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NPCs are not starting at the appropriate level for when you pick them up.
I've noticed this with a few NPCs, specifically Edwin and Imoen. When I pick up Imoen in Spellhold with 1.25 million exp on my current party, she only has 400k exp and is level 11. Likewise, in my other game with a level 11 party Edwin joined at level 9 with 160k exp when he should have been level 10 or 11.