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There seems to be very little in the PHB about how a Beastmaster Ranger is supposed to acquire his animal companion.

Initially we have:

Choose a beast that is no larger than Medium and that has challenge rating of 1/4 or lower....

If the initial companion dies:

If the beast dies, you can obtain another one by spending 8 hours magically bonding with another beast that isn't hostile to you, either the same type of beast as before or a different one.

In either case, where does the animal come from? Does the Ranger have to either purchase or find a wild beast wherever he happens to be adventuring, or can he somehow call a creature of the desired type to him? Does he automatically make the creature non-hostile and bond to it immediately the first time (since there is no mention of needing to do that explicitly in the initial description of obtaining an animal companion)? Is the Handle Animal skill sufficient to make a wild beast non-hostile for long enough to bond to it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ 1) Get drunk. 2) Wander around in woods or other available wilderness. 3) Wake up days later with new animal companion. \$\endgroup\$ – Oblivious Sage Aug 14 '15 at 21:37
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As you say, the last paragraph of the ranger's companion text mentions needing 8 hours to magically bond with another non-hostile beast if when the previous one dies. It is probably the same for the first time around.

As for how to get the beast I haven't found specific ruling, so it's probably up to the player to find a beast to his liking (any plausible method should work unless the DM requires anything specific), ensure its friendliness and then bond with it.

A survival or perception check to find one in the wilderness and a handle animal check to calm it should do the trick, and the ranger spell list includes some spells that could help, like "locate plans and animals", "animal friendship", "speak with animals" or "conjure animals".

The beast selection is limited by what kind of beasts exist in his environment, which is something the DM decides.

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    \$\begingroup\$ If there are no pteranodons in your setting, then he can´t have one without the use of plane or time traveling magic. He is limited by what kind of beasts exist in his environment, which something the DM decides. \$\endgroup\$ – Renard Aug 14 '15 at 23:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I don't think so. I may ask a separate question about the Pteranodon once I am clear on the basic rules. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Aug 14 '15 at 23:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PurpleVermont If you're going to respond to a solution by saying "the issue is…" then that issue is inherently part of this question, not a future question. Anything relevant to what makes for a relevant solution should be in the question here. I've added it to your question. Look it over and see if you have more to add. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 15 '15 at 0:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Although I said "the issue is" -- I intentionally just asked the question to learn how this works in general. I rolled back the question to my original and deleted the "issue" comment. I'm not convinced I have a question about a pteranodon but if I do, it would be a different question about ways to work in what your players want when "the rules" get in the way, and that is not what I want this question to be about. \$\endgroup\$ – PurpleVermont Aug 15 '15 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ The description of the Animal Companion from the Revised Ranger's Beast Conclave supports the idea behind this answer even more explicitly: "At 3rd level, you learn to use your magic to create a powerful bond with a creature of the natural world. With 8 hours of work and the expenditure of 50 gp worth of rare herbs and fine food, you call forth an animal from the wilderness to serve as your faithful companion." (That said, the Revised Ranger is also even more specific in stating that you can provide a new body for the same companion by using 8 hours and another 25 gp of rare herbs.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Feb 28 '18 at 18:58

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