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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    UPDATE:Buffing a tier 1 class was not the intent of this. I really intended this rewrite for the ranger, as I assumed few people allowed druids in their games. I now realize that this may not be the case. I now propose the following alternative: apply these changes to the ranger, but leave the druid's animal companion RAW. This does mean the ranger will get a better animal companion, while the druid retains better spellcasting cheese.

    I've always been dissatisfied with the animal companion class feature. It seems substantially inferior to the familiar. It has fewer HD, does not get to use its master's BAB or saves, gets a tiny bit more natural armor in return for no spell resistance, and gets substantially less of a boost to its ability score. The familiar gets improved evasion at level 1, while the animal companion has to wait until level 15. The biggest bonus it has over a familiar is...multiattack.


    Even more bothersome to me was the arbitrary lists of "alternative animal companions". I would expect that animals with the same penalty to druid/ranger level would have similar power, but this is not always the case. On the "7th level or higher" list, for example, most of the animals are CR 3 or 4, but there is also the Elasmosaurus, at CR 7. But for the most part, each list has most animal companions in a 2 CR range.
    Finally, while the animal companion is near-useless for the druid (doesn't matter, as the druid is already tier 1), it is even more useless for the ranger. My intent is for the animal companion to be usable by Rangers as well, and druids if they are not banned due to their tier 1 casting.
    This rewrite is intended to make the animal companion more usable, to increase the potential variety of the animal companion, and to clear up discrepancies in the lists of alternative animal companions. The animal companion is made stronger in this re-write, but that is not a serious problem, as it isn't very good in RAW.

    Animal Companion (Ex)
    A ranger may begin play with an animal companion. The animal companion may be any animal with a Challenge Rating of 2 or less (if the animal you want is less that CR 2, it can be adjusted by adding HD or a template, so long as any templates added do not change the animal type). This animal is a loyal companion that accompanies the ranger on her adventures as appropriate for its kind.
    A druid's animal companion still follows the rules given in the PHB. However, the druid's animal companion is instead called the "animal ally". A multiclass druid/ranger has both an animal companion and an animal ally.
    Design Notes:
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    The trend for most of the alternative animal companion lists was that every three ranger levels amounted to a CR increase of 2. However, the animals available to a 1st level ranger were are CR 1 or less, while the animals that become available at 4th level are all CR 2. I decided to do some play-testing: I compared several low-CR animal companions of a 4th ranger with animals of the same kind given extra HD to increase their Challenge Rating by 2. I found that this trend established in the PHB is actually relatively reasonable. However, the first list of alternative animal companions only have a challenge rating one point higher than the basic animal companions, and so they should not come with the full 3 level penalty. Testing has confirmed this (a CR 1 animal with 3 extra hit dice is stronger than the same animal as a 4th level animal companion.) The change fixes this. Note that my version does allow slightly stronger animal companions to be obtained earlier, but this is okay.


    A 1st-level rangerís companion is completely typical for its kind except as noted below. As a ranger advances in level, the animalís power increases as shown on the table. If a ranger releases her companion from service, she may gain a new one by performing a ceremony requiring 24 uninterrupted hours of prayer. This ceremony can also replace an animal companion that has perished.

    A ranger of 4th level or higher may select a more powerful animal companion. Should she select an animal companion with a Challenge Rating higher than 2, the creature gains abilities as if the characterís ranger level were lower than it actually is. For every 3 effective ranger levels "lost", increase the animal companion's CR by 2. For example, an animal companion with starting CR 6 would be treated as if the ranger were 6 levels lower than he actually is.

    Bonus HD:
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    Extra eight-sided (d8) Hit Dice, each of which gains a Constitution modifier, as normal. Remember that extra Hit Dice improve the animal companionís base attack and base save bonuses. An animal companionís base attack bonus is the same as that of a ranger of a level equal to the animalís HD. An animal companion has good Fortitude and Reflex saves (treat it as a character whose level equals the animalís HD). An animal companion gains additional skill points and feats for bonus HD as normal for advancing a monsterís Hit Dice.

