The Druid's Animal Companion

A druids animal companion is different from a normal animal of its kind in many ways. It is superior to a normal animal of its kind and has special powers, as described below.

CLBonus HDNat Arm Adj.Str/Dex AdjBonus TricksSpecial
1st-2nd+0+0+01Link, share spells
15th-17th+10+10+56Improved evasion

Animal Companion Basics

Use the base statistics for a creature of the companion's kind, as given in the Monster Manual, but make the following changes.

Class Level: The character's druid level. The druid's class levels stack with levels of any other classes that are entitled to an animal companion (such as the ranger) for the purpose of determining the companion's abilities and the alternative lists available to the character.

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

Natural Armor Adj: The number noted here is an improvement to the animal companion's existing natural armor bonus.

Str/Dex Adj.: Add this value to the animal companion's Strength and Dexterity scores.

Bonus Tricks: The value given in this column is the total number of "bonus" tricks that the animal knows in addition to any that the druid might choose to teach it (see the Handle Animal skill). These bonus tricks don't require any training time or Handle Animal checks, and they don't count against the normal limit of tricks known by the animal. The druid selects these bonus tricks, and once selected, they can't be changed.

Link (Ex): A druid can handle her animal companion as a free action, or push it as a move action, even if she doesn't have any ranks in the Handle Animal skill. The druid gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all wild empathy checks and Handle Animal checks made regarding an animal companion.

Share Spells (Ex): At the druid's 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 druid before the duration expires. Additionally, the druid may cast a spell with a target of "You" on her animal companion (as a touch range spell) instead of on herself. A druid and her animal companion can share spells even if the spells normally do not affect creatures of the companion's type (animal).

Evasion (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.

Devotion (Ex): An animal companion's devotion to its master is so complete that it gains a +4 morale bonus on Will saves against enchantment spells and effects.

Multiattack: 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.

Improved Evasion (Ex): 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.

Alternate Animal Companions

As explained in Druid, a druid of sufficiently high level can select her animal companion from one of the following lists, applying the indicated adjustment to the druid's level (in parentheses) for purposes of determining the companion's characteristics and special abilities.

4th Level or Higher (Level -3)
Ape (animal)Dire weasel
Bear, black (animal)Leopard (animal)
Bison (animal)Lizard, monitor (animal)
Boar (animal)Shark, Large¹ (animal)
Cheetah (animal)Snake, constrictor (animal)
Crocodile (animal)*Snake, Lange viper (animal)
Dire badgerWolverine (animal)
Dire bat
7th Level or Higher (Level -6)
Bear, brown (animal)Dire wolverine
Crocodile, giant (animal)Elasmosaurus* (dinosaur)
Deinonychus (dinosaur)Lion (animal)
Dire apeRhinoceros (animal)
Dire boarSnake, Huge viper (animal)
Dire wolfTiger (animal)
10th Level or Higher (Level -9)
Bear, polar (animal)Shark, Huge* (animal)
Dire lionSnake, giant constrictor (animal)
Megaraptor (dinosaur)Whale, orca* (animal)
13th Level or Higher (Level -12)
Dire bearElephant (animal)
Octopus, giant* (animal)
16th Level or Higher (Level -15)
Dire shark*Triceratops (dinosaur)
Dire tigerTyrannosaurus (dinosaur)
Squid, giant* (animal)
* Available only in an aquatic environment.

From Master of the Wild (adapted)

"The Brine Lord's coral castle is surrounded by hungry sharks. He calls the toothy creatures to his home, then lets them roam free. He doesn't bother controlling them; something always comes by to make the sharks want to stay." - Soveliss

The Best Animal Companion?

What's the best animal to befriend? You should try to maintain your maximum allowed Hit Dice of companions, and whenever possible, invest all those Hit Dice in a single animal. Unless you want an animal companion just to serve as a distraction, it needs the best hit points and attack bonus possible. Most magical beasts and underground denizens can overpower an animal of equal Hit Dice, so you have to work hard to keep animal companions competitive.

That said, some animals tend to make better companions than others. A horse makes some sense, perhaps, though it's just as easy to purchase one. In general, you can't go wrong choosing the most combat-effective animal you can get. Depending on the Hit Dice, that means a wolf, lion, bear, or tiger - or a dire version thereof.

Animals are among nature's most potent resources. They offer sustenance with their milk, their eggs, and their very flesh. Their skins and hides provide clothing and shelter from the elements. Some can also serve as transportation for characters and goods, or even guard against predators.

