With yesterday’s caturday-themed pounce antics, it only seems fitting we look at a runner up to the cream of the companions crop. While not the furry balls of flurry attacks that the charge-pounce eidolons and hunting cats, there is a surprising power to the lupine persuasion of allied creature… Time for a trip with wolves.
Decent speed, the scent ability and a strong resonance with classic fantasy are all strong cases for wolves as summons or companion animals. But their is more than a little bit of combat power under that howling hood. In analyzing pounce (and the creatures who love it) we talked about action economy and workday strength. In terms of workday staying power, wolves follow the exact same equivalencies we established for cats:
- Summon Monster Spells – Combat only durations with high action costs.
- Summoner SLA – Potential multi-battle duration.
- Lupine build eidolons – Persistent until damaged out of function (no natural healing).
- Druidic Animal Companion – Persistent, with natural healing
With established baselines for workday staying power identical, how does a wolf rate a strong second choice for summons and companions? Comparing a single bite attack is hard to balance against claw/claw/bite/rake/rake, right? That answer boils down to the trip universal monster ability.
Why is Trip Worth It?
From the Universal Monster Abilities: “Trip (Ex):A creature with the trip special attack can attempt to trip its opponent as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity if it hits with the specified attack. If the attempt fails, the creature is not tripped in return.”
Immediately it becomes clear that the first amazing thing about this is Action Economy. Bite and Combat Maneuver check all in one action. Its not five attacks, but it is a great start. It also is our wolves’ trip maneuver which can inflict… prone.
From the condition rules: “Prone: The character is lying on the ground. A prone attacker has a –4 penalty on melee attack rolls and cannot use a ranged weapon (except for a crossbow). A prone defender gains a +4 bonus to Armor Class against ranged attacks, but takes a –4 penalty to AC against melee attacks. Standing up is a move-equivalent action that provokes an attack of opportunity.”
Assuming success of the trip maneuver we are gaining a debuff that is almost like 2 bestow curses and a disarm for ranged weapons all at once. Action Economy explosion. And if they choose to stand? Attacks of Opportunity. For ANYONE threatening the target. If the wolf is with a few adjacent allies? Three, four or more extra attacks are possible! And the target can’t full attack. Simply put, a successful trip can lead to a 2-3 rounds worth of extra actions, debuffs and attacks.
(It is worth noting that the FAQ does address infinite “trip loops” here.)
Did we mention that trip is NOT at an altered evolution cost for the eidolons of unchained summoners? Oh and if your druid really still wants a kitty cheetah’s get it too, so do crocodiles as a side note.
Making the Most of Trip
Trip is a combat maneuver made with a weapon, in the wolf’s case their bite attack. As such, pretty much any modifier that can help a melee attack can increase a trip attack. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Weapon bonuses for natural attacks (magic fang and similar spells)
- Haste spell bonus to attack
- Flanking positioning
- Bardic Music effects and other similar morale auras
- Aid Another actions
- Feats (Particularly Teamwork if available) and encouraging allies to take combat reflexes isn’t a terrible idea if they want to take advantage of all the attacks of opportunities.
- Trip only works on +1 size above your wolf’s size so keep in mind effects that augment this. Eidolons have evolutions. Druids get animal growth. And Summoners can move up the food chain getting dire wolves and other bigger creatures to keep up with large foes.
Don’t feel too trapped into a specific choice of companion or summon as that each has their own tactical power and roleplaying appeal. Take a little time and you can make nearly any companion fun to play, engage the story and tactically effective.