D&D 5E The problem with Pet classes and a possible solution?

13th Age's solution, which worked well in my experience, was to make the pet the bulk of the ranger's power budget (2/3 talents). If my ranger had ever needed to fight without her pet spider, she'd be a mediocre-at-best warrior (think of a fighter without any features beyond fighting style).

I think something like that could work in 5e, but you'd need a really thin chassis to build off of - so the base ranger would have essentially just martial weapons, a fighting style, and expertise in a couple of skills. Magic, weapon tricks, pets, everything else would need to come from the subclass (or not).
 

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Celebrim

Legend
The biggest problem with pets in my experience isn't really balance, although I grant that can be a problem.

The biggest problem with pets, steeds, summoned creatures, henchmen, minions, etc. is that when the PCs become a small army instead of a squad of commandos it massively slows down play. I groan inside whenever a player wants to play a concept that invests in minions of any sort because that one player's turn can take as long as the entire rest of the party.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
I'm going to try out giving the Tasha's companion (slightly buffed at higher levels) to the Ranger as a baseline feature. It is 5 HP/level and can be recovered in a short rest easily.

Balance-wise, I'm treating it as a per-short-rest heal, on par with the Fighter's Second Wind (which I also buffed as part of this pass). I gave it fire-and-forget (give it an order, and it keeps following it) capabilities - so in a complex situation (new targets etc), it consumes more action economy, but in a simple one it consumes less.

Rangers have enough of an offensive gap problem that I can give it damage of roughly half of a PC; that is enough to make taking it out not a complete dead-weight loss. Keep it down to a single attack to reduce the time it takes to adjudicate it.

Then buff its defence against AOEs - give it "if you pass a save and would take half damage, instead take none", proficiency in all saves, both Ranger and Beast get advantage on any saving throws that apply to both of them, Ranger can expend a spell slot to boost against a save, etc.

The amount of power budget you need to add to the Fighter to make this seem balanced isn't all that much. The big one is Second Wind being (fighter level/2)d10 (min 1d10) (which makes Fighter durability approach Barbarian durability).
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
13th Age's solution, which worked well in my experience, was to make the pet the bulk of the ranger's power budget (2/3 talents). If my ranger had ever needed to fight without her pet spider, she'd be a mediocre-at-best warrior (think of a fighter without any features beyond fighting style).

I think something like that could work in 5e, but you'd need a really thin chassis to build off of - so the base ranger would have essentially just martial weapons, a fighting style, and expertise in a couple of skills. Magic, weapon tricks, pets, everything else would need to come from the subclass (or not).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all you need to do to accomplish this is put a decent chunk of the pets power in a feature that uses spell slots.

I wouldn’t love that version, but it’d be a lot better than removing Spellcasting from the base class or making the pet most of the classes power. That dynamic fits a “mage or priest with pet” class a lot more than it does the ranger.

Having played with a revised BM and DMed for one as well, it’s nicely balanced, doesn’t overshadow anyone else, and is a lot of fun.
 

Stormonu

Legend
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all you need to do to accomplish this is put a decent chunk of the pets power in a feature that uses spell slots.

I wouldn’t love that version, but it’d be a lot better than removing Spellcasting from the base class or making the pet most of the classes power. That dynamic fits a “mage or priest with pet” class a lot more than it does the ranger.

Having played with a revised BM and DMed for one as well, it’s nicely balanced, doesn’t overshadow anyone else, and is a lot of fun.
Perhaps have a method where the Ranger can dump their spell slots into the pet (healing, damage, special abilities maybe?) akin to how the Paladin uses spells to power their smite.

Wouldn't hurt if the Paladin could do something similar to dump spell power into empowering their mount.

<EDIT> should also work for doing the same with familiars and maybe the artificer's defender.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Perhaps have a method where the Ranger can dump their spell slots into the pet (healing, damage, special abilities maybe?) akin to how the Paladin uses spells to power their smite.

Wouldn't hurt if the Paladin could do something similar to dump spell power into empowering their mount.
Sure, and/or just “you can spend a spell slot as a reaction when initiative is rolled, or as a bonus action on your turn, to grant the companion [value] THP, +X AC, and +Y damage.” With a scale by spell slot level.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Tbh I think taking the revised ranger, but with custom pet stats a la primal beasts, giving the pet about as much HP as a rogue of the same level, but making its attack power not that great unless you spend spell slots and actions to boost it, would completely fix the Beastmaster. Like 100%.


But, if you feel the BM with a survivable pet that is okay offensively at-will with no actions from the PC, but a beast (pun intended) when the PC uses action economy and limited resources, is too much, I think your idea has a lot of merit.

