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5E Beasts of the Earth

Iry

Adventurer
I have a player who is interested in using a Beast of the Earth, from the UA Class Variants. He wants the appearance to be an Ape. Both are size medium and both are beasts, so that checks out.

He wants to give his ape armor, a shield, and a weapon. I thought I would crowdsource some discussion on the topic. Should the armor cost four times as much like barding even though the ape is roughly humanoid? Can it use a shield? Would you allow it to learn proficiency in armor, shields, or weapons?
 

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I would probably write up a new stat block called Beast of the Trees for ape-like creatures.

Otherwise every beast master in your game is going to choose "ape" for the extra AC from a shield. That's something I wouldn't want in my game.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I have a player who is interested in using a Beast of the Earth, from the UA Class Variants. He wants the appearance to be an Ape. Both are size medium and both are beasts, so that checks out.

He wants to give his ape armor, a shield, and a weapon. I thought I would crowdsource some discussion on the topic. Should the armor cost four times as much like barding even though the ape is roughly humanoid? Can it use a shield? Would you allow it to learn proficiency in armor, shields, or weapons?
The beast of the land’s statblock is what it is, you can describe it any way you want. Thats the assumption the feature is balanced around. So, if your player’s beast is an armored ape that’s fine, but it’s just cosmetic. Functionally, its stats are still the same as any other beast of the land. If they want an animal companion with a stat block that can be modified with barding and the like, that’s what the PHB beastmaster companion is for.
 
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I have a player who is interested in using a Beast of the Earth, from the UA Class Variants. He wants the appearance to be an Ape. Both are size medium and both are beasts, so that checks out.

He wants to give his ape armor, a shield, and a weapon. I thought I would crowdsource some discussion on the topic. Should the armor cost four times as much like barding even though the ape is roughly humanoid? Can it use a shield? Would you allow it to learn proficiency in armor, shields, or weapons?
No.

Several reasons:

* The AC of the beast of the earth is a class feature, it is part of the balance and cannot be changed.

* No matter what form the beast of the earth takes, it remains a beast of the earth, it is not actually an ape.

* Whilst an ape could certainly hold a shield, it would not understand how to use it to defend itself in combat - in game terms it is not proficient. Nor could a real world ape be trained to use it as anything other than a club or projectile. Which brings up another issue - a real world ape is certainly able to throw things in combat, but a BotE does not gain that ability, even if they happen to look like an ape.

* Animals that can wear armour - warhorses - have extensive training from a very young age. In effect "Warhorse" is a class that grants armor proficiency. You cannot put barding on a cart horse and expect it to do anything other than panic. A BotE in the form of a horse would not be able to wear barding because it is not proficient.


If your player is determined to have an armoured ape companion, and you don't want to simply say "no", then I suggest you use the sidekick rules instead of BotE.
 

* No matter what for the beast of the earth takes, it remains a beast of the earth, it is not actually an ape.

* Whilst an ape could certainly hold a shield, it would not understand how to use it to defend itself in combat - in game terms it is not proficient. Nor could a real world ape be trained to use it as anything other than a club or projectile. Which brings up another issue - a real world ape is certainly able to throw things in combat, but a BotE does not gain that ability, even if they happen to look like an ape.
So, if the player's ape is not actually an ape, and actually a beast of the earth pretending to be an ape, what is a beast of the earth when it isn't dressed up?

Does that mean that the fake ape can't grab a book from a bookshelf? Can it be trained to use a club? Can it be trained to give an enemy the finger? Can it pick lice out of its master's head? Can it grab a bucket of water to splash on a fire?
 

So, if the player's ape is not actually an ape, and actually a beast of the earth pretending to be an ape, what is a beast of the earth when it isn't dressed up?
It is a special type of magical beast. Says so in the description.
Does that mean that the fake ape can't grab a book from a bookshelf?
It would be allowed to pick up objects, since there is no specific rule preventing the BotE from doing so, whatever it's form. (However, the BotE does not gain any specific climbing ability).
Can it be trained to use a club?
No, it can only use the attack listed in it's stat block.
Can it be trained to give an enemy the finger? Can it pick lice out of its master's head?
Yes and yes. Like it's shape, these are cosmetic.
 

