveled. This was hugely beneficial in its own right, since we often forgot to do so and had to do it on the fly during a session, but I digress.
Where are we now?
So with the above changes, where is the subsystem at currently?
- Use the official rules in the GMG for creating NPCs of the appropriate level, and keep these levels up to date as the party levels.
- Anyone can use the revised Issue Orders basic action.
- PCs can optionally take the Leadership skill feat to improve the use of Issue Orders.
- Each fellow can take a single action at Initiative Turn 0, provided they hadn’t already been issued orders that round.
Player Characters as Fellows
One other thing I’ve learned while play testing these rules is that they can also be used with PCs when a particular player isn’t available to play that session. Treating PCs of missing players as fellows allows you to still take advantage of their character’s abilities in combat, while also providing a solution to “What happened to Player A’s character?”
That’s all there is to it. Simple and sweet. Just as I intended.
Let me know in the comments of this post what you thinking of these revisions and whether you plan to use them in your own game! I always love to hear feedback.
‘Till next time. Happy gaming!