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Tasha's Cauldron of Everything's Primal Companion description says:

If you are incapacitated, the beast can take any action of its choice, not just Dodge.

Since it's a magically summoned primal beast, which draws strength from the Ranger's bond with nature, is it the player or GM who decides what actions the Companion takes, while the Ranger is incapacitated?

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1 Answer 1

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The players usually control their characters and use of class features, but this is not their character

the PHB says on page 5:

The DM creates adventures for the characters, who nav­igate its hazards and decide which paths to explore. The DM might describe the entrance to Castle Ravenloft, and the players decide what they want their adventurers to do.

Unless a feature explicitly says something different, the players decide how to use it. But they get to decide what they want their adventurers to do. The companion is a class feature of the Ranger character, but is not the character themselves, so this is a special situation where the creature is not the adventurer, even though it is part of a class feature. So the DM could decide to run them, or let the player run them.

For comparison various spells that summon creatures as part of the character's Spellcasting feature say:

If you don’t issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.

Here, the feature tells you how the creature behaves. The companion feature does not do that.

Some DMs will be happy to let you control the behavior. Other DMs generally reserve the right to control any creature other than the actual player character themselves unless the rules explicitly call out where or when the character can control their actions, so check with your DM how they handle it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This makes me want to play ranger even less than ever. It's looking like a good answer rules wise, but my goodness is this a shocking oversight from the Devs. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 16, 2023 at 10:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri it's dependent on the GM - I had GMs that said "You tell what the companion does but I reserve the right to veto unclear commands or circumstances that alter the behavior" and others that said "I run all creatures that are not directly controlled." \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Oct 17, 2023 at 0:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Why do you think that? \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Oct 17, 2023 at 9:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @biziclop because your character going unconscious sucks, and then to have it open to interpretation that you may lose control of your defining class feature which is very likely the whole reason you picked the class in the first place is nuts. Players should always control all their class features and not have to rely on a nice DM. Also beastmaster always was bad, and is still bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 17, 2023 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri For what it's worth, that was my starting attiude too. I tried to find support for it and ended up here. Our DM and I as DM would normally allow the character to control their companion, unless they blatantly let it do things that it would not know or be able too. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 17, 2023 at 16:46

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