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Pet vs. Animal Friend vs. Animal Companion

Snoring Rock

Explorer
So the spell animal friendship makes sense. But the animal companion not so much. Your companion cannot attack on your turn unless you command and therefore, lose your own attack. How about a fighter who purchases a dog? That dog, as a companion to the fighter, can and will attack anything opposed to his master/pack-leader. That dog will have its own attacks regardless of the attacks of the fighter. So a ranger may be better off just buying a pet? Am I missing something here?
 

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Snoring Rock

Explorer
You're missing my awesome subclass :p

The Beastmaster has to use his action (or just an attack from level 5 onwards) for balance reasons, that's it basically.

Then since there are no rules on trained animals that I see, then does it makes sense to determine that "trained pets" should have the same or even stricter restrictions....at lease for balance?
 

Yunru

Banned
Banned
Then since there are no rules on trained animals that I see, then does it makes sense to determine that "trained pets" should have the same or even stricter restrictions....at lease for balance?

Trained pets are special due to being external from any class feature. The beastmaster's pet has to be balanced against other subclasses, whereas external pets don't.
 

Snoring Rock

Explorer
Trained pets are special due to being external from any class feature. The beastmaster's pet has to be balanced against other subclasses, whereas external pets don't.

I completely get that, and I agree however, this makes the beastmaster utility useless. You get much more bang for the buck with a purchased animal. The beastmaster can acquire an animal companion or for better effect, purchase a trained animal. Again, no rules for trained animals, but do there need to be?

As a secondary attack, they are real losers but for other types of utility, must be better than a pet possibly. Just seems out of wack for the sake of balance, other classes can also purchase/train/capture pets.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
That dog, as a companion to the fighter, can and will attack anything opposed to his master/pack-leader.

No. That's not how dogs actually work. Yes, occasionally you will find an animal that will choose to be protective of a particular person, but that is the *dog's* choice, not yours. Many is the man who buys a big old Rottweiler or Pit Bull, thinking that it will be *his* dog, and stand by *his* side, and find out the animal bonds with, say, his 4 year old daughter and will only protect her.

You can only rely on an attack form a highly trained animal, and only with command and oversight of its handler. And not every dog you run across has the proper temperament for it. And we don't have well-balanced rules for training combat capable pets, which is why they'd seem unbalanced if you just say, "your pet will attack on command."
 

Li Shenron

Legend
So the spell animal friendship makes sense. But the animal companion not so much. Your companion cannot attack on your turn unless you command and therefore, lose your own attack. How about a fighter who purchases a dog? That dog, as a companion to the fighter, can and will attack anything opposed to his master/pack-leader. That dog will have its own attacks regardless of the attacks of the fighter. So a ranger may be better off just buying a pet? Am I missing something here?

At least you're missing that the animal companion is free, it works out of the box no question asked, and is infinitely replaceable.

Keep buying dogs that die at the first encounter costs money and time to train them, you have no control over them by default, and no guarantee of loyalty. Unless of course your DM handwave all those... but then another DM might handwave all locks and traps and render half of the Rogue class wasted, and another might let everyone cast spells from lots of scrolls and devalue spellcasters...
 

Snoring Rock

Explorer
No. That's not how dogs actually work. Yes, occasionally you will find an animal that will choose to be protective of a particular person, but that is the *dog's* choice, not yours. Many is the man who buys a big old Rottweiler or Pit Bull, thinking that it will be *his* dog, and stand by *his* side, and find out the animal bonds with, say, his 4 year old daughter and will only protect her.

You can only rely on an attack form a highly trained animal, and only with command and oversight of its handler. And not every dog you run across has the proper temperament for it. And we don't have well-balanced rules for training combat capable pets, which is why they'd seem unbalanced if you just say, "your pet will attack on command."

And that could be how I handle it. Maybe random -- maybe a charisma check each time. I want the animal companion to be infinitely more valuable.
 

jgsugden

Legend
If there are no explicit mechanics, it is an NPC. A pet dog is a lot like a hired hand... it will follow commands - generally, but may not meet all your expectations.

I introduced a spell simmilar to "Find Steed" for druids, rangers, and nature clerics. It summons a beast with a CR equal to or less than the spell level used to cast the spell. That beast becomes a loyal ally of the caster and is run as an NPC. Like Find Steed - you can have only one. It gets to use your proficiency bonus and has similar minimum HPs to an animal companion. It is widely used, but not overpowering or obnoxious.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
And that could be how I handle it. Maybe random -- maybe a charisma check each time. I want the animal companion to be infinitely more valuable.

I am not sure it is worth bothering, to be honest. Without magic or some other mechanic to bolster the pet's abilities, and advance it with the character, the character will quickly outstrip a normal, mundane pet. It won't be able to hit, won't do significant damage, and is terribly likely to be killed.

