We promised to tell about our classes...and I play a Beast Heart Adept. (BHA) Requiring a ranger or druid base, BHA is a prestige class. Ravi is Ranger/Fighter with levels in BHA. Like Factotum, BHA is also found in Dungeonscape. And, like Factotum, BHA is a great choice for a party with few members, but not if you don't like lots and lots of paperwork.
Personally, I like to do a lot of damage (understatement of the year from the woman who punched a guy through the floor), and I also like having some pets around. I already have a large wolf from my Ranger levels, but, BHA give you more companions... three more, to be exact (possibly even more, depending on how our homebrew works out. Our DM is a talented designer for unique classes, monsters, and items. Often many people and things we encounter are taken from other games, books, or shows we enjoy, and if we want to do something that's not normally in the game, he tries to balance it while making it work. In this case, Ravi wants epic level BHA). Anyway, because you get extra companions (which, by the way, are monsters, how cool is that?), you get extra chances at damage (and a LOT of it) (Ravi, honey, I think you like your parenthesis as much as your companions! Hehe). (Sis, I don't have to feed the parenthesis. They love me regardless!)
I currently have a worg and a manticore for my monstrous companions and there's a wider selection of creatures to choose from, usually confined to monstrous animals. I started out with the worg (Buttercup), and then rearranged pecking order when I acquired my manticore (Fezzik). I only lost one effective BHA level doing this, because I have the Wild Empathy feat, which we interpreted to raise the effective BHA level the same way it would raise the effective druid level (This is the DM's prerogative. Your DM may interpret differently.). As long as you have the go-ahead for this, manticores are some of the best pets to have, because they do massive amounts of damage and can fly if you find yourself up against the wall and they speak common, which is important in a party. The animal and monstrous companions are effectively extra party members, and being unable to communicate with one can cause troubles in certain situations, such as the companion being the only one to detect an ambush while the translator is sleeping.
I don't have a third companion yet, but that's because I'm only level 6 in BHA. My third companion will likely be a winter wolf... but there's a reason for that. See, there's another prestige class called Animal Lord... which grants bonuses if you have animal companions of the same type. If you're planning on being a wolf lord, and you have wolves (natural or monstrous) wolves being a good example because of the prominence of them as threatening natural creatures, you should theoretically get bonuses to your effective druid and BHA levels for determining hit dice and such.
Another beautiful thing about BHA: MONSTER EMPATHY. It's the monster version of diplomacy/intimidate/bluff/handle animal/etc. Ranger levels stack with BHA levels, and, if your modifier for monster empathy is high enough... sometimes you end battles before they even begin. Needless to say, because of this, the DM now rarely sends monsters after us and if he does, they're usually very, very angry at us for one reason or another. Which is a good thing, I suppose, because it is no longer a challenge. The countless waves of undead, constructs, and dragon, however...
The only real con I can think of for BHA is that BHA's are fringe members of society. Most people tend to not get along with the person that is making friends with and carting around aberrations and other horrors. I mean, if you saw me with this in tow (keep in mind that thing is large enough to seat two people), would you really want me coming into town?
- Supplies multiple extra party members, mainly hitters
- Abilities that allow communication and diplomacy with monsters that help avoid combat or change a situation around in your favor
- Monstrous companions generally have special abilities that most normal players don't, such as higher strength to act as a pack mule during a good looting, improved ability to trip opponents, and flying
- Can cause trouble in towns walking around with giant monsters. Same applies to small dungeon tunnels with large creatures
- Lots of paperwork and dice-work to manage each monster, which all go on your initiative unless the DM chooses otherwise
Anywho, I hope this was informative. Indeah will probably clean this up a bit you bet your sweet bippy, because I'm not particularly good at this "teaching" thing.