Tuesday, January 19, 2016

RPG Animal Companions

Animal companions are pretty common in OSR play. Mules carry heavy loads on long trips, dogs add a little offense and serve as an early-warning system, and horses let lowly adventurers feel like they're someone important. Why not give these lowly companions a little love and advancement.

What follows is a simple leveling system for commonly used animal companions. Adding this system to your game won't turn mules, horses and dogs into powerful allies, but it will add a little color and fun to your game. Who doesn't want a 7th level guard dog as a companion?

Qualifying as a Companion

To qualify as an animal companion, the creature must be owned by a single character and have a name. The number of companions a character can own is limited by charisma, according to the Maximum Companions table.

Companion Experience

Animal companions advance by gaining experience, just like characters. They gain experience from the following activities/actions:

  • 1 XP per day spent in the wilderness
  • 1 XP per four hours spent in the dungeon
  • 1 XP per HD of any creature they helped defeat

Award animal companion experience when the party returns to civilization. Note that the experience earned for defeating creatures does not affect experience awarded to the party. Companions can never advance more than one experience level per adventure.

Example: Rocky, a 1st level mule, spends six days in the wilderness with his mistress and her companions. When gnolls attack the camp, he kicks two of the creatures, who are eventually slain by party members. When the group returns to town, Rocky earns 10 XP and gains a level:

  • 6 XP for days in the wilderness
  • 4 XP for helping to defeat 2 2 HD monsters
Companion Advancement

When animal companions earn sufficient experience, they gain a level and the appropriate benefits. Benefits include additional hit points, attack or saving throw bonuses, and quirks. Quirks are unique abilities or traits that are rolled on the appropriate quirk table. Most quirks are beneficial, but there are a few stinkers in the mix.


Mules have 2 HD and AC 7. They can attack with either a bite (1d3) or a kick (1d4). They have a base move of 12 and can carry up to 200 pounds without slowing. Mules can carry double this load, 400 pounds, but only move at half speed when so loaded. Mule are sure-footed. They can navigate rough terrain and be taken into dungeons.

So, there's the basic system for animal companions and the advancement and quirk tables for mules. I'll have tables for basic mutts, guard dogs and assorted horses and ponies done soon. What other animals do adventurers take on their wilderness and dungeon delves?

On to part two!

Photo by Flickr user Katie@! (CC license): https://flic.kr/p/4SZRV2


  1. Most awesome! When all the basic animals covered in most rulebooks are done a pdf compilation would be super neat!

    1. Good idea. I probably need to trawl through some bestiaries for more fodder.

  2. Elephants are a popular choice, and griffins or hippogriffs are always being drooled over at the menagerie...

    1. Hmm. Elephants sound good. Griffons and hippogriffs are popular, but don't they come with their own benefits? They're already pretty kick-butt mounts/pets.

  3. Larry the wonder Llama! Or generic llamas.


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