I guess the question to ask is - why do you need rules for pets? Who in the game wants to have a pet, and why, and do they realize that the animal is apt to die by the time they're 3rd level?

If it is for NPCs, you don't need rules. If an NPC has pets, just have them behave as you want them to. No rules needed.
 

While this thread so far isn’t representing it, you are not alone in your dissatisfaction with how a Beastmaster’s animal companion works. It’s one of the (if not *the*) biggest complaints among the PHB subclasses. That doesn’t mean that everyone agrees, but as to your original question: no you are not missing something, you are seeing the same issue a lot of people see.

Basically, there is nothing stopping you from buying a well trained warhorse (or war elephant, campaign allowing - elephant pricing in PHB) and having it be a more effective contribution that doesn’t require your subclass.

They could have just said (and I recommend this as a quick-fix house rule) that the actions the Beastmaster grants to his companion are *in addition to* the animal’s regular actions. Then the class actually is giving you something cool. The probable reason they didn’t was during class design they were assuming only the ranger would have a companion/pet, so they are comparing them against party members without a pet. If they had instead used the sort of common sense interpretations of how to interact with the world that they did in the rest of the game they would have compared Beastmaster with animal to anyone else with the same animal, and balanced their class features accordingly.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Basically, there is nothing stopping you from buying a well trained warhorse (or war elephant, campaign allowing - elephant pricing in PHB) and having it be a more effective contribution that doesn’t require your subclass..

So what's stopping you from hiring/asking a 20th level Wizard to come with you and "win" the game in your place? :)

I tell you what: anything that's a class/subclass/character ability is GRANTED.

Everything else is NOT granted. It is not granted that you can find a trained animal for sale. It is not granted that it will work they way you want. It is not granted that it will be loyal and die for you only because you paid for it. It is not granted that you can buy another every day (because that's probably how long it will last if used for combat).

If you keep judging the Beastmaster pet by comparing it to an infinite supply of cheap and immediately available well-trained animals as reliable as a robot, and then maybe at the same time making the BM pet less reliable by adding RP requirements that aren't there, no wonder the latter becomes pointless.

It's the same problem as with 3e Leadership feat. Most people didn't realise the cohort was not the same as a regular NPC and thought the feat was useless.
The probable reason they didn’t was during class design they were assuming only the ranger would have a companion/pet, so they are comparing them against party members without a pet. If they had instead used the sort of common sense interpretations of how to interact with the world that they did in the rest of the game they would have compared Beastmaster with animal to anyone else with the same animal, and balanced their class features accordingly.

And that's exactly THE wrong thing to do. The BM pet is UNLIKE the rest of the game.

Their assumption is correct by definition : only the Beastmaster gets such pet.

Everyone (including the BM) can buy a trained animal, but they have to go through the "common sense" of finding one, pay for it, spend more time to teach it who's the new master, provide care for it, and RP to keep it loyal. Maybe it even takes its share of XP. Then repeat every each time it dies in battle or runs away for its life. THAT is common sense for an animal or NPC who is an entirely different being than its owner.

The BM pet is not a different being. It's part of the PC in many ways. Its price us already paid taking the subclass. Common sense doesn't apply to it.
 

thorgrit

Explorer
I could've sworn I saw somewhere that, once ordered to attack a target, the animal companion would continue to do so until ordered to stop. Unfortunately, not only did I not find a RAW source, I found a couple other sources citing it as a common houserule. So there goes that.

There was this bit added in the November 2018 errata though: "The beast never requires your command to use its reaction, such as when making an opportunity attack." I think it odd that your companion would be smart enough to bite at a potential target trying to get away on its own, but not enough to bite at the target you pointed out and it dutifully trotted over to stand right next to, without some effort on your part.

Full errata at http://dnd.wizards.com/articles/sage-advice/errata-november-2018 - also adds if you're incapacitated, it can act on its own to protect you, and will automatically take the Dodge action each round unless you issue a different order. Also a reminder that it can spend its own hit dice to recover hp during a short rest, adding that its attacks count as magic for overcoming resistances and immunities to nonmagic attacks, and at 11 can either make two attacks or its Multiattack action (if it has one) when commanded to attack.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Unless you are playing Adventurer's League... who cares what is a houserule or what isn't? Work with your DM to let your beastmaster companion pet make its own attack on its own turn. If the DM is okay letting players take animal pets, they should be okay with you using your beastmaster companion the exact same way.
 

So what's stopping you from hiring/asking a 20th level Wizard to come with you and "win" the game in your place? :)

I tell you what: anything that's a class/subclass/character ability is GRANTED.

