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I have a level 4 Beast Master Ranger whose animal companion died. I was quite devastated that I couldn't summon a new one and instead I had to find a new one that isn't hostile towards me. My party has come across Brown Bears, a Lion, and even a Gorilla locked in a cage.

Now their CRs are greater than ¼, but the Player's Handbook (p. 92) doesn't say that when trying to obtain a new beast companion its CR has to be ¼ nor that it must be a beast with medium size or smaller, it just says unhelpfully that it could be the same type of beast or different.

So can I try and tame a new beast companion with a higher CR than my original one, or does it have to stay a ¼ or lower and has to be medium size or smaller?

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The 3rd level ability allows a Beast Master Ranger to "Choose a beast that is no larger than medium and has a challenge rating of 1/4 or lower" and "If the beast dies, you can obtain another one ..."

"Another one" means the same type of beast as the first i.e. no larger than Medium with CR 1/4 or less.

As an aside: the Beast Master Ranger is a relatively low-power class option; particularly if the ranger has no beast companion! Your DM should ensure that you can replace the beast as quickly and as easily as possible - right now you are about as much use as a Wizard without spellbooks, a blind fighter or an amputee rogue.

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Especially when the Hunter sub class was available :/ I hope they fix this extreme lack of balance between these 2 Ranger paths. – Airatome Jan 21 at 0:28
    
I tend to buff the Beast Master class by allowing the animal companion's CR to scale up as the ranger levels up, using the same level thresholds as the druid's Wild Shape. I also worked out a few ways to bump the stats of the lower-CR creatures to make them higher, so that characters can choose to have their animal companion "level up" at each threshold so that they don't have to get rid of a companion they've become attached to. It remains to be seen whether this is enough (or too much!) to address the balance issue. – anaximander Jan 22 at 13:51

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