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Unfortunately, this question is going to require a lot of contextual explanation due to the strange, heavily tweaked system and classes in play. Bear with me.

The system

I am playing in a game that uses a special, modified version of E6. The way it works is that we start with a “base” of being 6th-level commoners, and additional levels gained are gained using the “gestalt” rules from Unearthed Arcana. For example, a character might have started at our “1st” level as a commoner 6//fighter 1, and eventually progressed to commoner 6//fighter 6. Every six levels adds a new “layer” to the gestalt, so after commoner 6//fighter 6, one might become a commoner 6//fighter 6//bard 1. Each “layer” is not restricted to single-classing, so the following level could be commoner 6//fighter 6//bard 1/rogue 1 for example.

Other salient points:

  • Feats are gained on even levels in each “layer” (including three from the commoner levels)
  • Ability score boosts happen at each time we hit 3rd and 6th in a “layer.”
  • All layers count towards prerequisites, including the commoner layer
    • Commoner levels do not count towards plain “level” requirements or scaling, e.g. initiator level, the Leadership feat, etc.
    • Prestige classes are on a case-by-case basis.
  • All non-commoner classes are considered favored classes.

The class

My particular character, a true-neutral halfling, is currently a commoner 6//convoker 4. Convoker is a utility/tank class that I am working on for Dreamscarred Press.1 Its origins were as an archetype for the spiritualist class called the goetic, which has a public playtesting document here. The convoker class has changed significantly since that playtest, unfortunately, so the precise details of the class are not available. The summary of the class remains the same, however: mage that transforms into eldritch horrors, and the eldritch horrors provide local control which allows the convoker to protect allies and manipulate his immediate environment.

Details on that:

  • d10 HD
  • Full BAB
  • Good Will save
  • 4+Int skills
  • Simple weapons
  • Light armor and shields (not tower shields)
  • Close-range focus, with some features triggering on melee attacks
  • 0-4th level occult (psychic) spells, in a progression that’s between bard and paladin (starts with 1st-level spells, but progresses slowly). Uses a small, fixed list of spells known (like the 3.5 beguiler, dread necromancer, or warmage).
  • Numerous supernatural abilities gained by “splicing” one of the seven “horrors” to his body. These abilities are the ones most similar to what the goetic got.

The mount, and the problem to solve

My character also has the Blood Steed trait, modified slightly to get him a riding dog rather than a horse. And this leads me to my question: I am playing a tanky character. My character has nearly 80 hp, very high for a character with 6 HD. My dog, that I ride into battle on, has just 13 hp, because she is a stock-standard riding dog. By the time I reach past commoner 6//convoker 6 and am looking at starting a new class, my character will have approximately 100 hp—and my dog will still have only 13.

The dog’s saves, particularly Will, are also large problems—I have been removed from a combat by her getting frightened and running away with my character on her, and would have been removed from a second fight if not for an ally’s timely remove fear.

What class or mix of classes, when gestalted with a commoner 6//convoker 6, will best beef up my riding dog and allow her to take similar levels of punishment as I do? Note that prestige classes enterable at 6th may be available, pending DM review, and alignment requirements are negotiable, but no more than 6 levels of any one class will ever be available. Combining my existing riding dog with a class-granted mount should be no problem. Classes that offer immediate results are preferred over classes that take time to reach the levels where improvements are offered.

The campaign

Beyond the strange rules and the private class, some details about the character and campaign:

  • The campaign is Age of Worms, so this is the Greyhawk cosmology.

  • Str 14, Dex 8, Con 18, Int 14, Wis 19, Cha 8

  • Psionic Body, Psionic Talent, Psionic Meditation, Blind-Fight, Psionic Weapon, Up the Walls, and Intuitive Fighting for current feats. There is also a convoker-specific feat that allows my mount to share in the movement-related abilities of the eldritch horrors I use. Note that Intuitive Fighting makes melee attack rolls Wisdom-based while psionically focused.

  • Trained skills are Autohypnosis, Concentration, Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge (arcana, dungeoneering, nature, planes, psionics, religion), Ride, and Spellcraft. Most have just one rank; Concentration, Knowledge (dungeoneering), and Spellcraft are maxed (6 ranks).

  • The character is heavily influenced by Twoflower of Discworld fame: he is a foreign scholar on sabbatical to study the regions of the campaign, and he is exceptionally clueless on a variety of topics. Reflavoring classes is encouraged, so I don’t expect this to constrain choices much, but just in case.

    • Despite high Wisdom, the character is easily distracted and often has his head in a book. I have elected not to roll Perception checks at all from time to time (and the dice have been “agreeable” in that I’ve often rolled poorly and failed Perception checks when I have rolled it). So a class that focuses heavily on being aware of one’s surroundings, having high Perception, and so on, might be inappropriate. Magical senses are quite acceptable, however; he already has a number, when he remembers to use them.

