The following is half way between a handbook on leadership and a metagame discussion of how leadership is mechanically handled in D&D. It's useful for homebrewers who want to make leadership classes, as well as players who want to make leader characters.
So, let's talk about what mechanical leadership is. I'm going to ignore the parts that are non mechanical, as this is about classes, which are mechanical constructs. Anything that's not mechanical is not related to classes, and thus not appropriate for this thread. This includes things like whether or not a player wants to lead, player skill, and so on. I'm also going to mostly ignore things which are the same for all classes. Yes, you could get people to follow your decisions if the DM says "the king has given you these followers!" but that's true regardless of whether you're a Fighter, a Bard, or a classless monster race.
And of course, I'll be referring to the books in great detail, especially those books that talk most about leadership and command.Leadership
Leadership can, I believe, be broken into three basic parts. Ability to make correct decisions, ability to get people to follow along with your decisions, and ability to help those who want to follow your decisions actually do so. Each of these of course can be broken down further, so I'll get into each one of these in turn. And of course, no one aspect of leadership is critically necessary, but the more you have the better a leader you are.Ability to Make Correct Decisions
A leader who cannot make a correct decision is not leading at all. He may be a figurehead, but if he's not the one doing the deciding, he's not really leading. Heroes of Battle page 75 makes it clear that higher ranking people (i.e. those who lead more people) should be the ones who make the decisions. The description of the Leadership feat in the DMG makes it clear that you get to make the orders. Plus, I'd imagine it's pretty obvious to most people that yes, if you're leading, you make the decisions. And obviously, a big difference between good leadership and bad leadership is that a good leader makes good decisions, while a bad leader makes bad decisions.
So, what are the mechanics and rules behind good decision making? First of all, there's stats. Wisdom
Page 9 of the PHB says that Wisdom represents "willpower, common sense, perception, and intuition" as well as "being in tune with and aware of one's surroundings." Assuming you don't metagame and do in fact try to roleplay your stats, a character with a higher Wisdom will be a better decision maker than the same character with a lower Wisdom, because he will have better common sense and intuition, and will be in tune with what's going on around him. Note also that Wisdom works for will saves, which helps with resisting fear, so a character with higher Wisdom will be more courageous in the face of danger, thus helping him keep his cool and be able to make correct decisions even with a dragon breathing down his back. And of course it's the related stat for Sense Motive, meaning you're less likely to get suckered. Additionally, Wisdom helps you resist charms and other enchantments, so you're even less likely to be tricked into making poor decisions. In this aspect of leadership, Clerics, Druids and other classes with strong Wisdom synergy will generally be good, whereas Fighters, Barbarians, and other classes with weak Wisdom synergy will generally be poor.Intelligence
Again from PHB 9, "Intelligence determines how well your character learns and reasons." It's also the related stat for all knowledge skills, which I'll get to later. Once again, if you roleplay your stats, a higher intelligence character will be better able to make correct decisions due to your greater knowledge and reasoning capacity. And of course Intelligence gives you more skill points, helping you get more of the various skills that help out with decision making. Classes with high Intelligence synergy such as Wizards and Archivists will be strong in this area, while classes with weak Intelligence synergy will be poor in this area, such as Barbarians and Monks.
And now, skills. One thing to consider is number of skill points available, which helps you get the various useful skills.Knowledge
Knowledge skills represent your, well, knowledge of "some body of lore, possible an academic or even scientific discipline." (PHB 78) Basically, they're how much you know about a topic. And of course, informed decision making is important if you want to make correct decisions. Since most PCs, when leading, are of a more military bent, I'm going to focus on the skills that deal with that, but of course for other kinds of leadership, other skills are needed. Knowledge skills, first of all, help you identify the traits and weaknesses of possible opponents (and allies). Knowing the difference between an Ogre Mage and a Troll would be very important for tactical decision making when facing one of those creatures, as the tactics to use against one are very different from the tactics best used against the other. Nearly all knowledge skills are useful in this respect (though not quite all).
