[RPG] How to grant a ranger his animal companion within the story


I'm a first time DM in D&D 3.5e.

My ranger player just earned level 4 and gets his animal companion. How do you grant this to him within the context of the story? Does an animal just magically appear next to him? Does he have to go find one and tame it? Can one find him in the middle of a dungeon, or next time he's in the wild one just starts following him around? Does he need to perform any kind of additional checks to find, spend time searching for, or otherwise use any other game mechanics to gain his animal?

Thanks for your advice.

Best Answer

The DM and player can decide this together, and it'll differ based on the character of your game

Rules as written, there is no requirement to wait, or to be anywhere in particular, when the companion is granted. (This is true for abilities granted at levelling up in general, e.g. knowing new spells, or having an ability you didn't have yesterday.)

In more "gamey" campaigns it's fine to just handwave this and say "Poof! Now you have a camel!"

In a more story-based campaign, think through how you want this to add to the story. Since it's supposed to be "free" for the character I wouldn't make it onerous, but (especially if the player is amenable) it's fine to make it interesting.

  • Perhaps you spend a night meditating and fast in the woods, and it comes to you?
  • Perhaps you go out, track it down, and tame it?
  • Perhaps the animal was sent by your deity, and meets you at some reasonable location?

In a campaign with a high level of realism, I'd talk with the player about is/n't possible. For example, at this level you might rule that certain kinds of companions that are normally allowed aren't realistic to find nearby in your biome.