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Our level 4 rogue did an amazing diplomacy/handle animal check and befriended a shadow mastiff. The group as a whole thinks the shadow mastiff is awesome, and gave it a name. They want to level it up with them so it doesn't go obsolete. Is there any way to do do that?

Our group is using official Pathfinder material only, but any book or adventure pack.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Consider Letting It Go... And Then Bringing It Back
I assume you're the DM, and, as such, you can have a shadow mastiff pal around with the PCs, but understand that the game thinks this is kind of a big deal. The feat Leadership, on the list of Monstrous Cohorts, believes that a shadow mastiff is about equal to an 8th-level character. Having an 8th-level character adventuring as the ally of a group of 4th-level characters will throw off game balance quite a bit.

You can just advance the monster via HD or class levels whenever you think it's appropriate, but a better choice might be having the shadow mastiff abandon the PCs, but you making it clear that when the rogue takes the feat Leadership and is eligible for an 8th-level cohort, that same shadow mastiff will totally be available.

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The Mastiff could be "in training" with some other NPC between times. –  Neil Slater Mar 17 at 14:36
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@NeilSlater Yeah, a shadow mastiff cohort who's used to "preying upon all beings that stray from the light" might need a little training before joining with PCs lest a PC, for instance, sleep in the dark and get, like, preyed upon. –  Hey I Can Chan Mar 17 at 14:43
    
this one requires the least amount of work on the DM end, and the cohort feat would be a legit way to keep it. Easy enough to say the dog ran off chasing a cat or something. –  Julia Mar 17 at 15:31
    
In my campaign, the party wanted to train a drake thing they found, and I let them, but I don't let the drake participate in combat much, to sidestep this issue. –  Mooing Duck Mar 17 at 18:06
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You haven't got the appropriate badge, so pokemon of a higher level disobey orders. :P –  AlbeyAmakiir Mar 17 at 22:18

No. Not as far as I'm aware, at least. And here's a few other things you might want to keep in mind:

  • Even Druid animal companions will eventually have a hard time keeping up. Not yet at level 4 (where they're pretty amazing), but ultimately, animal companions don't grow in power as fast as PCs.

  • Should two amazing skill checks really duplicate a Druid/Ranger class feature like that? Compare the shadow mastiff to the kind of animals a Ranger can get at that level. How does it compare?

  • A successful Diplomacy check makes someone friendlier, but not your slave. A successful Handle Animal check means the animal obeys you at that moment, but it won't instill the kind of loyalty that a real animal companion has.

Of course if everybody is having fun, the group enjoys it, you enjoy it, by all means bend the rules. That's what they're for. (Edit: I'm assuming you're the GM. If not, discuss this with your GM.)

Some ideas of how you might handle this:

  • Doesn't level up, so while it's certainly cool, it's not a permanent advantage, and more a cool character detail than a significant combat asset.

  • Allow the Rogue to take it as an animal companion if he switches to Ranger. Rogue/Ranger is not a terrible combination at all.

  • Levels up like a Ranger animal companion. The ranger's animal companion isn't a very significant class feature, and the rogue is one of the weaker classes. Giving the rogue something extra won't hurt.

  • Make up your own rule. Maybe treat it as an NPC with whatever stats you want it to have. Gives you more control over it, and you can leverage it as a plot hook. (Edit: And as @Yamikuronue points out below, if you treat it as a monster, you can give it monster levels. There are rules for monster advancement.)

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Note: Talk to your DM first, as this is firmly in the DM's discretion territory, as they control monster advancement.

Assuming you've already worked out how it's going to be run (a friendly NPC that adventures with you or some such), there are rules under Monster Advancement for adding racial hit die to the monster; this is basically the equivalent of adding another level of "Shadow Mastiff" instead of taking a class level. I'd figure, assuming it comes with you on your adventures, treat it like a party member: whenever you level, give it another hit die.

It also might qualify to take actual class levels; the int is a bit low, but not Animal-level intelligence, so you might be able to convince your GM to allow a class level or two in, say, Fighter or Barbarian.

You'll want to look at monster feats for feat options as he goes up in level; Improved Natural Attack and Ability Focus particularly jump out at me as applicable.

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I really like @Hey I Can Chan's idea about using the Leadership feat. There are clear rules for advancing monsters and Leadership fits within the existing game framework.

Between now and Leadership, you can likely balance out the game, but keep it entertaining by making the Shadow Mastiff a little random. A few things to keep in mind:

  • It may not be "fully grown up". It might have the stats of a CR 5, but this one is destined for greatness, so it's actually still young.
  • Have it disappear occasionally. Maybe when the rogue rolls a poor Handle check, it just disappears. With the Shadow Blend ability, it's quite likely that it can track the PCs over long distances while still remaining hidden.
  • It's technically Neutral Evil. That doesn't generally jive with normal PC alignments, but it's also completely possible to convert this into a small quest or story opportunities for truly "taming the Mastiff".
  • You can also keep him in your back pocket in case a fight gets out of hand :)
  • Spread this all out and the Mastiff can be "present" in the story line while also being generally unavailable until level 7 or 8. At that point it's not just "an animal" but a "tamed follower", which is a big difference. In the meanwhile, the PCs will have a reminder that they are actually putting skills / feats into something they care about, which may be better than simply having it "go away" for a few levels.
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