I have recently discovered that you can buy a large variety of rather strong creatures for very cheap amounts. A character that is moderately specialized in handle animal can easily get a +15 by level 3. And for the price of a +1 weapon, they can instead get a Mastodon. This monster of a creature has 14 HD and can reasonably be combat trained by the character. This monster has a +20 to hit, and does a lot more damage than anyone at that level should be able to pull off. This problem could be made even worse if the character making the purchase has access to a spell like animate dead. These are much stronger than creatures at the level it would be castable, and make for cheap strong minions. (Ignoring story consequences.)

Is there something I am missing about these animals and why they are priced so low in comparison to other equipment and gear that is much less powerful?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you interested in answers that compare the relative value of the various creatures for sale or specifically in the Mastodon (which, based on a quick perusal might be out of the norm)? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Mar 23, 2021 at 3:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have noticed that this is for a large quantity of animals in general, but not all. This is not just specific to the Mastodon, but Dire animals are in a similar state as well as several dinos and a few others \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 5:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ "can reasonably be combat trained by the character". Are we sure about that? \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 16:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ As per handle animal rules, combat training is a DC 20, and that is very trivial for the character. It takes 6 weeks if the animal is untrained, or 3 if it is already trained for riding. If the party is given much downtime, or the opportunity to take downtime, this check is impossible to fail as handle animal is a skill you can take 10 on in most cases. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 16:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Infact, its even more trivial if the animal is raised, but as another commenter stated, that would require killing it. However that can be made trivial with coup de grace or some critical thinking \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 16:49

3 Answers 3


The part you're missing is

(ignoring story consequences).

I've played with a party who were really amused about the idea that they could buy an Elephant, and then did (and named it Bongo) and brought it along on their travels. The result of them doing this was:

  • losing a bunch of money on buying food and stabling
  • constantly having to think about how to bring it along to the next location
  • being trivially tracked by everything so inclined
  • having to deal with setting up camp with something that doesn't fit in the average camp site, let alone inside a Tiny Hut
  • having to run out of their Tiny hut to protect Bongo when they were ambushed at night, instead of just waiting it out
  • having to leave it behind with a bunch of magical wards whenever they approached any kind of structure

In the end, they had it for probably half the campaign and I think it got into combat only once. The rest of the time, it was just a huge headache to deal with all the logistical challenges of bringing a Huge Animal into any kind of place designed for Medium Humanoids.

They really loved that elephant though, so I'm glad they bought it ;)

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    \$\begingroup\$ The problem is that anything other than a big city won't have 300 pounds of food per day easily available. Any place that can support an elephant (ie; cities) won't let you make any use of it and any place that lets you make use of it (ie; the open field) can't easily support it. The real price for smashing things in the field is figuring out all the logistics, which are generally non-trivial. Also being tracked is still bad, since an ambush can mean you die before the elephant wakes up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Mar 23, 2021 at 12:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ If your game doesn't care about these things, it's going to be completely broken by allowing this. An elephant that has all the advantages of being an elephant and none of the disadvantages of being an elephant is not a balanced thing. (Also, a portable hole costs 20.000gp, so if you have one of those, the whole "it's cheap" point is lost) \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Mar 23, 2021 at 13:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would also like to point out that, while these animals may be available for purchase somewhere, they aren't available everywhere. Good luck finding mastodons and t-rexes for sale in The Shackles or finding axe beaks and woolly mammoths in the Mwangi Expanse. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ I love the idea of a used mastodon dealer. "This one's got all your upgrades, extended tusks, extra shaggy pelt. Only one owner, regularly fed, never taken outside the city." \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 16:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan "Based on its location" and "as GM deems fit" are explicit conditions to the existence of such dealerships. Were I the GM in this hypothetical scenario, the selection of available animals would be limited to creatures that were in fact native and suited to living in such an environment as the settlement is located. You aren't going to be finding any whales for sale in Osiria, regardless of how much you want one. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 17:28

It only has a will save of +7, and charm animal is only a LVL 1 spell, some ranger/shaman/druid with only a +3 comp, will have around 1/3 chance to gain an ally that will wreak the party

It is already a challenge when an intelligent friend is charmed, when it is just an animal, he would be very grateful to gain his freedom be killing his old master, should this one be fairly abusive, like making it goes to inhospitable zone, dark caves, getting hurt by fighting, waiting hours, or days in the same space (there is no way that a huge animal will pass through doors...) If the master is good with the animal, it just take him out of the fight (or an opposed charisma check, against 7, to make it do something it wouldn't do).

Then, also LVL 1 there is murderous command (cleric, oracle), the closest ally will take a hit.

Dominate animal is lvl 3, way more reliable than charm animal,

You should also take a records of tricks the animal has learned it can only lean 6 tricks, and 2 will go for attack, probably one for heel, probably defend.

I will not go around with something dangerous like that.

Same problems if it was undead, another necromancer would be able to challenge the control of it, and it is a lvl 3 spell ;

So yes it is cheap, but it is also fairly dangerous, and I will not repeat the other answer, but a huge animal won't fit in many settings (can't climb, don't fly...) But it is way cheaper than any bag of holding of its carrying capacity, and you 'just' need mundane big big big bags.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the basis of your answer, the weak Will save. However, Charm %CREATURETYPE% does not make it your ally in combat. You could improve the answer by mentioning a different spell that also targets Will. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 11:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Charm animal only sets type to friendly, which if treated well will not cause it to also attack its allies (Assuming it is cared for well. Many creatures and animals consider good trainers family, not a captor.) . But it will prevent it from smashing the enemies. Dominate animal would be a better example, however both are made irrelephant if the animal is just raised as undead instead. Raised undead are a lot harder to challenge the control over and requires a lot more specialization \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 12:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki Raised undead might be harder to fully take control of, but any cleric or paladin with access to turn undead has a reasonable chance of sending that mastodon skeleton stampeding back towards the party. \$\endgroup\$
    – mlk
    Mar 23, 2021 at 12:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki I see what you did there. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 23, 2021 at 12:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki Blood Money is supposed to be a rare spell found only in a specific wizards spellbook in a specific AP, not intended for any and every wizard to just be able to learn. Most DM's ban it outright because of how broken it is. I recommend not using it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 14:39

There are certainly creatures for sale that would make very powerful allies. The Yak (for 24gp) can trample low level enemies to death (2d6+12 damage) without even needing to roll to hit. It is reasonable for a GM to ban them for this reason.

However, it's worth noting that owning a creature does not give you full control over the creature. You will typically have to make a Handle Animal check to give it a simple instruction, which it will carry out in its own way.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Why would you need to have 13 levels to have caster level 7? If you're playing a full-caster your caster level should equal your level. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    Mar 23, 2021 at 19:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Your math is off. Lv 7 at the minimum. 2x7=14 for most casters. This can be offset further with specilization. +2x with desecrate without any spec puts that at 28hd. You can raise it as a bloody 14hd skelly at level 14 for 2k and a bit extra if you dont also use blood money spell. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 19:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im pretty sure my specilized necro could raise it as bloody at level 5... further a high animal handling and combat training isnt hard to obtain either, and can easily hit +15 by level 1 or 2. Making the dc to give it orders unfailable, so it would be simply a matter of maintaining morale. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Mar 23, 2021 at 19:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ You seem to be confusing spell level with caster level. A level 7 full caster can only cast level 4 spells, but their caster level is 7. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 24, 2021 at 21:56

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