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If a clause was added to Beast Master Rangers to allow them to spend a bonus action to have their companion to make a single attack after the ranger makes their own Attack action, what would the negative ramifications be?

My goal is to make the Beast Master (PHB, p. 93) on-par with the Xanathar's additions, which an overall consensus from the community is fairly clear that it is not.

Mechanically, I want this modification to play very similarly to dual wielding in terms of use, but I know that this does heavily change Beast Masters, and modifying the action economy without an expendable resource is a big deal.

Would this create a problem with Beast Master Rangers becoming too effective?

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    \$\begingroup\$ The Unearthed Arcana Revised Ranger allows the Beastmaster's companion to make an attack as a reaction whenever the Beastmaster makes an attack, that sounds effectively identical to what you're suggesting, except that it uses up the animal's reaction instead of the Ranger's bonus action. \$\endgroup\$ – DaaaahWhoosh Aug 1 '18 at 21:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I try to avoid using the UA Ranger since it breaks a lot of continuity with the official class options in Xanathar's. If someone wants to play Gloom stalker and another wants to play Beastmaster, do I allow 2 completely different ranger classes, or do I force everyone to play the official ranger and tell the animal lover to suck it? I'm more of a fan of using the original ranger and just slightly modifying it to make it palatable. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 1 '18 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "on Par"? \$\endgroup\$ – user28536 Apr 22 at 21:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user28536 I tried to leave it open ended, to be convinced by any good enough argument, but I'd probably say that "on par" would be a balance of abilities gained compared to the risk of a feature being irrelevant. The Gloomstalker's initiative attack is less effective than the Horizon Walker's damage bonus, but the Gloomstalker can nullify Darkvision, which is a lot more consistent than detecting portals. In this case, I consider Beastmaster subpar, because it has a lot of risk for little gain. There is a great chance to lose your subclass features, a risk no ranger subclass shares. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Apr 22 at 21:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @user28536 Or any classes' subclass shares, for that matter. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Apr 22 at 21:54
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This is not overpowered and works fine

I have personally run for a Ranger PC who went with Beastmaster, and as the DM I ruled this very thing; the animal companion can act on the Ranger's turn as a bonus action rather than an action. It worked well and it didn't make the Ranger seem overpowered compared to the other PCs.

It allows the Ranger to still attack on their turn, but also allows the animal to do something as well, rather than one of them seeming useless. It does still have a cost, so if the Ranger wants to cast Hunter's Mark, they need to not have the animal attack that turn, or if the Ranger is a dual wielder, then they've still got to choose between their off-hand attack or the animal (in my case, the PC was an archer, so this didn't come up).

Indeed, compared to a Ranger who is dual wielding, there's little mechanical difference, since there's still 2 attacks being made (or 3 once the Ranger has Extra Attack at level 5). If compared to the Hunter archetype, with class features like Break the Horde, they get to make 2 attacks (or 3 with Extra Attack at level 5) with just their action, so they still get to use Hunter's Mark as well, all in one turn.

Like I said, this houserule for Beastmaster Rangers is exactly what I ruled when I was for a Ranger PC, and it seemed well balanced to me and the players, and this was all the way from 3rd level to something like 9th I think before that character met their end...

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1; this is probably the best answer for being able to back up the analysis with actual gameplay experience. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 2 '18 at 11:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS From your description, it seems like you did not have a requirement that said that the Ranger must first attack before attacking with the companion as a bonus action (which mine does). What was your solution for the level 7 benefits (companion can use special movement actions using your bonus action on turns it doesn't attack)? \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 2 '18 at 15:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Daniel I don't quite remember, this was about a year ago now. I think we might have just ignored it, the player was more into roleplay and story than gameplay so they didn't really care about it. That is a good point, though; in retrospect, I'd have probably allowed the beast to do that stuff as it's bonus action, as though it had Cunning Action or something, but now we're into speculation rather than experience. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful on that point... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 2 '18 at 17:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ You have been more than helpful, thank you for your insight. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 2 '18 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I imagine a dimetrodon. With the proficiency bonus it gets +6 to hit and 2d6+4 in damage, which is basically a very potent greatsword attack. A ranger could conceivably attack with their own greatsword twice and then get another greatsword attack in as a bonus action. You don't think that is too much? \$\endgroup\$ – Behacad May 16 at 14:57
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No, it doesn't overpower the ranger

The core PHB ranger is generally held to be the weakest class in the game, even by the designers; such is noted in the article which published the UA Revised Ranger:

Over the past year, you’ve seen us try a number of new approaches to the ranger, all aimed at addressing the class’s high levels of player dissatisfaction and its ranking as D&D’s weakest class by a significant margin.

So right from the off, you should understand the core ranger is acknowledged to be at a disadvantage in power compared to the game's other classes, to such an extent that relatively minor changes to the class almost certainly aren't going to be game-breaking.

