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One of my players is using the new UA Beast Conclave ranger, and we are approaching level 16, where he gains an Ability Score Improvement. He is considering taking a feat instead of improving a score.

At certain levels, your class gives you the Ability Score Improvement feature. Using the optional feats rule, you can forgo taking that feature to take a feat of your choice instead.

In the new UA Ranger, the pet has

Whenever you gain the Ability Score Improvement class feature, your companion’s abilities also improve. Your companion can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or it can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1.

If my player takes a feat, does the pet still get an ability improvement? Or can the pet even take feats? Or does the pet just not get anything if he takes a feat?

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The pet still gets its ability improvement, even if its master takes a feat; the language here is simply informing you at what level the pet gets this feature, it does not get "skipped" depending on the character progression choices of its owner. Whether or not a pet could take a feat should be left up to the DM to decide.

From Twitter:

YDMND - UA revised Ranger: if the ranger takes a feat insted of ASI, does the companion still get ASI?

Mike Mearls - I'd say yes

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This certainly sounds reasonable, but how do you know that it's correct? Have Mike or Jeremy said anything on the subject, or is this your ruling on the matter? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 17 '17 at 23:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is UA. I doubt the developers will rule anything tied with play testing. \$\endgroup\$ – Meta4ic Feb 17 '17 at 23:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fair point. Consider this: taking a feat can replace Ability Score Improvement, so I think it's pretty safe to assume that the designers built each feat to be roughly equal in power to normal ASI, they're just more situational. In which case, how would it even make sense that choosing the feat should carry a penalty of hampering the progression of a pet? In-universe, how would we even explain why that would happen to a ranger's animal? There's no cut and dry "here's your answer" to this question, so really all I can use for an answer here is common sense and game balance. Sorry :\ \$\endgroup\$ – Dungeon Meister Feb 18 '17 at 4:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ No need to apologize, the UA material is provided in unpolished form, which means that "rulings over rules" applies even more than in standard questions on finished material. Applying common sense and sound reasoning is precisely what is called for. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 22 '17 at 13:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mearls seems to think yes, and he designed it. Not authoritative, but you might want to cite him. mobile.twitter.com/mikemearls/status/839526171087810560 \$\endgroup\$ – Bloodcinder Mar 15 '17 at 15:44
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No, the pet does not get the ability score increase.

As you stated (emphasis mine):

Whenever you gain the Ability Score Improvement class feature, your companion’s abilities also improve.

However:

Using the optional feats rule, you can forgo taking that feature to take a feat of your choice instead.

Which clearly says to me that you are NOT getting that feature. You are instead choosing to get a feat. Thus, your animal companion would not get any ability score bonuses.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This looks wrong. The ASI feature comes at certain levels. It does not say "when you improve your scores" At certain levels you "Gain the feature." When gain ASI class feature, your companion’s abilities also improve. Don't forget that feats are optional. Your companion's ability improves whether you d0, or don't, choose a feat. The class feature is the trigger. See PHB for when the class feature shows up. I don't understand why you choose to read it this way. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 18 '17 at 2:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes, when you gain it, your companion would gain stats. However, if you are using the optional feats rule, you are not gaining it (it says forgo taking it). It does not say that you still get the feature but no stats, or that you get feature and you instead get a feat, it says you do not get the feature and instead take a feat. \$\endgroup\$ – firedraco Feb 18 '17 at 6:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ I understand how you arrived at that, but it makes no sense to me since the default is "receives ASI" when the feature is gained. It is gained by going up a level, not by assigning points. With the variant on feat you are spending your ASI on a feat not on points. I find your ruling pointlessly penal. See Dungeon Meister's point in the comment under his answer. Obviously needs to be cleared up if this Ranger variant is to go final. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 18 '17 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with Korvin on this as well. Feats are a variant rule taken in place of an ASI as an option. Penalizing the Ranger by removing the ASI improvement from their pet when they've already sacrificed the ASI for the feat seems very heavy handed as a DM. \$\endgroup\$ – Lino Frank Ciaralli Feb 18 '17 at 17:54

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