An animal is a living, nonhuman creature, usually a vertebrate with no magical abilities and no innate capacity for language or culture. Animals usually have additional information on how they can serve as companions.
An animal has the following features (unless otherwise noted).
d8 Hit Die.
Base attack bonus equal to 3/4 total Hit Dice (medium progression).
Proficient with its natural weapons only. A non-combative herbivore treats its natural weapons as secondary attacks. Such attacks are made with a –5 penalty on the creature's attack rolls, and the animal receives only 1/2 its Strength modifier as a damage adjustment.
One of the surest ways to complicate the relationship between an adventurer and her animal companion is to cast awaken on the beast. The moment the spell takes effect, an animal companion ceases to be a class feature, and instead becomes a person—an NPC whose Intelligence has increased by 3d6 (potentially making it as smart as or smarter than the caster), and who has an increased Charisma score and knows at least one spoken language.
An adventurer considering awakening his animal companion should keep in mind the awaken spell's potential drawbacks. Most pointedly, awakened animals can no longer serve as companions, and the character must follow the rules for Leadership if he wishes to take the animal as an official cohort. Further, an intelligent animal can be difficult to manage. After awakening, animals are predisposed to be friendly toward whoever cast the spell— in this case, presumably their masters. Yet if an animal was mistreated during its time as a companion, or is treated poorly after its awakening, that friendliness is mixed with a sense of confusion that can last anywhere from a few moments to a few hours as the animal reconciles the abuse with the great gift it's been given. Since awaken is not a charm or mind-control spell, there's nothing to prevent awakened animals from resenting mistreatment in the same way a normal person of their intelligence level would, and they're no more inclined to be automatically servile than anyone else. More than one careless druid has found her awakened animal companion refusing to follow instructions, leaving to pursue its own goals, or even seeking vengeance for its former “enslavement.”
On the flip side, there are many advantages to awakening an animal companion. If treated well, an awakened animal may become a valuable member of an adventuring party, adding new perspective to problems and fighting alongside its friends. Awakened animals can also make stealthy and reliable snoops (for who guards her words in front of a dog?), teach adventurers about their native environments, act as guides, and provide a valuable surprise weapon against enemies who think them mere brutes. Druids, in particular, may find awakening animal companions appealing—either because they wish to become true friends with their companions, or because they would value the animals' skills as allies. A devious druid, upon witnessing an enemy mistreating its companion, may even cast awaken in secret upon the beast, trusting that its natural instincts will make it turn on its oppressor.
Although the personalities of awakened animals are as varied as those of adventurers, augmented animals often exhibit traits hearkening back to their species. Similarly, certain types of animals may favor specific classes, battle tactics, or even weapons. The following are examples of some broad animal groups' commonalities.
Avians: Raptors such as eagles, hawks, and owls—as well as more bizarre fliers—tend to develop aloof, detached personalities, while smaller individuals are often more social and high-strung. Awakened avian animals keenly observe the world around them—often understanding it much better than their demure natures might imply— and are adept at inferring others' desires, motives, and intentions. These intelligent flyers are shrewdly calculating and opportunistic, especially when it comes to ensuring their own survival. Awakened birds can often be found high above a fracas, coldly deciding on the best course of action, and only entering a fray when it's in their best interest or that of their friends.
In combat, avian animals enjoy taking opponents by surprise, favoring training as rogues and ninjas, though they may also enjoy a bard's ability to soar above the fray and inspire with their songs and majestic screeches. In these capacities, the birds often use their winged stealth to their advantage, taking cover in trees and then striking quickly and silently. Awakened avian animals use their natural weapons, but often with a twist—devious awakened flyers have been known to drop smoke shot, chain shot, and even bombs on unsuspecting enemies.
Land Mammals (Large): Relishing their brute size and strength, large mammals—such as bison, lions, and rhinoceroses—tend to divide along predator/prey lines. Herbivores tend to be generally docile but easily spooked or enraged, while predators are aggressive and cunning, constantly seeking social dominance. Whether they're among cowering villagers or in a raiding party, these animals love to tell stories of their physical prowess, and awakened large animals tend to be the worst kind of braggadocios.
