Introduction

MCDM Productions released Beastheart and Monstrous Companions in late 2021, a PDF supplement which introduces The Beastheart and a system for bringing Monstrous Companions into your game so that your party can have monsters like gelatinous cubes and hellhounds as pets or sidekicks.

At its simplest, the Beastheart is a “pet class”. Their primary function is to serve as the Caretaker for a Monstrous Companion, and their class features revolve around that central capability. Dexterity/Wisdom builds will be common, and like the Ranger, Strength/Wisdom builds are possible but difficult with little or no payoff for the additional difficulty.

Comparisons to the Beast Master Ranger and the Drakewarden Ranger are natural. But where the Ranger is a ranger with a pet, the Beastheart is built around their Monstrous Companion, and without a companion they largely cease to function until they can find a minute to meditate and return their companion to life. You’re still capable of making an attack which does passable damage, but your companion provides the Ferocity needed to fuel everything interesting that the Beastheart does in combat.

All that said, when your companion works, it can really work. Between Primal Exploits and the class’s other features, you and your companion can be very effective both offensively and defensively, allowing you to serve as both a Defender and a Striker. Outside of combat you’re reliant exclusively on skills, but your effective rolls extend little beyond Scout. You can supplement these capabilities with your companion’s skill proficiencies, but most companions won’t have useful skills until your get Beyond Instinct at level 5, and even then their effectiveness won’t match a player. Altogether the Beastheart fills a role in the party similar to a fighter or a ranger.

Because the Beastheart is built around Monstrous Companions, I strongly recommend reading my Practical Guide to Monstrous Companions.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Beastheart Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: 8+ hit points is standard for Striker classes and some spellcasters. You won’t be durable enough to serve as a Defender, but between you and your Monstrous Companion you have more total hit points than anyone else in the party.

Saves: Strength and Wisdom.

Proficiencies: Medium armor, shields, and enough martial weapon options that you don’t need to look for more. You also get three skills from a skill list which strongly resembles the Ranger’s.

Companion: The Beastheart’s signature feature. I strongly recommend also reading my Practical Guide to Monstrous Companions.

Natural Language: Tgis isn’t quite Speak With Animals. In some ways it’s worse, but in some ways it’s better. Speak With Animals allows you to communicate more complex ideas, which is helpful if you need more specific information. But Natural Language also works on Monstrosities, and doesn’t require your 8-Charisma druid or ranger to make Charisma checks, instead allowing you to use Wisdom (Animal Handling) which the Beastheart should already be good at.

Primal Exploits: You start with three and get two more at each of levels 10 and 17 for a total of 7. See Primal Exploits, below, for help picking.

Superior Ferocity: Monstrous Companions use a DC of 10+PB for their features. You DC is 10+Wis+PB, so for this to have any impact your Wisdom needs to be 16 or better.

Companion Bond: Companion Bond is the Beastheart’s subclass. For help, see Subclasses – Companion Bond, below.

Master Caregiver: Excellent. This saves us the trouble of taking Skill Expert or a rogue dip. Animal Handling becomes crucial as you get better at generating more Ferocity and want to avoid rampages, and Master Caregiver arrives early in your career before you have time to wish that you got it sooner.

Beyond Instinct: The additional Ferocity generation is minor, but still very helpful to power both your companion’s features and your Primal Exploits. An additional saving throw is a massive defensive benefit. I recommend Constitutution, Wisdom, Dexterity, Charisma, Strength, and Intelligence in that order of priority. They’ll get more at higher levels. They also gain a skill from a short list. I recommend Perception or Stealth in most cases, but Investigation can also be useful, especially since Beyond Instinct allows them to use Wisdom in place of your companion’s 5-ish Intelligence.

Improved Signature Attack (1 die): Monstrous Companions’ attacks don’t improve by any other method, so this is a crucial damage increase as you gain levels. This level also makes your companion’s attacks magical, which is important for overcoming increasingly common resistance to non-magic weapon damage types.

Faithful Companion: Rampages, while annoying, should be a rarity thanks to your presumably high Animal Handling bonus. At higher levels they may become a problem once Beyond Instinct causes Ferocity to accumulate faster, and you’ll eventually want to build up Ferocity for high-level Primal Exploits. The removal of the Bonus Action cost to command your companion isn’t especially helpful right away (though see Rejuvenating Ferocity, below), but in a few levels Mystic Connection gives you a powerful Bonus Action option, so you will have a few occasional uses without need to stress over what’s going to eat your Bonus Action on any given turn.

Rejuvenating Ferocity: The amount healed almost certainly isn’t large, and since you can only use this a few times per long rest, you’re likely only going to use this when your companion is at 0 hit points. As long as they dropped to 0 with at least 1 point of Ferocity, you can pop them back up and get right back to fighting, just like you would heal a party member with Healing Word. 5e is weird that way. You’re not going to use this to heal your companion back to full hp, and you’re not intended to do so.

Primal Strike (1d8): Pick Thunder damage. This gives you a reason to attack beyond triggering your Primal Exploits. It follows the same damage scale as the Cleric’s Divine Strike subclass feature, but since the Beastheart needs to take the Attack action to trigger some Primal Exploits, you may not be able to complement this damage with Booming Blade.

Mystic Connection: Mystic Connection offers an additional benefit tied to your type of companion. These are typically either a passive ability like as a move speed or an ability activated as a Bonus Action. Individual types of Mystic Connection are assessed in my Practical Guide to Monstrous Companions.

