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I am relatively new to DnD, and the one or two games i've played before have ended at around level 4-5. I am about to start up a campaign, and I am rolling a Gnome Fighter that is going to focus on mounted combat. I plan on picking up a riding dog. Now, I am worried about my dear dog Mako surviving long term and remaining useful and relevant throughout the game. I've been looking into methods, and it seems like Wild Cohort is a pretty good feat to take, but i'm not sure if it will scale well long term since I don't really have any experience. It seems like barding will be key, particularly some enchanted barding as soon as possible. Beyond that, i'm not really sure what would be best to maintain a decent mount. I've thought about taking a level of druid for animal companion, since the companions level scales with your highest level class, but my DM maintains XP penalties for multiclassing, so that doesn't seem like it would work unfortunately.

Any general tips, advice, or anything I can get to make my experience as grand as possible?

Just a note, my DM is wanting to limit us to the players handbooks, but anything from another book, I can show him and he will decide if I can use it or not. Basically he just doesn't want anything really extravagant, outlandish, or anything like that, to put it vaguely.

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Good way to get your hands dirty is just to try the new thing, but +1 for taking the future game into consideration and asking the question – LitheOhm Oct 30 '12 at 5:40
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Any general tips, advice, or anything I can get to make my experience as grand as possible?

A gnome fighter, you say? I'd recommend one of two paths, if the halfling outrider, cavalier and whatever other mounty prestige classes aren't available from the complete books.

If you can play lawful good "Dudley Do-Right" do so. Take a level of cleric and worship a lawful/good or lawful good deity and go the path of the prestige paladin (XP penalty, sure, but you did pick a gnome fighter specializing in saddle-beasts, I think this might come with the territory). This will beef up your mount, martial ability, cleric spellcasting ability and not overwhelm you with a large array of quirky special abilities as compared to many other prestige classes. Basically they reworked the paladin into a class with requirements (also did this with bard and ranger) in the Unearthed Arcana rules. There are even paladin alignment variants in case being the "I'll save you Penelope!" type isn't exactly your style. Each still beefs up your mount and can scale with this prestige class option.

If you can play evil I highly recommend trying out the blackguard. They get an ability much like the paladin's mount, in fact they are much like the paladin at their core except for the fact that they're really wicked and require you to be evil. An advantage here is that they are core - straight from the Dungeon Master's Guide. A bit tougher to qualify for feat-wise, but their mount levels based on character level instead of class level. I once houseruled these as a neutral prestige class and it seemed to work well enough for our purposes, maybe your DM could do the same. For the blackguard, the trickiest part would be having five ranks of hide and peaceful contact with a summoned evil outsider.

Perhaps not the greatest or strongest way to manage your mount, but these options are some tried-and-true ways to have fun with it. Aside from class recommendation, I highly suggest the feat spirited charge. Even without a lance, that's a grand charge. Aside from that, see if your DM will allow the leadership feat so you can attract a cohort who can serve as a mount. I like that you want to keep your riding dog as long as possible (instead of treating this NPC companion as a means to an end like some, ugh), but unless your DM will lift the maximum hit dice cap for him he's not going to keep up for much longer if you don't bring in class abilities or something like to augment him.

