|Liz Courts Community Manager|
Contained within this product:
the Grim Huntsman, a spell-less ranger who gets by on wit and experience.
the Houndmaster, whose hounds will tear you to shreds!
the Wise Warden, whose wisdom and magic can achieve more than can most rangers.
Not a complaint: The Houndmaster uses a mechanic that is very similar to one used in 3.5 for a prestige class called Beastmaster.
I don't know how your playtests went, but in our practice, the beastmaster's secondary companion was good, especially with whatever the feat was that allowed you to treat it as higher level (similar to the Boon Companion feat in Pathfinder). The tertiary companion and onward were lacking however. They run a significantly increased risk of death at the levels at which they are attained, and even when that wasn't an issue, the beastmaster's turn took forever, unless he just chose to forgo the use of all of his animals.
Really an awesome concept, just a difficult thing to execute in game.
Minor complaint: I wish there had been just one piece of artwork, perhaps on the cover. I understand, though that for the price point, it's a bit critical to complain about that sort of thing.
Positive comment: The Wise Warden is extremely interesting. I'm intrigued by the use of checks such as Wild Empathy to create spell effects. It's reminiscent of a Star Wars RPG force power system that I really liked (but never got to use). Perhaps the author could toss around the idea of a 20 level base class that has some limited ability to cast spells via spellcraft/know. arcana checks and the like?
@ Foghammer: Actually, all of the houndmaster's dogs function at the same level. Note the text:
"...the houndmaster gains the companionship of a second dog, but his effective druid level for the purposes of this ability is reduced to his ranger level minus 4."
"For the purposes of this ability" refers to the Houndmaster's Bonds class feature - it affects all the dogs. Basically, the houndmaster "misses out on a level" every time he gains a new hound, and every hound functions at the same level.
I'm glad you like the wise warden. If you play one, let me know how it goes. And speaking of base classes and new mechanics... well, keep an eye on our webstore in the future. We've got at least two new base classes in development.
@ Foghammer: Actually, all of the houndmaster's dogs function at the same level. Note the text:Class Acts: Ranger Archetypes wrote:"...the houndmaster gains the companionship of a second dog, but his effective druid level for the purposes of this ability is reduced to his ranger level minus 4.""For the purposes of this ability" refers to the Houndmaster's Bonds class feature - it affects all the dogs. Basically, the houndmaster "misses out on a level" every time he gains a new hound, and every hound functions at the same level.
So you wind up with four 7th level pooches at 13th level. One would think spreading the levels out more evenly would benefit them, but if we look at the difference in ability between a 7th level dog companion and a CR 12 creature (because the average encounter isn't actually supposed to be full APL), the dogs are going to be in a lot of trouble in even an average encounter.
They could have up to ~50 hp each, and an AC of 19 without armor or spells. Brute attackers at the level have attack bonuses in the high teens to mid-20s anyway, and are dealing an average of about 20 damage per hit, many of them with nasty full attacks. ONE of your dogs could be treated as 11th level with the Boon Companion feat, which would help tremendously. Note: This is a very quick and dirty math-in-my-head job as I have six random CR 12 monsters tabbed on my browser, and none of it is from experience. EDIT: Regarding the HP; if you allow your players to roll their companions HP, this could be considerably higher, but it has been stated that companions are intended to take the average HP for their HD (so 4.5+Con modifier).
One advantage to the method I thought this was using was that there was one or two full strength animals, and the others could serve as non-combat aids, for tracking and such.
Believe me, I shared your concerns at first. I'll walk you through a couple of scenarios (which did see playtesting in three different scenarios). Fun fact: when we release a "cluster" of archetypes, they get playtested together in different combinations. Usually at 5th, 10th, and 15th levels (though this can change depending on when the archetypes gain their most important class features).
A 7th level, a dog with no magic items or buffs should be sitting on a +8 to +10 attack bonus, depending on how he is built and how his ability scores are allocated. He'll be doing an average of 8 or 9 damage per bite, plus a trip (and a tripped opponent makes that much better of a target for any remaining dogs). At this point, the dogs will have the benefit of your quarry class feature, which should improve their chance to hit and raise their damage to roughly 10 to 12 per dog. Bless, haste, and other common group buffs will go a long way to helping damage, but even 8 to 12 per dog is respectable, considering all the other things that dogs can do.
A CR 13 froghemoth has about 28 AC, so the dogs should hit it (slightly) more often than they miss it. A CR 13 red dragon has only 26. The dogs won't be tripping this particular enemy, but they have decent Reflex saves plus evasion if the dragon breathes on them. A CR 13 NPC barbarian typically has even less, and might even be trip-able.
In any of the scenarios described above, the dogs will contribute a fair bit of damage each round... but probably not enough to draw the primary attentions of either of these sample CR 13 monsters. If they do, you are correct in that dogs would probably start dropping at a rate of approximately one dog every one-or-two rounds. Fortunately, animal companions are easily replaceable.
That said, you probably shouldn't use the dogs in every single encounter (such as those where the dogs are likely to draw a lot of attention before you are able to protect or heal them). The dogs don't "tank" very well at all. If they attract a lot of attention in combat, they won't fare as well. What a houndmaster's dogs can do is contribute decent damage, obey very complex commands, sniff out hidden enemies (very quickly, considering the ground they can cover as a group), keep watch, provide flanking to just about everyone that needs it, chase down fast or fleeing opponents, optimize the benefits gained from your quarry class feature, and perform tricks like hunting, tracking, searching, performing, and working. They also make decent mounts for Small-sized houndmasters (but not goblins, who must take goblin dogs).