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Acting on their own accord, the druid and ranger of my party decided to buy the 1000gp agate and awaken the ranger's wolf companion. Now the wolf has 10 int and speaks in a british accent (don't ask... I at least forbade the monocle).

They argued that the wolf is now basically an NPC and can think for himself. Therefore it can attack on its own.

Does their argument hold water?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't have my books on me so I can't provide a thorough answer, but I know the mounted combat sections speak about intelligent mounts (unicorns as an example) acting on their own initiative so perhaps you might find rules that support their reasoning there. \$\endgroup\$ – zach Jul 12 '17 at 22:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really want to -1 this for denying the monocle... \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Jul 13 '17 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ You deserve another upvote just for the accent and the monocle... \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Jul 13 '17 at 18:54
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Yes, it requires an action, but...

Ignoring the Charm effect, as you mentioned, the wolf, regardless of intelligence, is still subject to the rules of the Animal Companion feature. That means that the wolf still requires an action to order it to attack and I would impose that. (Beastmaster ranger is, in my opinion, weaker than Hunter ranger, so you might want to weigh out how much damage it would actually be adding, but RAW, yes it would still require an action.)

However, I would argue that, so long as your Ranger already has the Extra Attack feature, the wolf can act on its on, on the Ranger's turn as it previously did--the only difference being that your Ranger no longer has to verbally command it (personally I find that a fair trade-off for 1000 GP, but mechanically that is your decision).

However, remind the players that they need to take caution with how they treat their awakened wolf friend--according to the text of the Awaken spell, you could still impose the ability of the wolf to leave the party if you so chose. However, since you mentioned ignoring the Charm effect due to Animal Companion, I don't know how that would work out; it might be more of a plot device than anything.

TL;DR, I think your players have a legitimate argument, but I would keep the rules of the combat the same so you don't have to roll extra initiative counts or anything (WoTC always likes to point out that rolling more dice is usually bad, because it makes a combat slower). You could however, add the bonus that the Wolf doesn't need to be verbally commanded (it still uses one of the ranger's attacks, and attacks on his turn though).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It was already friendly, so the charmed condition is moot. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 12 '17 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess you would still have the minor effect of getting advantage on CHA checks vs. the wolf but I don't know if that would ever be necessary. Even choosing to ignore the Charmed condition, I would still say that the wolf can act on its own, because that just seems like a relatively minor benefit that fits within the framework of the Companion feature already. \$\endgroup\$ – jeanquilt Jul 12 '17 at 23:19
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Commanding the Wolf to attack still requires an action

Awaken does not free the beast companion from its bond to its Ranger. The Ranger's Companion ability is not contradicted by awaken in any way.

Realize that the reason you have to use an "action" -- a mechanical implement, not a narrative one -- is for balance and the sake of the action economy. A player with two characters has a strong potential to be "broken" mechanically, compared to the other classes.

Also realize that the reason why a Ranger's Companion doesn't get its own turn in initiative is not due to its low Intelligence score. Anyone can get a pet dog that fights with them in battle, and that pet dog will have its own initiative. It's not the Intelligence score that matters here, as there is no minimum score requirement to have your own turn.

Your companion does not gain what your players want as long as you have it remain your companion. You can free it (and risk it leaving), and bind with another animal. Then the ex-companion then becomes unburdened of the need for your actions to direct it in combat.

I would further like to emphasize this point:

They argued that the wolf is now basically an NPC and can think for himself. Therefore it can attack on its own.

If the Wolf was an NPC, then you, the DM, are now the Wolf's controller. This means the Wolf does not do what the player commands, but what you, the DM, says. It should be voiced by the DM because an NPC means "Non-Player Character."

This means, the Wolf will not necessarily obey all of its players orders -- except that it is still a Companion, so it must, since it is still bound by all the rules of a Companion (one of them being: PHB 93 "The beast obeys your commands as best as it can" and another: "You can use your action to verbally command it to take the Attack, Dash, Disengage, Dodge, or Help action.").

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree to some extent. Yes, it seems that ordering too attack would require an action. Still, I see no reason why 10 int creature couldn't attack on its own. It is no longer limited by animal (lack of) intelligence. Oh, but of course it would be a DM call to decide what wolf is doing when not commanded anything. Wolf's ideas about what and when to bite might be bit different from player's - but should be based on prior experiences and appropriate for that species. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot Jul 13 '17 at 0:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Consider your character was not a Ranger, but something else, and he had a pet dog. You enter combat and the dog attacks your enemies with you. It isn't awakened, but it will still have its own turn. This seems to imply you don't need to have Int 10 to have your own turn -- and that Int is not related at all to whether or not you can have a turn of your own. Ranger Companions are restricted by PHB 93 that they cannot have their own turns, and this is not contingent on their Int levels. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jul 13 '17 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Your reasoning implies the cause of the Ranger Companion not having its own turn is because it's not smart enough. But there is no Int minimum for taking your own turn in combat -- low Int creatures do and have taken their own turns in initiative. There is no reason for a Companion to have its own turn just based on it gaining intelligence. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Jul 13 '17 at 0:17
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No

The Ranger's beast companion is a class feature. Increasing its Intelligence doesn't change this.

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Yes, but...

The animal is now a non player character, controlled by the DM, acts on its own initiative count, and even gets his own share of experience. The DM could use the rules of customizing monsters to advance his levels. Your animal companion is essentially free form the beast master bond, and he is now simply your friend, as the other player characters.

If you want to keep the animal companion mechanics, then you should abide by its rules and spend an action to control it. In this case, the awakening would add only a storytelling flavor to it.

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