In a campaign focused on wilderness treks, should PCs be awarded (either on-screen or off-screen but always for free) mounts appropriate to the PCs' levels? Or am I misreading the Dungeon Master's Guide's recommendation (excerpted below), and many sources' silence on the prices of unusual mounts is, for example, to force the DM determine campaign-appropriate prices for unusual mounts? Alternatively, does a source outside the core rules have a comprehensive list of prices for unusual mounts?
Unlike the horses and similar riding and work animals that have prices in the Player's Handbook, the Monster Manual in the spider eater entry on Training a Spider Eater says, "Spider eater eggs are worth 2,000 gp apiece on the open market, while young are worth 3,000 gp each. Professional trainers charge 3,000 gp to rear or train a spider eater"(234), yet the core rules omit a price for a ready-to-ride, trained-for-battle, raised-from-infancy-for-use-by-an-adventurer adult spider eater, despite including rules for riding one into battle.
In fact, from the hippogriff (that, like the spider eater, also possesses an Intelligence score of 2 so that it can be trained using the skill Handle Animal) to the giant eagle and the pegasus (that both possess Intelligence scores of 10 therefore likely serving more as good-natured hirelings or allies than like more conventional mounts), all the nonstandard mounts from the Monster Manual lack prices.
It takes pretty much until the Monster Manual III for some creatures to have prices, and even then the game isn't particularly forthcoming. For example, the Int 2 battletitan dinosaur (38) can be purchased for upwards of 100,000 gp and an Int 4 rage drake (130–1) for 15,000 gp, but MM3 has no prices for the bloodstriker dinosaur (38–9), gathra (80–1), indricothere (100–1), mivilorn (106–7), or sea tiger (147), and the descriptions of each of these monsters have them used as a mount by some group or another.
I'm honestly less concerned with, for example, what price a yugoloth asks for a howler (it typically possessing an Intelligence score of 6) that's been trained for the purpose combat riding than I am with the prices of potential mounts that possess Intelligence scores of 1 or 2. I mean, you're gonna pay—or not—whatever that yugoloth asks for that howler, and, afterward, it's up to you to keep it in line. However, a creature with an Intelligence score of 1 or 2 can be trained to stay in line, and that makes trafficking in spider eaters and hippogriffs and similar animal-intelligence-yet-trainable monsters a reasonable—if dangerous!—trade.
The only real lead that I have on the Monster Manual and other texts' omissions of prices comes from the Dungeon Master's Guide on Unusual Mounts that says
If the PCs undertake more wilderness adventures than dungeon treks, mounts may be integral parts of the party, and you may face requests for mounts other than horses.…
Suitable Mounts: You [the DM] have the final decision on what is or is not a suitable mount. At its most basic level, a mount should have the following characteristics:
- Able and willing to carry its rider in a typical fashion.…
- At least one size category larger than the character.…
- The mount’s Challenge Rating should be no more than 3 less than the rider’s character level. If the mount can fly, its Challenge Rating should be no more than 4 less than the rider’s character level. (204)
(N.b. suitable here being different from a mount that's ill-suited for riding generally.) My reading of this is that the Dungeon Master's Guide's implying that if the DM's campaign emphasizes wilderness travel (as mine often do) then the DM should simply give creatures (both PCs or NPCs) level-appropriate mounts. I'm comfortable with that, I guess, although it does seem to go against 3.5's usual if-you-own-it-then-you-pay-for it policy, and it is exactly that policy that makes me hesitant to implement my reading in my own campaigns.
Note: It was Races of Stone (Aug. 2004) that finally triggered this question, although it'd been bugging me for a while. Stone includes on page 161 a list of potential mounts—ankhegs! bulettes! dire freakin' badgers!—and just about everything a potential owner needs to know about those potential mounts except how much they cost! I mean, you can rear a deep hound pup from the day it's born using its rules, but it seems the DM just makes up stuff if PCs go visit a dwarven deep hound kennel (or, I guess, ranch?) looking to buy one!