Beyond Instinct Improvement: 2 more Ferocity generation for a total of 1d4+3+X, and another saving throw proficiency. At this level you have a total of 5 exploits and your companion has had all of their feature for a long time, so there’s a lot that you can spend Ferocity on.

Improved Signature Attack (2 dice): More damage. You should be at 3d6 at this level.

Loyal to the End: Charm and fear effects are common, so immunity to both provides broad protection against problematic status conditions imposed by many enemies like dragons and vampires.

Keen Senses: Perception is the most-rolled skill in the game, and this is essentially permanent Advantage on every Perception check that you care about (though it doesn’t apply to taste or touch). This also raises your Passive Perception by 5 (as normal for Advantage), making it very hard for other creatures to evade your notice. The Search action is frequently overlooked by players, but it’s essential for finding enemies who are hiding, invisible, or otherwise undetected. It can often feel like a problematically high cost to spend your Action to Search, so doing it as a Bonus Action with your absurdly effective Perception means that hidden enemies are basically no longer a problem. Of course, you need to roll a 16 or better to beat your Passive Perception, so if you have a better use for your Bonus Action, do that instead.

Primal Strike (2d8): Your attacks still aren’t amazing, but they’re enough to make a difference even though you probably only make one attack each turn.

Beyond Instinct Improvement: 1d4+5+X Ferocity per turn and another save. That’s enough Ferocity that on average when facing one enemy, your companion generates 8.5 Ferocity, enough to use their most powerful feature every turn. That’s not always the right option, but the fact that it is an option is exciting.

Improved Signature Attack (3 dice): 4d6 damage is respectable. It won’t match a fighter or another player character, but you’re also not relying exclusively on your companion’s Signature Attack.

Summon the Wilds: A big area of effect, a great duration, the effects are devastating, and you can move it 30 feet to keep pace with most creatures’ move speeds. You can even move it upward to hit flying creatures. If you have a save-or-suck caster in the party if your companion has a save-or-suck effect like the Basilisk companion’s Lesser Petrifying Gaze, this makes those options horrifyingly effective, not to mention making enemies dramatically less threatening. This could easily be the win condition in every encounter in which you use it. If this was once per long rest I would still rate it blue.

Unbreakable Friendship: No more rampages. Your companion’s hit points essentially stop mattering unless something hits it for half of its hit point maximum in one hit (at this level that should be somewhere around 65 damage at minimum), so it functionally has unlimited hit points but could go down to a big critical hit or a spell. You also finally start combat with enough Ferocity to do something exciting on turn 1.

Subclasses – Companion Bond

Ferocious Bond

Have you considered just letting your companion Rampage all the time instead of actually commanding them? Because that’s what Ferocious Bond is all about. Let your companion rampage and chase them around hitting stuff. Unfortunately, rampage eats most or all of your companion’s Ferocity, which largely prevents using Ferocity Actions or Primal Exploits, thereby negating many of your build choices. The subclass expects that you’re going to lean into rampage on most or all of your turns and encourages you to do so, but the tactical cost is high.

While Ferocious Bond is fine at throwing yourself your companion into melee to go poke things with sticks, the fact that the subclass struggles to work alongside Primal Exploits makes it extremely difficult to play to any great effectiveness if you want to do anything except poke things with sticks. It is absolutely simplest beastheart subclass, but I don’t think it’s especially effective due to the fundamental disconnect between how the subclass works and how you use Ferocity Actions and Primal Exploits.

This is the one character on which I would consider Armor of the Caregiver a good choice. Occasionally your positioning won’t work out how you’d like and your rampaging companion will take a swing at you.

Frenzied Charge: This is dangerous, but it’s the central idea around which the subclass is build. You need to be certain to keep your companion far away from yourself and your allies in combat for risk of your companion attacking you. The extra attack is nice, effectively doubling your damage output at low levels. The added damage output is minor as you gain levels since Primal Strikes only works once on each of your turns, but being able to attack as a Reaction (especially once you get Advantage from Furious Rampage) leaves your Action for other things like activating exploits, using items, or potentially casting spells if you multiclass.

Fury of the Wise: This makes Intimidation a worthwhile Face skill for you.

Energizing Rampage: If you’re going to let your companion Rampage, this is nice because they’ll still have some Ferocity left for Primal Exploits. Or if you’re just letting Rampage do the work, they’ll get back to their next Rampage much sooner. If you do plan to use exploits, try to keep the cost down to 4 Ferocity, as you’ll find it nearly impossible to use more expensive exploits without turning off your entire subclass for a round.

Furious Rampage: By this level, Beyond Instinct adds 3 Ferocity when your companion gains Ferocity at the beginning of their turn. Since you start from a floor of 4 whenever your companion rampages, you have a 50% chance of hitting the 10 Ferocity needed to trigger a rampage before you consider any creatures which might be adjavent to your companion. This means that your companion can rampage frequently (or constantly once Beyond Instinct improves again at level 15), triggering Frenzied Charge often. Be sure to stay close to your companion (ideally with an enemy between the two of you) so that you both get easy Advantage on your attacks.

Invigorated Rampage: Make them blinded first or frightened if they’re already blinded. By now you should have consistent Advantage on your companion’s rampage attack and your Frenzied Charge attack, so you and your companion should be able to hit reliably.