    • The character venerates the Far Realms, and has little knowledge or contact with the regular Inner and Outer Planes. Heavily planar-themed classes, especially those that rely on summoning or calling creatures, would be inappropriate.

      Again, reflavoring is OK, so for example, we could reflavor the celestial template offered by the paladin’s special mount to something appropriate, but something like malconvoker or thaumaturgist would be more problematic (and not just because they would do nothing to help my quandary).

  • The convoker class has a lot of incentives to be in melee, several class features are based on melee attacks, and my character’s Dexterity is terrible. It would be very unlikely for him to switch to a ranged weapon.

  • Both D&D 3.5e and Pathfinder material are acceptable, but please note sources. We are using Pathfinder skills (with some further merging beyond what Pathfinder does, and the return of Concentration as a skill), and CMB/CMD-based combat maneuvers. For classes and feats in both, we are allowed to use our choice of either, subject to some tweaking by the DM.

    1. For the record, this weird, modified case is not being used as any kind of serious testing of the class; it’s just a game I am playing in with friends and got the OK to use the internal version of the class.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 27 '17 at 12:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ That moment when you read a huge Pathfinder question, foretaste a huge Pathfinder answer that KRyan could probably have already given, and then realize that KRyan actually asked that question... So sad. \$\endgroup\$ – Baskakov_Dmitriy Jul 27 '17 at 22:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy I do have some of my own thoughts, most of which I am seeing in answers, but I may yet add my own. I wanted to wait to see what others would suggest before doing that though. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 27 '17 at 22:15
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If you can meet the prerequisites of prestige classes by your previous gestalts, than it is reasonable to take Beastmaster as soon as possible. I assume you are going to finish your Convoker advancement, so the character would look like that:

Commoner 6 // Convoker 6 // Beastmaster 1

At the first level Beastmaster provides boost to your effective Druid level, so it will be a companion of 4 level Druid from the spot. I dont realy think you'll very much need any more levels in Beastmaster as it stacks with any companion advancing classes, and they have better class features.

From now on I see two options:

  1. Take Druid for spellcastng, if you have room for it in your actions. Five levels will give you access to highest level spells even without that level lost due to Beastmaster. You also will have room for adding more prestige classes at those five levels later, as Druid is a regular class. Finaly, as a regular class, it has no prerequisites. It results in:

    Commoner 6 // Convoker 6 // Beastmaster 1/Druid 5

  2. Stack some other prestige and maybe regular classes with nice class features wich progresses your animal companion. I'd consider Wild Plains Outrider, good class with quick advancement and ability to make a full attack after mount's single move. Two remaining levels may be of practically any class wich progresses your animal companion, probably those of a Beastmaster or even some regular class whose class features you like. It results in:

    Commoner 6 // Convoker 6 // Beastmaster 1/Wild Plains Outrider 3/xxx 2

I can't realy wrap my mind around Animal Ally feat mentioned by Chemus. I feel like, depending on your DM's judment, it may be quite usefull, but when to take it is a question I can't answer. Beastmaster and Wild Plains Outrider are both from Complete Adventurer.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My character has finally reached that first 6th level, and I have taken Skill Focus (Handle Animal) in anticipation of beastmaster. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 30 '18 at 0:00
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To add on to the above, if you can dip into 3.5, you might consider the Celestial Mount feat. Paladin lvl 4 and Exalted to get your mount some DR and some energy resistance. If you can dip further into 3.0, I'd suggest looking at the Windrider. One level of Windrider (prestige class) will give a hit die bonus to a chosen mount that should stack with anything. Of course, as a 3.0 prestige class, that one might be stretching things.

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Animal Companion feats/classes

In Pathfinder, the druid's animal companion mechanic is different from that of the 3.5 druid a bit. A major difference is that the companion has its own progression similar to that of a class.

Using the 3.5 animal companion is not strictly beneficial, as unlike a 3.5 Paladin's Special Mount, the Animal Companion does not share the character's base saving throws.

Using the Pathfinder druid's animal companion mechanics, I think that there are a few options that might suit, with varying levels of investment, and with varying results:

  1. Since your variant of E6 still grants extra feats every other level, you could take the Animal Ally [General] feat, which grants an Animal Companion as a druid of \$ \text {your level }-3\$, but requires the Nature Soul [General] feat as well.

    Adding the Boon Companion [General] feat removes the 3 level penalty, giving you a 6th level animal companion (the maximum effective level with Boon companion is your character level).

