Handle Animal Trick Details

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The Handle Animal skill leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to saying what the animals actually do and how they utilize their various abilities. With a Animal Companion in the party who is going to get pretty complicated, it is good to set up some guidelines for what each trick does. This is mostly taken from how I have been playing Eruanna, and it gives an explanation as to why.

Effective Range: You can only handle an animal that is aware of you, so it must have seen you prior to being handled (an animal with scent might obey friends that it only has smelled, and similarly an animal might obey friends it knows even if it has only heard them, but an unknown animal must have seen the creature).

Animal Disposition: You can handle any animal with a Friendly or better disposition toward you as normal (usually). An animal of indifferent nature may have to be coaxed into doing as commanded (take a Diplomacy check, but it is a part of the Handle Animal check and does not take any extra time). Note that even a friendly animal may wish to disobey orders (such as if the animal is your friend but currently under opposing orders, or an animal that has been ordered to attack a friend that it doesn’t wish to attack), and an animal that is unfriendly may be willing to help (such as an animal that doesn’t terribly like you BUT agrees with what you are asking or was going to do it anyway). In these cases, the diplomacy checks may again be required. An Animal that is Helpful (or better) disposition towards you will almost always obey you if you succeed in a Handle Animal check (at least for non-suicidal commands), and one that is Hostile almost never will (use Wild Empathy or similar to increase their friendliness). Note that there are exceptions, it is possible that even a Helpful animal will require a diplomacy check, or that a hostile one will not, but they should be relatively rare!

Here is what the animals should do while they are under the influence of a trick. This is written primarily for fairly standard Medium or smaller predatory animals (I won’t lie, primarily for eagles!). Larger and/or fiercer animals (bears, badgers, wolverines, just about anything defending their young) may be more aggressive, and smaller or more docile animals (horses, mice) may be much more conservative in their actions.

  • Attack: The animal attacks the indicated enemy(ies) as expediently as possible. This includes charging the first round if necessary and full attacks thereafter. If the animal in question has Power Attack or other “opt-in” feats, they will be used to their full extent. The animal will move to follow the creature(s) in question, and will take any and all AOOs provoked by anyone the animal does not consider to be a friend (assuming the creature’s type is on the ‘allowed’ list).
  • Come: The animal coms to you via the most effective path. Usually this is the shortest path, but if the animal can move to avoid AOOs or overt traps without making the trip take any longer (that is, without causing the trip to take an extra round. It will take a double move to avoid things even if it could make it in a single move actions straight), it will.
  • Defend: The animal attempts to stay adjacent to the selected character, moving as necessary. The animal will attempt to keep itself between the selected character and the most apparent threat to the character. The animal will take any and all AOOs provoked by any creatures it does not consider friends, and will attack any creatures that have attacked the defended creature (but it will not break adjacency if it can help it). The animal will also attack even friendly characters if they seem to be a threat, including taking AOOs if people simply move past with weapons drawn. Only close friends (creatures the animal is on Helpful or better) are never at risk unless the animal is explicitly ordered to defend against all comers (in which case only the defended creature and the creature who Handled the animal are safe). As with attack, any “opt in” feats will be used to their fullest extent. If the defended creature moves faster than the animal, the animal must make a best-effort attempt to keep up, but will give up after “running” to the fullest extent of is Constitution score (at which point, it goes about its usual business. For a wild animal, this would mean returning to its territory and whatever, for a trained animal this means returning to its master or whomever Handled it). If the only apparent risk are from creatures the animal will not attack, the animal will fall back to attempting to prevent the defended creature from approaching the enemies, using whatever non-violent means at its disposal (including snapping at the character without actually connecting, or Readying to get in the creatures way and then denying passage through its square). If the target is incapacitated (by any kind of creature), the animal will attempt to help the creature in any way necessary (dragging it out of danger if physically and logically possible, or else moving into the square of the defended creature and taking all AOOs against apparent threats). If the target and the animal have different initiatives, the animal will make a best-effort attempt to rectify the situation without sacrificing its ability to defend. Generally, if the animal is at a higher initiative, it will delay down until it moves immediately after the target. If the animal is at a lower initiative, it will either remain at its initiative (if no enemies move between the target’s initiative and its initiative), or attempt delay around a turn boundary to match. Note, however, that since that entails losing a turn, the animal will only do this if convenient (for example, if the target only moves 5 feet, then the animal will use that turn to delay around as it does not leave its target open to reprisal. The animal prioritizes staying close over synchronizing initiative, basically, but WILL synchronize initiative at the first chance it has that does not make staying close impossible). Any unused actions are considered to be spent delaying.
  • Down: As stated, though the animal will defend itself if necessary (it should be difficult to get an animal to placidly sit while someone hacks at it with a sword, so I think every stance should allow the animal to defend itself)
  • Fetch: as stated. Will defend itself
  • Guard: As stated. The animal will move up to half their best move speed from their location to attack creatures the animal does not consider friends that come to close. It will attempt to return to its designated position thereafter. The animal is assumed to spend all other actions “delaying,” so that it can react to intruders instantly.
  • Heel: As stated, though the animal will attempt to defend itself if necessary. Any unused actions are considered to be spent delaying (again, so that if something odd happens to the character it is Heeling, such as being bull rushed, it can keep up immediately)
  • Perform: As stated. (defend itself but unlikely to come up)
  • Seek: As stated. Will defend itself.
  • Stay: As stated (this is where I am getting the “will defend itself” from). The animal is assumed to spend all its actions “delaying” (which means that if something happens, it can react instantly)
  • Track: As stated. Will defend itself
  • Work: As stated. Will defend itself (but unlikely to come up!)

Notes: “defend itself” means it will take any AOOs that are triggered by threatening acts to the animal (for example, grapple checks made against it) but not other AOOs (so will let any creature move past it non-threateningly). The animal will also attack anyone who has attacked it if they come near, and if under heavy ranged fire will move the minimum distance necessary to obtain cover.

Any AOOs provoked in any stance other than Attack or Defend by default do NOT use any “opt in” feats like Power Attack unless they are wholly beneficial (so, something like Weapon Focus would be used, but not Power Attack). Again, as noted above, this is the default for predatory creatures that are not exceptionally fierce. Wolverines may use Power Attack to their fullest extent, and a horse might not take them at all.

I pointed it out in the most likely cases, but any actions that the animal does not use should always be considered to be spent on “Delay”. This has no affect, UNLESS the animal is handled by a different initiative character (in which case it can attempt to obey the new orders immediately) or if something else odd happens (for example, if an animal is severely wounded, it might flee).

Handle Animal Trick Details

Wings of Redemption dylanryan