Hunter Bond

A natural Scout and Striker, the Hunter Bond feels conceptually similar to the Ranger. It’s good at stealth and damage output, but doesn’t add a lot of complexity beyond the base class.

Chosen Quarry: Similar in concept to the damage boosts from Hex or Hunter’s Mark. Because this is used without an action when your companion gains Ferocity, it’s entirely possible to use this at the beginning of your first turn in combat, especially once Beyond Instinct adds additional Ferocity each turn. The damage applies when you or your companion hit the target, which encourages you and your companion to focus your attacks and make numerous attacks just as you would with Hex or Hunter’s Mark. You can’t use this with Eldritch Blast since it requires weapon attacks and your Bonus Action is monopolized by commanding your companion for a while, so you likely won’t get more than 2d6 damage out of this per turn. Still, that’s a decent damage boost.

Hunter’s Instincts: Survival is only situationally useful, but making it work in place of Insight and giving you Expertise in it certainly makes it more effective.

Primal Warding: The effect is good, but this is difficult to use in combat, and outside of combat it’s often easy to circumvent. The trap explicitly requires that creatures “walk” into it, but I assume that’s to exclude other movement types, not to allow slithering, crawling, dancing, etc.

Synchronized Stealth: If you take the Quick Hide Primal Exploit, you can take the Attack action, allow your companion to Hide as a Reaction, triggering Synchronized Stealth to allow you to then Hide as a Reaction. Hiding in combat is a good way to get Advantage on your attack and to avoid drawing fire, but it typically requires hit-and-run tactics or ranged combat, both of which are difficult for most companions.

Unseen Hunters: Note that this is not invisibility as the spell. It’s just the inivisibility condition, so you have none of the restrictions of the spell Invisibility. You’re free to attack or whatever else for the effect’s duration.

Infernal Bond

Similar in theme to the Warlock, Infernal Bond uses the power of devils to empower your and your companion. Infernal Bond offers more decision points than any other variety of beastheart, allowing you more options to customize and optimize your build. Among its options are the ability to give any companion flight and the ability to teleport, offering powerful mobility options for a class that’s often limited to walking.

Devil’s Understanding: These aren’t great skills for the Beastheart, but they fit the theme of the subclass nicely.

Infernal Exploits: A surprisingly large list of additional exploit options. Note that you can only take one Infernal Exploit at 3rd level and one more at level 11. These exploits aren’t available as an options when the core class features grant you Primal Exploits. See below for more.

Hell’s Charmer:

Fiendish Traits: A great way to customize your companion.

  • Barbed Hide: Nice, but the damage isn’t significant enough to deter most CR-appropriate enemies. This will keep mobs of low-CR enemies from swarming your companion, but that’s not a frequent occurance, and you can use those situations to accumulate Ferocity quickly and retaliate with expensive Ferocity Actions or Primal Exploirts.
  • Fiendish Immunities: Immunity to two of the most common damage types in the game.
  • Fiery Weapons: 1d6 damage isn’t a huge damage boost since your companion typically makes just one attack per round, and fire resistance/immunity is common.
  • Wings: Flight is a crucial tactical option that most compenions simply can’t produce, and without the ability to fight at range, most companions need this to be functional against flying enemies.

Infernal Exploits improvement: One more exploit from either the 3rd or 11th-level list.

Fiendish Form: This should be your Bonus Action on your first turn of nearly every encounter. The benefits are excellent, and by this level Beyond Instinct allows you to generate 1d4+5+X Ferocity, so even if you roll a 1 you have enough.

Infernal Exploits
3rd Level

Drain Them: Expensive, and you may frequently find that your companion loses roughly the same amount of hit points over the course of the next round. If you just need to keep your companion going for another round or two, this can buy you time for the rest of your party to come to the rescue, but using the same Ferocity to incapacitate your target in some way (such as by using your companion’s 5th-level Ferocity Action) will often be a better option because it will both prevent damage to your companion and harm your opponent. That said, this works on critical hits, and healing a bunch of damage on a crit feels nice. Unfortunately, with only one attack per turn, crits will be rare.

Hellish Wound: Ongoing damage is great for enemies with a big pile of hit points, such as legendary creatures, but the damage doesn’t scale in any way and 1d10 damage per round will quickly stop being impactful. Most combats last 3-5 rounds, so you really don’t have time to stack a bunch of these onto one target.

Infernal Teleport: Teleportation breaks grapples, removes you from dangerous locations, and potentially gets you into melee with frail enemies who are hiding behind more sturdy creatures. The range is decent, and weirdly this doesn’t require line of sight. Unfortunately you can’t use it outside of combat since Ferocity only exists in combat.

Wicked Deception: Only situationally useful, and immunity to the Charmed condition is common.

11th Level

Brimstone Teleport: If you can hit two or more enemies with this, you will consistently do more damage than you could with weapon attacks. Keep in mind that the range is considerably smaller than Infernal Teleport and doesn’t allow your companion to teleport. I wouldn’t take both teleportation options.

Chains from Hell: Restrained is a great status condition. Even without the damage, this would be very good. If you can generate enough Ferocity, you can repeatedly restrain targets, severely limiting their ability to fight back.

Dark of Hell: Most creatures can’t see in magical darkness, so this puts you and your companion at an advantage both offensively and defensively.