It is a special type of magical beast. Says so in the description.

It would be allowed to pick up objects, since there is no specific rule preventing the BotE from doing so, whatever it's form.

No, it can only use the attack listed in it's stat block.

Yes and yes. Like it's shape, these are cosmetic.
So, does one describe the natural state of that "special type of magical beast?" What does it look like? Where can one be found? How does it naturally behave? Is it a mimic that can only change form when not bound by a ranger?

So a BotE pretending to be a pony can also give an enemy the finger?

I'm not sure those things are "cosmetic." Giving an enemy the finger can have real, in-game effects. If a character with red hair who walks into a town full of red-head hating ruffians, is having red hair merely cosmetic? Moreover, if a PC is infected by poisonous lice, the ability to remove them effectively is not cosmetic at all, but is instead a life-saving ability.
 

He wants to give his ape armor, a shield, and a weapon. I thought I would crowdsource some discussion on the topic. Should the armor cost four times as much like barding even though the ape is roughly humanoid? Can it use a shield? Would you allow it to learn proficiency in armor, shields, or weapons?
This is a question I had to field surprisingly often in 3.5 (or maybe not so surprisingly, given, y'know, druids). What's true there is even more true in 5E: The creature does not have any weapon or armor proficiencies. The rules do not have any provisions for giving it weapon or armor proficiencies. It doesn't earn experience to gain levels in a proficient class, and can't use downtime to train. So you can give an ape this equipment, but it won't have any idea how to use it, and if you try to dress it up in armor it's probably just going to pitch a fit until you get it off again.

I would encourage you to go beyond the bare stat block and let the companion do reasonable "ape stuff" not listed there. Throw a rock? Sure. It's an improvised attack without a proficiency bonus, but I see no in-universe reason why it can't happen. Wearing armor and wielding weapons, though, isn't ape stuff. I very rarely see apes do that outside Andy Serkis films.
 

This is a question I had to field surprisingly often in 3.5 (or maybe not so surprisingly, given, y'know, druids). What's true there is even more true in 5E: The creature does not have any weapon or armor proficiencies. The rules do not have any provisions for giving it weapon or armor proficiencies. It doesn't earn experience to gain levels in a proficient class, and can't use downtime to train.

I would encourage you to go beyond the bare stat block and let the companion do reasonable "ape stuff" not listed there. Throw a rock? Sure. It's an improvised attack without a proficiency bonus, but I see no in-universe reason why it can't happen. Wearing armor and wielding weapons, though, isn't ape stuff. I very rarely see apes do that outside Andy Serkis films.
But the Beast of the Earth uses a monster stat block. If you look at other monster stat blocks, they don't list proficiency either. The orc's stat block doesn't list its proficiency with battle axes or scale mail armor. Does that mean an orc is not proficient with them?
 

There is no "natural" state, BotE are not natural creatures. That's what "magical" means.
I would encourage you to go beyond the bare stat block and let the companion do reasonable "ape stuff" not listed there. Throw a rock? Sure.
No. This is why beastmasters can still have actual animals as companions. If you want your animal companion to be able to do "ape stuff", you have an ape companion, not a BotE.
 

But the Beast of the Earth uses a monster stat block. If you look at other monster stat blocks, they don't list proficiency either. The orc's stat block doesn't list its proficiency with battle axes or scale mail armor. Does that mean an orc is not proficient with them?
There is no "proficiency" listed in a normal stat block (although it is included in the sidekick stat block). If equipment is listed, then the creature has the relevant proficiencies for those items. If no equipment is listed, then the creature is NOT proficient. A duck is not proficient in heavy armour.
 

There is no "proficiency" listed in a normal stat block (although it is included in the sidekick stat block). If equipment is listed, then the creature has the relevant proficiencies for those items. If no equipment is listed, then the creature is NOT proficient. A duck is not proficient in heavy armour.
So an orc is not proficient with a dagger or cloth armor? A knight is not proficient with a club?
 

