How Do Cohorts Level Up?


Rules Questions


So, I have a problem, and I'm a bit surprised that no one else has posted about it yet. This is a question about everyone's darling, the Leadership feat.

From the PRD:

Quote:

Cohort Level: You can attract a cohort of up to this level. Regardless of your Leadership score, you can only recruit a cohort who is two or more levels lower than yourself. ...

A cohort does not count as a party member when determining the party's XP. Instead, divide the cohort's level by your level. Multiply this result by the total XP awarded to you, then add that number of experience points to the cohort's total.

If a cohort gains enough XP to bring it to a level one lower than your level, the cohort does not gain the new level—its new XP total is 1 less than the amount needed to attain the next level.

...

... Don't consult the table to see if your cohort gains levels, however, because cohorts earn experience on their own.

So, what am I supposed to do if I don't use XP at all? I use the milestone level system, as I think, honestly, most Pathfinder players do these days, and it's downright weird that the book doesn't have an explicit clarification for that extremely common playstyle.

The most obvious answers are probably just, "level them up whenever the PC levels up", or "level them up whenever the PC's Leadership score increases".

The latter seems potentially problematic, since Leadership Scores can shift wildly in response to story events and new gear (whoops, I spent a day wearing my Headband of Charisma, time for a level-up for the cohort!). Of course, the PC could just ditch the old cohort and get a new one who's more properly capable, so maybe basing it off the Leadership score is appropriate.

What do you think?


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
So, what am I supposed to do if I don't use XP at all?

You're the GM. Make something up that's fair, and then go with that.

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
"level them up whenever the PC levels up", or "level them up whenever the PC's Leadership score increases".

That sounds good.

Kobold Cleaver wrote:
seems potentially problematic, since Leadership Scores can shift wildly in response to story events and new gear (whoops, I spent a day wearing my Headband of Charisma, time for a level-up for the cohort!).

It does seem capricious that the Cohort should suddenly level up under circumstances like that, but it might make sense that you should have the cohort gain experience points--or however it is you gauge professional growth of characters in your campaign--faster over a period of time to represent your PCs cohorts blossoming under their improved leadership.

And there are times when the Leadership Score would go down, and if a PC's Leadership Score goes down so far that the Cohort is now too high level to be the PC's Cohort, then maybe that Cohort leaves the PC, shaking his hand, thanking him for everything he taught him, and then going off to make his own fortunes, graduating from Cohort to allied NPC. That happens all the time in the real world. Then let him be replaced by a lower-level cohort that the PC has some ability to decide about. Maybe one of the followers knows a guy, or turns out to have been a Level 5 Rogue or something.

Scarab Sages

If you're using the milestone system I'd go with level up the cohort when the party gains a level or when the leadership score increases if it started off low to simulate the faster levelling at lower levels.

That is . . .

PC Level: 8
Cohort Level: 7

Leadership changes no effect, PC goes to level 9 then Cohort goes to level 8.

or

PC level: 16
Cohort Level: 3 (Unlikely but assume someone who isn't good at it yet took it for Roleplay or fun reasons).

Leadership fluctations that would lose them a level = no effect.
Leadership fluctuations that gain them a level = Cohort Level 3 + X
Party gain a level: PC level 17, Cohort level 4

Alternatively for simplicity you could set the cohorts level to party - 1 and just keep them there as long as their leadership abilities aren't putting a significantly lower limit on the cohorts power e.g. party level - 7 or the like.


Just level them up at times that are significant but not significant enough to be milestones if they are not at the level cap for being a cohort.

It shouldn't need to happen more than 2-3 times per campaign in order to catch up in most cases.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
Quote:
Cohort Level: You can attract a cohort of up to this level. Regardless of your Leadership score, you can only recruit a cohort who is two or more levels lower than yourself.
Senko wrote:

PC Level: 8

Cohort Level: 7

Leadership changes no effect, PC goes to level 9 then Cohort goes to level 8.

Not without special effects.


In my experience with cohorts (in both 3.5 and PF), the XP method usually did a pretty good job of keeping them at the "level-2" limit. They didn't always level up exactly in tandem with their PC leaders, but it was almost always within a session or so. In the milestone system, I'd say that leveling them up when the PC does seems perfectly reasonable.

