Chieftain Template

Jnuary 11th, 2018

Joshua Zaback

Exotic Encounters Archive

It’s an absolute classic that most fantasy games include: a tribe of evil humanoid monsters, such as goblins, kobolds, or orcs, stands in the way of the PCs and their heroics. This tribe has a lot of minions the players ably hack through, plus a few lieutenants, and perhaps a shaman, that pose a little more of a challenge, but the real climax is the battle with the tribe’s chief … and that’s where things start to fall apart. Sure, the battle is probably pretty good—after all, that dude’s an 8th-level barbarian or whatever, but he doesn’t make much sense as a leader. The block text might say he’s a good administrator, or you might rationalize the choice by pointing out that he was the biggest and strongest goblin, so of course he would be in charge. The fact remains, however, that unless he has bard or paladin levels, he probably has no actual abilities relating to this leadership role he’s in. That’s not his fault, and it’s not your fault either; the truth is that there is no simple way to apply fun and flavor-appropriate leadership traits and powers to any random humanoid or monstrous humanoid, who may or may not have been too heavily bogged down with racial Hit Dice to make a viable leader through class levels. That is, until now! Enter the chieftain template, a simple way to quickly turn any goblin fighter or troglodyte cleric into the leader he was meant to be.


Chieftains are few among many. They are the unchallenged, or at least undefeated, rulers of their tribes.  Their authority might stem from strength of arms, shrewd cunning, or from genuinely looking out for their people’s best interests. Whatever the case, because of their position, chieftains tend to stand apart from their people, possessing exceptional characteristics and wielding powers of rulership and influence.

Creating a Chieftain

“Chieftain” is an acquired template that can be applied to any humanoid or monstrous humanoid with at least 5 Hit Dice. In order to become a chieftain and benefit from most of the abilities of being a chieftain, a chieftain must have followers who recognize her as their leader. A chieftain that does not have followers generally loses the benefits of this template until she acquires followers.

CR: Same as base creature +1, plus 1 for every 10 points of Leadership she possesses.

Type: The creature’s type remains unchanged.

Special Qualities and Defenses: A chieftain gains the tribe leader special quality and the guarding the chief special defense.

Guarding the Chief: A chieftain benefits from a special defense, unique to her tribe and leadership style. She gains one of the three following defensive abilities. This ability is chosen when the creature becomes a chieftain, and cannot later be changed. When her Leadership score reaches 15, and again when it reaches 25, she gains one of the other abilities.

Bodyguard (Ex): A chieftain relies on her tribesmen to come to her aid. Whenever she would be hit by an attack, she can choose an adjacent tribesman as an immediate action and command him to dive in front of the attack. The tribesman must attempt a DC 15 Reflex save; if the save is successful, the attack hits the tribesman, rather than the chieftain.

Living Shield (Ex): A chieftain takes shelter behind her tribesman. The chieftain benefits from improved cover, rather than soft cover, whenever she has cover provided by one of her tribesmen.

Stand Together (Ex): A chieftain is stronger when standing with her tribesman. Whenever the chieftain is adjacent to a tribesman, both the chieftain and the tribesman gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC.

Tribe Leader (Ex): A chieftain can attract followers to her banner. This ability functions identically to the Leadership feat except that the chieftain’s Leadership score is calculated by adding her total Hit Dice (including class levels) and the ability score modifier of her choice, plus any modifiers described under Leadership, except that cruelty grants a +2 bonus to her Leadership score rather than imposing a ­­–2 penalty. Additionally, all of the chieftain’s followers are designated as tribesmen for the purposes of the chieftain’s other abilities. Chieftains generally only have followers who are the same race as they are, but there are exceptions. Chieftains commonly employ or attract additional characters to their banner who are not necessarily included in the chieftains followers; these may swear a special oath of loyalty to the chieftain, which causes them to count as tribesmen for the purposes of the chieftain’s abilities. Finally, humanoids and monstrous humanoids without class levels are treated as though they had a level equal to 1/3 their racial Hit Dice for determining the level of their followers.

