The Handle Animal Guide
“Animals are such agreeable friends - they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms” - George EliotTemplates
There are a number of useful templates your animals can have. I intend to focus on the ones that have rules for how a player can aquire them, and also ones that apply specifically to animals. You can technically have a half dragon horse, but who wants to think about how that happened?Warbeast (MM2 p. 217)
The crown jewel of templates. It grants a plus 3 to Str and Con and a plus 2 to Wis. You also gain another HD, plus 10 to movement speed, plus 2 to ride checks, and proficiency in light, medium, and heavy armor.
The thing that makes this template really stick out is the fact that you can apply it to any of your creatures all by yourself. It just takes two months and a successful handle animal check (DC 20 +the animal's HD)
This template can also be applied to vermin. This does not make any sense however, because it is based on training and vermin have no int score. I don't know what you would do with a vermin, since they can not learn tricks or be commanded. You can't even push them with a push use of handle animal, because they are not animals.Magebred (EbCS p. 295)
A template from Eberron. It gives an animal a plus two increase to natural armor. The animal also gets a plus four to one physical stat (str, dex, or con) and plus two to the others. Int, if not two, is increased to two. You also have a plus two bonus when commanding a magebred animal and the animal takes a week less to learn a trick (minimum one week). You also gain your choice of one special quality (movement plus 10, plus two to natural armor, or plus four to survival checks for tracking purposes) and one feat (must be Alertness, Athletics, Endurance, Improved Natural Attack, or Multiattack). Applying the magebred template doubles the animal’s cost.
On paper, magebred will almost always be a bad choice. Two warbeast fleshrakers cost the same as one magebred warbeast fleshraker and can definitely out fight the magebred one. In actual games, however, this may not be the case. Even if your DM does not put some kind of cap on your creatures because it takes an average of six hours to resolve combat because of all the creatures you have brought in, you will eventually find yourself in such a situation where the battle field is small and fewer, tougher creatures are better than a horde. I heartily recommend this template, the multiattack alone makes it worth it.
Magebred also does not entail an increase in CR, which will be helpful if your DM puts some sort of CR limitation on what you can acquire.Horrid (EbCS p. 289)
Another Template from Eberron. It can only be applied to dire animals. It gives a plus five bonus to natural armor, plus four to con, an acid damage bonus to the animal’s primary attack (1d6 per four HD), immunity to acid, the feat: Improved Natural attack to all of its Natural Weapons, and it heals three times normal hitpoints from a good night’s sleep. On the other hand, handle animal checks on a horrid animal are 4 higher (meaning it will take a 14 to get it to perform a trick it knows) and its alignment becomes neutral evil. This seems to mean that in enjoys hurting things, so expect some major problems if you try to take one into town. I don’t know of anyway for a player to get a horrid animal, short of just randomly finding one. An evil animal trainer with horrid animals could be a nice roleplay option.Chimeric (MM2 p. 206)
A template from the MM2. It basically involves magically crossing the animal with a goat and dragon. The creature gains the magical beast type and a 10HD. It gains a new goat butt (1d8) and dragon bite (2d6) natural attack. Natural armor improves by 6 and it gains a 50 foot fly speed (poor maneuverability). Str increases by 4, dex by 1, Con by 4, and int by 2 (so we are not longer using animal handling on it). It has a breath weapon useable every 1D4 rounds based on the type of dragon it is combined with. Also gains the scent ability and multiattack feat.
There does not seem to be anyway to apply this as a PC, which is a shame because it can produce effective flying and ranged animals, both of which are hard to find.Titanic (MM2 p.219)
A template from MM2 that increases the size of a medium creature to gargantuan and gives them 25 HD, among other bonuses. The means it becomes an epic level animal. There are no rules for applying this, and I do not see a DM allowing it, so I will not bother covering it. Acquiring Animals
We have gone over how to train and command animals, but how does one go about acquiring them? There are several ways to this, some class dependent and some not. Let us take a look.Animal Companion
An Animal Companion is a special class feature given to the druid. The ranger and certain PRCs also get one (with some differences) but I will refer to them in conjunction to druids, much as the rulebooks do. If one of the PCs has an animal, this is probably the reason. The druid’s animal companion comes from a limited list, and is determined by the druid’s level. A druid can command their animal companion as a free action and handle their animal companion as a move action (instead of move/command push/standard), and receives a plus four bonus when doing so. A druid’s animal companion also receives bonus feats and stat points as the druid increases in level. A druid can release their animal companion and also replace them if it dies. They can have an alternate companion but the new animal companion receives bonuses as if the druid was at a lower level. So if a druid trades their wolf for a fleshraker they will give it bonuses as if they were a first level druid. See the druid section of the Player’s Handbook for the complete details. A druid’s animal companion may be enhanced through the Natural Bond feat (CV), the Exalted Companion feat (BoED), and the Coordinated Strike feat (RotW, also works with special mounts). Prestige Classes which improve an Animal Companion include the Arcane Hierophant (RotW) and the Beastmaster (CV). The Beastmaster class also allows the druid to have more than one animal companion.My thoughts
: The Animal Companion is a really cool class feature for a druid. It takes a free action to handle and that allows it to be easily used by any sort of druid, whether her focus is crowd control, healing, melee, or something else. It is really most useful for a melee wildshaping druid. With the share spells feature, it can have all of the buffs that the druid cast on her herself. It was really powerful back when wild shape changed your type, and you could use animal growth to make you and your companion melee monsters.
