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I am using the UA Revised Ranger in one of our D&D games. I am currently 2nd level and have had my Ranger animal companion from the start instead of summoning him at 3rd level (the wolf doesn't gain the conclave features until 3rd level, as ruled by my DM). He is a normal wolf.

I am training him to use a shortsword during down time. I am going for the concept of Sif the Great Grey Wolf from Dark Souls, who holds the sword in his mouth, but with a much smaller sword.

Sif the Great Grey Wolf from Dark Souls: a giant wolf holding a sword handle in its mouth

I am also getting him armor through barding. I have talked to my DM about my ideas, but he never told me how long it would take. By only training during down time, how long would it take for my wolf to become proficient with the shortsword without interfering with adventures? This is not for use in Adventurers League.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I made some edits to incorporate your clarifications in these comments back into your question. If I messed anything up or got your ideas wrong, please feel free to let me know or roll back the edit. \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Apr 27 '18 at 14:41
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There are no rules in D&D 5e for training an animal companion to use a weapon

The ranger's animal companion is meant to be used as-is. If your animal companion is a wolf, then the wolf's stat block will be provided to you by the DM. (I believe the wolf's stat block is at the back of the PHB). Other than what you see on the stat block, there are no other features or abilities you can give to the wolf other than through your ranger's class features as they level up, or if you homebrew some rules with your DM.

Side note: If I was your DM, I would not let a wolf use a sword, or any other weapon.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your side note is entirely unnecessary. Your answer, while good in and of itself, is diminished heavily by a personal bias against people who would allow creativity and fun in their games. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Apr 28 '18 at 4:38
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As far as I know—and I’m no expert in 5e but fiend’s answer confirms—there is not currently any official option in 5e for this.

But there was in 3.5e: the Lords of Madness sourcebook included the mouthpick magic weapon property that allowed creatures with a bite attack to wield the mouthpick weapon instead of biting. It didn’t grant proficiency with the weapon, which meant that for an animal companion, you almost certainly wanted the animal companion to take the Martial Weapon Proficiency for the weapon, but the rules allowed an animal companion to do that.

Already, I think, it’s clear that 3.5e was rather different from 5e in some regards, and one of those was that both feats and magic items were rather more common (but also somewhat less individually potent). For example, pretty much all characters1 started with at least one feat, and got a feat every three levels. That included animal companions. And characters could use as many magic items as they had room for, and magic weapons went as high as +10, rather than +3. That changes the relative value of a feat and a magic weapon.

In 5e, animal companions don’t get feats. There isn’t any rule available that could grant weapon proficiency to an animal companion. And a mouthpick weapon counting as a +2 weapon simply doesn’t mean the same thing when that is 2/10 instead of 2/3.

The feat thing would have been easy enough to handle in 3.5e, though: aptitude weapons can be used proficiently by anyone. As aptitude was, like mouthpick, a +1-equivalent property, a +1 mouthpick aptitude weapon was a +3-equivalent—3/10, that is.

So it seems to me that a +1 magic weapon in 5e could be roughly equivalent to a +3-equivalent weapon in 3.5e. Therefore, I think a magic weapon with a +1 bonus that can be wielded proficiently by any creature with a bite attack (replacing that bite attack) is probably a fair port of the 3.5e material. So something like this:

Mouthpick Weapon

Weapon (any melee weapon), rare (requires attunement)

You gain a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls made with this magic weapon.

You can only wield this weapon if you have a bite attack. While wielding this weapon, you cannot use your bite attack, but you are proficient with attacks with this weapon.

But I must caution that I am not an expert in 5e, and I certainly have not actually tried this in 5e.

There are some weapons that are magical, but do not have a + 1 to hit (flame tongue, dancing sword, frost brand, mace of disruption) so this same approach can be made without adding + to hit if your DM raises an eyebrow at this mouthpick proposal. Dropping the +1 should reduce the rarity to uncommon, from rare, which is a better fit at 3rd level than a rare item.

As with any homebrew proposal, sit down with your DM and discuss this in detail to make sure it fits in with your campaign and his setting.

  1. Excepting only mindless, Int –, creatures like skeletons and swarms of insects.
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For 5th edition, you'd need to homebrew

There are no rules in the game that describe weapon proficiency for animals in 5e. I have only played 4e, and to the best of my knowledge, there's nothing in there for that either.

In the Monster Manual, creatures are intentionally not given "proficiencies" like a PC in their stat block. It is assumed that they are proficient in their own attacks (ex. a Wolf p. 341 has a +4 to attack despite having a +2 str and dex modifier) and in their own armor (as applicable). Since there are no given rules on the matter and since the stat block would presumably exclude it, it can be inferred that you cannot train your wolf to use a shortsword.

That being said, you have a few options for homebrew (assuming your DM allows it):

1. Make it purely aesthetic

Give your wolf the sword, for the meme as you said, but have it perform no function and let the wolf work the same that it normally does. Presumably, this would mean no training time. Mathematically, this is the best for you, considering that a wolf does 2d4 with its bite attack while a shortsword is 1d6. If anything, you could change the damage piercing to slashing. The only problem with this is that enchanting the weapon would be useless. It seems like your DM is pretty open to this and you have a fairly casual campaign, so this could be your best bet.

2. Use the rules for acquiring a new proficiency for a PC

These rules are expanded upon in the Acquiring a New Proficiency section in the Player Handbook under the Downtime section. As I said before, you'll only be doing 1d6 damage instead of 2d4. Furthermore, your DM would likely rule that you couldn't use your bite attack while wielding the sword. The wolf would have +4 to attack, using its proficiency and dex mod, making it no more accurate than its normal bite.

Personally, as your DM, I would only allow the aesthetic option, but it does heavily depend on the mood of your campaign to even allow it at all.

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(as mentioned, this is not defined, by RAW)

I'd like to take a moment to look mechanical balance of this decision.

Short Sword gives 1d6+str
Bite gives 2d4+str and the bonus of the drag

Oh, good, it's objectively better to use a bite attack, so no concern about being too strong (likely too weak actually, but w/e).


So, what resources do we have to look at regarding training? Sadly, not much.

  • Train to use a new tool -- 250 downtime days and GP
    • The DMG has a section about learning a new feat with these same rules
  • Train to level from 4->5 or 10->11 -- 20 and 100 downtime days, respectively

250 days to learn a new tool proficiency (swords are a tool... right? eh. not really, but close enough for homebrew) seems like a lot. But if that's arrangement you work out with your DM, then make sure he allocates and issues downtime. These days are likely between adventures. Your DM may also allocate training time during travel days where nothing of note occurs.

As with most things homebrew, the most important conversation is the one between the player(s) and the Dungeon Master.


If I was the DM?

I'd just have you do a backstory writeup and pay for the weapon, then let you do it. I'd likely use a longsword instead because 1d8 is closer to 2d4 and you're already missing out on the bite bonus of tripping the target.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah. My DM said no to a longsword. I tried, believe me. But if anything. Its better because shortswords can add dex instead of strength. And he still gets to use the bond features with it. If anything, this leaves it more open, I could say, get him a fire, or ice longsword, and have him just go ham. But a longsword plus 2 would make it the same damage. I could easily get one through weapon enchanting. We may be getting an enchanter in our group so yeah. But if not. Oh well. Otherwise, thank you for the support. My DM has been very unclear with this. \$\endgroup\$ – Casual Apr 28 '18 at 22:30

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