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So this is a standard player misunderstanding.

Ranger learned speak with animals, wanted to use it as flavour and to aid in the befriending of a beast, (giant poisonous snake). When it came to the roll, instead of using the rangers animal handling (+6) the spell actually made the task more difficult with persuasion being a (+0).

Question 1. Does this make sense rules as written?

Question 2. Does this make sense period?

My take? If a you have a pet dog, trained from a pup that you know and communicate with well already (think +6 animal handling with this particular dog) and you suddenly had the ability to speak perfectly to it and it back to you, would it make it more difficult to communicate with the dog? In my mind, hell no. In 5e rules as written D&D maybe?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please refrain from using potentially offensive language. I edited it out. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 14 '18 at 4:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if, when speaking to the dog for the first time in a mutually comprehensible language, his first words to you are are "you aren't all that and a bag of chips, dude. I only hang around because you feed me." What do you do then? \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 14 '18 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I know to feed him more and better food to get what I want? \$\endgroup\$ – Callow Apr 15 '18 at 21:32
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This is a place for a Charisma (Animal Handling) check

Influencing a beast to be friendly is a charisma check...

A charisma check might arise when you try to influence or entertain others

"I really want to use my animal handling proficiency though." The Player's Handbook talks about a variant rule enabling Skills with Different Abilities.

Normally, your proficiency in a skill applies only to a specific kind of ability check. Proficiency in Athletics, for example, usually applies to Strength checks. In some situations, though, your proficiency might reasonably apply to a different kind of check. In such cases, the GM might ask for a check using an unusual combination of ability and skill, or you might ask your GM if you can apply a proficiency to a different check.

If your GM allows it perhaps you can make a Charisma (Animal Handling) check. It is certainly reasonable to include your proficiency for animal handling when interacting with an animal. Make sure to check with your GM if you are using this variant rule though.

If not...

You should use Persuasion regardless of whether the spell is active or not. Here are what the skills do according to the Basic Rules.

Animal Handling

When there is any question whether you can calm down a domesticated animal, keep a mount from getting spooked, or intuit an animal’s intentions ... call for a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check.

Persuasion

When you attempt to influence someone or a group of people with tact, social graces, or good nature, the GM might ask you to make a Charisma (Persuasion) check.

"Befriending of a beast" is not within the basic purview of Animal Handling so you should use Persuasion (it would likely be close to impossible to even attempt this without Speak with Animals or a similar spell; you should at least have disadvantage since you don't share a language without the spell).

Wisdom checks overall are...

effort[s] to read body language, understand someone’s feelings, notice things about the environment, or care for an injured person.

This has nothing to do with communication, which is why you cannot make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check for this.


If your GM is allowing animal handling to be used for befriending beasts, then there is no reason to force a player to change skills with the new communication method. The intelligence of the creature didn't change, so the method for befriending would be the same; you would just get the added benefit of verbal communication (possibly advantage depending on the situation)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow I never knew the standard use of animal handling was so narrow? It can be used to to calm mounts or pets or intuit an animals intentions. All very rare cases, (animal intentions could be common but how often would you have time to make a check and respond before an attack, ie the usual animal interaction in D&D). Why aren't rangers Char based? when no positive interaction can come from animal handling? only the negation of negative ones? Honestly this makes no sense, the nobel sorcerer better at taming animals than a druid or ranger? \$\endgroup\$ – Callow Apr 14 '18 at 5:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Callow Personally, I think the Skills with Different Abilities rule should be core not variant. It makes gameplay so much more diverse and gives more options to non-min-maxed characters. You should talk to your GM about using it more often in your games. \$\endgroup\$ – David Coffron Apr 14 '18 at 5:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's what through me, I previously tamed a burrowing owl I saved from death from another giant snake in fact. Guess what check I rolled! Now I actually learn a spell and use it and I am worse off! I gave him a weeks heads up and this is the response. I don't get it. \$\endgroup\$ – Callow Apr 14 '18 at 5:40
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D&D 5e has intentionally been designed to limit the use of hordes of minions and servants and captive NPCs and such, to try to get back to the idea of a small party of adventurers out doing things themselves.

I recently concluded my last campaign of AD&D 1e. That party had gotten itself up to about 10-12th level, and was carting around a mass of 56 followers: friendshipped animals, pets, familiars, a djinn, and other minions, to supplement the 10 PCs -- it was quite a job tracking all that, and figuring out on any given task who would go do that specific thing, and what the rest of the entourage would do in the meantime. All of that was accumulated and facilitated by the AD&D 1e legitimate rules.

I started a new 5e campaign with the same players, and have had to be quite strict about the rules regarding animals and NPCs to avoid amassing such a menagerie. They keep trying, though. They're up to 6th level, and even with 5e and being strict, they've generally got horses for everyone (plus 2 to 4 spares), a mule and cart, a Found Steed buffalo for the Paladin, a befriended giant elk for the Druid, 4 war dogs, and a Familiar (usually an owl). A regular zoo, rolling down the roadways.

The skill of Animal Handling is not intended to be a magic portal to turn wild animals into servile companions; it's for dog trainers and cart drivers and horse riders to handle domesticated animals.

Speak With Animals is a magic spell that let you speak with animals. No more. In a situation like the last paragraph of your question, where you have a dog you've bee successfully using Animal Handling to train, and you cast Speak With Animals, I would let you choose whether to roll with Animal Handling or with Persuasion, whichever you choose, and give advantage to the roll due to the synergy of the two approaches. You would have a very good chance of getting this dog that you have a rapport with already, and now can communicate with clearly, to do exactly what you wanted. A wild giant poisonous snake, maybe not so much.

So yes, there are legitimate ways in 5e to get animal companions and servants and whatnot, but they are intentionally difficult to obtain and maintain, so as to preserve the feel and idea of Characters Doing Things by Their Own Abilities.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I totally agree with you. I personally think a party of 6 maybe too many let alone a party of 6 with a dozen pets etc. The reason I wanted to tame the snake was not for combat purposes. Frankly I think the biggest boundary to taming animals for combat is that any animal you can safely tame at your level is going to get oneshot in combat, that's if they are brave enough to face whatever it is you are confronted with. \$\endgroup\$ – Callow Apr 14 '18 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Good answer overall, but the +1 is for your players as much as for the answer. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 14 '18 at 20:53

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