But the Beast of the Earth uses a monster stat block. If you look at other monster stat blocks, they don't list proficiency either. The orc's stat block doesn't list its proficiency with battle axes or scale mail armor. Does that mean an orc is not proficient with them?
If you break down the math, the orc has a proficiency bonus included in its attack. Almost every monster with a weapon in its stat block is proficient with the weapon (though there are, interestingly, a few monsters who aren't proficient with their own natural weapons). Much the same goes for armor: you don't see any nonproficiency penalties in the stats for scale mail, so the orc is proficient.

More broadly, you have to remember that the stat block is intended for brevity and ease of use and at no point claims to be exhaustive, so in more complicated situations you have to again go beyond the stat block and decide what's reasonable. The orc also doesn't have a thrown rock attack listed, but it's an ordinary humanoid with ordinary humanoid capabilities, so presumably it can do that. It's also a warrior-type character, so if it picks up a warhammer or flail or other martial weapon, it's probably proficient in that too.
 

There is no "natural" state, BotE are not natural creatures. That's what "magical" means.

No. This is why beastmasters can still have actual animals as companions. If you want your animal companion to be able to do "ape stuff", you have an ape companion, not a BotE.
So...magical creatures lack natural states? Does a unicorn lack a natural state? Does a chimera? What makes the Beast of the Earth a magical creature but not those others?

What makes the beast of the earth's limb able to attack, but not give someone the finger or pick lice when in "ape form"? Is it simply too clumsy? It is incompetent? Can't it not learn to mimic the actions and behaviors of its new form?
 

So an orc is not proficient with a dagger or cloth armor? A knigh
If they are proficient in martial weapons (battleaxe), then they must be proficient in simple weapons. Same with armour, to be proficient in medium armour (scale) they must first be proficient in light armour. However an or is not proficient in heavy armour.
 

If you break down the math, the orc has a proficiency bonus included in its attack. Almost every monster with a weapon in its stat block is proficient with the weapon (though there are, interestingly, a few monsters who aren't proficient with their own natural weapons). Much the same goes for armor: you don't see any nonproficiency penalties in the stats for scale mail, so the orc is proficient.

More broadly, you have to remember that the stat block is intended for brevity and ease of use and at no point claims to be exhaustive, so in more complicated situations you have to again go beyond the stat block and decide what's reasonable. The orc also doesn't have a thrown rock attack listed, but it's an ordinary humanoid with ordinary humanoid capabilities, so presumably it can do that. It's also a warrior-type character, so if it picks up a warhammer or flail or other martial weapon, it's probably proficient in that too.
Exactly, so what prevents the ape from also having those proficiencies? They simply aren't listed in the stat block.
 

If they are proficient in martial weapons (battleaxe), then they must be proficient in simple weapons. Same with armour, to be proficient in medium armour (scale) they must first be proficient in light armour. However an or is not proficient in heavy armour.
Which page number can I find those rules on?
 

So...magical creatures lack natural states?
Some do. There are no baby BotEs. There are no flocks of BotEs roaming the land. They appear specifically to rangers as a kind of divine gift.
What makes the beast of the earth's limb able to attack, but not give someone the finger or pick lice when in "ape form"? Is it simply too clumsy? It is incompetent? Can't it not learn to mimic the actions and behaviors of its new form?
That's the DMs call. But BotE is a BotE, and it's appearance is purely 100% cosmetic. If it bothers you I recommend you don't allow it in your game.
 

Exactly, so what prevents the ape from also having those proficiencies? They simply aren't listed in the stat block.
A BotE is NOT an ape.

As for apes, have you ever tried training an ape to wear armour and use a shield effectively? When you have done that, come back and show us. These are skills (like speaking English) that an ape CANNOT learn.
 

No. This is why beastmasters can still have actual animals as companions. If you want your animal companion to be able to do "ape stuff", you have an ape companion, not a BotE.
The actual ape stat block is no more an exhaustive listing of everything an ape can do than the beast of the earth stat block is. WotC is clearly testing these beast spells as a way of simplifying summoning magic so you don't have to page through the MM to find a particular stat block every time you cast the spell. I see no reason to insist so stridently that "A BotE is NOT an ape" or that its behavior is any more restricted than an ape's is.
 

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