    This increases your Riding Dog's Hit dice, Base attack bonus, Strength and Dexterity bonus, Natural Armor bonus, known tricks, etc. It mitigates the Will save issue, via the +2 Base Will save bonus, as well as the Devotion ability.

  2. The Beastmaster Prestige Class (Complete Adventurer, p. 26) requires 8 ranks (5 in Pathfinder) in Handle Animal (which you don't appear to have yet), 4 ranks (1 in Pathfinder) in Survival, and Skill Focus (Handle Animal) (again you'd have to be able to get it to qualify).

    Its main benefit is that at 1st level, you gain a Companion as that of a druid of your Beastmaster level + 3. Thus, your riding dog would have abilities as 3 levels higher than your Beastmaster levels. So up to a 9th level animal companion. This class is used in many 'SuperMount' builds (See the next entry).

    This actually stacks with the Animal Ally feat from above, though the feat must be taken before the class, as you're ineligible if you have an animal companion before taking the feat, to get you up to a 12th level animal companion (Boon companion does nothing for this, as your maximum effective druid level with it is your character level).


This might be too much

  1. While full Supermount may not really be possible in Pathfinder alone, since the Pathfinder version of Paladin has Divine Bond rather than Special Mount, you can get close without mixing the 3.5 paladin with PF ranger/druid, with possibly fairly extreme results. The core of the supermount build is having two (or more) sources of companion that another class then advances. Since, as mentioned in the dark wanderer's answer, the Hunter Hybrid class counts as both ranger and druid for advancing Animal Companion, this may stack doubly with the aforementioned Beastmaster, for \$6\text{ (druid)}+(6-3)\text{ (ranger)}+(6+3)\text{ (beastmaster)}=18\text{th}\$ level (perhaps 27th with Animal Ally) Animal Companion, though Pathfinder has only guidelines for advancement past level 20.

    If you were to use 3.5 Paladin to power part of the Supermount, and the Pathfinder Hunter for the other, as above, then add in Halfling Outrider to finish it off, you could then add-in 6 level of paladin for special-mount and 6 virtual levels via Halfling Outrider (Complete Warrior p. 38) for the Special Mount of a 12th level Paladin (plus whatever other prestige classes you wanted to use to extend this further, such as Cavalier or Wild Plains Outrider), and the Animal Companion of a 39th level Druid (Halfling Outrider levels stack with paladin, and both druid and ranger levels for Mount/Companion levels).

    Such a build could take much playing to produce. It could look like: Commoner 6//Convoker 6//Hunter 6//BeastMaster 6//Paladin 6//Halfling Outrider6.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Both 3.5 and Pathfinder material is available. The 8 ranks requirement in 3.5 is equivalent to 5 in Pathfinder due to how PF skills work. And yes, feats still happen, on even levels. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 27 '17 at 12:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Ok, but I used both in my answer; I used Animal Ally rather than, say Wild Cohort, because the former already meshes with Pathfinder's rules, where the later has to be hammered to fit. Does 'both' mean that you can use both rulesets' versions of Base classes? \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jul 27 '17 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, it does; there may be some negotiation on it, but both are potentially options. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 27 '17 at 13:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan So the only bit that could be more powerful that I'm seeing is the supermount section. Are you wanting that level of optimization and investment? Or are you just asking me to fix my paladin reference? \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jul 27 '17 at 13:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Class features that two classes share (such as uncanny dodge) accrue at the rate of the faster class". So, shouldn't Hunter 6 (effective Druid level 6) // Beastmaster 6 (effective Druid level 9) result in effective Druid level 9? \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jul 27 '17 at 19:29
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I think for your game the best class for this purpose is the Hunter. It's a hybrid druid/ranger class that focuses on making the animal companion really powerful. Notably, it's one of the only ways I'm aware of to get a companion with more effective druid levels than you have HD. At 6th level, you will have the companion of a 9th level druid, due to the Nature Training class ability that allows you to count your hunter levels as both druid and ranger levels (and thus add them together -3 for the purpose of your companion, if that's better than using your hunter levels straight).

This means your dog will have 8HD, a decent Con modifier, and Multiattack if you take this gestalt to 6th level. I don't know what you're doing about level up bonuses, but if you were a gnome you could possibly even give the dog DR6/magic. Since you're a halfling you have to settle for a +1 luck bonus on saving throws and 2 wasted levels, if that part of the system comes up. That's still better than a lot of the favored class options available, but it's not as good, and you probably picked commoner as your favored class anyways.

In addition to the 9 effective druid levels, the Hunter gets to apply one of a variety of effects to his companion, and can change the effect chosen as a swift action, via the animal focus feature. Notable defensive options include Evasion, +2 Con, +5 movement speed, +2 AC vs attacks of opportunity and +2 to attack rolls on attacks of opportunity, +4 Stealth, and +4 Perception.

