Commanding a Beast

To command a beast, you must use your action to direct it. The beast must know the command (through training) and will attempt to heed that command to the best of its ability on its next turn. If the beast isn’t given a command it will take the Disengage action and retreat to safety, unless it knows the Attack command, in which case it will take the Dodge action. Certain beast commands allow the beast to continue a task until it is completed or given a different command.

When a beast falls to half of its hit point maximum (except one trained as a War Beast) or has fallen under the effects of the blinded, deafened, frightened, or poisoned condition, it will attempt to retreat. When this happens, you can take a reaction to command the beast to Endure, Follow, Hide, Return, or Wait, but must succeed a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check against a DC of 10 unless the triggering effect has a higher save DC. In the case of the frightened condition, the beast will ignore commands until the condition ends, and it won’t return to the fight until successfully commanded.

Beasts aren’t easy to control and require a lot of attention to ensure they behave according to their training. It is only possible for a single character to command a total CR of beasts equal to 1/3 its level in the case of a PC, or its CR in the case of an NPC to a maximum number equal to the character’s proficiency bonus. Certain NPCs may have additional traits or feats that increase this capacity. If a character has more CR of beasts than it can control, the beasts not controlled will act according their nature and behavior. Regardless of how many beasts a character could control, it can only use its action to command one of them unless it has a trait or class feature that allows it to command more than one beast. A beast awarded by a class feature, trait, or feat doesn’t count against this limit.

Beast Commands

A trained beast can perform one of these commands at a time, provided it is trained in the command.

Advance. You specify a spot the beast can see within a distance no greater than twice its highest movement speed. The beast will attempt to reach that location using whatever means it has at its disposal along the safest route. If the beast can’t reach the target location in one round, you don’t need to command it again until it reaches that spot.

Alert. You command the beast to alert you to the approach of other creatures of a certain size range or kind. The beast will heed the Wait command until it detects the chosen creatures, in which case it will alert you by means you specify that it is capable of performing. It doesn’t have to alert you through an audible means.

Assist. You order the beast to take the Help action to aid a creature it can see. The beast can only assist in a task it is trained to assist. This assistance is used in conjunction with an ability check or to aid an Attack as defined under the Help action. You must use this command each turn you want the beast to take the Help action except to track a target or when assisting work. In the case of assisting work, the beast will help perform a labor, such as pulling a cart from the mud, until that task is complete or it is attacked.

Attack. You compel the beast to take the Attack action against a target it can sense. You must use this command each turn for the beast to continue attacking unless it is following the Seek Target command.

Endure. You use this command to compel a beast to ignore exhaustion, injury, and even threat to continue focusing on a task. When you use this command, make a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. For the next round and an additional 1d4 rounds for every point you exceed the DC, the beast will continue to heed other commands you give it without ending them early.

Follow. You order the beast to follow one creature it can sense until you give it another command. If the beast is attacked, it will follow its training, often retreating, but once danger has passed, it will automatically attempt to follow the creature again. If the creature is incapacitated or dead, the beast will wait with it as long as it is able.

Hide. You command the beast to take the Hide action until you command it again. If the beast is unable to hide, it will use its turn to find a place it can hide. Once hidden, the beast remains in that place until you command it again or a hostile creature finds it.

Identify Person. You teach the beast o recognize a particular person or a trait associated with a creature or organization, such as a color of bandana or a specific scent. Once the beast has learned a person, it can heed other commands that target a creature without needing to first sense the target. This command is vital for beasts to deliver messages to the correct party. A beast can reasonably learn 50 or more persons.

Labor. You order the beast to perform some laborious task, such as pulling a cart or ploughshare. Unless the beast also knows the Navigate command, you must repeat this command every 1d4 rounds. Certain tools and tricks can compel a beast to labor longer before needing a new command. These devices increase the duration of the command to 1d6 minutes. In any case, the beast will stop heeding this command once it is attacked, barring successful use of the Endure command.

