Handle Animal (Apath)

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Unofficial rules compendium

Publisher: Trailseeker Magazie.

Additional Uses

This skill has a number of additional uses.


The rules of Pathfinder give a lot of detail about the training of animals and magical beasts, but just barely mentions domestication under the header rear a wild animal. Here are expanded rules on on how to handle an animal without taming it and expands the domestication task to cover wild animals captured as adults and diversifies the difficulty for different kinds of animals.

The Handle Animal rules refers to this as domestication, but with individual animals the proper term is taming. I use the two terms interchangeably here.

It is always easiest to domesticate an creature from infancy, as covered in the "rear a wild animal" rule. But it is possible (if difficult) to tame almost any creature as an adult.

An attempt at domesticating a creature takes three months. The trainer must feed the creature, and must have some way to restrain and discipline it and defend from it's attacks. This can be done by physical means (cages, leashes, whips) or by magic such as charm spells. During the last month of taming, the animal must be free of restraint. This is the most dangerous phase, when the actual Handle Animal check is made. If domestication fails, this is when the creature will try to attack the trainer.

Taming requires three hours per day per creature, but this is light activity and can be done on the side during adventure, travel, or other work.

The difficulty depends on the creature's hit dice, it's normal group behavior, and any ties your race has to the creature.

Animal DC
Animals living in small groups or in pairs (wolves, eagles, lions) 20 + hit dice
Herd animals (antelope, zebra) 25 + hit dice
Solitary animals (most cats, bears) 30 + hit dice
Non-animals who are LN, LE, or NE in alignment 20 + hit dice
Non-animals who are LG, N, or CE in alignment 25 + hit dice
Non-animals who are NG, CG, or CN in alignment 30 + hit dice
Raising the creature from childhood -10
Trainer has a racial compatibility for the creature -10

This table supersedes the difficulty for raising a wild animal into domestication given in the core rulebook.

If a domestication attempt fails by 4 or less, the time is simply vasted. If it fails by 5 or more, the creature attacks the trainer. As noted above, the creature has to be free from restraint during the later parts of training, and attacks at such a time. Even if the creature survives and remains in captivity, it can never be domesticated by that trainer.

Effects of Taming

A creature need not be domesticated to be trained, but an untamed creature is dangerous to all except its master. Both domesticated and non-domesticated creatures can be taught tricks, but the DC of controlling, pushing, riding, or training a non-domesticated creature is increased by 5.

A domesticated creature can function among humanoids and generally will not attack or harm them except as instructed. It can still react badly if approached carelessly, if pack mates are harmed, or it is denied food. Tame animals are not safe around children or to leave unsupervised around persons unskilled in Handle Animal. They are usually kept in pens.

Each time a domesticated creature feels itself mistreated, it can rebel against its trainer or handler with a successful opposed Charisma check. If this check fails, the creature will continue to act in accordance with its domestication and training despite being mistreated. If given active support by others of its species who are not tame, this check is automatically successful.

Racial Animal Affinities

Racial Affinity for Animals
Race Creature affinities
Boggard Toad
Catfolk Felines
Changeling By father's race
Cyclops Cockatrice, pig, goat
Dark Creeper Bat
Dwarf Ram, bear, raven
Elf, Aquatic Aquatic vermin
Elf, Drow Spider, lizard
Elf, High Cooshee, eagle, horse
Elf, Other Cooshee, deer
Giant, Cave Lizard
Giant, Cloud Griffon, roc
Giant, Fire Hell hound
Giant, Frost Winter wolf
Giant, Hill Dire wolf
Giant, Stone Cave bear
Giant, Storm Griffon, roc, shark
Gillmen Hippocampus, squid
Gnoll Hyena, hyaenodon
Gnome Badger, weasel
Goblin Goblin dog, wolf
Grippli Frog
Halfling Dog, pony
Hobgoblin Leopard
Human Dog, house cat, horse
Kitsune Fox
Lizardfolk Dinosaur
Locathah Fish
Merfolk Dolphin, porpoise
Orc Boar
Ratfolk Rat
Sahuagin Shark
Skum Oozes
Tengu Flightless bird
Vishanka Snake

Racial affinities are cultural and physiological traits that make certain creatures easier to train. A matter of shared perceptions, modes of communication, social organization, and food preferences, these traits create a strong compatibility between certain humanoid races and species of creatures. Any animal listed under "organization" in a humanoid race's description is one that race has compatibility for. This includes dire animals, prehistoric variants of the animal, and animals of unusual size. The table below gives some additional creature affinities, and lists affinities of some humanoid races.

Handle Animal can be used as if it was the Diplomacy skill to befriend a creature the handler has animal affinity for. This takes an hour of work. A creature that is made friendly this way can be tamed and/or trained. This is a limited version of the druid's wild empathy ability.

A class that gains a familiar or animal companion from a restricted list can always choose an animal they have affinity for, in addition to the normal options.

The DC to train a compatible animal, order a compatible animal, and push a compatible animal is reduced by 5.

A tame animal will never attack a type of creature with racial compatibility, even if provoked. Such animals are safe to have around children who have a racial affinity, and are often kept as pets in the home. Animals consider creatures they have affinity for and know well to be pack mates and seek to protect them.

Other Affinities

Some races have an affinity for creatures that are not animals. Threat such creatures as animals for the purpose of the Handle Animal skill.

Ooze and Vermin Affinity

Some races have an affinity for various vermin or oozes. Threat oozes and vermin just as if they were animals with respect to handlers with affinity to them. Non-intelligent creatures cannot learn tricks, but Handle Animal can be used to push them to perform tasks and they can be ridden using an exotic saddle. oozes and vermin can be befriended by humanoids with affinity for them (see above) despite being mindless.

