As it stands right now for me, champions are pretty much worthless. There is no need to have them. I get my Sovereign up in levels and equipped he pretty much just auto kills everything, even deadly mobs.
I used to explore and grab as many NPCs as I could, but since you shouldn't have more then one in a stack (exp loss), I just don't bother.
Kingdom NPCs tend to have the lower end Gear and Abilities compared to Fallen. As a result I just kill the Fallen and take all of their magical weapons and sell them. (side note, why is it now that items are only worth a 1/10 of their value..they are magical and valuable right?)
Or if I find that Administrator / Merchant NPC I will equip them and park them in a city for their bonus. I don't do it for combat as I think in all the games I have played my cities are seldom attacked, probably because I am able to forge NAP with everyone and build up til I can walk over them.
At that point they are so weak I can just us my sovereign and auto battle them. I don't even use any spells. No reason to. They are just a waste of time. I just get that druss blade or frost / fire sword, champion armor, obsidian shield and my sovereign is unstoppable melee machine. I don't even make armies anymore.
So basically what I am saying is Sovereigns are powerful as is and Champions are the ones that need a new look at.
Champions are all bland to me as is...their skills and magic are pointless, Give them a weapon armor and they can do what a sovereign can if you bother to level them up.
Champions should be like this:
1. NPC is an adminstrator, ok. Then he should gain exp by being in a city assisting it to grow, not out fighting.
2. NPC is a merchant, This unit could improve roads and run trade missions..ie have special quests for them.
3. NPC caster, Make them have one area of skill, have the ability to have decent unique spells and for gods sake make the staves better.
4. NPC is assassin, They can run assassination quests to eliminate unit's captains/generals/city officials.
5. NPC is Hunter, Does great against beasts and tends to enhance Horse/Warg abilities if stationed in a city.
6. NPC is Warrior/soldier/etc, They and they alone can command units, tend to be good a one weapon (ie force to use something other then just
Uber sword). same for armor..help prevent all from wearing champion plate, mega shield, warhorse, uber sword..ie melee gods.
7. NPC is Adventurer, Only one able to do quests besides sovereign. Skill set towards this goal, They don't run cities or lead armies.
I could go into whole lot more detail and I might later, but for right now, Sovereigns are just like champions. They are all just best armor, best magic weapon, best shield, best mount melee machines.
I know other will say they use them differently and I applaud you for your ability to immerse yourself and role play the NPCs, ie mages only wear robes, wield a staff and use magic. Great for you. We all have different styles.
As the game stands right now I have played 5 games with the exact same results every time...On Hard mode for all, expand quickly, kill other sovereigns close them early. NAP with other, form trade and use them to advance my tech (which should be removed as I get 100-500+ tech points from it and out tech the NPCS), Use sovereign to do adventures, level up, get gear and slaughter all at end game. Not once do I have to worry about the NPCs attacking me or winning.
I would much rather see the time used to increase map size as Large seems small to me. If we aren't gonna have ships remove all water and just put in rivers. Allow for better player starting areas or resources near them. I played to many games where the NPCs all have a gold mine next to them but I have never got one next to me on start.
Also make more interesting and challenging quest, diplomacy, and trade. Maybe new trade items and please adjust the value perceived by the NPC. I am so tired of them not wanting my metal but then want to charge me X100 times more, or crystals being over valued.
Anyway, I didn't mean to drag on. I want to say that I do like the game and am hoping for a lot more improvement as it advances in Beta.
Oh, and it seems there is a bug with horse. All my games I have them as a resource but can never buy them in store. I have to go to my neighbor and buy them.