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I am not DM, just a player. In our party of newbies we have a (PHB) ranger who just recently got her beast companion (a panther if you're curious). The problem is our party also found a cat with wings - a tressym - and it was taken in by our bard. (Technically, it is part of a quest and meant to be returned to its rightful owner, but I doubt our party will actually do that.) The DM didn't really give her control over it; the bard just said something like, "I take the cat and put it in my backpack," and so now I guess it's hers.

After the session, the ranger confided in me that she didn't feel very special about having her own animal if other people are going to get them too. Now we're only level 4 and she only had her panther for 1 session that had 2 very quick fights so there hasn't been a lot of time to experiment and play with the panther. I know it will get more powerful and just better as time goes on but I'm wondering how I can convince her.

I guess I should mention that the ranger in question is also my wife so I really don't want her to feel sad about her panther.

How can I help our ranger feel special about her beast companion?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Related on what the rules say about taming animals apart from Ranger archetype. Personally, I would require a multiclass into ranger to gain the benefits of a companion (otherwise treating a random animal as an NPC that would probably not fight with the party). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17 '19 at 14:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidCoffron, Thanks, and I understand this but I'm looking for ways to let her know that her animal is more special than the other one. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17 '19 at 14:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm honestly not sure what we can do here because I think the DM needs some guidance. I can put together an answer, but it'll be for the DM and not really for you or the other player. It's best if the DM (or the player concerned) asks. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 17 '19 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch, Thats fair. I'll bring it up to her pretty soon. Probably just show her this post. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17 '19 at 15:50
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Since someone answered what the DM should do and how he should think about the ranger's animal companion VS other, normal, beasts, let me tell you what I would do as a player since that's the actual question here.

I believe that a lot of the "fun of RP" (for lack of a better term) is up to the players. The DM is NOT the only one responsible for it, so there is actually a lot you can do as a player to give more "spotlight" to the ranger and her animal companion.

There are many ways that I think you can shine the spotlight on the ranger's animal companion easily since it is smarter, stronger and more skilled than that flying cat will ever be, even if that bard comes to tame it.

The panther will always make a better scout than the cat. You should suggest, in character, than it is used this way which will allow the ranger to use its class feature to help the group. Or just have it there when you send the ranger to scout.

When the panther succeeds at something, anything, give it a reward. It can be giving a treat, but maybe the group's barbarian could play (aka wrestle) with it from time to time ?

Spellcasters could buff it during fights, so it has more survivability ... which should make your ranger happy.

The panther could also be used as a sentry. It could get its own guard shifts when the group is sleeping, for it would be smart/trained enough to wake up the ranger or raise the alarm if it smells/hears/sees something suspicious during the night. Of course, it wouldn't be smart enough to wake the next guard so maybe it should get the last shift of the night.

You could suggest than the panther may be used for hunting and when it brings back juicy morsels it gets a part of it like any other group member and the rest is cooked for supper.

A panther is also a lot more intimidating than a flying cat. Next time you interrogate a prisonner, make sure to ask the ranger to use its panther, have it licking its chops with a hungry stare to intimidate the interrogated party.

Hell, the panther could even be made a tracker (or the ranger's helper when she is tracking) ... I'm sure the ranger would realize how better the panther is compared to that cat who can't really help with anything other than "being cute".


Basically, what I'm saying is there are a lot more ways to "use" the animal companion than any other animal group members might have, tamed or not. If she doesn't feel like her panther (and thus her ranger) is useful enough, I would have my character suggest as often as possible that "This might be a good job for our panther and its mistress".

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem with this is that the basic ranger pet is rubbish at everything you suggested. Sending a panther to scout is going to end up with a dead panther and no information and no real way of knowing the panther is dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Jul 17 '19 at 17:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri metagaming-ly speaking you are totally right. But this is also a "RP" question. Here we are not being asked if the options are good or rubbish, we are asked "what could be done to correct this feeling a player has about her animal companion". \$\endgroup\$
    – Catar4
    Jul 17 '19 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Jul 19 '19 at 16:09
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Companion animals are like NPC's - they need personality as well as stats to shine.

