The Handle Animal Guide

101 posts / 0 new
Last post
Introduction

This is intended to be a guide for those who want to use animals in a D&D game. In this guide I intend to describe how animals act and how you can get the most out of them in both combat and non-combat scenarios. This guide should be useful to classes with an animal companion (such as a druid), classes that have special mounts or intend to acquire special mounts, and just generally anyone who manages to acquire an animal that they wish to make use of in their travels.


Terminology

To prevent confusion, I will be using the phrase “animal companion” to refer only to animals that are acquired through the animal companion class feature. The term trained animal will refer to animals acquired through other means, such as rearing, purchase, and DM fiat. The term “trained animal” is not an official D&D term. Using the term “trained animal” is not meant to imply that an animal companion is not an animal that has been trained, I merely do not wish to spread the erroneous belief that a druid with a bunch of guard dogs gets to apply the animal companion bonus to all of them.

Section 1: Animals do the Darndest Things.

It is very important to realize how animals behave. They are not intelligent, and maintain their animal instincts. They cannot follow complex instructions. They will not ordinarily use group tactics, or attack specific things without specific instructions. If you want your animal to focus on enemy casters, you will have to make a handle animal check each battle, or be in a campaign in which all casters are unique in someway an animal can detect, such as smell. Teaching animals complex attack maneuvers, such as power attack and grappling, can be disappointing because the animal is not necessarily smart enough to realize the times when using these moves would be most beneficial. For the most part, your animals will follow you around and attack things that attack you or themselves (DMG p. 206). They will attack whatever is closest to them. This will lead to them tending to cluster. This can be very debilitating. Every experienced DM knows that an encounter’s difficulty can change wildly due to the position of foes. They will have trouble dealing with unique situations. This could something incredibly exotic, such as invisible, incorporeal foes, or something as simple as fighting on the deck of a boat. Animals tend to flee when injured. I assume that this means that they will flee will significantly hurt. If they flee whenever hurt a fighter would be dragged out of combat every time his mount takes a scratch. Animals will leave you if mistreated or abused. I will suggest measures to minimize these disadvantages in a later section.

By RAW your animals should be controlled by the DM. Many DMs will choose to allow you to control your own critters. Do not abuse this by having your animals suddenly demonstrate genius level tactical decisions. Roleplay them as animals.

Section 2: Caring for Animals

Your animal companion can take care of its own needs for the most part. It is indicated in the rules that an animal can hunt for its own food. Certain trained animals, one that naturally hunt, should be able to do this as well. Other animals, such as many magical beasts, have an upkeep cost. This may include everything from food, grooms, and even fancy treasure for something like a rage drake. Regardless of whether or not your animal can feed itself, I recommend you take care of it yourself. Paying for its food and upkeep will make it be more favorable to you, and decrease the chance that it will wander off. It will also keep your animals out of trouble. If you have the animals fend for themselves, do not be surprised when you wake up to find that your pet dingo is finishing off a human baby. Eventually, you will want to have some sort of fixed location for your animals, such as a druid’s grove. This will be an ideal place for your animals to rest and train. Later sections will have information on what you want this place to have, and I intend to borrow the stronghold builder’s guide to get an estimate of the cost (in the mean time, if anyone wants to give an estimate, please post.) Some grooms would be a nice addition, and are actually the cheapest hirable at a mere 15 cp a day. Be sure to name your animals and if your DM gives you any off screen time you should spend it with your pets.

Section 3: Turning Tricks

Tricks are special actions that you can train your animal to perform. These are necessary if you wish you animal to do anything more than follow and attack. Teaching an animal a trick requires at least a week of time and requires a successful handle animal check (variable). Getting an animal to perform a trick it knows is a DC 10 skill check. This increases by 2 if the animal is hurt. Having an animal perform a trick is a free action for animal companions and a move action for trained animals. This always seems to assume that you have one animal companion. This means that commanding three fleshrakers to attack would take three checks and three move actions. Most DMs will wave this requirement, because there is no logical reason why one can not simply shout “Attack!” and have all one’s animals lunge forward instead of mentioning them each by name and having them perform their trick. The DMG modifies this and says that a druid telling their animal to perform a “complex trick” is a standard action. The example is having an animal attack a specific foe. This means it will take a full round action for a trained animal (not an animal companion), assuming that this action increases in time as well. Oddly, this makes the Attack trick somewhat useless, as animals will attack in the matter described automatically. It is still necessary to take in order to gain the ability to attack strange creatures however. It also directly contradicts the wording of the Attack trick in the Player’s Handbook. Some commands the animal will not be able to understand, such as “Attack the guy carrying a wand” or “Attack the guy in the blue shirt”.

At first glance, looking at the list of tricks for animals can be a bit overwhelming.
This is especially troublesome if you have chosen a rare INT 1 animal or have a limited time to train. They are several tricks that you may need your animal companion to perform to avoid losing it, such as Come or Stay, and many more that will enhance the usefulness of your animal. You can also train an animal in a specific purpose. This basically gives the animal a bundle of skills and requires you to make only one check. It takes the same amount of time as teaching them individually.

Picking the right tricks is easier than you might expect. Assuming you do not want to ride your animal, the only tricks you need are Attack and the advanced Attack that lets them attack unusual creatures, sometimes called attack other. The Player’s Handbook states that training an animal to attack “unusual things” such as aberrations and undead, costs two tricks, but does not say that this takes extra time, so you may be done training in as little as one week.

At this point, you may be wondering how one can make do without tricks like Come which will allow one to make one’s animal follow the PC anywhere. The answer is the wonderful use of handle animal called push animal. Pushing an animal allows you to have an animal perform at trick it does not know. The DC of the check is a somewhat high 25, but remember that out of combat you can afford to take 20. The only thing you lose when you take twenty tries to make your dog sit is pride. This check increases by two if the animal is hurt, but still should be no problem.

The pushing animal rule gives us our general maxim of what tricks to train an animal. If you will be using it out of combat or other stressful situations, you should not take that trick and instead rely on pushing. If you plan to use the trick when you cannot take twenty, then be sure to take it if you have time and the space. I would suggest teaching your animal the tricks Perform, Come, and Down. Perform is good for reasons that will be explained later. It can also have combat applications. Ordering your animals to play dead may save their lives. Come allows you to order your animals to retreat. Down lets you call off your animals, which can be good if you find them attacking an ally or party member by mistake. Come can logically do everything that this trick can, because non-ranged animals (the vast majority of them) must break off the attack by coming to you. Your DM may not like this application of the trick however, and require you to take Down if you wish to use Come in that way.

Note that those who have multiple trained animals that are not animal companions will not have much use for Down and Come if their DM plays by the RAW. If your squad of animals is attacking a friendly NPC and you need a move action to call each one off, the NPC will most likely be dead before you can make everyone of them stop attacking. If you need to retreat, you will probably need those move actions to run away yourself, not to give commands to your animals. Hopefully, they will get the point and follow you out. If your DM allows your commands to affect all your animals, then they become useful again.

Useful tricks to push your animals with include Guard, Stay, Defend, Home, and Warn. Warn allows your animal to growl when they detect something suspicious, and is the best way to make use of an animal’s special senses such as scent.

Make sure you train your animals to perform tricks in response to words in an esoteric language or nonsense words. You do not want to telegraph of all your actions to an enemy, and you do not want them mistaking your everyday speech for orders to attack.

You will most likely wish to teach your animal special tricks. In another thread, Friendly Biscuit asked about training monkeys to reload crossbows. I have taught one of my burrowing creatures to arise if I tap the floor three times. Another good example of a special trick would be a rogue who teaches his dog to be his flank buddy. A simple trick like one that makes your animals follow you silently is useful, simple, and not supported by the rules. Designing a special trick will have to approved by your DM. There are not, to my knowledge, rules for creating special tricks.

Controversial Option: While there is an amount of time listed to train an animal, it does not list how long it will take you to per day to do this, like the crafting rules. If we say that it takes about an hour of practice a day to train an animal (which seems reasonable) we can actually give an animal six or more tricks in a single week. We just have to teach him how to attack at noon, guard at one o'clock....

Section 4: Animal Boot Camp.

As was mentioned earlier, animals have trouble dealing with unfamiliar situations. Let me show how this can affect a game through an example.

Bart and Millhouse are two adventures exploring a dungeon. Bart is a ranger with an elephant animal companion named Stampy. Millhouse is a wizard. They adventures comes across a thirty foot vertical wall that they need to bypass in order to continue their quest. Millhouse has come prepared and pulls out his wand of spider climb. He enchants himself, Bart, and Stampy. Bart and Millhouse navigate the wall no problem, but the DM says Stampy refuses despite Bart’s prodding. The elephant can’t know that he suddenly has magical climbing abilities and neither Bart nor Millhouse can explain it to him. Even if Bart had a speak with animals spell memorized, it is unlikely he will be able to convince his animal to do something so unnatural without a huge handle animal check.

Here we can see the potential pitfalls of taking an animal. You can, however, minimize these difficulties by planning ahead. Bart should have used his off time to show Stampy the power of the spider climb spell, possibly starting him off with inclines and moving up to vertical walls. This is what animal boot camp is all about. In your off time, you should expose your animals to strange situations. If you plan to use spider climb, have your animal learn how the spell works in a controlled, safe environment, such as your grove. If you plan to use fly on your animals, use it at boot camp first. Do not expect your bear to fight perfectly as a flying creature after you enchant it. It is probably going to become very confused, terrified, and stricken with vertigo. Whenever you plan to use enhancement magic on a creature, do not try it out in the middle of a dungeon, use it at your grove first, especially if it does something that will be strange or unnatural for the animal. Even spells like animal growth should be first used in safety. Teleportation should first be experienced by animals in a controlled setting as well.

