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So the question in general isn't as cruel as it sounds — requiring the DM to manage all animal companions really isn't necessary (though Handle Animal checks exist and should be used when applicable). The question here stems from when a character purchases an animal to be used as a mount.

For example, a halfling paladin purchases a (combat-trained) riding dog at level 2 to cruise around on as a mount. Should the player know how many hit points the mount has at any given time? Granted, the best players probably could hold onto the sheet and HP and act without the use of metaknowledge of the animals' hit points, but I'm speaking conceptually first.

But if we wanted to be as cruel as the rules can be (despite my introduction) what exactly should allow a player to know the hit points of an animal companion, even if it was granted through a class feature (like a Druid's Nature Bond or a Cavalier's Mount)? A common houserule at tables I've played at is that Heal can be used to roughly gauge enemy hitpoints, but even with that being granted, does it become the only way to do so?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While there's a longish introduction, is this question essentially the same as this question? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 31 '17 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ And while it shares some similarities, @HeyICanChan, animal companions and player-controlled elements are usually handled separately than entirely GM-controlled entities, hence the question (at least I can see a strong argument for such; which is why despite strong commonality between them, the stark difference in intent differentiates them enough to merit the question in my eyes). \$\endgroup\$ – LeesusFreak Jan 31 '17 at 14:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can cites rules in both games about who plays animal companions and similar allies, but I don't think that's what you want. It sounds like you want to know how much information the typical D/GM gives the players about their allies, but that's a survey, and inappropriate for the site. Can the questions be rephrased into a most convenient way sort of question, one that would let a D/GM bring his experience to bear on the topic? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 31 '17 at 14:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan, I'm actually most interested in the RAW or RAI here, or in the abscence of that, anything from organized play of either the derivative or base system (since no real organized play exists in my area that I could use as a reference). The most convenient way aspect is what I think John is grasping at-- I could make a reddit thread to poll answers regarding how folk handle it, but I'm here to see if there's anything of documentable substance. Also, fwiw, I'm very aware that by hard rules of PF, the GM runs companions and the player must interact to control them. \$\endgroup\$ – LeesusFreak Jan 31 '17 at 15:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Pathfinder takes a more liberal stance than 3.5e on who plays some kinds of NPC companions. That said, I don't think the rules state precisely how much metagame to include in a game! I look forward to answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 31 '17 at 15:16
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Yes, a player should know their mount's exact HP.

It's so clear-cut that even if the rules clearly said otherwise, you would want to override them to work differently.

I have never yet seen a DM with enough bandwidth to manage all the things which they already need to keep track of (myself included) and every addition to that reduces the quality of DMing they provide. Some cope with it well, but even so, the more you can reduce that burden, then better the game will be.

At the same time, there is a very short list of situations where keeping players in the dark about mechanical features will improve your game, even if the GM has infinite bandwidth. It inevitably feels arbitrary and capricious, and the list of games where that's a good thing is approximately [Cthulhu, Paranoia, End-of-list].

Similarly, you should write down initiatives someplace visible, and allow players to zero in on ACs after a few attempts. Your players are already tracking these things anyway. If you pretend game states are mysterious, they'll play along to humor you. But after a few attacks, everyone knows darn well that the beastie's AC is either 21 or 22, and the Mother-May-I ritual of "Does a 26 hit?" loses appeal fast.

Source: have played in multiple games on each side of the table in each situation. This isn't even close.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It’s worth noting that the largest complaint about D&D by one of the more highly-trained martial artists I know is how difficult it is, under the rules, to size up your enemy. Relative strength, skill-level, speed, style, and so on, are things that trained fighters pick up on very, very quickly unless someone is specifically feigning. So letting people zero-in on things like AC, HP, even level, attack bonus, and so on, all of that is entirely appropriate, and should happen much faster than it usually does via trial-and-error in D&D. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '17 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm hesitant to upvote this. I agree with it completely, but feel it doesn't answer the question as fully as my own. Meaning, from my experience the player should know the HP, but in the grand scheme of things, I feel consistency overrules and the GM/DM should make the ruling depending on the tone of the game they're playing. What's the etiquette for this sort of thing on SE? \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Jan 31 '17 at 15:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JohnGrabanski That sounds like a question for Meta. \$\endgroup\$ – chif-ii Jan 31 '17 at 16:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @chif-ii Never posted in Meta before, just asked: meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/6711/… \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Jan 31 '17 at 16:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ downvoting because, while containing lots of information, this answer contains lots of information about irrelevant things, and doesn't explain the reasoning behind the real answer to the question. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Jan 31 '17 at 16:45
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The Player's knowledge of mount HP should remain consistent with other HP knowledge within a game/campaign.

