Druid Animal Companion Circle

Xeviat

Explorer
Hi everyone.

I'm about to start a new game, and I have a player who is wanting to play a druid with an animal companion. After trying to convince her to play a Ranger or an Artificer instead, I agreed to try to build a custom Circle for her to give her an animal companion. I'm looking at building her companion animal from scratch, using the animal's stats to infer, rather than strictly using the MM stats.

But, I'm trying to figure out how to have the base animal's actions work. Looking at the Druid subclasses, not many of them strictly add combat power at 2nd level. Land gets an extra spell per day, Dreams gets a pool of healing dice, Shepherd gets their spirit which gives some bonuses ... Spore seems to be the only one that strictly increases damage potential. A pet would likely increase damage potential.

So, my thought was to copy the artificer a bit. Have the pet go after your turn, and allow it to take some basic actions unless you use an action to make it attack or do another action. I am thinking of having it be a full action to make the pet attack or use another action, so that it's sort of comparable to using an improved cantrip. I don't want to overwhelm the druid's damage dealing potential, where as the Ranger and Artificer seem to be intended to gain damage at that level.

Here were my thoughts for abilities so far:

2nd level: speak with animals stolen from the shepherd druid; animal companion that scales ac, hp, saves, ability scores so it ideally remains viable.

6th level: as a bonus action, you can spend a 1st spell slot to make your companion make an attack. It deals +1d8 additional damage for every level of spell slot you use higher than 1st. Your companion's attacks also count as magical for ignoring resistance or immunity to nonmagical damage. (this is so the druid and the companion can use dual actions, but it's balanced around the smite mechanic so they aren't doing too much).

10th level: if your companion takes damage, you can use reduce the damage by half and take that much damage. Your companion gains this ability as well to take your damage. (I'm not sure this is good enough, but I think it's a neat way to help make keep you or your pet up for longer).

14th level: Share spells?

We're starting at 5th level and the adventure I'm running will carry them to 11th level, so I'll need to figure out most of the circle.

Do you have any thoughts?
 

Hawk Diesel

Explorer
I guess before I can really comment, I'm curious to know how your player imagines their animal companion would function. Do they want something that will likely stay out of combat but be more of a supporting role, like a familiar? Do they want a more aggressive and combat-capable companion, like the ranger? Knowing that will help define the design goals you are working with, and improve feedback.

But, without that information, I do have a couple of thoughts.

2nd level - Sounds fine

6th level - I feel like needing to spend a spell slot in order to allow the companion to make an attack is too steep a cost. I would instead give the animal it's own attack, count it as magical, and maybe allow the druid to spend a spell slot to enhance the attack in some way. But not require the spell slot to make the attack. I mean, anyone can train an animal and get it to attack on command. We have examples of that in the real world, no magic required. To me, I don't understand the limit being imposed to an animal companion getting an attack, nor can I envision a reason grounded in any fantasy world that would require spells to make an animal attack. Attack better, sure. But not necessary to attack.

10th level - I'm not a fan. You are just basically creating one character that shares to hit point pools. Additionally, we need to compare this to other druid abilities. A moon druid can turn into an elemental. Shepherd Druids get free constant healing for any creatures they summon. The ability you propose just changes how your player distributes the damage they take.

14th level - Seems logical.

Personally, I like standardization. And animal companions break standardization because CR is a poor measure for what is balanced for a PC. So when I design an archetype with a companion, I create a blank slate. The numbers remain the same regardless of the form taken by the companion. But the player can describe the companion however they want. Polar bear, Rhino, Giant Armadillo, Cloned duplicate that is a more feral version of the PC... doesn't matter how the player wants to describe it. The numbers don't change.

I've redone the Beast Master Ranger and also created a Barbarian archetype with an animal companion (based around Talenta Halflings in Eberron). I'll PM you with the links so that you might pull ideas from each of them.

My biggest thing would be your suggestion for level 6. I would advise against requiring anything more than a bonus action to command the creature to attack. This player could have purchased or trained an attack dog without investing in an archetype specifically for a companion. Especially if they are starting at level 5. Allow the player to make their companion special, even while keeping an eye on balance compared to the rest of the party.
 
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Xeviat

Explorer
I have the action command in the level 2 ability. The level six ability has a bonus action command. My reason for making it cost a spell slot is to keep the damage projections in line for a druid. I based it on paladin smite, who gets +2d8 damage for a first level spell. The companion is going to be doing 8 damage per hit at that point and none of the subclasses really push damage numbers that high.

I know someone could just have a trained dog, but that dog will have like 4 hp and die instantly. The companion is getting scaling hp and will help the party by being an extra body, drawing attacks away from them. This is a benefit in addition to being a source of attacks for the druid.

It's not like the ranger whose subclasses grant damage, sometimes as much as a conditional extra attack. Since it's at will, I thought their damage should be in the order of cantrips.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Find out if they want the animal companion to be the primary focus or an add on.

If primary, I'd go with the UA Ranger Beastmaster but give Druid spells.

It's not a simple wildshape replacement,since wildshape is just a different way fo using the druid's actions. A beast companion that can attack on it's own actions is something way different - something that when combines with a full caster is much more potent than other classes.