    The Animal companion receives bonus HD equal to ranger level *2/3.

    Natural Armor Adj.:The number noted here is an improvement to the animal companionís existing natural armor bonus.
    The Animal companion receives a bonus to Natural Armor equal to ranger level *2/3.
    Design Notes:
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    The bonus HD and Natural armor is almost identical to those given in the PHB. The difference is that at levels 2, 5, 8, ect., the bonus is slightly better.


    Str/Dex Adj.:Add Ranger Level/3 to the animal companionís Strength and Dexterity scores.

    Bonus Tricks:
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    The value given in this column is the total number of "bonus" tricks that the animal knows in addition to any that the ranger might choose to teach it (see the Handle Animal skill). These bonus tricks donít require any training time or Handle Animal checks, and they donít count against the normal limit of tricks known by the animal. The ranger selects these bonus tricks, and once selected, they canít be changed.

    The number of bonus tricks the animal companion gets is Ranger Level/3
    Design Notes:The bonus tricks and ability score increases are identical to those in the PHB.

    The animal companion gains additional features at the following levels:
    1st: Link,Share Spells
    3rd: Evasion
    6th: Devotion
    9th: Multiattack
    12th:Deliver Touch Spells
    15th:Improved Evasion
    18th:True Devotion

    Link (Ex)
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    A ranger can handle her animal companion as a free action, or push it as a move action, even if she doesnít have any ranks in the Handle Animal skill. The ranger gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding an animal companion.


    Share Spells (Ex)
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    At the rangerís option, she may have any spell (but not any spell-like ability) she casts upon herself also affect her animal companion. The animal companion must be within 5 feet of her at the time of casting to receive the benefit. If the spell or effect has a duration other than instantaneous, it stops affecting the animal companion if the companion moves farther than 5 feet away and will not affect the animal again, even if it returns to the ranger before the duration expires.

    Additionally, the ranger may cast a spell with a target of "You" on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A ranger and her animal companion can share spells even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companionís type (animal).


    Evasion (Ex)
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    If an animal companion is subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, it takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw.


    Devotion (Ex)
    If an animal companion is subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, it takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw.
    Additionally, the animal companion is especially resistant to compulsion effects. Any compulsion effects cast on the animal companion must make a dispel check (1d20+Caster Level against a DC of 11+your ranger level), or be negated. The ranger can withhold this effect, at her option.

    MultiAttack
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    An animal companion gains Multiattack as a bonus feat if it has three or more natural attacks and does not already have that feat. If it does not have the requisite three or more natural attacks, the animal companion instead gains a second attack with its primary natural weapon, albeit at a -5 penalty.


    Deliver Touch Spells (Su)
    This is identical to the familiar power of the same name.

    Improved Evasion (Ex)
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    When subjected to an attack that normally allows a Reflex saving throw for half damage, an animal companion takes no damage if it makes a successful saving throw and only half damage if the saving throw fails.


    True Devotion (Ex)
    The link between the animal companion and ranger strengthen, as does the animal companion's devotion to its master. The ranger gains a +25 bonus on Wild Empathy and Handle Animal checks made on its animal companion. Additionally, Compulsion effects to not affect the animal companion unless the caster makes a caster level check (1d20+caster level) against a DC of 21+your ranger level.

    Design Notes:
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    Most of the special features are left unchanged. Devotion gives an extra bonus against compulsion. There were two "bare" rows in the table in the PHB, at which I decided to add two new powers.
    Last edited by 137ben; 2011-06-12 at 04:39 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If Orcus was a nesting doll, that would certainly make the whole thing work smoother. When you cast a level 1 summoning spell, you summon the little Orcus from the middle, but when you cast Gate, you get the really big Orcus that holds all the small Orcuses.

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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix

    And now, some feats that boost your animal companion!
    Note: Any of these can be selected as bonus feats by an epic Ranger or Ranger. Any mention of Effective Ranger level refers to the character's effective level for the purpose of determining the animal companion's power.

