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D&D 5E Ranger: The Pack Leader (+)

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Yeah, I feel like the template in Tasha's is a cop-out to fixing the subclass. The animal companion should feel like its the actual animal, not some generic combat block. The difficult part is along the lines of "how do you make a weasel companion and make it as valuable as an attack elephant?" and I don't know if there is a simplified answer to that.

Overall, if you can use the subclass to represent the Beastmaster, Grizzly Adams, Lassie, Turner & Hooch, Every Which Way But Loose and that sort of thing, I think that'd work. The big problem is that an animal companion isn't just an off-hand attack, its a whole 'nother character - but it needs to be able to survive (and be helpful in some way) with D&D's constant combat encounters and hp depletion schema.
I think that my basic scheme will accomplish those goals, tbh.

Basically:
the above basic blocks that determine your base AC, hit die, what sizes you can be, etc, then, for each block you have:

Choose special sense

Choose special movement

Choose special action (usually attack)

Choose minor trait/quirk

So to get a wolf, you make a protector or pack hunter, grab keen senses (smell and hearing), swift (fast but no climb or swim speed, maybe can dash as bonus and ignore difficult terrain while dashing), pack attacks (target falls prone on failed save with every attack), and special trait could be social animal which gives it Insight and Persuasion prof.
A weasel would be a scout, with a climb speed, keen senses, a “harrying attacks” action that does small dmg but sets up the ranger or else a special help action or a scouting action (survey the area), and a quirk like Sneak-thief which gives it sleight of hand and stealth proficiency.
 

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The difficult part is along the lines of "how do you make a weasel companion and make it as valuable as an attack elephant?" and I don't know if there is a simplified answer to that.

To use my take as an example, Im approaching it on a playstyle basis.

One sub, of course, is based on Dragons. Another is based on Wolves.

The Dragon playstyle is going to be more AOE focused. Just pure devastation on a large scale.

The Wolf playstyle, however, is for control and kiting. Wolves will be fast and able to dive in and out of combat, inflicting Conditions and controlling where certain mobs are on the battlefield. (Position and movement are a big part of my combat design)

Not only are both playstyles thematically appropriate but they don't have to rely on each Beast being equal to each other statistically; if they fought, the Dragons would likely win because of course they would.

For a subclass based on smaller animals, like a Weasel, Id wager thatd be a Stealth oriented one, which is also a valid playstyle I could work with in Combat, but would obviously be more at home during Exploration challenges.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I think that my basic scheme will accomplish those goals, tbh.

Basically:

A weasel would be a scout, with a climb speed, keen senses, a “harrying attacks” action that does small dmg but sets up the ranger or else a special help action or a scouting action (survey the area), and a quirk like Sneak-thief which gives it sleight of hand and stealth proficiency.
I like where you're going with this. The below is for a different system I'm creating, but perhaps there's an ability to cannibalize some of these ideas to a D&D campaign.

(For context, tier level is like regular level, and every 3 tier levels you move into a new chapter. Each time you gain a tier level, you choose another maneuver to learn).

Packmaster

When you choose this specialty, you gain an affinity for beasts, preferring their company to intelligent humanoids. You have learned the skills to train and incorporate creatures into your pack, with you as the alpha. Whether you lead them through a bond of friendship or power, they will follow your lead and commands.

You also gain one beast to become part of your pack. This creature’s level must be no higher than your tier level. As you level up, you can include more beasts to your pack, as long as the total levels do not exceed your tier level. 0 level beasts are considered ½ level for purposes of determining quantity.

If one of your beasts dies, you may summon another by spending an 8-hour ritual calling it. The available type of beasts will be determined by the area and habitat in which you perform the ritual in. That is, if you perform a ritual while deep underground, you may attract burrowing creatures instead of flying creatures.



Commands: You can spend 1 AP to issue a command to one beast. This beast will follow the command to the best of its ability. If you do not issue a command, the beast will react in the most natural way it would based on the scenario. You may issue commands to multiple beasts on your turn, with each costing 1 AP.



