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For an Animal Companion to attack, the Ranger has to use his action to command it.

I am looking to see some math on just why this restriction is in place. Is the ranger way over-powered if the animal companion can keep attacking once ordered, or if gets to attack as an interact with object or verbal command from the ranger?

I'd like to see calculations for the following 3 scenarios:

  • act as rules as written
  • continue an action once given (1st attack takes a ranger action to activate)
  • act as an interact with object by the ranger

How does the above compare with an identical ranger with colossus slayer?

I am hoping to understand why the designers limited it so much.

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In a word: Yes.

While it may be fairly well-accepted (though debatable) that a Beast Master Ranger is weaker than a Hunter Ranger, allowing the beast to attack freely swings things wildly in the other direction.

For the purposes of demonstration, I'll be using a basic Longbow Ranger, taking the Archery fighting style, starting with 16 dexterity, and taking +2 dex at level 4 and 8 to reach 20 dexterity. I'll be ignoring feats and other ranger builds to keep things simple, but they wouldn't really change the end result much anyways.

I'm using Damage per Round (DpR) as my measuring stick, taking into account chance to hit and chance to crit, using an average enemy AC at each level to get as practical a number as I can.

Basic Longbow Ranger

  • Level 3: 5.5 DpR
  • Level 5: 13.1 DpR
  • Level 11: 16.6 DpR
  • Level 20: 15.7 DpR

Wolf Animal Companion:

  • Level 3: 5.2 DpR
  • Level 5: 6.8 DpR
  • Level 11: 16.1 DpR
  • Level 20: 17.0 DpR

Longbow Ranger with Colossus Slayer:

  • Level 3: 9.6 DpR
  • Level 5: 18.4 DpR
  • Level 11: 21.0 DpR
  • Level 20: 20.0 DpR

Longbow Ranger plus Companion:

  • Level 3: 10.7 DpR
  • Level 5: 20.9 DpR
  • Level 11: 32.7 DpR
  • Level 20: 32.7 DpR

As you can see, while things start out OK at low levels, with the Ranger+Beast combo coming out only a bit ahead of the Colossus Slayer, this quickly changes once the Beast gets it's second attack. At this point, the ranger is now competing toe-to-toe with the better Fighter builds for damage potential.

Requiring the Beastmaster to use an action for the initial beast attack helps balance this out a bit, but ultimately it's still very powerful, and probably not wise to allow. As an interaction, it's just straight-up overpowered.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks this will help a lot when looking at a possible house rule. \$\endgroup\$ – Karl Jan 16 '15 at 3:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jul 8 at 21:33
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In a word: No

(The Ranger would not be overpowered if their Animal Companion kept attacking once ordered.)

Companions must have a challenge rating 1/4 or lower. Many beasts that a player may choose are not capable of attacks of any consequence. Examples; cat, frog, bat, hawk, raven etc. only deal 1 damage point.

A player's choice to use a companion that is unthreatening may have more to do with their character's background or role-play interests. The companion being able to attack on its own brings more realism to the game as real animals would defend themselves if attacked and would not require a verbal command every 6 seconds. It also brings more consistency to the game world as NPC beasts act on their own.

WOTC acknowledged in the preface of Unearthed Arcana: Revised Ranger that the Ranger Archetype beast master has been unpopular to play as it is underpowered.

Many players want to play rangers, but few were happy with the class, which held its place at the bottom of class power rankings by a significant margin. The class’s individual features also filled the top-tenlist of lowest-rated individual character features.

They attempted to rectify the issue with specific changes to the animal companion in the Revised Ranger archetype Beast Conclave allowing the companion to attack on its own.

The companion may take its own initiative and turn controlled by the player. The companion also gains the following features in addition to its own attack: at level 5, it may attack as a reaction to your attack; at level 11, it may attack multiple enemies during its attack on its own turn.

Coordinated Attack

Beginning at 5th level, you and your animal companion form a more potent fighting team. When you use the Attack action on your turn, if your companion can see you, it can use its reaction to make a melee attack.

Storm of Claws and Fangs

At 11th level, your companion can use its action to make a melee attack against each creature of its choice within 5 feet of it, with a separate attack roll for each target.

Keep in mind that the base Revised Ranger class does not get an extra attack at level 5.

The beast cannot multi-attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey @Amethyst Wizard. We're looking into the UA at our table currently and have interpreted the section you've quoted about Coordinated Attack and Strom of Claws and Fangs to be in addition to it's normal attack, which is can take on its own turn without prompting. So level 3 = 1 attack, level 5 = 1 attack + 1 reaction attack, level 11 = 1 attack against all creatures within 5ft + 1 reaction attack. Any thoughts on that? \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Jul 8 at 12:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah I totally agree, keep in mind Storm of Claws and Fangs is the beasts action. \$\endgroup\$ – Amethyst Wizard Jul 8 at 13:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice, I've tweaked your answer to clarify this, feel free to reject if you don't like my wording but I do recommend adjusting to your own as currently the "at level 11:" part reads as if that is the first chance it gets to attack on its own merit. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Jul 8 at 14:59
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It would be overpowered compared to other Ranger variations. I don't believe it would be overpowered next to a fighter or other damage dealer. As is, the ranger kind of specializes in clearing small minions, but doesn't do the best job, and a companion that attacks one target continuously would help fill in some single target dps, an animal that continues to attack unguided may be overkill but would make the ranger a master in the role of multi target take down.

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It wouldn’t be and is not, as confirmed by Jeremy Crawford you would only need to make the attack command once for it to attack and only when you want to change that command would you need to use another action to command it.

nothingjacob

@JeremyECrawford there’s been some debate in the RAW community. Can Ranger BM give their companion a command like ‘attack’ and have the animal continue to attack each turn without issuing the command on consecutive turns ......? Thanks

Jeremy Crawford

Ranger's Companion—when you and the companion are fighting as a unit, the beast takes whatever action on its turn that you chose for it on your previous turn. If you chose no action for it on your previous turn, it takes the Dodge action on its turn.

--- Tweeted Nov 27 2018 by Jeremy Crawford

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    \$\begingroup\$ The JC tweet you're quoting here says the opposite of what you think it is saying - he's explicitly saying no, it will not continue attacking, it will start taking the dodge action unless you keep ordering it to attack. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 14 at 10:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Please note that as of the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium JC's tweets are no longer considered official and so may support an answer but is not sufficient on its own. Also, please include the actual text as text in your answer (it helps folk with reading assist features etc.) Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center or ask us here in the comments (use @ to ping someone) if you need more guidance. Good Luck and Happy Gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Jul 14 at 11:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic “the beast takes whatever action on its turn that you chose for it on your previous turn” The key word is “previous” as in your last turn not your current turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Silver Jul 14 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Someone_Evil If as you say “as of the 2019 Sage Advice Compendium JC's tweets are no longer considered official” how is a 2018 tweet not still official. \$\endgroup\$ – Silver Jul 14 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Silver There is only one previous turn, the turn you took before the beast took its turn (the beast doesn't act on your turn, it acts after you on its own turn but at your initiative). If you didn't order it to do anything in particular on that turn, it doesn't take an action. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 14 at 20:54

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