Stupid Qs on Animal Companions


Rules Questions

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I know, there are no stupid questions except for those you don't ask. Well, the party has almost gotten to 4th level, and I haven't asked these until now, so I think they qualify. The thing is, I recently realized that we were doing something wrong w/ a different feature for a player's hunter class. And then someone else created a thread about Magic Items for animal companions. So I thought, gee, maybe I should verify a few things about the tiger in my game. And then explore further.

So first, would someone please check my math, assuming no feats, items, or other ways of adding to the base stats? The hunter has spells and a special feature for augmenting her companion, but again, we'll ignore that.

Bright Eyes:
A companion to a 3rd-level Hunter (effective Druid) gets 3 HD, +2 BAB, +3/ +3/ +1 base saves, 3 skill pts (!), 2 feats, +2 NA, +1 Str & Dex, and 2 bonus tricks, along with Link, Share Spells & Evasion.
In a more typical order, that's +2 NA, 3 HD, +3/ +3/ +1 base saves; +1 Str & Dex, +2 BAB, 3 skill pts (!), 2 feats, and 2 bonus tricks, along with Link, Share Spells & Evasion.

As a medium-sized tiger, Bright Eyes started with (reordered)...
Special Qualities low-light vision, scent;
AC +1 natural armor;
Speed 40 ft.;
Attack bite (1d6), 2 claws (1d4); Special Attacks rake (1d4);
Str 13, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 15, Cha 10.

So adding those together, I get...

Bright Eyes (tiger)
N Medium animal
Init +4; Senses low-light vision, scent
AC 17, touch 14, flat-ftd 13 (+4 Dex, +3 NA)
HP 3d8+3
Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +3
Speed 40 ft.
Melee: bite +4 (1d6+2), 2 claws +4 (1d4+2);
Special Attack rake +4 (1d4+2)
Str 14, Dex 18, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 15, Cha 10
BAB +2; CMB +4; CMD 18
3 or 6 Skill ranks; 2 feats; 8 tricks
SQ link, share spells, evasion.

Well, maybe I'd best verify a couple of other things. First, that all possible other sources of NA stack with each other & with what she has now, unlike for other components of AC.

Second, I want to verify that the following rule is acknowledging that while the kitty only has a +2 BAB, she gets her full suite of natural weapons now. However, when she gets to +6 BAB, she won't get a second iteration of them at -5.

Core under Druid wrote:
BAB: This is the animal companion's base attack bonus. An animal companion's base attack bonus is the same as that of a druid of a level equal to the animal's HD. Animal companions do not gain additional attacks using their natural weapons for a high base attack bonus.

Now for the more substantive questions.

Rake: If the tiger starts the round in a grapple, she can use her rake -- but is that in addition to the full suite of natural weapons? What if she decides to go for a pin instead of those ordinary attacks?

Skills: We almost had the poor beastie drown at 1st level, swimming a torpid swamp river, because she hadn't had enough skill ranks to put one into Swim. (I decided that instead she made it to the wrong bank.) Should she indeed have only 3 skill ranks? Or 3 plus 1 per level, for a total of 6 skill ranks now? Even the latter seems abnormally low for a lithe, perceptive, stealthy tiger. I'm scrambling with a homebrew solution, but I'd love to hear we understood it wrong.

Tricks: We started out with the player having essentially telepathic control of her companion; the tiger was doing some very complex actions to help her friend. Essentially, she was acting as a fully-intelligent cohort. (Novice GM, what can I say?) I've figured out finally that no, that doesn't work. I'm playing the tiger now, to facilitate a simple level of communication.

But the player is going to kick and scream if I tell her she has to limit herself to 8 specific commands. That if "Flank" isn't on the list, but she wants Bright Eyes to flank a known party member, it's a DC 25 Handle Animal check (27 if wounded). The hunter isn't a Cha-based character; I'm pretty sure her skill bonus is +10 right now, counting the Druid's +4 bonus. And this isn't just a trained circus tiger; it's a character who is devoted to her elven companion, who is following commands not out of a desire for treats, but out of love. RAW, is there really no mitigation for the Handle Animal rules for animal companions, other than the bonus tricks?

Does it make a difference if the hunter or another PC uses Speak with Animals? For that matter, will this get better at 11th level, when the elf & tiger can speak to each other at will?

Bonus question: Looking ahead, at 7th level the kitten will finally grow into a cougar (err, tiger). We have:

Core under Druid wrote:
7th-Level Advancement: Size Large; AC +2 natural armor; Attack bite (1d8), 2 claws (1d6); Ability Scores Str +8, Dex –2, Con +4; Special Attacks grab, pounce, rake (1d6).

Now I believe that some of these are additions and some replacements, confusingly. If I have it correctly, the tiger's size CHANGES to Large; her AC ADDS +2 NA; her attack dice CHANGE; her Ability Scores ADD pluses or minuses; and she ADDS two new Special Attacks and CHANGES the damage die on the third. I'd love confirmation of this!


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ac as animal companions or ac as armor class?


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Lady-J wrote:
ac as animal companions or ac as armor class?

Animal Companion. I fixed my title. I guess I use it as both in the post. (Maybe I've fixed that sufficiently, too.) Hopefully you can figure it out!


