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I'm making a Winged Marauder Alchemist. I've never played a class with an animal companion or mount before, so I really don't understand any of the business of building my Vulture or Bat. For example, I barely understand what Tricks are.

So, a few questions on how to best build this:

  1. Should I go with the Bat or Vulture? The Vulture looks strictly 'better', but the bat does have the maneuverability edge and Blindsense, and just feels a bit better thematically. Am I gimping myself that horribly by going with the Bat?

  2. What Tricks and Feats should I be giving to my companion? I'm mainly looking to use it as a flying mount to fly over enemies and lob bombs down from overhead (and the occasionally arrow, I suppose). What do I need to do this? I see Steady Gallop, but the name implies it's for land mounts. Is there something similar for flyers?

  3. Is there specific equipment that I'd need beyond just having a saddle? Is there other equipment I should be aiming to acquire as funds become available at higher levels?

  4. What feats should I be looking at for my Alchemist to improve his ability to ride the mount? Obviously maxing out Ride, Handle Animal, and Fly are important, but beyond that, I'm just not sure what I'd need. Ride-by Attack, and most other mounted combat feats seem aimed towards mounted melee (lancers, etc.), which is something I definitely won't be doing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just a quick point: Riding a flying animal is covered by Ride, not Fly. In fact, you can only have ranks in fly if you can reliably fly yourself every day. \$\endgroup\$ – MrLemon Jan 22 '15 at 9:34
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Before anything else, remember that the animal companion is an NPC, and, while most GMs allow the player to build the animal companion, the GM needn't allow this, instead doing all the work himself and, if exceptionally Gygaxian, even keeping the animal companion's statistics secret from the player. The only thing the animal companion's master picks is the animal companion's bonus tricks (even ability score increases are picked by the animal companion!). Bear that in mind when considering what abilities the (not your) animal companion may have.

Anyway, this low-level advice assumes that the winged marauder alchemist starts at level 1 and that the player gets to build his character's animal companion.

Ride the giant vulture, command the dire bat

A player must consider two things when dealing with his character's flying animal companion:

  1. What's the mount's carrying capacity? A creature with a load greater than light "counts [that load] as medium or heavy armor for the purpose of abilities or skills that are restricted by armor," and "[f]lying mounts can't fly in medium or heavy barding." The dire bat starts with Strength 9, its light load 30 lbs. The giant vulture starts with Strength 12, its light load 43 lbs. The typical female goblin weighs at least 27 lbs buck naked.1

    Assuming the GM says that barding is armor (and unless he's an actual lawyer he probably will), the giant vulture may be able carry the skinny, naked female goblin and some of her gear and still fly.2 The dire bat probably can't.

  2. How quickly can the creature get a +14 bonus to its Fly skill? Tactically, and for the real-life sanity of all involved, the creature will need to hover. A lot. That means the creature's skill ranks all go into Fly until that skill's at +14.

    1st-level Examples

    This assumes the creature has no feats that increase its Fly skill.

    • Dire Bat: Fly +11 (1 rank +3 Dex +3 class skill +4 bonus via maneuverability good). When the creature makes a Fly skill check to hover, rolling a 1–3 means the GM makes up a house rule and a 4 or higher means the creature hovers.
    • Giant Vulture: Fly +6 (1 rank +2 Dex +3 class skill +0 bonus via maneuverability average). When the creature makes a Fly skill check to hover, rolling a 1–3 means the creature plummets, a 4–8 means the GM makes up a house rule, and a 9 or higher means the creature hovers.

    This is because it's unclear what happens when a winged creature tries to hover and fails the Fly skill check by 1–4. Getting that Fly to +14 quickly, then, means fewer arguments at the table.

Teach the animal companion fight and flee tricks; its feats will suck

Convince the DM that, before play begins, the character taught the animal companion all the tricks he could. The animal companion will die anyway, so it won't matter beyond, like, fight 4, but that's when the character'll need all the tricks he can muster from his companion. Pushing the animal is hard at low levels. That means, one hopes, 7 tricks.

Take the attack trick twice, defend, down, flee, heel, and stay. When it dies, pick attack as the bonus trick. If the character has 6 weeks, the special purpose combat training (or, when its carrying capacity allows, a war saddle (5,000 gp; 20 lbs.)) and the attack trick again as the bonus trick will meet most needs.

The animal companion's feats will be horrible to start, limited as they are to small list of feats until the character can allocate an ability score increase to grant it Intelligence 3. The feat Skill Focus (Fly) is a serious option, as is the feat Weapon Finesse. The feat Flyby Attack isn't; it's not on the list.

Take feats to make bombs better not the animal companion

Better bombs mean more dead enemies faster and a safer animal companion. Beef up bombs with feats to save the animal companion.

