D&D 5E Beast Master Primal Companion Still Frustrating at level 10+


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Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Okay, so it's not as much that the BM is frustrating, though damage mitigation would be simpler and more user friendly than several ways to heal the thing. It's more that the Ranger has multiple intersecting points of frustrating limitation, and the BM is just the subclass that illustrates this dynamic most clearly.

So the frustrating mechanical conflicts within the Ranger's design (or in the general design of 5e that seems to hit the Ranger harder than many other classes) are:

  • Very limited Spellcasting, with a spell list that speaks to versatility but can't really deliver due to the tiny amount of spells known (I feel like I'm using a 1/3 caster that traded cantrips for more spell slots, at low level, and I'm not sure I think the trade was worth it). Ritual casting would help, or simply more new spells known as you level than is the case. Tasha's helps a bit, in that I've got 3 more spells than I'd have without it, but it's not comparable to prepared casters.
Well, since 1/2 is greater than 1/3, they do get more then you are giving them credit for. As is that half casters get cantrips to trade away. So this is at least partially a perception thing, since by the book they have more than you are giving them credit for. I think it may be partially due to your feelings about the spell list and number of them known.

    • I'd simply fix this by having Ranger have the same number of spells known (or a few more) as the paladin has spells prepared. Or make the Ranger a prepared caster, so their toolkit is much more broad than it currently is.
Mechanically that could be a solution. Thematically as well, preparing from the whole list like a druid.

  • Nearly every offensive spell, and most of your other spells besides, are concentration. You cannot nova like a paladin, and you can't even buff the team offensively, which feels like something the ranger should be good at. The PHB Ranger even has to spend spell slots (and concentrate I think), in order to use one of it's exploration powers that isn't a spell!
A half caster/half martial that doesn't play mechanically like the other half caster/half martial seems like the right design choice. Otherwise you only need a single class.

The issue seems to be that the class features they get and reliable, steady, low damage. Both Hunter's Mark and the PHB subclass features work towards that. That works out to what the paladin can nova or more -- in the minds of designers who assume 6-8 encounters per adventuring day. But not in the real world where few DMs regularly run that many encounters per day.

I think this ties into your next point about action economy. For example, if Hunter's Mark was a class feature that didn't require a bonus action to start/target, and if two weapon fighting didn't have the bonus action "tax" on it, it just occured with your Attack action, then the rest of the bonus actions are good, and it's firmly putting ranger slots into more of an exploration role with occasional combat.

  • The action economy is pretty bad. The ranger is hyper reliant on the bonus action, and few subclasses mitigate this at all. Favored Foe does in theory, but it is pretty much always less powerful than casting hunter's mark.
    • In the case of the BM, you need to use your bonus action to cast your bread and butter combat spells, to command the beast to attack, to use some ranger class features, and several of your best support spells. The melee ranger simply cannot be a dual wielding beast master.
    • One benefit the BM does have, is that you can have the beast attack in a round where you cast an action spell. Of course, I feel like most ranger subclasses get their main damage buff even when using a turn to cast an offensive spell, but I could be wrong.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
A few thoughts:

On Survivability
  • You have the Aid Spell. You can upcast that with a level 3 slot to grant the beast 10 more hp for the day. (Or convince the cleric or bard to cast it on your beast).
  • Despite having 10 lower hp, the beast of the sky is arguably more survivable due to flyby, higher speed and flying so that it can hit enemies and get out of the way of their melee attacks and AOE's.
  • Others have already pointed out that you can essentially heal the beast to full for a single spell slot and a minute of time.
  • Your beast can help make other PC's more survivable. (Enemies can target it and it's OA's can help deter them rushing past the front line, assuming it stays in melee).
  • At level 15 the beast can be affected by your use of absorb elements due to the Share Spells feature.

On Bonus Actions
  • As a level 10 Ranger using a gun you really don't need any other bonus action than commanding your beast. Ranger's don't naturally get any bonus action abilities. All of your other bonus actions come from spells. You can choose to avoid picking bonus action spells.

