All you ever wanted to know about Animal Companions

(or at least i am trying) 

What can you do with an animal companion?

To answer this simple question we just have to look at the command move 


When you work with your animal companion on something it’s trained in…

…and you attack the same target, add its ferocity to your damage

…and you track, add its cunning to your roll

…and you take damage, add its armor to your armor

…and you discern realities, add its cunning to your roll

…and you parley, add its cunning to your roll

…and someone interferes with you, add its instinct to their roll

so all they do is to give you little mechanical bonuses to your moves right? 


The first thing you need to think about is that your AC is an actual animal that is actually there. It has needs and instincts and thinks it can do. If you have a bear companion you have a bear! It can knock down things, it can roar loudly, it can will scare peasants away, It is a freaking bear. 

Your animal companion is a living, breathing animal that can do everything its species can do (plus the thing it is trained in). 

This gives you a lot of opportunities for fictional positioning that other classes simply don’t get. 

I don’t think you want your animal companion to work like this in the game: 


But what does command actually do? 

Okay, let’s talk about command shall we? 

The first part of the move is the trigger: 

When you work with your animal companion on something it’s trained in

There are multiple parts to this. 

#1 You have to work together with your animal companion. It is not a static boost but something you need to explain in the fiction. When you and your wolf attack the same Owlbear (wolf-pack tactics yeah!) you get the bonus damage. It represents the wolf attacking and damaging the Owlbear. If you search for something your AC needs to do it together with you. 

This can actually limit what you can do too. Your AC might be busy right now or simply not willing to do it. It might not even be able to help you in the task. If you have a rat companion – how does it attack  the owlbear in a meaningful way? (I would like for people to post examples here) 

#2 It needs to be trained in the thing you are doing 

To repeat, every AC is able to attack humanoids. Then you get extra trainings equal to the cunning of the AC. The trainings are: 

Hunt, search, scout, guard, fight monsters, perform, labor, travel

So what training do you need for what bonus? 

That depends really. If you want to damage the before mentioned owlbear (i hate owlbears today) your AC needs to be trained to fight monsters or at least hunt. If you want it to help in defending yourself from the magical terrorbeast then fight monster or guarding might both qualify you for that. 

If you want the Bonus to Discern Realities then it is probably scout or search training, depending on what exactly and how you are doing it. 

In short, don’t think you can actually reliably get all the benefits of the control move. You probably won’t at level 1. 

27 thoughts on “#RangerWeek”

  1. So what about strengths then? 

    Strengths in general just work like every other tag in the game. They give you allowance to say certain things and are always true about your animal companion. 

    So if your animal companion is tireless you can use it to work for a looong time and the GM can’t really mess with it. If your animal is adaptable it can probably eat nearly everything and deal with a huge variety of environments and temperatures (or it might even be a shapeshifting ooze thing…) 

    You can combine these strengths for great effects too. If your AC is fast, tireless and huge you can maybe ride it for days without problem. If it has keen senses, camouflage and quick reflexes it is an excellent scout that is extremely hard to detect. 

    You can use these to make your AC a bit more fantastical and not just ye olde farm animal. A huge rat? An intimidating and ferocious  (dire) owl? 

    So think about your animals strengths and leverage them to your advantage. 

    Do i have to think about training too? That is only for the command move, isn’t it? 

    Sorry, something more to keep in mind here. A training also is a tag in game terms. So if your AC is trained to guard you can tell it to guard something and it will. An animal that can perform can do little tricks and you might be able to leverage then in the dungeon. 

    What if i want my animal to do something that it is not trained in? 

    This my friend is a case of “looking at the GM to see what happens” and they will most likely make a move. 

    If i am the GM in question there are 2 things i am most likely to do. 

    #1 Tell you the consequences and ask 

    “Yes Fridolin will guard this here but you know how he his, he won’t do it for long” 

    “Your animal looks at you confused, you will need some time to show it again and again. That will take some time. Are you sure you have time right now?”

    “It will do it but it will want a huge snack afterwards” 

    #2 Activate a weakness 

    Oh yes, the third type of tag your AC has. This is a very good opportunity to “Show you the downside of your animal companion”. I will just point to one of the weaknesses and tell you why this will not work or what strange behaviors it will exhibit during that. 

    There are of course other options. But don’t deny the players the action unless there is a matching weakness.

  2. Okay weaknesses are just another tag. We get that Tim. Any more tips you have for when and how to use them? 

    The best excuse to “activate” a weakness is when a player rolls a 6-. Look at the weaknesses and thing about how one of them might make the whole situation go worse. 

    That is doing it as a hard move. 

    You can also use them to set up soft moves. Remind them of the weakness and what effect it would have right now and then ask them if they still want to do it. Going into town with a savage and frightening bear might not be the best idea. 

    Even people/monster/scum/muderhobos in the dungeon might not want to have you and your AC around when they parley with the party. 

    A forgetful animal companion will not be able to reliably accomplish tasks they are not trained in. And even if they are trained you could show the weakness when they roll a miss. 

    What more is there to say… 

    A savage wolverine will probably ravage their prey, making it impossible to capture them alive or harvest valuable parts from the body.

    Weaknesses really are the best way to give the animal companion extra character and to make them seem like a living animal instead of a stat boosting robot. They will create problems for you.


    Take something that will create scenes you like and problems you want to have! Do not pick something you think “aahh this won’t come up and all will be fine”. That doesn’t create a really fun game in my opinion.

    Just think about it, you could have a dog companion that is

    calm and has keen senses. It is also trained to hunt and guard. It is lame

    So what is this you ask me?