    Train Animal Companion
    Prerequisites: animal companion class feature
    Benefit: Your animal companion gains a bonus feat of your choice. It must meet all the prerequisites for that feat.

    Great Animal Companion
    Prerequisites: animal companion class feature, effective ranger level 4th
    Benefit: Your effective ranger level is increased by 2.

    Greater Animal Companion
    Prerequisites:animal companion class feature, effective ranger level 9th, great animal companion
    Benefit: Your effective ranger level is increased by 4. This stacks with other increases to your effective ranger level, such as great animal companion.

    Epic Animal Companion [epic]
    Prerequisites:animal companion class feature, effective ranger level 21st, epic level
    Benefit: Your effective ranger level is increased by 6. This stacks with other increases to your effective ranger level, such as great animal companion and greater animal companion.

    Great Size
    Prerequisites:animal companion class feature, effective ranger level 21st
    Benefit: Your animal companion increases by one size category, and gains all of the usual benefits and drawbacks of an increased size. Alternatively, if your animal companion benefits more from a small size, you may instead elect to have your companion decrease in size by one category.
    NOTE: This is NOT an epic feat. You can get it as a 15th level ranger with both Great and Greater animal companion feats.

    Ride Animal Companion
    Prerequisites:animal companion class feature, Mounted Combat feat
    Benefit: Your link to your animal companion allows you to ride it more easily. When riding your animal companion, you gain a +4 circumstance bonus to ride checks, as well as a +2 bonus on attack rolls made while mounted.

    Share Perception
    Prerequisites:animal companion class feature
    Benefit: When making spot or listen checks, use may use your animal companion's skill modifier if it is higher. Additionally, your animal companion may use your skill modifiers if yours are higher.
    Special:This feat may also be taken by the animal companion. The effects are identical, and in that case, the ranger also gains the benefits of this feat--it does not need to be taken by both the ranger and the animal companion.

    Lucky Companion
    Prerequisites: animal companion class feature, any luck feat, animal companion must have at least one luck feat
    Benefit: You and your animal companion share a combined pool of luck rerolls. However, if your animal companion possesses different luck feats than you, it may only use luck rerolls in the ways given by its own feats. Similarly, you may only use luck rerolls in the ways given by your feats.
    Additionally, this feat increases your luck rerolls per day by one.
    Special: Rather than the ranger taking this feat, this feat may instead be taken by the animal companion, as long as both it and its master have at least one luck feat. The benefits provided by the feat are the same.

    And now some feats for animal companions to take!
    Guard Master
    Prerequisites:must be an animal companion, at least 4 HD
    Benefit: Once per round, when your master is targeted by a ranged attack or target spell/attack (but not melee or area attack), you may move up to half your speed (even if it is not your turn) as an immediate action. If you move into the line of effect of the attacker (a space between the attacker and your master), you become the target of the attack just made. You must decide whether to make this attack before the attack roll or saving throw is rolled. You gain a +2 morale bonus to AC and to any saving throws made to avoid this attack (this does not stack with the bonus to will granted from Devotion.)

    Align Natural Weapons
    Prerequisites:must be an animal companion, master must have non-neutral alignment
    Benefit: Choose one non-neutral component of your master's alignment. Your natural weapons count as a weapon of that alignment for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction (though as an animal, your own alignment remains True Neutral).
    Special: If a ranger is LG, CG, LE, or CE, his or her animal companion may take this feat twice.

    Bonus Trick
    Prerequisites: must be an animal companion, know at least 3 tricks
    Benefit: You gain a bonus trick. This does not count against your normal limit on the number of tricks you can know, nor do you need to be taught this trick via a handle animal check.
    Special: This feat can be taken multiple times.