3 skill points (1 per hit die animal companions are sool when it comes to skills) they also have a special bond with their animal allowing them to comand them with out needing a handle animal check(otherwise animal companions would be totally useless at level 1-16 at a majority of tables) only check needed is to teach the trick but no check needed to use the trick the bonus tricks are just tricks you can auto teach the pet with out needing a check while the most tricks you can teach an animal companion is 3(with one int) or 6(with 2 int) were as if they bump their animal companions int to 3 at level 4 they get unlimited tricks and they can also take any feat in the game now as opposed to just those on the animal companion list(so long as they meet the other prerequisits) natural attacks never get iritative attacks so at +6 bab only 1 attack per natural attack,and yes at level 7 the tiger becomes large size and the changes are because of the change in size(+8 str-2dex+4 con +2 NA attack die increases) they also get a few extra goodies like pounce


hope the info provided helps


Lady-J wrote:
3 skill points (1 per hit die animal companions are sool when it comes to skills) they also have a special bond with their animal allowing them to comand them with out needing a handle animal check(otherwise animal companions would be totally useless at level 1-16 at a majority of tables) only check needed is to teach the trick but no check needed to use the trick the bonus tricks are just tricks you can auto teach the pet with out needing a check while the most tricks you can teach an animal companion is 3(with one int) or 6(with 2 int) were as if they bump their animal companions int to 3 at level 4 they get unlimited tricks and they can also take any feat in the game now as opposed to just those on the animal companion list(so long as they meet the other prerequisits) natural attacks never get iritative attacks so at +6 bab only 1 attack per natural attack,and yes at level 7 the tiger becomes large size and the changes are because of the change in size(+8 str-2dex+4 con +2 NA attack die increases) they also get a few extra goodies like pounce

Where do you see it that an animal with an Int of 4 gets unlimited tricks? And feats (given prereqs are met)? And what is this more limited list of feats you refer to?

Let me guess: in the PPC: Animal Archive. Can you give me SRD links?

{PS: Does Speak with Animals help?}

~~~~~

As for growing large, if I put my stupid question a different way...

I think that the following CHANGE pieces of the description:
Size: Change Medium to Large (and yes, this causes all the rest);
Attack dice: Improve each to the next larger die;
Special Attacks: Add grab & pounce; improve rake to 1d6.

But the other bits simply ADD to the mods that were in place:
NA +2; Str +8, Dex –2, Con +4

Can you confirm this?

~~~~~

{PS: And when can the tiger rake? She has to start the round in a grapple, yes, but what else can she do? Use all of her other natural attacks? Pin, etc.?}


You're correct on what the changes from growing to Large are, to the best of my knowledge.

The talk about feats actually comes from the description in the section on animal companions after the Druid class:

Animal Companions rules wrote:
Feats: This is the total number of feats possessed by an animal companion. Animal companions should select their feats from those listed under Animal Feats. Animal companions can select other feats, although they are unable to utilize some feats (such as Martial Weapon Proficiency). Note that animal companions cannot select a feat with a requirement of base attack bonus +1 until they gain their second feat at 3 Hit Dice.

Later on in the animal companion section, there's a part titled Animal Feats:

Animal Companion rules wrote:

Animal Feats

Animal companions can select from the following feats: Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Armor Proficiency (light, medium, and heavy), Athletic, Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Diehard, Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Improved Natural Attack, Improved Overrun, Intimidating Prowess, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Power Attack, Run, Skill Focus, Spring Attack, Stealthy, Toughness, Weapon Finesse, and Weapon Focus. Animal companions with an Intelligence of 3 or higher can select any feat they are physically capable of using. GMs might expand this list to include feats from other sources.

So an Animal Companion with Intelligence 3 or greater can choose any feat rather than just one from the list above. (Note that this is true of skills as well--it's discussed in the same section)

I don't recall where the rule about Int > 3 Animal Companions effectively getting all tricks for free is... I know I've run across it before, but I don't recall where. It might even be in the FAQ here somewhere. I'll let you know if I run across where I've seen it.

Oh, and here's how rakes work, from the Universal Monster Rules:

Universal Monster Rules wrote:

Rake (Ex) A creature with this special attack gains extra natural attacks under certain conditions, typically when it grapples its foe. In addition to the options available to all grapplers, a monster with the rake ability gains two free claw attacks that it can use only against a grappled foe. The bonus and damage caused by these attacks is included in the creature's description. A monster with the rake ability must begin its turn already grappling to use its rake—it can't begin a grapple and rake in the same turn.

Format: rake (2 claws +8, 1d4+2); Location: Special Attacks.

So a rake attack gives you additional attacks that you can use as part of a full attack while grappling. Thus, you have to use an attack option to use it--you can't pin at the same time, but you can attack with all of your other natural weapons.

The Concordance

I usually run the Rakes as free attacks at the beginning of your turn when you're grappling, which are either free actions or non actions. They're "free" whatever that means.

The outcome of this is that after taking the free attacks you can :
-let go and spend your turn doing anything
-maintain the grapple (move, pin, damage)

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lady-J wrote:
3 skill points (1 per hit die animal companions are sool when it comes to skills) they also have a special bond with their animal allowing them to comand them with out needing a handle animal check(otherwise animal companions would be totally useless at level 1-16 at a majority of tables) only check needed is to teach the trick but no check needed to use the trick the bonus tricks are just tricks you can auto teach the pet with out needing a check while the most tricks you can teach an animal companion is 3(with one int) or 6(with 2 int) were as if they bump their animal companions int to 3 at level 4 they get unlimited tricks and they can also take any feat in the game now as opposed to just those on the animal companion list(so long as they meet the other prerequisits) natural attacks never get iritative attacks so at +6 bab only 1 attack per natural attack,and yes at level 7 the tiger becomes large size and the changes are because of the change in size(+8 str-2dex+4 con +2 NA attack die increases) they also get a few extra goodies like pounce

Just so that you are aware, the vast majority of the information here about tricks is completely contradictory to the rules of Pathfinder as written by Paizo.

Tricks = 3 per point of Intelligence + bonus tricks based on level.
DC 10 free action to handle the animal if they know the trick.
DC 25 move action if they don't know the trick.
Int 3 only gives three extra tricks (and open up extra feat options)
Animal companions are very definitely NOT useless below level 17.

I could go on.


bitter lily wrote:


Where do you see it that an animal with an Int of 4 gets unlimited tricks? And feats (given prereqs are met)? And what is this more limited list of feats you refer to?

animal tricks

You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

there for an animal with an int of 3 or more has no limit to the # of tricks they can learn as the limit is only in place for int of 1 and 2

feats
This is the total number of feats possessed by an animal companion. Animal companions should select their feats from those listed under Animal Feats. Animal companions can select other feats, although they are unable to utilize some feats (such as Martial Weapon Proficiency). Note that animal companions cannot select a feat with a requirement of base attack bonus +1 until they gain their second feat at 3 Hit Dice.

