Remember when you hit that certain level when a whole bunch of cool stuff happened? Remember getting your castle, followers, and a whole raft of responsibilities? The moment you crossed this threshold, the game changed. You weren’t stomping through dungeons much and you certainly didn’t have to worry about tracking down the bandits raiding the highways through the realm—you had people for this. Instead, you worried about your realm, your followers, and the people who looked to you for protection. And if you went on an adventure, you might have traveled into the planes, which was expertly described by the inestimable Jeff Grubb in the Manual of the Planes, or you took on the wicked titan, lich lord, or a variety of other foes. Sure, you could keep doing what you had been doing, but the stage got bigger and the stakes got higher (or use whatever other metaphor you’d like when it comes to describing big, scary, exciting, fun, and weird gaming).
This concept has remained in the D&D game as we’ve marched through the editions. Characters might build castles and the like at any level, but they still attracted followers when they crossed over into high-level play. In 3rd Edition, you could invest your treasure to build anything from a cottage to a floating fortress by using the rules in the Stronghold Builder’s Guidebook, and you could accumulate followers using the Leadership feat. Although these rules faded into the game’s background in the 4th Edition rules, you can still find location-based treasure (Adventurer’s Vault 2), rules for henchmen and hirelings (Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium), and rules for building strongholds (Dragon magazine).
In thinking about D&D’s next incarnation, we’ve talked at great length about how high-level adventuring ought to feel, what it should look like, and what characters ought to be doing, especially through the lens of how high-level play has changed through the years. With our stated goal of unifying the editions under one banner, we have these questions: How do holdings and followers fit into the game? Are followers and holdings a cornerstone of the D&D experience? Or, is this a fate a character might choose in lieu of another high-level reward? Maybe castles and followers don’t belong in the game at all? What do you think?
Holdings and followers should define high-level play.
Characters should have the option to gain holdings and followers, but this shouldn’t be the default.
A DM should decide whether holdings and followers belong in the game.
Holdings and followers, if used at all, should be a backdrop for the characters’ further adventures.