And then you've got good ole' Knowledge History. This represents "Wars" (PHB 78). Now, some may say "oh, that's just historical wars" but this is not in fact true. It's just "Wars." Note that other Knowledges similarly have topics in them that don't quite fit their names. Knowledge Dungeoneering covers Aberrations, including those not normally found in dungeons. Knowledge Local covers humanoids, including knowledge of humanoids who are not from your local area. Knowledge Religion covers undead, including undead who are not created by Clerics and who are not religeous. And Knowledge History, following the same pattern, covers your knowledge of Wars, not just ones in ancient history. So, a character with a great deal of ranks in Knowledge History knows a great deal about Wars. Just as someone with a lot of Knowledge Nature might know the best way to attack a Troll or how fierce a particular sort of Dire Animal is, someone with a lot of Knowledge History might know that the best way to attack a archers located in a fortified position or how to use divide and conquer tactics effectively.
And of course we've got page 95 of HoB, which states "a character with knowledge (history) will be well versed in military history and know something of military tactics used in past wars." It then refers to the guidelines on page 70 for dealing with Strategic Advantages, but since PCs are rarely in charge of such large scale units, that's not really my focus here. Having any ranks at all makes you "know something of military tactics used in past wars." Clearly, then "military tactics" is one of the things Knowledge History covers, so a character with ranks in the skill knows about military tactics. Now, some might say "hey, it said past wars!" Yes, that's true... but the past is everything other than the future (and that tiny little bit called the present), so really this part simply means that it's a knowledge skill, not a future divination. Obviously, you can only know about stuff that's actually happened. The point is, "military tactics" is part of what you know about if you have ranks in Knowledge History, and if you've got a lot of ranks in the skill, then among other things you know a lot about military tactics, and if you have no ranks, you cannot answer even basic questions about military tactics (PHB 78, the DC is 15 for that, and you can't make untrained checks with a DC higher than 10 with any Knowledge skill). Note that Knowledge History is the only knowledge skill to be specially called out in the section of Heroes of Battle dedicated to what skills are useful in battle, though the Strategic Advantage section does mention all of them equally. This, in my mind, makes it somewhat special for military campaigns... it's the only skill to be called out twice like that.
Something that will also come up: yes, in real life it's possible to know about military tactics and wars without knowing about the rest of history. That's fine. But in D&D, these things are innately connected. If you know about Fey, you also know about weather. If you know about gods and goddesses, you also know about undead. And if you know about wars and military tactics, then you also know about the founding dates of cities and the like. It's just an inhearent generalization in a game that didn't want to have hundreds of knowledge skills (something I for one appreciate).
So, it might be asked, how do you use this knowledge, mechanically? Well, the answer is right there on page 78, under "Check." Let's say your character is supposed to be a veteran soldier, so you dutifully put 10 ranks into Knowledge History, representing the fact that your soldier knows a great deal about wars and military tactics. You find yourself looking down into a narrow pass in the mountains where you see three or four soldiers standing around what looks to be a wagon loaded with weapons, and the axle is broken. One of the soldiers is fixing the axle. You say, "I think we'll go take out those soldiers and steal the weapons!" The DM subtly rolls a Knowledge (History) check for you, using a DC based on the guidelines on page 78 of the PHB (or page 64 of the PHB, there are two sets of guidelines available). He decides that it's a pretty basic bit of knowledge that this is a classic ambush scenario, so it's DC 15 to recognize that. He rolls the die, and gets a 20. So he says "you recognize that this looks like a standard ambush often used against enemy raiders." Suddenly you stop, and decide it's wise to check out that ridge above the wagon first, where there might be enemy soldiers lurking.
Or, the inverse. Barbarian raiders and bandits have been stealing from local caravans. The player might ask "what's a standard tactic for dealing with this situation?" And the DM could then roll the dice and say "usually, you'd create a decoy caravan that's broken down somewhere to draw them out, then spring an ambush." Of course, the exact DC is determined by the DM, but there are guidelines on pages 64 and 78 of the PHB for what exactly that DC might be.
As always, this is not saying you absolutely need Knowledge History to utilize tactics. Rather, someone with a strong knowledge of existing military tactics will generally make better tactical decisions due to simply being appropriately trained than someone who has no such knowledge. If you play a character who always has the exact right tactic for the combat situation and is constantly coming up with clever tactics, and yet has low intelligence and no ranks in the skill, that's metagaming, just as playing a character with Int 6 being very clever is metagaming.