Boot camp is also a good time to have your animals go against confusing challenges. Have your wizard conjure up some invisible creatures, so your animals will get used to using their other senses in combat. I do not think your DM will remove the penalty for fighting an invisible creature, but hopefully your animal won’t just stand there in abject confusion either. Have them fight incorporeal creatures as well. Several other possibly magic obstacles can be faced here as well, such as walls of force or magical darkness. Remember, it is always better to have your animals experience adverse conditions before an actual combat situation.

Boot camp does not have to be only a place for magic either. You can use this time to acclimate your animals to mundane challenges as well. Dig some pits so your animals will be used to climbing out of them. Drop nets on them and teach so they can learn how to break out. Make sure your grove has a nice body of water. This can be used for swimming practice as well as liquid refreshment. Rent a boat some day and let your animals become used to its rocking surface. Then teach them to fight an opponent on such a surface. Animals have a fear of fire, so try to get them used to it at the camp.

This is also the time you want to teach your animal how to fight. Let’s say you have a bear you want to have focus on grappling. You should condition it to attack dummies with grappling, not just natural attacks. If you want to have a power attacking animal, teach it sacrifice a certain a mount of its BAB here. You do not want the thing to be constantly using its entire BAB an every attack, and thus constantly missing, which it may well do if you do not train it appropriately.

There is a limit to how intelligently you can train an animal. Training it to grapple everything its size or smaller is good. Training it to customarily use five BAB on power attacks (much like the rage drake) and go to normal if it misses every attack is good. Trying to come up with every possible circumstance and orders for each is bad. Do not tell your creature to power attack for seven against enemy casters, unless they are using AC increasing spells, and two for enemy warriors, unless they are sword and boarders….and so forth is bad. For one thing your animal probably does not understand any of those terms. For another, you can only expect your animal to remember information that is so complex, no matter how much you reinforce it. Playing with animals means not being able to play with the ever-useful power attack calculator, and you should consider this fact when you are deciding feats.

Boot camp should not be rushed. If you try to put your animals through all of this in a day they will see it as abuse and probably leave you. Reward your animals generously when they perform the desired behavior. A speak with animals spell is crucial for boot camp. Done right, boot camp will be a bonding experience for you and your animals. Training an animal gives a specific length of time, but does not say that you need so many hours of concentration like crafting, so you should be able to do a lot of this stuff at the same time you are training.

Boot camp is not officially supported by the RAW. It does however make perfect roleplaying sense and there are no rules to forbid it. It also means that your character will be more fleshed out. No longer will just say “Me and my companion bond in the woods” or “I spend the time training my animal to do trick B.” You can actually describe the experiences you and your animals are going through. Your DM may think that training in this way should count towards your animal’s number of tricks limit. If such is the case, I would suggest you argue that none of the above are tricks, and therefore do not to influence an animal’s tricks per day. Personally, I think the whole number of tricks per day is a pretty lame mechanic. It reminds me of the Far Side cartoon in which the guy with the small head asks to leave the classroom because his brain is full. The idea that an animal’s brain becomes full and that it can learn nothing new is ridiculous. If they wanted to tie trick learning to INT, they should have made it affect the time it takes an animal to learn a trick.

Speaking of training, you can also get an extremely useful template from training, that being warbeast. See templates below.

Section 5: Breaking into High Society

Okay, so let’s so you want to go into a city. The guards are most likely to object to the very large and dangerous creatures you are intending to bring with you however. You could choose not to go, but you will miss out on a lot and your party members may need you. You could choose to leave your pets behind, but certain characters, such as the one I am playing right now, will be next t useless. Leaving your pets also means they might wander off. Something terrible might happen to them while you were away. Or they might be something terrible that happens to another person. This will be less of a problem if you can get a grove and some grooms, but you should not have to put up with this.

Druids can get into civilization in their weirder forms through a hat of disguise. This will not be an option for you however. For one, there is some question of whether or not your animals can wear one. If that hurdle is passed, we have to ask whether or not your animals can actually activate the disguise self property. If you pass both of those obstacles, you still will have problems pulling this off. Disguising them as humans is straight out, their lack of intelligence and inhuman mannerisms will give them away. Disguising them as an animal might work, but I doubt it. Your tiger will still be behaving very strangely for a horse. Even if you can fool the humans, you probably cannot fool the animals. When every animal in the stable starts panicking as soon as your “horse” enters, people are going to become suspicious. They will become even more suspicious when it somehow disembowels a stable boy with its hoof.

Bribery may work, but is a pretty bad option. You will have to bribe almost every guard you encounter which will add up.

Diplomacy may work. Diplomacy can make people do all sorts of crazy things in D&D, as the diplomancer threads will show. However, a huge diplomacy score may not be in your character concept, all though it synergizes well. Use may also have to use Diplomacy on every citizen that sees your Dire Bear as well, lest they call the town guard, or run away screaming.

Intimidation is a good choice. With several huge animals, intimidation will come natural to you. You could be subtle, “Sure, I don’t mind leaving my pets outside the city limits. I just don’t know what they are going to do without me there to feed them however. I sure hope they do not go after some farmer’s livestock. Or his small children,” or direct “In my home country we have a saying. It is that the man with the tyrannosaurus rex always has the right of way. Move it or lose it, literally.” The problem is that those same guards might look the other way, or they might call in a bunch of high level warriors to act as animal control.

This last way works the best I think and it is something I thought of by accident. I was writing up ideas for a bard who specialized in animal handling and the idea of using the animals as entertainment occurred to me. This is the excuse I suggest you tell the guards. Invest in some colorful fabric for costumes and tell them that you are a traveling entertainer. In the earlier levels you can have a simple animal show. In the later levels you can have a full fledged circus. You can use leadership to get some clowns and extra handlers. Your party members can have roles as well. This is why I told you to you’re your animals the Perform trick. Most towns are going to be so bored (D&D predates TV remember) that they will put aside their misgivings and allow you admittance. They will probably even wind up paying you. With luck, you may even be able to get into an enemy fort. Soldiers get extremely bored on guard duty, and they will be so excited to see a traveling show that they will not even think of how many tons of savage animal they are letting in. It will be the first time in history someone pays to be invaded.

My current character, a seventh level ranger, has got a decent show going at this point. His show begins with the dire lions doing some basic tricks. Then the fleshrakers (weaker but more of a crowd pleaser) do some advanced tricks. Then I introduce one of my griffons as the world’s smartest animal. He usually does some basic math (has an int of five, so no problem). I use my hideous land whale (bulette) as a closer. After the show, customers can pay to feed the dire lion or pet the fleshrakers.

What, fleshrakers are great petting zoo animals. Kids love dinosaurs. :D

Templates

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.
Section7: 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.php?t=382372&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.


Section: 8 Captivating Critters

Now that we now how to acquire animals, we have to look at the best animals to acquire, I am going to try to recommend animals based on certain roles.

Chargers

A charging animal is a very strong choice. It allows them to do a lot of damage, and it seems like an appropriately simplistic strategy for an animal. They are very powerful if you get to select your own feats. You are probably going to want to lean towards pouncing, because it tends to be more powerful than a single attack, even with special modifiers like powerful charge. It is also easy to put multi attack on an animal due to the magebred template. Animals that make one big attack, such as the rhino tend to fall behind. This is especially true when power attack becomes available. Also note that the powerful charge ability seems to have no underlying mechanics. The rhino for example, when making a powerful charge, does 4d6 plus 24. That is two dice higher than its normal damage and triple its strength modifier. The triceratops does 4d8 plus 20 on a powerful charge, which is two dice higher than its normal attack and 1.33333 times its normal strength. So yeah, weirdness.

Fleshraker MM3 (p.40)

The first pouncer (CR 2), the fleshraker gets five attacks on a charge as well as a free trip, then grapple, then pin attempt. It can not be countered if it fails its trip attempt. Also has poison. An incredible form for its CR. Only 17 str though.


Deinonychus MM p. 60

First core dinosaur pouncer. Has str 19 and four attacks on a charge. Well rated, by I think it is out classed by the fleshraker or a lion.

Megaraptor MM p 60

An upgraded deinonychus. Surprisingly bad. The move from large to huge has somehow netted it a mere plus two to str. Same armor class as before and still only four attacks on a charge. Not worth the CR 6 it is rated at. Skip it unless you really like Jurassic park.

Big Cat series. Comes from MM animals, dire animals, and MM2 Legendary animals. I lumped them all together because they progress as one might expect. These are my favorite pouncers. They all have the pounce (five attacks after a charge) and improved grab abilities. High str and usually a decent size bonus make them good grapplers as well. The lion starts at str 19 and it just gets better from there. For best results, use improved grab with a claw attack and just damage everything with opposed grapple checks. Go with these if you do not know what to do. The series begins with the leopard.

Grapplers

Animals make good grapplers. Once they hit CR 3 or so, they start to average a size of at least large. Animals do not generally have a lot of special abilities or any special equipment, so their CR tends to be mostly based off of raw, physical power. A CR 4 Polar bear has a grapple check of 18. Give it the Warbeast and magebred template and it has a grapple check of 23. Not bad at all.

There are two ways to go with grappling, a pure grappler and a pounce grappler. A pure grappler is a grappler who focuses on having a massive grapple check. The bear family makes good pure grapplers. A pounce crippler is a creature, usually a cat, who has both the grapple and pounce special abilities. A pounce grappler is usually less adept at grappling than a pure grappler, but has five attacks a round which usually translates to five pin/or grapple attempts. A pounce grappler can also go for a pin after movement, thanks to the five attacks after a charge thing.


Fleshraker MM3 (p. 40)

See above in Chargers. It only has a grapple check of six, but it is free after a pounce and you get to do claw and rake damage with each successful grapple check. It does a lot of damage in a grapple due to that fact. Make no mistake, the fleshrakers on CR 2.