    Companion Spell
    Prerequisites: must be an animal companion, master is an 8th level ranger
    Benefit: Select any one spell which your master can cast as a ranger. You may cast this as a spell-like ability once per day. You cast it as a ranger of the same level as your master. You do not need to have the normal minimum ability score to cast this spell.
    Special: This feat can be taken multiple times. Each time you take this feat, either select a different spell to learn, or gain an additional use per day.
    Last edited by 137ben; 2011-06-18 at 03:37 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If Orcus was a nesting doll, that would certainly make the whole thing work smoother. When you cast a level 1 summoning spell, you summon the little Orcus from the middle, but when you cast Gate, you get the really big Orcus that holds all the small Orcuses.

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  3. - Top - End - #3
    Orc in the Playground
     
    DruidGirl

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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    While I completely agree with you on the ranger's part (ranger animal companions are more of a hassle than a help, so their companion should be just as powerful as that of a Druid), I can't help but think this rework isn't needed for a Druid's companion.
    Of course, that is also because I usually count the bonus HD gained by animal companions for the Druid's progression as if the Animal Companion actually levels up in their Animal class. That means: Skill points, BaB increase, feats, and even size increase if the animal would increase its size based on the number of HD (Especially the size increase is quite powerful).

    To be honest, I personally feel that the animal companion is a good deal more powerful than the familiar, especially if you consider that a familiar really can't play the role of defender unless you've got all sorts of spells prepared for it, or unless you take specific familiar feats to increase your familiar's combat effectiveness. And even then, the familiar will end up with a lower BaB, less hit points, and an overall terrible progression. Sure; they'll be pretty much indestructible as long as they don't actually participate in combat, but meh.

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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    Indeed, some of the responses I got to my Artillery Mage (I WISH I had known that that was a synonym for "blaster mage" when I wrote it), indicates that familiars are more a liability than an asset. Other sources ("Being Batman"???) indicate that they are useful at higher levels.

    Also note that the basic chaise in almost all cases is superior for a basic animal companion is superior to that for a familiar (although you CAN take an owl or such as an animal companion if you are looking for favor or intentionally self-nerfing).

    Also note that if CR were equivalent to usefulness for a PLAYER, then LA wouldn't be nearly so much of a hassle. The Summon Monster series also has a variety of CRs at each level I believe, probably the same for Summon Nature's Ally, and Summon Undead.
    Last edited by DracoDei; 2011-06-12 at 03:18 PM.
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  5. - Top - End - #5
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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    Quote Originally Posted by Dryad View Post
    While I completely agree with you on the ranger's part (ranger animal companions are more of a hassle than a help, so their companion should be just as powerful as that of a Druid), I can't help but think this rework isn't needed for a Druid's companion.
    Of course, that is also because I usually count the bonus HD gained by animal companions for the Druid's progression as if the Animal Companion actually levels up in their Animal class. That means: Skill points, BaB increase, feats, and even size increase if the animal would increase its size based on the number of HD (Especially the size increase is quite powerful).

    To be honest, I personally feel that the animal companion is a good deal more powerful than the familiar, especially if you consider that a familiar really can't play the role of defender unless you've got all sorts of spells prepared for it, or unless you take specific familiar feats to increase your familiar's combat effectiveness. And even then, the familiar will end up with a lower BaB, less hit points, and an overall terrible progression. Sure; they'll be pretty much indestructible as long as they don't actually participate in combat, but meh.
    Valid concerns. My intent was that this update was primarily for the Ranger. As such, I have edited it to say that only the ranger's animal companion is affected: the druid still follows the PHB.

    Quote Originally Posted by DracoDei View Post
    Also note that if CR were equivalent to usefulness for a PLAYER, then LA wouldn't be nearly so much of a hassle. The Summon Monster series also has a variety of CRs at each level I believe, probably the same for Summon Nature's Ally, and Summon Undead.
    True, the system is imperfect. In fact, many monsters also deserve challenge ratings different from what they are given. For that matter, the summon undead and summon nature's ally lists are not perfect either.
    Some of these issues would be solved if monsters were balanced against the correct challenge ratings. Playtesting everything with a suboptimal fighter, rogue, wizard, and cleric (as shown in enemies and allies) does not guarantee that each monster will be assigned the correct CR. In short, although CR does not perfectly translate into usefulness, neither does being on a particular list. No system is perfect, I simply intend the system I give to be a more usable alternative to that given in the PHB.