An animal companion is great and will make a potent addition to your forces. However, as far as acquiring an army of powerful beasts goes, we can do better with other mechanics.Wild Cohort
Wild Cohort is a feat that allows classes that do not ordinarily receive an animal companion to obtain one. It can be found here: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/re/20031118a
A Wild Cohort is weaker than an ordinary animal companion. Its stats increase at a slower rate and have a lower maximum. It will not gain the Multiattack and Improved Evasion feats, nor the share spells special ability. A PC with the Wild Cohort feat can command their animal companion as a free action and push it as a move action, but unlike the druid they receive only bonus of 2. It gains tricks slower and can only obtain 6 bonus tricks. The animal companion granted by Wild Cohort is three levels behind the druid for the purposes of alternate animal companions. So a 7th level Wild Cohort Character can only have an animal at the fourth level, like a fleshraker, instead of a seventh level, like a tiger. Feats and classes which enhance a regular animal companion also enhance a Wild Cohort animal companion. Classes which already have an animal Companion can take Wild Cohort to gain another. A character cannot have two Wild Cohorts.My thoughts
: A weaker animal companion. This is nice to have, but it is not optimum to build an entire character around this feat. Wild empathy, diplomacy, and purchasing will provide stronger animals and many more of them.Special Mounts
Upon reaching fifth level, paladins gain a special mount. One per day, the mount can be magically called to any location in a full round action and stay with the paladin for twice their class level in hours. The mount gains several benefits, including increased stats and special abilities. The mount is considered a magical beast, although it gains HD, BAB etc. as a normal animal.
Special mounts should not be treated as animals. They begin with an intelligence of 6 and can reach an intelligence of 9. Paladins cannot teach their mounts tricks (the mount’s int is too high) and should control their mount via empathetic link or spoken words (free action).
The DMG gives guidelines on how paladins can change their normal heavy warhorses for more impressive creatures (Note: my copy of the DMG seems to be missing part of the table. Specifically, the part which tells what level a new type of special mount becomes available. Does anyone else have this problem?) It works similarly to a druid gaining an advanced animal companion. At the DM’s option, a paladin can make an appropriate cohort his special mount, but the cohort should be given a plus 2 ECL modifier. The Dracomonicon gives rules on how a paladin can acquire a dragon as their special mount.My thoughts
: The best way to optimize a paladin’s mount is the Supermount method. (http://boards1.wizards.com/showthread.p
… 372&page=1) If you do not want to go that way for some reason, such as not wanting to be Halfling, a pretty effective mount would be to use your cohort as your special mount. A level 20 paladin can have an ECl 16 mount with full paladin bonuses.Other Special Mounts
The Algandar (sp?) Griffonrider PRC gains a griffon as a mount. The mount will progress as the class gains levels, but a player can substitute their paladin special mount progression instead. My thoughts
: It has been a long time since I had my hands on Unapproachable East. I will try to get my hands on a copy of it and take another look at this class. Griffons, even without special abilities, make awesome pets however.Leadership
The leadership feat allows one to gain a cohort of no more than two less than the leader’s level. Leadership can be used to gain mounts and magical beasts, provided that they have an INT score greater than or equal to 4. The odds are that you will have to make a handle animal check to train the cohort, such as with griffons for example, but after that you should command the cohort with regular speech. The Dracomonicon has a special dragon cohort feat, which allows you to have a dragon cohort that is 3 ECL higher than you would through the regular leadership feat. Cohorts can make effective mounts; provided that the cohort is willing (they function like NPCs).My thoughts
: Leadership is a good way to get a nice mount for your character. If your goal is to use animal handling to its best advantage however, you are better off with a bard, marshal, or buffing mage as your cohort. Any of these can improve your ability to handle animals and/or the animals’ combat ability and will probably be more effective than one more beast. The small army of followers you gain can be used to take care of your animals.Dragon Leadership