Leopard MM (p. 66)

See above. Grapple check is only five though. Be sure to buy a magebred version and wartrain it to bring it up to 9.

Ape (MM p. 268)

Has an amazing grapple check of 12, thanks to its large size and 21 str. The bison has a higher grapple check (13), but only ever gets one attack. Generally, the bison will always miss due to the fact it gives the opponent an attack of opportunity when it tries to grapple. Even if the DM lets you take improved grappling or ignores the AoO, it still won’t be able to do anything else besides pin the opponent each round, but the ape can pin and do damage. The ape is really a much better creature if the DM lets you pick your own feats, because it takes AoOs when it attempts to grapple unless it has improved grappling.

The Bear Family (animals and dire animals from the MM. Legendary animals from MM2)

At around Cr 4, the bears become ideal grappling creatures. They gain the enhanced grab ability, a large size category and the polar bear has a whopping 27 points of str. You can pretty much take a polar bear when it becomes available, keep that until a dire bear becomes available, and then keep that until the legendary bear becomes available. You will have a great grappler at each point in time. Please note that the black bear is NOT worth taking. Take an ape unless you really like bears.

Tyrannosaurus (MM p. 61)

Has a grapple check of 30 and the rare swallow whole ability, not bad for something that is just one CR more than the dire bear (grapple 23). It is a huge animal however, so you won’t be able to take it into most dungeons. It also only has one attack, so opponents with close quarters fighting are going to ruin your day. It only has a str of 28, but it does get 1.5 str bonus for having one attack. AC is a low 14, but it has 18 HD, so it should be durable. I am kinda disappointed by how poor the stats of the legendary T-Rex are.

Giant Constrictor Snake (MM p. 280)

A CR 5 monster with a grapple check of 23, same as the dire bear. It is a huge animal, but if you have a sane DM he will let it travel through ordinary dungeons (it can’t be THAT big around). Has the ever important improved grab and also the constrict ability, which means that it can do grapple damage after using its improved grab attack, basically doing the damage of two attacks for the price of one. Unfortunately, it only has one attack. A nice DM will let you do damage on a successful pin attempt, since constrict says you will do damage “on a successful grapple check” and it implicitly gives damage on a grapple check that is ordinarily damage free (improved grab). A really nice DM will let you do damage whenever you beat your opponents grapple check by the same logic. Still awfully slow though (20 move speed). Use if your DM rules favorably on it or if you absolutely need to make a grapple check and do not care about damage.
Note: The legendary snake write up states you do both bite and constrict damage on a successful grapple check. This may be dead as of 3.5)

Legendary Snake (MM2 p. 136)

Pretty disappointing compared to the giant constrictor snake. It has gained poison (which is nice) and more damage, but it has lost its large size. That means that it has gone up 3 in CR but only has a grapple check of 24. Choose an advanced constrictor snake if you want a snake grappler.


Tramplers (to be added at a later date)

I actually have not had any in game experience with tramplers. If someone can give me their impressions that would be great. You will want to have a warbest, for the extra speed and the ability to wear armor. The dire tortoise (somewhere in Sandstorm) seems like the best choice thanks to its surprise round. The Grizzly Mastodon (MM p. 123) is one of the highest strength animals I have seen (35!) making it another likely choice.

Flyers

One of the greatest weaknesses of animals in the inability to deal with flying foes. One way to avoid this pitfall is to just use naturally flying animals. Be forewarned that many of these animals or not nearly as strong as ground based animals, especially in terms of offensive power. Some of them have great AC however. Flyers also do not suffer as much in narrow spaces.

Using flyers generally involves a huge shift in tactics. Your animals are probably not going to be meatshields anymore, since if they are flying the enemy can run underneath. Your offensive capabilities will most likely be hurt, especially since flyers tend to lack the really nifty offensive abilities like pounce and grapple. Clever feat choices can help offset this however. Templates are much more important for flyers, because they tend to have lower strength, and thus the increases in ability scores provided will be proportionately higher. You also have the option of making a dive attack, which looks good but I am having trouble with the rules. It seems like a flying animal with flyby attack is supposed to be able to make a dive attack each round, and flying away each time. Careful reading of the rules nixes this however.

Dire Eagle (RoS p. 185)

Five HD and three attacks with a 60 foot flight speed (average). CR3, but it appears as a option for an animal companion at druid level 4. It costs 4 grand for a young one in races of stone, but a wartrained one will only cost 550 gp. Good luck getting your DM to allow that.



Dire Bat (MM p 62)

Probably your best choice if the Dire Eagle is not available. It has a better AC but only has one attack. Also has blindsense. Fly speed is 40 ft (good).

Quetzalcoatlus (MM2 p. 72)

A really nice CR 8 flying creature. It has 10HD and the swallow whole ability. All and all, this creature is a nice grappler (check 23) that can fly. It does not have improved grab, but it has similar ability (snatch) as a bonus feat, as well as flyby attack. Try grabbing your opponent, moving as far as you can (100 ft fly speed, poor maneuverability) and then dropping them as a free action for nice damage. For best results, drop them on another enemy. Unfortunately, it is a huge creature, so good luck fitting it in places. A DM who plays a realistic game is going to make it even worse, because even if you could fit it inside, it would not have enough room for flight.

Roc (MM p. 215)

Another flying grappler (check 37!). The roc is a CR 9 gargantuan animal with 18 HD. It lacks the swallow whole ability, but can still do they snatch, fly, drop combo. This thing is usually better than the quetzalcoatlus, but the gargantuan size is both a blessing and a curse. It means a huge grapple check, but it is going to be very difficult to take this thing indoors (it is described as being as large as a building). The roc can also carry the average party from location to location. Use this either as an airship or if your DM if fine with the idea of you never going indoors.

Magical Beasts

Magical beasts are animals with magic. In D&D terms, it usually works out that the really cool animals wind up in this category. Most “animals” that are fantasy staples, including the worg and the unicorn, are found here. Heck, even giant owls are categorized as magical beasts. They are usually also given an intelligence of more than 2, so that means you can not acquire them, barring special circumstances. I do not think there is even a way to make a goblin who rides a worg without using the leadership feat. Magical beasts can not be wartrained but can be magebred if they have a purchase price, and they are usually much more expensive than animals. Magical beasts have a 10 HD and gain BAB for every HD.
For the purposes of this guide, there are two types of magical beasts. The first type of magical beast has a special trainable tag. That means that this magical beast can be taught as an animal. These magical beasts usually have a way for you to acquire them listed in their entry. This is generally purchasing, like the griffin, but can be something else entirely, like the corrolax. Magical beasts that have an int of 2 or less can also be captured and trained, but it requires use of wild empathy or diplomacy and someway to speak to animals.

Corrolax (MM p.51)

Perhaps the best creature to have at low levels. It flies, it has DR 5 silver, and it has the ability to cast color spray at will. Give it the feat ability focus (color spray) and go nuts. To get it to join, you need to make a DC 25 handle animal check and offer it food. That is pretty harsh, but there is really no penalty for failing so should be able to take 20 just fine. It can also repeat what you say like a parrot. A must for serious pirates.


Ankheg (MM p.15)

A pretty good creature and one of your few ranged options. It is printed in the monster manual, but gains the trainable tag in Races of Stone. The ankheg can burrow and has 21 str and an AC of 18. It also has an acid bite attack and a 4d4 acid spit attack that can be used every six hours. It is hard to buy or train, because it can, you know, spit acid at people. All in all, the ankheg is good in the beginning. Unfortunately, it is hard to actually have one in the beginning. It’s rear DC is 23, which is doable, by the highest of any 3HD creature. It also costs 2,000 gp to buy a young version (1,500 for an egg). In the beginning of you adventure, you are going to be pretty poor and you have to ask yourself, “Is this ankheg really worth four wartrained fleshrakers?”

Hippogriff (MM p. 93)

The poor man’s griffon. A hippogriff is not going to add a lot to a fight, but that is okay. The reason for having one of these is that you wanted a flying mount. I slightly prefer the hippogriff to the giant eagle due to its relative cheapness and its better flight speed. If you can buy that 550 gp wartrained dire eagle, do that instead.

Griffon (MM p. 139)

I am really fond of the griffon. Griffins are flyers with good offensive capabilities, without the drawbacks of being huge or larger. Like most magical beasts, it is expensive (7 grand) but it may well be worth it. Griffons are the only flying creature I have found that can pounce. So they get five attacks on a charge and I am pretty sure you can combine that with a dive attack. Also note that the diving charge feat (Races of the Wild) does not have that annoying “only works on one” attack caveat like the powerful charge feat. Lastly, a griffon has greater than animal intelligence so you can talk to it, or just let it make intelligent decisions by itself. My two griffins, Hesperus and Phosphorus, were very valuable to me in my last campaign.

Bullete (MM p. 30)

Another creature printed in the Monster Manual and made trainable in Races of Stone. The bullete is a huge magical beast with 27 str and 9 HD. It can burrow, has tremorsense, and a cool special leap attack. I like the flavor of the landshark, but its price (15,000 gp) is WAY too much. I mean, you can pick up a wartrained legendary tiger for that.

Magical beasts beyond this point must be gained through a method like wild empathy or diplomacy.

Blood Ape (MM2 p. 32)

A str 21 magical beast with the special ability to cast Animal Growth on itself (or another blood ape) eight times a day. Also has improved grab and rend. Unfortunately, it has only 4 HD.

Basilisk (MM p.23)

A ranged creature. Its stone gaze is a fort save versus 13 or die. Ability focus will bring to that to 15. Not bad at all.


Gravorg (MM2 p. 119)

A CR 8 10 HD magic beast with the power to reverse gravity at will. That's a seventh level spell he just gets whenever he wants. He has a decent initiative modifier and the ability to affect foes from 200 ft away. Look at the creature entry for specifics. May deserve a mention in the odd ball section.