    Finally, while I recognize that the familiar has its problems, that is not what this thread is about.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If Orcus was a nesting doll, that would certainly make the whole thing work smoother. When you cast a level 1 summoning spell, you summon the little Orcus from the middle, but when you cast Gate, you get the really big Orcus that holds all the small Orcuses.

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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    I really like this as an approach for Rangers. Have you thought about creating some feats for the animal companions, rather than for the Ranger?

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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    Quote Originally Posted by 137ben View Post
    True, the system is imperfect. In fact, many monsters also deserve challenge ratings different from what they are given. For that matter, the summon undead and summon nature's ally lists are not perfect either.
    Some of these issues would be solved if monsters were balanced against the correct challenge ratings. Playtesting everything with a suboptimal fighter, rogue, wizard, and cleric (as shown in enemies and allies) does not guarantee that each monster will be assigned the correct CR. In short, although CR does not perfectly translate into usefulness, neither does being on a particular list. No system is perfect, I simply intend the system I give to be a more usable alternative to that given in the PHB.
    You may have grasped my essential point, or you may not have.
    Power as a random encounter is not the same thing as power as a PC race.
    Power as a summon is not the same as either of the above.
    Power as a subject for Conjuration(Calling) is probably not the same as either of the above.
    Power as a long-term companion may or may not be the same as any of the above.

    Point being your noting the disparities in CRs may or may not be as valid a point as it would seem at first glance.
    Quote Originally Posted by 137ben View Post
    Finally, while I recognize that the familiar has its problems, that is not what this thread is about.
    No, it isn't what this thread is about. You did, however, phrase part of your statement of the problem in terms of comparisons to the Familiar, with the familiar coming out ahead. I was pointing out that that might be not as valid as one might think.
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  8. - Top - End - #8
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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    Quote Originally Posted by ShriekingDrake View Post
    I really like this as an approach for Rangers. Have you thought about creating some feats for the animal companions, rather than for the Ranger?
    Yes, I did, though I did not initially think of anything good. But now that you mention it, I went back and added 3 new feats intended to be taken by animal companions!


    Quote Originally Posted by DracoDei View Post
    You may have grasped my essential point, or you may not have.
    Power as a random encounter is not the same thing as power as a PC race.
    Power as a summon is not the same as either of the above.
    Power as a subject for Conjuration(Calling) is probably not the same as either of the above.
    Power as a long-term companion may or may not be the same as any of the above.

    Point being your noting the disparities in CRs may or may not be as valid a point as it would seem at first glance.
    Yes I did grasp the point of your previous post: monster power and ally power are not the same. I'm not quite sure you grasped the point of my response though:
    The lists of animal companions given in the PHB are an estimate of power as an ally.
    The system I gave is an alternate guideline for estimating companion power. An advantage to my system is that it is easy to use animals from other monster books (or homebrew). This does not perfectly determine the power of every monster as an ally in every book, it is simply an alternative guideline.



    Quote Originally Posted by DracoDei View Post
    No, it isn't what this thread is about. You did, however, phrase part of your statement of the problem in terms of comparisons to the Familiar, with the familiar coming out ahead. I was pointing out that that might be not as valid as one might think.
    *facepalm*
    Yes, the way I phrased it in the initial post was a tad ambiguous.
    I tried to make it clear with the previous edit that my intent throughout was for this redesign to be used by the ranger. I didn't really think the druid was as relevant, because compared against the full spellcasting available to the wizard and druid. Now, I will admit that I haven't played druid characters enough to accurately judge the relative power of the familiar against a druid's animal companion, but I CAN say with relative confidence that the familiar is better than the RANGER's animal companion, if the core rules are followed. Again, I apologize for the ambiguity in the way I initially wrote it, I hope this clears things up.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If Orcus was a nesting doll, that would certainly make the whole thing work smoother. When you cast a level 1 summoning spell, you summon the little Orcus from the middle, but when you cast Gate, you get the really big Orcus that holds all the small Orcuses.

