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.p … 372&page=1
) If you do not want to go that way for some reason, such as not wanting to be Halfling, a pretty effective mount would be to use your cohort as your special mount. A level 20 paladin can have an ECl 16 mount with full paladin bonuses. Other Special Mounts
The Algandar (sp?) Griffonrider PRC gains a griffon as a mount. The mount will progress as the class gains levels, but a player can substitute their paladin special mount progression instead.
My thoughts: It has been a long time since I had my hands on Unapproachable East. I will try to get my hands on a copy of it and take another look at this class. Griffons, even without special abilities, make awesome pets however. Leadership
The leadership feat allows one to gain a cohort of no more than two less than the leader’s level. Leadership can be used to gain mounts and magical beasts, provided that they have an INT score greater than or equal to 4. The odds are that you will have to make a handle animal check to train the cohort, such as with griffons for example, but after that you should command the cohort with regular speech. The Dracomonicon has a special dragon cohort feat, which allows you to have a dragon cohort that is 3 ECL higher than you would through the regular leadership feat. Cohorts can make effective mounts; provided that the cohort is willing (they function like NPCs).
My thoughts: Leadership is a good way to get a nice mount for your character. If your goal is to use animal handling to its best advantage however, you are better off with a bard, marshal, or buffing mage as your cohort. Any of these can improve your ability to handle animals and/or the animals’ combat ability and will probably be more effective than one more beast. The small army of followers you gain can be used to take care of your animals. Dragon Leadership
Similar to Leadership, but you do not gain followers and you can only gain a dragon off a certain table on p. 139 of the Dracomonicon. On the plus side, the dragon counts as three ECLs lower.
My thoughts: A given if you want a dragon mount. It can be a nice basis for a paladin mount using the cohort as a special mount rule. Dragon Steed
This feat from the Dracomonicon allows one to have the services of a dragonnel as a mount. The feat says it replaces your special mount, which I take to be WotC’s crazy way of saying you apply your special mount abilities to it, not that your special mount class feature disappears.
My thoughts: I can’t recommend this feat. The dragonnel is a fine mount, but a fully trained dragonnel costs only 10,000 gp, and the price will be less if you buy it as an egg or raise it yourself. It does not seem to gain experience, and will eventually have to be replaced by a better mount. Taking Dragon leadership can probably score you a dragonnel with class levels. Animal Friendship
A spell which I believe existed in 3.0 but I cannot currently find a copy of. Surprisingly, it in not even listed here (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20050110x
) Can anyone help me out here?
My thoughts: ??? Animal Control
This feat from Masters of the Wild gives you the ability to control or rebuke animals just as an evil cleric can control undead. It requires the animal defense feat (ability to turn animals, same book) and the speak with animals and animal friendship spells.
My thoughts: It lists as a prerequisite a spell that I can not seem to find anywhere. It is not updated for 3.5. Probably inferior to other methods anyway. Wild Empathy
Wild Empathy is a feature of certain classes such as the druid. It works similarly to a diplomacy check, but the roll is equal to a D20 plus the character’s druid level (or other wild empathy class) and charisma modifier. A druid can also affect magical beasts in this way, but with a negative modifier of minus four. Several PRCs advance wild empathy and the animal lord gives a bonus when dealing with a chosen type of creature. Most wild creatures start out as unfriendly, and it seems to take at least a friendly disposition to make them ready for training, so a DC 15 check must be made. The animal still has to be trained after this check is made.
My thoughts: This is a good basis for your army. You will have a hard time making that check in the beginning, but as time goes by it will be incredibly easy. The services of a marshal will help in the mean time. You can gain magical beasts from this method and train them if they have an int of 1 or 2. This includes some very excellent creatures such as the hydra
Finding the animal you want to charm should not be too hard. In Masters of the Wild, it gives rules for finding an animal companion. This was in the old days of 3.0, when a druid had to go out and look for an animal companion, instead of just praying in a field and having Elhonna Fed Ex him one. It says on page 34 that it should only take a few days and some simple skill checks.
Diplomacy, however, makes this method seem suboptimal, since diplomacy can
do everything that Wild Empathy can, and so much more. It also does not have a magical beast penalty or tie you to specific classes. Use this method if you can’t spend the skill points, don’t want to be an incredibly smooth talker, or your DM will not let diplomacy work this way. Diplomacy
Intelligent creatures can be influenced by the diplomacy skill, provided that the player can find someway to communicate with them, and several of these can be effective mounts or additions to an army of trained animals. Oddly enough, in Races of the Wild under training an elven hound (p.190), it states that the hound can be moved to begin training after a successful diplomacy check if the diplomat can speak with them, such as with the Speak with Animals spell. That gives us the precedent of allowing animals and magical beasts to be convinced to begin service with the diplomacy skill.
My thoughts: Diplomacy is a great skill to have. It synergizes well with animal handling (both are cha based skills). All it takes to start converting animals is a simple first level druid spell, which should be easy to acquire. Read any diplomancer thread and you can see how easy it is too crank this skill up to insane levels and how much it can do. Even if your DM does not allow the more crazy uses of diplomacy, like convincing an opposing BBEG to join your cause, he should have no problem with using it to influence animals, because it is really not like asking your sworn enemy, or even a random human, to abandon their own life goals and join your quest. Most buyable magical beasts require a diplomacy check, and if you intend to fill out your army with things like griffons, you will need this skill.
