Content of the article: "How can I improve the beastmaster ranger (in a pet heavy party)"
In my current party, I have a wizard with find familiar, an eldrich knight with find familiar, and a beastmaster ranger. Conceptually, the familiars are just minor additions to a what are core magical and fighting classes, and and therefore should be inferior to the beastmaster. But that's not how it actually works. Familiar's don't die, animal companions do. Familiars can communicate telepathically with their masters, animal companions cannot. Familiars get their own initiative and action in combat, animal companions do not. Animal companions can attack, but since this is at the expense of the ranger's attack, and usually does significantly less damage, it is generally not a good option. On top of that:
- There is supposed to be a tight bond between the ranger and her companion, but in combat they do their own things. There is no symbiosis in the mechanics.
- The ranger has to "command" the animal to perform actions. That makes sense for a bound familiar, but not for a independent creature.
- The player feels like she needs to put so a huge amount of effort into protecting her familiar, so much so that it is more of a hindrance than a help.
The trouble is, that the concept of the beastmaster ranger is very appealing, and sounds like it should be a lot of fun to play, but really it ends as a mediocre fighter with a vulnerable bag of hitpoints it needs to protect.
Admittedly, allowing those class combinations in the game in the first place was a bit of an oversight on my part (too many toes being stepped on), but it's a bit late now, none of the players want to change their characters, and other than this issue, they don't seem to mind the overlaps.
The player is quite happy with the ranger otherwise, and is already several levels in, so I don't want to try to incorporate a complete overhaul such as the various UA alternatives (e.g. revised ranger, class feature variants) provide. I also don't want to touch the find familiar mechanics, since I don't think that's where the problem is, and messing with that could have a far bigger impact.
This is what I've come up with so far, but I'm not really convinced about how well it is balanced:
- The animal companion can be commanded to act using a bonus action instead of an action.
- When someone makes an attack on the ranger, if the animal companion is within 5 ft of the attacker, it may use it's reaction to take an opportunity attack against the attacker.
- If the ranger and the animal companion take the attack action against the same target in a round, one of those attacks may be made with advantage (as if taking the help action)
- The ranger and her companion can communicate simple concepts through noises and visual queues. Other people do not recognize these, or even realize that they are communicating.
Is is the reasonable approach and is the balance ok? Or is there a better way to approach the problem?
- Any other DMs kinda hate PC animal companions?
- Question about Revised Ranger and Conclaves.
- DM’s – Start introducing and using these in your game.
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