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We were playing in a good friend of mine's campaign, and while he's smart he's pretty new, so sometimes the players get one over on him. We ended up in a tournament against a hydra, and my druid came up with a plan to kill it that involved the party's ranger and rogue hopping on it's back to behead it. The rogue tries and fails horribly, but suddenly the ranger gets an idea. He rolls to mount the hydra, nat20. rolls to wrangle the central head, nat20. He then rolls to take the hydra and pacify it. Nat, freaking, twenty. The DM just goes "No, there's absolutely no way you can keep it". So we argue for a bit and finally he says "alright fine, roll a d100. On a 100 EXACTLY, you can keep it." Guess what the ranger did?...

We call him RNJesus now.

Tl;dr, the party has a hydra, but 5e has basically no rules on raising and taming, and my DM needs some guide lines. Is there anything we can use to make some kind of instruction for this?

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    \$\begingroup\$ An object lesson in why you should only ever allow rolls for things you are OK to happen, however unlikely they are... \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Feb 12 '16 at 18:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Wibbs I agree, like i said, the penalties of being new \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Feb 12 '16 at 19:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ This may, or may not, be a part of your problem, but a natural freaking 20 is not an automatic success on an ability check. What was the DC, and why was it so low? \$\endgroup\$ – Michał Politowski Feb 13 '16 at 9:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MichałPolitowski basically, we consider a nat 20 to count as a 35 for the sake of succeeding, so that plus his animal handling was a 40, which is labelled in the (DM or PHB, not sure) as "IMPOSSIBLE" so, yeah. that was the DC \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Feb 13 '16 at 16:50
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This may be fun, and could be cool, but can wreak havoc with balance

The game term for a Hydra is "monstrosity" which is a stronger term than "a magical animal."

Monstrosity ... frightening creatures that are not ordinary, not truly natural, and almost never benign. (MM p. 7)

Balance

When you look at how to control or train such a creature, consider the following:

  • Dominate Beast is a 4th level spell that lasts for a minute, with concentration. (PHB p. 234-235)
  • Dominate Monster is an eighth level spell that lasts for up to an hour, with concentration. (8 hours if you use a ninth level spell slot). (PHB p. 235)

    Getting control of the Hydra for other than a short duration is equivalent to something more powerful than an 8th level spell. Is that balanced for your party?

  • Hydra is a Challenge Rating (CR)8 monster. This means that it's a medium difficulty encounter for 3 or 4 8th level player characters. Going backwards with that: adding this monster to the party is like adding about two 8th level characters to the party.

    How does that influence in-game balance?

Control versus some other relationship

Consider the challenge for "Animal Handling" checks

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, the GM might call for a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check. You also make a Wisdom (Animal Handling) check to control your mount when you attempt a risky maneuver.

This huge monstrosity has an Intelligence Score of 2, a Charisma score of 7, and a Wisdom score of 10. How well will it take instruction, since you didn't get it as a "cub?"

  • Tigers have an Intelligence score of 3, and are risky/hard to train unless you make that your full time job/vocation.

  • A Mastiff likewise has an Intelligence of 3, but in the Mastiff description it says that it can be trained, whereas in the Tiger description (MM) no such passage is included.

    The hydra presents the opposite problem with trying to use animal handling with dragons, as discussed here, so that avenue is probably a bad option.

    1. It is not very smart

    2. It will take a lot of effort (down time?) and resources (you can't just feed it table scraps unless you are a Storm Giant) to domesticate the hydra -- if that can be done at all.

    3. How does the Ranger/Druid communicate with this monstrosity?

    A "monstrosity" is not something natural. It isn't like a "beast" as animal companions are for Ranger. The CR is too high for the Ranger in any case.

Animal Friendship is a first level spell that applies to beasts, not monstrosities. It lasts for 24 hours and can make the beast believe that you mean it no harm. This kind of interaction could be the beginning of a relationship, but the spell isn't that specific. A DM could make it so ... but with monstrosities, the degree of difficulty would be higher.

What should your DM do?

  1. Look hard at the balance problem first.

  2. If the DM still wants to let this happen, make something up that accounts for the problems from the points above.

  3. Consider control as being possible via a magical item. A quest for something like "The Orb of Hydra Control" (a very rare or legendary magical item) or a "Ring of the Hydra" is one way to address this if you really want to run with this hydra in the group. Reference to DMG (p. 189-190) for Ring of Animal Influence through a Ring of Elemental Command to get a sense of how to home brew such an item. (Elementals (earth, air, fire, water) are CR 5 creatures).

  4. In a grittier world, consider how much a hydra eats and who cleans up after this thing. A comparable problem in care and feeding is an elephant.

  5. It occurs to me (after all of the above) that if the hydra forms a relationship with a character, the DM can treat the hydra as a friendly NPC. If the DM is willing to do the work, that's another way to make this work - all other factors considered. "Rules as Fun" works as long as it is fun.

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