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A druid can have an animal companion which levels with the druid. An animal companion gets +1 to an ability score at level 4, 9, 14, and 20. An animal with 3 intelligence can take normal feats.

Thus, theoretically, an animal companion could have the Leadership feat.

But how might that work in function? Would your animal companion get a cohort of others of its species? A humanoid cohort? Would this even be valid? If anyone has an example of this as either a player or a dm, that would be really helpful.

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Maybe Hit Dice and character levels are the same thing?

In Pathfinder's antecedent Dungeons and Dragons 3.5, Hit Dice and levels were functionally the same thing and could be used interchangeably. Pathfinder, however, seems to have left whether or not Hit Dice and levels are equivalent just ambiguous enough that a GM could rule either way. Threads from 2014 (that's also, by the way, in response to exactly this question) and 2018, for example, fail to reach definite conclusions and, instead, seem to end in a draw, both sides bloodied and panting in their corners.

(As an aside, practically, this GM finds it acceptable for a creature to count its Hit Dice as levels for meeting a feat's prerequisite: a pit fiend, for example, should be able to attract a cohort and followers without needing to have, like, 7 levels of fighter on top of its other abilities! This GM just can't imagine a potential cohort saying, "O, wait, you're just a pit fiend? Sorry, man, but I can't be led by a dude unless he has at least 7 levels in an actual character class. I'll only follow someone with real experience." That's kind of insulting to both the pit fiend and the interviewee! However, that's solely this GM's opinion, and another GM may have totally different feelings on the matter.)

A GM would likely have only highly unusual animal companions take the feat Leadership

Fortunately, the case of an animal companion taking the feat Leadership shouldn't ever come up. That is, even if the GM rules that an animal companion could take the feat Leadership, only in the most unusual of cases would the GM have the animal companion actually take the feat Leadership. See, while the PC may have a class feature that grants the PC an animal companion, it's the GM—not the player—who builds the animal companion: "Aside from the players, everyone else in the game world is a non-player character (NPC)," says Creating NPCs. "These characters are designed and controlled by the GM to fill every role from noble king to simple baker."

So, although animal companions use different rules for their creation than the typical NPC noble king or simple baker, animal companions remain nonetheless just like that noble king or simple baker in that animal companions are designed—and, likewise, controlled (but see this question)—by the GM. This means that the GM will probably have an animal companion take almost any other feat before he has the animal companion take the feat Leadership!

(Seriously, read strictly, after the player picks the kind of animal companion his PC receives, the only other thing the player gets to pick for his PC's animal companion is that animal companion's bonus tricks. Even ability score increase says, "The animal companion adds +1 to any one of its ability scores," rather than "The character adds +1 to any one of his animal companion's ability scores," or whatever.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I wish I could select two answers, because you and Mike covered both sides of it. I'll definitely talk with my GM about how he wants to rule it. \$\endgroup\$ – ViggyNash Jun 9 '18 at 13:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Two issues here: 1. NPCs (such as pit fiends) don't need Leadership. If the GM is fully in control, then they can simply give the NPC followers of whatever race or class or level they want. 2. While the animal companion is technically an NPC, and the GM can choose its behavior, I'm not aware of any rule against players building their own animal companions. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jun 9 '18 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here is an example implying that players can customize their own animal companions: "The following feats can be chosen by characters with the animal companion or by companions themselves...", and the character is controlled by the player. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Jun 9 '18 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ To address the issuses: 1) The GM may want to give a creature the feat Leadership because the feats a creature takes don't count toward its CR or, for narrative reasons, the GM feels the creature should have it. 2) The game rarely makes rules against things, leaving rules saying you can't for rare cases that would typically cause confusion or imbalance. Exception-based design is rooted on the base game existing then rules making exceptions to it, and animal companions aren't PCs so they're NPCs, and an exception's needed for a player to design an NPC. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 9 '18 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ That example includes feats that can only be taken by the creature that possesses the class feature animal companion (e.g. the feat Boon Companion). To be accurate, its introduction must say that. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 9 '18 at 14:54
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Animal companions cannot qualify for Leadership.

When an animal companion has 3+ Intelligence, it can take normal feats. It still needs to meet the prerequisites for any of these feats.

The prerequisite for Leadership is Character Level 7th. However, an animal companion's hit dice do not qualify as character levels, because a character level is defined as

The total level of the character, which is the sum of all class levels held by that character.

Although the animal companion has hit dice that depend on its owner's class level, the creature itself has no class levels. Thus it has no character level, and does not qualify for Leadership. This same limitation applies to familiars, mounts, eidolons, and phantoms.

It is possible to give class levels to an animal by awakening it, but then the creature would no longer qualify as an animal companion.

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