Animal companions can select from the following feats:

Acrobatic, Agile Maneuvers, Armor Proficiency (light, medium, and heavy), Athletic, Blind-Fight, Combat Reflexes, Diehard, Dodge, Endurance, Great Fortitude, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Improved Natural Attack, Improved Overrun, Intimidating Prowess, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Mobility, Power Attack, Run, Skill Focus, Spring Attack, Stealthy, Toughness, Weapon Finesse, and Weapon Focus.

Animal companions with an Intelligence of 3 or higher can select any feat they are physically capable of using. GMs might expand this list to include feats from other sources.

bitter lily wrote:


But the other bits simply ADD to the mods that were in place:
NA +2; Str +8, Dex –2, Con +4

Can you confirm this?

this is because of the change to large when a creature naturally becomes large they they that boost to str con and NA and that penalty to dex

bitter lily wrote:


{PS: And when can the tiger rake? She has to start the round in a grapple, yes, but what else can she do? Use all of her other natural attacks? Pin, etc.?}

tigers can use rake when doing a full attack or any other actions while grappleing or being grappled by something it can also rake on a pounce attack(full attack on a charge) but it does not get the rake on the turn it inisiates the grapple how ever it does get the rake on the same round if something grappels it


Darrell Impey UK wrote:


Animal companions are very definitely NOT useless below level 17.

i didnt say they were i said that if they required to do the dc 25 check to do anything that the player wants them to do they would be as no one would have an adiquite enough handle animal check at a normal table, but they dont have to make those checks


For Rake, per RAW in relation to Grapple Rules, whenever you maintain (and not initiate) a grapple, you can make Rake attacks. This means that when a creature with natural weapons maintains a grapple to deal damage, they only get the benefit of Rake and one other natural weapon. Of course, one of Jason Bulmahn's posts does suggest that they should get all of their natural attacks (except the natural attack used to make the grapple, which is usually a bite or claw).

For skills, I'm not sure. Based on the Druid entry for Animal Companions, the Skill Ranks are simply a flat benefit, and aren't a "per level" thing, and that it overwrites the base benefits of skills (where a creature gets a minimum of 1 skill point per level). So, unfortunately, that animal companion is stuck with very limited skill points that suck nuts. The only hope is that its natural skills are good enough.

There is a trait that can change a Charisma-based skill into an Intelligence or Wisdom-based skill (Clever Wordplay, if I remember correctly) that the PC can take so his Handle Animal doesn't suck nuts. The trait is actually fitting, since it can be interestingly-worded commands that the Animal Companion recognizes. Unfortunately, the only way to fix the flanking debacle is to make the Animal somewhat smart, either through investing the 4th level attribute, or some other benefit. Of course, increasing its Intelligence does grant it more tricks, so it's certainly worthwhile.

The most radical (though probably most favorable) solution would be to use an Awaken spell on the Animal Companion. This not only makes it sentient (and as such would eventually understand the concept of flanking), but also most likely capable of fixing the Skills issue it has, though it also changes the dynamic of the Animal Companion/Master relationship, since that Animal Companion will have more of a human-like mentality. It'd certainly make for an interesting quest reward for the PC (perhaps make it as part of a campaign)?

Sovereign Court

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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


For skills, I'm not sure. Based on the Druid entry for Animal Companions, the Skill Ranks are simply a flat benefit, and aren't a "per level" thing, and that it overwrites the base benefits of skills (where a creature gets a minimum of 1 skill point per level). So, unfortunately, that animal companion is stuck with very limited skill points that suck nuts. The only hope is that its natural skills are good enough.

Animals don't have levels, they have Hit Dice. From the type description for animals, they get 2 + INT skills per Hit Die (minimum 1). The druid table just makes it so you don't have to calculate that number.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


The most radical (though probably most favorable) solution would be to use an Awaken spell on the Animal Companion. This not only makes it sentient (and as such would eventually understand the concept of flanking), but also most likely capable of fixing the Skills issue it has, though it also changes the dynamic of the Animal Companion/Master relationship, since that Animal Companion will have more of a human-like mentality. It'd certainly make for an interesting quest reward for the PC (perhaps make it as part of a campaign)?

if an animal companion becomes awakend it stops becoming an animal companion and looses all the animal companion buffs

Sovereign Court

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Lady-J wrote:
bitter lily wrote:


Where do you see it that an animal with an Int of 4 gets unlimited tricks? And feats (given prereqs are met)? And what is this more limited list of feats you refer to?

animal tricks

You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

there for an animal with an int of 3 or more has no limit to the # of tricks they can learn as the limit is only in place for int of 1 and 2

This is not quite right. There is a helpful blog post that covers this.

Smart Kitty wrote:
Smart Kitty: If you have increased your animal companion's intelligence score to 3 using various means, then great! You can now have your companion learn any feat it can physically perform, and it can put ranks into any skill. What this increase does not accomplish, however, is any advantage in commanding your companion whatsoever. It's still the same DC 10 to handle and DC 25 to push. It may still only learn six tricks plus your druid bonus tricks. However, for every point of Intelligence it gains above 2, that is three more tricks it can learn. A smart animal will have more versatility without needing to rely on pushing.


Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

Couple things.

The Rake also triggers on a charge, due to Pounce. You also get a free grapple attempt on a hit on the pouncing charge. Whether you get that grapple on all hits, or only certain weapons is debated. Doing it if the bite hits is the most conservative approach.

You've got tricks somewhat confused. Companions start with INT x 3 tricks. They then add the number in the Bonus Tricks column. So your tiger starts with (2x3)+1=7 tricks. This goes up at 3rd level.

If you use the ability score increase at 4th, 9th, 14th and/or 20th for INT, the number of tricks the pet can know goes up. These need to be trained with Handle Animal, but the DC should be trivial if the PC has been putting ranks in HA.

By the rules, Companions never get infinite tricks. *Some* GMs rule that a Companion with INT >= 3 can take verbal commands (since they understand a language at this point) and therefore tricks are irrelevant.