Hydra (MM p. 155)

The hydra is a fairly famous creature among those who use polymorph, and for good reason. The hydra can have up to 12 heads, and each head can make an attack after a move. Theoretically, you can sever all of the hydra’s heads and bring them up to a max of 24, but must DMs are putting their foot down at this point. They also have free combat reflexes and fast healing. If you take a cyro or pyro variant, they will have a breath weapon.


Chaos Roc (MM2 p. 45)

A colossal sized flyer with a strength of 42 (Grapple 62!) and DR. Also has an at will prismatic spray effect with a save DC of 29 (but you only roll a d6). Your DM will let you find one if he is the type that just randomly gives out artifacts, but don’t plan on seeing one in a standard game.

Odd balls

These are animals or buyable mounts that are…strange. Most of these things seem to have features that would suggest they belong in a different category. And some are just too strange to be believed.


Delver (MM p. 30)

This creature was printed in the monster manual and announced to be a mount in Races of Stone. It has a bunch of weird features, such as burrowing, blindsense, tremorsense, stone shape, and an acid coating that can destroy metal. What really stands out though is the fact that the delver is not an animal or magic beast but an aberration. It also is the most intelligent mount I have found that is available through purchasing. It has an int of 12 (which may well be greater than the rider) and can speak Terran and Undercommon. Looks really weird as well.

Legendary Animals (MM p. 136)

Animals which have all good saving throws. Also have an incredibly lame back story. Basically, these things just appeared because high level druids needed them, or, to put it another way, a wizard did it. Of course, in 3.5 these creatures are not even be animal companions, so theoretically they do not exist.

Rampager (MM2 p. 177)

A large beast built vaguely like a centaur with no head. Has poison, the ability to damage armor, and a fear aura. Unfortunately, it cannot be controlled, since it will always choose to attack metal, even to the point of ignoring an enemy attacking it in order to do so.

Razor Boar (MM2 p. 220)

A large beast that has DR, SR, Fast healing 10, and trample. Most strangely of all, this thing sports vorpal tusks. All that without being magical. If that is not weird enough, it also seems to be in the wrong part of the book. It is out of alphabetical order and is even behind the appendix of templates.

More to come: I still have to go through MM3 more thoroughly. If you have an animal or magical beast you want to suggest, post away.
Animal Intelligence

After a while, you may be tiring of managing your animals in combat. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to command my creature without spending a move action or having to make a skill roll? If I increased the intelligence of my animals, I would be able to control them with a free action and no skill roll. Heck, I can even trust them to make their own decisions, and not have to worry about them attacking a lowly grunt when they have a straight shot to a caster or running into battle heedless of obvious traps.

This is exactly what you do not want to do. The second an animal gains intelligence, it becomes an NPC. It has attained self awareness or whatever you want to call it, and makes its decisions from this point on. It is not going to listen to you no matter how high you roll on your handle animal check. Be sure to tell it goodbye, because that thing is never traveling with the party again.

But wait a minute, aren’t there already mounts with an int greater than 2? Indeed, there are, which brings us to our next topic….

Slavery: It’s okay if the other guy is funny looking enough

When you buy a griffon, what are you doing? You might think you are just replacing that warhorse that does not cut it these days, but actually you are engaging in slavery. Griffons are intelligent animals. They can not speak, but they can understand your language and are capable of rational thought. And you are going to purchase one from a dealer, and for the rest of that creature’s life it will be subject to your orders. Sure, you have to make a BS diplomacy check and the book says something about treating these things remotely well, but for the most part you went out and bought a person who might be smarter than the party barbarian. If that us not bad enough think about the Delver. That thing has got a int of 12, is bilingual, and is known to be “shy and mostly inoffensive.” And yet it is common practice to buy and sell them, so that adventurers have something to ride on when they are underground.

Of course, D&D is many times about going around and killing every member of species A that one comes across, so maybe I should not be surprised.


Animals and Economics

If you have been following along carefully, you might have noticed the fact that animal economics are totally screwed up. The most blatant example of this is the price for purchasing a warbeast. Remember, a warbeast costs 100 +75 x HD. So a warbeast dire tiger costs 1,300 gp. A third level character has 2,700 gp. He could totally buy one and have money to spare. He could buy two if he did not spend anything up to this point. Then, he could dominate the game for at least the next five levels, all the while screaming “Casters don’t necessarily win D&D!” Unless he is a caster, then he screams, “Casters do not even have to cast spells to win D&D!”
That is the most important, although not the only issue with animal economics. There is also the difference in price between animals and their gear. I first noticed this when I was trying to pimp out my griffon with just core material. I was thinking of buying him an amulet of mighty fists, so he could pierce magical DR without me casting magical fang, and I realized that for 6,000 gp I could almost buy a new griffon. So I did. Unfortunately, animals costing significantly less than their gear tends to be the rule rather than the exception, especially with warbeast prices. So should an animal trainer just buy more and more animals rather than buy equipment for their animals?

Theoretically, yes. Practically, no. While it will almost always be more efficient to have two or three animals rather than one animal with modest bonuses, in actual play experience other things must be taken into account. For example, at some point neither the DM nor your fellow players will tolerate how long it is taking you to complete your turn. Only if you are playing with people that have infinite patience will you be able to lead a thousand wolves into battles, as cool as that would be. So you have to find a nice number of animals to have in the party at one time. I think 3 is a good number. That is the number of animals you can rear at once with handle animal and equal to a good roll with summon monster. Different groups will feel differently. Whenever you reach a point when you feel that your trained animals are still relevant and you have enough of them, it is time to start buffing them up.

But first, we have to do some more house ruling. What type of equipment can an animal wear? Living Greyhawk says that animals can have a cloak, armor, and a collar, but your group does not have to listen to that. It used to be considered a very valid argument that druids wildshaped into apes can wear anything. If you agree with this, it is not much of a leap to assume that an ape can take weapon proficiencies and pretty much mirror the party fighter equipment wise. You will have to find out what works in your game. For now at least, I am going to assume you are looking at armor, a collar, and a cloak.

Armor

Deciding what armor to buy is very dependent on where you are and what your reliance on animals is. People who fight primarily with animals will want to give them plus 5 adamantine armor with all the trimmings. Animals naturally have no armor proficiency but the warbeast template gives them proficiency in heavy, medium, and light armor. Every different type of animal will want a different type of armor. A legendary eagle, with a dex of 30, should be kept naked all the time. A dire elephant wants fullplate.

Armor is one of those things that really demonstrate the expense of equipping an animal. Let’s buy some fullplate for that dire elephant I was talking about. The base cost is 1,500 gp. We have to multiply that by eight because the elephant is gargantuan sized and by 2 because it is an unusual creature. That gives us a multiplier of 16. So that means the armor costs…24,000 gp. That’s a lot of money. We could have bought 15 dire elephants for that. As you can see, armoring your creatures will be an extremely costly venture. Plus, you may find yourself shelving your armor at any time. Suppose you plop down the cash and buy some armor for your riding dogs. Then you decide to retire your riding dogs and buy some lions. Well, lions are one size category bigger than riding dogs, so the armor you bought does not fit. Maybe you buy fleshrakers instead. Well, it still is not going to fit. That armor you bought for a quadruped will not fit a bipedal creature. What if you buy a leopard? That one is a tough call. The dog and the leopard are in the same size category and the same basic shape, but there are significant differences between their forms. You will have to ask the DM.

In the beginning, you will gravitate towards hide and leather armor. 15 gp is not the significant, even when you multiply by 2 or 4. Later on, you will either get the party wizard to fabricate some, or take the hit yourself.

Collars

There are two real choices here, the amulet of might fists (core) or the necklace of natural attacks (Savage Species). Without factoring anything else in, the necklace of natural attacks will be better for animals that use one attack and the amulet of mighty fists will be better for animals that use many attacks, like the lion. This is because the amulet of mighty fists can affect all of a creature’s attacks, but costs an unbelievable 6,000 gp for a plus 1 enhancement. An Amulet of Natural Attacks boosts one attack, but only costs 2,600. Furthermore, an amulet of natural attacks can add special weapon qualities.

Most animals you are going to buy either have one big attack or can grapple. If they have one big attack, the necklace will be better. If they have grappling, you are probably going to grab, then attack with your grappling modifier, doing damage equal to the attack that grabbed them. So most of your creatures will have one real attack. This gives the advantage to the necklace. If you have access to a druid or a ranger, they can cast greater magic fang, which synergizes well with special weapon qualities giving a further advantage to the necklace.

In conclusion, you are going to take the necklace of natural attacks. Unless you do not have Savage Species, in which case it is probably better to rely on greater magic fang. Unless you have no druid or ranger, in which case you are going to probably buy one amulet of mighty fists to get through DR, and then buy a higher level version only if you have nothing else to buy.

Cloaks

Cloak of resistance

The easiest and probably best choice. Animals have will as a low save, which I consider to be a huge detriment, especially when people start throwing around enchantment spells. It only takes a third level spell to dominate an animal. A first level spell (calm animals) can actually take all of your animals out of the fight. You need to bump that will save up.

Cloak of Displacement, minor.

Gives a 20 percent miss chance. Not bad and pretty cheap too.

Miscellaneous

Magebred.

A Magebred animal costs double the asking price, but has several advantages. Since animals are so cheap to begin with, this winds up being a great deal. The free multiattack alone is generally worth the price.

Shackles of Antimagic

One thing we can be fairly sure about is that animals can wear shackles. These shackles from the Book of Exalted Deeds emit an antimagic field. This can be a great boon to your animals. Ask yourself what having three moving antimagic fields is worth. The field will also protect your pets and allow them to pierce several types of DR they may not have been able to get though on their own. Unfortunately, you can no longer buff your animals and they might be dumb enough to accidentally use their fields on your own party. If they ever get in trouble, you are going to have to waste an action (probably a full round one) taking one of these off and throwing it away, before you can use a heal spell. They also cost 132,000 gp.

