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My elf sorcerer 3 has a Handle Animal skill modifier of +10. How can my sorcerer level up his dogs and warhorse so that they're not extremely weak in future fights?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Normally, the system is a tag on the question rather than included in the title. Thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 31 '19 at 16:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you asking how to have more level-appropriate animals, or how to apply XP to animals that you have tamed? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 May 31 '19 at 16:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you talked with your DM about this? \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 May 31 '19 at 16:31
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As far as I am aware there are two ways of increasing the effectiveness of animals in combat. This is of course assuming you mean increasing the existing animals, as opposed to simply replacing the m with better animals.

1. Gain Levels: This is by far the most common. Most classes, indeed I believe all, that grant an animal of some kind, be it via Familiar or Animal Companion, offer a progression that as you increase in level, the animal companion increases in power.

2. Apply a Template: Many templates are inherited but there are some that are acquired. Perhaps the most helpful immediately for you would be the Warbeast template.

There are certainly many ways to gain better animals, but most that I am aware of are replacing the creature rather than improving an existing one.

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Animals gain experience like every other creature type.

Monster Manual 1 has the following to say about levels and racial hit dice:

Monsters do not gain ability score increases for levels they already reached with their racial Hit Dice, since these adjustments are included in their basic ability scores.

In other words, racial hit dice = levels.

Therefore, racial hit dice are gained with experience points, the same as levels.


The Monster Manual gives three ways for creatures to advance:

  1. Class levels (requires INT of 3, minimum; animals whose INT permanently increase to 3 or more convert to magical beast. )
  2. Increased Hit Dice (see note)
  3. Templates

Increased Hit Dice: Intelligent creatures that are not humanoid in shape, and nonintelligent monsters, can advance by increasing their Hit Dice. Creatures with increased Hit Dice are usually superior specimens of their race, bigger and more powerful than their run-of-the-mill fellows.

Creatures of the animal type are still considered monsters by the rules, despite it sounding odd.


Most groups probably won't be thrilled with splitting the XP with the party animals. But hey, if your horses manage to evade the dragon and not get eaten, they've earned their XP.

My group has two treasured horses, Tasty and Crunchy, so dubbed after The Incident. They survived a wyvern attack, and have the scars to prove it; which they love showing off to the mares.

Note: the exact details of adding xp to monsters (including creatures of the animal type) is pretty much left up to the DM.


Familiars and animal companions have separate rules governing their advancement, see the respective class features.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ RE: "[R]equires INT of 3…." I've been doing some research, and I can't find this prohibition. There are lots of recommendations and a reader can make inferences that lead to this conclusion, but I haven't found any actual text that excludes Int 2 or less creatures from gaining class levels. I mean, I know that's kind of dumb, but I also think it'd be hilarious for the dog — that otherwise has no advancement at all — to gain levels in warblade or sorcerer or aristocrat. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 4 '19 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I know it was mentioned in one of the web articles, I'll track down the reference, if it exists. Also, a headband of intellect will allow a dog to take class levels, so long as they don't lose it. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 4 '19 at 17:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ …And that, of course, begs the question What if Fido gains class levels then is irresponsible? (Besides him being called a bad dog and not getting any treats, obviously.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 4 '19 at 18:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ And that is different from almost every player ever... how exactly? Found the reference, but it was for how to give non- intelligent monsters class levels, though it also implies the 3 minimum without stating it. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Jun 4 '19 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I guess, for instance, even the spell feeblemind doesn't say the affected creature can't still advance in levels, just that he has a hard time doing stuff that isn't done on instinct (and can't, y'know, communicate coherently, but when has that stopped an adventurer?). \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 4 '19 at 18:30

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