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I am working on a Druid build that takes 10 levels in a prestige class that does not advance their Animal Companion. Are there class variants that replace the Animal Companion without affecting their Wild Shaping in a negative way? Or should I not bother with these?

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Back-porting from Pathfinder will let you take a subset of cleric domains instead of a companion, but that's not strictly a 3.5 answer. –  Bobson Jun 10 at 21:23
    
@Bobson not a strictly 3.5 answer, and therefore, within the scope of a 3.5 question, not a strictly RAW answer, but this question does not have the RAW tag. Post it as an answer. –  Matthew Najmon Jun 17 at 19:18
    
@MatthewNajmon - Reasonable logic. I've added it. –  Bobson Jun 17 at 20:03

3 Answers 3

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The list of Alternate Class Features has several options for Druids who want to drop their animal companion.

  • Druidic Avenger (UA, p 51): no animal companion or spontaneous casting, penalty to wild empathy. Gain fast movement and rage.

  • Urban Companion (CS, web): Instead of a normal animal companion, instead gain something similar to a familiar.

  • 1st Shifter Druid Substitution Levels (RE, p 126): add balance, climb, and jump to class skills: Beast Spirit (grants powers and abilities as level increase), replaces animal companion. Requires you to be a Shifter.

Furthermore, there are several ACFs that modify Animal Companion instead of dropping it completely. It might be that you can gain something from them even without full progression.

  • Elemental Companion (CM, p 33): Gain an Elemental as a companion instead of an animal.

  • Phynxkin Companion (DrM, p 13): Gain a phynxkin instead of your normal animal companion.

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Does the Urban Companion scale with your levels in Druid, or with your character level? Elemental Companion, while interesting, is not an option for my build (unless I retrain), and the Phynkin functions more or less the same as a normal familiar, except that it can become Dire. –  Thomas Jacobs Jun 10 at 16:15
    
Urban Companion scales with Druid level (or 1/2 Ranger level). Tridus' answer contains a link to the full description. –  MrLemon Jun 11 at 7:44
    
Alright, so if I read this correctly every single animal companion or variant thereof scales with Druid level rather than character level? –  Thomas Jacobs Jun 11 at 14:32
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@ThomasJacobs That seems to be true in every case, yes. A familiar like animal can be useful even if it doesn't scale in a scout/spy role, as it's got a much higher intelligence than a normal animal. –  Tridus Jun 11 at 18:59

Druidic Avenger (Unearthed Arcana) can trade animal companions, spontaneous casting, and a wild empathy penalty for Rage and Fast Movement. No effect on Wild Shape

Urban Companion (Cityscape Web Suppliment) lets you get something more like a Familiar. This still scales up somewhat with class levels, but it's got a higher intelligence and can talk to animals of its own kind at level 1. So it might still be useful to you. Again, no effect on Wild Shape.

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It's not for 3.5, but Pathfinder solved this issue by making the animal companion optional with an easy-to-backport change. Instead of the regular Animal Companion class feature, they instead get one called Nature Bond which grants access to either an animal companion or a subset of cleric domains.

Nature Bond (Ex): At 1st level, a druid forms a bond with nature. This bond can take one of two forms. The first is a close tie to the natural world, granting the druid one of the following cleric domains: Air, Animal, Earth, Fire, Plant, Water, or Weather. When determining the powers and bonus spells granted by this domain, the druid's effective cleric level is equal to her druid level. A druid that selects this option also receives additional domain spell slots, just like a cleric. She must prepare the spell from her domain in this slot and this spell cannot be used to cast a spell spontaneously.

The second option is to form a close bond with an animal companion. A druid may begin play with any of the animals listed in Animal Choices. This animal is a loyal companion that accompanies the druid on her adventures.

Pathfinder domains (unlike 3.5 ones) grant two decent abilities as well as a set of spells. Your GM could back-port this by either just granting access to a 3.5 domain (as per 3.5 cleric) or by using the full Pathfinder version of the domain. Likewise, your GM can choose to stop your domain progression if you stop taking druid levels or could let you keep advancing the domain. But even if your domain progression stops at 6th level, you'll still have a few extra low-level spell slots and a domain power, which will be more useful than a low-level animal companion.

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