Builds for Beast Tamers

Here it is, suggested builds for mastering the animal handling skill. Of course we are doing more here than just making builds that give us a lot of skill points. Animal handling maxes out at some point. The ability to rear an animal with 200 HD is only as valuable as that 200 HD animal, and since that animal does not exist the ability to rear a 200 HD animal is worthless. The builds here focus on being competent with the handle animal skill while boosting those animals and synergizing well with them. Well, except Elbis…

Honestly though, you do not need an animal handling build to get a lot of use out of animal companions. You do not even need to have animal handling as an in class skill. Assuming you are not rearing or wartraining, the biggest modifier you will ever want is a plus 11. That will allow you to order an animal to perform a trick it knows in combat with no chance of failure and you will be able to teach an animal any trick by taking ten. So a rogue will really have no problem training himself a flank buddy, even if he never gets handle animal as in class skill. A sorcerer can grab an animal and use it as his meatshield. A psion can take a few animals and use them as a back up plan in case he runs out of power points.

Druid 20

Books Needed: Core, but every book with druid spells or animals helps.

That is right, just druid 20. If you play a druid 20 animal handler, you will have all the powers of being the best class in the game, plus some more melee power for no reason. Druids have handle animal as a class skill and fit thematically with the whole animal horde thing. Druids are weakest when animals are strongest, right at the beginning, and at the end when animals start getting left behind, druids have the awesome power of high level spell casting to make up for it. At low levels, druids get greater magic fang, which may be the most used animal buff. They also get barkskin and several others. Those spells never become obsolete, but the higher level ones are even better. Animal growth will turn your animals into combat monsters, and it will probably buff all of them at the same time. When a druid first gets it, he can buff four creatures at once. That is probably enough to buff up all his trained animals and his animal companion. A druid is the most powerful class in the game and a druid who uses animal handling is even more powerful.

Elbis the King of Roc (Marshal 1)

Books needed: Unearthed Arcana, the miniatures handbook or the Web excerpt, and Unapproachable East

This is a character that is not meant to be played. It is more of an intellectual exercise. I dreamt this guy up when I was thinking of how to rear an animal without stopping an adventure (some DMs just don’t give years of time off to craft and so forth) and realized you could get around the time issue by just doing it before the game begins. Of course, one does not want their reared animals to go obsolete, so you want to have the biggest animal you can. The idea just sort of snowballed.

Elbis is an old star elf with maxed charisma. This gives him a base charisma of 22. He is of the marshal class and takes motivate charisma as his minor aura. It does not matter where he puts his skills, so long as handle animal is maxed. He takes one flaw (pretty much does not matter what) and he takes animal affinity and skill focus: handle animal as his feats. He purchases a masterwork tool with his starting cash.
Show

Elbis’s skill check
+10 (taking ten)
+4 base cha
+1 being old
+1 being a sun elf
X2 motivate charisma (total skill check=22 right now)
+4 skill ranks
+3 skill focus
+2 animal affinity
+2 masterwork tool
= 33

When Elbis takes 10 on a handle animal skill check, he ends up with a result of 33. The DC for rearing an animal is 15, plus the animal’s HD. So we take 15 from 37 and realize that Elbis can rear an animal of 18 HD or less with no chance of failure. There are several animals that one could take at this point. The T-Rex and the Roc are the two that come two mind, and I always go for the flyer. Elbis can rear three Rocs at the same time, so of course he does.
In the end, Elbis is a level 1 creature with three 18 HD gargantuan flying animals under his control making him the one and only King of Roc.

Question: Could Elbis become more powerful?

Possibly. He could pay for the services of a bunch of grooms, and have them use the aid another action to buy himself some more bonuses. He could also make some BS favorable conditions like “This place resembles its natural habitat” or, “it wants to cooperate with me because I just fed it.” He can ask a bard to play that skill boosting song as well, and pay him off with the rest of his gold (that’s a pretty good deal for a bard compared to using the perform skill). He also only needs to roll a thirteen to make his check to wartrain these guys, and that will make them two steps away from epic. I did not include that step, because it is a little too random. The battletitan dinosaur from the MM3 says it only needs a DC 28 skill check (that Elbis could easily make) but it also says you can not really find one without forking up a lot of gold. He can also rear three more rocs (or other 18 HD or lower animal) before the game starts. If you want to get really crazy, you give each roc the feat leadership and have them take a wizard cohort. Or you could take a higher level version of Elbis and make an infinite loop out of it. Note that Elbis is a little bit better off taking a large sized creature, like the dire tiger, because his Rocs can not get into dungeons. Of course, then he would not be the King of Roc.


The Red Master of Transmutation (Wizard 10/Red Wizard 10)

Books Needed: Core, but the Draconomican and Monster Manual 2 really help.

We all know the spell polymorph is broken. But that does not mean we should not break it any further. The strength of the spell polymorph is based on the caster level of the caster and the HD of the subject. The secret to the Red Master of Transmutation is:

1. Taking the red wizard prestige class allows one to elevate one’s caster level above their actual level.
2. One can acquire animals that have hit dice that are greater than one’s level.

So the Red Master of Transmutation focuses on polymorphing his animals in such a way that he is actually getting a greater effect than he should at his level. From levels one to five he is regular human wizard, which is no problem at all (make sure to take a metamagic or item creation feat to get into red wizard. At level six he sets up his big combo by going into red wizard and taking leadership (just take a wizard, this is mostly for circle magic). He can probably handle animals most of the time with cross-classed skills, cha, and a masterwork tool. If it is not going so well, try boosting cha, you need it for leadership anyway. At seventh level, he gets polymorph, but he can already cast it like an eighth level caster, more if has anything that boosts caster level. At 11th level he gets too lead a circle. After he does this, it is entirely possible that he can double his caster level and get a maxed out version of polymorph or even draconic polymorph.

Acquiring the proper animals might be difficult. If you have the MM2, you buy warbeasts and have no trouble at all. If you don’t, you will have to be clever. You will cast scry a look for a baby whatever it is you want. Animals are common as dirt, so you should have no problem. Then, travel there and take it (this is much easier with teleport). Have your cohort’s first level match Elbis so that he can handle the rearing duties. His spell progression will slow down, but he will you get you some better followers, so it balances out in the end.



More info to be added. Next update I promise to include feats for animals. Possibly some new equipment also. In the mean time, suggestions are always welcome.
I did not expect that to take as long as it did. I not finsihed the other sections yet. I wanted to put what I acutally had up so I knew I would finish it. I will make it pretty later. I have some business to take care of today, but if I can get it done quickly I should be done with the next part tonight. I will make it pretty later.

Any comments or suggestions are welcome.
Can you please add a section that deals with intelligent animals? For instance, an Arcane Hierophant can end up with an animal companion with an Int score of 12+. Does this mean that they no longer need any instructions during battle? Does it mean that they can mentally speak to everyone if Rary's Telepathic Bond is used on them? Does it mean that they're smart enough to be able to use magic items? Can they speak? What exactly does this do to the animal companion?
There is a combat application for the Perform Trick as well. Play Dead. It's most useful to a Druid, but a Ranger who picks up a very strange language can make use of it as well. (There's nothing saying the commands for the tricks have to be in common).

If your animal companion starts getting the wrong kind of attention in combat, or is getting seriously hurt, using Play Dead will "drop them" out of combat. They arent helpless so no CDG, and i recommend not waiting until they have just a few hitpoints left. But for any Druid/Ranger who would be attached to their companion (all good and most neutral Druid/Rangers) that application can save your animals life.
Very nice guide.

As for the boot camp/stronghold, I'd be willing to help you with pricing it out if you fleshed out the details of the place. (What it should be made out of, how many rooms, what said rooms contain, etc.) If you need an idea of what magical objects are available for a stronghold, many are reproduced as 'Lair Wards' in the Draconomicon.
Can you please add a section that deals with intelligent animals? For instance, an Arcane Hierophant can end up with an animal companion with an Int score of 12+. Does this mean that they no longer need any instructions during battle? Does it mean that they can mentally speak to everyone if Rary's Telepathic Bond is used on them? Does it mean that they're smart enough to be able to use magic items? Can they speak? What exactly does this do to the animal companion?

The arcane Heirophant is a class based around combining the druid with the wizard (or other arcane spell caster). To that end it tries to combine the advantages of an animal companion (brute strength) with the advantages of a familiar (intelligence, special actions). They do not need any instructions during battle, but you could choose to command one as a free action (just by talking). They can communicate with everyone through Rary's telepathic bond, because that spell only requires that the target has an int of 3 or higher. Magical items are a tricky question. For the most part, I would say many animals simply lack the necessary features to use them. Things without human like vocal ability probably cannot say a command word, and paws are inappropriate for pushing buttons. There is nothing mental preventing them from using these objects, they understand the concept just fine, it is more of a biological restriction. They do not gain the ability to speak a language, but they do eventually gain the ability to "speak with master" so they can talk to you. If they have an INT of 12, they probably already have this ability. The full list of benefits the Arcane Heirophant's companion gets in on page 108 of Races of the Wild.



Hope this helps.

To MayhemST: Good Suggestions. I meant to say to train your animals with words in a esoteric language, or maybe just training them to respond to nonsense words, just as one should do with magic items.

FromtheShadows: My camp is incredibly basic. I just have a large expanse of land with some obstacles (pits, walls, etc.) There is also a pond in the middle. I built a sort of pavillion for cover during storms and just recently some huts for my grooms to live in (I picked up the Leadeship feat). Other than the basic items for caring for animals, that is about everything.

