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The Hunter ability Nature Training states:

Nature Training (Ex): A hunter counts her total hunter level as both druid levels and ranger levels for the purpose of qualifying for feats, traits, and options that modify or improve an animal companion.

Some people claim that this ability does nothing, because there are no feats, traits, or other options that trigger off of druid or ranger levels. Is this accurate?

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Normally you could not take feats that ask for druid levels, because they are different classes. But Nature Training allows you to count your hunter class levels as druid class levels to qualify for feats.

Some Examples:

  • Monstrous Companion: The progression table is based on your effective druid level. Since her hunter levels count as druid levels, she could take this feat without problems.
  • Monstrous Mount: Same as above, you can qualify for this feat with 4 levels of hunter instead of 4 levels of druid.
  • Sable Company Marine: Obtain a hypogriff as companion.

Class stacking, when allowed, is normally very explicit about it, like the Shapeshifting Hunter feat:

Prerequisite: Favored enemy class feature, wild shape class feature.

Benefit: Your levels of druid stack with your ranger levels for determining when you select your next favored enemy. Also, your ranger levels stack with your druid levels in determining the number of times per day you can use your wild shape class feature, up to a maximum of eight times per day.

The Brawler, from the same book as the Hunter (Advanced Class Guide), also has an ability similar to Nature Training, Martial Training:

Martial Training (Ex): At 1st level, a brawler counts her total brawler levels as both fighter levels and monk levels for the purpose of qualifying for feats. She also counts as both a fighter and a monk for feats and magic items that have different effects based on whether the character has levels in those classes (such as Stunning Fist or a monk's robe). This ability does not automatically grant feats normally granted to fighters and monks based on class level, such as Stunning Fist.

My personal reading of that ability is that it grants you three different things:

  • You count your hunter levels as druid/ranger levels for the purpose of qualifying for feats;
  • You count your hunter levels as druid/ranger levels for the purpose of qualifying for traits;
  • You count your hunter levels as druid/ranger levels for the purpose of qualifying for options that modify or improve an animal companion.
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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer could be improved if you addressed the uses of the Ranger side of Nature Training \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Jul 27 '17 at 11:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gaynorvader I cannot think of a ranger feat or trait that modifies animal companions, could you give an example? As posted by some community members at paizo.com, the ability (as written) seems to only affect things related to companions. Though I personally believe the intent is for the class to qualify for anything that asks for druid or ranger levels. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 27 '17 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I'm not sure myself, but there must be a reason Ranger is explicitly mentioned, otherwise it's a very odd inclusion. Perhaps it is Hunter level + (Hunter level - 3) for the purposes of qualifying for feats then? \$\endgroup\$ – gaynorvader Jul 27 '17 at 11:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ I doubt the intent was for double stacking class levels. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 27 '17 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ One possibility is compatibility with future products. This has happened more than once on advanced class guide and occult adventures. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 27 '17 at 12:01
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No

In addition to options only available to druids, like the Druidic language, and options only available to rangers, like the Advanced Ranger Trap feat, there is one ability that all hunters have whose various upgrade options key off of Druid levels-- the Animal Companion.

While it is true that hunters first count as a druid of their level for animal companion purposes, once they get Nature Training they instead count as a druid of their level and a ranger of their level (that is, a druid of their level*2-3) for animal companion purposes. At level 3, when a Hunter gains nature training, the ability breaks even, but at higher levels counting as both is better. Presumably, you only gain nature training at 3rd level because counting as both classes before that point would actually be bad for you in terms of animal companion strength, and that's very much a cornerstone of the Hunter class. This behavior may well be deliberate, as other hybrid classes typically gain their equivalent "I count as both" ability at level one, for example the Brawler's Martial Training.

So not only does the ability not do nothing, but it's actually a very important part of the Hunter class.


Objection 1:

So what are the stats of the companion of a lvl 20 hunter? Do you have an explanation for why there is nothing on the class about how to handle this case?

Response to Objection 1:

There are a lot of abilities in Pathfinder, and indeed 3.x, that lead to undefined behavior at high levels due to things going off a chart. Sometimes the chart comes from clear rules and so extending it is simple, if weird. Sometimes there aren't and the behavior is truly undefined. Some examples include weapons that deal so much damage at Gargantuan size that increasing them to Colossal size moves the weapon off the damage by size chart, being told to advance a prestige class past the number of levels it possesses, and a monk of 16th level or higher donning a Monk's Robe. It should not be considered unusual that a bonus causes something to exceed unaugmented 20th level performance at high levels, since we can see that is fairly common, but rather that the ability uses twice the character's class level, minus three, for something, because that is significantly more rare.

Unfortunately, while the progression for each column of the table is inductively clear, only the BAB, Fort, Ref, and Will columns have explicit progressions in the textual portion of the rules. This means that while the stats for EDL 37 character using a 1st level animal companion very probably should be: 37 HD, 27 BAB, 20 Fort, 20 Ref, 12 Will, 37 Skill Ranks, 19 feats, +24 Natural Armor Bonus, +12 Str/Dex bonus, and 13 Bonus tricks, the actual stats are subject to your GM deciding the progression should continue that way, except for BAB and saves which are determined by whatever your GM picks for HD.

Objection 2:

I doubt the intent was for double stacking class levels.

Response to objection 2:

Well, we can't be sure about intent without a designer quote, and we don't have any on that topic. We can see that there are a few other native (i.e. double stacking from a signle ability) cases where double stacking class levels occurs more directly, for example a Spherewalker with no other spellcasting class at the time the Speherewalker levels were taken effectively gains two levels of spellcasting ability for each level in the class. We can also see, as mentioned above, several design considerations that seem to have been taken to make sure the unusual formula behaved well-- the ability comes online at level 3 which is exactly when the previous 'equal to druid level' ability gained at 1st level is equivalent to this newly gained ability. Were the ability to come online past 4th level there would be a shap spike in power when the ability was gained, and were it to come online before 3rd level it would actually be less good than just usuing druid levels (and in fact might result in a negative number), besides making the question 'do ranger levels less than four have an effective druid level conversion rate' matter. So I think there's a reasonable argument that this is, actually, intended.

Ultimately, though, it doesn't really matter if it is intended or not, though, it's how the text works out. You count your hunter levels as druid levels and ranger levels for some things and your ranger levels - 3 count as druid levels, too. So, for a small subset of things you might want to qualify for you count as 2*druid level-3.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You may want to clarify if you think that the hunter has an animal companion like a druid of twice their level minus three, or only if they qualify for feats etc. that improve or modify the companion as a druid of twice their level minus three. \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Jul 27 '17 at 10:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what are the stats of the companion of a lvl 20 hunter? Do you have an explanation for why there is nothing on the class about how to handle this case? \$\endgroup\$ – Anne Aunyme Jul 27 '17 at 13:59

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