So I've talked a lot about Players, Heroes, Soldiers and Commoners, but where do you get these things? Statistically, probably a chart or a little bit of math for the maximums. That's all well and good for determining the numbers but what we really care about is how they actually get the crew itself. Thus my following thoughts...
At level 1 the players start out as just themselves, party of X. No companions, as they progress somewhere in the 10-20 range they acquire their first followers. I'm a little unsure of the first followers' type. Should they start by acquiring a Hero? Obviously the player would get to know their single follower's name and abilities, logically they should have more than a half sheet to sum them up. But that's also a lot of information out of the gate, and possibly skill for the Hero. Perhaps a soldier would be fine, using the assumptions to play out the other information like skills and such. I'm leaning towards Hero.
Anyhow, the Hero would be met on their journeys as introduced by the GM, or hijacked from a nearby town should the player seek them out. Heroes should be obvious, and possibly notorious/famous and easy to display as an option for the players, however, just because the player has the capacity for a Hero, doesn't mean they need to have one, let them acquire one naturally. In the life of a player, heroes should be MUCH fewer than soldiers, they represent your stalwart companions, your right and left hand men/women/things. They are the backbone of your followers, and you are the head. Numberwise I'm thinking no more than 6. But these are 6 units that have levels and skills just like you, but lower level. So perhaps having a Hero early builds the attachment and excitement about getting another.
Your next followers would be soldiers, in total around levels 15-25 you should have about 8 soldiers, 1 hero and your player character. These can be hired on, people who saw your work and wanted to follow, people you saved who now travel with you... Just as the hero acquired naturally, but more generic. At this point they should probably be summed up as Melee or Ranged, Heavy or Light and perhaps some basic skill that defines their style. Roguish types being Melee/Light with Stealth. At this point you have gone from the solo scale to the party scale level. Each player should have 10 total units including themselves and can scale the combat between individuals and party markers depending on how many people are involved. For instance if it is one party vs three, you would probably use individuals, however if it were four parties vs six you would use party markers.
Progress would continue on, as you settle down (or not) and word of you travels you can continue to gain followers. However, there is more than one way to get Heroes and Soldiers, that and I haven't covered Civilians.
Another method for acquiring Heroes is when a unit of troops fights a battle, the player has an open hero slot, and the battle was a real fight (crushing civilians doesn't count) there's a chance a Heroic act could be performed. Yep, you can get a hero from a heroic act being performed by your soldier unit. Makes sense right? This brings up the concept of loyalty. Soldiers, Heroes and Civilians will have derived stats called loyalty. In cases which seem logical, low loyalty can cause a given Hero, Soldier or Civilian to abandon you. Obviously it would hurt most if a Hero left you, but less for a Civilian. Those heroes you are lucky enough to have perform a heroic act will probably have a higher loyalty than someone you hired on.
But wait, my stats say I should only have 200 followers how could I be managing a town? Well you can have people under your command who aren't followers. These NPCs will have a much lower loyalty, and may even require payment to stay in service, but don't count towards your limit. They will however cost more, and be more fickle. This means likely you have 200 stalwart allies, but you could have 600 civilians protected in your city and 200 guardsmen on payroll who stay as long as the staying is good, if they had somewhere better to be they'd leave.
The best part about these stats is that they'll only needed to be calculated a few times in the life of a soldier or hero, and if the player is diplomatic, tested just as few.
Now for more on civilians. So what if you want a civilian for a follower? Simple enough, they can take a soldier slot. While this may seem undesirable, wouldn't it be nice to have a faithful team of metalsmiths who will follow you to where they are needed? Or perhaps merchants who will run trade routes on your direct command? You don't even need to have all the merchants in the caravan be followers, just enough to keep the caravan moving and ensure they return.
Lots of rough thoughts, as always nothing is final and thoughts and designs are always in flux as things progress. More to come...