A Boy and his Dog

Welcome to Iconic Design, where we discuss the creation of exciting new character builds for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game!

Its been a few months since I build a character who wasn’t A) one of my own personal builds or B) based on some famous pop culture character. Sometimes you just want to sit down and do something different, you know? Old school, even.

Here’s a boy and his dog.

Background

This build focuses on two things: 1) a boy and 2) his dog. Specifically, a boy-barian and his wolf. Neato! The “boy and his dog” trope is about as old as the domestication of dogs themselves. If you REALLY want, you can pretend that this is a build for Lassie and Matt. Its not, but you have my permission to pretend it is.

Build Concept

Okay, so here’s the premise of the build:

  • First, we want a really good base attack bonus for the PC. This is a martial animal companion build.
  • Second, we want the animal companion to have a full 20-level druid level progression. No flimsy “weak” companions!
  • Third, we want the animal to have tricks that supplement the PC and vice versa. Teamwork power!
  • Fourth, and finally, we want the animal to have the ability to survive in combat. No more dead dogs!

To that end, here are our components:

  • Barbarian (Mad Dog): Taken from the Animal Archive, this archetype delays rage and rage power access for an animal companion with plenty of tricks.
  • Oracle: We’re only going for a quick swim in the oracle pool, ladies and gentlemen. Oracle, specifically the nature mystery, has a few revelations that we’re interested in that will improve the survivability of both boy and dog. Even though we’re only grabbing one oracle level, this build is going to be pretty Charisma-heavy (I DID say that the barbarian could be the boy from Lassie, didn’t I?), which leads me to my final focus.
  • Demoralizing: The barbarian is REALLY good at demoralizing while raging. Between the high Strength and high Charisma, this build is going to be able to get high Intimidate skill check results, making it easier for boy and dog to mess people up.

Early Levels (1–7)

  • Classes: Barbarian (Mad Dog) 7
  • Feats: Power Attack (1st), Furious Focus (3rd), Extra Rage Power: Intimidating Glare (5th), Intimidating Prowess (7th)
  • Abilities: Ferocious Fetch, Pack Tactics, Rage (10 rounds + Con), Rage Power (Ferocious Beast), Trap Sense +2, War Beast (Wolf)

For the first seven levels of your career, you’re a single-class barbarian with a wolf companion. The reason you’re waiting is that you want your wolf to become a Large creature next level in order to justify your 8th character level (stay tuned). Until then, you’re a full base attack bonus class with a nasty animal companion that does your bidding. You smash stuff with power attack. Once you gain your first delayed rage power, you gain the ability to demoralize foes as a move action while raging and eventually you’ll get to add your monstrous Strength modifier to your Intimidate skill checks. It’s a nice option all around, as your second attack will rarely hit at this point in the game so demoralizing is a strong option.

One of my favorite aspects of this build is the sheer number of benefits that the animal companion gains in this build. He gains Improved Drag as a bonus feat, rages when his master rages, and his flanking skill improves with his master. By the end of this “tier” of the game, your wolf is Large, has a wicked bite attack that can trip foes, and a sizable repertoire of tricks at his disposal. But as I’m sure you can guess, we’re only going to make it even more deadly as we continue.

Mid Levels (8 –14)

  • Classes: Barbarian (Mad Dog) 13, Oracle 1
  • Feats: Power Attack (1st), Furious Focus (3rd), Extra Rage Power: Intimidating Glare (5th), Intimidating Prowess (7th), Extra Revelation: Friend to Animals (9th), Extra Revelation: Nature’s Whispers (11th), Extra Rage Power: Greater Beast Totem (13th)
  • Abilities: Damage Reduction 2/–, Ferocious Fetch, Greater Rage, Oracle’s Curse (Wolfscarred Face or Lame), Nature Mystery, Pack Tactics, Rage (10 rounds + Con), Rage Power (Beast Totem, Ferocious Beast, Greater Beast Totem, Lesser Beast Totem), Revelations (Bonded Mount), Trap Sense +4, War Beast (Wolf)
  • 1st Level Oracle Spells: bless, cure light wounds, moment of greatness
  • Oracle Orisons: bleed, detect poison, spark, stabilize

That’s right, folks! A level of oracle! Now, as for curses you have two real choices: wolfscarred face or lame. Lame, of course, makes you immune to the fatigued condition at the cost of your movement speed. Essentially, lame cancels out your fast movement ability. Alternatively, wolfscarred face gives you’re a scaling bite attack along with a chance to fail a spellcasting (with no real penalty to you if they fail outside of combat, mind you). I would probably pick wolfscarred face personally because it’s very thematic to be “cursed” to look like your animal companion, but that’s just my opinion: in terms of mechanics, lame is much more powerful. Ultimately, its up to you!

Now, going into the Nature Mystery gives this build several real benefits. First, the animal companion now has an Intelligence of 6 and the oracle level stacks with your barbarian level. Second, you can take Friend to Animals (another reason wolfscarred face makes sense), which allows you to add your Charisma bonus to your animal companion’s saving throw bonuses. Its divine grace for your animal companion! Finally, you can grab Nature’s Whispers to fully remove your need for Dexterity as an ability score: you can keep that Dex at 10 or 11 with no real penalty while focusing on your Strength, Charisma, and Constitution. By the way, your rage is a morale bonus, so moment of greatness can double it. This is made even better when you pick up a courageous weapon and obtain the greater rage class feature. Try to cast this spell before combat if you can since its charge remains for a full minute after you cast it.

After this quick dip we go right back to the barbarian class. Mad dog allows you to share your damage reduction with your animal companion and you pick up a few more neat rage powers: specifically, the entire beast totem line (a third reason that I recommend the wolfscarred face curse). So now you can charge and pounce and and stuff. Pretty sweet, but let’s see where this build goes at the end game.

