I was hoping to elicit some feedback on the follow modified class. The approach was to keep to current source material as much as possible.
My intent with the animal companion was to find a balance between the familiar as described in the supplement and the familiar as a 'meat shield' that the player views with little regard.
I am recommending that the Ranger be allowed to break the bond as circumstances warrant; an acknowledgement that as the Player grows the relationship between the player and the familiar may no longer serve.
The basis for this class is the Ranger subclass and the Familiar mechanics as detailed in the following supplements subject to modifications as noted.
Rangers and Paladins, Release 2
• Rangers, although not possessing any innate magical abilities, can leverage their communion with nature to perform a sacred ritual allowing them to bond with an animal companion via the Familiar spell per the Familiars supplement.
• Rangers have the option to begin play with an animal companion of appropriate level already bonded.
• If Combat Options supplement is allowed, Rangers are not eligible for further Weapon Specialization.
• Rangers may only bond with animals (normal or giant sized, but not magical or monstrous).
• Rangers may only wear leather armor.
Familiars, Release 1
• The animal to be bonded with is limited by hit dice appropriate to the Ranger’s level as per the following table:
• Given the lack of innate magical abilities, spell and spell storing mechanics are not applicable. However, the empathic nature of the bond exists as detailed.
• Rangers can break the bond at will without suffering more than a heavy heart. However, breaking the bond requires contemplation and a fortitude of spirit, as such, it cannot be done during combat or in haste. The breaking of the bond is an irreversible act and the animal can never be bonded again.
• An animal whose bond has been broken will immediately return to its wild state and attempt to flee the area. Should the animal not be able to flee it will attack.
• The death of his or her animal companion causes the Ranger to become unconscious for 1d3 rounds +1 per hit dice of animal companion. A saving throw is not allowed.
• The bond between animal companion and Range is severed upon the death of the Ranger.
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