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A few weeks ago, I needed to make a Climb skill check for my Sentinels Bear Companion. I rolls d20+5 due to the bears strength, but later I got to wonder if I should have added anything extra.

Even though my Sentinel has a strength bonus of +0, he is actually better at climbing than his companion, which feels wrong to me. The PC is trained in athletics, gains gains extra points from his level, a +2 bonus from his bear and a +2 from a climbing kit.

It seems to me that at the very least I should have added +2 to the roll for the bear due to his claws (my GM would almost certainly have agreed they are perfect for climbing), but should I have consiered it trained? Does it get it's own +2 to athletics? Does it gain any level related bonus? I may have missed something, but it would be strange if animals natural skills didn't improve as their combat and defensive attributes improved (base plus level for AC etc.).

What am I missing here?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

It seems that the skill bonus for Sentinel's animal companions has been forgotten by the designers.

A good way for overcoming this lacking in rules is to state that an animal companion uses the skills modifiers of its master (like for Perception but without the +2 bonus). This statement keeps the companion in line with the challenges your character usually face.

If you're not confident with an educated bear, you can limit its array of skills to: Acrobatics, Athletics, Dungeoneering, Endurance, Insight, Intimidate, Nature, Perception and Stealth.

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Thanks Erik, I suggested your proposed house rule to my GM and he is happy go with it. The only thing he added was to adjust my Sentinels skills by the difference in their stats, so going from StrB +0 to StrB +5 means my companions Athletics is my athletics+5 but since my WisB is +5 while my companions' is +3 his Nature skill is mine-2. This all seems very sensible. Also, it naturally means that Int skills would have been at a significant penalty even if he had allowed them. –  Mark Booth Feb 2 '12 at 17:26
    
You're welcome. Seems very reasonable and winks at the simulation side of D&D. Personally I'd be quite confident in not minding the difference in ability bonus (it speeds up things); but that's a matter of personal preference only. –  Erik Burigo Feb 2 '12 at 19:57
    
It actually works really well. Because of this house rule, my animal companions Climb check went from as assumed d20+5 to d20+9+5 (my climb check+the difference in our strengths), which makes it much more realistic when he's clambering around the complex terrain in our current campaign. –  Mark Booth Feb 3 '12 at 16:09

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