The absolute best resource for understanding Animal Companions is the Druid's Log (linked below). Now, this reference is PFS-specific. But, since PFS tends to rule very conservatively on pets of all kinds, it makes an excellent starting point for a fair basis. Off-hand, the PFS-specific rulings to be aware are:

a: Understanding a language doesn't over-ride the trick rules. Don't know the trick, not doing it.

b: PFS critters have much more limited magic item slots than standard Pathfinder. Consider this as a house rule, pets are pretty powerful anyway.

Druid's Log


Lady-J wrote:

ou can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

there for an animal with an int of 3 or more has no limit to the # of tricks they can learn as the limit is only in place for int of 1 and 2

That's a HUGE leap of....logic.

1 = 3
2 = 6

therefore

3 = 9

would be a logical progression.

However, the rules do not indicate there is any progression beyond the two specifically stated. (There isn't even a, "And so on" included in the rule.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Lady-J wrote:


animal tricks
You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

there for an animal with an int of 3 or more has no limit to the # of tricks they can learn as the limit is only in place for int of 1 and 2

I have never seen this statement taken to mean Int 3+ grants unlimited tricks. Every player/GM I've ever met takes this to mean 3 tricks per point of Intelligence.

If it means anything, HeroLab does too; and Lone Wolf work hard to ensure that it interprets rules correctly.

Edit:
Found the FAQ I was looking for:

Can I improve my companion’s Intelligence to 3 or higher and give it weapon feats?
No. An Intelligence of 3 does not grant animals sentience, the ability to use weapons or tools, speak a language (though they may understand one with a rank in Linguistics; this does not grant literacy), or activate magic devices. Also note that raising an animal companion’s Intelligence to 3 or higher does not eliminate the need to make Handle Animal checks to direct its actions; even semi-intelligent animals still act like animals unless trained not to. An animal with Intelligence of 3 or higher remains a creature of the animal type unless its type is specifically changed by another ability. An animal may learn 3 additional tricks per point of Intelligence above 2.


Something else to keep in mind is that you should look at what comes in the combat training trick list and really read those tricks. They only look limiting at first glance, but do allow a pretty solid level of freedom to control the animal. Not everything (like that flanking thing) but a lot nonetheless.

Other thing to note are that if you are riding an animal companion, you use your ride skill to control it instead of your handle animal. You don't get the link bonus to the check, but the dcs to control it are lower. Also, if an AC has a special ability like take or grab, you don't need to command it to use them. They will just do so when possible as part of attacking. Animal companions will still grant and gain flanking bonuses; losing out on the flank trick just means that they won't go out of their way to set it up, so your players will need to do the maneuvering until then. Or find ways to maneuver the tiger first before launching the attack.

The attack trick has a limiter in it you all should be aware of. Unless you teach it the attack trick a second time, it will require a push to attack certain creatures. The attack trick lists what the limits are. (That means they are really limited to 7 tricks)


On tricks: You get 3 per point of INT pluse the "bonus" tricks as the animal companion gains hit dice. So an AC for an 8th level druid with a 3 INT would get 12 tricks.

Quote:
Does it make a difference if the hunter or another PC uses Speak with Animals? For that matter, will this get better at 11th level, when the elf & tiger can speak to each other at will?

Speaking with an animal companion does not obviate the need for Handle Animal. The druid must always use HA when commanding the animal to do anything.

That having been said, it's entirely within GM fiat to allow the animal to do more complex actions if it can understand speech. For example telling the animal to wait until "X" to attack is essentially a readied Attack trick and perfectly viable assuming the animal can know when X happens. Speech is also good for telling the animal to Flank with Bob on the orc, but attack the goblin.

If the animal does not understand speech, then the animal's actions should limited to things that are plausible based on the trick. As a GM in a standing campaign, you are also allowed to have the animal learn behavior based on past experiences. For example, if the animal is always normally commanded to flank with its master or flank for X PC, it's reasonable to have the creature do that without having been given a command.

As GM, you'll have to find a balance between keeping the animal companion in the box of limitations it is intended to have and allowing the PC to enjoy the benefits of its class feature.


Wow! I was busy trying to answer one post, and got tons of mail in the meanwhile. This is great! I've got a massive sinus headache, and a game to run tonight. This is terrible! I'm going to try to write a condensed post now, but will come back in order to quote & respond to specifics tomorrow. Thank you all so much for responding.

Thank you to those who confirmed my expectations about growing large.

On Rake: The def in the Universal Monster Rules was in fact as clear as I thought, I see. As mud, that is. I'll try and make sense of all the different approaches tomorrow. But thanks for explaining what you do for me.

Thank you to those who pointed out the Druid rules right in Core on skills & feats. D'oh! 3 ranks at 3rd level is terrible. Darksol, you talked about "natural skills." Did you mean ability scores, or something else? Does my favorite tiger get the Bestiary skills for lions?

Almonihah, something you said led me to check the PFS FAQ we were throwing around when discussing magic item slots for ACs. I found this:

PFS FAQ wrote:

Can I improve my companion’s Intelligence to 3 or higher and give it weapon feats?

No. [...] An animal may learn 3 additional tricks per point of Intelligence above 2.

(I skipped the part nailing the coffin shut on the weapon feats, and jumped right to the piece of interest.) So this confirms what many of you have said, 3 tricks per pt of Int, plus the bonus Druid tricks. It makes sense to go with this, for all that my player won't be happy. Unlimited at Int 3 does seem... breath-taking.

And somehow, I surfed my way to a spot that someone may also have pointed me to -- the Companions section of Ultimate Campaign (not where I'd have looked, btw), which has a section on intelligent animals. Nothing about extra tricks as such, but several notes that fit in with how we've been playing this tiger. In general, given how smart this tiger has been, I think I'm going to gift her with her 4th-level Ability Score increase early, and insist that the player put it into Int. At that point, she'll get 11 tricks, and the independent cooperation she's been exhibiting.

I would also like to consider giving the player a free rewrite of her character, possibly boosting Charisma a tad, possibly taking a new trait. Darksol, I've scanned through the Ult. Campaign list of traits, searching for "skill," and the only thing relevant I turned up was:

Ultimate Campaign under Traits wrote:
Wisdom in the Flesh (Irori): Your hours of meditation on inner perfection and the nature of strength and speed allow you to focus your thoughts to achieve things your body might not normally be able to do on its own. Select any Strength-, Constitution-, or Dexterity-based skill. You may make checks with that skill using your Wisdom modifier instead of the skill's normal ability score. That skill is always a class skill for you.