I'll agree that that is a feature of the subclass worth considering.


And that's exactly THE wrong thing to do. The BM pet is UNLIKE the rest of the game.

Their assumption is correct by definition : only the Beastmaster gets such pet.

Everyone (including the BM) can buy a trained animal, but they have to go through the "common sense" of finding one, pay for it, spend more time to teach it who's the new master, provide care for it, and RP to keep it loyal. Maybe it even takes its share of XP. Then repeat every each time it dies in battle or runs away for its life. THAT is common sense for an animal or NPC who is an entirely different being than its owner.

The BM pet is not a different being. It's part of the PC in many ways. Its price us already paid taking the subclass. Common sense doesn't apply to it.

Okay, here's where we run into two conflicting views of this part of the game. The problem as I see it is that the way they did it supports only one playstyle element--the one you are encouraging. It in theory works in a game where companions outside of the class feature aren't very valuable, but fails completely in one where they can be.

But here's the thing: I think my solution works for either view. Even those who are fine with the Beast Master's companion being a mechanically limited feature that requires you action, don't think the subclass is overpowered. The problem many people have with the subclass isn't the problem I have, but rather that they think it is underpowered. So here's the question:

Would my proposed fix, (ie, allowing the companion to use it's own actions normally (for attack or anything else), and when the Beast Master uses their features to grant the companion attacks or actions, the companion uses their reaction to do them, and does them in addition to their normal actions) make the Beast Master overpowered?

It would definitely make the subclass more powerful than it is currently. I'm sure one could look at the subclass from a mathematical standpoint and point out how it is balanced with the other ranger subclasses as-is. But obviously, lots of people feel that the class is weak for one reason or another (totally unrelated to my own objections about it). So I seriously doubt it is going to be considered overpowered with my fix. It just means more people who want to focus on an animal companion will feel good about taking this subclass, and those who don't want to focus on the companion will feel fine playing a different subclass--and I suggest that this feeling will be the same regardless of whether the non-Beast Master rangers have purchased/trained pets or not.

So I offer my suggested fix, because I think it's something that works for almost anyone. It's going to give a power boost for those who want a power boost, fix the suspension of disbelief and availability of pet issues for those who have them, and for those who don't have any problem with the rules or assumptions as is, give a power boost that isn't going to negatively affect their game.
 


S'mon

Legend
I could've sworn I saw somewhere that, once ordered to attack a target, the animal companion would continue to do so until ordered to stop. Unfortunately, not only did I not find a RAW source, I found a couple other sources citing it as a common houserule. So there goes that.

Yeah, that's how I would & have houseruled it. The beastmaster as written manages to be both weak and immersion breaking, so this at least helps. Not sure if the attack order should just be a bonus action rather than an action though. Or maybe every attack should be a bonus action.
 

W

WhosDaDungeonMaster

Guest
Reading through the Beast Master, I would just change:

You can use your bonus action to verbally command it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action.

This way there is still a cost associated with employing your companion to do something other than move. How valuable it is depends on your game and how much you value bonus actions. We use them enough (off-hand attacks for Rangers) that you are essentially trading the off-hand attack for the companions attack, dash, etc.

A big point for the animal companion over a pet is that the animal companion improves over its natural state, using your proficiency bonus, gaining hit points, etc.

But for making trained animals do what you want, that is one of the uses of Animal Handling. If you have a character with a guard dog (like the Sorcerer in our group, he has two), he uses his bonus action to try to command them, requiring a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. I adjust the DC depending on the action, threat involved, etc.

We are currently working on ways to improve Familiars as well.
 

S'mon

Legend
Reading through the Beast Master, I would just change:

You can use your bonus action to verbally command it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action.

I think this is probably the best approach, with the caveat that in the absence of a command the GM decides what the beast does - eg keep fighting, run away, or just stand there. Taking a bonus action makes it the equivalent of an off-hand attack, which looks reasonable.
 

khouji

First Post
If there are no explicit mechanics, it is an NPC. A pet dog is a lot like a hired hand... it will follow commands - generally, but may not meet all your expectations.

I introduced a spell simmilar to "Find Steed" for druids, rangers, and nature clerics. It summons a beast with a CR equal to or less than the spell level used to cast the spell. That beast becomes a loyal ally of the caster and is run as an NPC. Like Find Steed - you can have only one. It gets to use your proficiency bonus and has similar minimum HPs to an animal companion. It is widely used, but not overpowering or obnoxious.

I agree with you, a dog will follow it's owner's command. But, for best results you should train your dog properly, I suggest that you use this shock collar which is the most common tool used when training dogs. Inexpensive, safe, and effective, this clever device is able to give guidance to what behaviors are right and wrong.
 

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