Similar to Leadership, but you do not gain followers and you can only gain a dragon off a certain table on p. 139 of the Dracomonicon. On the plus side, the dragon counts as three ECLs lower.My thoughts
: A given if you want a dragon mount. It can be a nice basis for a paladin mount using the cohort as a special mount rule. Dragon Steed
This feat from the Dracomonicon allows one to have the services of a dragonnel as a mount. The feat says it replaces your special mount, which I take to be WotC’s crazy way of saying you apply your special mount abilities to it, not that your special mount class feature disappears.My thoughts
: I can’t recommend this feat. The dragonnel is a fine mount, but a fully trained dragonnel costs only 10,000 gp, and the price will be less if you buy it as an egg or raise it yourself. It does not seem to gain experience, and will eventually have to be replaced by a better mount. Taking Dragon leadership can probably score you a dragonnel with class levels.Animal Friendship
A spell which I believe existed in 3.0 but I cannot currently find a copy of. Surprisingly, it in not even listed here (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20050110x
) Can anyone help me out here? My thoughts
: Animal Control
This feat from Masters of the Wild gives you the ability to control or rebuke animals just as an evil cleric can control undead. It requires the animal defense feat (ability to turn animals, same book) and the speak with animals and animal friendship spells.My thoughts
: It lists as a prerequisite a spell that I can not seem to find anywhere. It is not updated for 3.5. Probably inferior to other methods anyway.Wild Empathy
Wild Empathy is a feature of certain classes such as the druid. It works similarly to a diplomacy check, but the roll is equal to a D20 plus the character’s druid level (or other wild empathy class) and charisma modifier. A druid can also affect magical beasts in this way, but with a negative modifier of minus four. Several PRCs advance wild empathy and the animal lord gives a bonus when dealing with a chosen type of creature. Most wild creatures start out as unfriendly, and it seems to take at least a friendly disposition to make them ready for training, so a DC 15 check must be made. The animal still has to be trained after this check is made. My thoughts
: This is a good basis for your army. You will have a hard time making that check in the beginning, but as time goes by it will be incredibly easy. The services of a marshal will help in the mean time. You can gain magical beasts from this method and train them if they have an int of 1 or 2. This includes some very excellent creatures such as the hydra
Finding the animal you want to charm should not be too hard. In Masters of the Wild, it gives rules for finding an animal companion. This was in the old days of 3.0, when a druid had to go out and look for an animal companion, instead of just praying in a field and having Elhonna Fed Ex him one. It says on page 34 that it should only take a few days and some simple skill checks.
Diplomacy, however, makes this method seem suboptimal, since diplomacy can
do everything that Wild Empathy can, and so much more. It also does not have a magical beast penalty or tie you to specific classes. Use this method if you can’t spend the skill points, don’t want to be an incredibly smooth talker, or your DM will not let diplomacy work this way.Diplomacy
Intelligent creatures can be influenced by the diplomacy skill, provided that the player can find someway to communicate with them, and several of these can be effective mounts or additions to an army of trained animals. Oddly enough, in Races of the Wild under training an elven hound (p.190), it states that the hound can be moved to begin training after a successful diplomacy check if the diplomat can speak with them, such as with the Speak with Animals spell. That gives us the precedent of allowing animals and magical beasts to be convinced to begin service with the diplomacy skill. My thoughts
: Diplomacy is a great skill to have. It synergizes well with animal handling (both are cha based skills). All it takes to start converting animals is a simple first level druid spell, which should be easy to acquire. Read any diplomancer thread and you can see how easy it is too crank this skill up to insane levels and how much it can do. Even if your DM does not allow the more crazy uses of diplomacy, like convincing an opposing BBEG to join your cause, he should have no problem with using it to influence animals, because it is really not like asking your sworn enemy, or even a random human, to abandon their own life goals and join your quest. Most buyable magical beasts require a diplomacy check, and if you intend to fill out your army with things like griffons, you will need this skill.