Other people will probably want something like stables, maybe a decent living space for themselves.
Handle animal can do more than train creatures for a purpose or teach them tricks. Take a look at the Warbeast template in MM2. (At least, I Think it's in MM2). It takes about a month, but you can give your favourite animal +3 str and con, an extra hitdice, and let it's riders gain a +2 to ride checks, amongst other things. sweet huh? For sanity's sake I probably wouldn't try and do it to an animal companion, but I will say from experience that 3 warbeast Guard Dogs were more combat effective than our entire lvl 3 party, as they were tripping for free with str 18 on every hit(doing d6+6 damage to boot!)
For sanity's sake I probably wouldn't try and do it to an animal companion

I don't get it... why wouldn't you do it to an animal companion?
Because it makes the animal extra powerful. +3 Str, +2 con, +1 HD (which could mean another ability boost).

As a DM i'd rule that animal companions, special mounts and familiars cant aquire the Warbeast template. They already have a template that will progress them along the lines of certain crazyness already, they dont need another ;)
As a DM i'd rule that animal companions, special mounts and familiars cant aquire the Warbeast template. They already have a template that will progress them along the lines of certain crazyness already, they dont need another ;)

Nevertheless, we wouldn't be the CO boards if we weren't to mention it. I believe that training an animal companion to be a warbeast is as legal as training it some new tricks or casting a buff spell on it. It can be quite flavourful, especially if the druids are called to battle (as they almost always are from my experience).
FromtheShadows: My camp is incredibly basic. I just have a large expanse of land with some obstacles (pits, walls, etc.) There is also a pond in the middle. I built a sort of pavillion for cover during storms and just recently some huts for my grooms to live in (I picked up the Leadeship feat). Other than the basic items for caring for animals, that is about everything.

Other people will probably want something like stables, maybe a decent living space for themselves.

So, for the most part you only need freestanding walls, which I'm assuming you want made out of wood. A freestanding wood wall one foot thick, ten feet high, and ten feet long is free as long as you don't want it any taller. The pits/ponds should fall under the moat rules (100 gp for a section 10 ft. wide by 10 ft. long by 5 ft. deep). One wall enhancement (Spiderwalk) seems to be perfect for the Spider Climb training you spoke of in the first post, and comes cheap at only 1500 gp. Different enhancements allow for teleporting, haste, silence, and other situations that might unnerve animals, but I'll avoid those for now in order to keep the price from skyrocketing.

As for the pavillion, huts, and otherwise, are you looking at a single structure or several smaller ones? How many people and animals are you looking to have with you? If you want each animal to have a stable, what is the largest-sized animal that you'll be looking to house?

Hopefully I'm not reading too much into this, but I should be able to put the building(s) together if you just fill out those few details.
Handle animal can do more than train creatures for a purpose or teach them tricks. Take a look at the Warbeast template in MM2. (At least, I Think it's in MM2). It takes about a month, but you can give your favourite animal +3 str and con, an extra hitdice, and let it's riders gain a +2 to ride checks, amongst other things. sweet huh? For sanity's sake I probably wouldn't try and do it to an animal companion, but I will say from experience that 3 warbeast Guard Dogs were more combat effective than our entire lvl 3 party, as they were tripping for free with str 18 on every hit(doing d6+6 damage to boot!)

You know, I just independently discovered the war trained template in the MM2. The ability bonuses are sweet (although it is two months), but that is not the really amazing thing there. The warbeast template gives you prices for animals. Not only can you now buy whatever animal you want instead of trying to rear it yourself, but look at the prices and tell me if you are as shocked as I am. I have to completely rewrite my second section based on this.
I just started a campaign in which I am a Shifter druid. He seems to be somewhat of a druggie; often talks to the sky, gets excited when he sees fairie rings, and has a tendency to cast Light on... unusual body locations.
Anyway, I know I can't teach the Druidic language to my party members, but would it violate my CoC to teach a few words of druidic (such as attack, come, and dance) to my ranger buddy? I just want us both to be able to issue commands to each other's trained animals and companions, without worry that people know what we're saying.
Yes, yes it would. Rangers aren't druids, they aren't bound by druidic oaths.

That said, it's your game. Check with your DM, maybe he'd be ok. Or you could both learn sylvan.

Speculation: the mystical nature of the druidic toungue is such that(without comprehend languages and other magic), only a druid can speak and read it. Note that it doesn't require skill points, or an int-based language slot. It's a very non-standard language.

also, somewhat off-topic:P

Using handle animal requires a high charisma. It's not an in-class skill for bards or rogues, IIRC, but they have skill points to spare, and I'm sure it's in class for paladins and fighters, if they can spare the points. A feirce inquisitor with his loyal pack of hounds makes for a somewhat scary encounter, innocent or not, and the gnarled veteran and his trusty mutt'll kick your 1st level a$$ clean outta town if you give the place grief.

/gonna miss this post, being as how it'll disappear into the ether. Good time, man, good times.
//edit: learn to spell "ranger" properly. Oh the shame.
Can't you use the torc of animal speech to communicate with animals easier?
Sorry I have not updated this in a while. Section 2 is almost complete. I have had a very busy month, which has included graduating from college, finding a summer job, finishing up my some work pertaining to getting into law school, and trying to move to a different house. I also have had some trouble with the guide. At one point I was spending a lot of time in some old 3.0 books, before realizing that they were pretty much out of date. I did sneak a section on templates in there.



I just started a campaign in which I am a Shifter druid. He seems to be somewhat of a druggie; often talks to the sky, gets excited when he sees fairie rings, and has a tendency to cast Light on... unusual body locations.
Anyway, I know I can't teach the Druidic language to my party members, but would it violate my CoC to teach a few words of druidic (such as attack, come, and dance) to my ranger buddy? I just want us both to be able to issue commands to each other's trained animals and companions, without worry that people know what we're saying.

By RAW you can't, but I feel that most DMs will allow this, since rangers and druids are so alike. If your DM does not, you have a couple options.


By RAW, there is nothing to suggest that an animal responds with a trick to only one command. So one could train there animal to attack when one says attack, or sic'em, or kill, or I just saved money on my car insurance by switching to Geico, etc. Actually, you can even use non verbal commands, like having your eagle land on your arm when you extend it a certain way.

What this means for you is that you can teach you animal to respond to druidic commands, but also have it trained to respond to commands in common or some other language.

You can also simply give your buddy the commands and tell him it is in a different language. Don't tell him the commads are druidic, just say they are in Southwestern Polynesian or whatever.

To From the Shadows: Basically, my camp is just wide open oak savanah with a lake in the middle. The pavilion is basically just a wooden roof supported by wooden beams, that was inspired by a campground in my area. It is supposed to keep the elements of my animals and that is it. I also put the feeding troughs in there. My grooms, acquried through leadership, live in the lowliest of hovels. I would get them something bettter, by my ranger is sort of the crazy woodsman type. He does not live indoors, and finds the idea of it foolish. Other features include a small lake and some pitfalls and walls for training. I also have a big rock that my fleshrakers sun themselves on.

Honestly, the whole thing is rudimentary and basic. I do not want to impose, but I think you are actually more qualified than I am to flesh it out. If you don't want to, that is fine. I will eventually do it myself, though I am not sure when that would be. Be aware that these things tend to take up much more of your time than one would think.
Basically, my camp is just wide open oak savanah with a lake in the middle. The pavilion is basically just a wooden roof supported by wooden beams, that was inspired by a campground in my area. It is supposed to keep the elements of my animals and that is it. I also put the feeding troughs in there. My grooms, acquried through leadership, live in the lowliest of hovels. I would get them something bettter, by my ranger is sort of the crazy woodsman type. He does not live indoors, and finds the idea of it foolish. Other features include a small lake and some pitfalls and walls for training. I also have a big rock that my fleshrakers sun themselves on.

Honestly, the whole thing is rudimentary and basic. I do not want to impose, but I think you are actually more qualified than I am to flesh it out. If you don't want to, that is fine. I will eventually do it myself, though I am not sure when that would be. Be aware that these things tend to take up much more of your time than one would think.

Really, I have more free time than I know what to do with anymore, especially with summer vacation from school coming up in less than two weeks; it'll be no problem.

Tomorrow I'll get to work on planning/pricing out the grounds, and should be ready to replace this post here with the results.

(One note though: if you don't really have rough estimates of the sizes of the different areas, I'll be going on guesswork- though I'll be sure to mention 'if you want X more area, pay Y more gp.')
Check out "Stronghold Builders Guide" I know it's 3.0 but it may give you pricing guidelines.
Prejudice and Discrimination CardUtility 1
[Insert flavor text here ...]
@will Psychic, Fire(Special)
No Action - Forum
Target:Trolls
Effect: You summon every internet troll within 2 clicks.
Size : Gigantic Immune Psychic (It doesn't care what you think) Immune Fire (Special): Flaming powers are what internet troll's feed on. Every flaming point regenerates them by the same amount. Special: If their target has a vulnerability their attacks inflict damage of that type.

just bumping to keep this thread from dissappearing and to ask what the status is on the other parts. so
It did look like it was shaping up to be a helluva thread.
now, now FriendlyBiscuit it's only been a couple of months since the auther last replied, so that's far to soon to declare this dead. hopefully with some activity here it'll allert the auther and maybe get some updates going.
Another thing to note is that a forest gnome can speak to any forest animal in a basic way; a forest gnome druid should be able to get more complicated commands through to his companion.
Okay, sorry this took so long. I have been having a lot of real life issues to work with. The main problem was that I moved, and in the process of moving my stuff I was hit by a semi. I did not have any injuries but my car was totaled.

Now that I have moved, I no longer have a group. This means I do not think about D and D as much and I cannot borrow books to help me write this. Furthermore, I seem to have lost some books (I think they were in my car).