Navigate. You tell the beast to move on its own to a location it can see or to return to its home, provided it is within 1 mile of it. You can also instruct it to perform a simple patrol or labor route. Paired with the Remember Location command, the beast can travel to more remote locations.

Protect. Until you give it a new command, the beast will protect a creature or object it can see to the best of its ability. While protecting a target, the beast can make attacks on its own against a hostile creature without needing an additional command, but you have no control over which attacks it makes or against which hostile it targets.

Remember Location. You have the beast learn a specific (such as its aerie) or general location (such as a town) it is in. Once a beast has learned a location, it can be commanded to Navigate to that location, provided it’s within 10 miles. A beast can only remember a number of locations equal to 10 + its Intelligence score. When taking this action, you can make the beast replace location it knows with a new one.

Retrieve. You order the beast to retrieve one object it can sense. The beast must be physically capable of carrying the object. The beast can attempt to drag the object if it can’t lift it. Until the beast brings you the object, you approach within 5 feet of it, or the beast is attacked, it will continue heeding this command.

Return. You command the beast to return to your side. It will use its turn to move within 5 feet of you and automatically heed the Follow command targeting you until you give it a new command.

Search. You send the beast to search a location no larger than a 40-foot radius area to find a particular or kind of creatures or objects. The beast will search up to one minute without further command, or until it is attacked. On each of its turns will searching, it takes the Search action. It can use its Wisdom modifier instead of its Intelligence when making an Investigation check.

Seek Target. You compel the beast to seek out a certain target that it can see, one it knows, or one associated with a particular scent, after finding which it will heed a second command. While a beast is seeking a target, it will continue to heed that second command until you give it a new command or it is forced to retreat. For instance, if you order a beast to Attack a creature as part of this command, it will automatically attack it on each of its turns until the target is down.

Shadow. Until given a new command or attacked, the beast will follow one creature it can see. You can further instruct it to remain hidden, in which case it will take the Hide action whenever it needs to. You can also give the beast a maximum distance it will shadow a target, which upon reaching will cause it to return to you. After returning to you, the beast can lead you to the last location it was while shadowing the target.

Stand Watch. The beast will stay at a spot or location and keep watch until commanded otherwise. The beast will automatically heed the Alert command without requiring its master to command it when a threat is detected. The beast can take a watch in place of a character during a rest.

Track. You command the beast to attempt to track a particular target, scent, or set of tracks. It makes Wisdom (Survival) checks as would a character. It can also be trained to alert its master when the quarry is within 60 feet or closer through behavioral clues that don’t have to be audible. Once ordered, the beast will continue to track until it locates its quarry, completely loses the trail, receives a new command, or is attacked.

Trick. You conduct the beast to perform a selection of entertaining tricks that it is physically capable. This can involve in moving through an obstacle course, balancing a ball, playing the cymbals, or some other mundane performance. When the beast performs a Trick, it can use its Strength or Dexterity modifier instead of its Charisma when making a Performance check. A beast can know a number of particular tricks up to 20 + its Intelligence score. A beast will complete its trick without further command if that trick requires more than one round to complete.

Wait. You tell the beast to remain in one spot or location until you give it a new command or it is under threat.

Automatic Actions

While a trained beast generally heeds a command or seeks to avoid harm, there are cases where that isn’t possible.

When a beast is under a restraint, such as the grappled or restrained conditions, and can use its action to escape, it will do so without requiring a command. If commanded to perform a different action that it can do under its current circumstances, it will do so provided its master succeeds on a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.

When a beast is cornered by hostile creatures, it will defend itself to the best of its abilities even if it isn’t trained to heed the Attack command. Often the beast will follow its nature and behavior, and will seek to escape should the opportunity exist.

Learning Additional Commands

Normally a beast must complete training and take on a training role to learn additional commands. However, at the DM’s discretion it can be possible to teach a beast a number of extra commands.

Learning a new command is like training the beast in a new roll, but only takes half as much time. A beast should never learn more additional commands than its trainer’s proficiency bonus.