Characters with all knowledge skills as class skills and strong Int synergy, such as Wizards, Archivists, and Factotums will be good in this area. Special note goes to Archivists, due to having special class skills related to knowledge combined with the ability to cast spells like Divine Insight and Lore of the Gods. Classes with weak Int synergy and no knowledge skills as class skills, such as Fighters and Barbarians, are poor in this area.Sense Motive
No one likes to follow around a sucker. If you're getting manipulated all the time because you can't identify who's on your side and who's betraying you, what kind of a leader are you? You may be following someone else without even realizing it. Sense Motive (and a good will save) helps with this. It's not critical, but it's handy. Wisdom based classes with Sense Motive as a class skill are good at this, while classes without it as a class skill and poor Wisdom synergy are bad at it.Divinations
One aspect of making good decisions that's available to characters in D&D but not real world people is Divination. Simple divinations such as Augery can be incredibly good... a second level spell slot could tell you if it's a tactically sound idea to charge a particular fortification, for example. Really, that spell works to confirm the usefulness of any of your decisions which will reach a resolution within 30 minutes. More powerful divinations such as Legend Lore, Discern Location or Contact other Plane can help you guide your party to the right locations to find great riches. Spellcasters are good in this area, non casters generally aren't.Class Abilities
There are, out there, a few class abilities that help you in the decision making process. Bardic Knowledge, for example (which Cloistered Clerics also have), gives you more information about what's out there and helps you make decisions correctly. Or a Marshal might use his Motivate Intelligence aura to boost his own knowledge checks and the knowledge of everyone around him. Bards, Archivists, and Cloistered Clerics are examples of classes that are good at this. Advisers
This one works almost regardless of class, but it gets brought up so it bears discussing. Obviously a leader can make good decisions using the advice of those around him. This works incredibly well when you've got time to sit down and plan things out, and can be sure you trust your advisers. Some classes even get bonuses to this... for example, a Marshal can use Motivate Intelligence to boost his advisers, who can then assist him, and an Exemplar can use a similar trick with Lend Talent. With that said, there are some issues to consider. First, in the end you're making the decision, and that's easier when you at least have some knowledge of the subject at hand, especially in cases where your advisers might conflict with each other. Second, you can't get advice on the fly nearly as easily. This matters a great deal when suddenly a new monster pops into a combat just before your turn to act. Third, advisers can't always be trusted. Sure, you might hire an expert on dragons when you go hunting for dragons, but if the dragon was clever, perhaps he planted that expert in town so he'd know when adventurers were coming. Or, someone could secretly dominate your adviser... since you're just doing what the adviser says it the thing to do, this can be like dominating two people with one spell. And fourth, the obvious question is "if that guy knows what we should do every time, why shouldn't we just make him the leader?"Gather Information
This skill obviously has its uses when making informed decisions. However, because of how long it takes to get the information, this isn't something you do on the fly anyway, and as such works nearly as well on an adviser as it does on the leader himself. After all, it takes hours, so it's not like you're going to be in the middle of a battle and say "man, if I had Gather Information, that would really help me decide what to do right now!" Still, it's a handy skill. Rogues and other scouty types tend to be best at this, while people without the class skill or charisma synergy are poor at it.Area Awareness
Much like knowledge skills, area awareness lets you make better decisions by better understanding what's around you. The most obvious things that help with Area Awareness are Spot and Listen, which can be very handy, but since everyone can see and hear, it's not the hugest deal (and usually the scouts have this ability anyway). However, there are a few very useful area awareness tricks. Mindsight, usually gained after taking one level of Mindbender, is amazingly good for this. Lifesight, if you're playing as a Necropolitan, is similarly useful. Permanent Arcane Sight is also a big one. Instantly getting this information during combat or in dangerous situations is exceptionally helpful when making critical decisions. For example, in a recent gaming session our party's Beguiler/Mindbender with Mindsight stood on the roof top of a building coordinating our stealthers as they infiltrated the building. He telepathically updated them with the locations of all enemies in the build as he directed them towards the goal. Later, we saw a phallanx of enemy soldiers ahead of us. Our Beguiler/Mindbender saw them and, because they weren't registering on Mindsight, knew that they were either undead or illusions and acted accordingly. Knowing that you should attack the casters first is useful information, but that information is a lot more helpful if you can also see the spellcasting ability of every enemy in the field (and thus know exactly what you're facing).Getting People to Follow Your Decisions"A man does not have himself killed for a half-pence a day or for a petty distinction. You must speak to the soul in order to electrify him."