Enough whining, on with the show. Writing this section was particularly hard due to a lot of rules confusion. Animal rearing was very frustrating. Then there are problems with how animals fight. I still don't know if a player can select their animal companion's feats, but given that with the PHB2 feats can be changed and the fact that animal feats are so unforgivably bad, I think it is a decent assumption that they can be. No one really knows how animals grapple. There is a rules of the game article about, but I have seen some pretty bad reactions to that, even by rules of the game standards. Just when I thought I had everything squared away, I noticed dive attacks, which are something of a hold over from 3.0 and do not seem to be properly supported. I may have to rethink my section on flyers based on this.

This section needs to be updated more. I plan to add the more useful magical beasts with the trainable tag, as well as the more interesting low int magical beasts that can be obtained through wild empathy, etc. I know I am still missing a few good monsters. I think I saw some more good snakes somewhere. Every time I flip throughmy books I see a new gem, like the Ape with its massive plus 12 to grapple that I never hear anyone mention.

Next section will also have a blurb on animal economics (you would not believe what it costs to equip these things). It is usually cheaper to buy an entirely new animal that to provide armor for one. I will also give sugestions for themed animal companions. I imagine some people will want to have the same types of animals as they progress. If you pick big cats, you will have no trouble. Dogs, however, quickly go obsolete.

Help I could use: Has anyone had any experience with trampling? I don't. It seems like a good deal, but I am worried that everything you trample will chose to take an attack of opportunity and rip your animal apart. Also, does anyone have experience with the swallow whole ability? It sounds really stupid to me, I mean a halfling can get swallowed by a dinosaur, cut its way out, and then get swallowed again. I also heard that the best way to kill a Tarrasque is to get swallowed. How effective is it as a battle tactic? Lastly, if anyone once to give suggestions on books I do not have, and I do not have a lot right now, post away.
Nice thread. My longest played, and most enjoyed, D&D character was a ranger that I played from 2nd edition into 3rd. He went through quite a few animal companions, and that was one of the things I always enjoyed about the character, even if at times they were too weak to be of anything but roleplay value.

The Zhentarim Skymage prestige class in Lords of Darkness seems insanely strong for a wizard that wants a mount. It is a 3.0 book, but I know alot of people still use 3.0 material. You can get things like a level 7 character that rides a Nightmare! Or a dragon. You get the Share Spells ability with it... and the class has full spellcasting progression.

I don't actually own the book, so I'm just going off builds I've seen with it, and the little bit on it in crystalkeep.com, but it seems incredibly good (probably too good for most DMs to stomach). Of course, you have to associate with the Zhents if the DM keeps the flavor text, which could be a big drawback.

ck2001wendt's character got 2nd place in this arena contest with such a build.

Oh yes, and the Animal Friendship spell no longer exists at all in 3.5. It was replaced by the Animal Companion mechanic. Now you just automatically get a companion, instead of having go to out and find them and cast the spell on them. I kind of liked having multiple companions myself, even if they were mostly useless in combat.
ck2001wendt's character got 2nd place in this arena contest with such a build.

I don't think that's the right link...
I fixed it. :P
Great thread, thanks for the info!

So, If a ranger slaps a collar of intellect +2 or +5 on an animal, would the enhancement allow you to teach it a language, and allow it to scratch messages into the ground, add, have opinions, and make combat decisions as a normal (very dim) npc while in effect?

checking the description, aparently the stat enhancement items actually boost the stat for all intent,except int boosts won't yield additional skill points.

Any thoughts on that?
Ok, the feat Natural Bond lets you add 3 to your effective druid level, but not above your hit dice. But what if you multiclass into a PrC that stacks with druid(or ranger) to determine the animal companions level? I am specifically speaking about a druid/beastmaster. Considering that at 8th level you would be a druid 5/beastmaster 3, could you use natural bond to be an effective druid 8/ beastmaster 3 for determining the power of your animal companion. The Druid level would be 8, and thus not about the hit dice, and then one could add the beastmaster levels on top of that, making a nice animal companion.

Any help would be great
Thanks
Stalos

PS
Any suggestions on how to optimize a Familiar companion from the Arcane Hierophant PrC?
Great thread, thanks for the info!

So, If a ranger slaps a collar of intellect +2 or +5 on an animal, would the enhancement allow you to teach it a language, and allow it to scratch messages into the ground, add, have opinions, and make combat decisions as a normal (very dim) npc while in effect?

checking the description, aparently the stat enhancement items actually boost the stat for all intent,except int boosts won't yield additional skill points.

Any thoughts on that?

Yeah, you could. But animals with human like intelligence make decisions like humans. Which means that it is no longer you loyal servent. I put a little blurb about this in the third post. You want to be like a good dictator, keeping your minions too stupid to turn away from you. :D

Ok, the feat Natural Bond lets you add 3 to your effective druid level, but not above your hit dice. But what if you multiclass into a PrC that stacks with druid(or ranger) to determine the animal companions level? I am specifically speaking about a druid/beastmaster. Considering that at 8th level you would be a druid 5/beastmaster 3, could you use natural bond to be an effective druid 8/ beastmaster 3 for determining the power of your animal companion. The Druid level would be 8, and thus not about the hit dice, and then one could add the beastmaster levels on top of that, making a nice animal companion.

Any help would be great
Thanks
Stalos

PS
Any suggestions on how to optimize a Familiar companion from the Arcane Hierophant PrC?

Sorry, but Beastmaster does not work that way. When you enter the Beastmaster class from druid or ranger, its animal companion progression works of your existing progression. So if you started as a druid, every level in Beastmaster would increase your druid level regarding animal companions. It also gives a bonus of three levels to your current level that can exceed you hit dice.

That was a little confusing, so let me break it down. If you were a druid 5/beastmaster 3, you would be considered to be a druid 11 for the purposes of your animal companion. That is 8 druid levels (we count beastmaster levels as druid remember) and the plus three bonus that comes from entering beastmaster when you already have an animal companion. If you were to have the natural bond feat, you would be considered to be a level 11 druid. If you were then to take a level in barbarian, you would either be a level 11 or level 12 druid for the purposes of having an animal companion, depending on whether or not the beastmaster's bonus is figured in before the natural bond feat or after it (don't ask me which one is supposed to go first). For the most part, people who take the beastmaster class will be in it for just one level. That is enough to give you the plus 3 bonus to your animal companion. If you stay in longer, you can get more animal companions, but these things are going to be cannon fodder at very best.

Natural bond is to animal companinons as practised spellcasting is to spell casting. They are designed to let one of class features continue to progress while you multiclass. It is exploitable (see the supermount mentioned above), but not easily. Note that it may be advantageous for a straight druid to take that feat. Some argue that when a druid voluntarily subtracts from his druid level in order to gain a different companion (when going from a riding dog to a leopard or example) natural bond will then kick in and give him three bonus levels. Some say that that is completely wrong. Either way, we are generally talking about one HD and a few stat points, so it does not really matter.

As to the arcane heirophant, first of all let me say I do not recommend it. Dual progression classes usually do not turn out very well. IIf you want to have arcane and divine spells at your disposal, I recommend being a divine or arcane caster yourself and taking leadership for a chorot with the other skill set. If you do chose to become an arcane heirophant, basically you will have an animal companion as normal with some features of a wizard's familiar. It will be intelligent, so you can command it with a free action, etc. It will also have improved evasion and it can deliver touch spells. Honestly, it may be the fact that I have never really used a wizard's familiar as any thing other than a scout but I am not seeing a big payoff here. If anyone has used one in a campaign, feel free to post.
Yeah, you could. But animals with human like intelligence make decisions like humans. Which means that it is no longer you loyal servent. I put a little blurb about this in the third post. You want to be like a good dictator, keeping your minions too stupid to turn away from you. :D
.

oh damn... I guess that would fall under the "cohort/leadership" genre.

but wouldnt an animal companio still work? bah. I'm just arguing now. We can send this to stupid arguement thread if need be.
The Arcane Hierophant lets me take the best from both classes without sacrificing very much. The Familiar companion makes for a great companion, and with the right animal(a magebred one) and warbeast training, it will be very cool and pretty strong. As far as spells, an arcane Hierophant/Mystic Theruge gets 9th level spells at 20, and with right stats they can get two a day from each. Now, one may not have a bunch of feats to add to that( I would take practiced spell caster twice and natural bond at least) but the spell progression suffers very little. With the shear variety, and ability to wear armor and have an OK BaB, and the perks of the familiar companion, I don't see the draw back. Besides, the class has a good flavor, and it isn't about optimizing to the max, just about optimizing what you want.

So, what about the exalted animal companion? Because of the staggered way animal companions gain power, taking this feat really doesn't hurt your animal's power at all and gives it some nice DR and Resistances. Are there any other feats like this one that I could use.

Also, I still would take the beast master to level 4. Why? Because I belive the Natural bond feat would kick in for your second and subsequent animals, meaning you can have two animal companions at 3 higher than your level. You could even go until you get a thrid animal which would be at your actual level. The beast master seems like it could be cool and allow for extra ordinarily strong animals. Take the Exalted Animal Companion feat and now you have a team of Celestial creatures.
The Arcane Hierophant lets me take the best from both classes without sacrificing very much. The Familiar companion makes for a great companion, and with the right animal(a magebred one) and warbeast training, it will be very cool and pretty strong. As far as spells, an arcane Hierophant/Mystic Theruge gets 9th level spells at 20, and with right stats they can get two a day from each. Now, one may not have a bunch of feats to add to that( I would take practiced spell caster twice and natural bond at least) but the spell progression suffers very little. With the shear variety, and ability to wear armor and have an OK BaB, and the perks of the familiar companion, I don't see the draw back. Besides, the class has a good flavor, and it isn't about optimizing to the max, just about optimizing what you want.