Infernal Flames: Decent damage in a reasonably large AOE. If you can hit two or three enemies with this, it will easily do more damage than a Signature Attack. Of course, the cost is high, so you really want to hit 3 or more enemies to justify the cost.

Poison Rain: Poisoned is a great status condition, but Constitution saves tend to be high, and resistance/immunity to poison are common, so this will be unreliable

Primordial Bond

Similar in them to the druid, Primordial Bond gives you exploits which feel very similar to druid spells, plus some nature-themed options which make your companion more dangerous. The addition of blasting options can help handle crowds, which is normally a challenge for the Beastheart, but few of the Nature Exploit options are truly worthwhile.

Nature Exploits: You get one at 3rd level and another at 11th level. You can retrain a Nature Exploit every level (Fiendish Bond can’t do this), allowing you to retrain your 3rd-level exploit for a new 11th-level exploit when you reach 11th level if you’d like.

Primal Understanding: Nature isn’t a great skill for the Beastheart since it’s Intelligence-based, but it fits the theme.

Allied Earth: This is a great way to make your companion “sticky” so that it’s difficult for enemies to get away from them. Any move speed except land speed doesn’t care about this, unfortunately, but most fights still take place on the ground.

Nature Exploits improvement: A second exploit. Consider retraining your first Nature Exploit if you want another 11th-level exploit.

Spirit Stampede: Potentially very damaging if there are numerous enemies in the are and you can accumulate a bunch of Ferocity to raise the damage dealt. There’s no save and force damage resistance is basically non-existent, so while the damage is small it’s very consistent.

Allied Weather: A great retaliation option. Knocking foes prone won’t always keep them prone since standing up only costs half of their movement, and the damage won’t be spectacular, but knocking foes prone might significantly impede Multiattack or it might knock flying creatures to the ground.

Nature Exploits
3rd Level

Elemental Shield: Absorb Elements, but you can share it. This is amazing at any level and will prevent a massive quantity of damage over the course of your career.

Freezing Strike: Inexpensive, a good damage boost that scales with level, and a minor debuff to the target. This is a great go-to option if you don’t have anything better to do with your Ferocity and your Action, but if it’s your best option every turn then your build is probably struggling.

Sickening Strike: Poisoned is a great debuff, but Constitution saves tend to be high and poison resistance/immunity is common.

Wings When I Need Them: Easy temporary flight. Since this is activated at the beginning of your and your companion’s turn and ends at the beginning of the target’s next turn, you can repeatedly reactivate this to maintain flight so long as you have the 5 Ferocity to do so. That’s hard at low levels, but once Beyond Instinct adds a flat bonus to the Ferocity generated each turn this will become increasingly useful. You might forgo this option at low levels, then pick it up Beyond Instinct at level 5 or when it improves at level 10.

11th Level

Lava Geyser: More damage than you’ll do with an attack if you hit two targets, and knocking targets prone can be helpful if your allies can act before the target(s) stand up again. Unfortunately, the AOE is tiny.

Lightning Eruption: Not a ton of damage, but you can activate this after you hit successfully, and since the damage is “extra damage” it’s multiplied on a critical hit.

Plant Prison: A great way to lock down single enemies, and at this cost you can use this every turn to keep the target restrained as long as they continue to fail saves.

Stinging Swarm: Lines are a hard AOE to use, the line is short, and Constitution saves tend to be high.

Thunderous Rebuke: Expensive, and Constitution saves tend to be high. It feels really good to combine this with Allied Weather, but it’s just not very effective.

Protector Bond

Protector Bond attempts to turn the Beastheart and their companion into a bodyguard build. But, due to the positioning requirements for the features, you typically need to be in melee with the same creatures that your melee allies are in order for the subclass features to function. Even then, enemies can simply choose to attack you and your companion, and most of your subclass features cease to function.

Beast Vitality: More hp never hurts.

Pack Phalanx: Similar in concept to Fighting Style (Protection), but it requires you to be adjacent to the attacker rather than the target. The position will be difficult unless you’re riding your companion.

Thickened Hide: Monstrous Companions don’t get fantastic AC until your Proficiency Bonus scales a bit. It’s not clear if this would apply when your companion is wearing armor, but I assume that it does not.

Sentinel Companion: At this point you want to encourage enemies to attack your allies, which can be difficult to do more than once since you’re actively punishing them for doing so. Coupled with the positioning requirements of Pack Phalanx, it’s extremely difficult to make this impactful.

Undying Protector: This makes it exceptionally difficult to reduce you to 0 hp. Being at 1 is still scary, but between this and prominent options like Healing Word, death is much less threatening.

Primal Exploits
Primal Exploits: 1st Level

Aid Us, Friend: Most companions don’t have a way to use their Bonus Action consistently, and the Help action can have a major impact if you use it before an ally makes a single high-damage attack like a Sneak Attack.

Bring Them Down: Considering how easy it is to get back up once prone (unless the target is also grappled), the cost here is very high. This isn’t a go-to option, but if your companion has a built-in grapple option, you can combine this with that option to perform the Grapple+Shove combo in one attack. Of course, the handful of official companions with a grapple option that’s applied via a Signature Attack also make the target Restrained, which is better than making them prone.

Drag Them: Only situationally useful, but a good way to break grapples if your companion doesn’t already have a way to reposition enemies like the Bulette’s Violent Attack.

