D&D 5E Beast master wants to use pet to get +5 to passive perception

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Notably, Help is a combat action. Working Together is for other challenges like exploration or social interaction. They mostly work the same; however, Working Together mandates that in order to gain advantage, the assistance must actually be productive. You may therefore decide as DM that sometimes the animal companion can help and other times it does not, depending on the situation.

As well, having a high passive Perception is good, but if you have concerns about that, it may be because of how you use passive Perception. First, to gain the benefits of a high PP, the character must be in certain rank of the marching order (depending on where the thing being noticed is relative to the party) and not performing other traveling tasks unless they are a ranger in favored terrain. They also need a light source or else they take a -5 to their PP if they are relying solely on darkvision.
 

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Lyxen

Great Old One
"The beast obeys your commands as best as it can." This does not mean that it can constantly use the help action. Moreover, "stand sentry" does not mean "help the ranger spot things". It just says that the wolf is using his own passive perception.

Moreover, the Help action should not be overplayed, and if the player insists on RAW, tell him that RAW it's a combat action only: "You can lend your aid to another creature in the completion of a task. When you take the Help action, the creature you aid gains advantage on the next ability check it makes to perform the task you are helping with, provided that it makes the check before the start of your next turn." So it's not permanent, and even if you allow it outside of combat, it is bounded to one turn.

After that, it's probably not overpowered, but it can become annoying in play if the ranger insists on it being active at all time, which is not the purpose of the help action. So it would be good to establish some boundaries.
 


Quickleaf

Legend
So here’s the scenario. I have a player who is a beast master ranger (knowing that they tend to be a bit weak).

In general he wants to use his wolf to stand sentry most of the time, “use the help action” to give him advantage on perception checks (which then translates to a +5 to passive perception).

he already has a very high passive perception (observant) so this would definately push him into the “very high” territory.

what do you think, is that a reasonable way to use an animal companion?
If it were any other character with a wolf pet, I would agree with @billd91 that Helping only applies to active checks, not passive scores.

However, because this is a beastmaster ranger -- which is generally one of the subclasses my group finds as sub-par & which implies a special and/or supernatural connection to their animal companion & because the wolf has advantage on its own passive Perception thanks to Keen Hearing & Smell -- I would rule that yes, the PC gets +5 passive Perception when their wolf is keeping lookout with them, however this advantage would only apply to sounds & scents, not towards seen things. As the wolf is focused on Helping, it would not use its own passive Perception score -- effectively the two operate as one cohesive unit.

IMHO that feels consistent with the narrative of what's happening and feel of the beast master.

So the PC would have two scores during watch: their own passive Perception (for visuals) and then +5 to that (for sounds & scents).

For example, goblins in area of a silence spell approaching from upwind? Sounds & scents don't apply, so the PC uses their passive Perception.

Regular goblins sneaking from upwind or downwind during normal wind conditions? Sounds and/or scents apply, so the PC uses passive Perception +5.
 
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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Eh, this is a bit too metagame-y for my table. It probably doesn't break anything, I just think it sets a bad precedent. I feel like if I were to allow this at my table, two weeks later everyone's character would have a new pet and all players would declare "my pet is always helping me on all of my rolls."
In a situation like this, I think it's important to consider whether the way passive Perception is being used at the table is leading to it being overvalued in a way the game doesn't intend. Same goes for the Observant feat. If that's seen as a must-have, then it could be the trade-offs and risks associated with the tasks being taken and resolved are not in line with what the game says. Often this happens when the DM treats passive Perception like an always-on radar outside of combat, pinging traps and secret doors and other hidden objects without any meaningful choice by the player during play.

Observant is taken in my games almost never. This isn't because passive Perception is unimportant, but because if you want to have a chance for your passive Perception to apply, certain criteria must be met including being in the front rank of the marching order and/or engaging in keeping watch (or trying to notice traps or searching for secret doors) at the cost of not doing other things that may be useful in context. Being in the front rank exposes the character to risk. Plus, there's pressure from making the investment in the feat or whatever that you can't focus on any other tasks the character might otherwise be good at. These trade-offs and risks make it a meaningful choice during play, not just a choice to be made during character creation.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Eh, this is a bit too metagame-y for my table. It probably doesn't break anything, I just think it sets a bad precedent. I feel like if I were to allow this at my table, two weeks later everyone's character would have a new pet and all players would declare "my pet is always helping me on all of my rolls."
Being sentinel animals and aides is the reason we humiliated wolves into dogs in the first place though. What's the point of having the pet if it isn't helpful in the context of an animal you take into the murderness*?

*murder wilderness, the natural habitat of the murder hobo.
 


Laurefindel

Legend
How would it be any different from any other PC in the group also keeping watch?

When you help, you give the person with the better score advantage, which for passive scores grants a +5.
Although to be fair, other PC in the groups are not a class feature, but the beast companion is. They should be considered separately.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Being sentinel animals and aides is the reason we humiliated wolves into dogs in the first place though. What's the point of having the pet if it isn't helpful in the context of an animal you take into the murderness*?

*murder wilderness, the natural habitat of the murder hobo.
See, I would get myself into this mess with the best of intentions: yes, that is what pets are for, I would tell myself. Yes, a dog is always watchful. Sure, go ahead, I would tell my player. And then every player at the table would narrow their eyes and smirk as they exchange knowing looks.

Then two weeks later, there would be a whole entourage of pet dogs in the party, and they would be helping the wizard scribe her scrolls, and helping the rogue with stealth and lockpicking, and helping the fighter's attack rolls, and helping everyone use first aid kits, and helping convince the emperor to withdraw troops, and helping the cleric with his Demonology research, and...
 

DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
The only argument against it is that you have to use your Action to command the companion to Help. If you are using your Action to command it, you aren't keeping watch.

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However, at 7th level, it only requires your Bonus Action instead of your Action, so I would allow it at that point.

Also, since the companion is a beast, it needs to rest. It can't be on watch all the time and then function normally.
 

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