How to get a pet

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Apologies if this has been done to death in another forum, but I'm looking for some advice/suggestions on how to add some fighting power to our small party.

We've started playing for 4E Keep on the Shadowfell a couple of months ago, with my husband (who played D&D a lot in his teens and twenties) as DM, me as the Dwarf Cleric leader and our two sons as a Dragonborn Fighter and an Elf Rogue. We're all level 4 currently. As we are playing as a family, it's often at the spur of the moment, so it's not feasible to find other players to join our group.

We're doing ok in combat but some extra firepower in battle would be really handy, so I was thinking on how we can add one or two animal companions to our party.

Am I right in thinking that as a cleric I can get animal summoning at some point?

Or should we look at Heroes of the Feywild? Or would you technically have to start from scratch and build a new character to get the animal companion?

Or could we just find ourselves a war dog somewhere, somehow (with DM agreement of course) and give it some stats?

I'm interested to see if other groups /players have gone down this route and how they've gone about it. In particular, what stats to give the animal? Who controls the animal in different situations - always player or DM sometimes? Does the animal always do as its told, or would the DM roll a check for 'disobey' or just an attack roll?

In short, any suggestions/ideas are very welcome.
Heroes of the Feywild has this neat theme called Fey Beast Tamer which might be what you're looking for. Be aware though that the beast doesn't contribute very much to combat, its purpose is mostly to provide combat advantage and an extra bonus from its aura. If it's extra firepower you want, I recommend the Young Owlbear, which gives a +2 bonus to damage rolls within Aura 1.
I would say, come up with a Companion Character run by the DM that is some sort of animal, or just have the DM come up with a DMPC. If you go with the latter, I would advise one of the Essentials classes, since they're designed to be really easy to run.

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Yeah, the DM could simply add a monster type NPC to the party. DMG2 has some specific recommendations for making up stats for such a 'companion' but it isn't particularly complicated. The main idea is to make it useful but not likely to hog the spotlight from the PCs. This kind of thing could take the form of war dogs, an NPC henchman, or just an ally for the party.

HotFW does have the Fey beast tamer, which is not bad. There are a few other types of companions. The Essentials sentinel druid also has a companion. Martial Power's beastmaster ranger is another option. Remember though, companions of that type are never intended to make a character very much stronger since they are class features. They are more just interesting options. Summons are useful too, but they only act under the command of the summoner, so again they're not like having a whole other character and don't increase the power of the party vs using other types of daily powers.
That is not dead which may eternal lie
Lots of really useful suggestions there, thanks Laughing  We're really looking for a trusty sidekick who can aid us in combat but otherwise isn't a dominant character, so I think i'll steer my husband towards DMG2, and get him to make us a doggy with some extra bite, as it were Wink
Has your DM scaled the encounter XP budget down to accommodate three characters.  If not, it may not be a coincidence that you feel like you need a pet or two.  The game assumes the default party size is five.  The rules for scaling encounters are in the DMG and I assume the DM Kit, though I don't own the latter.
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Henchmen are the way to go, you create them using the companion rules in DMG2. For some great examples, check out the Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium book p. 141-143 or the article "Henchmen and Hirelings" from Dragon #397. They have a power level just below that of a standard PC but are quick and easy to run because they have a 4e stat block. This is by far the easiest way to run an extra character in the group. I've used them on many occasions and they just work really well.
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