On the other hand, there is good reason to think that this should not be allowed. Using diplomacy in this way is based on one passage on page 190 of Races of the Wild. The example also involves the spell Speak with Animals working on magical beasts, but it really should not. Some DMs may rule that this is precedent of the fact that sometimes authors go crazy and not that one can diplomance their way to an animal army. If anyone knows of another location in the books where it says that diplomacy can affect non-intelligent creatures, or that Speak with Animals works on magical beasts, please post. Purchasing
There are several animals and magical beasts that are available for purchase throughout the Monster Manuals and other books. The advantage to this is that you do not have to actually go out and find the creature you desire, the disadvantage is that you have to pay. You can also buy one that has been already trained, and be ready to join the adventure immediately, but that costs still more money. Special mounts, such as griffons and pegasi, have their own prices associated with them. In the MM2, under the warbeast template, prices are listed for a war trained version of any animal. The formula is 50 gp per HD for an animal 3HD or lower or 100 gp plus 75 gp per HD for an animal that has more then 3 HD. Note that you most also pay 75 gp for the HD gained by war training a beast. It is implied, but not stated, that warbeasts have the combat riding set of tricks.
My thoughts: This is my preferred method. It gives you the price of any animal in any book, and it is amazingly cheap if you buy warbeasts. The example they give in the MM2, a warbeast rhino, costs 775 gp. That is the cost for a nine HD creature. It is just barely more than the cost of full plate armor. A Fleshraker costs 475 gp. A Tyrannosaurus Rex costs 1,525 gp. This is simply the best way to go. You do not have to wait an obnoxious amount of time, you do not have to hope to run into these things when you wander the woods, you just have to pay an easily affordable price and you are in business.
You can also acquire a number of other magic beasts from the various books. I will list the better options among these in another update. They cost more, but they generally come with intelligence, which will help you greatly.
Many magical beasts have options as to when you can buy them. A griffon can be bought as an egg (3,500 gp), or as a young griffon (7,000 gp). You may want to buy one as an egg so that you can save some cash. Unfortunately, 3.5 does not seem to give age/growth information for monsters. That means that no one knows when that egg is going to hatch, or how long after that it takes a griffon to grow large enough to fight. Ask your DM how long he thinks it should take, and base your decision of that. Animal Rearing
The handle animal skill allows a PC to rear a wild animal. It requires a handle animal check (DC equals animal HD plus 15). The description says “that rearing an animal means to raise an animal from infancy so that it becomes domesticated.” (PH. 75). D&D 3.5 does not seem to list animal ages or rear times, which makes this a problem. I have come up with three possible interpretations of how this should work.
1st interpretation: Google it. D&D does not give us the time it takes for an animal to grow from infancy to adulthood, so we will acquire the information ourselves from the ever useful Google (how did we survive without this)?
Problems with this method: First of all, there are several animals with ages we can not begin to guess. Like the dire ones, or the dinosaurs, or the made up ones. I suppose you could take a guess by looking at a similar creature. Even when we look at animals that exist, this method is problematic. According to the Baylor University Baylor Bear Program, the North American Black Bear takes about five years to grow from infancy to adulthood. Unless you have a party of nigh immortal characters, like elves and warforged, the party is probably not going to agree to take five years off from adventuring so that you can teach that black bear cub you found to stop peeing on the carpet. Even if we really stretch the age categories, and define weaning as the end of infancy and sexual maturity as adulthood, you are still talking a minimum of a year and a half, and it requires you to have found a bear who is both a late bloomer and a fast grower.
2nd interpretation: Screw it. The books had lots of spaces where they could have listed a time that it should take to rear a creature. They chose not to do so. Other animals or magic beasts that can be bought young have no listed differences in stats. Just pick up your infant black bear, and send it directly into battle with the same stats as an adult. The book even says you can teach it tricks at the same time as you are rearing it. If it knows the tricks, it will follow your commands, and you do not even have to finish the rearing process.
Problems with this Method: It basically means that the rearing part of the skill is pointless and meaningless. Considering that one is allowed to train magical beasts so long as they have an INT of 1 or 2, and that they are apparently unrearable, this may be the actual intent.
3rd interpretation: 3.0 it. 3.0 for the most part did seem to mention things like rearing times for animals. Under epic uses of the skill, which is still 3.0, we can see a rearing time of one year for all magical beasts. So we can just apply the one year time period to those animals without a listed rearing time.
Problems with this method: First of all, we have found ourselves with the same playability problems that we had in the first interpretation, that not quite so severe. Second, the table presented also just says “variable” for vermin, which are in many ways closer to animals than magic beasts, implying that using the magic beast rearing time for animals in incorrect. Lastly and most importantly, the rules for training animals have changed significantly in the transition from 3.0 to 3.5. In 3.0 it took two months to teach an animal a trick. In 3.5 it takes one week. This seems to indicate that the designers thought that training animals took too long and should be faster, and that may mean faster rearing times as well.
My thoughts: Either have your DM rule 0 the entire thing or do not use it. The official rules are at best incomplete.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.