Pack Details

Your beasts will use the stat blocks as described in the Bestiary with the following adjustments:

  • When making any Challenge roll, their dice pool will consist of 1PD, where the PD equals your proficiency die type. I.e., if your PD is a d10, then your beasts would use 1d10 when making attack rolls, ability checks, and determining the difficulty TCN their opponent must succeed against for things like poison or other special abilities.
  • The creatures part of your pack resolves their actions during your turn.


Chapter 1 Maneuvers

Beast Tongue: You gain the ability to understand basic communication with beasts. They understand your commands but remember that their intelligence remains, so the form and content of their communication back to you will be simple regarding how they perceive the scenario. Smells and sounds will typically dominate descriptions rather than visual cues that we humans like to describe things with.

Cunning Strike: When a beast under your command makes a successful attack roll and attacks from surprise or behind, it may apply your Cunning Strike damage rather than you this turn. Only one beast can apply this damage per turn.

Defensive Beasts: Each of your beasts gain a +1 bonus to its DEF

Efficient: Each of your beasts gain a +1 bonus to its AP.

Pack Master: The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +1.



Chapter 2 Maneuvers

Defensive Beasts II: (Requires: Defensive Beasts). Each of your beasts gain an additional +1 bonus to its DEF.

Enchanted Claws: Natural attacks from members of your pack are considered magical in terms of overcoming resistance and immunities.

Intercept: If you are within 5 feet of an attacked member of your pack, you can spend 5 vigor and move that attack to yourself as a response, as if the attack was on you instead.

Recovery: Spend five vigor (AP: 2) to touch a pack member within 5 feet of you to remove any one negative condition afflicting that creature.

Specialist: The dice pool for Challenge Rolls that your beasts use increases to 2PD rather than 1 PD.



Chapter 3 Maneuvers

Beast Flurry: (AP: 5) Reduce the AP costs of attacks of all members of your pack by 1 (minimum 1) until the start of the next round.
Hinder: Your beasts do not attack. Instead, they spend 4 AP to hinder a target they can reach. For each beast hindering a target, its DEF is reduced by 1 until the start of your next turn.

Overwhelm: If you and your pack all attack the same creature this turn, each of you adds a bonus die to your attack Challenge Rolls equaling 1 + your Chapter level.

Pack Master II: (Requires: Pack Master). The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +3.

Telepathy: You can now communicate telepathically with members of your pack up to a range of 1 mile.



Chapter 4 Maneuvers

Efficient II: (Requires: Efficient). Each of your pack members gain an additional +1 to their AP pool.

Monster Hunter: You can have monsters as part of your pack. The monsters must either share your alignment or have a neutral/unaligned alignment.

Pack Form: (AP: 6) Change your form and all equipment carried into that of a creature type that is a member of your pack. This change lasts until your vigor is reduced to zero or you spend another 6 AP to change back.

Pack Master III: (Requires: Pack Master II). The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +4.

Specialist II (Requires: Specialist). The dice pool for Challenge Rolls that your beasts use increases to 3PD rather than 2 PD.



For additional context, this is an example beast on how they are structured. So a level 12 Packmaster could have up to 3 (total levels = 12) dire wolves as part of their pack, unless they've chosen Pack master, where they could have 4 (total 16 levels).

1681147034892.png

1681147444445.png


or 16 giant rats!
1681147380265.png
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
For a subclass based on smaller animals, like a Weasel, Id wager thatd be a Stealth oriented one, which is also a valid playstyle I could work with in Combat, but would obviously be more at home during Exploration challenges.
For small creatures, I think things to maximize quantity would be the focus. Like the "hinder" ability I listed above. Death by a thousand cuts sort of things.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
I like where you're going with this. The below is for a different system I'm creating, but perhaps there's an ability to cannibalize some of these ideas to a D&D campaign.

(For context, tier level is like regular level, and every 3 tier levels you move into a new chapter. Each time you gain a tier level, you choose another maneuver to learn).

Packmaster

When you choose this specialty, you gain an affinity for beasts, preferring their company to intelligent humanoids. You have learned the skills to train and incorporate creatures into your pack, with you as the alpha. Whether you lead them through a bond of friendship or power, they will follow your lead and commands.