Building from that base, Beastmaster Rangers are considered to be the weakest Ranger archetype (and by logical extrapolation therefore the weakest class you can play), in large part because their action economy is so awful (this article does a good job describing the flaws it has before going on to review the revised version).

Allowing the animal companion to attack with the ranger's bonus action is a considerably less powerful change than those implemented by the Beast Conclave ranger from the Revised Ranger Unearthed Arcana, which allows the animal companion to just act on its own initiative, as well as (from 5th level) attack on your turn by using its reaction.

If you don't want to entirely adopt the UA Revised Ranger, you can very easily allow the use of the Beast Conclave archetype instead of the standard Beast Master. That would be a more significant change than you're suggesting, but it wouldn't be unbalancing compared to other class's abilities, and nothing in the Beast Conclave archetype depends on the other changes introduced by the UA. I'd strongly suggest doing that over half-measures to patch the Beastmaster.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have evidence that Beastmaster rangers are the least powerful "hands down"? While this may be true in combat (and that's still debatable), they offer a lot of options for other parts of the game that are unique to them so I would raise my hand. Providing some analysis would go a long way to justifying this. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Aug 1 '18 at 21:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron it's generally accepted, even by the designers of the game: "Over the past year, you’ve seen us try a number of new approaches to the ranger, all aimed at addressing the class’s high levels of player dissatisfaction and its ranking as D&D’s weakest class by a significant margin." Wizards explicitly recognises the class is significantly weaker than others and less fun to play. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 1 '18 at 21:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron additionally, the opening section of this article is a good brief analysis into why the Beastmaster ranger specifically is bad. Having an animal companion doesn't really offer any unique non-combat opportunities that a character casting Find Familiar doesn't have (and anyone can learn Find Familiar with the Ritual Caster feat). \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 1 '18 at 21:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Carcer That’s a great quote; it’s worth including that link in your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 1 '18 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron no, I'm saying that the ranger is hardly unique in being able to gain an animal companion of some kind - Wizards and Pact of the Chain Warlocks both also get a friendly little helper quite trivially, and the option is available for anyone who takes the Ritual Caster feat for wizard rituals too (which provides much more utility than just access to the Find Familiar spell). It's not an evaluation of the power level of the feature but of the uniqueness you claimed for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Carcer Aug 1 '18 at 21:36
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Yes, it is a bit too strong

You essentially gain the approximate benefits of a feat like Dual Wielder.

Two-Weapon Fighting

The light weapon limit to two-weapon fighting could essentially be bypassed with this system as you could use a higher damage weapon and still get an attack with your bonus action.

This is comparable to the weapon expansion portion of Dual Wielder.

Fighting Style

Also, to add the ability modifier to a second attack you would usually need to select the correct fighting style, but your variant ignores this.

This is comparable to the Armor Class portion of Dual Wielder. (A fighting style level benefit, i.e. the Defense Fighting Style)

Anything else?

The only other concern is that you could split up where you attack and have a hand free, but that will rarely be important.

Does Beastmaster Ranger deserve the benefit?

I am of the opinion that granting a free feat-level bonus to Beastmaster Ranger pushes it above the power level for the other classes.

If you treat your modified character as a dual-wielding fighter for analysis purposes, it deals comparable damage but trades (pre-level 10):

For

  • Action Surge
  • Second Wind
  • Indomitable
  • Martial Archetype features

While the fighter is clearly better combat-wise, the ranger compares due to its out-of-combat utility. The free fighting style and better weapon option makes it too strong.

After level 10, ranger features becomes even better with their higher level spells and since travel is more important in later tiers when dealing with threats of greater magnitude (as evident by the appearance of spells like teleport). Getting one more attack and one more archetype feature for the fighter doesn't compensate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a valid concern. It did occur to me, though, that dual wielding isn't a major class feature. It is a bonus that everyone gets as part of attacking with a second weapon in hand. As of right now, it seems like this proposal puts the animal companion slightly better than a generic rule that everyone can take advantage of. Compared to Hunter's Mark spell/Hunter subclass, I think B.M. still falls behind. Thanks for the advice, though. I'll continue to work on it. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 1 '18 at 21:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like it’s obvious that this change is improving beastmasters—that seems to be the point. The change seems akin to adding a new, special fighting style ability to the beastmaster—which is why it has a fighting-style-like benefit. Presumably, the question is whether the beastmaster was sufficiently “behind” before that this improvement isn’t a problem (for example, by making it strictly better than a dual-wielding fighter or rogue). I would like to see more analysis of how this change to the beastmaster causes that class to stack up against other classes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 1 '18 at 21:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ That’s not clear to me, then: this seems to read like it’s more like adding a feat+class feature (a feat and a fighting style), rather than just a feat. Moreover, there is no consideration of where the beastmaster was before the change—even if it improves the beastmaster by about a feat’s worth, one could easily argue (as Carcer has) that beastmasters were behind by about a feat’s worth, so an improvement of that magnitude is appropriate. This answer seems to compare the improved beastmaster against the unimproved beastmaster, rather than against other (better?) classes. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Aug 1 '18 at 21:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron I got to thinking about a prior analysis I made on the system, and it occurred to me that this modification might seem strong compared to dual wielding, but dual wielding is actually quite weak . Compared to a 2-handed weapon, dual wielding deals 1 damage more without feats/styles included, and costs a bonus action. Once Extra Attack is added in the mix, dual wielding does 2.5 damage less than 2-handed weapons, and gets weaker over time. I don't think dual wielding is the best option to compare to when it comes to high power levels, since it's weaker than alternatives. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Aug 1 '18 at 22:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ My only concern with this answer is that the companion can die, while your second hand's weapons can't, in the course of combat. (It is otherwise an interesting assessment of the proposal). \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 2 '18 at 14:00
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You are assuming that the community is correct. This is called a Consensus Gentium Fallacy. Also, what does "on par" mean? Each sub-class provides a different tactical options for players. In this case I'll assume you mean combat effectiveness or damage. If that is the case then the sub-class is fine as is.

