This week an adventurous player asks an unusual question. (And don’t forget to submit more questions please!):
Can a woodchuck be used as a single handed melee weapon? Does it cause piercing or bludgeoning damage? What if my character increases his ranks in Handle Animal?
Huzzah to you good sir. This is the kind of creative thinking I like to see in players. A crotchety DM that makes love to the rules when he’s alone at night, or one that’s incapable of thinking outside the box, might tell you to sit down and shut up. He might tell you how serious this game is, and how if you don’t stop spewing out nonsense he’s going to penalize your XP. I, on the other hand, applaud you, and will provide you with the exact steps necessary to wield a Woodchuck (or any small woodland creature) in battle.
Any animal’s instinct is to survive. Swinging an animal around by it’s tail would certainly cause it to at least momentarily question its safety. But most animals can, with enough training, be convinced to risk their lives if you can convince them that they’re not really risking their life. This sort of training requires a very experienced animal handler. First, one would have to spend time committed to a “general training” regiment, dedicated to combat. This would require 3 weeks of time with a DC 20. If we assume you have a 1st level character you can’t have more than +4 in your Handle Animal skill. If you’re Druid, you can take a Woodchuck as your animal companion, increasing this bonus to +8. If you then take the Animal Affinity Feat, you’re up to +10. This means, if you take a 10 on your Skill Check, you’ve succeeded!
But wielding your companion as a weapon is still beyond combat training. I consider this “Pushing” an animal; a DC 25. It is well beyond what it would ever choose to do, want to do, or feel any particular inclination toward at all. Normally a “Push” gets you immediate results, but in this case, at least 1 week of training would be required, as it’s also a trick. Now, to get a 25, means you need a minimum roll of 15. If you fail, you can always try again a week later. Alternately, you have the option of taking a 20 on your roll, but this increases the training time to 20 weeks.
When all of your training is complete you will have a complacent Woodchuck ready to bludgeon and bite for your amusement and protection, so long as you have an Exotic Weapon Proficiency, which means in the case of a Druid, you need to wait until level 3 (level 2 to hit the prereqs and level 3 for a new feat). So many damned rules and restrictions! (Which is why I encourage people to break all of them). But on the bright side, by the time you’ve finished all the initial training, you might be close to level 3. Of course, you can still wield the Woodchuck, but you would take a -4 attack penalty without the Proficiency.
As for the actual combat effects, I would recommend biting only, as using your companion as a club risks death to the animal (dealing your unarmed damage to the animal every attack), and after devoting so much time to training, it would be a shame to have to start all over again. If you’re determined to use it as a bludgeon, because of its soft and furry nature it deals only 1d2 damage without the Proficiency, and 1d4 with it. It’s bite attack deals only 1 damage, though the Proficiency also allows you to use your Woodchuck as a thrown weapon. When thrown, the Woodchuck will latch onto an enemy and gnaw its flesh, giving you a great opportunity for a Flank attack.
Personally, I wouldn’t recommend a Woodchuck. If you want to maximize damage using a small animal, I would go for a Badger. They have the benefit of their Rage ability, and will deal 1d3+1 damage with their bite attack, and 1d2+1 with their claws. Badger’s are heavier and more unwieldy than Woodchucks though, so it would be beneficial to construct it a harness and attach it to a pole. That will give you added reach, as well as stabilizing the animal and ensuring it doesn’t try to run away. However, this will also tack on an additional prereq for the Exotic Weapon Proficiency of 13 Strength.
You might naturally think that if you’re going to tie the animal up anyway, why bother with all the training? But unless you plan to keep it perpetually tied up, chances are it will run away from you the first chance it gets without proper training. Not to mention, as a Druid (or any Good aligned character for that matter), you really couldn’t engage in that sort of animal cruelty without the animal’s willing participation.
A Badger demonstrating its Rage ability.
So, how about the stats for that Badger Pole:
Damage: 1d3+1 (Piercing) / 1d2+1 (Slashing)
Special: A normal attack with the Badger Pole delivers all 3 of the Badger’s natural attacks: 1 Bite (1d3+1) and 2 claw (1d2+1)
Critical: 19-20 x2 (Because Badger’s naturally go for the eyes and throat, they have an increased chance of scoring a Critical Hit)
Note: If the Badger loses its 6 HP (damage is dealt to it with a successful Disarm attempt), the weapon deals only 1d6 bludgeoning damage and its Critical range is reduced to 20.
I hope this helps. Enjoy your Badger Pole!
The Dungeon Master
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