Special Abilities: A chieftain gains special abilities dependant on her Leadership score. These abilities fall into two categories: personal abilities and tribal abilities. For every 5 points of Leadership she possesses (to a maximum of Leadership 25), the chieftain gains one ability from either category. The chieftain cannot possess more than 3 abilities from a single category.

Personal Abilities: The following abilities represent qualities that make the chieftain a superior leader, or which enhance her own abilities in combat.

Inspired by Sacrifice (Ex): A chieftain is bolstered by seeing the sacrifices of her tribesmen, inspired by their willingness to die to defend their people. Whenever a tribesman dies within 30 feet of the chieftain, the chieftain gains a +4 morale bonus on all saving throws and to attack and damage rolls for 1 round.

Revenge of Rulership (Ex): A chieftain mourns the loss of her fallen tribesman and responds to their demise with terrific anger. If more than half the tribesman the chieftain had under her command at the start of a week have perished, the chieftain draws cold resolve from their demise. She gains a +2 bonus to each of her ability scores and a +2 bonus on attack rolls and damage rolls against any creature that either she witnessed slaying one of her tribesmen, or that admits to such an action. These bonuses last until 1 week has passed, or until the chieftain has replaced the lost tribesmen, whichever comes first.
Rule By Might (Ex): A chieftain gained her position through the virtue of her natural talents. The chieftain gains a +4 bonus to the ability score of her choice. Additionally, as long as the chieftain is within 30 feet of a tribesman, she can take 10 on ability checks and skill checks dependant on the ability score enhanced by this ability.

Show Off (Ex): A chieftain is eager to show off her prowess in front of her tribe. As long as the chieftain is within 30 feet of a tribesman, she gains a +1 morale bonus to AC and on attack and damage rolls. If she is within 30 feet of 10 or more tribesman, this bonus increases to +2.

Tribal Relics (Ex): A chieftain possesses the very best gear available to the tribe. The chieftain can possess up to 2 weapons, 1 suit of armor, and 1 shield which are of exceptional make. The selected weapons have an additional +1 bonus to damage, and the armor and shield each grant an additional +1 bonus to AC. Items of this type are considered to be of masterwork quality and retain this benefit even if removed from the chieftain’s possession and or further enchanted.

Tribal Abilities: Tribal abilities represent aspects of the chieftain’s leadership style and include abilities that improve her tribesmen.

Horde (Ex): A chieftain presides over a mighty horde of powerful tribesmen. When calculating the number of followers the chieftain can have, she adds up the total number of levels available to her, and may then divide those levels among any number of followers, determining both the number and level of followers she possesses as she pleases. However, no single follower can have more than 6 levels.

Inspiring Leadership (Ex): A chieftain is respected by her followers and they fight harder when she is present. Each tribesman within 30 feet of the chieftain gains a +2 morale bonus on attack and damage rolls, and is immune to fear effects, except those produced by the chieftain.

Issue Command (Ex): As a move action, the chieftain can issue a command to a single tribesman within 30 feet. The command must be something that can be accomplished as a standard action. The tribesman performs the command as an immediate action on the chieftain’s turn.

Protector of the Tribe (Ex): A chieftain watches over her tribe and instructs them in defense. Each tribesman within 30 feet of the chieftain gains a +2 dodge bonus to AC, and a +2 bonus on all saving throws.

Tribal Vengeance (Ex): A chieftain inspires such loyalty in her followers that upon her death, they are filled with a desire for vengeance. When the chieftain dies, each of her tribesmen gains a number of temporary hit points equal to 1d10 + the chieftain’s Leadership score and a +2 morale bonus on attack and damage rolls for 1 hour.



The stories of chieftains very from tribe to tribe. Some were the biggest and strongest of the bunch, rising to their position through strength of arms. Others were born leaders, taking on the mantle of chieftain to help their people thrive in a cruel world. Some desired power and took it through guile, and now ruthlessly defend their position against an endless stream of opposition. Regardless of the individual’s story, a chieftain is first and foremost a leader, a man or woman of their tribe, who lives and dies by their success and failure. Their methods vary as widely as their origins, with no two being quite alike, making for unpredictable and anticipatable adventure.