I'll add the following information to back my point that Beast Master is fine as is. A giant poisonous snake with a level 3 Beast Master gets the following: +8 to attack roll. 1d4+6 bite damage. 3d6 poison damage (DC 10 con save for 1/2). On average; 9 bite bite damage and 6-12 poison damage . 15 - 21 damage total. You can add in that it has blindsight and 10-foot reach.

If you allow the ranger to attack the you get to add an extra 8 damage (+3 Dex and rapier; have not added fighting style). If both the ranger and the beast attacked at level 3 then we're talking about doing 23-29 damage at level 3 as opposed to 15-21 damage from just the snake.

The beast does not use up spell slots to do this extra damage the way a paladin would use smite nor does it use up martial dice for effects like knockdown, nor does it need to spend 1 action to prepare poison on a weapon.

Here is a short list for other CR 1/4 creatures damage, abilities and tactics:

  • Panther +6 to hit. 8 - 16 damage with possible knocked prone effect. (and has stealth to help gain surprise)
    Tactic: Ambush enemies and gain an effect on enemies.
  • Wolf +6 to hit. 9 damage and has Pack Tactics and with a possible knocked-prone effect.
    Tactic: Used direct combat creature with an 2 effects.
  • Giant Wolf Spider +5 to hit. 11 - 14 damage average with climbing (no check) speed of 40ft and +9 stealth.
    Tactic: fast moving, difficult terrain bypassing, great ambusher.
  • Giant frog +5 to hit. 7dmg and enemy is restrained on a hit.
    Tactic: Effect on enemies, bypass difficult terrain, does extra dmg to small targets

In comparison:

  • Gloom Stalker gains disguise self, Dread ambusher (1d8 + 1d8 +3 =12dmg average)and umbral sight.
  • Horizon Walker gains Protection from good and Evil, Detect portal, Planar warrior (1d8 + 1d8 +3 =12 force dmg average total)
  • Monster Slayer gains Protection from good and evil, Hunter's Sense, Slayer's Prey (1d6 + 1d8 +3 =11dmg average)

The choice of Beast for the Beast Master is probably the most important consideration and how the ranger will fight with his companion. If you are only interested in direct combat then there are some beasts you should not choose.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I agree that something like the Giant Poisonous Snake deals more damage than most other options, the remainder of the beasts you use as examples don't deal as much damage as the Xanathar's versions, and swapping out Companions takes a lot of time and gold. The Xanathar subclasses are also a lot more consistent, considering most of those benefits add an activation on an attack you were already going to make, potentially at range. However, a beast needs to always be in melee combat, and may miss. They provide some utility, but not much more than a Familiar could provide. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Apr 22 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ A Horizon Walker, for instance, will always deal 12 damage on that attack. A Companion may deal their 11 damage maybe 70% of the time. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel Zastoupil Apr 22 at 21:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Daniel Zastoupil. The damage varies they are not all lower, but every single one of them gets to add an effect. Something the horizon walker does not get. That doesn't prove that the Beast Master is an ineffective class. .All it proves is that the Horizon walker works one way and the the beasts work a different way. The Horizon walker also must hit for his ability to work. There is nothing stopping the Ranger from casting hunters mark and doing damage like the Horizon walker. With a Beast companion he he has more options. \$\endgroup\$ – user28536 Apr 23 at 0:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil Swapping companions does not take gold. Only time. Yes, your stuck with a stronger than usual beast for 1 day. That's not a issue. Yes, the beast needs to be in Melee combat. This is a combat game. Yes, it may miss but so could the Horizon walker. The horizon walker could run out of Ammo and then have to go into melee. These aren't issues. Animals companions are not the same mechanic as familiars. Both have different abilities and uses. Exp; Familiars cannot attack except by touch attack spell, nor do familiars gain AC,AB or HP. \$\endgroup\$ – user28536 Apr 23 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanielZastoupil How did you calculate 70%? \$\endgroup\$ – user28536 Apr 23 at 0:32

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