By feather, fur, and scale!

My kids are Earth Rangers. No idea what I’m talking about? The Earth Rangers are a kids conservation organization which empowers Canadian children to embark on missions to save local ecosystems, endangered animals, and do their part to reduce pollution, waste, and climate change. It’s free to join, and in addition to missions, videos and games there’s also an educational blog my kids enjoy reading. Both of my children are members, but, because of my son’s dedication to saving the planet, he set out at the start of this school year to accomplish two things:

One: start a litter collecting club to beautify the school yard and neighbourhood parks.
Two: get the Earth Rangers to come to his school.

It should be noted that he’s seven years old.

While his litter club is still in the works (he had to wait until he snow melted before his teacher would help him get it started), just this afternoon the Earth Rangers came by his school to put on a presentation. Now, this isn’t super strange–they do school assemblies across the country–but it’s never happened at my son’s school before, nor any of those nearby. He’s been trying his best to get this to happen all year long, so you can imagine how excited he was that they came. And man, did they put on a show! In addition to an energetic, fun assembly, they also brought along a quartet of awesome Animal Ambassadors to show off. My favourite? The barn owl that they sent soaring through the gym right over the crowd! My son’s? The three-banded armadillo which we got to see scurry around, roll up, and nibble on some mealworms. My son got mentioned during the opening, and at the end both of my children and I got to go behind the scenes to meet all the animals personally, and chat with the presenters.  Surprisingly, once my daughter got up close it was the ball python that stole her heart.

They honestly made my kids day month year.

Which brings us to the topic of todays blog: animals!

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Rules for familiars and animal companions can be found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Core Rulebook, or Core Rulebook: Pocket Edition.

I have yet to meet a player of d20 games who has NEVER made a character that has a pet. Perhaps it’s a familiar, an animal companion, or a mount. Whatever the case, animals are a huge part of most d20 games–as both companions and enemies. I find that among children, they’re an even bigger draw. My daughter’s first character had so many pets I took to calling the entire party the ‘Animal Crew.’

Everyone’s got a favourite animal. Chances are everyone’s got a favourite choice for familiars and animal companions, as well.

My daughter? Easy! Rabbits are her favourite familiar by far, and that’s not even taking into account that they grant their masters +4 initiative! She’s also a huge fan of the arctic hare. And animal companions? Parasaurolophus, of course! Particularly if you let them ‘sing.’

My son prefers pigs as his familiar of choice–mostly because he thinks they’re adorable. They also grant their masters +3 diplomacy, which is handy for those of you who want to make friends. For animal companions, he favours the boar, although he’s also pretty partial to owls and eagles on occasion.

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Rabbits were originally introduced in the Pathfinder Player Companion: Animal Archive,alongside a ton of other animals and archetypes.

My husband’s top choice for familiars is the raven, which can speak any one language. Awesome! And his favourite animal companion, hands down, is the wolf. Love those free trip attacks!

And me? The fox is my favourite animal by far, so choosing my favourite familiar is a simple decision. Fox, fox, and fox again. Maybe toss in an arctic fox for a bit of variance… Haha. Those lovely little fennecs grant a +2 on reflex saves.

But animal companions? Wow, tough choice! I’ve always been a big fan of the grizzly bear. But then there’s the crocodile… Who doesn’t want a badass beast who can go on land OR water? But, when it comes down to it, I’m a big sucker for the ankylosaurus. SO COOL! Unfortunately, every time I’ve made one it’s master died a horrible death within a session or two. Haha. I’m cursed!

But, in my opinion, it’s not what animal you choose that makes your pet important, but how you choose to play them. Big or small, they can be living breathing characters and allies–not just a pet you give a scratch here and there.

My daughter has a druid with a pet parasaurolophus who loves to sing and dance. She dresses her in bows and fluffy tutus, and always gives her hugs. She spends time comforting her pet, and always plays that little dinosaur as a young, skittish, easily scared little (big) thing. When battle starts, she doesn’t just tell good old Paras to attack, she tells her to strike up a battle tune, which sets her dear tooting, and bellowing, and shaking her tail. That’s not to say that Paras never enters the fray–she does. She whips that tail around with a vengeance whenever her master’s hurt. But, it is to say, that Paras is a character, more than just an extra attack form.

