Animal companion – a must have
While this blog primarily serves as a journal for my Pathfinder roleplay character, I’ve decided to discuss and share my experiences with playing the spell-less ranger alternate base class. You can participate and contribute here or in the relevant thread at paizo forums
One thing the spell-less ranger (SLR) retains from the original ranger is the ability to choose an animal companion, albeit from a very limited range of different animals. Personally, from a Rule of Cool AND powergaming point of view, I’d choose every time either a wolf, a cat (small) or a bird. Or a horse. Sadly, no big cats, bears and dinosaurs are available for the spell-less ranger (oh why?).
A crucial element of a SLR’s melee game are stealth attacks -lovely xd6 extra damage per hit – which the SLR can perform against flat-footed enemies or when flanking (either favoured enemies or enemies in SLR’s favoured terrain). In my earlier post I talked about how crucial favoured terrains and favoured enemies have become for the SLR compared to the normal ranger, especially in regards to dishing out damage. Ultimately, if you want to deal stealth damage, without magic your SLR will be forced to rely on flanking – it’s great if you always surprise your enemies or win every initiative roll and get to attack before everyone else goes – all the other times, it’s all about flanking baby.
Enter the animal companion who knows the flanking trick. Granted, a typical party will include heavy hitters like fighters and barbarians who will be there in the melee providing ample opportunities for the SLR to flank the enemies, but having a beast under your personal command providing you endless opportunities for flanking is just beautiful. For me, with my character Alpharius nearing lvl8, it is becoming a key ingredient of his battle tactics. The animal companion doesn’t even need to know the flanking trick: Alpharius typically remains in the back, shooting arrows for the first round of battle, and lets his beast charge and draw the attention of the foe, and slips to the back (skill bonus in Acrobatics of nearly +20 helps) himself. There have been instances were this combo/tactic has given Alpharius to outshine the party’s heavy hitter (a fighter) in melee combat!
To me it seems choosing anything but the animal companion seems outright crazy (given how the AC also brings his/her extra attacks and hitpoints to the table). Granted, my experience with the SLR is limited, but the performance is already irrefutable. What are your thoughts?