Druids and rangers have deeper and more complex relationships with animals than other characters do, but even so, the basics are unchanged. These special guardians of nature are just as likely as any other character to consume the bounty of nature in the form of hunted animals - that's part of the cycle of life. Hide armor is popular among druids, and rangers frequently use horses or other creatures as mounts or beasts of burden. The difference is that both the druid and the ranger have a fundamental respect for the natural world they live in. Not only are they committed to studying the outdoors through the Knowledge (nature) and Wilderness Lore skills, but they also maintain special relationships with animal companions.

Animal companions are an important part of a druid's (and to a lesser extent, a ranger's) power. The druid lacks some of the cleric's spellcasting versatility and casts fewer spells per day, but her powerful animal companions go a long way toward compensating. An animal companion can serve as a protector, tracker, scout, mount, and warrior - sometimes all at once. It can even be a friend capable of offering advice, thanks to the magic of awaken. Moreover, the Hit Dice of an adventuring druid's animal companion can equal her own, whereas followers and cohorts almost always have fewer Hit Dice than their leaders.

The typical druid chooses a wolf as her first animal companion. The wolf attacks as well as a fighter of comparable Hit Dice, plus it can track. Five levels later, the druid could have a brown bear, which averages a whopping 51 hit points and has three attacks with the potential to do more than 20 points of damage per round. Later, the dire tiger offers 120 hit points on average, plus even more damage potential through its claw, bite, pounce, grab, and rake attacks. Thus, regardless of their limitations, animal companions are incredibly valuable.

Raising a Companion

The realistic way to get a better than average animal is to raise it from infancy. An animal that never goes hungry and gets ample exercise is likely to grow up stronger, tougher, and slightly more intelligent than the average creature of its kind. To reflect this, the DM may allow an animal companion that a character has raised and trained from birth to have 2 bonus hit points per Hit Die, an extra 3 points for its ability scores (distributed as the player sees fit), and the ability to learn one additional trick per point of Intelligence.

Rearing a wild animal takes one year and requires one Handle Animal check (DC 15 + HD of animal). No skill check is required if the creature has already become an animal companion to a druid or ranger, but most adventurers choose to befriend animals only after they are old enough to be helpful. Paying someone to raise an animal may be a more feasible option for adventuring characters. A professional trainer charges 250 gold pieces per Hit Die of the animal to rear it.

This method of acquiring animal companions requires more planning than just searching for one does, but it's also useful for non-adventuring druids who aren't likely to gain levels (and thus require new animal companions) very frequently.

Shopping for an Animal

Since having animal companions is a core ability o: the druid and the ranger, the DM shouldn't make it particularly difficult or challenging to find one. The simplest option is to allow the character a couple of days between adventures to find the desired companion. As long as he or she searches in a terrain that is home to that species, it takes only a day or two to find an appropriate creature. (Of course, it's impossible to find a lion in polar regions or a shark on land.)

To play this out a bit more, have the druid or range: make a Survival check (DC 10 for most animals to discover the creature's regular territory, then use the Track feat to locate one specimen. The detect animals and plants spell allows the character to focus the search on single species within range. Power sight can reveal the exact Hit Dice of: target animal and thus whether or not the character can befriend it. Assume that with the use of Survival and a detect animals or plants spell, the character has a 30% chance to locate an animal for each day spent searching in an appropriate terrain and climate.

If the DM wants to center a campaign around individual heroes and their quests, the party could have a good time seeking out the lair of the evil sorcerer who has n prisoned animals for diabolical purposes, or rescuing bear from a frost giant's kitchen before it lands on the supper table. A few such quests could be interesting give the animal companion a special place in the party but it may not be appropriate to reserve game time for this sort of activity if the character is changing animal companions frequently.

Better than Average Animals

It's simplest to assume that the druid and the ranger always find animal companions that are average for their species, with the ability scores and average hit points given in the Monster Manual. But some creatures deviate from this norm, with hit points above or below the average, or even unusual ability scores. Wolves with 18 hit points instead of 13 exist, and so do lions with Strength 25 instead of 21. While it may be simplest assume that all animal companions are average, it's in character's best interest to seek out creatures that exceed the norm.

The obvious way to do this is to generate an animal's hit points and ability scores randomly whenever the character encounters one. Rolling for hit points is easy and generating ability scores isn't tough (see Ability Scores for Monsters on page 173 DMG). The disadvantage of this method is that it involves a lot of dice-rolling and could result in day after day of searching for the picky character.