On Damage
  • You are a Ranger with a strong magic weapon and often bonus action attack. Outside of the most highly optimized of characters your damage should be really solid.
  • You have access to Conjure Animals. Amazing spell for damage or enemy action denial. Even if you can't pick what to summon.
On Control
  • Entangle is one of the best uses for your level 1 slots. Much better than hunter's mark.
  • Plant growth is an amazing control spell against anything without strong ranged attacks or flying. You can singlehandedly win certain encounters with this spell (and it's no save).

Anti-Caster
  • Fog Cloud - Many spells require line of sight to use
  • Silence - Many spells require Verbal Component to use


I guess a good question would be what spell choices you made. You had 8ish known spells afterall?
 
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FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think this ties into your next point about action economy. For example, if Hunter's Mark was a class feature that didn't require a bonus action to start/target, and if two weapon fighting didn't have the bonus action "tax" on it, it just occured with your Attack action, then the rest of the bonus actions are good, and it's firmly putting ranger slots into more of an exploration role with occasional combat.
IMO, If Hunter's Mark was a Class Feature that didn't require a bonus action then every fighter would multiclass ranger to get it. I'm not sure there's a way that could be designed where that wouldn't happen.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
IMO, If Hunter's Mark was a Class Feature that didn't require a bonus action then every fighter would multiclass ranger to get it. I'm not sure there's a way that could be designed where that wouldn't happen.
The way to design that it doesn't happen is to make the opportunity cost too great. Perhaps the feature is granted at 3rd level. An extra d6 per hit, so less than 2 pointed expected damage per attack, isn't all that great.

Actually, when written that way, it's avg 3.5 damage vs. static 2 damage for dueling style. Yet we don't see a bunch of rangers multiclassing fighter for that fighting style. So I think you are overstating the case.

Now, every MONK would be multiclassing ranger if we didn't have a reasonable opportunity cost.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
The way to design that it doesn't happen is to make the opportunity cost too great. Perhaps the feature is granted at 3rd level. An extra d6 per hit, so less than 2 pointed expected damage per attack, isn't all that great.
+1d6 is roughly halfway to the -5/+10 effect of GWM on the fighter. (+2d6 comes out really close to it for average AC's). I find comparisons to GWM really help put things in perspective ;)

Actually, when written that way, it's avg 3.5 damage vs. static 2 damage for dueling style. Yet we don't see a bunch of rangers multiclassing fighter for that fighting style. So I think you are overstating the case.
Rangers don't get more than 2 attacks and already get dueling style. So, IMO that's not a great counterpoint .

I think you are undervaluing the case - but either way, as you say above, placing it high enough level can mitigate that. However, keeping the ranger as a half caster with a level 3 subclass - i don't think a feature like that can be added at level 3. It would need to be level 1 or 2. Which does restrict how strong it can be. I guess ultimately it depends on what design considerations you want to keep as is for the Ranger and which are okay to axe.

Now, every MONK would be multiclassing ranger if we didn't have a reasonable opportunity cost.
The weapon restriction still impacts the monk, right?
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Well, since 1/2 is greater than 1/3, they do get more then you are giving them credit for.
I can’t tell if this is meant to be pedantic snark or not. Yes, half is more than a third. And the Ranger feels like less than half.
As is that half casters get cantrips to trade away. So this is at least partially a perception thing, since by the book they have more than you are giving them credit for. I think it may be partially due to your feelings about the spell list and number of them known.
Tbh known casters are in bad shape in 5e. It’s just strictly less good than prepared casting. Fewer spells known than same-level prepared casters have prepared, vastly slower ability to change spells, and their Spellcasting seems to be given the same weight in balancing classes.
Mechanically that could be a solution. Thematically as well, preparing from the whole list like a druid.
It would definitely fit better thematically. I’d settle for more spells known, though.
The issue seems to be that the class features they get and reliable, steady, low damage. Both Hunter's Mark and the PHB subclass features work towards that. That works out to what the paladin can nova or more -- in the minds of designers who assume 6-8 encounters per adventuring day. But not in the real world where few DMs regularly run that many encounters per day.
That’s part of the problem with a few different classes, sure.
I think this ties into your next point about action economy. For example, if Hunter's Mark was a class feature that didn't require a bonus action to start/target, and if two weapon fighting didn't have the bonus action "tax" on it, it just occured with your Attack action, then the rest of the bonus actions are good, and it's firmly putting ranger slots into more of an exploration role with occasional combat.
Absolutely. I don’t even mind Hunter’s mark being a bonus action spell, though I think that needing one to re-target is unnecessary.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
A few thoughts:

