Racial Classes for Intelligent Animals?

To clarify I’m not talking about anthropomorphic animals, or beastmen, but rather perfectly normal animals gifted with human level intelligence. I’m trying to think of a way to allow intelligent animals as a player option using the racial class creation rules from the players companion, but I’m coming up with a problem.

Animals, especially small animals, are not going to have the same range of ability scores as (Demi)Humans. Looking over the Players Companion it doesn’t look as if there are any maximum ability score limitations for any of the racial classes. I’m wondering if implementing max ability scores for racial classes would be a game breaker.

Second, I’m trying to think of a way to encapsulate most fable/fairytale friendly animals into a single racial value table. So playing an animal with more special abilities (flight, great strength, etc) would cost more when building a racial class. But I’m not sure you could distill such variety into a single racial value.

Basically what I want to end up with is a single table from which I can make Racial classes like “Bear Brawler” (Based on the Barbarian) and “Hound Tracker” (Based on the explorer) Or “Crocodile Witch Doctor” (Based on the witch).

A post Alex has made somewhere around here (I don’t have a link at the moment) talks about ability scores for nonhumans. The ability scores are based on their own race.

So a goblin with Str 10 has an average amount of strength, for a goblin. This is not to say that he can lift as much as a dragon with Str 10; the dragon is vastly stronger on an absolute scale. But both of them have a Str of 10, and range from 3-18 racially.

To reflect races that are innately stronger or weaker than humans (or the same with any other stat), simply give them custom powers that reflect their difference in ability, such as a bonus to hit and damage with melee attacks for extremely strong races.

Distilling variety into a single racial value would require you to end up with a fairly simple table that lets you pick options. You might see something along the lines of the dwarf value; “Fairy-Tale Animal” value would give you X custom powers per point above 0, the same way that dwarf value gives you 1 free proficiency per point above 0.

Realistically, however, I don’t think this is significantly less work than simply making a racial value for each kind of animal. You’d still have to pick the custom powers for any given animal.

The only problem with creating separate tables is that I’m only likely to create a handfull of animal race classes as I want such characters (And NPC’s) to be a rarity. I’m not looking for “Animal Farm the RPG” but rather just allowing the characters to be accompanied by a wise old owl shamen, or have a pus-in-boots situation with one of a failing huntmasters hounds showing surprising intellect and bardic powers.

I would think it would be an easier task with them being rare (fewer tables to create) to create separate tables for each kind of animal.

Regardless, I don’t think there’s any option if you want them to have separate powers. Unless you want dog and cat to have identical powers, at some point, you are going to have to differentiate them. You can do that either by category (“Hunting animals” vs “Guard animals” and so on), by species, by party role, whatever, but at some point you have to either give them identical powers or differentiate them.

And each differentiation, if they are not identical, needs to have different powers, and they need to be selected by you to design them.

Dragon #237 had an article entitled “I’m A What?” that had animal PCs for AD&D 2e (due to the reincarnate spell having animals as possible results). It generically splits it into tiny, small, medium, large, and bird, with each classification within that group getting slightly different abilities (for example, the tiny group is cat, fox, and raccoon - cats get a rake attack, foxes can track, and raccoons have hands). This might give you a path forward to create a template for a particular size, with each species getting a different proficiency depending on what the animal is good at.

I have that article, somewhere. maybe I will give it a look. For some reason I remember it being very reincarnate-focused but maybe I can tweak it for starting characters.

You could look at the Rhy-animals from Blue Rose for inspiration.

So I’m thinking of something along these lines stolen from the dragon magazine article referenced above.

Value Wise Beast
4 Large (Brown Bear, Horse, bull, anything bigger than a man)
3 Medium ( Black Bear, Apes, Boars, mansized animals)
2 Small, Flying (Birds)
1 Small (Dogs, dog sized things, medium sized great cats)
0 Tiny Animals ( Small dogs, House Cats, Raccoons)

Wise Animal PC’s have all the abilities of their animal species, with the additional ability to communicate (in some way) with members of one intelligent race. Bonuses and Penalties should be considered in this light.

Wise Animal Racial classes should be designed with one species (or similar members of a species) in mind.

Wise animals have the same natural attacks as their base animal type from the ACKS core rulebook.