The best solution is not to reveal an animal's ability scores or hit points. After all, while it may be easy to identify a sick animal, it's tough to differentiate between two animals whose Strength scores differ by 2 points. And no animal is likely to tolerate a barrage of tests designed to determine whether it's a worthy companion before the character has magically befriended it. Intending to perform such tests after casting animal friendship is a violation of the spell's parameters, since it functions only for a caster who has a true heart and actually wishes to be the animal's friend. Only after the character has adventured with the animal for weeks or months (assume 2d4 weeks as an average) should the DM consider revealing its ability scores and hit points. At that point, the character can abandon the animal and begin anew, if desired. However, doing this too often may call the character's "true heart" into question.

Two ability scores actually have limitations. First, an animal's Intelligence score never exceeds 2 without the assistance of magic. Most mammals, lizards, and birds have Intelligence 2, while snakes, fish, and lower-order animals have Intelligence 1. Second, only one normal animal (the wolverine) has a Charisma score greater than 7, and no dire animal has a Charisma greater than 11.

The Bond

The bond created by an animal friendship spell is not a magical one. It cannot be dispelled, though dominate animal or some other magical compulsion could cause the animal to act against the character's wishes. The animal acknowledges the character as its friend - something like a special denmate or a member of the pack. The animal may realize that the character isn't really one of its own, but true conscious thought along those lines is beyond most animals' ability.

As the Animal Companions sidebar (below) states, a companion is still only an animal. It cannot understand human speech. Other than following its friend and performing the tricks it has been taught, it cannot respond to directions. An empathic link exists between the wizard and her familiar land between the paladin and her mount, but not between a druid (or a ranger) and an animal companion, plus, an animal companion makes a poor scout, since it s no way to communicate what it sees - and even if it did, its low Intelligence prevents it from knowing what look for or how to analyze what it finds. The animal expects its friend to either provide it with sustenance or give it adequate time to find food and water on its own. In addition, though the animal naturally defends its friend, and may even attack his or her enemies, it doesn't enjoy combat. While the druid and the ranger can accept that some pain is necessary in the service of good or the defense of the land, these concepts are lost on the lion, hawk, or lizard that is being struck, mauled, or energy drained. The animal expects its friend to try to keep it safe, so painful fight after painful fight may cause it to grow weary of the punishment.

Animal Mood and Attitude

The player whose character has befriended an animal usually controls it. As long as that character continues to fulfill the obligations and duties of friendship, this is a fine way to run things. Should anything complicate or challenge that relationship, however, the DM may want to step in and control the animal's reactions.

When a character befriends an animal through animal friendship, its attitude toward its new friend automatically becomes helpful (see Diplomacy). Should the character ever abuse the animal physically or expose it to adverse situations that strain its loyalty, the DM can adjust its attitude appropriately - to friendly, indifferent, or worse as the situation requires. A friendly animal may or may not aid its friend, and an indifferent one certainly won't. An animal that has become unfriendly or hostile looks for the first chance to depart or lash out at the "friend" who has clearly abused its trust. However, through role-playing and judicious use of the Wild Empathy ability, a character may be able to repair such a breach of trust. Use Influencing NPC Attitude.

The animal has no special tie to its friend's fellow adventurers, so its initial attitude toward them is indifferent. It doesn't protect them unless ordered, but neither does it attack them unless provoked. Roleplaying and the use of Wild Empathy can adjust the animal's attitude about other party members in the same manner as described above.

Limitations and Problems

The presence of animal companions in an adventuring party can present a variety of problems. Wild animals are generally not accepted inside a city or within the lord's keep. To most peasants, a wild animal is something to be feared, driven off, or put down, just like a troll or a griffon would be. Only the most famous druid or ranger heroes can expect an urban population to accept wild creatures walking along the streets—even in the company of humanoids.

Most characters solve this problem by simply asking their companions to stay in the wilderness outside town. An animal companion can accept such a parting of the ways as long as it remains short (less than a week), or the character's visits are frequent. Of course, leaving a wild animal outside town can present another problem - the creature may think that the domesticated cows, chickens, or horses on the nearby farms are meant for its consumption.