As I've learned from the comments, this can mean different things depending on how your run your game. Therefore if Players in your game know their animal companion's HP, then another character with a purchased mount would know their mount's HP. Or if they require a roll, or know they are 'doing bad' or 'okay' then keep it consistent.

I would say this because of the prevalence of mount and mounted combat related feats and abilities, which are applied even to characters who have just purchased a mount.

Additionally do what ever is right for the game/campaign you're running. GM/DM's have a lot going on and if you can have Players handle something, then I say do it. Do whatever makes sense for your game and have fun. Don't let mount HP get in the way of that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ So there's an 8 page section on companions in Ultimate Campaign (beginning on page 140), and while I can quote it out for you, in general, players are not in control of almost any animal companion, and need to do the requisite Handle Animal and such to do just about anything (aside from tricks). The GM can grant the player more agency regarding their companion, but so long as the companion has an intelligence less than 3, "Nonsentient Companions...You can direct them using the Handle Animal skill, but their specific behavior is up to the GM" \$\endgroup\$ – LeesusFreak Jan 31 '17 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I should probably edit the wording then. The jest of what I'm trying to say is be consistent with similar features. I am curious about the Ultimate Campaign wording, as it would seem something like that should be noted in the PHB. And many games I've ran/Played in, the companions/mounts/etc were solely Player controlled. Seems @HeyICanChan also mentioned 'who controls a companion' in a comment, which might or might not be enlightening here as it's a matter of HP, not of control. \$\endgroup\$ – John Grabanski Jan 31 '17 at 15:43
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In my GM experience, they should know the HP. Management of animal companions, pets, mounts, familiars, etc, falls to each player's personal responsibility - just like all other elements of their character. Note that "management" is not the same as "control" - which indeed the GM will often have (or at least the final call in how the creature acts).

Otherwise, where would you draw the line? Should a player know their equipment's exact state (provided the system in question has a notion of structural hit points or the like)? Their limit for carry weight? Their exact mana points? Their exact stats?

Ultimately, all of these could be managed by the GM and replaced with vague descriptive statements - "your plate mail is pretty battered", "the arcane energies can flow through you almost unhampered", etc. But that is both a logistical nightmare and mostly pointless. The numbers are an abstraction of exactly these descriptions. In most player's heads "the mount has 5HP/50HP" will translate to "pretty bad" - just as if it were 4, 6 or 8 HP.

Situations where knowing the exact value can be abused for metagaming purposes are those when...

  • ... some value is exactly quantified that is not so for a PC (the actual ingame person) and...
  • ... a player knows the exact amount of damage/resource depletion that is likely to happen and...
  • ... that amount would result in a meaningful outcome for the player and...
  • ... that result is not immediately foreseeable for the PC with his non-quantified ingame view of the resource that is being affected (dropping a house on someone barely clinging to life has a pretty foreseeable result, e.g.).

All of these coinciding is rather uncommon in systems involving dice (with the biggest offender probably being mana costs and wizards being able to precisely judge their remaining ability to draw arcane powers), and does not justify burdening the GM with such extensive bookkeeping.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1, and I would note that the question is tagged Pathfinder—which means that, per the narrative constructs it inherited from D&D, spellcasters do know in character exactly how much remaining ability they have to draw arcane powers (since they don’t have mana points, but discrete spells they can or cannot still cast, which in many cases they explicitly prepared in exactly those numbers that morning). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 31 '17 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Right. Mana pools just serve as a common, well-known example of players managing a quantity that likely can't be grasped that precisely by their PC, but which hardly anyone would suggest to be kept a GM secret to avoid metagaming. Plus, the issue as such isn't really system specific, nor is it limited to mount HP - it's just a very specific example of it. \$\endgroup\$ – TheNickOfTime Jan 31 '17 at 16:47
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Yes the PLAYER should know. As the above answers highlight well, the GM doesn't have time to manage all the stats and rules and counts and HP and....

