So back when Marital Powers came out I was thrilled to hear the Ranger was going to get a Beastmaster ranger build. I was both anticipating a major change to the core class along with an interesting way of keeping it balanced. I remember from the days of Yore working hard to obtain some pet that was easily your equal in combat, some fierce beast that the mere sight of made enemies second guess attacking me. Well needless to say I was sorely disappointed after reviewing what was in Martial Powers.
While the Beastmaster ranger does do a great job of keeping the ranger balanced among to the other class builds it really does little in my opinion to make the Beastmaster ranger's pet very interesting. Ultimately it seems like the beastmaster's pet ends up fulfilling the roll of either a meat shield or a flanking bot neither of which are very fun. In fact I've always felt that there was very little incentive for a ranger to every really attack with his pet if it meant giving up his own attack to do so. This would make sense in looking at it from a game design perspective because WotC specifically stated that they don't want the beastmaster's pet to outshine the ranger. I didn't necessarily agree with it, because if a Ranger needed to always give up their attack to attack with their pet then their pet's attack should be roughly equal to their own. The problem with that is the original designers had created ways in which the beastmaster ranger wouldn't have to give up their attack. So I set about doing what I like to do so much, and design a solution to fit a problem only few ever perceived. I wanted to find a way to put the beastmaster's pet on par with the beastmaster himself without being over powered or wrecking the existing framework that made up the beastmaster ranger. A difficult task indeed.
After many versions, alterations, trolling on forums and brainstorming I eventually came up with a proposed solution to the problem, unfortunately I have no groups with people playing a beastmaster ranger so I have no clue if these rule changes accomplish the goal or not. If anyone is ever interested in using them I'd appreciate feedback to see how they played out. The solution I came up with addressed the beastmaster ranger in two different areas. One in the beast categories which are ridiculously imbalanced RAW and how beasts can benefit from using powers with the beast keyword.
For the first part, redesigning the beast categories of the beastmaster ranger I decided to formulate two distinct roles for the beast. One is effectively like a striker role while the other role is more like a controller. Now pretty much across the board I strengthened the pets, except for the wolf who was plenty strong the way it was written but the key to strengthening these creatures was to ensure that the ranger is actually giving something up to benefit from these changes. To do that I made a list of changes but they only apply to beast powers that aren't basic attacks. This makes it so that using an at-will or encounter power will always be stronger than a basic attack. Below you can find this list of the changes to the beast categories that are discussed in detail in Martial Powers:
Each Pet category has the following changes. All attack bonuses are added to non-basic pet attacks, basic attacks remain RAW.
i. A Bear Companion now has the high critical property added to their attacks.
ii. Bears get bonus to their attack equal to their level +3 rather than their level +2
i. Boar Companions can now add their constitution modifier on critical hits
ii. Boar Companions can score a critical hit on a 19 or 20. If a 19 misses the target the boar still misses.
iii. Boar Companions now do additional damage equal to their constitution modifier when charging rather than a flat +2. If a boar scores a critical hit while charging they can add their constitution modifier twice.
Cat Companions are now also trained in acrobatics
ii. On a Critical hit your cat’s target is dazed until the end your next turn.
iii. Cat companions now have the “Dazing Pounce” Encounter power which is described below:
Dazing Pounce + Cat Encounter Attack 1
Target: One Creature
Effect: Your Cat Companion can shift up to 4 spaces before making this attack.
Attack: 3 + Level vs. Reflex
Hit: 1[B] and the target is dazed until the end of your next turn.
Increase damage to 2[B] at 21st level
i. Lizard’s knock the target prone on a critical strike
ii. Lizard’s no longer get a +2 to opportunity attacks
iii. Lizards have a “Thunder Tail” encounter power that can as described below.
Thunder Tail + Lizard Encounter Attack 1
Tail – Weapon Close burst 1
Target: Each enemy in the burst
Attack: 3 + level vs. Fortitude
Hit: 1[B] and the target is knocked prone. Increase damage to 2[B] at 21st level
i. On a Critical hit the raptor blinds its target until the end of your next turn.
ii. Raptor companions now have an encounter power “Blinding Bite” as described below. Blinding Bite + Raptor Encounter Attack 1
Martial Standard Action
Bite – Weapon Melee
Target: One Creature
Attack: 4 + level vs Reflex
Hit: 1[B] and the is blinded until the end of your next turn
Increase damage to 2[B] at 21st level
i. Serpents add their strength score to critical hits.
ii. Serpents can score a critical hit on a 19 or 20. If a 19 misses the target the serpent still misses. If a serpent scores a critical hit on an opportunity attack they can add their strength modifier twice to the damage roll.
iii. Serpents now have a starting attack bonus of 5 + level rather than 4 + level.
i. Spider Companions now on a critical hit slow and weaken their target until the end of your next turn.
ii. Spider companions can spin webs at a speed of ½ their movement when using it to lower themselves from ceilings or treetops. This web counts as silk rope and lasts 5 minutes. Webbing created in this manner has no impact in combat other than allowing the spider to move from high locations to low ones without falling. Also PCs can climb up webbing created in this manner at a DC 10.
iii. Spider Companions now have the Spider’s Web ability as described below:
Spider’s Web + Spider Encounter Utility 1
Martial, Zone Minor Action
Web – Weapon Burst 2 in Area 10Target: 1 square within 10
Effect: This creates a web-like terrain that lasts the encounter or until destroyed and counts as difficult terrain. Whenever a creature starts its turn in the web or enters into the web it must make either an athletic or acrobatic check VS a difficult DC based on the spider’s level immediately or become immobilized until the start of its next turn. A creature that makes a successful check still treats the web as difficult terrain but can otherwise move through it freely until the start of its next turn, at which point, if still in the web it would need to make another skill check or become immobilized. Immobilized creatures can us an escape action to escape the immobilizing effect. The web provides concealment. Creatures with the spider climb ability are immune to these effects.
Wolves remain unchanged from what is written in MP.
The second part of this change was to have pet attacks that usually require a standard action, such as an at-will, encounter, or daily attack power was to scale better with that of magical weapons. So the next change to include with beastmaster pets was this:
When using a ranger power with the “Beast” keyword and the power grants your pet a non-basic attack, your pet can add damage to its damage roll equal to the enchantment bonus of the melee magic weapon you are currently wielding if any. If your pet scores a critical hit while using a non-basic attack then you can roll a number of extra d6s equal to the enhancement bonus of the magical weapon. If you are unconscious or otherwise not present in combat then your pet cannot gain such an enchantment bonus.
So after implementing these changes I feel that a beastmaster ranger's pet would certainly be more of a threat, more interesting to play without actually causing any further imbalances in the game. Again if anyone would like to use these rule changes concerning their beastmaster ranger I would love to hear feedback on it.