On Survivability
  • You have the Aid Spell. You can upcast that with a level 3 slot to grant the beast 10 more hp for the day. (Or convince the cleric or bard to cast it on your beast).
A subclass shouldn’t rely on specific spells being chosen to not be frustrating to play.
  • Despite having 10 lower hp, the beast of the sky is arguably more survivable due to flyby, higher speed and flying so that it can hit enemies and get out of the way of their melee attacks and AOE's.
If I wanted to play a falconer, and had started a CharOp thread to that effect, and didn’t already know how the mechanics of the game work, this would be very helpful.
  • Others have already pointed out that you can essentially heal the beast to full for a single spell slot and a minute of time.
And I’ve acknowledge it, multiple times, so why point it out again?

  • Your beast can help make other PC's more survivable. (Enemies can target it and it's OA's can help deter them rushing past the front line, assuming it stays in melee).
  • At level 15 the beast can be affected by your use of absorb elements due to the Share Spells feature.
I find that my time is more fruitfully spent when I don’t assume that the people I’m talking to have literally no basic knowledge of the topic at hand.
On Bonus Actions
  • As a level 10 Ranger using a gun you really don't need any other bonus action than commanding your beast. Ranger's don't naturally get any bonus action abilities. All of your other bonus actions come from spells. You can choose to avoid picking bonus action spells.
This is just dismissively flippant, and adds nothing to the discussion. Also, might want to read the Nature’s Veil ability from Tasha’s.
On Damage
  • You are a Ranger with a strong magic weapon and often bonus action attack. Outside of the most highly optimized of characters your damage should be really solid.
  • You have access to Conjure Animals. Amazing spell for damage or enemy action denial. Even if you can't pick what to summon.
Okay.

Where did I give the impression that I was unsatisfied with my power level? Literally part of the point of the OP is that it was frustrating in spite of how powerful I was.
On Control
  • Entangle is one of the best uses for your level 1 slots. Much better than hunter's mark.
As long as your enemies don’t have very high strength saves, sure. What’s that got to do with the Beast Master? Or any part of the point of the thread?
  • Plant growth is an amazing control spell against anything without strong ranged attacks or flying. You can singlehandedly win certain encounters with this spell (and it's no save).
Difficult terrain can be really good, and if you’re in a forest or other area of dense foliage, the rest can hinder enemies nicely. It doesn’t solve any part of what makes the Ranger and especially the BM frustrating to play, of course, so I’m at a loss as to what your point is.
Anti-Caster
  • Fog Cloud - Many spells require line of sight to use
  • Silence - Many spells require Verbal Component to use
Highly situational spells, which isn’t what you want when you can’t easily change spells and don’t know that many.
I guess a good question would be what spell choices you made. You had 8ish known spells afterall?
That isn’t very many. And most of the best ones compete for your bonus action, compete with the attack action, compete for your concentration, or some combination of those.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I can’t tell if this is meant to be pedantic snark or not. Yes, half is more than a third. And the Ranger feels like less than half.
But that's the point. It is LITERALLY not less than half, it IS half. So this is a mis-calibration in your perception, since you are seeing it as less than it really is. There is no snark there; I'm pointing out a blind spot so you are aware of it.

What you are assuming is a half caster is too high. Ranger is right on the mark for it, as a half caster.


Tbh known casters are in bad shape in 5e. It’s just strictly less good than prepared casting.
The second part is corrrect. The first part is not. It's a balance point. Look at the bard - they get a ton of other class features, but their casting isn't as good as the wizard because they are known. That does not put them in bad shape, it's a balance point to lessen their full casting some because they get more other features. Just like having different size and specialization of spell lists is a balance point.

