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I'm about to DM a new campaign using the DnD 5e ruleset and one of my players has created a character with an interesting circumstance that will likely warrant some creative application of the DnD 5e rules and I'm not quite sure how to handle this case...

The player character is a half-elf monk that was cursed in adolescence resulting in her losing her ability to speak, her companion was also cursed and transmuted to a dog. The half-elf and the dog communicate telepathically and the dog can speak in common and other languages, the dog communicates to the world verbally on behalf of the half-elf.

It may be worth mentioning that the telepathic link exists due to the fact that they were both hit by the same curse although originally they were different people

This presents a practical challenge with regards to the behaviour, control and mechanics of both entities.

The goal is having one or a pair of PCs that works as described, that reduces the amount of mechanical thrash (i.e., I can apply the rules of 5e as-is without too much deviation from that), and makes it an easy and enjoyable experience for the player.

Here are a few ways I have thought of:

  1. Maintaining 2 character sheets that the player will control
  2. One character sheet but the two entities are inextricably linked, their have a single state between them and they share a single set of stats and capabilities (e.g. if the dog dies, the half-elf dies and vice versa)
  3. The dog is an NPC controlled by the DM but with a very strong bond with the PC, it has the stats of a creature comparable to a domestic dog
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Szega, NautArch, KorvinStarmast, Erik Jul 9 '18 at 14:28

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What are you trying to accomplish? What problem should a good answer solve? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 9 '18 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega - I'm trying to accomplish a solution that reduces the amount of mechanical thrash (i.e. I can apply the rules of 5e as-is without too much deviation from that) and makes it an easy and enjoyable experience for the player. \$\endgroup\$ – user1740761 Jul 9 '18 at 12:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Please take a look at this "how to make a homebrew question fit this site" meta so that this does not get closed as opinion based. As it stands now, this question needs to be restructured this question so that it has more answerable criteria. Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get a sense of how an SE Q&A site is different from an internet discussion forum. If you are casting about for ideas, the forum(we have a curated list at this link) is a better option. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jul 9 '18 at 12:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks @KorvinStarmast - I'll restructure this question. \$\endgroup\$ – user1740761 Jul 9 '18 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ Has the player indicated why he wants this to be the way his PC interacts with the setting? I mean, it's cool to have original ideas and all, but some things that'd work fine in print or on screen won't work as well in a tabletop role-playing game predicated on killing monsters and taking their stuff. That is, what does the player want from this unique the-dog-talks-for-the-human experience? Does the player just think it would be cool? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 9 '18 at 14:10
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Honestly, to reduce the amount of mechanical thrash as you put it, I'd simply have it work exactly as a regular familiar only instead of a fey, celestial, or infernal: you have the soul of your PC's friend in there as the "spirit."

Give it some fluff reason that way "the magical curse separated the NPCs soul from her body, but before it could escape into whatever foul machination the PC managed to bind it into a familiar, but the effort this involved meant she couldn't defend herself effectively and so lost her voice." Or some other reason, this will let you get on with enjoying 5E without worrying about balance or having to make extra stuff up.

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You can copy the Ranger's Beast Master feature without the addional bonuses to the companion.

Here's how to make this work:

  • Let the player track the dog's stats on a 2nd sheet, even half a page should be more than enough really. (You can use the Mastiff stat block on MM pg.332)
  • Alter the Mastiff's mental stats as you see fit, unless the curse affects the way the creature thinks as well.

  • DM controls the dog when out-of-combat -during role play as a former humanoid-. Keep in mind the strong bond these characters have with each other.

  • Player controls the dog's actions in-combat. Should be fine since they have such a strong bond and can communicate telepathically. As the dog will follow the player's lead.

You can give the dog its own turn in the initiative order. I don't see a 1/8 CR tilting the encounter balance too much. Though you might want to prepare for any clever ways to somehow abuse this additional party member.

I have tried this and adding a 1/8 CR does affect party balance... The dog not only provides a bit of extra damage, it serves as a trigger for sneak attack, can sponge full attacks from some enemies, and can flank (if you are using flanking rules).

As @David Coffron mentioned on the quote above, the mastiff may have some positive effects to the combat, I often give my players temporary companions and the encounters are calculated accordingly. This is something to keep in mind.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you run this at your own table to know that this works? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 9 '18 at 12:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I'll go refresh myself on Ranger's BM and see the similarities. I didn't have that in mind as I wrote the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – FenrirG Jul 9 '18 at 13:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I have tried this and adding a 1/8 CR does affect party balance (my current party has a pet Mastiff that is controlled by the characters due to a magic item. The dog not only provides a bit of extra damage, it serves as a trigger for sneak attack, can sponge full attacks from some enemies, and can flank (if you are using flanking rules). \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 9 '18 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron Sending a 5hp mastiff (pretty much your best friend -more than just being a best friend dog at this point-) in to sponge damage is what I list as abuse, don't allow the mastiff death saving throws and see what they do with that. \$\endgroup\$ – FenrirG Jul 9 '18 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair. I was just explaining the pure mechanical aspect. Role play changes everything (the pet in my game is a combat dog so... we work with it) \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Jul 9 '18 at 14:01

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