Animal Training (5e Variant Rule)

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Animal Training[edit]

A player may spend their downtime creating an animal companion to join them in their travels. This downtime activity also allows a player to "upgrade" a pre-existing pet by training them in new tricks.

For these purposes, "animal" ordinarily means a beast with Languages "-" (as otherwise it can simply be told what to do directly). At the DM's discretion, some dragons, monstrosities, and plants with Languages "-" may be sufficiently beastlike to be trained, such as a roc or crag cat; a good rule of thumb is any creature you would roll Animal Handling on instead of Persuasion or Insight. Bear in mind that some creatures with Languages "-" nonetheless have a language they communicate with, such as myconids and su-monsters - any such creature is immediately disqualified. As a general rule, by definition an animal should be unaligned - an animal with an alignment is intelligent enough to make moral choices and therefore pretty certainly is capable of language. No creature with a Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom of 1 can be trained at all - it's too mentally limited to absorb training. A creature with a Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom of 2 must be reared from infancy to be trained - adults are untrainable.

The animal must be present to be trained - these rules deliberately do not cover acquiring the creature.


Generally speaking, an animal is indifferent towards any given tamer - it might also be afraid and attempting to flee, or hungry and attempting to eat the tamer, but neither of these are genuine hostility, just as freezing in place in fear is not genuine friendliness. In order to tame an animal, it must be indifferent to you - a friendly animal is already tamed, and a hostile one can't be tamed. References below to an animal's stats are relative to an adult's stats - for example, for hit dice, the adult's hit dice are the relevant value.

Taming an animal requires a number of successful Animal Handling checks equal to its hit dice, and each check adds the animal's Charisma modifier (maximum 0) plus its Intelligence modifier (maximum 0) plus its Wisdom modifier (maximum 0). The DC of the check is 10 + the animal's CR (rounding down), and the tamer has advantage on the check if they are also proficient in Nature. It takes a workweek to perform a check. If a check is failed for a third time on an animal, it becomes hostile to the tamer, and cannot ever be tamed by them. Upon 10 successes, the animal is rendered friendly towards the tamer.

While taming the creature, you must provide it with adequate food and water, as given for creature size in the DMG on p.111. Based on the trade goods on p.157 of the PHB:

  • 1lb. of hay is worth 1cp, assuming wheat is about the same dang thing.
  • 1lb. meat is worth 2cp, assuming a chicken weighs about that much.
  • 1 gallon of pure water costs 1 sp, assuming waterskins of water work like tankards of ale (half the cost is the container).

You will also need to care for the creature by keeping it somewhere safe. The larger the creature gets, the more expensive this gets. Basically, this just means you need to pay the lifestyle expense of your animal as if it were a "kennel fee". If you own a stronghold or other such piece of property which could satisfy the creature's needs, you do not need to pay this fee.

  • Tiny = 1sp/day
  • Small = 2sp/day
  • Medium = 1gp/day
  • Large = 2gp/day
  • Huge = 4gp/day
  • Gargantuan: Double the Huge cost every time you octuple the creature's volume (or, equivalently, double its length, width, and height).


When you tame an animal, it starts out with 5+Intelligence modifier tricks of your choice. So, for instance, a dog, which has an Intelligence modifier of -4, would start with only 1 trick after being trained. This trick is usually non-aggression (see below).

Training an animal a new trick is far simpler than taming it in the first place - repeat the taming process, only three failures only force you to start over - you're at no risk of rendering the animal hostile to you. Further, each check takes a day, not a workweek. Lastly, the animal can live with you, as it regards you as friendly - you need not kennel it separately. Upon succeeding, the animal learns 5+Intelligence modifier new tricks, up to its maximum.

A creature can know a total number of tricks equal to two times its Intelligence score, so a mastiff can learn up to 6.


Your animal is friendly towards you; use the DCs on page 245 of the DMG to make an Animal Handling check to ask it to do something. The DM decides what constitutes a risk or sacrifice - most animals are too stupid to understand the concept of incoming arrows as dangerous, but they will consider it a major sacrifice to not eat a treat. Asking it do something takes as much time (i.e. action economy) as it does to ask anything else to do something; a good rule of thumb is one command is free, two costs a bonus action or action, three costs a bonus action and action. At the DM's discretion, if you repeatedly give your animal commands that make it suffer, the negative reinforcement builds up, and it may upgrade its risk/sacrifice assessment of commands, or even just stop listening to you.

