I'm playing a ranger, and I would like for my animal companion to be with me through the whole session. To make it simple I want it to grow stronger with me, so I don't have to replace it, because replacing an animal companion is not something my ranger would do, but I also want for my animal companion to remain viable.

So here is my idea. I want to get a Dire Panther as a animal companion BUT when I get him at level 4 I want him to be a kitten. (I will find or rescue him, DM will determine how I get him.) While he is a kitten he will essentially work like a Cat. After I get 2 more levels (to level 6) my kitten will grow up a bit and become a teen Dire Panther which will have all the stats of a normal Panther and then when I get 4 more levels (level 10) my animal companion will become an adult Dire Panther.

So essentially to compensate and make it a bit more balanced I'm giving my animal companion 2 levels of almost basic uselessness since he is a kitten, and also every time my animal companion grows it resets to level 1. And does not keep any health it earned from its previous levels.

Example of its leveling would be as seen here:

\begin{array}{c|c} \text{My Level} & \text{Animal} & \text{Animal Level} \\ \hline 4\text{th} & \text{Kitten} & 1\text{st} \\ 5\text{th} & \text{Kitten} & 2\text{nd} \\ 6\text{th} & \text{Panther} & 1\text{st} \\ 7\text{th} & \text{Panther} & 2\text{nd} \\ 8\text{th} & \text{Panther} & 3\text{rd} \\ 9\text{th} & \text{Panther} & 4\text{th} \\ 10\text{th} & \text{Dire Panther} & 1\text{st} \\ \end{array}

… and so on.

I hope I explained this well, any more ideas and balancing thought would be well appreciated. I want to make this as simple as possible so I don't make it difficult for DM while also making it balanced.

We are using Player's Handbook 1 and 2 along with Complete Arcane.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What is the question being asked here? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:00

1 Answer 1


First, animal companions normally grow with a ranger; as you level up, your animal companion automatically improves. That’s normal. It’s also normal that when you get a more powerful animal as an animal companion, you count as a lower level with respect to the benefits the animal gains for being an animal companion. (This is not, however, the same as the animal’s “level,” which is a term that refers to something quite different and is probably only confusing in this context—the level we would be interested in is your effective druid level, because the animal gains bonuses based on that.)

Second, panthers are (bizarrely) not explicitly on the official list of animal companions (nor are mountain lions, cougars, pumas, or catamounts, to cover the myriad names for that species). In fact, so far as I can tell, these animals don’t exist anywhere in the official rules—your links are to unofficial, homebrew creations. You’d have to clear them with your DM to begin with, and even when you do, that homebrew doesn’t include any rules for when they would become available to a druid or a ranger. The panther you link, however, is much stronger than what a ranger has available at 6th level, and the dire panther is much stronger than what a ranger has available at 10th level.

With the books you have available, the first cats you officially see are the cheetah and leopard at effective druid level 4th (which means ranger 8th); both of those cats are somewhat smaller than a panther (and much weaker than the panther you linked). At druid level 8th (ranger 16th), lions and tigers become available—both a fair bit bigger than a panther (and stronger than the panther you linked, but weaker than the dire panther). Sandstorm adds a serval available right from druid 1st (which means ranger 4th).

So, officially, you could start with a serval1 at 4th, and upgrade to a cheetah or leopard at 8th, and then, if you wanted, to a lion or tiger at 16th. Or just upgrade the cheetah or leopard per the animal companion rules. And you could call all of these a panther at various stages of maturity, the same creature using different stats as it ages—the same as with dragons, though at a much faster timescale. A reasonable DM should have no problem with that description of your animal companion’s stats.

The real problem here, however, is that you’ll notice that these levels are all much, much higher than the druid levels: ranger animal companions are really weak. The halved effective level means that your animal companion will basically never be safe in combat. The halved animal progression means it is good for a scout, and that’s it. To get an animal companion that is actually good, you kind of have to be a druid.

Which is really, really dumb. Druids are massively, overwhelmingly powerful spellcasters, one of the top 5 in the game without question. For them to also get the best pet is absurd. And the ranger is a really inconsistent, unfocused class—you can use it to pretty good effect if you mine all the books and magazines for select features and turn yourself into something of a powerhouse, but using just the core books (and Complete Arcane), you cannot do that. As such, of the two classes that have an animal companion, the weaker one for some reason also gets the weaker animal companion.

I would recommend talking to your DM about switching druids and rangers with respect to animal companion progression (that is, rangers getting the full-leveled one, druids getting the half-level one). With that progression, the panther and dire panther (on a really really quick skim, I am not vouching for the work) seem more reasonable options at 6th and 10th. With the halved progression, though, they’re probably twice those, 12th and 20th.

  1. Or a housecat, if you really cannot use the serval. Note that housecats are not listed as an option for animal companion—because they are too weak. As such, your DM probably won’t mind you using one. He might even allow you to use the urban companion rules rules, which do allow the housecat as an option (with some benefits to offset that) temporarily until you get your cheetah or leopard—though it would be kind of weird if your pet suddenly got dumber.
  • \$\begingroup\$ Panther isn't really a name of a species. It is more a generic word that varies depending where you are and can include mountain lions, leopards and jaguars. As such leopard stats should probably be used (at least for the druid level 4 category) \$\endgroup\$
    – diego
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @diego That is incorrect, so far as I know. I have certainly never heard panther, mountain lion, puma, cougar, or catamount refer to anything but Puma concolor; certainly not to a jaguar (Panthera onca) or leopard (Panthera pardus). The term black panther (or, apparently, white panther) can sometimes apply to melanistic (or albino) jaguars and leopards, but neither the jaguar article nor the leopard article mentions any use of the term panther, alone, to refer to either species. And in any event, that usage is a misnomer based on a historical misunderstanding. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you very much for that in-depth explanation :) Now for me to give some back, I recently read R.A.Salvatore and immediately fell in love with Drizzt and Guenhwyvar and so I wanted to make a character like that, but not the same. My character is a Stalker Archer and my Panther would be similar to Drizzts which would be Jaguar as far as I can tell. This is why I kind of need a companion that would be able to hold his own at least for a 2-3 rounds which is how long my ambush should last. Basically hit and run tactic mixed with guerilla warfare. Again thank you very much. :) <3 \$\endgroup\$
    – Regis
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Regis Well, this site is bad at doing idea-generation; the Q&A format doesn’t allow for back-and-forth like that. You might be better served by a discussion forum for that kind of thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan thats alright you completely answered my question, and I am very thankful for that. Now me and my DM know what to focus on and we can take it from here. Your help was really appreciated :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Regis
    Commented Nov 15, 2016 at 20:21

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