Eclipse Pathfinder – The Druid

   Next up on the list of “How to build Pathfinder-style characters in Eclipse” is the Druid.

   Now, the Druid, like the Cleric, has often been considered to be one of the strongest basic d20 classes. In Eclipse that’s because it has both inherent duties like the Cleric or Paladin (which can, and should, be played up) as well as permanent Armor and Weapons restrictions which remain in effect throughout their careers – which gives them a substantial number of extra character points to spend.

   Thus, in Pathfinder, Druids have been given relatively few upgrades.

   To construct a Pathfinder Druid in Eclipse take the usual list of abilities and:

  • Drop twelve skill points at level one. That’s (-12 CP).
  • Add a Restriction – “Shapeshifting most conform to the restrictions of the Pathfinder polymorph school spells”. Given that Shapeshifting is one of the Druid’s signature abilities, it’s reasonable enough to allow a restriction on it. Sadly, this means that – for example – taking a water elemental form will not let a Pathfinder Druid operate under water effectively; despite their current lack of lungs, they will still need to breathe. Similarly, being a fire elemental will not prevent them from becoming thirsty and having to drink… I find this a bit weird – and I prefer to limit shapeshifting by not placing absurd creatures in the campaign so that people can shapeshift into them in the first place – but it is easier to adjudicate mechanically. Anyway, this is worth (-20 CP).
  • Take a minor variant on the Druid’s usual Spellcasting Progression. Drop nineteen levels worth of lower level spells by limiting them to a maximum of four spells of each spell level and add an additional eighth and ninth level spell at high levels – a total of seventeen additional spell levels. That’s a net loss of two spell levels, pretty trivial, and well within the range of a “minor variant”. Ergo, there’s no cost change there.
  • Buy unlimited use of their level zero spells. To get that, buy Shaping, Specialized for Increased Effect (only works for the characters limited list of level zero Druidical spells), Corrupted/must be free to gesture and speak (4 CP). As a side-benefit, the normal limitations for Shaping state that level zero spells with cumulative effects – such as healing – lose effectiveness on any single target after 2d6 applications in any single day. Ergo, you don’t have to banish level zero healing spells from the game.
  • Finally, they get a choice between an Animal Companion or one of Pathfinder’s upgraded domains and a set of bonus spell slots – a 22 CP improvement on the basic cost of an Animal Companion or a Spell List (6 CP for the spell list, 6 CP for the speciality spell slots, and 16 CP for the Domain Powers).

   That’s a substantial mismatch. A domain worth a total of 28 CP or an animal companion that’s only worth 6 CP and, in Eclipse, can always be picked up later. Not a big choice there – unless the Pathfinder animal companions have been substantially upgraded. Have Pathfinder Animal Companions been upgraded that way?

   As it turns out, when you look at them, yes they have.

  • They can continue to serve as Animal Companions even if their intelligence increases beyond two – despite no longer really being “animals”. That’s a Major Privilege, costing an extra six character points (6 CP).
  • They’re implicitly obedient. Admittedly, a lot of d20 games have always been run that way, but animal companions were originally supposed to be independent creatures, with their own drives, instincts, and defensive reactions, that simply followed you around. If you didn’t want them mauling the occasional kid, fouling the throne room, attacking the wrong targets, fleeing from fire, or roaming at night and setting off traps or attracting monsters, you had to watch them carefully and make rolls to prevent it. That’s why I’ve seen plenty of characters who were entitled to animal companions who opted not to take them, or who choose far more reliable (if far less useful in combat), domesticated animals instead.

   The 3.0 SRD included some very, VERY, important notes on Animal Companions. Those notes still appeared in the 3.5 DMG – but they didn’t make it into the 3.5 SRD, and don’t seem to have made it into Pathfinder. (Personally, I’d have recommended that Pathfinders writers consult the 3.0 SRD as well as the 3.5 version, after all, they’re both free to use). Fortunately, the 3.0 version is easy to update: for the most part you simply have to remove plurals.

   The lists of possible animal companions assume that the character spends most of her time in the animals’ home territory and treats it well. If she spends most of her time at sea, in cities, or otherwise in places that her companion doesn’t like, her companion will soon desert. Remember, animal companions are loyal friends but not pets or servants. They won’t remain loyal if being the character’s friend becomes too onerous.

   The animal is still an animal. It’s not a magical beast, as a familiar or a paladin’s mount is. While it may have learned some tricks, it’s still no more intelligent than any other animal of its kind, and it retains all its bestial instincts. Unlike intelligent followers or cohorts, animals can’t follow complex instructions, such as “Attack the gnoll with the wand.” A character can give a simple verbal command, such as “Attack” or “Come,” as a free action, provided such a command is among the tricks the animal has learned. A more complex instruction, such as telling an animal to attack and pointing out a specific target, is a standard action. Animals are ill-equipped to handle unusual situations, such as combats with invisible opponents, and they typically hesitate to attack weird and unnatural creatures, such as beholders and oozes.

   Left to its own judgment, an animal follows a character and attacks creatures that attack her (or that attack the animal itself). To do more than that, it needs to learn tricks. An animal with an Intelligence of two can learn six tricks.

   In other words, even in 3.5, that combat-capable animal companion was a dangerous wild animal which just happened to like you – not an extension of your will. It didn’t necessarily like your friends, have any judgement, refrain from chasing food, interesting scents, or mates, or know not to casually kill annoying kids and villagers. It would balk at many situations – and if you kept trying to drag it into those situations, it would leave. Parking your pet lion in the stables at the inn was a recipe for being responsible for the deaths of several other people’s horses, some other livestock, a stableboy or two, and probably a few adults during the ensuing chaos.

