This is still a work-in-progress, but I did have a request to see it before I really finished it. So, here's the draft. You're welcome to improve it, of course - this is a wiki!
It isn't necessarily obvious to a very new player, but you absolutely need Companions to make progress in this game. Without them, you'll quickly stall out in both combat skills and trade skills. This guide assumes that you've done your trade-related quests to the point that you've recruited both an Apprentice and the appropriate early-game companion for your favored trade (Forester, Craftswoman, Artisan, or Laborer.) If you haven't seen and recruited an apprentice and one other companion, it's probably worth doing your trade-related quests before continuing.
(Almost) Never Abandon Them! Edit
One problem most people have is that they can only have 4 total companions (minus any animals they've tamed) in their party at once. It's really unclear at the start of the game what to do about that. The only solution at first seems to be to abandon them, and the temptation is to abandon your Apprentice. If you've already done this, it's not a tragedy. However, if you're running up against this limit, you don't have to abandon your friends. See "Storing items and retaining companions" on the Concession page. If you don't have a concession yet, strongly consider establishing one before you try to move on. They are also an important aspect of the game and the ability to keep companions is worth the gold.
Your apprentice doesn't provide a huge boost to skills, but does provide some. It also has no defiance. This means that it can help you out of a particular type of bind that you're likely to encounter because of your Authority trait.
Leadership, Defiance, and Authority Edit
It would be nice if the number of companions we had with us was only limited by the number of slots available to us. However, more powerful companions also require a higher leadership skill to not just recruit, but to retain. Keeping your party together is about retaining all of the companions you have with you at the same time. These dynamics are reflected in three different traits:
- Leadership - How effective you are at recruiting companions - is influenced by equipment, companions, jewelry, potions, and place.
- Defiance - How hard the companion is to retain - is a property that varies by type of companion.
- Authority - How effective you are at retaining your party - is based on your character's leadership skill alone.
How it works: Let's say I have 9 total leadership, because I've put on some really nice clothes including a very expensive diamond ring. However, my personal leadership skill is really only 5. I've got a guide with me, and he's a really friendly guy and only has 1 defiance. I'd like the Erudite scholar in Hawkoria to join me, but he's kind of a jerk and has 5 defiance and takes 9 leadership to recruit. Here's how this would play out:
- My Leadership is 9 and that's all it takes to recruit him, so I go the Inn and try to do so.
- My friendly guide is with me, so he's using 1 of my 5 total Authority points.
- The Erudite takes 5 Authority points to stay part of my party.
- I can't recruit him while my guide is with me because his defiance is greater than my remaining authority points.
In this scenario, the appropriate response is to go back to a Concession, drop off my guide, and come back.
Useful early companions Edit
Generally, the act of recruiting your apprentice and your first trade companion will get your personal skill to 5. If it doesn't, just trying to recruit another trade companion will help increase it; you don't actually have to recruit another one. Also, many people benefit from having more than one trade companion available, so recruiting an extra is actually probably worth it.
- The Page. The Page can be recruited in Hawkoria City and is unique among early companions - he has Leadership traits. This means that, once you've recruited a page, his presence with you will increase your Leadership (but not Authority) score.
- The Guide. The Guide can be recruited immediately upon arrival in Craneharbor. He is worth recruiting for most of us because he will help Exploration. Some people choose to tame a Wild Pony instead.
- The Big Guy. Did I say useful? Personally, I'd rather skip recruiting this guy - if you've tamed Hulbors, they're more helpful than he is. However, if you are having trouble getting a bit more authority, buying him a few Rhumbular will often help you get a point or two.
Increasing your Leadership Edit
Leadership is like any other skill in the game - it's calculated based on a melange of your character's skill, equipment, companions, location, jewelry, and potions. Early in the game, there are really three of these you'll be able to influence. Diamond Jewelry and Intelligence Potions tend to be too expensive for an early character.
Character Skill Edit
To increase character skill, practice! Recruit companions who require more leadership skill than your character's innate skill. However, due to the mechanics of skill calculation, you'll quickly run into diminishing returns if you try to rely on this. Note that this is the only way to increase Authority, however.
There are two different types of clothes which provide bonuses to leadership: Vests and Tabards. Usually, you can find reasonably priced items on the public market. Look for something with 14 Leadership or better. Tabards also drop from some dungeons and can be made with Sewing; however, by the time either of these options are available, people have usually gotten impatient and bought from the market.
Hire a Page. Hire a Page. Hire a Page. Hire a Page. Did I mention hiring a Page? The Pageis the only companion before Yraen who provides a bonus to Leadership skill. He isn't strictly required - a better tabard or more character skill can make up the difference. However, the amount of time that it takes to improve your character skill (or make gold for better equipment) is more than it takes to hire a Page. Hire a Page.
Getting the best Authority in Hawkoria Edit
Hawkoria doesn't present a lot of opportunities for increasing Authority. Getting to 5 is a matter of hiring your trade companions; once there, hiring a Page can get you to 6. Beyond that, however, you'll need to work with the following people to increase your character's leadership skill:
- Big Guy - requires 5 leadership, repeated recruiting can get you to 10 Authority (Craneharbor)
- Henchman - requires 7 leadership, repeated recruiting can get you to 12 Authority (Raven Inn)
- Guard - requires 8 leadership, repeated recruiting can get you to 13 Authority (Raven Inn)
- Erudite - requires 9 leadership, repeated recruiting can get you to 14 authority (City of Hawkoria)
My recommended strategy is as follows:
- Buy a Tabard or Vest
- Recruit a Page
- Recruit a Guard
- Recruit an Erudite
Next Steps Edit
After this, you'll want an Inn in Lanfar. It is possible to take next steps while in Hawkoria, but the costs of hiring stronger companions in Hawkoria generally outweigh the benefits gained.