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Familiars of all kinds–as well as some nifty archetypes–can be found in the Pathfinder Player Companion: Familiar Folio.

I have a meek, shy wizard who fell in love with a vicious, man-eating dog during a session, and ended up taking it home with her. Barely able to control her big, snarling brute, clearly it’s Prickles the dog who’s the alpha in that relationship. Unfortunately, that same wizard hates killing things and, knowing she won’t be able to stop her dear dog from devouring something once he gets a taste of blood, she never orders him into the fight. That said, Prickles is a territorial pup. With the awesome bodyguard archetype, from Ultimate Wilderness and the Animal Archive, if there’s one thing he won’t abide is someone harming ‘his pet’ (my wizard). I have a ton of fun roleplaying these two and their weird, unbalanced dynamic.

My husband’s most memorable pet is a rat familiar named Rothmhar, who is a direct conduit to the foul god Mhar. Rothmhar and his master, Haji both devour rocks during their communion, which causes Rothmhar to froth at the mouth and engulf itself in a transformative, rocky, cocoon. Upon hatching he not only grants Haji magical powers, but he also has his ugly flesh pierced by sharp rocks. Also? He hates Haji’s girlfriend. You can read more about Rothmhar in my Iron Gods blog posts: Iron Gods: Character Focus: Haji and NixIron Gods: Part One: Into the Weeping PondIron Gods: Part Two: Bring Out Your Dead!Iron Gods: Part Three: GremlinsIron Gods: Part Four: The Dead Desert and Iron Gods: Part Five: High Times in Torch.

In another campaign, when we played the Second Darkness Adventure Path (which starts with Part One: Shadow In The Sky), my husband’s character befriended a sleazy scumbag named Bojask, and made him his cohort. Later, Bojask got a horribly stupid and overly friendly swamp barracuda, named Gulper, for his animal companion. This dopy thing was hilarious and a total blast to have in the party, especially as he licked and tried to ‘hug’ his grumpy, cussing owner. Half-way through the campaign, poor Gulper died. So heartbroken was the party we used resources to have the goof reincarnated, only to have him come back as a ram. As lovable as he was before, Gulper was even funnier trapped in the body of a completely different animal. He kept trying to bite when he should headbutt and swim when he couldn’t. But the best part? The first time the poor thing found himself in water and had no idea he couldn’t breathe water. HILARIOUS. In time, he died again, and this time was brought back as a spider. Admittedly, that didn’t last long. The poor thing kept trying to lick people with a non-existent tongue, and only ended up poisoning them with his mandibles. In the end, we paid a ton of money to have him returned to his proper form, only to have poor Gulper–who had finally gotten used to being a spider–adjust all over again! You haven’t laughed until you’ve seen a swamp barracuda try to figure out why he can’t shoot webs and climb up walls. Priceless!

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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Ultimate Wilderness alsoreleases some great new familiar and animal companions, as well as archetypes for both!

But my favourite pet of all time? It belongs to my seven-year old son. In a previous blog post we talked about the creation of a character of his, Fuzzzy. Fuzzzy is paladin of Iomedae who died battling demons in the Worldwound alongside his brother. Luckily, Iomedae rewarded them for their service, seeing them brought back to life in new bodies. Unfortunately, Fuzzzy found himself in the body of an old man, with no memories of his past life. Or any memories, really. He barely recalls what happened two minutes ago. Now a wizard, Fuzzzy is accompanied by an intelligent little owl, who keeps him on track and safe. This little owl, Bobby, ranks as my favourite pet by far! Seriously! They have such a wonderful relationship. Take a peek at any of his play-by-post adventures and you’ll see what I mean.

Now, I know all of you have beloved familiars and animal companions! You’ve got funny stories and heartfelt ones. And plenty more of you have preferences. So let us know YOUR opinion in the comments! Share your picks for favourite animals companions and familiars! Tell us about the most memorable ones you’ve created or played. Did you ever see someone else with a pet you wish you’d thought of? By all means, let us know!

Whether they’re feathered, furred or scaled, we want to hear from you!

Until next time,

Jessica