October 6, 2016

[Unearthing the Arcana] The Ranger, Revised, Part 2: The Beast Conclave

This is the first series for a new column to study the design and thought process of the latest Unearthed Arcana rules put out by Wizards of the Coast. This column aims for me to point out some observations I've made on the rules, imagine its impact at the table and raise discussions of how it would be used or played if it becomes official.

In my previous post of this series, I explored the necessity of having a revised Ranger, what the designers were aiming to achieve with the redesign and took a jab at the base Ranger class features.

In this second post, I begin looking into new archetype features, now called Ranger Conclaves for the revised Ranger. Starting off with the Beast Conclave which would be compared and contrasted with the Beast Master ranger archetype from the Player's Handbook.

While comparing between the Beast Master and the Beast Conclave, it seemed almost quite apparent that this was the main focus for the redesign, and probably was the root of the dissatisfaction for many players playing as Rangers from the Player's Handbook. So let's get into the works.

Ranger's Companion

What was once a single class feature for the Beast Master has been expanded and split into two class features for the Beast Concalve. Reading between the two has a marked difference, and to be honest the differences are so vast that I don't think I can cover it all without making a supplemental post to show the difference between the two.

For now, I will summarize the key differences between the two below, and will examine them more closely in a supplementary post with a few examples.
  1. An animal companion now costs 50 gp to gain and 25 gp to resurrect if it gets slain, in addition to the 8 hours needed. 
  2. The animal companion can only be an Ape, Black Bear, Boar, Giant Badger, Giant Weasel, Mule, Panther, or a Wolf  (but there is a sidebar which gives guidelines on what criteria a Beast should have to be an animal companion)
  3. While not specifically worded in the Player's Handbook version, the revised Ranger can only have 1 animal companion at any one time.
  4. The animal companion acts on its own initiative and can choose to take any action decided by the player.
  5. The animal companion does not have its Multiattack action. 
  6. The animal companion uses the Proficiency Bonus of the Ranger and also to its AC and damage rolls.
  7. The animal companion gains proficiency in 2 skills.
  8. The animal companion is proficient in all saving throws.
  9. The animal companion gains the benefits of the Ranger's Favored Enemy and Greater Favored Enemy, instead of allowing the Ranger and the companion to move stealthily at a normal pace at the Ranger's favored terrain (from Natural Explorer).
  10. The animal companion's hit points maximum increase as the Ranger levels up, instead of using 4 times the Ranger's level or the companion's own hit points, whichever is higher. 
  11. The animal companion's ability scores increase when the Ranger gains the Ability Score Improvement feature.
  12. The animal now has an alignment, personality traits, flaws, ideals and a special bond. 

Extra Attack

Instead of gaining the general feature of Extra Attack, the Beast Conclave Ranger gains Coordinated Attack, which lets the animal companion make a melee attack with a reaction if it can see the Ranger make an Attack action on its turn. A fairly good feature which allows the animal companion to attack more than once in a round, even if the Ranger and companion are not attacking the same target.

Exceptional Training

Another feature that has been replaced to Beast's Defense, which now simply grants advantage to all saving throw as long as the companion can see the Ranger.

Bestial Fury

Rather than allowing the animal companion to make 2 attacks or use its Multiattack (which is now lost for the Beast Conclave), the animal companion now has Storm of Claws and Fangs that lets it make a melee attack against all creature within 5 feet of it, with separate attack rolls for each. This one is also something that needs to be tested out to know for sure how effective it truly is, but it certainly puts an emphasis on the companion more than the Ranger commanding it.

Share Spells

Rather than letting your companion gains the benefit of a Self-targeted spell through Share Spells, the animal companion's Superior Beast's Defense can use its reaction to half the damage it takes from an attacker, if the companion can see it.

As you can see, the designers have gone to place more attention to the animal companion for the Beast Conclave rather than what was afforded for the Beast Master in the Player's Handbook. While it looks like the animal companion has been made tougher overall with better Hit Points, Saving Throws and Armor Class, it balances it out with potentially less attacks with the lose of Multiattack.

To look at it another way, the animal companion of the Beast Conclave is effectively another character in the party that is controlled by the Ranger player. How this really plays out on the table would be what I will be exploring in the supplemental post. 

Before I get to that though, I want to look at the rest of the Ranger Conclaves first. So the next conclave to examine through would be the Hunter Conclave.

[Unearthing the Arcana: The Ranger, Revised, Part 3: The Hunter Conclave]

Last updated: 7/10/2016

1 comment:

Unknown said...

For what it's worth, my gaming group already uses the UA ranger over the PHB ranger when we aren't mixing and matching the various features to create our own 'archetypes' now called 'conclaves' from those featured in the PHB, Xanathar's Guide, and other official products.

Personally I feel they failed to accurately capture the essence of most of the character classes as they were portrayed in v3.5, with the biggest issues being the wizard's necromancy school [which is a whole separate topic].

There is still so much more that needs to be fixed, but at least they're making an effort.