The PC in question is an elf who worships the Green Faith. I suppose it's not out of reach for me to write a custom Green Faith religious trait, and letting Handle Animal be Wisdom-based might be appropriate for the Green Faith. Maybe. I can't decide right now, for sure. If you can find the trait you're thinking of, I'd love a link!

Finally, it looks like there's other important links for me to follow... when I get my head back from the dwarves with big sticks. :-( The Druid's Log, GinoA, looks especially interesting -- but I can't parse a new text right now. Thank you, and I'll be back. PS: I don't know if someone linked this, too, but I wanted to give myself a way to get back to the SRD list of commands under Handle Animal. It apparently includes the extras from the PPC: Animal Archive, including (of all things) Flank. Again, something to read tomorrow.


bitter lily wrote:
I suppose it's not out of reach for me to write a custom Green Faith religious trait, and letting Handle Animal be Wisdom-based might be appropriate for the Green Faith.

You can do all kinds of things in your own campaign. But I would do so reluctantly and with hesitation. Paizo, on top of Wizards of the Coast, has made some effort introduce a sense of fairness and balance to the classes. Allowing characters to circumvent these restrictions, changes the nature of the game. You're essentially opening Pandora's Box because once you start making exceptions for one character, the other characters are going to want similar exceptions.

In my experience and based on community feedback, animal companions can get out of hand in terms of power and impact on the game. They can easily rival front row fighters in raw damage and even in AC given the right circumstances. My advice is to keep things as close to RAW as possible and only make changes that make the game easier to play, but not easier for the PCs to succeed. When the PCs become too powerful too quickly, it becomes harder to GM.


Saldiven wrote:
Lady-J wrote:

ou can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. An animal with an Intelligence score of 1 can learn a maximum of three tricks, while an animal with an Intelligence score of 2 can learn a maximum of six tricks.

there for an animal with an int of 3 or more has no limit to the # of tricks they can learn as the limit is only in place for int of 1 and 2

That's a HUGE leap of....logic.

1 = 3
2 = 6

not really at 3 int loads of opertunities open up like understanding and even talking language so if something can comprehend languages they can do literally anyone of those things handle animal tryes to let you do with pets


N N 959 wrote:
bitter lily wrote:
I suppose it's not out of reach for me to write a custom Green Faith religious trait, and letting Handle Animal be Wisdom-based might be appropriate for the Green Faith.

You can do all kinds of things in your own campaign. But I would do so reluctantly and with hesitation. Paizo, on top of Wizards of the Coast, has made some effort introduce a sense of fairness and balance to the classes. Allowing characters to circumvent these restrictions, changes the nature of the game. You're essentially opening Pandora's Box because once you start making exceptions for one character, the other characters are going to want similar exceptions.

In my experience and based on community feedback, animal companions can get out of hand in terms of power and impact on the game. They can easily rival front row fighters in raw damage and even in AC given the right circumstances. My advice is to keep things as close to RAW as possible and only make changes that make the game easier to play, but not easier for the PCs to succeed. When the PCs become too powerful too quickly, it becomes harder to GM.

animal companions rivaling pcs is only aplicable if they have **** stats... an animal companion would literally need to be 6-8 levels higher than me to outshine any frontliner i design in the game im in


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It was clarified in a post in the monkey see monkey do blog that

int 1=3
int 2=6
int 3=9
and so on and so forth


Lady-J wrote:
animal companions rivaling pcs is only aplicable if they have **** stats... an animal companion would literally need to be 6-8 levels higher than me to outshine any frontliner i design in the game im in

On paper i'm sure. But unless you have pounce, a longbow, or a lance in actual play animal companions ability to move and full attack almost at will makes them absolutely lethal.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Likewise, at low levels, below 5ish, the combination of Dex, natural armour, barding and class bonuses means that the animal will often have a higher AC than many PCs.


BigNorseWolf wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
animal companions rivaling pcs is only aplicable if they have **** stats... an animal companion would literally need to be 6-8 levels higher than me to outshine any frontliner i design in the game im in

On paper i'm sure. But unless you have pounce, a longbow, or a lance in actual play animal companions ability to move and full attack almost at will makes them absolutely lethal.

i can get a build with 16d6+20 damage at arround level 7 on a single attack a round with a great sword with little effort i also have a build were each of my puches do a minimum of 25 damage each with almost a guarentee of a full attack each round at arround level 8-9 each of the builds have a massive to hit so yes at the table i play at there is 0 chance of an at level animal companion out shineing me if i play frontline


Lady-J wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
animal companions rivaling pcs is only aplicable if they have **** stats... an animal companion would literally need to be 6-8 levels higher than me to outshine any frontliner i design in the game im in

On paper i'm sure. But unless you have pounce, a longbow, or a lance in actual play animal companions ability to move and full attack almost at will makes them absolutely lethal.

i can get a build with 16d6+20 damage at around level 7 on a single attack a round with a great sword with little effort i also have a build were each of my punches do a minimum of 25 damage each with almost a guarantee of a full attack each round at around level 8-9 each of the builds have a massive to hit so yes at the table i play at there is 0 chance of an at level animal companion out shining me if i play frontline

Care to share these builds? I'm curious to see how you're pulling this off.


Seconded on the builds.

At level 7, you're getting at-most a +2 weapon, +6 power attack, and ~+9 strength. Even with Vital Strike on a Greatsword, that's 4D6, nevermind 16D6. I sense some exaggeration here.

Also, 25 damage on an Unarmed Strike? Monks have 1D10 damage dice (average 5.5), and even with the above bonuses (presuming Dragon Style), you're not getting more than 21 damage per hit on average, and unless you're an Unchained Monk, your BAB will be lacking, and you'll be dealing with Flurry of Misses more often than not, even if you pump your to-hit as high as possible with things like Weapon Focus.