When a player has an animal that's part of a class feature it's a character as much of the rest of the players - the flying cat won't be able to do much as the bard isn't trained to do anything with it, if anything it should act like a normal cat, sleep, run off, hide, etc.

The panther is more intelligent, more capable (ok, except for flying) and needs persona like any other animal; I've done this with players and characters through several editions of D&D as well as other systems, but what the player needs is their animal to feel special and more real - to do this give the animal quirks, personality and make it useful.

Do a bit of research into Panthers - they can climb, like sleeping in trees, play up to that, find a favourite food that the panther likes to hunt and add it into things like perception checks ("Shadow sniffs the air and turns her head towards the door, it looks like she's smelt something or someone") in combat describe how the panther moves, strikes, make other NPCs react to the Panther as well - it's a massive intimidating beast and NPC's should be impressed that the Ranger has such a creature tamed and as a friend. More than this, ask the player what THEY like about Panthers, why they chose it as a pet - use this to help make the Panther a character to remember, and make sure it has a name, one that it likes.

TL;DR: Make the Panther a character that everyone will remember, add quirks (food it likes, places it sleeps, ways it acts - like rubbing against trees or cleaning it's claws in front of people it doesn't like) add it into the party activities (initiative and perception rolls, sniffing for traps - make it useful, it's a big class feature) make the NPCs react to it, make the Panther react to other people in the group (The flying cat would probably be crazy scared of it and hide for one)

Note: These are GM activities, but they work with players as well, but it's something the Ranger player can talk to the GM about; as a player you can push these activities as well as a GM, if the GM is cool with it you can play the Panther as a second PC distinctly separate from the ranger, the other players will pay attention to little arguments between the Ranger and the Panther, when things are going on describe what the Ranger and the Panther are doing separately.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for this. I think it will be really helpful. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 17 '19 at 15:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ I really enjoyed the lore bit about real world panthers. I upvoted even though I really believe 'making the panther a NPC' changes way too much in the way the interaction would play out to be a fun way to deal with the situation ... especially since there are easier ways to deal with the situation without requiring an understanding with the DM ... which I try not to do as a DM, to keep my options open without having to worry about going back on my word. \$\endgroup\$
    – Catar4
    Jul 18 '19 at 3:20
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There really isn't anything you can do (until she directly asks you to intervene)

It's wonderful that you are concerned about the table dynamics, but the problem right now is between the player controlling the ranger and the DM. What you can do is highlight some potential concerns to the DM, but I wouldn't do that without first talking the other player and making sure it's okay to speak for them.

An issue of control (NPCs vs Animal Companions)

The beastmaster ranger is a class that specifically gets an animal companion that is fully under their control. Technically, the beastmaster animal is the only one that is fully under the control of the player/character RAW.

The new animal introduced as a NPC should be a NPC. It should be controlled by the DM. While the bard may be carrying it, it isn't theirs anymore than another NPC in the party is theirs to control. If the DM has given them full control over it, than that is a real concern considering the role of the beastmaster. If anything, the beastmaster should be handling this thing.

What you can do

What you can do is help foster an atmosphere of communication. Talk to the player more. If they really have an issue, you can help them to bring it up to the DM if they ask for your help. But do not, in any circumstances, do anything for the player if they haven't given you permission.

A personal perspective

I've at times complained about other players and the DM to other players. Had they assumed that I was asking them to intervene and they did so, I would have been very unhappy. I'd even have thought there was a breach of trust if they had done so. Thankfully, they did not and simply allowed me to vent my frustrations and only provided an ear to listen.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are for constructive criticism only. We don't communicate via sarcasm here. If you have a suggestion for improvement to make, be respectful about it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Jul 17 '19 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ That being said, I do think this answer could be improved by incorporating experience you have with the NPC issues and with solving DM communication issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rubiksmoose
    Jul 17 '19 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @rubiksmoose my point was that this is a third party asking the question. Any guidance really needs to go to the two people involved who are not OP \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 17 '19 at 21:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Catar4 Yes, they do state it, but they don't state that she gave permission to speak for her. My wife tells me lots of things. If I were to act on those things without her permission and intercede myself between her and the person she's complaining about...that's not going to go well for me :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 18 '19 at 13:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland Totally reasonable if you want to downvote! Don't feel bad, I'm a big boy and fake internet points aren't a big deal :) But in general, it's not a good idea to assume someone needs or wants you to intervene when you're complaining. It's not about my marriage, it's about interpersonal relationships. Just like if I was complaining about the DM to another player, I'd be angry if they went to the DM about my concerns without me asking. I'll add that. \$\endgroup\$
    – NautArch
    Jul 18 '19 at 13:56
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Make little suggestions like: "hey, why don't you send the panther to scout ahead?"

