Kris Vanhoyland
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“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” ― H.P. Lovecraft
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Lini calls upon her furry forest friends in the fight as she faces this ferocious foe.
Animals have played an important role in the Pathfinder game ever since its release. Many of the classes have the ability to receive a pet as part of their class, either in the form of a familiar for wizards and witches, or an animal companion for cavaliers, rangers, and offcourse druids. There hasn't yet been a supplement released that focuses on them, and apart from some additional animal choices in the hardcover line of books, there has been very little said about them in general, so let's see what this release adds to the game.


The product

Animal Archive is a Pathfinder Player Companion release, a saddle stapled 32-page supplement for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (1st Edition), that's also available as a bookmarked PDF. It's full-color, with lots of new art pieces, and full of crunchy goodness. As the title foreshadows, it has new rules for people who get animals as part of their class, but also for the other classes. Let's break down exactly what's inside the book.

Item slots, Gods, and Animals: So far there has been little mention about exactly what you can equip an animal with, apart from the rare entry here and there. This book has a handy table on the inside front cover, which clarifies exactly what items slots all the various animals have available. The inside back cover has the twenty main deities in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting listed, with the animals that they're most often associated with. I suppose this is useful if you're mulling over what animal to pick, although I doubt many players will check this list first.

Player Archetypes: The book gives us three new archetypes for PCs. There's the Carnivalist, a rogue archetype which gives him a wizard's familiar and several bardic performances using the Handle Animal skill. Major trade-offs are a reduced sneak attack and rogue talent progression.
The next one is the Huntmaster, a cavalier archetype that gets an animal companion instead of his regular mount, but he can only choose between birds and dogs. Unique here is that he can get multiple animals, dividing up his level between them to determine their abilities, so he can get a large pack of weak animals, or a smaller, more dangerous pack. Tradeoff is that his tactician ability (the ability to grant his teamwork feats to his allies) will only affect his animals and not his party members.
The last one (and my personal favorite fluff-wise) is the Mad Dog, a barbarian archetype which gives a barbarian the option to select an animal companion. This animal grants him a bigger flanking bonus, and he can eventually command it to "fetch" an enemy, and even share his rage benefits with it. Trade-off here is that the barbarian won't be able to rage until level 4, and receives only half the amount of rage powers a normal barbarian gets.

Animal Tricks: Another aspect of having an animal companion was the question of what exactly you can command it to do, which was largely left up open to GM interpretation in the past. With this release, we're presented with 18 new and interesting tricks you can teach your animal, so let's look at some of the ones that sprang out at me. Bombard lets you have your (flying) animal drop all sorts of fun projectiles such as alchemist's fire on top of your enemies. You can command your animal to run off and bury an item, only to have him fetch it later, handy for quickly hiding a macguffin. Detect lets him use his Perception skill to find all manner of stuff like strange smells, noises, air currents that could indicate danger or secret doors, and flank will, well, make him flank opponents (note that this now means animals that don't have this trick will not go out of their way to move to a flanking position). Maneuver will give him the ability to perform a combat maneuver (you choose which one when teaching the trick), and a menace command lets you designate a target, whom your animal will try and keep from moving, only attacking if the target moves or takes a significant action. All of these tricks are pretty cool, but I especially liked the ones mentioned here.

• Animal Equipment: A collection of mundane, non-magical equipment, mostly intended to care for your animal. There's some poison caps that you place on an animal's teeth to add poison to its bite attack, a glass vial with a foul-smelling oil to potentially nauseate creatures with the scent ability, and eye drops to make it fly into a rage (I swear my mom's cat treats all eye drops this way). Some weird stuff are a chew toy (I kid you not) that gives it a +1 on its next bite attack, and specially treated wire with which you can stitch armor onto a creature that normally wouldn't be able to wear it (poor thing!), but which can only be used on something with at least a +1 natural armor.

Later on in the book there's also some magical items, but even these are only slightly more interesting than the mundane items; a circlet that grants it speech, silver horse shoes that give some numerical bonuses to combat maneuvers, a metamagic rod for the Familiar Spell feat, and a glass walrus figurine of wondrous power are a few of them.

• Purchasing Animals: An extensive list of the animals available for purchase if you want a pet when your class doesn't grant you one. The list makes distinctions between riding animals, aquatic animals, dinosaurs and megafauna (ever wanted a T-rex? Well for a measly 8,100 gp you can have your very own), dire animals, and a catch-all category. The selection is quite versatile, and ranges from a mongoose for 4 gp to a blue whale for 12,500 gp. Prices are given for both normal and combat-trained animals, and offcourse not all animals are freely available.

• Inner Sea animals: The centerpage has some nice art featuring animals specific to the Inner Sea, the region used in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting. This is mostly fluff, as all the animals are basically simple re-skins, using statistics of more common animals. There's the razorcrow, ether frog, axe beak, dimorphodon, firefoot fennec, and the jigsaw shark.

• Animal Feats and Spells: Animals that are derived from class abilities can be given feats, and here's a few more options. Although, not all of these are for animals and some must be taken by PCs. I'm not gonna mention all of them, but the first one, and possibly the best one, is Boon Companion. When taken, your animal companion or familiar counts as though your class was 4 levels higher, to a maximum of your character level. Ideal for multi-classed characters, but also for rangers, who's animal companion is on par with a druid's after taking this feat. Another highlight is Familiar Spell, a metamagic feat that lets you transfer a spell to your familiar so he can cast it later during the day (the spell chosen will count as 3 levels higher).

As for the spells introduced here, nothing really jumped out at me as particularly interesting. There's spells that cause your animal to intercept attacks for you, a mirror image effect for your familiar that might enable him to grant flanking, granting your animal the aquatic subtype, and a paladin spell to give his mount wings and a fly speed.

• Animal Archetype: A new concept, you can now assign an archetype to your animal companion or familiar. We're presented with four companion archetypes (Bodyguard, Charger, Racer, and Totem Guide), and three for familiars (Infiltrator, Pilferer, and Valet). They do things similar like the archetypes we're used to, like grant extra class skills and swap out abilities, but also increase the list of feats companions can take.

• Intelligent Animals: A two-page section explaining the role of animal companions after someone's cast awaken on them. In short, this would cause the animal to cease being a class feature, and would essentially change it to an NPC, who may or may not be favorably disposed towards its master. It then goes on talking about roles and attitudes of various animals.

• New Animal Companions and Familiars: The last pages in the book are dedicated to more choices when picking your animal. For the companions, we get the llama, moose, panda, and walrus. On the familiar side, there's the armadillo, platypus, rabbit, and squirrel.


The verdict

I found Animal Archive to be very much to my liking. It's a welcome addition to the rules, and easily finds its place in the game. It has some less interesting things in it, as I found the spells and equipment to be a bit lackluster, and I'd liked to have seen them do something else with the two-page spread in the middle. But, I loved almost all the other things, with special mention going to the various archetypes and the tricks. My final verdict is simple: if you play character(s) that utilize animals, you need this book. I'm almost inclined to say that you should get it either way, because chances are you're gonna want to make a character that gets an animal after reading this book!

The only negative thing I have to say about it is that there's still no option in here to take a large-sized bear as your animal companion...

Note: Iron Reviewer 2013 - Entry #13
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Dan Conley
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Milwaukie
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Good review! Thanks for posting it. Automatic thumbs-up for any review with a Groucho Marx title...!
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Austin Fleming
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Very nice review, just prompted me to order this! Thanks for helping me spend more money... laugh
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