Just some speculative thinking for a campaign I'm in the middle of, where I've got a player with a war-dog henchmen. While there's already rules for monster advancement, the XP curve is pretty punishing for them. Beast Friendship is admittedly pretty potent even with that limitation in mind as you can always "change up" the HD tree by recruiting new animals, but this might be an option for players who want more of a long-term animal companion or perhaps a campaign featuring awakened or sapient animals.
War Dog Class
Hit Die 2 - d8
Fighting 2 (Fighter)
- +2 attack throw/3 levels
- unrestricted weapons and armour
- two weapon style, weapon/shield, two-handed
- +1 damage at level 1, and +1/3 levels
- 1 cleave/level
Dog 1 - based on Thrassian
- natural bite 1d6
- inhumanity -4 humans, +4 dogs/wolves
- tough hide - AC2 base
- Speed - base movement 150'
- character is an animal with all the obvious benefits/drawbacks (can't speak human language, wear ordinary equipment, etc.)
Racial Class BP 5 - Level Limit 12
2400 xp; always doubles after 8th level (as per Thrassian)
Stronghold Type: Elven Fastness (slightly breaking the rules here, but this is probably the best sort of option for a Lion King style animal domain)
Custom Power Tradeoffs
- weapons to restricted - 4 custom
- armour to narrow - 2 custom
- no fighting style - 3 custom
9 custom powers:
- Savage Resilience - to represent beast resilience
- Beast Friendship - I'd also restrict animal classes to making henchmen of only other animals
- Animal Friendship and Attunement to Nature - mainly to fit with fastness
- Alertness - wild senses
- Tracking - this is a dog, after all
- Survival - ditto
- Naturalism - again, with the theme
- Wilderness Evasion - another dog-like ability
- Avoid Getting Lost - dog senses
The "Dog" racial class is built roughly on the same assumptions as the Thrassian, trading swim speed for move speed and the claw/claw/bite routine for a straight bite weapon, and is capable of wearing a leather harness to improve AC somewhat. The current list represents a "man's best friend" sort of wilderness dog who's adept at tracking and exploration, sort of in the Lassie mold.A hunting dog would convert to this class from level 1, while a war dog would start at level 2
Modifying the custom power list and perhaps the natural attack routine could easily get you to represent a bear or big cat. A big cat like a tiger might get back the Thrassian claw/claw/bite routine and swap utility proficiencies for Ambushing and Difficult to Spot. A bear or boar might trade a number of utility powers for Flesh Runes, giving them greater AC and damage resistance.
Regardless of any other changes, animal cohorts probably should keep Savage Resilience, Beast Friendship, and the combined Animal Friendship/Attunement to Nature abilities as a "core set of abilities" - this lets them function as true retainers going on to lead other war-beasts in the same way a trusted human henchman will probably end up commanding troops.
The Monster entry for war dogs notes they are able to be equipped with leather and spiked collars - this increases their AC and their bite attack respectively; both are still allowed given the armour/equipment restrictions. I leave it to the individual referee's judgement as to what extent magic versions of each may occur in the campaign world.
Again, this is mostly preliminary thoughts, so any feedback on balance or the like is appreciated (and if my math is correct!).