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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    Quote Originally Posted by 137ben View Post
    but I CAN say with relative confidence that the familiar is better than the RANGER's animal companion, if the core rules are followed. Again, I apologize for the ambiguity in the way I initially wrote it, I hope this clears things up.
    If an X level wizard's non-spelled up familiar can beat up an X level ranger's non-spelled up animal companion for some X > 3 then the problem is bigger than I thought. Ditto for beating up more kobolds, orcs, or whatever (since head to head can be misleading... as we sorta already discussed).

    Is that what you are saying?
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: The Animal Companion Remix *updated with more feats*!

    I added a new feat for the animal companion.

    Quote Originally Posted by DracoDei View Post
    If an X level wizard's non-spelled up familiar can beat up an X level ranger's non-spelled up animal companion for some X > 3 then the problem is bigger than I thought. Ditto for beating up more kobolds, orcs, or whatever (since head to head can be misleading... as we sorta already discussed).

    Is that what you are saying?
    At high levels using core rules, both the ranger's animal companion and the familiar are useless as a physical combatant. The real comparison, then, is between their utility abilities. The animal companion gets link and share spells, while the familiar gets those and a bunch more.
    As far as skills go, the animal companion at 20th level has gained 6 bonus HD, which each grant 2+int modifier skill points. But, since he animal companion has an intelligence score of either 1 or 2, it only gains the minimum 1 skill point/HD. In effect, it gains only 6 skill points in 20 levels. On the other hand, the familiar of a 20th level wizard has 20 HD. Additionally, its increasing intelligence modifier will give it a substantial number of skill points.
    If you really want to compare their powers as physical combatants, here it goes (assume character level 20th, and assume average results on all HD):
    The animal companion gains bonus HP equal to 27+(con modifier*6). The familiar has (20d4+20*master's con modifier)/2, or about 25+10*master's con modifier. The animal companion also has the hp from the base creature (anywhere from 4 to 19 hp). In the end, both the animal companion and the familiar probably have similar hit point totals.
    For saving throws, the animal companion has the horrible bonuses from its base creature, as well as a measly +3 to fortitude from the extra 6 HD, +4.5 to reflex (because of the dex bonus), and a +2 to will (but against enchantment effects it is +6, because of Devotion). Against foes appropriate for a 20th level party, its going to be failing every saving throw that comes at it unless it rolls a natural 20. The familiar, on the other hand, gains +6 to fort/ref, +12 to will. That's still not much, but it is strictly better than what the animal companion gains.
    As for melee attacks, the animal companion gains 4.5 BAB from the extra HD, to a maximum BAB of +5. The familiar uses its master's BAB (+10). As for other bonuses to melee attacks, the animal companion gains +1.5 attack/damage from the added strength, while the familiar does not, but this is not enough to overcome the familiar's superior BAB and extra attack per round.
    As for other combat bonuses, the familiar gains +10 natural armor and 25 SR, while the animal companion gains only +6 natural armor and no SR.

    Finally, because both are best used for utility purposes, the ranger will have to struggle to prevent their animal companion from being killed in combat, so that it can be useful when its skills/powers are needed. The wizard/sorcerer, on the other hand, can simply send away their familiar, and call upon it only when its utility powers are needed.

    In summary, using the core rules, the familiar is far superior to the ranger's animal companion at high levels.
    Spoiler
    Show
    Quote Originally Posted by Grod_The_Giant View Post
    Grod's Law: You cannot and should not balance bad mechanics by making them annoying to use
    Quote Originally Posted by Flickerdart View Post
    If Orcus was a nesting doll, that would certainly make the whole thing work smoother. When you cast a level 1 summoning spell, you summon the little Orcus from the middle, but when you cast Gate, you get the really big Orcus that holds all the small Orcuses.

    Extended Signature

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