There are several types of characters in the game.
[Player Characters] - are characters that have been created by a player and is considered the main character that the person plays. They earn two shares of experience when that is awarded during adventures, and of course have full autonomy to act as the player sees fit.
[Henchmen] - are characters that are part of the supporting cast. They are run by the players to help the party achieve their goals. For the most part these characters were created by a Player to help fill a perceived gap in skills for the party or to expand the roleplaying possibilities of a character for the Player. Henchmen earn one share of experience when awarded. Henchmen are intended to be fully developed characters that expand on the Players experience.
[Followers] - are the people that are attracted to high level Player Characters. Like the thieves that want to follow a master thief, or the warriors who come to serve a newly proclaimed lord in search of fame and glory. There is a full set of rules on Agriculture & Holdings that details what it takes to attract these followers and what the make up of such a group is. Followers earn partial shares of experience when it is awarded, but they do not take any experience away from the Player Characters or Henchmen of the group.
[NPCs] - are the rest of the world's population. They are controlled by the DM and can be either friend or foe.