Feral Reflexes: This can negate attacks roughly 10% of the time, and 2 Ferocity cost is small enough that you generally shouldn’t think twice about spending it. You use this after the attack is a hit, so you generally know whether +2 AC will turn a hit into a miss, similar to the spell Shield.

Hurricane Blow: Only situationally useful, but if your companion doesn’t have a way to reposition enemies to break grapples, this is a good option to do so.

No Escape: Only situationally useful. Most companions have 30-foot speed or better, and situations where they need more aren’t common enough to consume one of your very few Primal Exploit slots.

Primal Pounce: For companions that don’t have a built-in attack that grapples (which is most of them), this is very useful. It doesn’t care about size, it doesn’t care about their Athletics or their Acrobatics checks, and as such it’s easy to use on creatures which might be difficult to grapple. The targets do get a Dexterity save, so companions with built-in grapple options can still do this better, but for other companions this is a huge tactical advantage. This is especially useful for flying companions, who can grapple enemies to reduce their speed to 0, causing them to fall to the ground.

Quick Hide: Your companion needs to be in a position to hide before you attack, so expect to go back and forth between yourself and your companion within your turn so that you can position them for this. If your attack hits and their Stealth check works, your companion may get Advantage on their next attack. Just keep in mind that most companions aren’t proficient in Stealth (though see Beyond Instinct) and many don’t have good Dexterity. If you want to use this, make sure that Stealth is a good fit for your companion, and even then you have two points of failure so you need to be very sure that this will work.

Thrash: Many of the big melee brutes that your companion will spend a lot of time fighting will have poor Wisdom saves, and using this on those foes makes them dramatically less dangerous. I would skip this on the Giant Spider because their Distracting Attack and Web features provide similar benefits, but for any other companion this is excellent.

Primal Exploits: 10th Level

Exploits at this level cost a lot of Ferocity, but remember that Beyond Instinct also improves at 10th level, so your companion now gains 1d4+3+X Ferocity per turn, averaging to 5.5 plus the number of adjacent enemies. You likely can’t use these exploits every turn, but you can use them frequently, especially if there are numerous enemies in an encounter.

Crushing Charge: Decent damage, and if you you can extend the length of the line by changing your speed. A Strength saving throw may be easier than making an Athletics check to shove, so even if you only need one creature prone this may be a good way to make that happen. The damage isn’t fantastic unless you can hit multiple foes, but it’s good enough that you won’t feel bad about not attacking.

Expanding Fury: A huge improvement to the Mimic’s Adhesive Pseudopods and the Sporeling’s Spore Burst, but most companions won’t benefit and the Ferocity cost is huge.

Furious Vengeance: Not all companions have an option that works with this, but the Earth Elemental and the Mimic both do, and expanding the radius on those Ferocity Actions makes them much safer to use.

Marked Prey: Many companions require a saving throw on their 5th-level Ferocity Action, and the effects are usually excellent. The added insurance of imposing Disadvantage on that save makes those actions much more effective. Keep in mind that this only applies when the Ferocity Action is used, so any additional saves, such as those against the Basilisk’s Lesser Petrifying Gaze, are not affected by Marked Prey.

Primal Shout: Resistance and immunity to fear are common, and the range is short, but the Frightened condition is very powerful when it works. This doesn’t grant the targets immunity at any point like similar features often do, so if you can keep enough Ferocity to fuel this you can spend a whole fight running and screaming to keep enemies Frightened.

Wrath of the Pack: Knocking targets prone can be very effective, but you need to use this after you hit with an attack, then if your companion misses their attack it has no effect, so there are multiple points of failure. Still, you only use this after you hit and it costs half as much as Crushing Charge. If your companion has grappled the target already or could grapple them with another attack, this could be a good combination, not to mention the additional damage output from giving your companion another attack.

Primal Exploits: 17th Level

Exploits at this level require Ferocity above the 10 Ferocity threshold at which you risk your companion going on a rampage until you get Unbreakable Friendship at level 20. Fortunately, you have Expertise in Animal Handling and your Wisdom should be at least decent, so you should reasonably have a skill bonus of +15 or better by now. On a natural 1, your companion could then have 11 Ferocity and you’re guaranteed to prevent a rampage, but anything higher than that will be risky and your skill bonus won’t improve any further without magic items.

Blood Sport: Activate this after you hit, and you and your companion can both get an extra attack, as much as doubling your normal damage output for that turn. Unfortunately Primal Attack’s damage boost only works once per turn, but you do get 4d6 bonus damage on your second attack to replace it. If possible, find a way to get Advantage on these attacks, such as by knocking the creature prone on a previous turn or by using your companion’s actions before you use Blood Sport.

Break the Earth: Drop a few creatures into a 50-foot deep pit. The damage won’t be amazing, but it buys you a lot of time while they climb out of the pit. If you and your party can stand around the edges, you can shove enemies back into the pit repeatedly, trivializing the encounter unless your enemies can fly (in which case, don’t drop them into a pit) or teleport (in which case you spent Ferocity to make them spend spell slots).

Bury the Dead: The damage isn’t great at this level, but it doesn’t need to be. Prone and Restrained will massively hamper most creatures, and the target need to make a skill check against your save DC. Most creatures aren’t proficienct in Athletics even if they’re very strong, so the math is hugely in your favor.

Imbue Projectile: Decent damage is a good AOE and a good damage type, but it’s only marginally more damaging than Fireball, which isn’t going to win many fights at this level, and the 14 Ferocity cost is extremely steep.

