AvocaD&D and Tabletop Gaming: Fiasco

Welcome back to the weekly D&D and Tabletop Gaming thread!  Here’s a place where we can talk about Dungeons & Dragons or any other tabletop games that you nerds might be into.  Tell us about the games you’re playing, speculate about future expansions, recruit your fellow Avocados into new groups, whatever you want.

Today’s discussion is the Beast Master Ranger. Generally considered one of the weakest subclasses in the Player’s Handbook, this one did receive some significant changes in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. I’ll highlight the differences as I go through. But first, a Beast Master is a Ranger who has formed a bond with particular beast, to the extent that the beast will even follow them into battle.

As written in the PHB, starting at level 3, you’ve trained a beast to be your Ranger’s Companion. You can choose any beast that is no larger than Medium sized and has a Challenge Rating of 1/4 or less. You can use that beast’s statblock from the Monster Manual, but add your proficiency bonus to the beast’s AC, attack rolls, and damage rolls, as well as any saving throws or skills the beast is proficient in. The beast has a hit point equal to 4 times your Ranger level, unless the hit point maximum listed on the beast’s statblock is higher. The beast takes its turn on your initiative and obeys your commands as much as possible. On your turn, you can verbally command the beast to move with no action required by you. You can also use your action to command the beast to Attack, Dash, Disengage, or Help. If you issue no command, the beast just takes the Dodge action instead. Once you gain the Extra Attack ability at level 5, you can make one weapon attack yourself whenever you use your action command your beast to attack. The beast can always take reactions without a command from you (eg, for an opportunity attack). If you are incapacitated, the beast can act on its own, focusing on protecting both you and itself. While you and the beast are traveling along through your favored terrain, you can move stealthily at a normal pace. Finally, if the beast dies, you can bond with a new beast over a period of 8 hours, as long as the new beast isn’t hostile to you.

If your DM allows, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything provides you with an alternative. Instead of the Ranger’s Companion at 3rd level, you can instead gain a Primal Companion. Instead of bonding with a beast, you instead can magically summon a primal spirit that takes the form of a beast of your choosing. This primal spirit can be a Beast of the Land, Beast of the Sea, or Beast of the Sky, and has a statblock that uses your proficiency bonus in several areas. The Primal Companion shares your initiative and can move and use its reaction freely. The only action it takes is to Dodge unless you use your bonus action to command it to take a different action. You can also choose to sacrifice one of your attacks when you take the Attack action to allow your companion to attack instead. If you are incapacitated, the beast can take any action, not just dodge. If the beast dies, any time within the next hour, you can use an action and expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher to bring it back to life. You need to touch the beast to do so, and it is restored to life with full hit points 1 minute later. Also, whenever you finish a long rest, you can summon a new primal beast, replacing your current companion if you have one active. This means you can swap out a Beast of the Land for a Beast of the Sea or Sky as needed. Overall, the Primal Companion should last longer and be more useful in combat situations, without eating up the Ranger’s full action every turn.

No matter which option you choose, at 7th level your companion has Exceptional Training, making the beast’s attacks count as magical for the purposes of overcoming damage resistances. In addition, if your companion does not attack on your turn, you can use your bonus action to command it to Dash, Disengage, or Help. Note that the second part really only applies to the PHB companion, since you can already command the Primal Companion with a bonus action.

When you reach level 11, your companion’s Bestial Fury allows it to make two attacks whenever it takes the Attack action, or allows it to use Multiattack if it has that ability on its statblock.

Finally, at 15th level, you and your companion can Share Spells. Whenever you cast a spell targeting yourself, you can also choose to affect your companion as long as it is within 30 feet of you.

Our DM couldn’t make this week’s the game, so most of us got together and tried out something new, a card-based, DM-less RPG called Fiasco! The game is inspired by “cinematic tales of small-time capers gone disastrously wrong.” Think Fargo, Burn After Reading, or Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It was a lot of fun! You start off building the cast of characters together based on card draws that are used to define relationships between different pairs of players, then take turns setting up and resolving scenes that involve certain Needs, Objects, or Locations. Each scene has either a positive or negative outcome for the characters involved, eventually leading to the Tilt, when one player gets to decide what surprising thing happens to throw the characters lives into even more chaos. After that, you describe more scenes about how your characters deal with the fall-out of their actions, then each character gets to describe their own personal Aftermath, based on the combination of positive and negative outcomes you’ve collected over the course of the story.

I’d give a full recap, but I’m afraid I didn’t take very good notes and I’m sure I wouldn’t do our story justice. Suffice to say that my character, Darwin, was a small-time criminal trying to duck his parole by bribing Hayes’s cluelessly crooked parole officer with a bag of generic drugs he stole from Otto’s sleazy drug-dealer character (drugs which actually belonged to Wasp’s wannabe drug kingpin) with the help of his former partner-in-crime played by Josephus. It all turned into a delightful romp, and somehow Darwin ended up with the most positive outcome out of any of us–the worst thing that happened to him was getting assigned a new parole officer who took the job more seriously.