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Lets say I buy a giant chameleon and want it to have the stable gallop and narrow frame feats.

How do animals (not familiars or animal companions) gain feats, if they do at all?

How do they gain skill ranks?

Can I substitute out it's starting skills/feats for ones I want?

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As the other answer points out correctly - generally feats are only gained when you gain hit dice.

However arguably the Cavalier ability Tactician could grant Teamwork feats to a mount, though a GM might rule against it.

More usefully however the feat Animal Ally would allow you to gain an Animal Companion, which will gain hit dice as you level and thus gain feats (note that many feats and skills require an Int of 3* or greater, but the animal companion will gain stat bonuses every 4 levels, just as a character does). http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ktcl?Animal-Companion-with-3-INT

The Monstrous Mounts section of the leadership feat may also be worth a look.

Familiars generally don't gain feats and generally can't be used as mounts, but they do gain skills. There are exceptions, such as a Beast-Bonded Witch, and feats you can take to improve or evolve familiars. There are lots of different ways to gain familiars - there may be one available to you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You still need to roll Handle Animal checks even if your animal got 6+ INT if you are asking it to make specific tricks. An animal companion never stops being an animal companion, as Jason Bulmahn said: "The Handle Animal skill functions similarly no matter how intelligent an animal becomes." paizo.com/paizo/blog/… \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 14 '15 at 19:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The link i posted above can be found on the last comment of the thread you linked about "Animal Companion with 3 INT" aswell. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 14 '15 at 19:31
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Tecnically, you could Retrain them just like you can retrain your character, as the retraining rules don't specify who can or cannot do it. So they are allowed to everyone, PC, NPC or monsters.

The Handle Animal rules won't cover feats, just tricks.

How do animals (not familiars or animal companions) gain feats, if they do at all?

They only gain feats when their Hit Die are increased. There is absolutely no way for a PC to increase that without making it an animal companion or similar class feature, or without Awakening them. But if awakened, it might not like being your mount anymore.

Can I substitute out it's starting skills/feats for ones I want?

GM's decision, it's his world and he has to say if it's possible to find one that was trained exactly how you wanted it. Just like he can say if a certain town has combat trained horses or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "There is absolutely no way for a PC to increase that without making it an animal companion or similar class feature, or without Awakening them." What? Why? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 14 '15 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ "GM's decision, it's his world and he has to say if it's possible to find one that was trained exactly how you wanted it. Just like he can say if a certain town has combat trained horses or not." ...unless you have a rogue. This is Pathfinder after all. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 14 '15 at 6:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @thedarkwanderer PC's dont have a way to increase an animal's HD other than certain companion oriented class features (cavalier, druid, ranger, paladin, hunter, etc). That is what i meant. As for the second question, that was refering to the possibility of buying an animal with different skill/feats other than the default for that creature. That is up to your GM. Normally you cant say: "Hey, i want a horse with ranks in escape artist". But care to explain the rogue reference? \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 14 '15 at 19:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ d20pfsrd.com/classes/core-classes/rogue/rogue-talents/… and d20pfsrd.com/traits/equipment-traits/dealmaker et al allow rogues (or other characters investing in doing this, but rogues especially) to control item and NPC availability. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 14 '15 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dealmaker only affects the availability based on the cost, say, your are in a Base Value 1000 gp village but want to buy something that normally costs 1500 gp. It only affects the relative size of the community, and also reads: "Success means (with GM approval) you’re able to sell or purchase that item as if the local community were of sufficient size." None of those allow you to customize animals. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Jul 14 '15 at 20:48
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  1. Retrain existing, useless feats into useful ones.

  2. Party with the animal in question. Speak with Animals will be useful here. Involve it in combats and stuff so it gets XP. If necessary (e.g. you are a high level) find (or create) artificially low levelled opposition and Power Level it up to speed. Reccomend it take PC class levels instead of Racial HD cause PC class levels are just better. Obviously it should avoid Int-based classes but something like Cleric or Barbarian could work out nicely. If only PCs get PC classes, go for levels in Adept (or Warrior if you're looking for a melee-combat type ally).

  3. Advise it on feat and skill selection in-game during level up periods.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "As player characters overcome challenges, they gain experience points," but, as NPCs overcome challenges, they seemingly don't gain experience points... depending on the reading, anyway. (That is, alternatively, NPCs gain experience points for things other than overcoming challenges or NPCs gain something other than experience points, but these seem less likely.) Pathfinder is just weird sometimes. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 14 '15 at 8:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Isn't Pathfinder officially backwards compatible with unupdated 3.5 material? Because the 3.5 DMG explicitly says that regular people get XP for killing stuff, which is why the Great City should be full of incompetent level 1 dudes, but the border town in the dangerous wilderness might be level 3 on average. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 14 '15 at 15:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ How do you teach a chameleon with int 2 about skill selection? \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jul 14 '15 at 16:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage Int 2 is high Int for an animal. Besides, it's got ok Wis. And 'how' is you cast Speak with Animals and then you... speak with the animal. I mean, really, it should probably be better at skill selection than you are; it has precious few skill points to spend. The default examples are awful, of course, so maybe not. Also, really, neither Int nor Wis explicitly controls character reasoning; if a PC gets feebleminded they can still try and do some stuff, they've just got a -5 mod and a bunch of perceptual problems. And an animal isn't even prohibited Cha and Int skills or language. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Jul 14 '15 at 17:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm pretty sure that Pathfinder couldn't (perhaps legally) duplicate D&D 3.5's character creation and advancement scheme. Rules for, for example, cohorts advancing levels and such is just different in Pathfinder and there doesn't appear to be a mechanism for NPCs gaining XP; only PCs seem to have that privilege. (Also, here's some more about animals skills.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 14 '15 at 19:06

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