Rend: Two points of failure make this unreliable, which is hard to justify at such a high cost. The effects are great if it works, but the best way to make this work is to knock the target prone beforehand, which reduces the benefits.

Spirit Form: Expensive and the duration is very short, but the tactical applications are very still very interesting. You’re most likely going to use this to reposition yourself to somewhere helpful or to reach enemies who might be flying or behind cover, but you’ll need to use your and your companion’s Action to actually do something about them.

Ability Scores

The Beastheart’s ability score needs closely resemble the Druid’s. The Quick Build entry for the class recommends making either Strength or Dexterity your primary ability score, but that seems misguided. Your Wisdom score determines your most important skills (Animal Handling and Perception), your Primal Exploit DC, and your Monstrous Companion’s DC’s for their abilities. Dexterity only matters for your AC and your one attack per turn, and while that single attack will be your Action on most turns, Wisdom will have better tactical benefits then just a little extra damage from higher Strength or Dexterity.

If you can find a way to get Shillelagh (Magic Initiate, Druid, Ranger), you can build around Constitution and Wisdom exclusively, simplifying your ability score needs considerably.

Dexterity-Based

Str: If you build around Strength, you’re going to be MAD due to needing 14 Dexterity for medium armor. Going for light armor is easier, less expensive, and makes Stealth much easier. Two-handed weapons are a bad idea, too.

Dex: 14 at minimum to fill out half plate, but probably more so that you can be good at Stealth and use both finesse and ranged weapons.

Con: Hit points. If you’re planning to fight at range, go for Dexterity first.

Int: Dump.

Wis: Sets your exploit DC, your compainion’s DC, and your most important skills.

Cha: Dump.

Point BuyStandard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 15
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 10

Strength-Based

If you build around Strength, you’re going to be MAD due to needing 14
Dexterity for medium armor. Going for light armor is easier, less expensive,
and makes Stealth much easier. Two-handed weapons are a bad idea, too. But
maybe you’re not worried about any of those problems or maybe you want to be
able to grapple and shove to support your companion.

If you can get heavy armor proficiency, you can dump Dexterity and go 15 in
Str/Con/Wis and you’ll do great.

Str: Weapon attacks and Athletics checks.

Dex: 14 at minimum to fill out half plate.

Con: Hit points. If you’re planning to fight at range, go for Dexterity first.

Int: Dump.

Wis: Sets your exploit DC, your compainion’s DC, and your most important skills.

Cha: Dump.

Point BuyStandard Array
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 10

Races

You need Wisdom and either Strength or Dexterity. Races which improve your durability are a great choice if you plan to be in melee alongside your companion, and races which provide additional skills can give you more options outside of combat. Flight is only minimally useful because your companion can’t fly and you’re not locked into one weapon, so switching to ranged weapons to handle flying enemies is painless.

Because this guide covers unofficial content, I’m not going to cover all of the race options available in 5e. Instead, I’ll examine some races which are notably effective for the class or which might appear to be a good choice at first glance. Races which are omitted aren’t necessarily bad, but keeping this list small makes it easier to support this content.

ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill (which you should leave as Perception).

  • EladrinMToF: Most beasthearts can’t teleport, so the Eladrin’s teleportation is a powerful asset. Even better, Spring allows you to teleport your companion to get them into melee faster.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade is a significant improvement to the Beastheart’s capabilities in melee. A handful of Primal Exploits (and two Nature Exploits) rely on you taking the Attack action, but it’s easy to build a very effective beastheart without those exploits. Making your melee attacks singificant in combat does a lot to improve your effectiveness since on most turns your Action will be spent attacking.

Default Rules:

  • EladrinMToF: The teleportation is nice, but the ability scores are difficult.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming blade is great, but the ability scores are difficult.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Perfect ability scores, but otherwise not especially useful.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin:

  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Three increases makes any beastheart build easier, and Booming Blade makes you much more effective in combat.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Three increases makes any beastheart build easier, and two skills offers a lot of options outside of combat.

Default Rules:

  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Two +1 increases and Booming Blade, making this marginally more effective than the High Elf.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two +1 increases and two skills. Variant Human is almost certainly better, but this isn’t bad.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Variant: Two +1s, a skill, and a feat. Literally always amazing, and it supports a wide variety of builds. Magic Initiate to get Shillelagh is the simplest choice, but see the Feats section, below, for other ideas.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: Ride your companion and Pack Tactics is always in effect.

OwlinSCoC

Flexible ability score increases to support any build, flight, and proficiency in Stealth. A Dexterity-based ranged combat build is likely your best choice..

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin:

  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Likely the Beastheart’s best flying race option because the Winged Tiefling is the only race which can fly in medium armor.

TortleTP

Customized Origin: The Tortle was already a great choice, and the custom origin rules do little to change that.

Default Rules: Perfect ability score increases, and the Tortle’s fixed AC allows you to focus more on Wisdom to support your companion without sacrificing AC.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren’t typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game. 

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you’re not playing a spellcaster you’re giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can’t cast spells.

Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Handling: Mark of Handling’s ability score increases are already great for the Beastheart, so the custom origin rules do little to improve things.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Handling: Perfect ability scores. Wild Intuition’s bonus to Animal Handling is helpful for preventing rampages. Primal Connection and The Bigger They are give you a way to actually talk to many types of Monstrous Companions beyond the limited communication offered by Natural Language. Those capabilities do a lot to support the Beast Heart’s core capabilities, so if you want a straightforward beastheart build, Mark of Handling is a fun choice. It likely won’t help accomplish anything beyond preventing rampages and having fun roleplaying moments with your companion, but it’s still a good basis for almost any beasthear build.

Races of Ravnica

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: With perfect ability scores on the table, the only thing that the Loxodon offers the Beastheart is Constitution-based natural armor which will at best match half plate.

Default Rules: Con, wis, and con-based natural armor. Your own actions will lag offensively, so consider getting Shillelagh so that you don’t need high Strength or Dexterity to support your attacks.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: If you can use Tireless Precisin with Animal Handling (and I’m not certain if that’s an option), the bonus is helpful for preventing rampages.

Default Rules: The Beastheart is too MAD to not get increases to two ability scores that they care about.

Races of Wildemount

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: The Wisdom-based spellcaster offers some Druid-like options which are a nice complement to the Beastheart’s capabilities.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Dexterity, Wisdom, and some Wisdom-based spellcasting.

Lineages

Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and beyond, no Lineage exists prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, and as such each lineage has flexible ability score increases. Every Lineage has the choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases except for the Custom Lineage which only receives a single +2 increase.

Lineages are applied on top of a base race. While the Custom Lineage isn’t affected by your base race, the three lineages published in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (Dhampir, Hexblade, and Reborn) borrow from your base race thanks to the Ancestral Legacy trait. Despite selecting a base race, you do not count as a member of your race for the purposes of any other effect, such as qualifying for feats or using magic items.

Custom LineageTCoE

Similar in many ways to the variant human. Putting the +2 into Wisdom and taking Magic Initiate will allow you to build around Wisdom with just 14 Dexterity and medium armor without sacrificing a useful attack option. You could also take two +1 increases and go for a different feat-based build.

DhampirVGTR

Vampiric Bite makes a Con/Wis much easier, and with 14 Dexterity you can do fine in medium armor. Spider Climb is great for mobility, but a beastheart could always pick the Giant Spider if walking on ceilings matters to you. Ancestral Legacy can get you flight in medium armor from the Winged Tiefling.

HexbloodVGTR

The innate spellcasting is minimally helpful without spell slots to re-cast it.

RebornVGTR

The additional durability is great, and nothing about the Reborn compels you to hang around in melee. Of course, retreating to fight at range negates most of the useful parts of the Reborn.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Only situationally useful.
  • Animal Handling (Wis): Crucial. Take this at first level so that you get Expertise at 3rd. Do not forget to take this at first level. Seriously. If you forget, it will mess up your whole character.
  • Athletics (Str): Using Shove to knock enemies prones before your companion attacks them can be helpful, but the Beastheart has none of the things that make Athletics effective in combat except a Strength score, so it’s a difficult and unreliable tactical option.
  • Arcana (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Deception (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • History (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Insight (Wis): Another good use of your Wisdom score, and likely your best contribution to social situations.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Ferocious Bond can make this workable by adding Wisdom to your Intimidation checks, but otherwise it’s a difficult choice.
  • Investigation (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Medicine (Wis): This skill is useless. Medicine is best done magically.
  • Nature (Int): Thematically a good fit, but Intelligence is a dump state.
  • Perception (Wis): The most important skill in the game.
  • Performance (Cha): Basically useless.
  • Persuasion (Cha): Charisma is a dump stat.
  • Religion (Int): Intelligence is a dump stat.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Only situationally useful.
  • Stealth (Dex): If you have decent Dexterity and proficiency in Stealth, you can easily stand in for a rogue.
  • Survival (Wis): Only situationally useful.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

The Beastheart’s skills and ability scores resemle the Druid and the Ranger, and they can fill roles similar to the Ranger. Look for skills that capitalize on your Wisdom and on your Strength or Dexterity (depending on your build), and if you’re serving as your party’s Scout, strongly consider Thieves’ Tools.

If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Far TravelerSCAG: Insight is passable and Perception is fantastic. The instrument/gaming set proficiency might actually be more useful for you than the language.
  • HermitPHB: Medicine isn’t a terribly useful skill, but Medicine and Insight both capitalize on your Wisdom.
  • OutlanderPHB: Several passable options, but nothing that you absolutely need to have.
  • UrchinPHB: Allows you to easily play your party’s Rogue-equivalent.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: Fighting Style (Protection) is a great way to protect your companion.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: Excellent for Strength-based builds, but you may want to take it at first level unless your campaign starts at or above 4th level.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Pick druid, and get Shillelagh, Thorn Whip, and Healing Word. Shillelagh dramatically improves your capabilities in melee, Thorn Whip lets you break grapples or force enemies into melee with your companion, and Healing Word is just really good. You could also go for Booming Blade from one of several classes, but the Beastheart frequently needs their Action to activate Primal Exploits, and some exploits specifically require the Attack action which means using Booming Blade on those turns. It’s not a bad idea, you just won’t be able to use it every single turn.
  • Mounted CombatantPHB: An excellent choice if you plan to ride your companion.

Weapons

Your weapon is entirely secondary to your companion’s capabilities and your Primal Exploits. In general, you’re using a weapon when you have nothing better to do with your Action.

