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Let's say that I am a lv9 druid who just cast Awaken on my wolf animal companion. I feel like I don't fully understand the mechanical changes that occur as a result. What I understand so far is:

  • Wolf int is now 3d6, Cha +1d3, +2d8 health
  • Wolf is friendly to druid by default, but acts and grows independently
  • Gains ability to speak/understand one language (more with positive int modifier)

What I am unclear about:

  • What is the wolf's class level?
  • Who plays the wolf? GM or druid player?
  • Does the wolf gain xp as if a member of the party?
  • Is there anything I'm missing?

Followup Questions

  • Does the wolf retain stats gained through nature's bond with druid, or are they reverted to the stats of a normal animal of their type, but with the specified bonuses?
  • Can anyone provide examples of how awakened animal companions are usually handled, both mechanically and narratively?
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A couple of quotes from the Animal Archive, via d20pfsrd entry for Awaken

The moment the spell takes effect, an animal companion ceases to be a class feature, and instead becomes a person

and

Most pointedly, awakened animals can no longer serve as companions, and the character must follow the rules for Leadership if he wishes to take the animal as an official cohort.

So, long story short, the awakened animal is no longer elligible to be your animal companion, and would revert to the default stats for the animal, and then be adjusted by Awaken. You could then find a new companion, and use Leadership to take your old companion as a cohort, assuming they want to.

Up front, the Awakened companion has no class levels, but in theory, could take them in future.

As an NPC, your GM now controls the Awakened animal, although he might delegate control to you for simplicity.

Depending on what happens, if the companion decides to join the party, they could earn XP, although not if they are a cohort.

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Officially, players only ever play their own character. Many GMs allow players to play their companions, cohorts, and the like, but that’s just a matter of convenience. Any character that is not your player character is by definition a non-player character and the GM owns that character.

In the case of specially-bonded creatures, the “shortcut” of allowing players to control that creature makes a certain degree of sense; those characters usually have little-to-no difficulty issuing commands to those creatures, and those creatures are usually inclined to obey. But this does mean that places where there should be difficulties—an animal companion who properly should get pushed to something that hasn’t been trained as a trick, a summon following orders in a language it doesn’t understand, a creature with relatively low Intelligence executing complex maneuvers precisely as the player wants them—tend to get missed, which is why some GMs view this kind of shortcut as a serious mistake.

When awaken is cast on an animal companion, it immediately ceases to be an animal companion. The magic bond between druid and animal is broken. That means most of the justification for the shortcut is gone. The animal is now far more independent, and while they do regard you fondly, they have their own goals. At that point, I expect most GMs would take over the animal, regardless of what they did before.

As for other things, the wolf has no class level, but can gain XP and eventually gain class levels. The GM should decide what level the wolf takes, not the druid. There are rules for splitting XP with NPCs that travel with the party, and should be used.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That 'they do regard you fondly' is not a given, actually. \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jun 12 '18 at 20:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YogoZuno Considering the strength of the animal companion bond, I would expect lingering sentiment that would be difficult to see past even in the case of quite abusive masters. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jun 12 '18 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "There are rules for splitting XP with NPCs that travel with the party, and should be used." Where? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 12 '18 at 20:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @YogoZuno The awaken spell says that the "awakened animal or tree is friendly toward you." I guess that means even if the caster were a jerk to the animal companion, it's thankful to the caster for the bestowed sapience or something? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 12 '18 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That line from Awaken only defines the starting attitude - that may well not last much longer than the Awaken taking effect. "Yet if an animal was mistreated during its time as a companion, or is treated poorly after its awakening, that friendliness is mixed with a sense of confusion that can last anywhere from a few moments to a few hours as the animal reconciles the abuse with the great gift it’s been given." \$\endgroup\$ – YogoZuno Jun 12 '18 at 21:39

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