You also gain one beast to become part of your pack. This creature’s level must be no higher than your tier level. As you level up, you can include more beasts to your pack, as long as the total levels do not exceed your tier level. 0 level beasts are considered ½ level for purposes of determining quantity.

If one of your beasts dies, you may summon another by spending an 8-hour ritual calling it. The available type of beasts will be determined by the area and habitat in which you perform the ritual in. That is, if you perform a ritual while deep underground, you may attract burrowing creatures instead of flying creatures.



Commands: You can spend 1 AP to issue a command to one beast. This beast will follow the command to the best of its ability. If you do not issue a command, the beast will react in the most natural way it would based on the scenario. You may issue commands to multiple beasts on your turn, with each costing 1 AP.



Pack Details

Your beasts will use the stat blocks as described in the Bestiary with the following adjustments:

  • When making any Challenge roll, their dice pool will consist of 1PD, where the PD equals your proficiency die type. I.e., if your PD is a d10, then your beasts would use 1d10 when making attack rolls, ability checks, and determining the difficulty TCN their opponent must succeed against for things like poison or other special abilities.
  • The creatures part of your pack resolves their actions during your turn.


Chapter 1 Maneuvers

Beast Tongue: You gain the ability to understand basic communication with beasts. They understand your commands but remember that their intelligence remains, so the form and content of their communication back to you will be simple regarding how they perceive the scenario. Smells and sounds will typically dominate descriptions rather than visual cues that we humans like to describe things with.

Cunning Strike: When a beast under your command makes a successful attack roll and attacks from surprise or behind, it may apply your Cunning Strike damage rather than you this turn. Only one beast can apply this damage per turn.

Defensive Beasts: Each of your beasts gain a +1 bonus to its DEF

Efficient: Each of your beasts gain a +1 bonus to its AP.

Pack Master: The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +1.



Chapter 2 Maneuvers

Defensive Beasts II: (Requires: Defensive Beasts). Each of your beasts gain an additional +1 bonus to its DEF.

Enchanted Claws: Natural attacks from members of your pack are considered magical in terms of overcoming resistance and immunities.

Intercept: If you are within 5 feet of an attacked member of your pack, you can spend 5 vigor and move that attack to yourself as a response, as if the attack was on you instead.

Recovery: Spend five vigor (AP: 2) to touch a pack member within 5 feet of you to remove any one negative condition afflicting that creature.

Specialist: The dice pool for Challenge Rolls that your beasts use increases to 2PD rather than 1 PD.



Chapter 3 Maneuvers

Beast Flurry: (AP: 5) Reduce the AP costs of attacks of all members of your pack by 1 (minimum 1) until the start of the next round.
Hinder: Your beasts do not attack. Instead, they spend 4 AP to hinder a target they can reach. For each beast hindering a target, its DEF is reduced by 1 until the start of your next turn.
Nice. I think this is a good feature for beast statblocks that aren’t meant to be frontline combatants, as well.
Overwhelm: If you and your pack all attack the same creature this turn, each of you adds a bonus die to your attack Challenge Rolls equaling 1 + your Chapter level.
Nice! I wonder if it could be worded in a way that brings in other PCs…a big design goal for me with rangers is to make them make the team function more effectively, in whatever the ranger is specialized in.

Like “when making a group check with a proficiency you have, allies who do not have it can add half your proficiency bonus to the check” type stuff.
Pack Master II: (Requires: Pack Master). The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +3.

Telepathy: You can now communicate telepathically with members of your pack up to a range of 1 mile.
Going back and forth on whether this should be automatic for a single-pet pack leader.
Chapter 4 Maneuvers

Efficient II: (Requires: Efficient). Each of your pack members gain an additional +1 to their AP pool.

