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The Ranger Beast Master subclass gets an animal companion under the ranger companion ability, which for free can move about the battle field, or using the Ranger's action can make an attack. Being a cr 1/4 creature, that attack is generally worse than the attack the ranger has by the time he gets the companion.

If the ranger was multiclassed a rogue, I could see the use of the companion moving about to be adjacent to enemies, but I'm not seeing what synergizes well without multiclassing.

Am I missing something, or should I tell my friend that his assessment is correct, and he should only choose the beast master if he wishes the fun of his animal companion but that the creature itself will not actually synergize very well with his class abilities?

I prefer a rules as written answer.

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If the GM allows it, your friend could now use the alternative to the Beast Master ranger which appears in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything (TCoE, p.61):

Primal Companion, 3rd-level Beast Master feature, which replaces the Ranger's Companion freature.

This option has more synergy with class development - possibly mult-classing, too.

This alternative to the ranger sub-class does not rely on CR; it says:

You magically summon a primal beast, which draws strength from your bone with nature. [...] When you finish a long rest, you can summon a different primal beast. The new beast appears in an onoccupied space within 5 feet of you.

The Primal Companion alternative also provides three options to choose from for your companion, a beast of the land, of the sea or of the sky. Your ranger's companion will also evolve as your PC increases in ranger levels, proficiency bonus modifier and spell attack modifier - hence the synergy.

  • Ranger Levels increases: Hit Points
  • PB increases: AC, damage
  • Spell attack modifier increases: to Hit bonus (attack modifier)

Not only that, you also get a way of returning the beast back to life:

If the beast has died within the last hour, you can use your action to touch it and expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher. The beast returns to life after 1 minute with all its hit points restored.

If your friend wishes to multi-class with a Rogue, it might be worth considering the sub-class of Mastermind (XGtE) at level 3, as he'd be able to use Master of Tactics and use the Help option as a bonus action to give his Primal Companion (beast) an advantage on attack rolls. This would mean that the Ranger would need to use one of its Attack actions so that the companion attacks. Still, it's a fair synergy. I would not multi-class until the ranger reaches 5th level though, as the Ranger will need the Extra Attack to increase their damage output and versatility.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @purplemonkey Thanks for the help with the tidy-up. :) You're the best. \$\endgroup\$ – Senmurv Dec 20 '20 at 20:06
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Well, the way I reckon it, a third level Beast Master ranger has a proficiency bonus of +2, and assuming a 16 STR would attack at +5 for say 1d8+3 or 1d10+3 damage depending on weapon.

A third level Beast Master ranger that has e.g. a Wolf, adds his +2 proficiency bonus to its attack and damage, so its normal +4/7(2d4+2) attack becomes +6/9(2d4+4), which is +1/+1 better than the ranger's. The Wolf gets advantage when near an ally, as well... A Panther would get multiple attacks instead... I think their attacks are at least somewhat competitive with the ranger's. Their attack and damage scales with the ranger's proficiency bonus. And if they're in melee and not the ranger - then it's a lot longer before the ranger dies.

Having said that, I would certainly house rule that once you command an animal to attack someone, it's going to keep attacking of its own accord and you only need to spend an action to order it to change what it's doing. It's goofy otherwise. "Sit. I SAID SIT!!!"

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's silly to have to order a beast to attack a hostile creature every turn... even an untrained animal will attack a threat until neutralised. \$\endgroup\$ – Khashir Sep 12 '14 at 16:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ We may also want to note that ranger companions may have more uses than simple combat; scent, for instance, is invaluable when tracking. I think that may be an important note when analyzing a class. \$\endgroup\$ – PipperChip Sep 12 '14 at 16:54
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By a strict interpretation of the rules, in a very game-oriented way that is kind of hard to explain logically as the behavior of a real animal, the companion only attacks when you use up your own action to command it to do so. At higher levels, you get to basically share your own extra attacks, but it's not a net win. That makes beast companions questionable in combat — not necessary awful, but not really getting you anything (and no particular synergy).

However, movement is free, and once you get to 7th level, the direction to Help can be taken as a bonus action. That can be very powerful, and sets up a lot of possibilities for synergy. If your companion is an owl, it has a fly speed of 60ft, and the flyby ability avoids opportunity attacks — fly in, grant advantage, and fly out again. This great in cases where you go from nothing to advantage, and essential when you would otherwise have disadvantage. (Want to make a net fighter? Here you go. Hmmm, probably with a giant wolf spider companion....) And, you don't have to focus this on yourself — instead, grant advantage to the party's high-crit fighter, or whereever else it will do the most.

There can also be a lot of synergy with the ranger's role as a scout. Many possible companions have extra senses (darkvision, keen scent) and are skilled in Perception (so add your proficiency bonus to what's already there).

I think the house rule to give the companion a little more independent action isn't game-breaking, but if your DM/gaming group want to play this strictly RAW, Helpful companions might be the way to go.


An update, several years later: see the article The Ranger, Revised, part of the "Unearthed Arcana" series of exploratory mechanics and options published on the Wizards website. Among other things (largely, boosts) the Animal Companion is significantly reworked, and in particular the companion in this version now acts on its own initiative. If you're thinking of playing a ranger with a companion, ask your DM about this option.

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