Saturday, July 4, 2009

Putting the Beast in Beastmaster Ranger

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
Standard Action
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
Martial, Thunder
Standard Action
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.


  1. The Pets does`nt need those changes, because they are really fine the way they are, because, the extra power of the pest, is:

    If your team has a good buff bonus of a cleric, warlord or whatever, the pet counts as ally, so it gains all bonuses, it can be used for your warlord ally, and you can share the move with the feat, so is really strong thinking in party, no like a stand alone choice, and, the other point is, all beast has really high HP, so if you are a beastmaster ranger, is like your character could have a stupid amount of hp XD.


  2. I'll agree that the Beastmaster ranger, especially after all the new content release in 2010, doesn't need these changes but it was more just a way of balancing the pets amongst themselves and putting more focus on the pet than the ranger. WoTC specifically said they wanted the emphasis of the BM ranger to be on the ranger and not the pet. My changes at the time were more of a way to put the pet in the spotlight rather than the ranger. I never liked the idea of a pet being nothing more than a flanking meatshield that the ranger mark targets with.

  3. I like your idea here. I may give it a shot.

  4. I love the changes. I too am a fan of beastmaster rangers getting more specific companions with unique abilities. Check out "Canine Companions for Rangers Vol.1" on rpgnow (written by yours truly) if you would like five specific dog breeds to replace the "generic wolf" set-up.

  5. Hello, These changes seem interesting, but remember that the companion can wear some magic items. (my GM allows bracers,rings some neck items, etc.) This includes magic weapon "claws" to give attack/damage bonus to the companion and allow it to hit creatures that have DR. I can even have custom armor made for the companion if I wanted. just like the mage spending money on his spellbook so to does the ranger need to spend money on his companion.

  6. That is an interesting idea of treating the animal companion as more of a true member of the party and allowing them to wear magic items but I have always felt that 4e had such a delicate balance of treasure distribution that it could seem that the BM ranger would then be getting twice as much treasure as the rest of the group. If you use the loose ruling that every level you give out n-1 magical items to the party so with a group of 4 and one being a bm ranger you change that to essentially a group of 5. Now almost every level either the ranger or his pet or both will be getting items to advance themselves. If you make it so that the pet only gets treasure when the ranger does then you further run into the issue where each level the ranger could be increasing in two areas, since ultimately the pet's impact on the game is an extension of the ranger. That is to say if the ranger left the party, so would the pet. Lastly I see the possibility of trying to give treasure to either the pet or the ranger, which if the magic items for the pet were strong enough this might work out but unless the pet was also getting a share of the gold the party got, it seems like the ranger would start to fall behind in the great race to maintain all the numerous magical items.

    One other thing I should point out, is that when I came up with these concepts originally I believe there was, going by what was in Martial Powers, only a single animal companion magical item, and none of them I saw seemed to be game changing in terms of allowing the ranger's pet to be the focus of the rangers damage. But as I mentioned in the article WotC wanted to keep the ranger as the focus and allow the pet to be in addition to the ranger's already impressive powers. I have and still am a fan of the concept where the ranger's pet could possibly be as deadly if not more so than the ranger themselves. Finding a way to keep that class archtype balanced with others is a much greater challenge. I looked at these changes at the time as kind of a first step in that direction.