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Oh I am mostly certainly going to be lawful good. I will be small, but my heart large. I plan on being the most valiant do-gooder possible. The Knight class in PHII is perfect for the flavor, but I don't like most of the class abilities. This howerever seems very interesting. I was looking at the annointed knight prestige class, and that would go perfectly with paladin. I'm just not sure though, will losing out on all those bonus feats hurt me it the long run? It seems like martial characters really need as many as they can get. but I will do some reading on paladin! Thanks alot :) – andrew Oct 30 '12 at 7:23
And I am mostly certaintly going to get all the basic mounted feats, all together they are just too good to pass up. And yeah the Wild Cohort feat is similar, or is the cohort from leadership way better than wild cohort? I might go that route and see if I can just make Mako a cohort instead of an "item". – andrew Oct 30 '12 at 7:24
@andrew I sent you a message on chat – LitheOhm Oct 30 '12 at 15:54
Unfortunately I can't seem to find any sort of inbox in chat, as its not something i'm familiar with nor ever used before. – andrew Oct 31 '12 at 0:01
k. @andrew I don't believe losing out on all those feats will hurt you that much, you've just got to be picky with the ones you have. At least with the prestige paladin, the feat requirement is right up your alley. I contend that yes, a cohort can be stronger than an animal companion because cohorts aren't limited to animals, or even traditional animals. The deciding factor would be their maximum hit dice, for me. – LitheOhm Oct 31 '12 at 0:26

Taking a single level of Beastmaster (Complete Adventurer) gives you the animal companion of a level 4 druid (it gives the class feature at class level+3), and you can take the natural bond feat (which is practiced spellcaster for animal companion, +3 to effective druid level). Also, the Wild Plains Outrider can be squeezed in (and advances druid or paladin mount).

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Wild Cohort is great for mounts, since they level with you, and it’s based on character level so you can do it with a Fighter or whatever you like, instead of being tied to Druid or Ranger.

Beyond that, remember that you can buy armor for mounts. The Mounted Combat feat will help them out a lot too, but it’s only once per round, so armoring them is a good idea.

Prestige classes don’t count for multiclass penalties, so going into a prestige class that gives a good mount is a good move. The Ashworm Dragoon from Sandstorm is a particularly good one. Any that gives you a flying mount of a reasonable (or scaling) level is also probably pretty good.

Most of the best options for mounts are not available to you, however. Halfling Outrider, the Paladin’s Special Mount, and a proper Animal Companion cannot happen with Fighter levels. The Halfling Druid substitution level is particularly good for this, leading into Halfling Outrider and allowing potential access to Devoted Tracker.

By the way, while it’s a very expensive (and, IMO, entirely unnecessary) tax, the Additional Favored Class feat from Unearthed Arcana can help you with multiclassing.

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Yeah the armor for mounts is called barding, which I mentioned, and I plan on taking all the basic mounted combat feats I can manage. Ashwood sounds pretty nice, and our DM has told us that we will be heading towards some sort of desert in the future. However, I would like to keep Mako the riding dog as long as possible. I will see if my DM will let me pick up Ashworm if he does tragically die on my way there. – andrew Oct 29 '12 at 23:15
@andrew One thing you can ask your DM about is giving Mako the mechanical abilities from some mount-giving prestige class, but reflavoring it to match whatever's going on with your character and his mount. – Tacroy Oct 29 '12 at 23:50
What are some mount-giving prestige classes? I am not familiar with any. Or are halfight outrider, paladin, and ashwood about it? – andrew Oct 30 '12 at 2:38

I think that options that have been entirely overlooked thus far have been the ability to have your mount altered magically. There are a large number of spells that can enhance your mount and be made permanent. Of particular note would be the Druid spell that gives an animal human level intelligence and then your mount can start taking class levels for themselves. I'm sure that they would probably be appreciative of all the time you spent taking care of them and would have hopefully developed a bond with you. Maybe you could take them as a cohort :)

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That sounds very interesting, though also immensely expensive. What are some of the spells you're referring too? The only thing I can think of would be Wish, though i'm not too familiar with spellcasters. – andrew Oct 31 '12 at 0:05
The spell is called Awaken but I seriously doubt any sane DM will let your animal take class levels and still adventure at your side (unless you take him as a cohort). – Zachiel Nov 1 '12 at 14:35

I've seen many warhorses with that necklace giving them additional temporary hit points, can't remember the name, I think it's on a Forgotten Realms book. If anyone knows the name, that's a good item to start. Being a paladin or a druid or getting some way to increase Mako's HP with your level and having him wear an amulet that boosts his constitution score is better on the long run.

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