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So in our last session of Dungeon World the Ranger's animal companion came under direct attack by a PC. The pet in question is a huge 'eagle' called Trace. We're sure it's actually a disguised dragon whelp or young Roc, but the Ranger just grins whenever we ask her how she got her... unique... pet.

The PC in question, the Thief, had just joined the campaign and decided he was a foreigner who had arrived in the last few days, thus having no chance of any personal history with the current group. Approaching our camp at night he missed on a Defy Danger roll to remain unseen by us and was subsequently attacked and mildly wounded by the patrolling 'eagle', which of course he promptly stabbed in retaliation. At the time we ruled along the lines of the Man's Best Friend move (which the Ranger doesn't actually have) and put the companion out of action until it had rested for a while.

If the companion's attacker had been a NPC/Monster this would have been more easily handled as the GM could just narrate what happened, including the effects on the companion and what it would take to lift them. However in this case the Thief, since he didn't know what this terrifying flapping monstrosity was, was making a dedicated bid to murder it, triggering a move which inflicts HP damage (Hack and Slash) on something lacking defined HP.

Looking through the rulebook afterwards (out of curiosity) I was surprised to find a distinct lack of guidance and advice on animal companions and the Man's Best Friend move is the only place where harm to the companion is mentioned at all.

This binary active/not-active state doesn't really sit well with me outside of that move's scope, as it leaves me zero guidance on how life-threatening a given amount of HP damage would be to an animal companion.

How can I get an idea of how severe the fictional harm to an animal companion is?

Aside: I noted that mechanically the animal companion mechanics seem superficially similar to Apocalypse World's Driver mechanics (Command is very similar to No @#$% Driver) and AW provides guidelines in its rules for how vehicles, NPCs and gangs generally react to harm but I can't figure out how this guidance might be converted.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think your problem has something to do with PvP more than handling damage to the animal companion. That's just using hard moves on the ranger and narrate the consequences. \$\endgroup\$ – user4000 Oct 17 '14 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MrJinPengyou I understand that I need to narrate the consequences of actions taken, I'm just trying to get an idea of how severe those consequences should be for a given amount of damage/murderous intent. e.g. Does the animal just need a rest, or does it need attention from a healer? I might just be too hung up on how neatly Apocalypse World handles this sort of event but it's definitely something I wish the Dungeon World rules went into more detail on. \$\endgroup\$ – Aiken Oct 17 '14 at 13:09
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The best way for the GM to handle this is to keep in mind: Don't eff with The Ranger's Animal Companion. Just like you don't break The Fighter's Signature Weapon. ...Unless they really ask for it. Which in this case, The Ranger certainly hasn't.

What's more important, this one attack by The Thief, or the thing that makes The Ranger cool? You can be a fan of both characters and have the Animal Companion get wounded and put out of the fight. But it's not so badly hurt that it can still get away and survive the day. Which is what you did, so that's very cool.

The Animal Companion doesn't have HP because it's not meant to get killed. Really, the only way one should get killed is if The Ranger understands that what he's having it do is going to get it killed. For example, if The dying Wizard needs a healing potion and you have it fly one over to him, but the GM tells you it can do that, but it will definitely get filled with arrows and die if it does, well, then that's your choice. Er... That's not a great example, but it does show what I mean. When you're talking about the Animal Companion dying, the Ranger gets to choose.

Here's a excellent write up about using Animal Companions in Dungeon World. You'll find good examples of ways to use GM moves on the Animal Companion without killing it: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MCAVL9DzB3EZqbzRb57YQgzZkuhE32x89vvSzVZ8Ke0/edit

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    \$\begingroup\$ Minor gripe with this answer: The Fighter's Signature Weapon is specifically called out as having 'Protection from GMs' but The Ranger's Animal Companion isn't, giving the Signature Weapon an even higher (i.e. explicitly written) level of protection than "stuff that makes The <Class> cool". I don't feel like this comparison really stands to scrutiny. I'd try to avoid killing the companion outright but the severity of a fictional injury dealt to it should, I feel, reflect the HP damage done by whatever harmed it and was looking for guidance on that front. \$\endgroup\$ – Aiken Oct 16 '14 at 9:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ Did The Ranger push things too far? Did The Ranger knowingly risk the AC's life? Just be his fan. Killing the AC because The Thief attacked it just isn't good enough. I really don't know how to stress that any more than I already have. \$\endgroup\$ – Ich Oct 17 '14 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've edited my question a bit to hopefully clear things up. I'm not looking to decide whether the AC should be be dead or not, I'm trying to work out the extent of its injuries should such a situation come up again. A light nick from a rapier strike is something the animal can just flee and recover from in its own time, but if it gets skewered then the Ranger probably has to make some effort to heal it. So I'm trying to work out how severe of an injury 6 damage might represent, as opposed to the next-to-no-injury from 1-2 damage. "Just be his fan" doesn't give me this guideline. \$\endgroup\$ – Aiken Oct 17 '14 at 13:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Off the top of my head, I'd say 'Follow the Fiction' is the definitive guideline here. I don't feel there's going to be exactly a right answer here. What comes to mind is to create some guidelines for yourself, by first defining the levels of pain delivered upon the AC. Taking any relevant tags into consideration. \$\endgroup\$ – Ich Oct 18 '14 at 1:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might even turn it around; ask the player and use their answer. Is it dying? How can you save it in time? Will it survive on its own? Can it move on its own? Can it still fight? Their answers might surprise you! \$\endgroup\$ – Ich Oct 18 '14 at 1:29
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The Animal Companion FAQ linked by @Ich addresses this to some extent, so I'd urge you to read it as it addresses many other common questions about ranger companions.

One of the mechanical things you can leverage is the concept of tags, which are already used by the animal companion. Adding a tag like injured or wary of thieves or unable to fly gives the GM a tool to use to make future encounters more interesting and shows the Ranger the limitation of his class. People who are familiar with FATE aspects will recognize this approach.

Despite not being called out specifically as something to be protected, it's clear that an animal companion is a big part of the Ranger class and as a fan of the characters you should definitely consider if the death of their companion is dramatically appropriate.

While companions are not given individual stats, you can scale down similar creatures from the monster chapter or stat them up using the monster rules. You'll probably end up with 3HP or less (a worg, for instance, has 3HP so an ordinary wolf probably has 2HP).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I've removed that paragraph as it's both mostly opinion and not really relevant to your question. \$\endgroup\$ – jbowtie Oct 20 '14 at 6:04

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