The big difference between any NPC and PC (including animals) is that PCs tend to be a lot more deep in RP during gameplay, so little suggestions like that will help to include the animal in the history just like another character.

The rest will depend only on the ranger herself...

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to see how to get the most out of a Q&A site in the SE model. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18 '19 at 3:14
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Because of comments to my first answer and the fact that I personally think I only suggested options that require dices being rolled, which inherently includes a risk of the player (or panther) actually failing and dying, I'm gonna give you some more suggestions as to ways of 'shining the spotlight' on the Animal Companion that do not imply risking its life (no matter the fact that it can always be brought back).

Remind the ranger and the rest of the party of the Panther's existence

This can be done multiple ways.

There are passive ways of doing it. Mention that your character falls asleep petting the panther around the campfire, when you get the opportunity.

Or mention that you hate when the panther brings dead animals to your bedroll, when you wake up one of those mornings ... if you want to develop a more conflictual relationship with the panther (and its ranger).

A more active way of doing it is by including PCs other than yours or the ranger, by reminding them to buy food for the panther when they are sent to go shopping for supplies. Or ask the ranger what is the panther's favorite snack, if you go hunting for food.

Create RP opportunities by simply "reminding" the group that there is a panther in their midst, basically. Chose your moment and do this for all characters in your group and soon you will find that everybody joins in and thus a real group dynamic is created.

The ranger should use the animal companion as support

Maybe the ranger class really is the under powered class everybody says it is. But I still think that, with the animal companion's ability to use the Help action on command, the ranger really has many opportunities to shine, especially out of combat.

Having the panther constantly assisting the ranger can make the ranger VERY efficient at all her skill checks and attacks.

Even though it is not a given, a DM could rule that having the ranger use 1 action to ask its animal companion to help her follow tracks/sneak/get through those vines is not a command that needs to be repeated every round ...

... which can make the ranger very good at 'skills'. With stealth, this makes for a very efficient scout. With survival, this makes for a very efficient tracker and huntress. This can be applied to almost all skill checks a ranger would want to make, except knowledge checks. Potentially, depending on the DM.

Also, do not forget the fact the animal companion is expandable. It can be a life saver that rogues never get when they go scouting. It can be sacrificed to gain precious seconds and allow a ranger to survive where a lot of others would die, especially at lower level. When worst comes to worst, this is a very versatile way to deal with the situation.

Get the ranger to actually play to her nature/strengths

A ranger is supposed to be wild. The fact that it actually befriends a panther is proof of that.

Would the ranger and her panther let themselves be replaced by a bard and a flying kitten ? This might be an opportunity for a 'friendly' competition between pet tamers.

Or maybe the ranger and the panther actually fell in love with that flying cat ? The panther and ranger might end up as the perfect protectors for that other feline ?

Or maybe the panther decides to just try and eat the kitten, thus forcing the party to get into all kinds of shenanigans to try and recapture it ? A DM could also have a lot of fun with this kind of situation, created by the ranger's personality/reaction to the world surrounding her.

Create your own inside jokes centered around the panther

This is more of a OOC way to create shared history in a group, but it is just as effective as other ways, when done right.

Maybe the ranger will succeed at everything it tries to do by being lucky on dice ? Make jokes about the panther being a lucky charm or something.

Maybe the ranger will fail everything due to bad luck ? Just keep muttering about how "black cats bring bad luck" until the ranger's player actually decides to change her animal companion by getting supersticious !

Finally

In the end, most of the responsability of making the ranger + animal companion combo effective and/or fun is actually up to the player, the ranger.