That said, if riding the giant vulture the character should have the feat Mounted Combat. It's a gateway feat, gives a low-level alchemist something to do with his immediate action, and may save the animal companion's life.3 After that, Mounted Archery is a possibility, but the goblin alchemist is making ranged touch attacks with his bombs so if it's not needed, don't take it. I like the idea of the feat Indomitable Mount, but I've not used it.

The alchemist is probably commanding the dire bat to engage in combat or employing it for utility, so the feats Evolved Companion (maybe picking bleed, claws, or reach) and Totem Beast are acceptable, but I prefer the feat Spirit's Gift, which although requiring some research is extremely versatile.

As the alchemist doesn't technically cast spells, the character's forbidden from taking the best teamwork feat, Improved Spell Sharing.4 Other teamwork feats can be taken, but most are a waste.5

Don't plan on the same companion seeing later levels

The alchemist will probably replace an Intelligence 3 animal companion whenever the creature gains a new feat so he can change the creature's entire feat load so the creature can do better, cooler things.

Eventually, bonus tricks will and a high Handle Animal skill bonus for pushing the animal companion will be sufficient to make the Intelligence 3 animal companion a valuable addition to the party. At low levels, though, a flying animal companion that's intended as a mount is interesting but difficult and fragile.


1 Fat goblins don't ride flying mounts. Well, they do, but the mounts can't fly when they do. So they're less mounts that can fly and more creatures that could fly if this fat goblin weren't on my back. Goblins probably think this is hilarious.
2 Even a Small peasant's outfit weighs 0.5 lbs.
3 In the long run, the character won't care. In the short run, when he's 1,000 ft. up and the flying companion he's riding dies, he suddenly will. I think many goblins who ride flying creatures' last words are, "I knew I should've taken Mounted Combat."
4 Not the similarly named Improved Share Spells. Sigh. Pathfinder.
5 Okay, Shake It Off has saved my inquisitor's life a few times. Also, a mount with the horsemaster's saddle (12,000 gp; 5 lbs.) or, better yet, the sky marines elite saddle (14,000 gp; 5 lbs.) shares its rider's teamwork feats.

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I have a Goblin Boone for Pathfinders Society. You have to take the bat. To avoid problems with the whole weight/flight issue I ride when I want to and walk at other times. When I fly I use a wand of Ant Haul. I carry everything. Problem solved.I also burned a boone to get a free magic item up to 3,500 gp for 6 PP. I now have a ring of feather fall. Bumped my ride check to +14. I auto dismount as long as I am conscious. My bats fly boosted to +14. Auto Hover. I put an exotic military saddle on the bat which will not screw with his flying as long as I am not on it when the Ant Haul spell is not active. Any ideas for PF society legal ways to keep the Ant Haul spell on all the time?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your question should be a standalone question. Could you link to these boones? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 25 '15 at 18:45
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First off, one of the most important things to keep in mind when dealing with a flying mount is the mount's encumbrance limit of light load. Because of that, until you can get a mount's strength (or equivalent strength) high enough, flying mounts don't serve very well in combat.

All advice assumes an 'Always in the Air' character concept.

1: Per prior note, the Vulture can just barely hold a goblin (female preference over male) who has exceedingly minimal gear, while the Bat will not be able to carry a male goblin at all and a female barely clothed. Before you can increase the mount's carrying capacity, the Vulture is superior as it will allow you to fly, afterward they balance out to about equal in value with the Bat being somewhat superior for the 'always in the air' concept due to maneuverability.

2: You will want to invest in the General Purpose of Combat Training as it is considerably easier to control a combat trained mount over a non-combat trained mount. Feat wise, you'll want things that will help keep your mount alive, Toughness, Dodge, and Improved Nature Armor are all good. The reason for those is nothing ruins your day more than falling from height due to an intelligent baddy blasting your mount out from under you.

3: You will want a military saddle over a regular one, a heavyload belt or muleback cords (or both), and mithral barding as 'obligatories' and things that improve AC, Saves, Hit Points and Ability Scores (with the exception of Charisma) as affordable (strong preference for slotless)

4: The single most important feat is Mounted Combat, followed by Mounted Archery and Skill Focus (Ride), and also Animal Affinity.

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As Guest noted Encumbrance is important. Which is why the Mount's feats are also crucial.

Mighty Steed is a feat from the 3.5 setting Dragonlance. Should your DM permit it, it will increase your mount's effective size for the sake of encumbrance and rider size, effectively doubling a medium or larger mount's carrying capacity.

Natural Heavyweight is a 3.5 feat from the Planar handbook. Because it's a heratige feat, it needs to be taken at the first hit dice. This doubles a creature's carrying capacity.

Also important is maneuverability.

Improved Flight is a 3.5 feat published a few times, most recently Races of the Wild. It increases a creature's flight by one maneuverability category, really important if you're mount doesn't already have a good maneuverability flight, because being able to fly straight up can be a life saver.

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