For some concepts, your idea may have more merit than the standard.

Also…sharing HP may not be a bad idea. Like, the BM ranger effectively has a pool of weirdly situational THP, why not just make that relationship more direct? The pet is alive and conscious as long as you are, and you change your hit dice to d12, but you share 1 HP pool, meaning when either of you gets hurt, you lose HP, and when either of you go down, you both do. You can spend a spell slot and a reaction to have only 1 of you drop unconscious, and you’re at 1 HP rather than 0.
I think the problem with this is if you keep the actions equivalent of a Ranger's normal actions and spells then there are far more hit points to "spend" than a normal Ranger has without giving anything up.

I think sharing hps is a great idea, don't give the pet hps at all but tie it your Ranger. I would not give him any more hps though, still 1d10. With the extra actions the pet affords this is still a powerful boost. You might have to make some sort of ruling for AOEs, it would not be fair to get fireballed and both of you take 8d6 .... or maybe you do make it a d12 like you suggested and make him take double damage on AOEs that catch both the PC and the pet.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, all you need to do to accomplish this is put a decent chunk of the pets power in a feature that uses spell slots.

I wouldn’t love that version, but it’d be a lot better than removing Spellcasting from the base class or making the pet most of the classes power. That dynamic fits a “mage or priest with pet” class a lot more than it does the ranger.

Having played with a revised BM and DMed for one as well, it’s nicely balanced, doesn’t overshadow anyone else, and is a lot of fun.
Huh... that's actually an interesting idea. In the Beastmaster subclass the Ranger removes all the spells they know / have access to... and instead you create a list of "Pet Abilities" that are used by the Ranger player as though they were spells (and using the spell slots the base Ranger has.) They aren't "spells" per se... but they use the spellcasting chassis to give the Ranger and pet special powerful abilities beyond the pet's normal statblock.

So for instance you could make a "Swipe" ability that lets the pet hit every enemy adjacent to them using their base attack. Or a "Paired Attack" ability at some level that gives the Ranger an attack while the pet does bonus damage kind of like one would get from the Booming/Green Flame Blade cantrips. Or perhaps a "Primal Rage" ability that gives the pet Temp HP at the top of each of the Ranger's turns equal to 2x the Pet Ability's (IE spell's) level. (I'm just spitballing here, don't take my math or balancing on any of this stuff as gospel.)

What you end up getting is a non-casting Ranger who instead gets powerful special maneuvers they have "trained" their pet to do that have the power level of spells, but which aren't. Yes, someone would need to create abilities for the pet for 1st thru 4th level slots (or at least refluff current Ranger spells to become them)... but it would certainly give pets more options and things to do while maintaining a modicum of balance since you are using an already-established mechanical system for it.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Huh... that's actually an interesting idea. In the Beastmaster subclass the Ranger removes all the spells they know / have access to... and instead you create a list of "Pet Abilities" that are used by the Ranger player as though they were spells (and using the spell slots the base Ranger has.) They aren't "spells" per se... but they use the spellcasting chassis to give the Ranger and pet special powerful abilities beyond the pet's normal statblock.

So for instance you could make a "Swipe" ability that lets the pet hit every enemy adjacent to them using their base attack. Or a "Paired Attack" ability at some level that gives the Ranger an attack while the pet does bonus damage kind of like one would get from the Booming/Green Flame Blade cantrips. Or perhaps a "Primal Rage" ability that gives the pet Temp HP at the top of each of the Ranger's turns equal to 2x the Pet Ability's (IE spell's) level. (I'm just spitballing here, don't take my math or balancing on any of this stuff as gospel.)

What you end up getting is a non-casting Ranger who instead gets powerful special maneuvers they have "trained" their pet to do that have the power level of spells, but which aren't. Yes, someone would need to create abilities for the pet for 1st thru 4th level slots (or at least refluff current Ranger spells to become them)... but it would certainly give pets more options and things to do while maintaining a modicum of balance since you are using an already-established mechanical system for it.
Wait what no! Why remove anything? You just add new abilities that use spell slots. Done. Now the ranger can choose in a fight or other challenge whether spells or special pet abilities are what is needed.
 

DEFCON 1

Legend
Supporter
Wait what no! Why remove anything? You just add new abilities that use spell slots. Done. Now the ranger can choose in a fight or other challenge whether spells or special pet abilities are what is needed.
It was mainly a way to make a non-casting Ranger. :) Use the spellcasting chart for Pet Abilities rather than spellcasting.

But sure... a person could absolutely make additional pet abilities to add to next to the spell list that the Ranger player could select from when Preparing spells/pet abilities each day if the player wanted to have both.
 

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