dietronomy asked: I have a brief query I'm hoping you might be able to help me with. it's my understanding that rangers with the beast master archetype can have an animal companion with a cr of 1/4 or less. Trinket is grizzly bear which I don't believe is listed in any of the handbooks, but brown bears are listed at a CR of 1. How is it possible that Vex could have Trinket as a companion?
There’s a number of reasons why Trinket is what Trinket is. First, you have to remember that the game started in Pathfinder and was adapted to 5e rules right before the show started. Trinket has also been with Vox Machina since the very beginning, so even though he doesn’t fight very often (which might be another point in his favor for being “allowed”), he very much belongs in the story.
To answer your question, yes, you are correct. If this were a completely by-the-book campaign, a 5th edition ranger could not have a bear as a companion (and even then, no companion at all until 3rd level). However, no where does it ever say that you have to follow the rule books to a T.
For instance, let’s say you’re a DM, and your player hands you a fully-fleshed-out short story on the character’s background, in which a creature of higher-than-allowed ranking shares a pivotal connection with them. Are you really going to tell the player, “No, you have to discard all of this because a bear is too powerful”? First rule of improv and DMing: “Yes, and…”
If the players are willing to be creative in a way that only slightly pushes the rules, let them! Tell them that they can have a bear, but it’s a special bear with modified stats that are a little less powerful than the textbook brown bear. If the addition of another lesser PC is making the encounters too easy, increase the difficulty of your encounters, or decrease the abilities of the beast.
Now, there are caveats to that. If your player tells you that they adopted a roc as a hatchling and grew up with it and they can’t bear to be apart, there’s probably not a lot of that back story that is going to stay. Maybe offer a falcon instead (CR 0). If that’s not good enough for them, maybe a giant eagle (CR 1) will work. If they’re not able to compromise from there, maybe you don’t want to DM for them.
Also, rangers are probably one of the most nerfed of the classes. Most beast companions rarely last more than a few encounters. The fact that Trinket has lived for going on three years is amazing. I personally house rule up to CR 1 in my games anyway.
With all of that said, if you are a player and your DM insists that you have to follow the rules as outlined by the manuals, do try to be respectful and work with them. We DMs have rules that we’re individually firm or flexible about. If you really want a pet bear, pitch it outside the session. Unless they feel like you’re trying to break their game, they’re probably going to be willing to work with you. If that doesn’t work, that’s their call; don’t make their job any harder than it needs to be!