Animal Companions, in my honest opinion, are about as valuable as familiars. And most familiars are just stat boosters to some players.


Darksol I think you are hastily dismissing companions and familiars. Animal companions are intended for combat, while a familiar is intended for utility. In either case, a clever player can make use of the second set of actions even if those actions are not as good as those of a PC. IMO an animal companion outshines a familiar at lower levels, while the right player can really make a familiar shine at higher levels. You could leave either one as a footnote to your character, but if you spend some resources on it and devote as much time to its build and strategy as spell choices, feats, etc. then it will be much more than that.


I said that they're equal and that some players don't use them for anything more that a stat booster.

The former is by no means a downgrade, and the latter by no means reflects my opinion on the two class features.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
I said that they're equal and that some players don't use them for anything more that a stat booster.

That's incorrect. At low levels, an animal companion is just as fragile as a PC, but far more durable than any familiar. At about level 4+, when a PC has some funds and the companion gets a few feats and magic items, the lethality is dramatically increased. In any case, ACOMs don't function as state boosters, they function as strikers in most cases.

LIke any PC build, the effectiveness of an animal companion is circumstantial and contingent. While the average player does not optimize his or her build around their animal companion, some do. When that happens, those companions can easily outshine the average player, in many situations, but obviously not all.


race that is large or counts as large for benifisial stuff with 1 level of titan fighter with impact greatsword and enlarge person gets you 8d6 then vital strike makes it 16d6 improved vital strike will get you 24d6 at 11 bab and greater vital strike will get 32d6 at 16 bab each round at a near garenteed hit

as for 25 unarmed damage at level 9 you can do so easy with dragon forocity and a +10 str mod and power attack


Lady-J wrote:

race that is large or counts as large for benifisial stuff with 1 level of titan fighter with impact greatsword and enlarge person gets you 8d6 then vital strike makes it 16d6 improved vital strike will get you 24d6 at 11 bab and greater vital strike will get 32d6 at 16 bab each round at a near garenteed hit

as for 25 unarmed damage at level 9 you can do so easy with dragon forocity and a +10 str mod and power attack

Large races are practically non-existent in almost every table I've played. Unless you're playing with a really lenient GM, that's not exactly going to fly. The other part in relation to race I've never heard of, and even it did exist, it sounds like an effective size increase, which wouldn't likely stack with an Impact Greatsword (or Lead Blades).

Titan Fighter does let you wield bigger weapons, but at a significant penalty, which doesn't include the inappropriately sized weapon penalties. Only by the endgame can you wield them without issue, which makes them not-so-good starting out. Even at 7th level, you're still suffering a -2 penalty.

You also give up Weapon Training for them, which is a big amount of to-hit and damage. Even for an extra D6 (the equivalent of a +1 elemental property), it's not that great of a trade.

Large Greatsword is 3D6. Enlarge Person makes it 4D6, and Impact makes it 6D6. Even with Vital Strike at 8th level, that's 12D6 + Strength (presumably +9) + Power Attack (again, +9) + Enhancements (+3 at best), or a total of 63 damage on average. Not bad, but not breaking records.

Compared to a Full Attack with Haste, you're getting 18D6 (average 63) + 3x Strength (27) + 3x Power Attack (27) + 3x Enhancements (9), or a total of 126 damage on average, or 84 without Haste. Not only is it better, but the likelihood of being behind due to damage reduction is slim to none. Seriously, unless they're running around with DR 20+, you've got nothing to worry about.

As for the unarmed strikes bit, I don't know how you're getting +10 Strength at 9th level unless you're a Barbarian with 20 base Strength, all level-ups into Strength, and a +4 Strength belt, plus Raging.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Seriously, unless they're running around with DR 20+, you've got nothing to worry about.

Perhaps the biggest trump card of the animal companion is that it represents essentially zero risk to the PC. If a companion dies and the body is recovered, there is essentially zero cost to replace it. Your companion gets cursed, loses some levels, or suffers ability damage? Replace it. Even in PFS it only takes you a couple of sessions to retrain the new one.


N N 959 wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Seriously, unless they're running around with DR 20+, you've got nothing to worry about.
Perhaps the biggest trump card of the animal companion is that it represents essentially zero risk to the PC. If a companion dies and the body is recovered, there is essentially zero cost to replace it. Your companion gets cursed, loses some levels, or suffers ability damage? Replace it. Even in PFS it only takes you a couple of sessions to retrain the new one.

wat

That has nothing to do with my response to Lady-J's builds.


N N 959 wrote:

Speaking with an animal companion does not obviate the need for Handle Animal. The druid must always use HA when commanding the animal to do anything.

That having been said, it's entirely within GM fiat to allow the animal to do more complex actions if it can understand speech. For example telling the animal to wait until "X" to attack is essentially a readied Attack trick and perfectly viable assuming the animal can know when X happens. Speech is also good for telling the animal to Flank with Bob on the orc, but attack the goblin.

If the animal does not understand speech, then the animal's actions should limited to things that are plausible based on the trick. As a GM in a standing campaign, you are also allowed to have the animal learn behavior based on past experiences. For example, if the animal is always normally commanded to flank with its master or flank for X PC, it's reasonable to have the creature do that without having been given a command.

As GM, you'll have to find a balance between keeping the animal companion in the box of limitations it is intended to have and allowing the PC to enjoy the benefits of its class feature.

This last sentence is worth the thread all by itself! {I went back and added my own bolding to highlight it for myself.} But also thanks for the comments on the contribution that understanding speech makes.


GinoA wrote:

Couple things.

The Rake also triggers on a charge, due to Pounce. You also get a free grapple attempt on a hit on the pouncing charge. Whether you get that grapple on all hits, or only certain weapons is debated. Doing it if the bite hits is the most conservative approach.

[...] By the rules, Companions never get infinite tricks. *Some* GMs rule that a Companion with INT >= 3 can take verbal commands (since they understand a language at this point) and therefore tricks are irrelevant.

