There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of an animal companion. Your furbaby loves you, trusts you, and fights selflessly to defend you. That’s why, when Rover inevitably runs out of dog years, it usually turns into a somber moment around the gaming table. That I cannot abide. Wizard might feel differently, but I find that reenacting Where the Red Fern Grows cuts into the general mood of hilarity that I prefer in my games. That’s why I decided to turn those dead-dog frowns upside down with a custom companion. Meet the ability toucan.

Aura moderate transmutation; CL 8th; Slot –; Price 2,000 gp (+2), 8,000 gp (+4), 18,000 gp (+6); Weight 1 lb.
This tropical bird has an oversize beak that slowly shifts in color throughout the day.
An ability toucan is a living creature. Treat it as a raven with the magical beast type and the improved evasion advanced rogue talent.
An ability toucan grants its bearer an enhancement bonus to one randomly determined ability score of +2, +4, or +6. Each morning, roll 1d6 to determine that day’s bonus: 1= STR, 2 = DEX, 3 = CON, 4 = INT, 5 = WIS, 6= CHA. Treat this as a temporary ability bonus for the first 24 hours of pet ownership. An ability toucan must be in physical contact with its bearer to confer this bonus.
A mama toucan and a daddy toucan that love each other very much.

You may have noticed the requirement about being in physical contact. That means you can’t squirrel your ability toucan away in a familiar satchel or send it to the back lines for safety. If you want your bonus, your trusty toucan must perch bravely upon your shoulder. At half the cost of the equivalent belt or headband, you get a nice cost-savings. And with the addition of improved evasion, your li’l buddy might even survive a few encounters. The design intention is to add a little risk/reward to pet ownership.

Unfortunately for the toucan in my own game, improved evasion doesn’t hold up against cloudkill. The poor thing choked to death on Laurel’s paladin’s shoulder last session, and was summarily an ex-parrot. Even more unfortunately for my no-tragic-puppy-death intentions, not even the phrase “I lost my ability toucan” could cheer up the group. Laurel had been very careful with her pet’s safety. The party was level 15, and she’d managed to keep Bill the ability toucan alive since level 6!

So the group made like Witch in today’s comic. There was a formal ceremony. The alchemist produced the requisite precious oils. We rolled on a custom reincarnate table. The result.

There was much rejoicing. Or at least, there was much rejoicing until the very next encounter, when Bill the ability rabbit got double-tapped by a pair of spined devil unholy blightsOnce again, improved evasion was not up to the task. And once again, we found ourselves in sad player territory.

“Why would you take away this thing that I love?” cried Laurel, accusation burning in her eyes.

“I didn’t! It wasn’t me! It was the spined devils!”

We haven’t been on speaking terms since.

My unfortunate party has yet to re-reincarnate Bill. If they do, I suspect that he’s going into retirement. The poor little guy has been through a lot, and he fully deserves to live out his remaining days running free (or flying… or hopping) on a nice big farm in the country.

What about the rest of you guys? Have you ever lost an animal companion? Was it an emotionally fraught experience, or did you find fried familiar as amusing as I’d hoped it to be? Sound off with the tale of your own lost li’l buddies down in the comments!


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