And honestly, if the PC's Leadership score isn't good enough to attract a cohort of that maximum allowed level, the player should probably considering investing in another feat. Otherwise, they're too likely to have their cohort die on them far too soon, which will drop their score even further.


Kobold Cleaver wrote:
So, what am I supposed to do if I don't use XP at all?

Due to the way the maths works out, it's actually pretty straightforwards.

In the normal Pathfinder XP system, whichever track you use, the amount of XP required to level doubles every 2 levels.

Assume you are level 7, and your leadership score is somehow so low your cohort is level 1. They will gain 1/7th of the experience that you gain, and need 1/8th of the experience to go 1 > 2 that you need to go 7 > 8, so they gain approx. 114% of the experience needed to keep pace with you. In short, they'll level up at about the same time you do.

If they're level 5 and you're level 7, they gain 5/7ths of the experience you gain, and need 1/2 of the experience you do to level. So they gain approx. 142% of the experience needed to keep pace with you.

Lastly, as an extreme case, if you're level 19 and they're level 17, they gain approx. 179% of the experience needed to keep pace with you.

So in general, grant them 1-2 levels for every level you gain. Once they hit 2 levels under you, level them at that offset in step with the party.

As an aside, I think you may have misread the Leadership chart.

Per your own quote: "Don't consult the table to see if your cohort gains levels, however, because cohorts earn experience on their own".

Your leadership score has no impact at all on the level of your current cohort. It affects the level of a new cohort, should you acquire one. So wearing a Headband of Charisma won't affect your current cohort, just make it easier to scout their replacement if you desire.


I ran the math and as per the formula given, for the most part the way it works is that if the cohort is more than 3 levels behind the character then they gain 2 levels for every 1 level the character gains. Once the cohort is 3 levels behind the character or less they gain one level every time a character gains a level. This means that a cohort can get stuck being as many as 3 levels behind the character forever, if they were recruited at a sufficiently low enough level.

It should be noted that it does deviate from this trend at very low and very high character levels (at high character levels the cohort gains levels faster and at low character levels the cohort gains levels slower).


I currently have a player with the Thrallherd PrC (which is almost exactly like Leadership when considering the Thrall=Cohort), and I also use the Milestone system for leveling. The easiest, most-pain free way of doing this is just level up the Thrall when the PC levels up. It's simple and solves a lot of problems that would arise from doing it any other way tbh.

Scarab Sages

Tim Emrick wrote:

In my experience with cohorts (in both 3.5 and PF), the XP method usually did a pretty good job of keeping them at the "level-2" limit. They didn't always level up exactly in tandem with their PC leaders, but it was almost always within a session or so. In the milestone system, I'd say that leveling them up when the PC does seems perfectly reasonable.

And honestly, if the PC's Leadership score isn't good enough to attract a cohort of that maximum allowed level, the player should probably considering investing in another feat. Otherwise, they're too likely to have their cohort die on them far too soon, which will drop their score even further.

Depends if they're taking the feat to gain a combat cohort or for other reasons (head of a monastic or priestly order, ruler of land, wanting a bard to tell your tale) where their being lower level than you isn't an issue.


Per Downtime Activities you can:

Earn XP wrote:

Spending 1 day of downtime adventuring earns you XP as if you had defeated an opponent whose CR was equal to your character level. For example,

...
If using this downtime activity would increase your XP above the highest XP value among all the PCs in your party, it increases your XP to that value instead; any XP earned beyond this amount is lost. This activity allows you only to catch up, not to get ahead.

The cohort can max out at your level - 2. The above means they can always catch up. How much time is needed, is a GM call, but often a milestone advance will have breaks they can do this in.

XP Awards shows how much XP they would earn.
Character Advancement shows how much they need.
Under the Slow track, they need 8 or 9 days to gain a level.
Under the Medium track, they need 5 or 6 days to gain a level.
Under the Fast track, they need 4 days to gain a level.

/cevah


We never used XP at our current table, cohorts (when allowed, otherwise DMPCs) typically just level at the same time as everyone else. I don't recall it being an issue, but capping their max level as per leadership score would be sensible, without it otherwise influencing increase speed.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I use milestones for leveling, and whenever we have a cohort, they just level up when the party does to always be two levels behind the associated PC. It's usually not worth the hassle for me to track whether someone's Leadership score is high enough for a particular level or any other technical details.

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