I've always felt that having an animal companion was a vital element of the class identity of Druids, which the Druid in 5th Edition lacks entirely. It was for this very reason that until recently, I hadn't even played a Druid in 5e because it felt like a core part of what I loved about the class was gone. This subclass is my effort to restore a part of the Druid I feel was lost in 5th edition.
I've been tinkering with this on-and-off for a while, and I wanted to get it finalized before I allowed it in my games, or brought it to my DM. I have done some playtesting 1 on 1 with a friend, and it does suffer from the same problems as Moon Druid early, in the sense that CR1 beasts at level 2 are quite potent, but by 6th, 10th, and 14th level, the power had fallen off considerably and it didn't feel unreasonable.
The Circle of the Companion homebrew druid subclass is as follows:
Circle of the Companion
Beginning at 2nd level, you can magically summon an animal companion, which draws strength from your bond with nature. The beast is friendly to you and your companions and obeys your commands. Choose its stat block — Companion of the Land, Companion of the Sea, or Companion of the Sky — which uses your proficiency bonus (PB) in several places, all detailed at the end of this subclass description. You decide what your animal companion looks like, including height, weight, coloration, hair length, and other distinguishing features, choosing a kind appropriate for the stat block. Whatever kind you choose, the animal companion bears primal markings, indicating its mystical origin.
In combat, your animal companion acts during your turn. It can move and use its reaction on its own, but the only action it takes is the Dodge action, unless you use a bonus action on your turn to command it to take another action. That action can be one in its stat block or some other action. You can also sacrifice one of your attacks when you take the Attack action to command your companion to take the Attack action. If you are unable to issue commands, your animal companion can take any action of its choice, not just the Dodge action. While you are incapacitated, it will attempt to protect you with its life, and remove you from combat when possible.
If your animal companion has died within the last hour, you can use your action to touch it and expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher. Your animal companion returns to life after 1 minute with all its hit points restored.
When you finish a long rest, you can summon a different animal companion. Your new companion appears in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of you, and you choose its stat block and appearance. If you already have an animal companion from this feature, it vanishes when the new companion appears. Your companion also vanishes if you die.
The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform your animal companion into more dangerous animal forms. Starting at 2nd level, you can expend two uses of your Wild Shape at the same time and touch your companion to transform it into a beast, as in the Wild Shape class feature, except where noted here. Your companion can transform into any beast with a challenge rating as high as 1, and it ignores the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there.
Starting at 6th level, you can transform your companion into any beast with a challenge rating equal to or less than your druid level divided by 3 (round down).
Regardless of the form your companion assumes, it retains the benefits of its Primal Bond trait, and it bears the primal markings indicating its mystical origin.
Starting at 6th level, your animal companion's attacks count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage. Additionally, it gains a +1 bonus to its attack and damage rolls in all forms.
Master of Many Forms
At 10th level, while your animal companion is under the effects of your Companion Forms subclass feature, you can use your action and touch your companion to cause it to assume a different form following the same restrictions of your Companion Forms feature, with one exception - if its new form has more hit points than its current one, its hit points remain at their current value.
At 14th level, your spirit has merged with your companion's. Now effectively one spirit in two bodies, you have become intrinsically linked to each other, and any damage sustained is suffered by both.
As long as your animal companion is on the same plane as you, you gain the following benefits:
- You share a telepathic bond with your animal companion.
- You have resistance to all damage types.
- Whenever you take damage, your animal companion takes the same amount. This damage can't be reduced by Spirit Bond, and the damage doesn't trigger itself.
- You regain 3 hit points at the end of each of your turns. You do not gain this benefit if you have 0 hit points.
As long as you are on the same plane as your animal companion, it gains the following benefits:
- Your animal companion shares a telepathic bond with you. It can take any action on its turn, without the need to use your bonus action to command it.
- Your animal companion has resistance to all damage types.
- Whenever your animal companion takes damage, you take the same amount. This damage can't be reduced by Spirit Bond, and the damage doesn't trigger itself.
- Your animal companion regains 3 points at the end of each of your turns. It does not gain this benefit if it has 0 hit points.
Additionally, you can use a bonus action to see through your animal companion's eyes and hear what it hears until the start of your next turn, gaining the benefits of any special senses that your animal companion has. During this time, you are deaf and blind with regard to your own senses.
The animal companions are carbon-copies of the Primal Companions in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, pg. 61.
Spirit Bond offers some considerable staying power, and it's the feature I'm most concerned about in terms of balance, but it's a bit of a hidden drawback; if you're concentrating on a spell when your companion suffers damage, you suffer the same amount, which triggers a Concentration check for the aforementioned spell.
Alternatively, if both you and your companion were within the area of effect of a spell or effect, both would suffer damage, which would then apply to both via Spirit Bond, effectively requiring two Concentration checks if you are concentrating on a spell.
Is this homebrew Circle of the Companion subclass for Druid balanced? What changes would you recommend or consider, or does this look good-to-go as is? Any input and criticism is welcome, and thanks for taking the time to look over it.