Other players can help, by interacting with the animal companion in character or talking about its successes or fails... but in the end, it is also a lot about how the ranger itself accomplishes by itself what we can only hope will lead to good fun.

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See if your wife can switch to using the Revised Ranger, or possibly respec to a different character build

So, the thing about the PHB Beast Master Ranger is that its abilities aren't special or good and everyone else can just get an animal too if they want-- in fact regular animals you just acquire during your travels or from a store are better companions than the one the ranger gets in almost every way.

The 'Revised Ranger' tries to address some of these problems, and its Beast Master is at least better at having animal companions than a character would be without any class abilities (i.e. the class abilities no longer actively hinder you in what they are supposedly helping you with), but it still seems to think 'you have an animal that fights with you' is somehow special, where in actuality anyone who likes RP and can cast Speak With Animals (and, arguably, even those who cant cast that spell) can have an animal companion if they want.

The revised Beast Conclave ranger at least gets some upgrades to their animal companion, though they do lose multi-attack, and the 3rd level ability all rangers get-- Primeval Awareness-- is extremely good. Assuming the DM is willing, you should get your wife to rebuild using the Revised Ranger instead, so that her character is actually good with animals, rather than worse at animals because of her class choice despite that being literally the only thing the subclass has going for it. If she chooses the Beast conclave and keeps her panther, you can point out the extra skill proficiencies and armor her panther gets from that choice-- and her ability to swap it out for a new one with different skills daily for only 50 gp-- as ways her character's class choices contributes to her animals being better at stuff than just any random schmuck with a panther.

If that's not enough or the UA is not allowed for whatever reason, see if the DM will let her respec to a completely different character-- being a PHB beast master ranger is a sad, sad time if you don't like playing a character who isn't good at anything, particularly if you thought they were going to be good with animals.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you've been Over Powering Speak With Animals in your game! I'm speaking with you just now, doesn't make you compelled to come travel, fight and potentially give your life for me though does it ::Looks cautiously at the door:: ?! My understanding is the ranger bond is much more than simply the ability to communicate that the spell gives (ignoring the stat adjustments etc.) Although I agree switching to the UA might be good (I've just done the same) I'm not sure it'll address the fundamental issue. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18 '19 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @RyanfaeScotland that's what dialouge does. Yes, it doesn't magically compell animals (very much), but usually a character with speak with animals reveres nature and so usually they are doing whatever quest they are doing to address a nearby immediate threat to Nature and so usually most animals already have a vested interest in common with the character and working together to some extent is obviously beneficial to everyone involved. The spell even goes so far to suggest this, but it is not really relevant to the answer; people can get animal allies sans ranger levels w/wo spells. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 18 '19 at 23:45
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I think that the best you could do is tell your wife to talk to the DM and maybe the bard. If your wife's problem is really that the bard got a pet, and now she just "doesn't feel special", maybe you should explain to her how her panther is way better than a flying cat. It can attack, follow commands, and is directly controlled by her. The cat, while it can fly is still a cat. It's much weaker, and is normally controlled by the DM and probably would fly away from a serious fight. Essentially, unless the bard wants to make the cat her familiar (which by RAW isn't technically possible but 99% of DM's would probably let it fly) it's essentially just has a interesting role play tool. If your wife has a problem with other players having pets because she feels it takes away from her role play I think the onus is on her to make that not the case.

Maybe your wife isn't a good role player or maybe the bard is just a real show stopper. If that's the case, the best scenario would be for her to talk to the bard and the DM about how she feels, but I don't see a resolution in that scenario that wouldn't involve someone being upset, either your wife is told to deal with it and that it's unreasonable for her to have a monopoly on pets just because she's a beastmaster, or the DM takes away the bards cat and bans the party from having NPC pets because your wife is jealous, in which case the bard isn't going to be happy. If your wife feels like she's just underpowered and wants to shine more in combat (which would be totally reasonable considering she's playing BM ranger) then she should consider asking the DM to use some of the UA fixes to ranger, or going online to look for some good homebrew fixes her DM can approve.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this advice based on any specific experience? We require answers to questions like this to be based on experience. Having actually been in relevant situations give an important perspective. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    May 23 '20 at 21:03

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