Since I’ve been looking at how various characters classes approach companions, cohorts, summoned creatures, and minions (call them what you like, but I prefer to avoid “pets”) I thought it prudent to return to the topic of summoned beasts. I wrote about how summoned creatures back in … uh, March.

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons had summon spells that would call forth one or more creatures, usually pulled directly from the Monster Manual, which were controlled like any other creature or character on the field. While a cool way to implement the summon system, this turns out to be an awful lot of bookkeeping. It means while everyone else gets one turn, the wizard gets one per summon.

The druid and ranger, with their animal companions, cause similar grief. Though they’re considerably easier to read and play than an average player character, animal companions add an additional level of complexity to the battlefield and play often grinds to a halt when you get to the ranger’s turn, as they roll dice first for their character, and then their companion — and the druid can have a herd of animals.

Fourth Edition simplifies things significantly by having summons and companions share actions with their respective characters. When you have a ranger or sentinel (essentials druid), their beast companion is more an extension of the character, allowing them to be in multiple places on the battlefield simultaneously, rather than taking up extra time and getting extra turns like in the previous edition.

This might not seem … realistic, I suppose. There’s justification with the companion creatures and summons, though, because the ranger or wizard must order them to attack. Obstinant players will argue that “training with a companion should give them and blah blah,” and they’ll just gloss over the fact that Fourth Edition gives them far more control over their companion’s actions than before.

I have to admit, though, there’s something disappointing in not getting more from the companions. They should be a bigger part of the character, if they’re really going to be an “extension” of them, as the mechanics consider them. It doesn’t help that it’s unusually difficult to get attacks from both master and companion in the same round, but I think that stems from a different problem in the system.