In combat, most large animals gravitate toward brash, volatile tactics, becoming barbarians or fighters who enjoy wading into battle before thinking. The exceptions are those hunters like the great cats that rely on stealth and tracking, who are just as likely to become rogues or rangers as they are to become barbarians. Some large mammals, however, have been known to become samurai, replacing their natural affinity for recklessness with precision and discipline.
Large mammals recognize the value in using their natural weapons, and augment those weapons in any way they can. For a rhinoceros, that might mean sharpening its deadly horn, while a lion might tip its claws with poison and a bison might overrun its enemies with spiked chainmail affixed to its chest.
Land Mammals (Small and Medium): Encompassing perhaps the widest variety of species—including creatures like cheetahs, hyenas, ponies, and weasels—Small and
Medium mammals tend to adopt mischievous, resourceful personalities when awakened. Used to living in vast ecosystems full of larger predators, these creatures are accustomed to using any advantage they have, banding together with allies or manipulating others to serve their own designs.
In battle, these animals tend to be smart and savvy, shrewd at observing situations and determining whether it would be most advantageous to fight or run. Those animals who prefer combat to diplomacy tend to value speed and stealth, thus making barbarians and rogues natural choices, yet the natural curiosity of many smaller animals may also lead them to the study of magic, from wizardry to druidism, which brings their own environments under their control. These creatures tend to be opportunistic, perpetually on the lookout for interesting magic items to help augment their natural abilities.
Aquatic Animals: Often as mysterious as the depths in which they live, ocean dwellers are predisposed to developing deep, philosophical personalities when awakened. The reflective natures of animals such as giant squid, whales, and dolphins typically manifest in one of two ways: they either find majesty in nature or adopt a religion. Once awakened, aquatic animals also tend to be the most creative and artistic group of creatures.
Of all awakened creatures, aquaticanimals are the most likely to become clerics or paladins—or cult leaders, for that matter. Aquaticanimals who eschew religion may instead pursue training as druids or bards, or crave the intellectual stimulation of wizardry. In battle, aquaticanimals prefer to rely on the gifts their personal beliefs provide, casting divine spells or weaving intricate battle songs and spells. As a rule, aquaticanimals eschew combat and fight only when necessary for survival unless an enemy threatens something the animal holds sacred. Because they so dislike combat, aquaticanimals rarely alter their natural weapons.
Primates: Perhaps the most human in their perspectives, augmented primates such as monkeys, baboons, and gorillas tend to have a wide range of personalities. Most are highly social and communicative, though this does not always make them great allies as they form intense attachments, manipulate others, and vie for dominance. Perhaps reflecting their impulsive personalities, primates generally pursue whatever paths seem appropriate in any given moment, and are likely to multiclass, training as anything from barbarians, fighters, rangers, and rogues, to exotic callings such as gunslingers and even magi. Those smaller primates used to traveling quickly through trees make great burglars and sailors, while gorillas and chimpanzees make better mercenaries and berserkers, charging into foes with terrifying force. The weapons primates wield also run the gamut. A gorilla might choose an enormous club, a chimpanzee a two-handed sword that lets him take advantage of his tremendous strength, and a monkey a hand crossbow or blunderbuss.
Reptiles: From the lizard to the constrictor snake to the ankylosaurus, awakened reptiles tend to be haughty and disdainful toward others. They eschew company whenever possible, preferring instead to be alone with their increasingly complex thoughts. Although their gruff exteriors can be off-putting, once an adventurer has earned an awakened reptile's friendship, it lasts for a lifetime.
When they are forced to pursue a discipline, smaller reptiles favor esoteric orders and studies, perhaps becoming druids, oracles, or even witches, while larger reptiles—such as dinosaurs—are often content to remain savagely effective barbarians. Poisonous creatures might become rogues, ninjas, and assassins, supplementing their own poisons with those of others. Though not necessarily evil, reptiles often retain predatory streaks that can seem cruel to others, and some crave violence and the thrill of the hunt over all. In combat, as in most things, reptiles rarely show anger or passion, instead pursuing their goals with cold, emotionless drive, their expressions nearly impossible for other creatures to read.