    It is your freaking dog that you brought up as a puppy and that stood with you through the whole war. She is not as fast as she used to be since she took that crossbow bolt for you but you can rely on her to follow trails and guard you when you sleep! Now tell me this is not a flavorful animal companion that you instantly can relate to. 

  3. Okay okay, i love my dog! What if she takes damage?

    Live in a dungeon can be dangerous, there are numerous possibilities to get hurt. The most direct way to deal with these types of situations is to just deal with the whole thing in the fiction. If your animal got stabbed in the back by a spear it will be in pain and might take a moment to recover.

    (to be true, i don’t know much about how animals behave when they get hurt in a fight. Check some books/documentaries/crazy theories about that. It will help more)

    You could do a binary thing with a hurt tag. It basically works like a weakness until someone takes care of it (it better be the ranger…). Taking some healing poultices or potion will take care of it, as will a few days f rest. A cleric casting Heal Light Wounds will do the trick too (so pick up God amidst the wastes maybe?) 

    But there is another thing to remember with your animal getting hurt. It will “remember”. Depending on its character this can have different consequences. If your AC is more mild mannered it might develop a afraid of gnolls tag. Or hatred for gnolls if that seems more fitting. 

    This is advancement based on the fiction and will also help to make the animal come alive. 

    So hurting the rangers animal is good? 

    GMs beware. The animal companion is one of the things that make the ranger cool. This is not a ressource you mess with easily. You are their fan right. Killing their kitten is not a cool move unless the character really asked for it. Hurt them now and then. Put them in perill. But don’t take their ressource away completely. 

    Can we retrace a bit please? You talked about fictional advancement of the animal companion? Is that a thing? 

    Oh for sure. The Ranger can work with their animal and teach them new trainings. It will take time but if the Ranger is willing to take the time they can teach an old dog new tricks. They could get their animal blessed by shamans or give them enchanted collars and stuff like that. 

    You could go as far as this: 


    Extra armor on the animal companion. 

  4. I send my trusty animal companion to go fight an X, what happens? There is no move for that! I don’t even know how much damage they do! 

    Your animal companion goes to fight something under your command? We assume that it is trained to fight this thing for now, otherwise the chances really aren’t good. 

    So what happens is up to the fiction and the GM. Is your bear attacking a goblin? The goblin dies horribly. Is your bear fighting an owlbear? That then depends on the owlbears in your game and the tags on your bear. In general there is an equal chance probably unless there is a helping strength you can leverage, like huge. But if they are about equally measured your animal probably won’t make it, unless not without getting hurt. Why is that? Because the GM will want to fill your live with adventure. 

    And think about it. This is your loyal animal companion that you share a “supernatural connection” with. Would you send it out into a fight unsure if it can handle it? 

    Well it, is up to you ranger friend. 

    So what about this supernatural connection? 

    I really have no idea. It is up to your game. So think about it if you want it to be a big deal and establish this in the first session. Just a few suggestions: 

    – Your AC is your brother that got turned into an animal by a curse

    – You can always feel what your animal is feeling. 

    – Your animal understands you with just a few gestures and most times it will do what you want it to before you even tell it to

    – Your animal is your soul made manifest 

    – You share a bloodbond 

    – The animal is of divine blood and send to protect you

  5. An alternate way of handling damage for your AC is stress, similar to the Captain’s ship. Maybe you decide they have a base of 2 boxes, but if my bear is huge it might get another box. Maybe each stress is worth 3 damage, then armor could make each box worth 5 damage? Just a thought.

  6. Oh no! Sparkly the Sabretoothtiger has died! Wut du I du?

    Take a deep breath. Loosing your animal companion is never easy. Sadly there is no easy way to just insta revive Sparkly. 🙁

    If your animal companion is dead you can either go on a quest to find a way to bring them back to live (or beg the Cleric)  or you could try to find a new animal companion. 

    The GM will tell you the steps you need to take and you will have to suck it up and do it. 

    So GMs, here is my advice for you in that situation. 

    Give them requirements that are interesting but don’t make it to hard. That is a major class feature (and possibly friend) they just lost. Don’t punish the character more for that. Make them do something special they wouldn’T normally do. Give them a quest that will take 1-2 sessions and that they can start now/soonish. Make it cost something for the character but don’T give them requirements that basically say 

    “No you can’t”. 

  7. Tim Franzke wrote:

    > Would you like additional posts, going equaly deep on a specific topic? If yes, what would you like information about?

    I don’t know if this was addressed to me, but I’ll bite!

    Fronts: Taking examples from First Session actual play and transforming the generated fiction into Fronts on various scales

    Dungeons: How do you make them real and vivid places without a keyed location map? I saw Johnstone Metzger’s advice on this last week, and I found it very helpful. But something tells me you might have a different perspective.

    That’s all for now. I’m sure I could think of more, but break time is over.

  8. You know what, i will try to write up some fronts stuff based on the game on wednesday. Without an actual example it is always hard to talk about this kind of stuff. 

    The dungeon part is really hart to talk about since this is rather personal to your style and inspirations. The whole “goblin dungeon” in the Hobbit blew me away in its design and I just hope i can be that cool. I don’t really feel confortable talking about that . 

  9. Oh right, that thread. Yeah, it could maybe do with some commentary on fronts, too. Making your questions provocative is how you get good material for fronts, I think. Casual questions help you build a setting better, provocative ones give you conflicts to build up.

  10. I’ve been summoned, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to talk about! The animal companion pretty much ended up the way it is because we wanted them to matter, but also not be distinct characters. So they work just like the driver’s vehicle.

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