Another tough situation is the dungeon. Most animals (other than bats, lizards, rats, snakes, toads, and the dire versions thereof) are unaccustomed to dwelling underground. Bears, even though they live in caves, are not truly native to subterranean habitats. Surface-dwelling animals are reluctant to proceed into confined spaces and tight, sunless corridors. Even if they can be convinced to enter the dungeon, most animals have great difficulty dealing with pits, steep inclines, narrow crevices, and similar dungeon challenges. Without magical levitation or the ability to fly, a creature such as a dire tiger could easily get stuck somewhere in the Underdark. Because of this, some characters choose to leave their animal companions outside the dungeon. Alternatively, the calm trick can enhance a creature's ability to deal with dungeon environments.

Food and Care

A character with an animal companion must see to its care and feeding during adventures. The obvious option, of course, is to carry food for it. The biggest problem with doing this is typically the weight, not the cost. For an herbivore, a day's worth of feed costs a mere 5 cp and weighs 10 pounds; for a carnivore, it costs 5 sp and weighs 10 pounds. Each day, a Medium-size herbivore or carnivore drinks at least a gallon of water, which weighs about 8 pounds (plus the weight of the container), and a Large animal drinks at least 3 gallons a day. Given the typical horse's carrying capacity, it can be a real challenge to carry more than two weeks of food for an animal companion. On extended trips, a druid can rely upon create water and goodberry. One goodberry can provide sustenance for one Medium-size herbivore or carnivore; a Large animal requires two per day, and a Huge creature requires four. As a final option, a character may be able to convince a hungry carnivore to eat the flesh of a slain monster - particularly a beast, dragon, giant, humanoid, magical beast, or monstrous humanoid.

Another option is to allow the animal to graze or hunt for itself. It must eat at least once every third day, just like a human, or begin to suffer the effects of starvation (see Starvation). Grazing animals need only grassland or a hayfield; no skill check is required. To forage for water or to hunt, the animal must make a Survival check (DC 10). Success indicates that it has acquired a day's worth of food and water; failure means no suitable sustenance was found. If the animal is foraging in its native terrain and climate, it suffers no penalties on the check; otherwise, a circumstance penalty of at least -4 and as much as -8 applies. If the animal moves at one-half its overland movement rate or slower, it can hunt while traveling; otherwise, it requires 4 hours per day to hunt.

Finally, animals aren't prepared for climates other than their own. Those adapted for the cold, such as bears, perform poorly in warm deserts, and cold-blooded animals such as snakes and lizards suffer in cold regions. When outside its native environment, an animal must make Fortitude saving throws at regular intervals to avoid taking subdual damage. The rules for this are the same as those given for characters in the Heat Dangers and Cold Dangers, except that the animal's Survival skill provides no bonuses on these saves. A character, however may provide bonuses to an animal companion with a successful Survival check, as noted in the Survival skill. Eventually, though, the character must make a choice: Take the animal out of the foreign environment, cast a protection spell such as endure elements, or watch the creature perish.

Breaking the Limits

Often, the best way to improve the abilities of animal companions and overcome some of their limitations is the use of spells and magic items.

Enhancing Magic: Magic fang and nature's favor enhance an animal companion's combat ability. Might of the oak, persistence of the waves, and speed of the wind each enhance one of an animal's ability scores at the expense of another. Animal growth improves an animal's combat effectiveness through increased Hit Dice, Strength, Constitution, damage, and hit points. Finally, nature's avatar increases an animal's hit points and grants it the benefits of haste, thus transforming it into a fearsome destructive machine. The lower-level spells, especially nature's favor are excellent for use in wands.

Barding: Horses, ponies, riding lizards, and riding dogs typically accept armor in the form of barding, but wild creatures simply refuse the burden. With the armor trick, a character can adapt any animal to the use of armor. Barding is available in all armor types (including masterwork and magical versions), but it always costs more than comparable human armor. See Chapter 7 of the Player's Handbook for additional rules on barding.

Communication: Adopting an animal form through wild shape or polymorph self doesn't impart the ability to communicate with that species (at least, not without the Speaking Wild Shape feat. The speak with animals spell is the one of the best ways to converse with animal companions, but a helm of bonding or a torc of animal speech also allows communication. Direct conversation lets the creature understand instructions beyond the tricks it has learned, but even so, the animal's intelligence places an obvious limit on the interaction.

Loyalty: Most animals have poor Will saving throws As friendly and loyal as an animal companion is to it druid or ranger friend, an enemy can all too easily use magic to control or dominate it. A druid with foresight: can either carry spells (such as dispel magic or calm animal) to neutralize this threat or equip her companions with collars of resistance.

