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A scenario that I recently got into was this: I (ranger), an avenger, and a fighter, all level 6, went to an empty cave, found a bear, and tried to calm it with Nature checks, and food, which I provided.

Then the others started rolling Nature checks to lure the bear closer with food, into snares. We ended up fighting a bear; we killed the mother. Then we found the cubs, which I rolled Nature on to tame, succeeded and got myself 3 baby bears. Later on we fought a werewolf with a pack of dire wolves with him. Several times during the fight, the fighter and the avenger rolled Nature checks to know what would happen when the fighter got bit, then after the fight the fighter just took one dire wolf and starting using it as a mount after rolling a semi-high Intimidate.

Is this correct use of skills? Does having the skill trained mean nothing more than getting the bonus +5?

Why I ask is, if that's right, it seems like there is no specialization. What can my ranger do better then everyone else, then? Why even have class skills if anyone can just use them, just like that?

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There are pretty clearly defined tasks that you can achieve with a successful skill roll in the PHB, and clear DCs for all of those. Rule 0 applies of course, and the game can always involve improvisation from there, but the listed uses should be good examples of where you can go with improvisation. You're probably at the very least getting away with things in a single check that should be handled as a skill challenge or a series of rolls. A single Intimidate roll shouldn't result in a character gaining a dire wolf mount, or a single Nature roll getting you three domesticated attack bears.

As for the benefit of training, for the most part, yes, being trained just gets you the +5. But that's a huge benefit compared to someone unskilled, and the DCs of your skill rolls generally go up as you level, so it's a bonus that doesn't go away. There are also some skill uses that you can only do if trained, though none of the examples in the question qualify for that

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    \$\begingroup\$ You're free to downvote what you want to downvote; there are clear examples in the PHB for what you can do with a skill check, there are some skill usages that you can do only if you're trained, and all of those have established DCs. You aren't limited to those tasks only, but the DCs and applications generally are good guidelines for what improvised tasks are possible. A single roll to instantly domesticate an animal, giving you an extra combatant is pretty big compared to those examples. \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Mar 11 '15 at 19:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point. Edited. \$\endgroup\$ – Polisurgist Mar 11 '15 at 20:30
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This isn't an issue with the skills/rules, but, rather, an issue with your DM, who is allowing creative use of skills to have tremendously powerful effects.

The monster knowledge checks are entirely standard, though it's worth mentioning that you (generally) only get one attempt per character against a given monster type per combat, and only learn the effects of their powers if you beat the hard DC, which an untrained character with low wisdom should almost never do.

The Nature skill does indeed contain rules for Calming Beasts (phb 186). It's a hard DC of the beast's level that requires a standard action and automatically fails if you're in combat with the target, and on a success "the beast is calmed," which I'm putting in quotes because there are no rules whatsoever that describe what that means. To me it seems meant for convincing a snarling wolf not to attack you, rather than a near-magical instant way to gain an animal companion, but this is intentionally left open to interpretation.

It also contains rules for Train Animal, but that block both specifically calls out that that's mostly for skill challenge purposes, and seems to require that you already have a pre-existing relationship with said animal.

Interacting with an animal beyond those two items isn't covered in the Nature rules, but the Hunter/scout class's Beast Empathy Wilderness Knack grants the player a +2 bonus to the normal social skills (bluff, diplomacy, intimidate) against beasts, which implies that any true "social" interaction uses those skills, even against animals. It also specifically states that the animal is under no compulsion to obey you, even on a success (hotfk 149) .

The intimidate rules similarly don't handle the use case your DM permitted. In fact, the standard "intimidate" action out of combat specifies that Whether or not the check succeeds, using this skill against a monster usually makes it unfriendly or hostile toward the adventurer. (phb 186), making it an unlikely-intended route for obtaining a mount.

He's not wrong to do this - he's just outside of the scope of the written rules, and once you're beyond the scope of the written rules, what works for your group should be dictated by what works for your group.

If you don't enjoy this, have a friendly chat with your DM, but realize that you'll probably lose your cubs as well.

One of the most popular DM tropes is to always respond to your players' ideas/requests with "yes, and," meaning that you should (generally) allow nearly any given course of action, but provide twists. If your DM is familiar with this concept, he may just be being a tad too permissive (though again, this is all a matter of style, with no one correct answer). If your DM is unfamiliar with it, he may be feeling pressure to not shut down ideas presented by the players.

What "yes, and" means, really, is that a DM should let players dictate what actions they take, but should not let players dictate what results follow those actions. You want to intimidate the shopkeep into giving you a discount? Okay. He cowers and opens the cash box, turning it towards you. With your passive perception you see a faintly glowing line of text on the inside lid. Looking closer, the inscription reads, "I prepared explosive rune this morning."

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