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Philips Wouwerman, Cavalier Holding a Dappled Grey HorseMan is a wingless animal with two feet and flat nails.” —Plato

Humans dominate the Earth because we use tools, plain and simple. Animals are limited to genetic and behavior adaptations, while humans can adjust to new environmental hazards with technology. Fangs and claws simply cannot compete with swords and guns. We have even taken the sky from the birds and the ocean depths from the fish.

In most fantasy settings, the world is not quite as tamed as ours is. While amazing and potent, magic is in relatively few hands. Where technology serves as an equalizer, magic creates gaps of power. In many ways, a magic item is the ultimate tool.

In Pathfinder and similar settings, we often see any number of characters with an animal companion or familiar. These animals are presented as extraordinary examples of their respective species and, in the case of animal companions and mounts, they fight alongside heroes. I regard animal companions as being heroic, and heroes need to be equipped. Join me after the jump for another way to think regarding the subject of what magic items an animal can wield as Old Hat Monsters presents Lions and Tigers and Bears, Equipped!

Although the standard rules of Pathfinder present some animal-specific equipment, no rules cover the subject of an animal’s regular equipment. As a GM, I fall into the “the rules do not state you can’t” camp.* So, I’m going to run with the idea that animals can use the same magic items humanoids do. Often physiology is the only difference between human and beast, so let’s take a look at that possibility.

*Be aware that GMs might choose to go the other way with this (“the rules do not state you can”), or these options might not fit into their campaign setting or game balance ideas.

Unified Alternate Form Slots

  • If an animal has a distinctive head, it has a helm and amulet/neck slot. If the creature has eyes, it can have a goggles or lens slot. By distinctive, I mean that the head clearly separates from the torso, which, in this case, excludes snakes.
  • Hoofed and cloven animals have a “shoe” slot; other animals do not.
  • Quadrupeds of Small to Large size have two pairs of bracer slots. For Tiny or smaller legs, treat the slots as ring slots instead. Huge or larger legs become belt slots.
  • Talons can take a ring each, as can appropriately sized tentacles or tails (like a monkey or horse).
  • Treat all saddles as belt slots for mounts.
  • Magic items that require activation (anything with charges) requires a UMD roll, and the animal may have this only if they can wear or hold the item properly and if they have an Intelligence of at least 3.


A horse can wear a specialized helm, goggles, barding, a saddle, two sets of braces on its legs, a ring on its tail, an amulet around its neck, and shoes on its feet. If awakened and if it is an animal companion that has been given enough skill points, it can even use charged magic items such as a ring of shooting stars. It cannot, however, use something like a necklace of fireballs since it has no hands.

A hawk can have two rings, a set of bracers, an amulet, and a helm. Due to the wings and size of the creature, there are no other slots, though if awakened and trained in UMD, it can wield a wand in its talons.

A snake has unfortunately few options. Depending on size, it may well have a ring or bracers but no amulet or helm. Any benefit from the ring or bracer or belt it wears is lost should it use its compression ability.

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