  • Non-aggression. Listed first because it's usually taught first, the animal will not act hostile towards others unless told to, and will regard others as non-hostile unless told not to - in other words, it will just be chill. This trick is generally always on once learned - no command is required. Without it, your animal may attack or flee others, or something else, without any warning.
    • Help. When given this command, your animal will attempt to seek out creatures it registers as helpers (typically humanoids, but you could train it to recognize some other body shape if you preferred) and lead them back to you. This trick always requires non-aggression to first be taught.
  • Attack. This command will cause the animal to mercilessly attack who- or whatever you are directing it toward. Teaching the animal this trick lets you replace its proficiency bonus with yours for the purpose of attack rolls and the save DCs of any of its attack riders (such as knocking a target prone); you can teach it this trick multiple times, overwriting the old trick each time, if you want to raise its bonus. It is unlikely to relent until the target is ruined, or a heel command is given.
  • Fetch. You can give this command as a non-action at the same time you throw something; the animal will attempt to retrieve what you threw. If the DM decides the animal can't figure out how to achieve this, it may try to find something "similar" to what you threw, or it may give up and return with nothing at all - you can choose which when the trick is learned.
    • Improved Fetch. An animal must know Fetch in order to learn this trick. Instead of throwing something and commanding as you throw, you can command and point as you command. The animal will attempt to guess what you are pointing at, and fetch it. You can tailor this trick the same way as fetch, or you can have it assume some thrown object for similarity - for example, you can train the animal to assume you always mean a tiny corpse of some kind.
  • Housebroken. A housebroken animal will do its best not to pee or poop without permission, which is a DC0 command you can give it. It will signal you - you can choose the signal when the trick is learned - when it needs to do so.
  • Hunt. Predatory animals, such as hawks or dogs, can be taught to hunt on their own and bring the kill back to you, rather than eating it for themselves. This is the same as the animal foraging independently of you - it rolls Survival and brings you what it catches.
  • Perform. This is one amusing trick your animal does. A back flip on command, playing dead, speaking on command, etc. The animal can make a Performance check if it matters how well it does, and you can always Help it do so by combining your command with the Help action. This trick can be learned multiple times for a new amusing trick each time.
  • Ride. The animal has been trained to accept a rider - a creature mounting it can elect to treat it as a controlled mount.
    • Stunt Riding. An animal already trained to accept a rider and be trained to be better at landing jumps and other stunts. It gains proficiency in Acrobatics checks and Dexterity saves, and you can replace its proficiency bonus with your own for the purposes of these checks and saves. You can train this trick multiple times, replacing the old one to update its proficiency bonus.
  • Stay. The animal will stay where it is when commanded to do so, even if it wants to move. You can incorporate a particular body position into this trick, such as "sit" for a dog.
    • Deliver. This trick can be taught multiple times, both to replace itself and to add new routes - each time the trick is learned, the animal learns a memorized route of no more than its Intelligence score in miles, at the end of which it stops. It can repeat the route to return, which it will typically do in response to being given a pre-ordained treat. This trick always requires stay to already be known and usually requires non-aggression, so someone at the other end of the route can safely deliver the treat.
    • Heel. An animal must know stay in order to learn heel. When commanded to heel, the animal comes to and stays where you are, even if it wants to do otherwise. You can incorporate a particular body position into this trick for it to adopt when it reaches you. This command is always DC20 if the animal is currently attacking something.
  • Track. Typically only used for animals which get advantage on ability checks made to smell things, you give your animal something to smell with a scent you want tracked. It makes Perception, Investigation, or Survival checks, as appropriate, to attempt to find things that smell the same way. When it finds something, it will signal you in a way you trained it to when you taught it this trick. The animal gains proficiency in all three checks, and you can replace its proficiency bonus with your own for the purposes of these checks. You can train this trick multiple times, replacing the old one to update its proficiency bonus.
  • Work. The animal can be trained to carry, haul, and tow loads. It gains proficiency in Athletics checks and Constitution saves, and you can replace its proficiency bonus with your own for the purposes of these checks and saves. You can train this trick multiple times, replacing the old one to update its proficiency bonus.

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