Better still, the class punishes enemies who successfully kill your animal companion-- while your companion is dead you get the permanent and changeable buff you were previously giving it, and you also have the duration Summon Nature's Ally spells you cast go from 1 round per level to 1 minute per level, though you can only have one summon in effect at a time. If there's a cool convoker archetype that keys off Summon Nature's Ally instead of, idk, Summon Monster or Planar Binding or whatever it normally uses, that could be a pretty potent combo. At the very least, the potential punishment will help discourage enemies from attacking your animal companion with lethal force.

Furthermore, the class grants various bonuses to fighting in melee with your companion, like giving both you and your companion Outflank at level 2. While you'll need a third ally to help out, this can give you and your dog an extra +2 to hit in melee every now and then.

Plus your companion can retrain that feat once you hit level 3, since you then grant all teamwork feats you possess to your companion, though you also possess the ability to swap out your most recently gained teamwork feat for any other teamwork feat as a Standard Action (subject to Terms and Conditions) and that may well only be the Outflank feat you took for free at 2nd level, so maybe it's worth keeping (probably not), up to you.

4th, 5th, and 6th levels are less overwhelmingly awesome, but remember that these levels are when your hunter levels start counting for double for the purposes of animal companion power.

Now, given how much the Hunter gets in terms of their Animal Companion, you might be thinking that the rest of the class would be weak. Nope! You get Cleric BAB and better spells than a ranger, pulling from the "whatever's better" druid/ranger combo spell list and casting spontaneously because why not, starting at level 1. I mean, it's no druid, but it's very very solid.

The only weakness this class doesn't cover very well is, unfortunately, something you've already addressed: Will Saves, especially for Fear. Your companion will have amazing Fortitude and Reflex saves, but even with 9 effective druid levels, their Will save is going to be a measly 2+Wisdom. You can mitigate that significantly by having your companion take the Bodyguard archetype, granting it the ability to always act in the surprise round (always. It's a dire tortoise!) as well as access to the Heroic Defiance feat, which lets it delay stuff like fear effects for a round, which gives you time to decide what to do about it. You do lose Multiattack for Uncanny Dodge, though.

If you don't need the massive bonus of taking 6 levels of Hunter and are looking for more of a one level dip, Construct Rider lets you turn your dog into a robodog, granting it 20 bonus hit points and the amazing Construct Traits-- except their immunity to mind affecting effects, which is very disappointing. Construct rider doesn't play well with Hunter in terms of hit points, because Hunter gives you tons of Hit Dice and a huge Con mod if you want it, and Construct Rider replaces the Con mod with a static bonus that isn't quite as good by 6th level. If you care less about hit points and more about Construct Traits being awesome, it could still be a good trade, but you aren't getting anything else from this level (Alchemist 1 isn't really good for anything for you, and you don't even get that, and the druid animal companion progression isn't as good as the hunter progression so they don't stack) so it's not worth it.

In concnlusion, Hunter 6 is incredibly powerful in terms of boosting your animal companion's survivability in an E6 game, and Construct Rider 1 is a maybe-better 1 level dip.

P.S. If you are playing with the pre-errata version of the Primal Hunter archetype that is hands down the best choice, but it's stupid and you shouldn't do that. It trades that versatile +2 to Con thing for full summoner eidolon progression on your animal companion. Like, it's better-than-full animal companion, plus better-than-ranger spellcasting, plus everything the summoner gets except spellcasting stacked on top of that better-than-full animal companion chassis, and if the enemy manages to kill it it just transfers all that to you. It's ridiculous to the point that they errataed it, and now it only gives you 2 evolution points for a handful of minutes a day, though they are now mutable instead of set for each level.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Jul 27 '17 at 12:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ As the chat room is unavailable (at least from an above link) I think it is convenient to link a follow up question, discussing сontroversial issue of this answer (and probable reason of a downvote). \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Aug 11 '17 at 6:12
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Well, paladin might be good, because of the Heal Mount spell, but I'm a noob, so there might be better classes. Maybe Druid 4/Commoner 6/ Cleric 4/ Hunter 4(3 animal Companions!)?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don’t want to be too harsh to a new user, but there are a lot of problems with this answer. We expect answers to show a bit of expertise here; we want to emphasize answers with valuable information to add, so adding “I'm a noob” doesn’t really help your case. Moreover, the question is pretty detailed about how the system here works, and among other things, heal mount is impossible to achieve, being a 3rd-level paladin spell and the level cap being 6th. And the gestalt rules don’t work neatly with repeat class features (e.g. three animal companions). I appreciate you trying to help, but... \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jul 31 '17 at 15:27

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