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A player in my group rolled up a 3rd level (Revised) Beast Conclave Ranger. Now we are unsure how to apply the benefits of the Animal Companion to his wolf. Some of them are straightforward, for example AC and damage. The wolf in the Monster Manuel has 13 AC (--> 10 base AC, +2 DEX, +1 natural armor). The Level 3 Ranger has a Proficiency Bonus of +2, so the wolf would have an AC of 15. The Bite attack does 2d4+2 damage, plus Proficiency Bonus = 2d4+4. The wolf does not have any modifiers to Saving Throws, so now it gets +2 to all of them.

Now the complicated part: skills. The ranger player argues that the wolf already has two skill proficiencies (Perception and Stealth) and would get two more. I don’t think so. In my opinion the wolf gets two proficiencies altogether and the two most logical skills to choose would be Perception and Stealth. The panther for example, another choice for an Animal Companion, has Perception +4 and Stealth +6. If the panther would have Skill Proficiency in Perception and Stealth (and a Proficiency Bonus of +2), it would have Perception +4 and Stealth +4. Therefore, my conclusion is that these bonuses to skill rolls are just bonuses very similar to Proficiencies, but not really Proficiencies.

And finally the attack bonus. Its Bite Attack has a +4 attack modifier. Why +4? Is that just a semi-random number based on the Challenge Rating of the wolf? Or is there a proficiency bonus somewhere in there? Could it be +2 from proficiency bonus and +2 from DEX = +4? I thought so at first. But wouldn’t the Bite attack be STR-based? Not only because it would make sense, but also because the Saving Throw for the opponent is STR-based? But then the attack bonus would only be +3.

Thanks in advance for you help.

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The player is right: the wolf has the listed proficiencies by being a wolf and it "gains proficiency in two skills of your choice" through being a ranger's companion.

It has +4 attack because the bite uses the wolf's Dexterity rather than Strength. The Designers have chosen that a bite is a finesse weapon for a wolf.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have a source for your first comment? Also what two other skills even make sense for an animal companion to have? Athletics and Acrobatics only? \$\endgroup\$ – Nacht Feb 24 '18 at 11:19
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The Wolf has proficiency in Stealth and Perception:

Page 8 of the monster manual describes what the skills section of the stat block means:

The Skills entry is reserved for monsters that are proficient in one or more skills...Other modifiers might apply. For instance a monster might have a larger than expected bonus (usually double its proficiency) to account for its heightened expertise.

Because the wolf has a skills section in its stat block which includes stealth and perception, the wolf is considered proficient in these skills. The stats in the book are calculated correctly. Perception is based on wisdom, and stealth is based on dexterity. A wolf has +1 wisdom and +2 dexterity. So, proficiency in these skills would add a +2 modifier to the relevant skills, giving the wolf +3 perception, and +4 stealth. The panther has expertise in stealth, giving it double proficiency. That is why it has a larger bonus to stealth than the wolf.

The bite attack uses dexterity

As for the weapon attack, it appears that the designers are using dexterity for the wolf's attack, much like a finesse weapon. It's easiest to figure that because the bonuses all align to give the expected output when using dexterity over strength. It's usually not appropriate to reverse engineer the save DC of a monster by choosing modifiers based on the type of saving throw called for. For example, a Wizard could cast the Gust of Wind spell which forces a strength saving throw, but the save DC is based on intelligence for wizards regardless of the type of save that is called for.

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