Random Encounters
Wild Life
By Jesse Decker

Tricks and Training for D&D Animals

Animals, especially those used as guards or mounts, are capable of learning a wide variety of tricks and combat techniques. This section of Wild Life explores feats and tricks that riders, handlers, and animals themselves can use to make them more effective both in and out of combat. Many of the feats allow riders with special abilities, like barbarians or spellcasters, to take better advantage of those abilities while mounted on a properly trained mount.

New Feats

The following feats allow characters to work better with their mount, pet, animal companion, or animal cohort.

Coordinated Strike [General]

You and your wild cohort are adept at coordinating your attacks to distract foes and catch them off guard.

Prerequisites: Wild Cohort, Handle Animal 5 ranks or Ride 5 ranks.

Benefit: During any round in which you and your wild cohort both make a melee attack against the same target, you each gain a +1 bonus on your attack rolls against that target.

Mounted Spellcasting [General]

You are adept at casting spells while mounted.

Prerequisites: Mounted Combat, Concentration 5 ranks, ability to cast 1st-level arcane or divine spells.

Benefit: When casting spells while mounted, you do not have to make Concentration checks because of your mount's movement.

Normal: Without this feat, you must make a Concentration check (DC 10 + the level of the spell you're casting) or lose the spell.

Mounted Fury [General]

Your fearsome rage spurs your mount to greater heights.

Prerequisites: Mounted Combat, Ride 5 ranks, rage class ability.

Benefit: As long as you are riding a war-trained mount, your mount gains the same benefits and penalties that you do while you rage. This includes improved rage abilities like greater rage, tireless rage, and mighty rage. The mount's rage ends any time you are no longer mounted or when your rage ends. You must be mounted when you initiate your rage ability for the mount to be affected.

Steady Rider [General]

You never loose your concentration while riding, and you ride confidently even in combat situations.

Prerequisites: Mounted Combat, Ride 8 ranks

Benefit: You can always take 10 on Ride checks, including Ride checks made to negate a hit against your mount with the Mounted Combat feat.

New Tricks

Handle Animal allows characters to teach animals specific skills and habits that help in combat or adventuring situations. Adventurers and animal trainers have developed a number of specialized tricks and training techniques.

Teach an Animal a Trick: You can teach an animal a specific trick with one week of work and a successful Handle Animal check against the indicated DC. The following tricks expand the list of tricks found on pages 74 and 75 of the Player's Handbook.

Ambush (DC 15): The animal hides using the Hide skill to the best of its ability. It then stays in one place and attacks the first creature to come near it, unless it has been previously trained to recognize the creature as a friend.

Bull Rush (DC 15): The animal attempts to bull rush a designated creature.

Flush Out (DC 20): The animal moves into an area and, if it encounters any creatures, it makes noise and feints attacks toward the creature in an attempt to drive it to you. If the animal makes the creature move, there is a 50% chance that the quarry moves directly toward you. Otherwise, the quarry veers to your left or right (equal chance for each).

Overrun (DC 15): The animal attempts to overrun a designated creature. If the animal has the trample special ability, it uses that ability against the creature if the creature is small enough to be affected.

Pin (DC 15): The animal attempts to grapple and pin a designated creature.

Stalk (DC 20): The animal follows a designated creature using the Hide and Move Silently skills to the best of its ability. It stays with the target until you call it off (normally accomplished with a whistle). If attacked by the designated creature, the animal attacks. If attacked by a different creature or severely wounded, the animal attempts to return to you.

Train an Animal for a Purpose: Rather than teaching an animal individual tricks, you can simply train it for a general purpose. Essentially, a purpose is a preselected package of tricks. If the package includes more than three tricks, the animal must have a 2 Intelligence to learn them all. The general purpose described below expands the list of general purposes found on page 75 of the Player's Handbook.

Adventuring Pack Animal (DC 20): An animal trained as an adventuring pack animal doesn't panic in combat, but it stays away from fighting to the best of its ability. It stays within sight of its handler unless caused to flee by extraordinary means (such as a magical fright effect). Once the battle is over, the animal attempts to regroup with its handler. An animal trained as an adventuring pack animal knows the come, heel, stay, and work tricks. Training an animal as an adventuring pack animal takes four weeks.

Animal Item Slots

Although it's easy to imagine an animal benefiting from magic equipment beyond a simple saddle and a suit of barding, fitting a mount's physiology to the list of item slots available to characters is not an easy task. Try the following variant list of item slots for quadruped animals (and other monsters when appropriate).

  • One skull cap or helm
  • One pair of lenses or goggles
  • One collar
  • One saddle blanket or vest
  • One saddle or jacket
  • One belt or strap worn in front of or over the haunches
  • One pectoral or harness worn over the chest or shoulders
  • One pair foreleg bracers
  • One pair of foreleg shoes or mitts -- hoofed creatures wear shoes and creatures with paws wear mitts
  • Two rings -- creatures with toes wear rings on the toes and creatures with hooves wear "rings" just above fore hooves
  • One pair of hind leg shoes or mitts -- hoofed creatures wear shoes and creatures with paws wear mitts

Coming in Part 3 of Wild Life

Next week learn the secrets of a powerful new prestige class for mounted warriors.

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