The absolute best resource for understanding Animal Companions is the Druid's Log (linked below). Now, this reference is PFS-specific. But, since PFS tends to rule very conservatively on pets of all kinds, it makes an excellent starting point for a fair basis. Off-hand, the PFS-specific rulings to be aware are:

a: Understanding a language doesn't over-ride the trick rules. Don't know the trick, not doing it.

b: PFS critters have much more limited magic item slots than standard Pathfinder. Consider this as a house rule, pets are pretty powerful anyway.

Druid's Log

Wow! Thank you for linking the Druid's Log. And thank you, Flutter, so much for writing it! Uh, dictating it, I assume. This was awesome. Even if little was original, the fact that everything was compiled so clearly had me bookmarking it. {And to the extent that the text was original, it was very well written!} I'll be discussing it with my player, although probably in person, when I can explain issues related to PFS. And I'll be passing on the AC Etiquette Guide in whole -- and if the authors are here to see this, I tender you both my thanks. Again, very clearly written.


I hope it isn't unmannerly for me to respond to my own post, but I wanted to carry my thoughts further than I could yesterday.

bitter lily wrote:
Wow! I was busy trying to answer one post, and got tons of mail in the meanwhile. This is great! I've got a massive sinus headache, and a game to run tonight. This is terrible!

Amazingly enough, the game actually went well.

bitter lily wrote:
On Rake: The def in the Universal Monster Rules was in fact as clear as I thought, I see. As mud, that is. I'll try and make sense of all the different approaches tomorrow. But thanks for explaining what you do for me.

The sense I have right now...

(a) It's a free action at the beginning of the kitty's turn if grappled/grappling -- or added on to her attacks if pouncing.
(b) She can do anything she wants that's legal within a grapple, whether that be attacking with a natural weapon that isn't maintaining the grapple, pinning, etc.
(c) It is possible that RAW she can even drop the grapple after taking her rake, but that seems controversial. I don't think I'll allow it. In essence, the rake represents damage inflicted by a clawed or teethed grapple, while doing whatever else (pinning, for instance) that round.

bitter lily wrote:
Darksol, you talked about "natural skills." Did you mean ability scores, or something else? Does my favorite tiger get the Bestiary skills for lions?

Thanks to the Druid's Log (I believe), I now know that the answer to this question is "ixnay."

bitter lily wrote:
And somehow, I surfed my way to a spot that someone may also have pointed me to -- the Companions section of Ultimate Campaign (not where I'd have looked, btw), which has a section on intelligent animals. Nothing about extra tricks as such, but several notes that fit in with how we've been playing this tiger. In general, given how smart this tiger has been, I think I'm going to gift her with her 4th-level Ability Score increase early, and insist that the player put it into Int. At that point, she'll get 11 tricks, and the independent cooperation she's been exhibiting.

Nothing I need to say here except that I didn't notice any howls of protest...

bitter lily wrote:
I would also like to consider giving the player a free rewrite of her character, possibly boosting Charisma a tad, possibly taking a new trait.

N N 959, I appreciate your argument against writing a custom trait that would boost Handle Animal or run it off Wisdom.

Darksol, this makes me even more interested in the published trait you dimly recalled. I hope to hear you've got a link!

And to everyone: thank you so much. You've all, from Lady-J on, contributed a great deal to my understanding of the proper role for a member of the party.


Here's the trait.

It's intelligence-based, unfortunately. But it could be better than the penalty they otherwise have.


N N 959 wrote:
Perhaps the biggest trump card of the animal companion is that it represents essentially zero risk to the PC. If a companion dies and the body is recovered, there is essentially zero cost to replace it. Your companion gets cursed, loses some levels, or suffers ability damage? Replace it. Even in PFS it only takes you a couple of sessions to retrain the new one.

This makes me soooo sad. I realize that you're taking a broad view of many tables, many players. I'm very grateful that my players are RP-ers, one and all. The hunter would certainly experience great cost, emotionally, if her friend died. (And I might well tell the player that getting a new AC was going to involve a quest, RAW or no.) And if the companion suffered an impairment? She'd do everything she could to heal her.

If someone walked into my game with an attitude that this was their animal companion of the week, they'd be walking out again very quickly. It just would not be a good match.

I suppose this is something to remember if I ever think about even playing in PFS.

{PS: I suppose I should start thinking about the right class to play for a small, fluffy, white dog animal companion...}


bitter lily wrote:
If someone walked into my game with an attitude that this was their animal companion of the week, they'd be walking out again very quickly. It just would not be a good match.

It's really contrary to the Pathfinder/D&D/whatever RPG for the GM to impose their value system on player's characters. Players get to decide how their characters act and how their characters feel. The GM decides how the NPCs act in response to the players. Not all Druids/Rangers/Hunters are going to bond with their animal the same. Not all characters are going to treat death the same, nor should they be required to. Some druids may seem their animal's sacrifice as necessary for the greater good, some may decide that the life of an adventure is too high a price to pay. The point is the player gets to decide.

You may not like that a character can replace their animal companion after a 24 hour ritual, but that is the nature of the class. Consider that both Wizards of the Coast and Paizo have spent a lot more time thinking about the implications of that mechanic than any GM. You might as well decide that Rogues don't get to sneak attack or Paladin's don't get to Smite Evil. Yes, you can make those calls, but if a GM tried deny my class mechanics simply because it offends his/her sensibilities, then I would tell them that they shouldn't be GMing. My opinion, not an objective truth.

And more to the point, my statement was pointing out that a character that uses an animal companion for combat faces far less personal risk than one who has to wade into combat themselves. It's a fact lost in the discussion about AC's comparing to front line fighters and people insisting that no animal can out perform them. It's also one of the reasons classes like Druid are considered overpowered.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:

wat

That has nothing to do with my response to Lady-J's builds.

Your comment just triggered my response, not meant as a commentary on your post.


bitter lily wrote:
N N 959 wrote:
Perhaps the biggest trump card of the animal companion is that it represents essentially zero risk to the PC. If a companion dies and the body is recovered, there is essentially zero cost to replace it. Your companion gets cursed, loses some levels, or suffers ability damage? Replace it. Even in PFS it only takes you a couple of sessions to retrain the new one.

