Author Topic: Animals Companions: What they are and what they can do  (Read 7100 times)

Exordium

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Animals Companions: What they are and what they can do
« on: February 09, 2012, 12:54:31 PM »
In essence, animal companions are vastly different from familiars. The bond between a druid or a ranger and her companion is not a magical one and the companion continues to be a fairly ordinary animal even when the bond is done - a druid or a ranger can not read her companions mind and can not communicate with the companion in a full, coherent manner, or in any way comparable to human communication.

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 in Chapter 2 of the DUNGEON MASTER’S Guide 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 and between the paladin and her mount, but not between a druid (or a ranger) and an animal companion. Thus, an animal companion makes a poor scout, since it has no way to communicate what it sees—and even if it did, its low Intelligence prevents it from knowing what to 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.

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.

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.

Sources:
Masters of the Wild, 3rd ed supplement book
Dungeon Master's Guide, 3rd ed




To summarize, it's good to remember that animal companions are only animals and should be played as such. The ways of communication are limited and the druid or ranger does not have full control over her companion - they are not machines, but individual members of their species.