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Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 140
In a typical campaign, each player controls one character. However, there are several ways for you to temporarily or permanently gain the assistance of a companion, such as an animal companion, a cohort, an eidolon, or a familiar. The combat advantages of controlling a second creature are obvious, but having a companion also has drawbacks and requires an understanding of both your role and the GM’s in determining the creature’s actions. This section addresses common issues for companions and the characters who use them.

Controlling Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 140
How a companion works depends on the campaign as well as the companion’s nature, intelligence, and abilities. In some cases, the rules do not specify whether you or the GM controls the companion. If you’re entirely in control, the companion acts like a subsidiary PC, doing exactly what you want just like a true PC. If the GM is control, you can make suggestions or attempt to influence the companion, but the GM determines whether the creature is willing or able to attempt what you want.

Advancing Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 142
Another issue is who gets to control the companion’s advancement. Animal companions, eidolons, and cohorts all advance much like PCs, making choices about feats, skills, special abilities, and (in the case of cohorts) class levels. Whoever controls the companion’s actions also makes decisions about its advancement, but there is more of a shared role between you and the GM for some types of companions.

Animal Companion: Advancement choices for an animal companion include feats, skills, ability score increases, and tricks.

If the companion’s Intelligence score is 2 or lower, it is limited to a small selection of feats (see Animal Feats, under the animal companion section). You should decide what feats the animal learns, though the GM should have a say about whether a desired feat is appropriate to the animal’s type and training—fortunately, the feats on the list are appropriate for just about any animal. If the animal’s Intelligence is 3 or higher (whether from using its ability score increase or a magic item), it can select any feat that it qualifies for. You should decide what feat it learns, subject to GM approval, although the creature’s higher intelligence might mean it has its own ideas about what it wants to learn.

As with feats, you should decide what skills your animal companion learns, chosen from the Animal Skills list and subject to GM approval. If the animal’s Intelligence score is 3 or higher, it can put its ranks into any skill, with the GM’s approval. Of course, the animal might not have the physical ability to perform certain skills (a dog can’t create disguises, an elephant can’t use the Ride skill, and so on).

Ability score increases are straightforward when it comes to physical ability scores—training an animal to be stronger, more agile, or tougher are all reasonable tasks. Training an animal to be smarter, more intuitive, or more self-aware is less easy to justify—except in the context where people can cast spells and speak with animals.

Because you’re responsible for using the Handle Animal skill to teach your companion its tricks, you decide what tricks the companion learns. If you’re not skilled at training animals or lack the time to do it yourself, you can hire an expert trainer to do it for you or use the downtime system to take care of this training.



Cohort: Advancement choices for a cohort include feats, skills, ability score increases, and class levels.

A cohort is generally considered a player-controlled companion, and therefore you get to decide how the cohort advances. The GM might step in if you make choices that are inappropriate for the cohort, use the cohort as a mechanism for pushing the boundaries of the game rules, or treat the cohort unfairly. A cohort is a loyal companion and ally to you, and expects you to treat him fairly, generously, without aloofness or cruelty, and without devoting too much attention to other minions such as familiars or animal companions. The cohort’s attitude toward you is generally helpful (as if using the Diplomacy skill); he complies with most of your requests without any sort of skill check, except for requests that are against his nature or put him in serious peril.

If you exploit your cohort, you’ll quickly find your Leadership score shrinking away. Although this doesn’t change the cohort’s level, the cohort can’t gain levels until your Leadership score allows for a level increase, so if you’re a poor leader, you must wait longer for your cohort to level up. In extreme cases, the cohort might abandon you, and you’ll have to recruit a new cohort.

Examples of inappropriate advancement choices are a good-aligned companion selecting morally questionable feats, a clumsy cohort suddenly putting many ranks in Disable Device (so he can take all the risks in searching for traps instead of you), a spellcaster cohort taking nothing but item creation feats (so you get access to plenty of cheap magic items at the cost of just one feat, Leadership), a fighter cohort taking a level in wizard when he had no previous interest in magic, or you not interacting with your cleric cohort other than to gain defensive spells from a different class or a flanking bonus.

When you select the Leadership feat, you and the GM should discuss the cohort’s background, personality, interests, and role in the campaign and party. Not only does this give the GM the opportunity to reject a cohort concept that goes against the theme of the campaign, but the GM can plan adventure hooks involving the cohort for future quests. The random background generator in Chapter 1 can help greatly when filling in details about the cohort. Once the discussion is done, writing down a biography and personality profile of the cohort helps cement his role in the campaign and provides a strong reference point for later talks about what is or is not appropriate advancement for the cohort.