This makes me soooo sad. I realize that you're taking a broad view of many tables, many players. I'm very grateful that my players are RP-ers, one and all. The hunter would certainly experience great cost, emotionally, if her friend died. (And I might well tell the player that getting a new AC was going to involve a quest, RAW or no.) And if the companion suffered an impairment? She'd do everything she could to heal her.

If someone walked into my game with an attitude that this was their animal companion of the week, they'd be walking out again very quickly. It just would not be a good match.

I suppose this is something to remember if I ever think about even playing in PFS.

{PS: I suppose I should start thinking about the right class to play for a small, fluffy, white dog animal companion...}

It's just an unfortunate reality permitted by the rules.

As a GM, you're more than welcome to dislike what the rules are, and frown upon players at your table who don't share the same values as you (or the rest of your players) do.

But, that level of respect works both ways. If a companion dies, or the owner feels that their companion shouldn't be in harms way (and as such, releases it from his/her contrl), that's the player's values and decisions, and as a player, he should have a right to treat and play his character (and by relation, his companion) in a proper and fair manner.


Darksol the Painbringer wrote:


Large races are practically non-existent in almost every table I've played. Unless you're playing with a really lenient GM, that's not exactly going to fly. The other part in relation to race I've never heard of, and even it did exist, it sounds like an effective size increase, which wouldn't likely stack with an Impact Greatsword (or Lead Blades).

As for the unarmed strikes bit, I don't know how you're getting +10 Strength at...

any race with powerful build counts as large for anything that would be benificial exept for reach and as i said at the table i play at its all possible we play with templates so any of the standard templates useable for a frontliner usually adds 6-8 str right off the bat as for the vital strike build you can rage cycle furious finish due to immunity to fatuige/exostion and deal max damage each time so on that 16d6 attack at level 7 with my 28-32 str will do 113 damage minimum each round with +18ish to hit even with the penalties

i never said the builds would work for everyone i just said at the table i play at there was a 0 chance of an animal companion doing more than me if i play a frontliner


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You're right, if your game has tons of houserules to make martial characters do even more damage and ignore all possible drawbacks and animal companions don't get any boost then they would have a harder time matching.

But it's really not genuine saying that Animal companions can't replace martials if you're basically playing a different game than everyone else.


What can I say? I don't play PFS -- obviously, if I were playing in organized play, I'd have to be courteous to everyone who happened to end up at my table. It's part of the social contract. And the fact that I might meet someone who named their animal companion "Meatshield #1" is something that I need to consider with regard to "Is PFS play a good fit for me?"

OTOH, at my table, an animal is as little likely to die as the PC is, barring reckless endangerment. I use Hero Points, for one thing, because I prefer investing in my characters and assume that my players do, too. The hunter in my game is able to spend hers on keeping her tiger alive every bit as much as on herself. And she does, if needed! Her PC loves her cat. I'm comfortable with this attitude. She's comfortable with my respect for her emotional bonds with both characters. We can go on playing together.

Someone in another thread related a story of having to kill his guard dog (an animal, not animal companion), because it was about to die to undead and become undead. He cried on the way home from the game. I'd love to have him in my game! (I've also made a note to myself now to be very, very careful of including any such undead in my game, because I'd feel so very horribly bad if something like that happened to my favorite tiger.) Obviously, killing his dog that way was clearly RP'ed as an act of respect & grief for the animal. And yes, sending your animal companion away could well be RP'ed as an act of respect & protection.

That isn't what I was reacting to -- it was the idea that "It didn't cost me anything." I don't know what it would cost in RP; I haven't checked the rules, so I spoke rashly. But I can tell you, in any world that I run, there would be a cost. And if that makes a new player so uncomfortable that we reach a mutual decision to for them to draw up a new character -- or for us to part ways -- well, I can live with that.

Scarab Sages

bitter lily wrote:
And the fact that I might meet someone who named their animal companion "Meatshield #1" is something that I need to consider with regard to 'is PFS play a good fit for me?"

PFS is highly variable in that regard. I don't think I've ever seen that except as a joke. It would say that that venue, or that group, or probably just that player wasn't a good fit for you. Others would be just fine.

The idea of a uniform play experience... really does not pan out as much as people seem to think from the outside.

Quote:
OTOH, at my table, an animal is as little likely to die as the PC is, barring reckless endangerment.

Natural armor , armor, and a barkskin which will last the dungeon go a LONG way towards survivability. (see further in the druids log thread for feral fashion advice) A stone of alliance on an archer or caster on the companions humanoid makes them absurdly durable.


bitter lily wrote:
And the fact that I might meet someone who named their animal companion "Meatshield #1" is something that I need to consider with regard to "Is PFS play a good fit for me?"

In my experience, the best GMs are the ones who derive their pleasure from what the players get out of it, not from the need to tell their story. I'm guessing most GMs approach the game from the idea of the campaign they want to run and the story they want to tell. That's certainly how it started out for me and what I experienced playing non-PFS.

Looking back, I'd have to say that when I first started GMing, I didn't really get it. I often viewed the rules as problematic and an impediment. I spent a lot of cycles trying to figure out a better mousetrap. But after a time, I realized that the zen of GMing is to play the game by the rules and set aside my personal idiosyncrasies. My goal is to be transparent as the GM. I don't want the players to feel like they are playing my version of Pathfinder, I want them to feel like they are simply playing Pathfinder. Maybe in another ten years I'll feel like I didn't get it ten years ago.

The rules aren't perfect, but no RPG can be. And in the end, a house rules doesn't make the game better. At best its a trade-off, at worse, it breaks more than it fixes. The Pathfinder rules are highly co-dependent and interwoven. Like a knit sweater if you start pulling on loose threads, it starts to unravel.

Quote:
We can go on playing together.

You'll find that once you let go of any hang-ups you have, you can GM a tremendous gamut of players. You only need them to respect the game and the other players.

Quote:
He cried on the way home from the game. I'd love to have him in my game!

What happens if that person's PC dies? Are they going to quite playing PF? Would you as a GM be locked into fudging rolls so that said player never has his/her PC die? While I can empathize, I can't say I'd be comfortable GMing a player who took the death of the AC that hard. I need the players to remember that in the end, it's just a game.

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