Improving Animal Companions or Followers

Hello. I’m wondering if any of you have house rules to govern improving animal companions or minions? Player characters, especially once they get a hefty load of experience points, become more and more formidable as time goes on (if they live, of course).

A beast master’s animal companions? Not so much. Let’s take a nice dire wolf animal companion. At character creation, the Toughened creature’s Agility of 9 and Combat Field of Expertise of 2 make it reasonably effective, especially with the Pack Hunter special ability, although it’s always somewhat vulnerable to being killed (because it has only 2 Harms).

It will never improve, however, and will be left behind by the PCs. This is true of followers as well as animal companions, and there are no rules as written to cover advancement for anyone but PC’s. Any ideas?

Easiest ways to do it off the top of his head:

  1. Allow the Player to spend XP on his companions. If the companion dies, allow this to be spent on any new companions they acquire so that new companions don’t feel weak (basically you allow them to transfer their XP to create a pool of companion XP).

  2. Impose a cost on the player to maintain the companion but allow it to gain XP at, say, half the rate of the PC. This means they forgo gear (their gold instead goes on upkeep of their companions) in favour of getting experienced companions.

  3. Provide the player with the opportunity to get more or better companions.

Given how much better Fields of Expertise are than Expertise proper having companions get less experience than PCs will probably work out in the end if you make FoE cost 200XP x [new level] to upgrade. Traits I’d just make cost the same as for a PC.

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Given the way the Bandit talent tree and the General talent works, I’d probably err to “companions can spend PC XP” as the simplest option.