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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?

Background

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!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Races of stone-eh? Those wheels aren't turning very fast in there! :p \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Jun 11 '18 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that these mounts are free simply because there doesn't seem to be a good listed price to be found? That seems like a questionable jump of logic. More likely, they are supposed to cost money (and often quite a lot), and the books just forgot to specify how much. The excerpt can be interpreted as simply making them available for purchase, not giving them away. \$\endgroup\$ – Southpaw Hare Jun 11 '18 at 19:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SouthpawHare Sort of? I mean, I'll freely admit that it is a leap, but it's also the only leap I've got. That is, I've not found anything else to explain the game's strangely consistent lack of prices for unusual mounts. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 11 '18 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @joedragons Both The designers forgot and The designers didn't want PCs to be able to buy them are both respectable ideas for the game's general lack of prices for unusual mounts, but I'm not looking for the designer's reasons. Instead, using the game itself I want to know why there are almost no unusual mount prices. Really, I find the game's silence on, like, a hippogriff's price baffling, and I think that a reason for it must exist somewhere inside the game, and the DMG's last bullet about the mount's CR seemed a good starting point. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 12 '18 at 17:38
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Neither "Priceless" nor "Price-less" Means "Free"

Unfortunately a modicum of inference, extrapolation, and adjudication appear to be necessary in order to purchase or use mounts not listed on any equipment lists.

The DMG appears to be focusing not on how the PCs might acquire the mounts, but on whether the PCs can acquire them.

...you may face requests for mounts other than horses [...] You [the DM] have the final decision on what is or is not a suitable mount...

(Emphasis mine) Those rules are guidance to DMs on how, and whether, to incorporate the unusual mounts into a game or game-world. The few listed prices (spider eater, et. al.) can be used to inform how much such a mount might cost. The very fact that it's not spelled out shows that the DM is supposed to wing it and go by what he thinks fits the game he's running, if using only the Core rulebooks (see below for other sourcebook options and precedents).


On pages 80-91 of the Arms and Equipment Guide (Mar 2003), which is unupdated 3.0 material (which is therefore 3.5 material, subject to DM adjustment/approval, and printed near the cusp of 3.5 D&D), there's material which, with judicious adjustments (mostly to prices) answer the question of how much it costs to buy unusual mounts of many types in the Monster Manual, and how to arrive at those prices (for other similar creatures).

The sidebar on page 80 ("How Much Will a Trainer Charge?") demonstrates how trainers arrive at their prices, and says that this is all up to the DM to fine tune (much like Magic Item Creation pricing):

Trainers with the equipment and know-how to train exotic mounts are rare, and they know it. They can set their own prices for their services. However, this is not price gouging. Training is long, hard work. Especially in the case of rearing young creatures, the price a trainer charges might be her entire income for the year. The following table provides some general guidelines for what a trainer might charge. This is just a starting point; DMs can adjust prices up or down.

\begin{array} \ \text{Training} & \text{Training} \\ \ \text{Conditions} & \text{Cost} \\ \ \text{DC 15-19} & \text{125 gp} \\ \ \text{DC 20-24} & \text{250 gp} \\ \ \text{DC 25-29} & \text{500 gp} \\ \ \text{DC 30-35} & \text{1000 gp} \\ \ \text{Unusual movement } & \text{500 gp} \\ \ \text{(fly, swim, burrow)} \\ \ \text{Difficult special ability} & \text{500 gp} \\ \ \text{Vicious creature} & \text{1,000 gp} \\ \ \text{Assistant} & \text{100 gp each} \\ \ \text{required} \\ \ \text{Charm monster scroll } & \text{700 gp} \\ &\end{array}

Additionally, there are many creatures listed in those pages, with prices for young, as well as prices for training by an expert (e.g. blink dog, young costs 10,000 gp, and 1000 gp to train). In 3.5, the Handle Animal skill says that a creature may be trained while its being reared, or afterward, so the costs appear to be the same if you start with a young creature, but if you come across a domesticated but untrained creature, it costs extra to get someone else to train it. While not everything regarding the Handle Animal skill works exactly the same in 3.5 vs 3e, there's a lot of overlap and the prices there are likely a good starting point.


So, no, the mounts are not 'free'. Nothing in D&D is free. You either have a role-playing cost (find a reason for the giant eagles to help your party through the mountains), or a resource cost (hire or buy such mounts).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How does telling the DM how much a unusual mount's young is worth help the DM determine the price of an adult specimen that's suitable as a mount? (I mean, other than telling the DM that an adult unusual mount should have a price higher than that of its young.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ The example of the spider eater shows that the cost for a trained adult is: 3000 for young, 3000 to rear (part of training via handle animal), 3000 to train [as a mount] (the rest of training via handle animal) for a total of 9000. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jun 13 '18 at 13:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ The game doesn't say that, though. Nowhere that I've found says that, for example, The price of an unusual mount is (value of the young) + (rearing cost + training cost; computed separately). That's my chief frustration with this whole ordeal. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 13:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess I'm thinking in terms of AD&D 2e/D&D 5e here; if it's not spelled out, it's up to the DM to adjudicate. If you're looking to have things spelled out, I can't help there; if you want a usable ruling, I'll add in my analysis of the training and rearing costs. \$\endgroup\$ – Chemus Jun 13 '18 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dude, that's RPGs in a nutshell: If it's not spelled out, it's up to the person running to game to adjudicate. However, we both know that 3.5e spells out prices for pretty much everything else but unusual mounts. I'm happy to read—and maybe even use—your house rules, but I'm much more interested in solving this seeming rules gap—like the DMG's "Hey, free mounts!" idea—so that I can better understand the rules. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jun 13 '18 at 15:05
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I suspect that there is an unconscious game design assumption (dating back to the days of Robilar in early D&D) that PCs would either train non-intelligent unusual mounts from their youth OR negotiate or battle-to-subdue intelligent mounts OR simply buy what was available in-game context.

Perhaps the original thought was that only the trainer would be able to make use of the animal?

If this observed bias be in fact, true, then the lack of prices for trained adults for general purchase would be explained as a legacy hold-over from previous editions... as the 3.x ruleset does not have such a bias in the Handle Animal skill when raising or training animals.

In any case, this is more of an opinion-answer based on my recollections of previous editions.


For those who may not be aware, Robilar was the character of a player (Rob Kuntz) from one of the two Original Groups (Gygax's and Arneson's), who frequently played solo with Gygax as he was impatient with the slow pace of group gaming.

Robilar was in the habit of finding the nearest green dragon (or two) and pummeling it into submission (ala Zhang Xuan's Beast Pummeling Training Method) so he could use them as mounts as well as to guard his domicile.

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