- Napoleon Bonaparte
A leader without followers is not a leader at all. Somehow, then if you wish to lead you must get followers. Clearly, D&D talks about this very thing. The name of the Leadership feat is a dead giveaway (and so is the name of the Undead Leadership feat... that one is certainly a dead giveaway). So, let's get into the ways you can convince people to follow you. First, the attribute:Charisma
PHB 9 says that "Charisma measures a character's force of personality, persuasiveness, personal magnetism, ability to lead
, and physical attractiveness." Emphasis mine of course. For any who would claim there are no mechanics for leadership, read that line over and over until it sinks in. Of course, what's being talked about when the book says "ability to lead" is of course "ability to make men follow." It's not talking about decision making (which is more about ability to lead well
) but rather about the simple ability to get someone to follow you. Charisma is tied to a series of other leadership abilities, and most classes that are actually designed around the concept of the role "leader" have at least some decent charisma synergy. You can also use an untrained charisma check to influence anyone if you don't have appropriate skills. Charisma is also used for rally checks, and page 75 of HoB makes it clear that rallying one's troops is a responsibility of any military leader. Assuming you are not metagaming and are in fact roleplaying your character according to his or her mental stats, a more charismatic character should better be able to persuade others to do what he wants and convince them to follow him than a character with less charisma, all other things being equal. Classes with strong Charisma synergy, such as Marshals and Bards, are strong in this area of leadership, while classes with no Charisma synergy, such as Barbarians and Fighters, are weak in this area.Level
This one comes up quite a bit. Obviously, it's not related to any one class, but the books regularly mention level as helping you get people to follow you. Leadership, for example, is tied as much to level as it is to charisma.Money
Hey, money talks. There are rules for buying hirelings to help you out. Generally, this isn't efficient in the long term, but it works, and you can even raise your command rating (see HoB) by donating money to the cause.Leadership, Epic Leadership and Undead Leadership
These three feats are obvious. The all give you a cohort and, assuming your leadership score is high enough, give you some followers. This is probably the most straightforward and obvious mechanic for getting people to follow you, but it's restricted in that you can only have a (comparitively) small number of followers... not enough for an army, certainly. And everyone except your cohort is of pathetically low level compared to you. Leadership (and Epic Leadership, and Undead Leadership) is primarily influenced by Charisma and Level, with each giving about an equal contribution (your cohort is limited by your level, but virtually all the feats that chain off leadership, such as Extra Followers, Improved Cohort, and Inspirational Leadership, require prerequisite Charisma scores.Diplomacy
By far the most powerful method of gaining followers, the Diplomacy skill is in fact so strong that there are arguements about it being broken. And, with enough of the skill, it can be. None the less, some have argued that Diplomacy is not, in fact, a leadership skill, so here's a few quotes to set their minds at ease. HoB 95: "Diplomacy: Those skilled at swaying the opinions of others can find great success leading troops on the battlefield." PHB 71: "This skill represents the ability... to influence others." And then there's the whole Fanatic thing, but we'll get into that later. Diplomacy is also the associated skill for White Raven, which is the school of inspirational leadership, but more on that later. And of course many classes designed as leadership classes give bonuses to the skill or have abilities based on the skill, such as Marshals, Dread Pirates, and so on.
If you look at the definition of "Friendly" vs "Helpful" in the PHB (on page 72), you'll see that Friendly isn't enough to be a proper follower. It says "offer limited help" for example. They like you, they're kinda on your side, but they're not going off adventuring with you. Now look at helpful. "Protect, Back up, Heal, Aid" and "Will take risks to help you." That's getting much closer to what we might call a follower. That may in fact be enough right there, though you'll still likely need to make it worth that person's while to help you, perhaps with some payment or an insistance that helping you is the only way to stop the barbarian horde from overrunning their homelands (which could well be true). If that doesn't do it, certainly "Fanatic" will... the information about that can be found here
. "Will die for you" pretty much counts as a follower.