Monster Hunter: You can have monsters as part of your pack. The monsters must either share your alignment or have a neutral/unaligned alignment.
Stuff like owlbears and displacer beasts?
Pack Form: (AP: 6) Change your form and all equipment carried into that of a creature type that is a member of your pack. This change lasts until your vigor is reduced to zero or you spend another 6 AP to change back.
😮
Dooooope. I’ve been thinking of letting the Druid do a similar thing by spending a spell slot when using wild shape, to summon a beast alongside them. Never occurred to me to let the ranger shift into animal form.
Pack Master III: (Requires: Pack Master II). The total levels of beasts you can have in your pack now equals your tier level +4.
I do think that the beast ranger should have a way to gain a secondary critter, and a Knack that gives basically a familiar might do the trick. In my project familiars have bonus skill, tool, and language, proficiencies, and they can help you with complex tasks. There are higher level knacks, so upgrading the critter wouldn’t be out of line via that…
Specialist II (Requires: Specialist). The dice pool for Challenge Rolls that your beasts use increases to 3PD rather than 2 PD.
This is definitely relatable to Mastery Ranks in my project, and sharing those with a companion makes sense.
For additional context, this is an example beast on how they are structured. So a level 12 Packmaster could have up to 3 (total levels = 12) dire wolves as part of their pack, unless they've chosen Pack master, where they could have 4 (total 16 levels).

View attachment 281521
View attachment 281530

or 16 giant rats!
View attachment 281527
I like that a lot.

“desperation trait” has me intrigued.
For small creatures, I think things to maximize quantity would be the focus. Like the "hinder" ability I listed above. Death by a thousand cuts sort of things.
Yeah scout/messenger type critters need soemthing other than damage and HP to make them useful regularly. One way to do that is certainly to give more than one of them!
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
I do think that the beast ranger should have a way to gain a secondary critter, and a Knack that gives basically a familiar might do the trick. In my project familiars have bonus skill, tool, and language, proficiencies, and they can help you with complex tasks. There are higher level knacks, so upgrading the critter wouldn’t be out of line via that…
Yup. the way I have it written, you have a total levels of creatures in your pack. Nothing says that if you have up to 10 levels, you have to have 1 level 10 or 2 level 5s. You could totally have a level 9 and a level 1. Your "main" pet, and a sidekick.

Oh, and yes, if you learn monster hunter, you can do owlbears and other monstrosities.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
here is a work in progress draft of my thoughts for replacement features for favored enemy and natural explorer, and some ideas for new fighting styles.

I'm also going to look at primeval awareness, hide in plain sight (why isn't this helping the whole team?), and other features that have been falling flat for quite a while.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
here is the Pack Leader so far. The base class also has Banes and Knacks to play with, some of which relate to fighting as part of a group or dealing with beasts and the like, but this is the "if you invest no further" replacement for the beastmaster.

## Pack Leader

You arer the master of hunting in groups, and you have raised and trained a beast whose potential is nearly as great as your own.


### Pack Leader's Knack

You can communicate simple ideas with beasts, fey, monstrosities, and elementals, that cannot speak a language. You can also understand the same sorts of ideas from them, in turn.

## Pack Leader's Companion

Choose a type of companion from messenger, pack hunter, protector, prowler, scout, or steed.

Choose special senses

Choose special movement

Choose special attack

Choose a quirk/special utility trait

Choose personality

At the end of a long rest you can choose to spend a spell slot to empower your companion for the day, increasing it's stats.

As long as the companion is within 10ft of you, you can cast a spell with a range of self, targeting your companion instead.

### Pack Leader Magic

You learn certain spells when you take this subclass, they are ranger spells for your, and are always prepared.

level 1 armor of agythis, beast bond

level 2 beast sense, mirror image

level 3 blink, revivify

level 4 charm monster, polymorph

level 5 awaken, telepathic bond

### Level 6

The range at which you can cast spells with a range of self on your companion extends to 30ft, and you can cast the beast bond and beast sense spells once without spending a spell slot. You cannot do so again until you complete a long rest.


### Level 10

Give the pet an aura that is different based on the type of pet

### Level 14

You and your pet share a pool of HP?
 


Stormonu

Legend
Nice! I wonder if it could be worded in a way that brings in other PCs…a big design goal for me with rangers is to make them make the team function more effectively, in whatever the ranger is specialized in.

Like “when making a group check with a proficiency you have, allies who do not have it can add half your proficiency bonus to the check” type stuff.
Has me thinking that giving something akin to Bardic Inspiration might be the way to go with this, as a sort of ranger-as-commando John Wayne sort of leadership ability.
 

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