Exceptional animals are a step above their kind. An animal can become exceptional due to being trained by a master, bred from the finest stock, or it could simply possess unusual cunning. A good horse from a renowned horse breeder, and an extremely loyal guard dog are examples of exceptional animals.
From a mechanical standpoint, an animal simply multiclasses into the exceptional animal class just like a prestige class. Though the animal does not gain experience points from adventure like a normal character does. There are three basic ways to acquire an exceptional animal. Find one, buy one, or train one.
Finding an exceptional animal is obviously up to the GM. The animal may be a reward, a plot device, or possibly a treasure. In many ways, finding an exceptional animal is similar to finding a magic item. They are both valuable and grant benefits to the character who finds it.
Buying an exceptional animal is probably the most likely way a character would acquire one. A character simply going to the stables and buying the best horse is a likely occurrence. Of course, the character would be limited to animals available for sell. For situations like this, exceptional animals have an additional cost based on their level. For example, a horse that was also a 2nd level exceptional animal would cost 800 gp more than a normal horse. It is possible to have a purchased animal trained further, though the character must do this himself or pay the difference to hire an animal trainer.
Training an exceptional animal requires time and a high Handle Animal skill. Each level of an exceptional animal has a training time and a Handle Animal DC. This works in a similar fashion to training tricks with the Handle Animal skill. Note that training an exceptional animal is cumulative. For example, an animal cannot be trained to be a 5th level exceptional animal unless it is already a 4th level exceptional animal. Although training an exceptional animal can be time consuming and frustrating, the benefit of training an animal yourself is that you can select which special qualities it will receive. While found and bought exceptional animals come as they are.
When dealing with exceptional animals as animal companions, simply reduce the druid's effective level by the exceptional animal's level. For example, a 20th level druid could have a wolf animal companion that was also a 10th level exceptional animal. But the wolf would only receive the animal companion benefits of a 10th level druid.
Requirements: Must be an animal
Hit Die: 1d8
Skill Points: 2 + Int Modifier
Class Skills: Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Jump (Str), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Spot (Wis), Survival (Wis), Swim (Str), Tumble (Dex)
Note that an animal will always gain 1 skill point per level due its low Intelligence score.
|1||+0||+2||+2||+2||Special Quality, Cost +200 gp, Train 1 week (DC 25)|
|2||+1||+3||+3||+3||Special Quality, Cost +800 gp, Train 1 week (DC 25)|
|3||+2||+3||+3||+3||Special Quality, Cost +1,800 gp, Train 1 week (DC 30)|
|4||+3||+4||+4||+4||Special Quality, Cost +3,200 gp, Train 2 weeks (DC 30)|
|5||+3||+4||+4||+4||Special Quality, Cost +5,000 gp, Train 2 weeks (DC 30)|
|6||+4||+5||+5||+5||Special Quality, Cost +7,200 gp, Train 2 weeks (DC 35)|
|7||+5||+5||+5||+5||Special Quality, Cost +9,800 gp, Train 3 weeks (DC 35)|
|8||+6||+6||+6||+6||Special Quality, Cost +12,800 gp, Train 3 weeks (DC 35)|
|9||+6||+6||+6||+6||Special Quality, Cost +16,200 gp, Train 3 weeks (DC 40)|
|10||+7||+7||+7||+7||Special Quality, Cost +20,000 gp, Train 4 weeks (DC 40)|
Special Quality (Ex) The exceptional animal gains a special quality selected from the list below.
- Combative (Ex) The exceptional animal's base attack bonus increases by 1. This special quality can be gained multiple times, however the exceptional animal's base attack bonus can never exceed its hit die.
- Feat The exceptional animal gains a feat from the following list. The exceptional animal must meet the prerequisites for the feat. This feat is in addition to the feats gained normally every three hit die. This special quality can be gained multiple times. Acrobatic, Agile, Alertness, Athletic, Awesome Blow, Blind-Fight, Dodge, Endurance, Fly-By Attack, Hover, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Armor, Improved Natural Attack, Improved Overrun, Mobility, Multiattack, Power Attack, Run, Skill Focus, Spring Attack, Stealthy, Toughness, Track, Weapon Finesse, Weapon Focus, Wingover.
- Well Trained (Ex) The exceptional animal can learn one extra trick in addition to the tricks it can normally learn (see the Handle Animal skill). This special quality can be gained multiple times.
- Fast (Ex) The exceptional animal's speed increases by 10 feet. This special quality can be gained multiple times, however the total amount of this bonus speed cannot exceed the exceptional animal's normal speed. For example, a horse normally has a speed of 50 feet, thus an exceptional horse could gain this quality several times until its speed was 100 feet. After which the horse can no longer gain this special quality, though it could still increase its speed by other means (feats, magic, etc.).
- Increased Ability (Ex) The exceptional animal increases one of its physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution) by one point. This ability score increase is in addition to the ability score increases normally gained every 4 hit die. This special quality can be gained multiple times.
- Rage (Ex) The exceptional animal gains the ability to rage (as a 1st level barbarian) once per day. As a trick (trained separately) the exceptional animal will rage on command, otherwise it will rage when attacked.
- Scent (Ex) The exceptional animal now has the scent ability, even if normal animals of its type do not. If the exceptional animal already has the scent ability, then its scent range doubles.
- Skilled (Ex) The exceptional animal gains 4 skill points to distribute among its skills, or learn a new skill. However, the exceptional animal is still limited to the normal skill rank maximums. This special quality can be gained multiple times.