Thus, Diplomacy can, at high enough levels, give you as many followers as is possible for your situation. Unlike Leadership, you can actually recruit a whole army if you need to, and the levels of that army are not limited at all. Yes, in theory this could be game breaking when you were expected to bring 100 level 1 soldiers to the fight and instead you show up with a small army of Solars. However, there are a few restrictions to consider. First, Diplomacy only works if the target is listening to you and capable of understanding you. Second, the creature can't be mindless. Third, Diplomacy doesn't change the creature's opinion about anyone else, so just walking in and using Diplomacy to convince the Illithids that actually they like you may be fun, but they still might eat the rest of your party. Until you get to Fanatic, it's not actually dominate monster (and remember that Fanatic only lasts a certain number of days, after which you have to reset it). It's closer to charm with an endless duration and no save. Fourth, there's a pretty nasty penalty for doing it in one round, otherwise it takes a full minute.
Still, it's potent, and it can indeed get you an entire army. And if you go Diplomancer (which basically means making a character designed entirely for Diplomacy who supercharges the skill to insane levels), then yes, you can pretty much end up leading absolutely everyone and creating world peace through your benevolent dictatorship. Having the ability to lead anyone you meet is VERY powerful. But there's no need to go to such extremes.
Classes that are good at Diplomacy include Clerics, Archivists, Favoured Souls, and Marshals. Classes that are bad at it include Barbarians, Fighters, and Rangers.Class abilities
Certain classes get you followers or get your more followers if you already had leadership. As a quick summary, UA varient Enchanters, Thrallherds, Orc Warlords, and Dread Pirates all do this, and there's more out there as well. These generally function much like the Leadership feat, with similar restrictions.Magic
Dominate Monster, Charm Person, and similar effects can all get you followers, but this tends to be relatively inefficient, requiring repeated castings over time for each follower. Usually this isn't worthwhile, but it bears mentioning. Keeping a leader dominated can give you effective control over anyone he's leading (a good arguement for leaders having a decent will save!), so that method works if you don't mind being a bit behind the scenes. Necromancy
This is slightly different from the magic section, because undead are so much more susceptable to magical control. Rebuke Undead, though much maligned, can in fact give you a sizeable number of troops under your control, mostly by making use of items that grant negative turn resistance or items that grant negative levels to undead (such as Holy Arrows, which should get around the normal immunity). The rules are written in such a way as to strongly suggest that Turn Resistance is only checked at the moment you use Rebuke Undead, and not dynamically checked later (so if a creature counts as having 1 HD for rebuking, then jumps to 5 HD after you control him, you still count as having used only 1 HD from your rebuke pool). Feats like Necromantic Presence would actually be a bad thing if this were not so. As such, you can, for example, wield a Rod of Defiance (-4 turn resistance to all nearby undead) while a minion plays a Lyre of the Restful Soul (-4 turn resistance to all undead who can hear it nearby) and rebuke 10 9 HD creatures at level 10. Then put away the Rod and the Lyre and you've got a decent set of minions. If you want, you can get better undead by controlling them temporarily with control undead, then ordering them to hold enough holy arrows to reduce their HD to 1, and rebuking them. Thus, you can control as many undead minions as your level. Not too shabby. Some DMs may not like this, but then again, it's not that huge of a deal, as it's limited to a number of undead equal to your level. But then you can add in Animate Dead and Animate Dread Warrior for even more minions.
In fact, the Animate Dread Warrior spell is unlimited, letting you, if you want, raise every enemy you kill. It has an Exp cost, but this can be removed by spell stitching it to a controlled undead and having that do the castings. As a warning, your undead creature controls the Dread Warriors, not you, so be careful not to lose your new sub commander. Either that, or turn into a Necropolitan and spell stitch yourself. The point is, you can have a lot of minions through Necromancy. Make sure to create a few Necrosis Carnexes to keep your new little friends healed.
Obviously, this is only appropriate in evil campaigns.
To be continued due to long post length...