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D&D 3E
Smart animals. 
1st-Jul-2007 02:26 pm
runechild (Arcana Evolved)
I'm on a verge of making house-rule about animal intelligence, but in some doubt of how I should do that...

Animals have intelligence of 1 or 2. "Anything with Int higher than 2 can't be an animal". They often have high wisdom and skill bonuses to represent their natural cunning, but still low Int stat leaves them with 1 skill point per HD. When roleplaying an animal I often bump into lack of crucial skills: some don't have Move Silently, some - Survival, some - Hide...

The world of nature is a harsh place, survival of the fittest. You are either smart, strong or eaten. So, real wild animals are all but stupid. They learn, risk, notice, communicate, experiment, remember, teach their young... Of course, they don't have deep language, don't write books, don't crack equations in mind, but still... They are not so int-impaired as d20 suggests.

Done with explanation, let's get to buisness.

I want to allow animals and animal-like creatures (not all with 1-2 Int stat, there are still almost mindless golems and outsider species) to have high Int-stat. I think that common animal, living in the unforgiving world of nature, can be fast-learner not less then human commoner (often more - humans have less natural selection affecting them). But animals should be still suspendable for effects of Handle Animal skill, Wild Empathy ability, Animals Trance spell and so forth.

Solution I:
1. Animals and animal-like creatures get Int scores equal to their Wisdom.
2. CR of such creatures increases by +1 (for CR of 1 or more) or twice (for CR less than 1).
3. That way animals and animal-like receive 2-4 skill points per HD instead of 1, but have Int of 11-14. Which seems unfair compared to many animal-like monsters with 6 Int. Because they should adapt even better.

Solution II:
1. Animals and animal-like creatures have new Int score equal to (6 x old Int score). That is 6 (for creatures with old 1 Int) or 12 (for creatures with old 2 Int). Variant: assign Int scores manually (from 1 to 7, see guidelines below), because different animals have wide range of intelligence and ability to learn, with predators and omnivores being the smartest.
2. Animals and Magical Beasts get skill points at rate of (4 + Int mofier) instead of (2 + Int mofier). Animal-like aberrations, oozes and elementals will have to do with their usual (2 + Int mofier) skill points (or that would change game balance too much).
3. CR of Animals, animal-like creatures and Magical Beasts increases by +1 (for CR of 1 or more) or twice (for CR less than 1).
4. That way animals get 2-5 skill points per HD, but Int score of lower animals seems more natural.


N. Creatures with changed Int score (from solutions I and II) get special trait based on their past Int score:
Primal Intelligence (Ex): for purpose of requirement for communication and special effects (such as spell effects, class abilities...) treat <this creature> as creature with Int score of 1(2). The creature still get skill points and feats as normal and uses its real Int bonus for various checks as normal.

That renders some hardcore shapechangers vulnerable to effects of animal-affecting abilities and effects... Could be a problem, but again - could be interesting. And there is some issue with wizard's familliar...

Solution III (by marphod):
1. Animals and animal-like creatures get skill points based on Wis modifier, not Int. That is (2 + Wis modifier) per HD.
2. Such creatures can have ranks only in following skills: Listen, Spot, Hide, Move Silently, Survival, Jump, Climb, Swim, Balance, Escape Artist. Other skills are off-limits.
3. Special feats can allow other skills or change effect of some skills (like this: Street Animal - survival checks apply to urban enviorment, not wild; Circus Animal - Tumble and Perform skills are allowed).
4. This solution gives animals and animal-like creatures 2-4 skill point per HD (CR should go up, as with other solutions). But there is some problems with augmented animals (familiars, for example). They will experience a drop of skill points for every HD after transformation (but will have a wider range of skills).

Solution II variant guidelines (based on non-animal monsters from MM1):
Int nonability : oozes, golems, vermin, assassin vine. Totally lack learning or creativity. Stimulus-reaction behavior. Animal analogue: jellyfish.
Int 1: ankheg. Just a little more then usual vermin. Dull due to its primitive nature. Animal analogue: spiders?
Int 2-3: spider eater, bulette. "Bulette attacks anything it regards edible. When it senses something edible (that is, senses movement), it breaks to the surface and begins its attack". Creatures of great strength for whom surviving is easy (or, again, too primitive to experiment). Animal analogue: brontosaurus, frogs, snakes, domesticated animals.
Int 4-5: otyugh. "Primarily scavenger that can eat any kind of refuse. Intelligent subterrain being sometimes coexist with otyughs: they dump their refuse in the lair of the otyugh, which generally refrains from attacking them". Not quite inventive, but can learn to use an advantage. Animal analogue: sharks, crocodiles, herbivores.
Int 6: hellhound, howler, kreshnar, remorhaz, griffon. "Although wild remorhazes prey on frost giants (as well as polar bears, elk, and deer), the giants occasionally train these beasts to guard their lairs". Cunning and crafty, thanks to smart prey they hunt. Often pack hunters. Good learners and can be trained. Tend to understand basics of language they live among. Animal analogue: canines, leopards.
Int 7: behir, manticore. These creatures often have language, non-survival knowledge and hobbies (for example, collecting shiny objects). Can learn to use devices and tools. Animal analogue: ravens, parrots, killer whales.
CR changes: with this variant animal's skills go up only with Int of 6+, so CR for animals (and magical beasts) with 5 or less Int should stay the same. Note that individual animal can have different Int than typical.

So, is it OK or not?