But NO the player CHARACTER should not know. Player knowledge vs. character knowledge is always a painful sticking point in RPGs. The PLAYER can memorize a great deal of the monster manual, for example. But the player CHARACTER wouldn't know any of that stuff. And HP are no exception. The character should be aware of whether the mount is injured or not. And, unless they're just oblivious, should know whether the mount is seriously injured or just slightly injured. But they should never know precisely how healthy the mount is. Think about it from a real-world viewpoint: I saw my horse get hit by a rock thrown by a rowdy teenager. My horse was pissed. It probably bruised my horse. But I doubt my horse is really suffering from the injury. That kind of assessment makes logical sense and works. A seasoned adventurer ought to have the ability to assess an injury and decide if it's life-threatening vs. safe-to-ignore.

FWIW, I believe the same applies to the PC itself. Bob the Bard would know he's been hit by a sword and that he's hurting. Ooof! THAT HURT! But Bob the Bard wouldn't really know that he's now at exactly 57.5% of his total HP remaining before death.

That disconnect between stats on paper (player knowledge) vs. character knowledge is the crux of this issue.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, HP as an abstraction is a big problem here. What does it mean to be missing some amount of HP? What does it mean to have only so much HP left? Mechanically, nothing – until your HP hits 0, losing HP has no effect of any kind. So what does a character see? Considering the various ways in which you can lose HP, that’s also really hard to tell. And real-world analogues fail: my horse took a blow that would kill a man—but my horse and I are 15th level and that’s nothing to us. What does that look like? Nothing in real life can shrug off what D&D characters can. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 1 '17 at 14:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ True! That abstraction is one of the things I struggle with in (A)D&D vs systems like D20 modern/D20 Star Wars and other engines where there's "Hit" Points and "Fatigue" (or similar) Points, and the HP don't rise per level like FP do. But yeah, when you are 100% perfectly fully functional until that tiny little thump that kills you... \$\endgroup\$ – CaM Feb 1 '17 at 17:28
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Yes, they should.

I will answer from the perspective of 3.x, as that is also tagged. The animal companion and paladin's mount (as well as other similar effects, such as a psion's psicyrstal) are a class feature, and as such are part of the player's character and thus recorded on the character sheet. All information pertaining to the class feature(s) are to be entered on the character sheets. There are even official sheets (the Companion Creature sheet) for recording this specific information. As with all other information on a player's character sheets, maintenance and upkeep are the player's responsibility, subject to the occasional DM check for accuracy.

Likewise, as a class feature, the player has complete control over any and all effects accomplished through said class feature, subject to the rules listed in the class feature description, and for those class features where another entity is involved, what rules apply to said entities (typically an animal) that are not overrode by the class feature rules.

Addendum

As noted in the comment for this question, a non-class feature mount in the party is also a possibility, among other possible methods of obtaining tag-alongs such as trained animals, magical beasts, befriended creatures, and even more oddball possibilities. Such creatures would count as NPCs and in such a case, would fall under the DM's aegis and the HP would not be known.

See however the status and greater status spells which somewhat answer to the desire in question.

It is also worth noting that many DMs are willing to cede a certain amount of minor control and meta-knowledge to the players regarding such minor NPCs for various reasons (less upkeep and tracking for the DM being a common one; extreme party attachment being another).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How about mounts that aren't class features? Anyone can buy a horse after all. \$\endgroup\$ – Weckar E. Feb 1 '17 at 9:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Such a mount would be technically an NPC, and thus fall under the DM's aegis. In such a case, no, they would not know the HP. However, the status spell and greater status spells could fulfill most of the desire in question. \$\endgroup\$ – nijineko Feb 2 '17 at 5:03
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First of all, I think this is a question for tags like "Game Mastering" because is something the rulebook won't tell you and the answers probably will be personal opinions about it.

At least, my opinion and what I use as DM is always, don't do things to allow "Metagaming". If you tell him the exactly amount of HP he will play with it.

I usually prefer some "narrative" descriptions in things like that, something like "poor" or "badly" physical aspect, or "seems to be exhausted just by looking at it".

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What is stopping the player from simply looking up the mount's stat block? \$\endgroup\$ – LegendaryDude Jan 31 '17 at 14:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Nothing, it's just my though about "metagaming" it's like, the unespected "do a perception check" and he fails, now, he knows something happened (probably) and he will be aware, if he dont know this check, he wont do "metagaming". The same here for the mount, if you know it's low on hp, you can try to avoid combat, get down, or just wait until it has lower points to heal it, that's it's just metagaming and play with only numbers, of course, sometimes is usefull, but in my opinion, breaks the roleplay just think in all the things as numbers. \$\endgroup\$ – Mikiodelg Jan 31 '17 at 14:29

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