More Animals: The obvious way to acquire additional animal companions is to gain class levels in druid o| ranger, but magic items provide a second option. One ring of animal friendship adds 12 Hit Dice to the character's limit, a second raises that to 24, and a hand of glory allows the use of a third such ring for a total of 36 additional Hit Dice of animal companions. At a price of only 9,500 gp per ring and 7,200 gp for the hand of glory, these items are cheap for their benefits.

Regardless of the total Hit Dice of animal companions an adventuring character can have, none of them can exceed his or her own Hit Dice. That is, an 8th-level druid wearing with a ring of animal friendship can befriend two dire lions (8 HD creatures), but not a dire tiger (16 HD creature), or any creature with more than 8 Hit Dice. On the other hand, two dire lions can pack quite a punch.

Abandoning a Companion

Characters want to replace their animal companions from time to time, and there is no penalty for doing so. Reasons for making a change abound - for example, a druid may not wish to expose comparatively weak animals to dangers they cannot handle, or she may need to travel to a region where her existing companions could not survive.

The real issue is the conditions under which a character abandons an animal companion. Leaving it in a foreign land, or worse, in the depths of some dungeon, is an evil act. Even neutral and evil druids should be loath to betray their companions in this way.

Improving a Companion

Some characters, abhorring the prospect of abandoning a trusted friend every level or two, seek a way out of this situation. Long ago, druids developed a magical ritual to deal with this problem. During this ritual, which takes a full day to perform at a holy site or natural glade, imbues one animal companion with additional strength. The druid loses 200 XP, as if she had cast a spell with that XP cost. Only animals with a listing for "advancement" in their statistics can improve through this ritual.

At the end of the ritual, the animal's Hit Dice increase by +1. As a result, it gains additional hit points and a bonus on attack rolls, if the new Hit Dice total warrants that. The additional Hit Die may also increase the animal's size (see the rules for advancement in the introduction of the Monster Manual). Since it is an animal, the companion gains neither feats nor skills as it advances.

Awakened Animals

Awaken is a 5th-level spell available to druids. Because it grants humanlike sentience and intelligence to an animal, the creature's type changes to magical beast. This spell greatly changes the relationship between druid and animal companion. Armed with intelligence and the ability to speak at least one language, the animal no longer needs training to understand the druid's wishes. Thus, the druid gains a source of advice and ready conversation in addition to a guard and a servant. Of course, as a fully sentient creature, an awakened animal develops its own desires and ambitions.

While normally a creature with such a high intelligence isn't subject to animal friendship, an animal awakened by a druid remains her companion as long as she treats it with respect, as discussed above. The animal continues to count against the druid's Hit Dice limit for animal companions. For a time, the awakened animal can even exceed the druid's level. (For example, an awakened dire bear suddenly has 14 HD, but it remains with a 12th-level druid). Until the druid once again exceeds the animal in Hit Dice, however, she cannot gain new animal companions.

As a general rule, an awakened animal continues to assist the druid, at least as long as she continues to include it among her companions. When she elects to leave that animal behind (by befriending a new one), it soon departs. The animal remains friendly with the druid and may assist her from time to time, but it no longer accompanies her on adventures.

For the DM

Druids can begin play with animal companions, which are something like cohorts, and rangers can gain them during their careers. Use the following rules of thumb to adjudicate situations that may arise when characters have animal companions.

While the class descriptions in the Player's Handbook list the animals available as companions, those lists assume the character spends most of her time in the animals' home territory and treats them well. If she spends most of her time at sea, in cities, or otherwise in places that the animals don't like, her animals are likely to desert. Remember, these creatures are loyal friends but not pets or servants. They won't remain loyal if being the character's friend comes too onerous.

The animal is still an animal. It's not a magical beast, as a familiar or a paladin's mount is. While it may have learned some tricks, it's still no more intelligent than any other animal of its kind, and it retains all its bestial instincts. Unlike intelligent followers or cohorts, animals can't follow complex instructions, such as "Attack the gnoll with the wand." A character can give a simple verbal command, such as "Attack" or "Come," as a free action, provided such a command is among the tricks the animal has learned. A more complex instruction, such as telling an animal to attack and pointing out a specific target, is a standard action. Animals are ill-equipped to handle unusual situations, such as combats with invisible opponents, and they typically hesitate to attack weird ,and unnatural creatures, such as beholders and oozes.

Left to its own judgment, an animal follows a character and attacks creatures that attack her (or that attack the animal itself). To do more than that, it needs to learn tricks as described under the Handle Animal skill