Races with an affinity for oozes and vermin generally have bred variant creatures with an Intelligence score of 1. These creatures lose their immunity to mind-affecting effects, but can be trained and learn skill and feats just as well as any animal with an intelligence of 1.

Handling Different Types of Creatures

The Handle Animal skill handles animals, but can also be used to handle and train other types of creatures, and can even be used to enslave intelligent creatures, conditioning them as slaves. In general, there are two things to consider, intelligence and creature type.

Intelligence and Slavery

Creatures of any Intelligence score can be domesticated, but respond very differently. Only creatures of Intelligence 1-4 can and need be taught tricks.

Vermin and some other creatures have an Intelligence of zero, and thus cannot be taught feats, skills, or tricks, but they can be domesticated and ordered to perform tasks by pushing them. With an appropriate exotic saddle, unintelligent creatures can be controlled normally with the Ride skill. Humanoid races with an compatibility for non-intelligent creatures have generally bred such vermin to an Intelligence of 1. These are identical to normal creatures of their type except that they are not unintelligent and thus not immune to mind-affecting effects.

Animals and some other creatures have an Intelligence score of 1 or 2. It has been clarified that you can increase an animal's intelligence to 3 or more, and it remains and animal and thus trainable. This is the default situation for the Handle Animal skill.

Creatures with an Intelligence of 3 or more are capable of speech and limited sentience. A creature with an Intelligence of 3 or 4 is capable of understanding simple speech and can make simple expressions, but not generally able to speak or handle itself in society and still needs to be taught tricks to complete complex orders and not act on its instincts. In most cases, a creature of Intelligence 4 or less will not protest being domesticated as long as it is fed.

A creature of Intelligence 5 or 6 is able to fend for itself and act as a member of a small community, such as a single household or business. It no longer requires training to perform tricks. It can be considered slavery to domesticate a creature of Intelligence 5 or more; those of good alignment insist that such a creature be treated as a person. Still, a creature with 6 or less Intelligence will generally not protest unless it is mistreated.

A creature of intelligence 7 or more might be slow, but can make its own decisions and engage with society at large. No matter how good its material conditions are, a creature of Intelligence 7 or more will resent slavery. Domesticating a creature of Intelligence 7 or more is an evil act. Such training is more properly termed conditioning and needs constant threat of punishment to be enforced.

Creature Type

Different types of creatures respond differently to attempts to tame and train them. Of course, the variations within each creature type are vast, but these notes can serve as an introduction and general rule of thumb for how Handle Animal relates to different creature types.

  • Aberration: Can be domesticated and trained, but all Handle Animal checks in relation to them suffer a -5 penalty. There might be dangerous side effects from long-time exposure to aberrations. Intelligent aberrations often train their less intelligent kin, and suffer no penalty doing so, but instead suffer a -5 penalty against all creature types except monstrous humanoids, plants, and oozes, against which the suffer no penalty even when other types of trainers would
  • Animal: The most common creatures to be trained with Handle Animal. All the base rules apply to animals.
  • Construct: Constructs cannot be domesticated or trained.
  • Dragon: Dragons can be trained and domesticated. Most dragons are intelligent enough to resent this, and await an opportunity to strike back. Dragons are very patient, and can fake loyalty.
  • Fey: Can be domesticated and trained. Non-fey suffer a -5 penalty to Handle Animal checks in relation to them, and fey have a way of changing domestication into a mutual symbiosis where the master is just as bound as the creature.
  • Humanoid: Humanoids can be domesticated, but are intelligent enough to resent this as slavery.
  • Magical beast: Can be domesticated and trained, but all Handle Animal checks in relation to them suffer a -5 penalty.
  • Monstrous humanoid: Can be domesticated and trained, but all Handle Animal checks in relation to them suffer a -5 penalty. Most are intelligent enough to resent slavery.
  • Ooze: Can be domesticated, and oozes with an Intelligence rating can be trained.
  • Outsider: Can be domesticated and trained, but all Handle Animal checks in relation to them suffer a -5 penalty. Outsiders cannot be conditioned to act against their alignment or elemental nature.
  • Plant: Can be domesticated and trained but all except aberrations, fey, and other plants suffer a -10 Handle Animal penalty against plants.
  • Undead: Cannot be trained or domesticated. Undead have to be controlled by supernatural means. Undead that were trained and/or domesticated while alive may remain so at the GMs discretion.
  • Vermin: Can be domesticated, and vermin with an Intelligence rating can be trained.

Traits and Feats

The following compliments these rules.

Expert Trainer (General)

Prerequisite: Mount or animal companion class feature or equivalent.

Benefit: You learn to use Handle Animal to domesticate and train creatures with speed. You can reduce the time needed to tame an creature, teach a creature a new trick, or train a creature for a general purpose to 1 day per 1 week required by increasing the DC by +5. You can also handle more than one creature without taking more time, although each creature after the first adds +2 to the DC.

Special: This is the same as the cavalier class ability of the same name. The cavalier specifies mounts, while this ability refers to creatures in general, but that difference is superficial. When using the expanded domestication rules, the cavalier ability applies to domestication.

Animal Compatibility (Regional Trait)

Animal Compatibility: Select one species of animal, with the GM's permission. You are considered to have a racial affinity with this species of animal, which gives benefits to Handle Animal. This is a regional trait for races with an affinity to the particular animal; it is of no use to natives, but available to outsiders accepted in the culture.

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