So, what about the exalted animal companion? Because of the staggered way animal companions gain power, taking this feat really doesn't hurt your animal's power at all and gives it some nice DR and Resistances. Are there any other feats like this one that I could use.

Also, I still would take the beast master to level 4. Why? Because I belive the Natural bond feat would kick in for your second and subsequent animals, meaning you can have two animal companions at 3 higher than your level. You could even go until you get a thrid animal which would be at your actual level. The beast master seems like it could be cool and allow for extra ordinarily strong animals. Take the Exalted Animal Companion feat and now you have a team of Celestial creatures.

The thing about the arcane heirophant is that you get your first 3rd level spell at level 8. A normal spell caster gets that at level 5. This gap continues for the rest of the game. You do realize that practised spell caster does not give you more spells per day or spells known, right? It just increases your caster level to beat SR, etc. I won't tell you what class to pick because dual progression spell casters are not my thing. There is a recent thread called mystic theuruge where most of the people here agree with my assesment of dual progression casters. The tome of necromancy goes into the problems with dual casters as well.

Also note that you can not have a magebred animal companion. The magebred template comes from eberron and is acquried by paying double the asking price of an animal. Animal companions have no price, and thus can not be magebred.

Exalted companion is pretty good. They really exciting things are the elemental resistance and the damage reduction, which also lets you pierce damage reduction, which is a problem for animals. Your animal companion will become intelligent, so you can control without handle animal skill checks. The spell resistance probably won't work ever. Note that you have to be exalted and that you subtract one from your druid level for the price of the celestial template when you chose an animal.

I don't think natural bond works like you think it does, but I cannot prove it. Still, even if it does, you will not be happy with the results. Complete Adventurer p. 27 says "Treat the beastmaster as a druid whose level is equal to the beastmaster's level -3 for the purpose of improving the animal companions statistics (or of selecting an alternative animal companion at higher levels)." So that means that a level 4 beastmaster gets the animal companion of a level 1 druid. If your right (and again, I don't think you are) natural bond would increase that by 3 so you can pick of the level 4 druid list. The best option is the fleshraker, but even with wartraining, that thing only has 5 HD. The earliest he is going to show up is at level 9. Everyone knows the fleshraker is a beast, but he is just going to die against CR 9 enemies, many times without hitting anything. Also, he will stop advancing as soon as you leave the beastmaster class. So if you leave beastmaster at level 4, he stays at 5 hd forever. If you stay a beastmaster, you are only prolonging the inevitable, because eventually you will run out of pre epic beastmaster levels and then he will fall further behind.

All of that was based on the assumption that natural bond actually works on multiple animal companions, despite the fact that it refers to a single animal companion and that the second animal companion is based entirely off your beastmaster level. If I am right, you can only have a level 1 druid companion at level nine, and I should not have to explain to you how worthless a riding dog is at that level.
Even still, you could take natural bond specifically for your second animal companion from the beast master class, leaving you still with two of them at 3 plus your character level. Also, you CAN take magebred animals as a druid. In Eberron, Book of Five Nations, it references druids and rangers from breland as using magebred animals specifically(pgs. 174&175). I assume you would have to raise it yourself(and be able to cast magic to imbue them) or have your animal magically imbued after birth, but it is possible.

About the Arcane Hierophant, I did read that recent thread, and there were plenty of good builds in there. After that three level drop in spells available from Arcane Hierophant, you never have to loose another level in casting. Simply continue on with a few levels of Mystic Theurge(I know this class does suck, but you only have to take it four levels) and done. 9th level spell available at 20. I Have played with a Arcane Hierophant before, and I found there to be little wrong with this build. I like to spam spells, and this class allows me to do just that.

A better question might be, what about epic levels and animal companions? The current epic level handbook says next to nothing as far and animal advancement goes. Is there a source anywhere that gives information about epic Companions?
You are still not reading the beast master class correctly. The "druid level" for the second animal companion is based off of your Beastmaster level -3. It is completely independent from and does not stack in anyway with druid levels. If you were a level 5 druid/ 4 beastmaster you would get a druid level 1 animal as your second animal companion. If you were to be a level 50 druid/ 4 beastmaster you would get a druid level 1 animal companion as your second animal companion.

Good find on the magebred animal companions, although you meant page 74-75 (the book does not even have 170 pages :D ). It is really strangely written. It says that a druid from breland can take a magebred brown bear at 7th level, instead of a polar bear. This is really weird. If it means that you can chose the magebred brownbear instead of a polar bear, then the template costs you three druid levels, and that's bad. If it means you really can take a magebred brown bear at level 7, then you get a totally cool template on your animal companion at level 7 just for being from breland. Ask your DM how he thinks it should work.

You are pretty much going to have to design your own system for epic level animals. The ELH is 3.0 and back then druid animal companions were handeled differently. The are some epic animals scattered around, such as the legendary tiger, but you would have to create an appropriate level modifier for taking one, because they are no any animal companion lists. I do not think that they are are any animals that actually have an epic level cr.

On that note, it is probably good to mention how animal companion usefullness trails off the further along you go. The legendary tiger has 26 HD, a 33 in str, all good saves, and can make 5 attacks after a charge. It is rated at cr 10 and that is pretty acurate. In higher levels, everything seems to be able to fly, or cast save or dies, or have interesting DR which your animals will have problem dealing with. At some point, being the guy who has big muscles and lots of HD just does not cut it anymore.
Holy cow, Stalos, you really really wanna get a free meal, don'tcha? To keep him from sounding like a lone voice, I'll throw in my 2 cents to say that so far, Arem's interpretations make a lot more sense when I re-read the Beastmaster class.

Arem, sorry to hear about your real-life troubles. I can wait patiently for you to finish the Guide. I would help, but I'm busy trying to assimilate the Magic of Incarnum rules because one of my players wants to play a Totemist.

Also, animal companions aren't necessarily that bad. Just throw money into equipment for them, instead of weapons for yourself. If you're a druid or some other caster-type with a Wild Cohort, you get more bang for your buck that way, anyway, as you prolly don't have the greatest STR yerself.
And even in ranger and beastmaster classes, it says to treat the characters as druids with the appropriate penalty applied. The feat says that it raises your 'effective druid level.' Thus you don't have to be a druid. This is why I believe natural bond can work in this fashion. It seems like this feat might have been made especially for rangers, because the bonus it gives is exactly the amount needed to allow a ranger an animal companion of his exact level.

This might be my reading of it, but look carefully again at the 'effective druid level' part in the feat and in the character descriptions.

STalos
And even in ranger and beastmaster classes, it says to treat the characters as druids with the appropriate penalty applied. The feat says that it raises your 'effective druid level.' Thus you don't have to be a druid. This is why I believe natural bond can work in this fashion. It seems like this feat might have been made especially for rangers, because the bonus it gives is exactly the amount needed to allow a ranger an animal companion of his exact level.

This might be my reading of it, but look carefully again at the 'effective druid level' part in the feat and in the character descriptions.

STalos

I still disagree with you. It is true that you do not have to be a druid for it to affect you. But I do not see anything in there about it affecting multiple animal companions. I think they wrote the feat believing it was only possible to have one animal companion in 3.5, despite the fact that the beastmaster PRC is in the same book.

That being said, it really does not matter balance wise. Nobody is going to care that natural bond has boosted your cr 1 animal to cr 2. Nobody is even going to notice that at level 9, especially if the fleshraker, who should be a cr 3, is not involved. What they are going to notice is that the the druid is casting level 3 spells instead of the level 5 ones he would have had as a straight druid.
There are a few other animals worth mentioning, if only briefly.

The Dire Rhinocerous from the Fiendish Codex is a good replacement for the T-Rex, as they share many of the same basic statistics. Yet, for the Hit Dice and CR, the Rhino takes the gold here with a better natural armor, Strength, Constitution, and a decent critical with it's horn. Sure it drops the very neat Swallow Whole ability, but it does gain Trample. Even better, it's a Dire animal, making it eligible for the Horrid template which throws on 4d6 acid damage to its attack, and increases the damage through Improved Natural Attack. Though I might question any DM who gave you a Horrid Mage-bred Dire Rhinocerous (that you might also add Warbeast) pre-epic.

I also note that whereas Horrid does change an animal's alignment to evil, it doesn't raise their intelligence any. I percieve this as not necessarily as much of a difference from the base alignment of said creature. They might be a bit more vicious, maybe crueller and worry already dead opponents, but a well-trained animal won't go killing innocent townsfolk if you tell it not to.

The next creatures up for consideration are the Cave Dinosaurs from the Miniatures Handbook. I note that they are not necessarily spectacular by themselves, but read that nifty little side-bar. There's a chance that you might stumble across a Cave Tyrannosaurus that has the Chameleon special ability, or an Ankylosaur with an additional +6 strength. Now that would be an animal worth throwing some templates on. Getting an effective 38 Strength from a 9 HD, 5 CR T-Rex sounds fairly good to me. All you need to do is go raiding Yuan-ti strongholds and make fairly decent Wilderness Empathy checks. Maybe a few okay spot checks as well, as noticing the horrifically well built ankylosaurus amidst it's brethren wouldn't likely be too hard. Well, that and killing the various things the Yuan-ti are going to throw at you.

Lastly, if you go Planar jaunting at all, take the chance to pick up a Fhorge, also from Fiend Folio. Sure, it's a tenacious little bugger, which is great. And it can grapple fairly well, but the real love comes from it's double damage on a charge. Any individual familiar with the CharOp boards knows how very valuable abilities like that are, and with magic items that enhance this ability the little beast could get pretty nasty. Not to mention I've yet to see another animal with said ability. You might want to check with your DM about switching it's feats around, as Power Attack would be great for it.
But I do not see anything in there about it affecting multiple animal companions.

I was just looking at the errata for Complete Adventurer yesterday and it explicitly limits Natural Bond to one Animal Companion in there.