Endgame (15+)

  • Classes: Barbarian (Mad Dog) 19, Oracle 1
  • Feats: Power Attack (1st), Furious Focus (3rd), Extra Rage Power: Intimidating Glare (5th), Intimidating Prowess (7th), Extra Revelation: Friend to Animals (9th), Extra Revelation: Nature’s Whispers (11th), Extra Rage Power: Greater Beast Totem (13th) Extra Rage Power: Terrifying Howl (15th), Stunning Assault (17th), Skill Focus: Intimidate (19th)
  • Abilities: Damage Reduction 4/–, Ferocious Fetch, Greater Rage, Oracle’s Curse (Wolfscarred Face or Lame), Nature Mystery, Pack Tactics, Rage (10 rounds + Con), Rage Power (Beast Totem, Ferocious Beast, Greater Beast Totem, Greater Ferocious Beast, Lesser Beast Totem), Revelations (Bonded Mount), Throat Cutter, Tireless Rage, Trap Sense +6, War Beast (Wolf)
  • 1st Level Oracle Spells: bless, cure light wounds, moment of greatness
  • Oracle Orisons: bleed, detect poison, spark, stabilize

Things get silly at the final stretch for this build. You’ve already picked up all of the beast totem rage powers and now you’re taking Greater Ferocious Beast, which allows you to share all of them with your animal companion. For the record, this means that your wolf gains two claw attacks and the pounce special ability. This means your wolf gains two bite attacks (one baseline, one from Multiattack) and two claw attacks (both from this rage power). That is one deadly charge!

For the barbarian herself, this build picks up the Terrifying Howl rage power, which allows you to panic creatures that are already shaken which is fairly easy with the intimidating glare rage power. You’ll also gain Stunning Assault, which is made all the harder for your opponent to resist when it is shaken. (The shaken condition penalizes saving throws.) In effect, you can drastically cripple your opponents, allowing your wolf to go for their throats. A deadly combination! Speaking of going for the throat, wolves have the trip special ability, making throat cutter a fairly reliable ability against opponents small enough to be tripped. It’s a nice benefit overall.

My final thought: tireless rage. This is another great reason to take wolfscarred over lame, as you’ll be getting to this ability. Lame is an awesome curse for the rage prophet, who can’t pick up tireless rage. You can, however, so you should pick a better curse than lame.

Mythic

I’m not going to go into the full build for this one, but marshal and guardian are the best mythic paths for this build. Both capitalize on teamwork and both have special abilities that you can use in conjunction with your wolf companion. And that’s really what you want here. If you’re going mythic, you might want to consider giving your animal companion the mythic companion feat so it isn’t instantly killed by mythic abilities simply because it is a non-mythic creature because that’ll happen.

The Animal Companion

What feats you take for your animal companion really depend upon what you plan on doing with it. Power Attack is likely a must, but beyond that where do you capitalize? Giving it bull rushing abilities to play off of the barbarian’s throat cutter ability is probably a good idea, as is Combat Reflexes for more attacks of opportunity. Light Armor Proficiency will help to keep your animal alive longer while Eldritch Claws will help its natural attacks if you don’t have the money for an amulet of mighty fists. You might also want to look into Bloody Assault, Dazing Assault, or Stunning Assault to play off of Power Attack. Really, this is up to you because the wolf has all of the abilities it needs baseline to combo with the barbarian: you could have no feats and the wolf would work fine, so pick what you like best.

And there you have it; a little barbarian boy and his bloodthirsty dog. Is this a character build that you could see yourself using? What sort of NPC do you think would take this build? How would you build the wolf companion? Leave your comments and answers below!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long over 90% of his colleagues. Affectionately called a “budding game designer” by his partner at Radiance House, Alexander is the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series (Radiance House) and a handful of other Third-Party Products. Before founding the Everyman Gaming blog, Alexander gained notoriety for writing the GM’s Guide to Challenging Encounters, which remains accessible to this day. His favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune mad dog, and his favorite pastime is trying to train his Yorkshire terrier into being his familiar.

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4 thoughts on “A Boy and his Dog

  1. Personally, I would opt for Cornugon Smash instead of Extra Rage Power (Intimidating Glare) since you’re going to be power attacking anyway. This makes for a more efficient action economy, as you could charge, pounce and get an intimidate check with every attack. Dazzling Display also seems like it would be a better choice, but that requires Weapon Focus for it to work. I dunno, considering Terrifying Howl is a ‘once per day’ ability when it comes to individual enemies, it would make sense to affect as many of them as you can before using it and it seems Cornugon or Dazzling would be better for that, one allows you to make all of your attacks, and the other lets you only use one 1 round to affect everyone.

    Anyway, this seems like a pretty badass encounter. I could totally see these guys tearing into foes and ripping throats out left and right. Will you be revisiting this guy once the ACG is released? Or will you leave it alone?

    • Depends if there’s anything that this build really needs to function well in the ACG. I try not to retread older builds since I’d rather do new stuff, but we’ll see.

  2. Continuously putting one’s selfless, devoted animal companion into harm’s way is absolutely reprehensible. He better load up on cure light wounds, because if I’m playing the cleric, he’s handling his own healing.

    • That’s a really poor attitude to bring to the table, are you saying that you would never heal a familiar, or mount or druid companion or something like that? If so, why, then, should the party defend you from harm? You can fight your own fights right? If all you’re going to do is try and determine who can and cannot get healed, I’d rather pay a cleric to follow me a round, or take Leadership and get myself a heal-bot.

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