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I have created a bit of a homebrew companion for a Ranger (Beastmaster) PC, using the PHB companion rules. It's a raccoon, based on the Badger stats (with some minor tweaks; like a climb speed instead of a burrow speed - things like that).

However I was also wondering if it would be balanced to give the ability to instead of attack, simply dodge through the enemies, and if they moved through an enemy's square, they could inflict an extra d4 damage on that particular enemy, once per round.

So, a rough description would be:

Pick a random direction. You use your movement (20ft) Dodging between the enemies. If you move through an enemy's square, the next attack made against them (if it hits) attracts an additional d4 damage. This can be inflicted on the first square moved through, once per round.

The "random direction" can be managed however necessary (e.g. using a scatter die).

What I'm asking is: Is granting the ability to Dodge (cause disadvantage on attacks against it), and granting an additional d4 damage on the next attack made against an enemy (if the attack does not hit, no extra damage is dealt) balanced?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This ability says to pick a random direction, but doesn't say what to do with that random direction. Are you required to move in that direction? Attack in that direction? Dodge attacks from that direction? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 1, 2022 at 13:06

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If this replaces a beast master ranger's animal companion, it's too weak.

What it says on the tin. Not as good, less damage, less reliable. This being weaker might be fine if the ranger doesn't care or the rest of the party isn't optimized. But it is weaker.

If this is a non class feature animal like a Guard Dog or a Warhorse, it's fine.

It does very little but if your table thinks it's cool funny or interesting then the table time spent rolling for scatter dice and moving the token is likely not an issue. It doesn't do much, and likely requires the character's time and attention to take care of it, just like any other trained animal.

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It is not overpowered, but it may be too weak, and that is hard to fix

To quantify the effect on combat, let's compare this vs a monster at the high end of the companion range, the CR 1/4 Panther. You add your Proficiency Bonus (PB) to the attack, damage and AC in either case. This will give you

Property Racoon Panther Advantage
Damage +1d4 (2.5) 1d6+2+your PB (7.5 to 11.5) +5 to +9 Panther
To hit +your PB + your Stat Bonus (+3 to +5) +your PB+4 about same
AC 10+PB with Adv (up to +5 worth) 12+PB +3 Racoon

In effect you are trading in 5 to 9 damage for up to 3 more AC on the companion. How valuable is this AC compared to the damage?

If the opponents attack your companion, it might be useful. However, it is not clear if the opponents will attack a harmlessly-looking companion that is not attacking them at all, and may instead just attack the characters. In this case the AC would do nothing, and all you achieve is losing some damage. So it would be just weaker than a normal, bigger companion.

The problem is that there is no easy way to fix it. If you dial up the damage this deals to comparable levels, then this will be just straight better than a normal companion, due to extra AC. It depends a lot on how the monsters act.

The other issue with the design is the random movement. It makes this even weaker, because you can not realiably get the effect if your companion runs sideways or back to you half of the time.

It also does not mesh well with the movement rules: moving it randomly can lead to it ending up in another creature's space, which the rules do not allow. You could solve this part by using the normal companion rules:

On your turn, you can verbally command the beast where to move (no action required by you).

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