  • Battleaxe: Your best bet if you want to be Strength-based and fight in melee.
  • Club: If you can get Shillelagh, this immediately beats all of your other melee weapon options.
  • Crossbow, Light: Your best ranged option if you’re small. The Beastheart doesn’t get Extra Attack, so the Loading property isn’t a problem.
  • Dagger: If you’re built for Dexterity but you’re going into melee, but want to be able to switch to ranged combat easily, daggers are a decent choice.
  • Dart: If you’re built for Dexterity but you’re going into melee, darts are a good ranged option because you can use them while also using a shield. Daggers also work, especially since they can also be used in melee.
  • Greataxe: With d8 hit points you really want a shield. Plus, most of your damage will come from your companion and Primal Strike, so the difference in damage between a greataxe and a one-handed weapon isn’t significant enough to give up the AC of a shield.
  • Javelin: The best ranged option for Strength-based builds. Bring several.
  • Longbow: The best ranged option for medium players, but the only major improvement is in your range since the Beastheart doesn’t get Extra Attack.
  • Net: Profoundly difficult to use to good effect. If you want to restrain enemies, take a Monstrous Companion that can do it.
  • Scimitar: Your most likely melee option. Basically identical to the Shortsword except for damage type.
  • Shortswords: Your most likely melee option. Basically identical to the Scimitar except for damage type.

Armor

If you’re building around Dexterity, wear light armor. If you’re building around Strength, wear medium armor or multiclass so that you can get heavy armor. In either case, you want to wear a shield if you’re in melee.

Multiclassing

Because the Beastheart isn’t an official class, as a DM I don’t recommend allowing multiclassing. Multiclassing is already a way to introduce some of the game’s largest problems, and third-party publishers frequently don’t have the time or resources to research all of the possible problems that can be introduced by multiclassing.

I do like that MCDM was smart enough to strictly limit what players get for multiclassing into the Beastheart. One level of Beastheart already gets you a companion that scales based on the Caretaker’s level and Proficiency Bonus, which is more impactful than what you get from any official class.

This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Barbarian: One level gets you unarmored defense. If you max either Dex or Con and have 16 ore more in the other, your 18 AC will exceed the maximum AC for light armor.
  • Cleric: Wisdom-based spellcasting and potentially heavy armor proficiency. Watch out for cleric spells which use your Bonus Action because they’ll conflict with commanding your companion.
  • Druid: A single level to pick up some Wisdom-based options like Shillelagh, Produce Flame, and Thorn Whip will make you much more effective offensively. However, you give up the ability to wear metal armor, so you’re trading new offensive options for reduced AC unless you also max out Dexterity.
  • Fighter: Starting at 1st level as a fighter gets you heavy armor, which makes a Strength-based build more viable. Wisdom is still more important, of course. Fighting Style (Protection) or (Interception) both give you a powerful way to protect your companion which will significantly add to their durability.
  • Monk: 16 Dex and 20 Wis gets you 18 AC, which will beat light armor for the same ability scores. Martial Arts will give you a consistent use for your Bonus Action once you no longer need it to command your companion, but your attacks will still be relatively weak until you raise your Dexterity a bit more.
  • Ranger: Two levels for Druidic Warrior gets you access to the druid cantrips without the restrictions against metal armor, but two levels might not be worth it for a marginal improvement to your own effectiveness.

Magic Items

Items without a book abbreviation superscript are taken from the Beastheart and Monstrous Companions PDF.

Common Magic Items

  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: The cheapest way to make your attacks magic to bypass damage resistances.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Badge of Battle +1: A significant improvement to your companion’s effectiveness in combat.
  • Badge of Ruin +1: It’s possible to build a companion without relying heavily on saving throws, in which case a Badge of Battle is better. But the more powerful options typically call for saving throws, so this is very powerful.
  • Companion Ball: This is a pokeball. Other than hiding your potentially socially-unacceptable pet, it’s not especially useful.
  • Saddle of the CavalierDMG: Unfairly good with monstrous companions who are intended to be ridden. Throw this on a bulette or a worg and ride them triumphantly into battle. Just remember that enemies might start attacking you since you’re an easier target.

Rare Magic Items

  • Armor of the Caregiver: Letting your companion rampage becomes more costly as you gain levels, so preventing rampages is a much better choice.
  • Badge of Battle +2: A significant improvement to your companion’s effectiveness in combat.
  • Beam Lenses: This allows melee-only companions to attack at range, but the attack isn’t fantastic. If it’s at all possible, you want to get your companion into melee with the target.
  • Badge of Ruin +2: It’s possible to build a companion without relying heavily on saving throws, in which case a Badge of Battle is better. But the more powerful options typically call for saving throws, so this is very powerful.
  • Emblem of Elements: Useful if your companion is locked into one damage type (and many are). This will get you around damage resistances/immunities, but the Ferocity cost imposes a constant tax. Still, it’s better than not doing damage.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Badge of Battle +3: A significant improvement to your companion’s effectiveness in combat.
  • Badge of Ruin +3: It’s possible to build a companion without relying heavily on saving throws, in which case a Badge of Battle is better. But the more powerful options typically call for saving throws, so this is very powerful.
  • Bonded Bracelets: If your companion has damage immunity, this allows you to share it. A Ring of Resistance is lower rarity, though, so you really only want these if you need the immunity and the telepathy.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: +1 Proficiency Bonus does a lot for both you and your companion.