   In Pathfinder, without those (rather crucial) paragraphs, that sort of thing doesn’t seem to happen much, if at all – and animal companions are implicitly simply extensions of the character. That’s Immunity/your animal companion acting up (Very Common, Minor, Major, 12 CP).

   Secondarily, Pathfinder has made a considerable effort to try to balance an assortment of animal companions by essentially giving them all base statistics and then assigning a few modifiers for each animal type. Sadly, from Eclipse’s point of view, this is a wasted effort; what if your game master happens to be running a deep space campaign or a dinosaur setting using prehistoric animals? Then he’ll have to both come up with the local fauna and with a set of statistics to translate each one into an animal companion. That’s why 3.5 provides a set of modifiers which are applied to whatever animals exist in the setting, rather than trying to convert animals into a set of modifiers to be applied to a generic set of animal companion attributes.

   The results are very, very, similar anyway.

  • The animal companion of a 20’th level druid in Pathfinder will have 16d8 HD, BAB 12, Fort +(10+Con Mod), Ref +(10 + Dex Mod), Will +(6 + Wis Mod), 16 SP, 8 Feats, +12 Natural Armor, +6 Str, +6 Dex, +7 Bonus Tricks, the special powers of Link, Share Spells, Evasion and Improved Evasion, Devotion, Multiattack, and a total of +4 to it’s attributes. It also gets an upgrade at level four or seven – often a size increase, but sometimes just a few attribute bonuses. Pathfinder handles the problem of more powerful animals by simply offering cut-down versions of the animals in question and letting the applied bonuses build them up at higher levels.
  • An Eclipse animal companion with a base CR of 1 or less will get the animal’s base abilities with the bonuses of +12d8 HD, +12 to it’s BAB, +12 to it’s base Fort and Ref saves, +6 to it’s base Will saves, the animals base Skills and Feats (although the GM may allow these to be traded around),+12 Natural Armor, +6 Strength, +6 Dexterity, +6 Bonus Tricks, and the special powers of Link, Share Spells, and +60 Character Points to spend on skills, feats, and other upgrades.
  • An Eclipse animal companion with a base CR of up to 2 will get the animal’s base abilities with the bonuses of +10d8 HD, +10 to it’s BAB, +10 to it’s base Fort and Ref saves, +5 to it’s base Will saves, the animals base Skills and Feats (although the GM may allow these to be traded around),+10 Natural Armor, +5 Strength, +5 Dexterity, +5 Bonus Tricks, and the special powers of Link, Share Spells, and +51 Character Points to spend on skills, feats, and other upgrades.

   Now, it does look like the Pathfinder animal companion gets a modest upgrade, although it does depend somewhat on what base creature you use, where you spend those character points and whether you note the fact that the Eclipse version will often have an extra point of BAB and slightly better saves. Still, the Pathfinder versions usually get an extra hit die (12 CP), Evasion and Improved Evasion (12 CP), Devotion (Resist, +4 CP), Multi-Attack (6 CP), a total of +4 to it’s attributes (24 CP), and either grow to medium size (no cost), gain about +4 in attribute bonuses (24 CP), or (in a very few cases) grow to large size (48 CP) at level four or seven. That gives us an average cost for this “Pathfinder Companion Template” of (82 CP) – right in the +2 ECL range.

   Buying your companion creature a +2 ECL template normally costs 6 CP, but this is Corrupted / the game master chooses the template and it’s not really all that useful (at least compared to many other +2 ECL Templates). This ability thus costs only (4 CP).

   That gives our upgraded Pathfinder Animal Companions a total cost of (28 CP) – an exact match for the upgraded domain.

   Now, Pathfinder makes a number of smaller, and possibly younger, versions of more formidable animals available. This is easy enough in Eclipse: shrink the animal one size category, reduce it’s CR appropriately, and – as you go up in level – either advance it normally (most appropriate in fast-advancement games, where the notion that you imbue your young companion-beast with ever-increasing power fits in better than it growing up overnight) or presume that it grows up, and give it adult statistics instead of a couple of levels worth of bonuses (most appropriate for games featuring slow advancement and enough time between adventures for animals to mature).

   So our Pathfinder Druid is pulling (12 CP) out of skills and (20 CP) out of getting another major Restriction. That gives them (32 CP) to spend on upgrades.

   What they’re buying is limitless use of their level zero spells (4 CP) and their choice of a set of Animal Companion upgrades or a Clerical Domain instead of an animal companion – either of which is worth ( 22 CP) over the base build.

   Oops. That means that they’ve got enough points left over to buy another Feat even without using Fast Learner.

   On the other hand, they are getting one major benefit over the Eclipse build: Pathfinder Druids really don’t seem to spend a lot of their time on their duties as nature priests. Ergo, they’re being changed into an advanced build by spending those extra six character points on Specialized Fast Learner and dropping the “Duties” restriction – which makes them come out just right.


3 Responses

  1. […] These are actually a LOT more limited than most players give them credit for. I like to look at this article over on the Emergence Campaign Weblog that points out a little item that was in the 3.0 SRD […]

  2. […] -Basics and Races and the class breakdowns for the  Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer and Summoner. The sample characters are pretty […]

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