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Old Hat Monsters: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Equipped!

Old Hat Monsters: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Equipped!

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.

9 thoughts on “Old Hat Monsters: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Equipped!”

  1. I’ve always allowed horseshoes to be reflavored as “bracelets” without the 1.5x reslotting fee that go on an animal’s legs, in the event that they have padded feet, like wolves or large cats. That allows players to have the “He-man riding a tiger” character, or the “Robb Stark on a direwolf” and gain similar benefits to characters who use horses. That usually precludes using things like bracers of armor, but that’s usually not a problem.

  2. i always allow the items to be “re-skinned” for use with mounts if the construction costs and time is paid and common sense rules dictate what is and is not acceptable, i mean no way a small companion would be wielding a 2 handed sword, however bracers with spikes, or a dagger attached to talons, and training time to teach the mount how to utilize the weapons for example is not out of the question.

  3. I’ve always believed at that items for animals have to be specially made, which is cost prohibitive. However, in a place/setting where druids and rangers (and similar types) have been around for thousands of years i see no reason why items that have been made for animals couldn’t be found.

    Of course, some might find that annoying…. “what do you mean we find another belt of strength for a tiger? Why can’t my fighter use it?”

    Then again, what slots would you say the following have:

    1) a fish
    2) a spider
    3) a snake
    4) a gecko (a small one, not a giant one)
    5) a terror bird (Phorusrhacid from the Cenozoic: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Phorusrhacidae)
    6) a gelatinous cube

    I’m curious to see what you say….

  4. @DMCal Yes I’d charge a neck slot for that though the same ring could be braided in the horses tail. I’m also iffy on the hair contact alone meaning you are wearing the object.

    1) 1 stomach slot, in the case of a swordfish a stomach and ringslot. Fish is effected by whatever it swallowed.
    2) Depends on size. A medium spider could have 4 sets of bracers, and custom barding for example.
    3) I mentioned this in the rules they get 1 slot they can lose the item if using compression.
    4) Possible 4 ring, 2 set of bracers if small or better sized.
    5) That’s basically an axebeak. Helm, custom barding, 2 ring slots, 1 bracers slot, possible saddle slot, amulet, helm, goggles.
    6) Not an animal or animal companion choice though I’d consider letting it have effects that make sense that are “swallowed.”

    I am making some assumptions about magic items, mainly…
    -Amulets, rings and bracers adjust to wearer’s size. Otherwise the BDF couldn’t wear the wizard’s bracers and vice versa.
    -Magical belts also adjust size and can be integrated into a saddle.

    I suppose a horse could also get a cloak slot if worn like a horse blanket for example. I’m not out to change everything about the animal companion just sharing what I believe to be a reasonable set of rules on equipping them.

    In my opinion there’s no real need to make equipping animal companions and familiars extremely cost prohibitive, if the character is investing their gold into their companion its gold they aren’t investing in themselves directly.

  5. What a great, and yet simple, way to empower animal companions and mounts.
    @Foghammer–I too was thinking about the Cringer/Battle Cat from HeMan effect.

    Considering magic item body slots for animals also gives us something for polymorphed/shapechanged characters (willing, cursed, temporarily, permanent, and so on) that want to use magic items or equipment that are not ‘absorbed’ by the character during the polymorph/shapechange experience.

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