Fewer spells known than same-level prepared casters have prepared, vastly slower ability to change spells, and their Spellcasting seems to be given the same weight in balancing classes.
All of the half-casters are spells known. So yes, that is given the same balance. There is literally no one who is considered lesser for this, yet you are trying to imply the ranger is.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
But that's the point. It is LITERALLY not less than half, it IS half.
Literally only in the sense of spell level progression. The Paladin and Artificer are actual half-casters. You know that spell level progression isn't the whole of the spellcasting feature, yes?
So this is a mis-calibration in your perception, since you are seeing it as less than it really is. There is no snark there; I'm pointing out a blind spot so you are aware of it.
No. The spellcasting of the Ranger is less than half of the spellcasting of the Druid, Cleric, or Wizard.

You are taking the design team's intent as fact, rather than actually analyzing the system.
What you are assuming is a half caster is too high. Ranger is right on the mark for it, as a half caster.
If you think the Ranger is as powerful as the Paladin or Artificer, there is no point to this conversation.
The second part is corrrect. The first part is not. It's a balance point. Look at the bard - they get a ton of other class features, but their casting isn't as good as the wizard because they are known. That does not put them in bad shape, it's a balance point to lessen their full casting some because they get more other features. Just like having different size and specialization of spell lists is a balance point.
The Bard is powerful because it's overloaded, having nearly the skill mastery of the rogue, "full" casting, and bardic inspiration, before even getting into subclasses. Compare that to the Warlock and Sorcerer. Both lag behind every single prepared fullcaster.
All of the half-casters are spells known. So yes, that is given the same balance. There is literally no one who is considered lesser for this, yet you are trying to imply the ranger is.
There are 3 half casters in 5e; Ranger, Paladin, and Artificer. Of them, only the Ranger is a known spells caster. You are factually incorrect about how the classes work, and yet you lecture me about "blindspots".

Now, can we either return to the actual point of the thread, or stop interacting? I do not care about CharOp discussions, and it is a distraction from the actual thread topic.

If a reminder is needed, the discussion is about the ranger being frustrating to play. An issue that many people experience. We know that, because the design team has repeatedly talked about and tried to address it.

The only context in which this tangential argument about casting levels is relevant to the topic is in discussing the appropriateness of known vs prepared casting as the model of casting for Rangers, and how having known spells contributes to the frustrating sense of having a small toolkit and constantly having to make more strained choices with greater opportunity cost than you would as a paladin or artificer. Particularly in the case of the Paladin, this seems backward.

Of all the classes of DnD, the Ranger should have the broadest and most versatile toolkit. Instead, it is the most constrained non-full caster.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Anyway. At least Tasha's gives a little more spellcasting and spells known via replacement features, and they're definitely not bad spells they give you. Still, they take the place of core class features that could definitely be additional to those extra spells without any imbalance. You could add all the Tasha replacment features for the Ranger as additions instead, and not overpower the class. It's not the way I'd actually go, because I want more versatility not necessarily more direct power, though.

As I've said in other threads, natural explorer could give a choice between generally useful exploration features tied to each terrain, each of which has some group application, or bonus spells tied to each terrain. This way you play differently based on terrain choice, the choice actually matters even if the campaign isn't primarily in the wilderness, and you make the group better at exploration, which should be a prime shtick of the ranger.

Then, Favored Enemy could provide the ability to make "bane" poisons that bypass poison resistance and eventually immunity, when used against your favored enemy, and that restrict the tactical options or benefits of a type of creature, like making flying creatures fly more slowly and clumsily and need to land if they fail a save, or knocking out regeneration, or making it difficult to speak or to concentrate, etc. Things themed on the most famous examples of a FE type, but useful against foes outside that type.

Either the above, or give them ritual casting, a broader spell list, some weapon spells that don't cost a bonus action, and either prepared spells or the ability to change a few spells when they take a long rest.


Or go nuts and rewrite the whole class on a model closer to the Artificer than to the Paladin.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
@Blue sorry. While I stand by the points I made above, the tone was needlessly aggressive. You aren't the primary source of my frustration, but I reacted to your post as if you were. I apologize for doing so.
 

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