Eidolon: Compared to an animal companion or cohort, an eidolon is a unique type of companion—it is intelligent and loyal to you, and you have absolute power over whether it is present in the material world or banished to its home plane. You literally have the power to reshape the eidolon’s body using the transmogrify spell, and though technically the eidolon can resist this—the Saving Throw is “Will negates (harmless)”—it is assumed that the eidolon complies with what you want. After all, the eidolon can’t actually be killed while summoned; at worst, it might experience pain before damage sends it back to its home plane. This means the eidolon is usually willing to take great risks to help you. If swimming through acid was the only way to save you, it would do so, knowing that it won’t die and will recover. The eidolon is a subservient creature whose very nature depends upon your will, so you decide what feats, skill points, ability score increases, and evolutions the eidolon gains as it advances.

Follower: Because a follower is much lower level than you, it’s generally not worth determining a follower’s exact feats and skill ranks, as he would be ineffective against opponents appropriate for your level. In most cases, knowing the follower’s name, gender, race, class, level, and profession is sufficient, such as “Lars, male human expert 1, sailor.” Since followers lack full stat blocks, the issue of advancing them is irrelevant. If your Leadership score improves, just add new followers rather than advancing existing ones. However, if events require advancing a follower (such as turning a follower into a cohort to replace a dead cohort), use the same guidelines as for cohorts.

Hirelings: Hirelings don’t normally gain levels. If the GM is running a kingdom-building campaign where hireling NPCs are heavily involved, you might suggest ways for NPCs to advance, but the final decision is up to the GM. If you want more control over your hireling’s feats, skills, and class levels, you should select that hireling as a follower with the Leadership feat.

Mounts: Common mounts (such as horses or riding dogs bought from a merchant, rather than mounts that are class features) don’t normally advance. If extraordinary circumstances merit a mount gaining Hit Dice, and you have Handle Animal ranks and take an interest in training the animal, use the same guidelines as those for animal companions.

Intelligent Animals

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 143
Increasing an animal’s Intelligence to 3 or higher means it is smart enough to understand a language. However, unless an awaken spell is used, the animal doesn’t automatically and instantly learn a language, any more than a human child does. The animal must be taught a language, usually over the course of months, giving it the understanding of the meaning of words and sentences beyond its trained responses to commands like “attack” and “heel.”

Even if the animal is taught to understand a language, it probably lacks the anatomy to actually speak (unless awaken is used). For example, dogs, elephants, and even gorillas lack the proper physiology to speak humanoid languages, though they can use their limited “vocabulary” of sounds to articulate concepts, especially if working with a person who learns what the sounds mean.

An intelligent animal is smart enough to use tools, but might lack the ability to manipulate them. A crow could be able to use simple lockpicks, but a dog can’t. Even if the animal is physically capable of using a tool, it might still prefer its own natural body to manufactured items, especially when it comes to weapons. An intelligent gorilla could hold or wield a sword, but its inclination is to make slam attacks. No amount of training (including weapon proficiency feats) is going to make it fully comfortable attacking in any other way.

Even if an animal’s Intelligence increases to 3 or higher, you must still use the Handle Animal skill to direct the animal, as it is a smart animal rather than a low-intelligence person (using awaken is an exception— an awakened animal takes orders like a person). The GM should take the animal’s Intelligence into account when determining its response to commands or its behavior when it doesn’t have specific instructions. For example, an intelligent wolf companion can pick the weakest-looking target if directed to do so, and that same wolf trapped in a burning building might push open a door or window without being told.

Remembering Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 143
Often, a companion is forgotten about when it’s not needed. A familiar hides in a backpack and only comes out when the sorcerer needs to spy on something or deliver a spell with a range of touch. An animal companion or cohort follows the druid silently and acts only when a skill check or attack roll is needed. An eidolon is used as a mount or an expendable resource in battle. You and the GM need to remember that a companion is a creature, not an unthinking tool, and can’t simply be ignored.

Companion Plot Hooks

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 144
Having a companion in the party is an incredible opportunity for the GM to introduce plot elements into a campaign—and more interesting plots than “the companion has been kidnapped!” The players have a general idea about their characters’ pre-adventurer histories, but a companion is a bit of a mystery. What did it do before it met you? What is its motivation for joining the adventuring party? What are its goals? What does it do when you aren’t around?

Reviving and Replacing Companions

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 147
Adventuring is a dangerous career, and sometimes an animal companion, cohort, or familiar dies or is lost. A change in your alignment or religion might drive away your cohort, or the cohort’s role in the story might end based on discussion between you and the GM. An extended voyage in a dangerous environment might convince a druid to free a trusted companion that would otherwise suffer and die if forced to travel (such as a polar bear in the desert). A ranger might discover a rare specimen of a favorite type of creature and want to claim it as his own in order to protect it from poachers. Regardless of the cause, when a companion dies or is lost, you need to replace it. This creates an opportunity for roleplaying.