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I've managed to convince my GF to try out a simple campaign. She is new to tabletop gaming. Knowing her, I decided to have her play a ranger with a pet (she loves her dog, a lot). I designed some house rules to make things like action economy simpler for her, also not wanting her dog to suddenly die to a random crit from a bear. I was wondering if some of the house rules will make the game unbalanced.

Rule 1: She will be able to swap between her Bow and Sword at the start of every turn.

Rule 2: Her pet dog will not die when at 0 hp, but rather be treated like a PC. It will have death saving throws and she will be able to stabilize it with an action.

Rule 3: The dog will always go after her turn and will follow her latest command. If no command is given, it will stay by her side and ready an attack for anyone who tries to attack her.

Rule 4: She can command the dog as a free action.

This will be a short 2 combat campaign where I'm just introducing what it's like to play RPGs. The only other player is her sister, who is playing as a spellcaster.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ These are four different houserules, with potentially different answers for each rule. As such, you may want to split it into different questions. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 16 '18 at 3:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also value in answering the situation as a whole, given that we're potentially giving a power boost to only 1 PC of an adventure. \$\endgroup\$ – Yannick MG May 16 '18 at 3:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll streamline the question down and make it simple \$\endgroup\$ – Curios Maximus May 16 '18 at 3:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ It was fine with the small list of rules. The original question was asking if that combination of houserules was balanced. Without the full list, we have less context to work with; answering if each individual houserule is balanced is one issue, answering if they are balanced together is different. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ May 16 '18 at 4:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ Fair point! I was thinking about that myself. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 16 '18 at 8:30
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Your house rules are slightly weaker to the already published Unearthed Arcana: Revised Ranger Beast Master, except for rule 2, which isn't game breaking anyway.

This 'Rule 2' is already covered in the PHB page 198, Monsters and Death:

...and special [NPC's] are common exceptions, the DM might have them fall unconscious and follow the same rules as player characters.

Therefore, it has already been deemed balanced.

You can use the Unearthed Arcana version and it'd be satisfying and simple to play. If you are worried about the complexity of correctly assigning all the statistics and numbers for the animal companion, I suggest you do that for her ahead of time. With the Animal Companion statted up by you, all she has to do is take control of it while in combat, like having a second turn.

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    \$\begingroup\$ thanks daze, i'll take a took at the A revised Ranger for this, i've only played Xgte. \$\endgroup\$ – Curios Maximus May 16 '18 at 23:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @CuriosMaximus I haven't tested the Revised Beastmaster, but I can tell you that the Revised Hunter is a bit OP. Just in case you're looking at some of that build, too :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Nov 8 '18 at 14:20
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For #1, see my question here about that issue generally; the consensus is that it will make combat less of a choice since all archers are also melee combatants with no consequence. I'd suggest maybe not doing this, but it's not a huge problem if you do it anyway; maybe see how much of a problem it is and implement this if not doing this is impacting your fun.

For #2, this should already be the case anyway, since this essentially counts as an important NPC, and PHB pg. 198, under "Monsters and Death", says:

Mighty villains and special nonplayer characters are common exceptions; the DM might have them fall unconscious and follow the same rules as player characters.

For #3, not issuing a command; the spell Conjure Animals (PHB, pg. 225) says:

They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

which sets a precedent for beasts defending themselves (which could easily be extended to protecting the ranger so long as they only did so whilst remaining by the ranger's side), so I'd say what you propose in your question seems fine to me. (Thanks to @V2Blast for reminding me of this quote)

Finally #4; there are a few questions about changing how this works; the most relevant of which is likely this one (again, thanks to @V2Blast).

I can say that when DMing for my partner (whose first character was also a Beastmaster ranger), I suggested that it uses up her character's Bonus Action rather than Action, which means it still has a cost, but not one has harsh as using up an Action. Commanding the beast as a free action removes any cost, so I'd recommend a Bonus Action, which worked well for us and felt balanced (i.e. want to cast Hunter's Mark? Your beast does nothing this turn).

I know that the quote above from the Conjure Animals spell says "no action required by you", but in this case you've already paid the price of a spell slot, and it's a 3rd level spell, which for rangers specifically requires them to be level 9, so it's a big difference from an "always-on" class feature that you have from the level 3 Beastmaster archetype. Hence I'm sticking with my advice of having commands cost a Bonus Action.

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    \$\begingroup\$ on your #3, the source of the quote depends on what version of the Ranger they are using, but that is usually found right where the Animal Companion feature should be. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 May 16 '18 at 8:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have found a number of RPG.SE questions relating to the use of commands with animal companions, though I'm not sure which one you're referring to. Is this the one you mean? Would the Ranger be overpowered if their Animal Companion kept attacking once ordered? \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 16 '18 at 8:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ I vaguely recall #4 as well, but I think I might have misremembered it and it really is the one V2Blast linked above. Otherwise, I can't find it, time for a new question? \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 May 16 '18 at 8:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast That question might have been the one, this was a long time ago since I read the question I can only vaguely remember. As for your comment on #3, that might have been it; I'll see if anyone else comes up with anything else, and if not (or if yours still seems like the better fit), I'll use the quote you found and work it into my answer. Curse my memory... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS May 16 '18 at 8:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS: Maybe the quote you're thinking of is from a spell like Conjure Animals? "They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don't issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast May 16 '18 at 8:50

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