What's the simplest way of representing a “savage” warrior with an tiger animal companion?

The "savage" warrior with an animal companion is a staple of pulp fantasy/swords & sorcery. However, if you wanted to play a warrior with a tiger for an animal companion, you're looking at a 7th level Druid or 14th level Ranger according to the SRD.

Is there another way to represent this classic fantasy archetype using another class, feats, spells, magic items or some use of the Handle Animal skill? I'd like to play this character starting from 1st level, if possible, or at least not require a minimum of 7 levels.

Also, Druids don't seem like a good fit for this barbarian-type, although maybe re-skinning the semi-celtic flavor of the SRD Druid as something more tropical could work.

I'm open to any combination of the above + creative uses of in-game fiction as well (ie whistling for his tiger friend == casting summon animal, etc).

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One thing that occurred to me after writing this question is not that it's difficult to make a savage warrior using D&D features, or that it's difficult to get said warrior an animal sidekick... the real handcuffs are the Tiger's stats being so far above the weight-class of a 1st level character. By far the easiest solution is to nerf the Tiger to 1st level, possibly just using the stats for a similar, albeit weaker, creature, and then advancing it as needed. That said, some great answers here! I'm very satisfied. – cr0m Aug 5 '11 at 0:30

If using Pathfinder, you can use the Summoner class from the Advanced Player's Guide. Though it's a caster class, it's got d8 hp, and can do "no armor, spear, knife" just fine. Have your eidolon (powerful pet) be a tiger, and then your other Summon Monster uses can be Tarzan-like bellowing to the jungle. Works from level 1 and scales. This means the tiger will take the lions' share (liger's share?) of your combat activity.

As a druid, you could just have an animal that uses the Cat, Small stats until 4th level and then grows into the Cat, Large stats - just instead of swapping out companions, say it's the same one. Ta da.

Take an appropriate class template like the Jungle druid, or Beastmaster ranger, and then take the Boon Companion feat which ups your effective level by 4 for animal companion purposes.

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+1: Very good options. – Erik Burigo Aug 3 '11 at 12:10
For the summoner option, your "Tiger" would also have an int of 7+, so talking to it isn't going to be a problem either. – Cthos Aug 3 '11 at 14:12
I just wanted to say that this is an awesome answer. C.Ross's answer is also good, but this one wins because it's so comprehensive. – cr0m Aug 5 '11 at 0:27

This is pretty simple. Spend the gold, and buy a trained tiger. The SRD doesn't give prices for exotic animals, but you can use the price of a Heavy Warhorse and say multiply by two or three. Have your Fighter or Barbarian put ranks in Handle Animal and you're done.

For early levels when a Tiger would be overpowering, use the Juvenile template in the Bestiary, or use the cat familiar to represent an even younger Tiger.

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+1. I think the key point to realize here is that, while simply buying the tiger sounds just wrong for the suggested background, one should really not think of it as the character having actually bought the tiger, but simply as a game-mechanical accounting trick to achieve the desired outcome: a poor character from a jungle village who doesn't really have much in the way of money or equipment, but doesn't really need it anyway, since he's got a *bleep*ing tiger. – Ilmari Karonen Jan 11 '13 at 22:41
Great comment! Very true. Your barbarian didn't go to Tigers R Us and pick up a friend! Any more than he went to town and bought his loincloth. :) – cr0m Sep 30 '13 at 17:46

There are a few ways of doing this.

1. Magic item statue, that summons an ethereal pet.

2. Cleric with summon animal spells.

3. Mage with a familiar / summon animal spells.

4. Fighter with high charisma and a bunch of points put into 'handle animal' and perhaps 'riding' and lots of gold to buy exotic pets.

5. Gnome with a 'talk to burrowing animals' racial ability and some points into handle animal as well.

Atleast, those are the ways I have done it before.

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I just realized I sort of duplicated your answer four, but I don't think you even need high charisma. – C. Ross Aug 3 '11 at 13:14
The high charisma is to help with 'followers', If I remember correctly, that mechanic can help with the goal. – GMNoob Aug 3 '11 at 16:13
oh, you're suggesting using Leadership. That works as well, but perhaps you should suggest taking the feat explicitly. – C. Ross Aug 3 '11 at 19:20
Handle Animal is based off Charisma, so the poster might be saying high Cha is good both for the skill and for the Leadership feat, though I agree with you that it's not clear. – cr0m Aug 5 '11 at 19:22
Admittedly I'm not too familiar with 3.5e, but do tigers really count as burrowing animals? O_o – Ilmari Karonen Jan 11 '13 at 22:54

I'd make a list of the abilities you want to end up with and swap class abilities as needed to make it happen. I've done this with PCs and NPCs alike. If you're doing this as a PC, work with your GM to see if they'll entertain an ability swap.

It sounds like you want a Barbarian, but with the Druid's Animal Companion instead of Rage. Or you could build him as a Paladin, but reverse the level of Divine Mount and Lay On Hands abilities. Or maybe a straight Fighter, but with fewer bonus feats to pay for the tiger companion.

Any way you slice it, having a tiger Animal Companion at 1st level will be unbalancing. You'll probably need to nerf the tiger's combat abilities until level-appropriate, probably somewhere around 7th level.

And if you're a player, WORK WITH YOUR GM - he or she may have some other ideas about how to give you what you want.

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While this does not fix the early level requirements, if you don't want to reskin a class to suit your needs you could have your tiger as a cohort. This might take as many levels as using a druid, maybe more - it's tied to your charisma score and to the ECL of the tiger but it does allow you to have a tiger as a companion without being a ranger or a druid.

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