Monday, March 3, 2014

New Tricks for the Old Dog

I've been considering companions of the animal kind.  I'm not talking about familiars.  Never been a huge fan of those, but never disallowed it.  Although they tend to have a short life span in most of my campaigns.  I'm talking about significant animal companions that have followed an adventurer for a significant amount of time.  I'm plan on adding these companions to my ranger and druid classes. 

When someone gets a familiar it is very useful in the first few levels, but then after that (if it lives) it becomes less helpful and sort of an after thought.  I can't remember in my experience, when anyone used one past the first levels. 

Here's my plan.  Animal companions level up with their master.  Makes record keeping much simpler.  So when a ranger reaches a new level, here's what he can do with his animal buddy.  He can chose one of the following:
Roll for extra hit points
  • Add 1d4 hit points
  • Add +1 to hit 
  • Add +1 to damage
  • Add +1 to AC
  • Add a new task it can perform
This way the companion can improve with the character without becoming overpowering.  The new task that the companion can perform can be different depending on the animal type.  If the companion has some magical ability maybe they acquire a new one, or improve an existing ability.

Say the ranger loses his companion in a fight.  It's going to happen, adventurers live dangerous lives.  What would happen then is the player could eventually get a new companion, maybe with a little RPing involved, and the new companion would start as a newb.  Base template stats, and then move up from there.  Or of the almighty GM has been plied enough with praise and pizza, a different, more powerful companion could be found.

Anyway, I like the idea of it. 


  1. Interesting. Might also have a suggestion of what to do when a more powerful character's animal companion is passed to a lesser hero (retirement or death of the powerful character.) Does the animal's advantage level stay based on level, or does it level up no matter who it is with?

    1. I would rule that until the PC surpasses the companion's level, the animal gains no further bonuses. Giving a 9th level animal companion to a 1st level PC means the companion must wait 10 levels before improving.

  2. Now Beastmaster can have his weasels!

  3. What I do is that a character can have animal companions equal to his hit dice. Like a 8th level guy might have a 4 hd tiger, a 2 hd eagle, and 2 1hd ferrets

  4. Sounds very warcraft, although I believe my animal companion leveled up a bit in each--a very small bit: a few hp per level, better ac every few levels, and specific levels where larger abilities were granted.
    I like the idea of adding familiar or animal companion magic items: collar of defense, beethoven's cask (ala st bernard), cat pole of claw sharpening, command whistle, whip of taming (works on wild luvens).

  5. I've been running a dog that turned out to be very special to one of my players as a henchman, with the standard XP half share.

    It levels as a Fighter, has some small bonuses (harder to surprise, "scent" bonus to some skill checks) but also some obvious drawbacks (no weapon use, can't speak and a bunch more). Everyone seems to be happy with the solution.