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I remember reading in a first-party book that the ability to wear barding could be taught as an animal trick. The internet in general seems to take this as a given. But I just spent quite a while looking for this rule and couldn't find it.

  • It doesn't appear to be with the rules for barding.
  • It doesn't appear to be in Handle Animal.
  • It doesn't appear to be in the equipment-section rules for mounts.
  • I couldn't find it in the combat chapter.

I know this is a fairly trivial question, but it's also one which I haven't been able to answer.

Alternately, if my premise is wrong, what are the rules for being able to wear barding?

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There's no trick allowing a creature proficiency with armor

This reader is unaware of a handler being able to use the skill Handle Animal to teach a creature a trick that grants the creature actual proficiency with armor (but see below). For most mounts, this DM urges masterwork studded leather (PH 123, 126) (for a Medium humanoid 175 gp; 20 lbs.; adjust accordingly for bigger and littler nonhumanoids)—which has no armor check penalty—and not worrying about it.

However, you may want more than that.

The Dragon #292 (Feb. 2002) Wizards Workshop column "Sage Advice" includes the following exchange:

When you purchase barding for a mount, is it proficient in the armor, or does the mount suffer the armor check penalty?
Anyone wearing armor suffers the appropriate armor check penalty. Trained war mounts are proficient in light, medium, and heavy armor, [sic] untrained mounts are not proficient in any kind of armor, and they suffer additional penalties for untrained armor use as noted on page 80 of the Player's Handbook. (110)

(The column is unsigned.) So far as this reader is aware, this information is never repeated anywhere in the entirety of the official Dungeons and Dragons, Third Edition corpus.

Keep in mind that trained war mount (also war-trained—q.v. the Ride skill use Fight with Warhorse) is itself a slippery and ill-defined term in the core rules. It takes the Rules of the Game Web column "All about Mounts (Part Two)" (Feb. 2005) to explain that the purpose combat riding (described in the skill Handle Animal) makes a creature into a trained war mount (or war-trained or trained for battle or whatever), although the column doesn't use that language exactly. (Also note that those columns are dismissed by some fans as unreliable, sometimes in part but sometimes as a whole.)

But neither animals wearing armor nor mounts wearing barding is addressed in the columns "Animals" (Parts 1–4) and "All about Mounts" (Parts 1–5) (these latter, in some cases, being the only source of some information about mounts). The core rules, as the question notes, aren't much help either. Indeed, it is a pretty miserable oversight that the core rules aren't clearer on this when the game has as one of its central classes a warrior astride a mighty steed.

To bring this all together, this DM recommends that the purpose combat riding gives the creature proficiency with light, medium, and heavy armors (yet probably not the associated feats—there are already enough uses for the power psychic reformation) and that part of the price of the warhorses and the war pony includes them being trained for the purpose combat riding.

The armor trick exists, but it doesn't do what it probably should

The Masters of the Wild (Feb. 2002) armor trick says, "The animal is willing to accept the burden of armor" (18), but it later explains that

Horses, ponies, riding lizards, and riding dogs typically accept armor in the form of barding, but wild creatures simply refuse the burden. With the armor trick… a character can adapt any animal to the use of armor. (36)

Yay? So the armor trick is not a way for the animal to gain armor proficiency but a trick tax on the masters of unusual creatures. This DM recommends ignoring the armor trick completely: masters of unusual creatures typically have enough training issues already.

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I am aware of no need for such a trick. As far as I can tell, barding is something that any animal or beast can use so long as it is made for them. Honestly, I don’t think barding was ever given very much thought. The word isn’t even mentioned in Rules Compendium, for instance.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Barding description clearly refers to Armor for Unusual Creatures, doesn't it? It is usual armor, just made for a horse (or whatever serves you as a mount). \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jan 8 '17 at 17:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp Yes, but no mention is made of any requirement for being able to use the stuff. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 9 '17 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ If it is usual armor, it has usual requirements to use it (or to be proficient with it). If it is somehow different, shouldn't this specific difference be described somewhere in the rules for barding? \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jan 9 '17 at 19:07
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There's no real trick to it...

As Hey I Can Chan's answer shows, there's no trick.

...it's a Template...

In the Monster Manual II (2002), however, is the Warbeast template (p219), which is available to animals and vermin1. The template grants a number of things, one of which is:

Combative Mount (Ex): ...A trained warbeast is proficient with light, medium, and heavy armor. A vermin warbeast, being mindless and therefore untrainable, cannot have this ability.

...that can be taught.

TRAINING A WARBEAST

A warbeast can be reared and trained just as the base creature can. If the base creature is a domestic animal, the creature need not be specially reared, but it must be trained for two months (Handle Animal DC 20) to develop its abilities.

A warbeast based on a wild animal must be reared for one year (Handle Animal DC 15 + HD of the warbeast), then trained for 2 months (Handle Animal DC 20 + HD of the warbeast).

A warbeast based on a beast[2] must be reared for one year (Handle Animal DC 20 + HD of the warbeast), then trained for 2 months (Handle Animal DC 25 + HD of the warbeast).

A warbeast based on a vermin, being mindless, is untrainable.

A trained warbeast is capable of carrying a rider into battle, and it gains the combative mount special quality (see above).


1: Monster Manual 2 3.5 Update booklet p10, or Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 Update Booklet page 37 removed the reference to beasts, which were often folded into the animal or magical beast types.

2: Since the beast type was removed, and all dinosaurs were beasts, previous to 3.5, this DM would consider replacing the beasts line with dinosaurs definitely, and possibly magical beasts with Intelligence of 2 or less.

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