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Is there any official alternate class feature, substitution level, or variant for the ranger class that allows it to apply its full level towards its animal companion progression? And I mean something that stacks with the Natural Bond feat, since I’m already using that.

The best answers will achieve this without giving up BAB, combat styles, or the Track bonus feat; some lost spellcasting is fine but still needs to have at least some spellcasting. These are not requirements for answers, but if you find answers that meet these criteria, highlight them!

Absolutely must be official material; I very well know that the ranger should just have full animal companion progression by default, and houserule this for my own games, but that is not available in the context I need this. Anything WotC published or slapped their endorsement on is fine (e.g. Dragon, Dungeon, Oriental Adventures, and so on), but homebrew and houserules are not.

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  • The Gnome Ranger 4 substitution level (Races of Stone) grants +3 to your effective Druid level when determining the strength of a burrowing animal companion; this stacks with Natural Bond (up to the normal limit of your character level).
  • The Kobold Ranger 4 substitution level (Races of the Dragon) grants +3 to your effective Druid level when determining the strength of a Dire Weasel animal companion; this stacks with Natural Bond (up to the normal limit of your character level).
  • The Aerenal Beastmaster feat (Races of Eberron, elf-only) grants +3 to your effective Druid level when determining the strength of a baboon animal companion; this stacks with Natural Bond (up to the normal limit of your character level).
  • The Fangshields Ranger 4 substution level (Champions of Valor, non-humanoid only) provides +2 to your effective Druid level when determining the strength of your animal companion.
  • The Beastmaster class (Complete Adventurer) isn't a Ranger variant, but does grant a relevant bonus to a Ranger with as little as a 1-level dip. It both stacks with Ranger levels for determining the strength of an animal companion, and provides a +3 bonus to your effective Druid level as long as you have at least one level (so a Ranger 5/Beastmaster 1 would have an effective Druid level of 6). At higher levels, it also provides additional companions, though these do not gain the full bonus to effective Druid level.

Since the first four options are mutually exclusive, the highest bonus I believe is available is +9:

  • +3 for having your animal companion being a Baboon, a Dire Weasel, or a burrowing creature, with the appropriate feat/substitution level to go with it.
  • +3 for having at least one level of Beastmaster (more than one will stack as additional levels, but won't provide more flat numerical bonuses).
  • +3 for the Natural Bond feat.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Beastmaster was kinda explicitly not the kind of thing I was after, but the other three things there are exactly what I wanted. None of them actually works for me since I don’t want a burrowing animal companion, dire weasel animal companion, or baboon animal companion, but that wasn’t really part of the question. You may want to mention the fangshields ranger, which gets a similar +2 that isn’t restricted to a particular type of animal. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Apr 4 '17 at 23:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I included Beastmaster because you can get most of its benefit from a 1-level dip (i.e., not slowing down the progression of your normal Ranger stuff too much), but I'll note that more explicitly in the answer. Good catch on Fangshields Ranger as well. \$\endgroup\$ – A_S00 Apr 5 '17 at 0:03

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