On the other hand, if the animal companion is a scout, spy, and bit of damage add, then what you laid out sounds like a great plan.
 
The whole Animal Companion thing was just a take on the old Animal Friendship spell: it exists in 5e. You could use it to befriend (charm) and train (advantage on 'social interaction' should count) an animal - you might be using a slot on it per day for a while, but you could do it.

At higher level you could Awaken it.
 

Xeviat

Explorer

Woah, neat! I've been working on a druid rewrite and I think I can just grab this. Interesting to take Wildshape out of the druid chasis.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Woah, neat! I've been working on a druid rewrite and I think I can just grab this. Interesting to take Wildshape out of the druid chasis.
Yea, it's the official druid now for my campaigns. So much more flexible and interesting.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Yea, it's the official druid now for my campaigns. So much more flexible and interesting.

I think I'll merge some of my thoughts in there and talk in that community some. I think the druid could use a bit of stuff at 1st level when you compare them to a Cleric.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
How about:

Level 2: Greater animal friendship. You know the animal friendship spell (doesn't count towards druid spells known/prepared). You can bond with one beast you have used the spell on. A bonded beast will be friendly towards you and follow you until it dies, you bond with a different beast, or you dismiss the effect with a bonus action. [ A side benefit of this is that if you run, the beast will run too (so no AC slows me down)]. The beast will act according to its nature, but will try to defend you if it sees you attacked with a melee attack. It will recognize you even in a wild shape.

Level 6, it goes full animal companion, and follows you orders. I would keep defending you from melee attacks as not requiring an action (ought to be this way for rangers too), but if you want it to attack someone not melee attacking you, you need to spend an action.
 
A lot of good suggested here. The simplest solution is to perhaps just swap out the current beastmaster rules or use the last revised ranger version and just give them relevant abilities at equivalent druid levels. They arent that far off in levels that it would totally unbalance things. I dont think the druid needs any bonus spells from the archetype as it really does have all the animal stuff on their spell list already.

Giving the share spells option to replace or add to a higher level ranger ability would be somethi g yo consider as well. Somewhere between 8th level and 15th level is probably the range you'd consider for it, either 10th ot 14th is probably most appropriate, albeit it I could possibly see it at 5th level if needed to replace some sort of "multi/extra attack feature if needed".
 

Xeviat

Explorer
Are you saying rebuild the Ranger by subbing in Druid things rather than try to build a Druid subclass?
 
Are you saying rebuild the Ranger by subbing in Druid things rather than try to build a Druid subclass?

The opposite. Take the druid class and give the player the beastmaster ranger subclass. Give them the abilities according to whatever level they are as if they were a ranger, just shift them around to appropriate druid levels and iron out any issues that pop up. Personally I suggest the revised ranger version myself. You might consider giving them share spells in place of the fifth level ability if you use the revised version kor alternatively add "or when the druid casts a canteip" to it as it's more likely a druid will use spells than a ranger.
 

Xeviat

Explorer
The opposite. Take the druid class and give the player the beastmaster ranger subclass. Give them the abilities according to whatever level they are as if they were a ranger, just shift them around to appropriate druid levels and iron out any issues that pop up. Personally I suggest the revised ranger version myself. You might consider giving them share spells in place of the fifth level ability if you use the revised version kor alternatively add "or when the druid casts a canteip" to it as it's more likely a druid will use spells than a ranger.
My concern is that this is basically giving the druid an extra attack at 3rd level for no action, though that attacking creature can be hurt. No other cost feels like it's not quite enough. Though, in play, a player may end up spending a considerable amount of resources keeping their pet up, so it might balance itself.
 
My concern is that this is basically giving the druid an extra attack at 3rd level for no action, though that attacking creature can be hurt. No other cost feels like it's not quite enough. Though, in play, a player may end up spending a considerable amount of resources keeping their pet up, so it might balance itself.

It is indeed a potent class feature, but there are numerous balancing factors to consider. I've ran a game with a revised beastmaster, and while her damage was certainly respectable, I found it not uncommon that she or the party cleric/paladin would often end up spending a few spell slots to heal her pet between combats. Its health is decent but if I really wished to kill it I could have easily and had no qualms about doing so because she could bring it back with a ritual. Even so, I often found them loath to let it actually drop because in large part it ended up becoming almost another party member of sorts that I and the ranger took turns roleplaying as appropriate. Related note: I had her pet act on her turn to keep her from feeling like she took too much time at the table in combat, but you can rule as you wish.

As for the druid? They've less health/ ac, no fighting style, and lesser weapon proficiencies than a ranger, so at best we're talking a d8 weapon. I'd wager their damage to be no worse in theory that any barbarian/fighter/ranger with heavy weapons or a bow/crossbow with appropriate feats, and even if feats arent allowed, give them a magic weapon that deals extra damage dice and if fear the druid will fall behind without their spells to make up.

And even if you just use the players handbook beastmaster, its problem has never been damage, it's that the pet dies past 6th level too easily because monsters start dropping random fireballs and it has not enough short rest healing dice between combatsto keep it alive. THAT was the real buff from the revised ranger pet.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Give them a spell that mimics Find Steed but for medium beasts, and give them extra benefits with that creature?
 

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