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I am playing PFS and I wonder what could make a bird companion for a human druid useful.

Right now I have thought about the following:

  • It has 10 STR, so it has 0 damage modifiers on any of his attacks.
  • With Weapon Finesse, it can at least hit stuff with a +2 from it's DEX - this gets to +3 at level 3 at least
  • At Level 4 it can get +2 STR/CON so it get's it's first damage bonus that increases to +2 at level 6 from the base STR bonus.
  • At Level 4 I can give it +1 INT so it understands every order. As a flying animal I think it should be very much possible to tell him "Fly over the opponent and attack him from behind!" to give me or my teammates a flanking attack. I don't know weather or not "fly over" someone causes an attack of opportunity.

At least this is what I thought it can do - though I don't see it being that useful before Level 4. I am right now level 2 and most of my regular companions are melee, with me also charging into battle. The bird right now is more a hindrance than a boon, taking up space on the battlefield (as it occupies a space when it swoops down to hit something). Either I was very unlucky with my rolls, or a bird is simply that bad in combat. Right now I want to teach it "Spring Attack" so it can swoop down on an enemy and then make space for the real fighters. It can also sweep large open areas to see threats coming our way, but I have yet to go on an adventure where that helped us in any way (as no one wants to avoid a combat encounter).

Where do you see value in a bird companion? What can I do to improve it's long term combat viability? What can it do in later adventures that other companions might not?

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2 Answers 2

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Aid Another, either attack or defense. That way it is always swinging at AC 10. Plus, the bonus it grants stack with any other character, NPC, or summoned monster. This option also gives merit to using the multiple lower CR creature option of Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally.

  • As a flying animal, it can learn the Bombard trick, so it can drop alchemist's fire, acid vials, or other touch based attack items on opponents. Also, 'fly over' will only provoke if the bird leaves one of the opponent's threatened squares. And, unless said opponent has the Combat Reflexes feat, it can only make one Attack of Opportunity a turn.

  • It can also learn the Deliver trick and drop beneficial to your allies. Or, down the line, it can be given a fire breath potion to use itself.

  • Scouting does not have to mean avoiding the fight. It could just be helping you to set up an ambush.

  • If a creature is Tiny or smaller, it can always use its Dexterity in place of Strength for CMB. This helps to mitigate its size penalty on those checks. With this it could use the Dirty Trick maneuver to Blind the opponent for a round.

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Out of Combat Benefits

  • A hunting bird can both scout and hunt for food.
  • With Speak with Animals or proper training, it can be used to find specific enemies/allies/points of interest from the air, deliver messages and act as an unobtrusive guardian.
  • If your GM allows companion archetypes, the Racer and Totem Guide have very interesting and thematically suitable options for a bird companion.
  • An aesthetic note - your druid can incorporate the bird's feathers in his clothes or decoration, as well as fletch his arrows with them.

Combat Viability

  • With a combat speed of 80 your bird should have no trouble maneuvering to a flanking position without risking attacks of opportunity - just use "fly around" instead of "fly over".
  • Instead of Spring Attack (with its long prerequisite feat list), your bird can take Flyby Attack (monster feat requiring only a fly speed) - it gives the same benefits as Spring Attack while flying - which is what your bird should be doing during a fight anyway.
  • With GM's approval, you can train your bird to use acrobatics while flying to attack - to avoid attacks of opportunity
  • At lower levels, the bird might be more useful in assisting rather than fighting on its own - it can flank, aid another, use dirty tricks, or harass spellcasters and ranged attackers.
  • Weapon Finesse will help improving the birds attacks, you can augment them further with spells such as Cat's Grace, Bull's Strength, Magic Fang, Enlarge Person (possible thanks to the Share Spells trait of a companion)
  • Your druid may take the Master of Falconry feat to improve the bird's attacks even further, and Friendly Switch to solve the "taking up space on the battlefield" issue in a different manner.
  • As suggested above, you can train it to drop items on enemies.
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With the raw core rules and the PFS setting, is it possible for my bird to "know" withouth 3 Int that it is better for it to flank instead of using the "take the first best spot to attack" when being issued to attack? The greatest problem for our group of 1 barb, 1 paladin, 1 meele druid with companion, 1 caster druid with companion and 1 ranger (that will take a wolf at level 4) is to be able to stand on the battlefield. We are hindering each other quite a lot - and "go around" is not a trick in any rule book I have, and we have a strict "no houserules" rule for PFS games. –  salbeira Jun 9 '14 at 17:59
@salbeira - Grey area. It seems perfectly reasonable to me to say that your bird is trained to attack from behind (i.e. towards you). It at least makes as much sense as it does to say it always attacks straight ahead. Real-life animals understand positioning full well - just look at a pack of animals working together to bring down something larger, for instance. But there's no rules one way or the other that I know of. Try the PFS forums - I'm sure it's come up before, and there are some vague areas in the rules where any decision whatsoever is a house rule. –  Bobson Jun 9 '14 at 18:14
According to the Official Pathfinder SRD, you can teach an animal the "flank" trick (it must already know the "attack" trick) - it will attack a target, and attampt to flank it if any allies are attacking that target as well. See here: d20pfsrd.com/skills/handle-animal –  G0BLiN Jun 10 '14 at 14:00

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