On the other hand, there is good reason to think that this should not be allowed. Using diplomacy in this way is based on one passage on page 190 of Races of the Wild. The example also involves the spell Speak with Animals working on magical beasts, but it really should not. Some DMs may rule that this is precedent of the fact that sometimes authors go crazy and not that one can diplomance their way to an animal army. If anyone knows of another location in the books where it says that diplomacy can affect non-intelligent creatures, or that Speak with Animals works on magical beasts, please post.Purchasing
There are several animals and magical beasts that are available for purchase throughout the Monster Manuals and other books. The advantage to this is that you do not have to actually go out and find the creature you desire, the disadvantage is that you have to pay. You can also buy one that has been already trained, and be ready to join the adventure immediately, but that costs still more money. Special mounts, such as griffons and pegasi, have their own prices associated with them. In the MM2, under the warbeast template, prices are listed for a war trained version of any animal. The formula is 50 gp per HD for an animal 3HD or lower or 100 gp plus 75 gp per HD for an animal that has more then 3 HD. Note that you most also pay 75 gp for the HD gained by war training a beast. It is implied, but not stated, that warbeasts have the combat riding set of tricks.My thoughts
: This is my preferred method. It gives you the price of any animal in any book, and it is amazingly cheap if you buy warbeasts. The example they give in the MM2, a warbeast rhino, costs 775 gp. That is the cost for a nine HD creature. It is just barely more than the cost of full plate armor. A Fleshraker costs 475 gp. A Tyrannosaurus Rex costs 1,525 gp. This is simply the best way to go. You do not have to wait an obnoxious amount of time, you do not have to hope to run into these things when you wander the woods, you just have to pay an easily affordable price and you are in business.
You can also acquire a number of other magic beasts from the various books. I will list the better options among these in another update. They cost more, but they generally come with intelligence, which will help you greatly.
Many magical beasts have options as to when you can buy them. A griffon can be bought as an egg (3,500 gp), or as a young griffon (7,000 gp). You may want to buy one as an egg so that you can save some cash. Unfortunately, 3.5 does not seem to give age/growth information for monsters. That means that no one knows when that egg is going to hatch, or how long after that it takes a griffon to grow large enough to fight. Ask your DM how long he thinks it should take, and base your decision of that.Animal Rearing
The handle animal skill allows a PC to rear a wild animal. It requires a handle animal check (DC equals animal HD plus 15). The description says “that rearing an animal means to raise an animal from infancy so that it becomes domesticated.” (PH. 75). D&D 3.5 does not seem to list animal ages or rear times, which makes this a problem. I have come up with three possible interpretations of how this should work.1st interpretation
: Google it. D&D does not give us the time it takes for an animal to grow from infancy to adulthood, so we will acquire the information ourselves from the ever useful Google (how did we survive without this)?Problems with this method
: First of all, there are several animals with ages we can not begin to guess. Like the dire ones, or the dinosaurs, or the made up ones. I suppose you could take a guess by looking at a similar creature. Even when we look at animals that exist, this method is problematic. According to the Baylor University Baylor Bear Program, the North American Black Bear takes about five years to grow from infancy to adulthood. Unless you have a party of nigh immortal characters, like elves and warforged, the party is probably not going to agree to take five years off from adventuring so that you can teach that black bear cub you found to stop peeing on the carpet. Even if we really stretch the age categories, and define weaning as the end of infancy and sexual maturity as adulthood, you are still talking a minimum of a year and a half, and it requires you to have found a bear who is both a late bloomer and a fast grower.2nd interpretation
: Screw it. The books had lots of spaces where they could have listed a time that it should take to rear a creature. They chose not to do so. Other animals or magic beasts that can be bought young have no listed differences in stats. Just pick up your infant black bear, and send it directly into battle with the same stats as an adult. The book even says you can teach it tricks at the same time as you are rearing it. If it knows the tricks, it will follow your commands, and you do not even have to finish the rearing process.Problems with this Method
: It basically means that the rearing part of the skill is pointless and meaningless. Considering that one is allowed to train magical beasts so long as they have an INT of 1 or 2, and that they are apparently unrearable, this may be the actual intent.3rd interpretation
: 3.0 it. 3.0 for the most part did seem to mention things like rearing times for animals. Under epic uses of the skill, which is still 3.0, we can see a rearing time of one year for all magical beasts. So we can just apply the one year time period to those animals without a listed rearing time.Problems with this method
: First of all, we have found ourselves with the same playability problems that we had in the first interpretation, that not quite so severe. Second, the table presented also just says “variable” for vermin, which are in many ways closer to animals than magic beasts, implying that using the magic beast rearing time for animals in incorrect. Lastly and most importantly, the rules for training animals have changed significantly in the transition from 3.0 to 3.5. In 3.0 it took two months to teach an animal a trick. In 3.5 it takes one week. This seems to indicate that the designers thought that training animals took too long and should be faster, and that may mean faster rearing times as well.My thoughts
: Either have your DM rule 0 the entire thing or do not use it. The official rules are at best incomplete.