EDIT: third solution added.
EDIT: added variant to second solution (thanks, jeweldevil)
EDIT: added guidelines for manually assigning Int score to animals.
1st-Jul-2007 12:38 pm (UTC)
It seems like a good solution to the problem.

Or you could just arbitrarily give them ranks in skills such as Hide, Survival, etc. Call them racial modifiers.
1st-Jul-2007 01:11 pm (UTC)
Additional info:

The fundamental problem is having playable characters with INT 3, dead characters with INT 0 and only two points to play with in bwetween.

The RuneQuest RPG also uses 3d6 for human stats but for INT the roll is 2d6+6: scores below 8 are for the unplayably thick NPCs and for sapient monsters.

Animals do not roll INT but have a "Fixed INT" which can be as high as, I think, 8 (for chimps) and is a single value applies for the whole species. But regardless of how high your "Fixed INT" is and how it improves your skills (much like in D&D), you don't get to not-be-an-animal.
1st-Jul-2007 02:28 pm (UTC)
The thing is, the Intelligence stat alone doesn't represent how smart a creature is--that's a combination of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. So a smarter animal could just be one with a higher Wisdom or Charisma score. And really an animal's cunning and intelligence seems more like a measure of Wisdom (instinct) rather than Intelligence (reasoning ability).

As for the low number of skill points... I could understand how that kind of is a pain. But the question is, how many skill points do normal animals need? Your average cat isn't going to have a ton of ranks in move silently or survival or whatever--most of their skill is going to be found in their racial bonuses, high Dexterity, small size, and stuff like that. Keep in mind that the "average" person is a 1HD commoner--not exactly a high set of numbers to compare to. Sure, animals don't gain skills like PCs. But the system isn't designed to do that. As someone else said, if you really feel they need a higher skill check, just give them a racial bonus rather than reworking the entire intelligence score.

Just my two cents. But I will add if you truly perceive this as a problem, you have a very nice work-around.
1st-Jul-2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
I agree with this.
1st-Jul-2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
I understand that Int, Wis and Cha scores don't describe precisely the creature's way of thinking. Usually I can connect game mechanics with common sense quite easily, as long as system is balanced and gives you what you want from it (epic adventure, for example).

The problem is just that - my vision of the world. I see animals being as adaptive and crafty as humans, and humans as driven by instincts as animals. I don't force that opinion on anyone, but see enough proof for it. So, in my gaming world animals are no dim-wits, not able to learn from their mistakes. No more than average human commoner.
Besides, I watch animal channels a lot... Kinda druid myself %) I learn of how they hunt and survive... And here comes the skill problem... Animals just lack the skills that I expect from them. Raptors with no Move Silently, snakes with no Hide, leopards with no Survival, and so on.

If I solve it with racial bonuses, I still have some problems:

1. I should edit every creature manually, considering its survival technics, adding new skill bonuses. I should consider making CR higher, too.

2. A creature will still get just 1 skill point per HD. So, animal with higher HD would accomplish everything almost like its weaker counterpart, no better.

3. Racial bonuses can't pass for feat skill ranks requirements. Most feats would be off-limits, even if seem right. With 1 skill point per HD you can't maximize more than one skill, and animals rarely have many HD. I can make another house-rule that "Predators just can take this feat" or that racial bonuses can pass for skill ranks... But the less mechanics-bending - the better.
1st-Jul-2007 03:06 pm (UTC)
Giving animals higher Int has some minor impact on the system, but your solution is fine.

It just means 'sentience' isn't implied by Int score, but by something else.

My solution is to change animals HD so that they get skill points based on their Wisdom score, rather than their int score.
1st-Jul-2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
Hmm, I haven't thought of that. I will add wisdom solution to the initial post, thanks.
1st-Jul-2007 06:20 pm (UTC)
Most scientist believe apes have an intelligence nearing humans. Some believe that dolphins are at least as smart as we are. Many animals understand and can respond to a great deal of human language. The idea that they are nearly devoid of intelligence is silly.

But ignoring that, many animals know how to move silently to an impressive degree and consciously choose to do so. Stealth is part of their survival. They are very smart. Then you have animals, like frogs, that are so stupid that they'll stand in the middle of the road as a car passes over and then nervously hop up and get ground into the car's chassis. My real point with this is that you definitely need more variation than multiplying the 1-2 base score.

I think you're best bet is to use Wis as the surrogate for your Int modifiers. That way you don't have to create a new int score for every animal. Besides, the game's view of wisdom is to a large part, part of the real world view of intelligence, so I think that makes this idea even better.

1st-Jul-2007 06:57 pm (UTC)
Hmm... *goes thru the Monster Manual* Toads have Int score of 1 and Wisdom score of 14... %) Will wonders ever cease?

Int of 1 seems more right than Wis of 14 (why, why 14?...).

Ok, here's the list of animals with 1 Int:
Crocodiles, lizards and snakes
Manta rays and sharks

And these animals have Int score of 2:
Mammals (including herbivores)

Crocodiles and sharks are pretty smart, as I've heard, but that's not a point... Looks like Int is tied to biological class. That makes sense: mammals are closer to homo sapiens and thus they think more _like_ humans.

Wis scores examples:
11: Bison, camel, donkey, pony
12: Ape, bears, felines, crocodiles, canines, elephant, horses, lizards, manta ray, octopi, porpoise, rat, sharks, snakes, squids, weasel, baleen whale
13: Boar, hyena, rhinoceros,
14: Bat, birds, toad, cachalot whale, orca whale

Eek... Wisdon scores flexible, but I still don't quite see the logic... Why are horses "wiser" than ponies? Why is rhino "wiser" than bison? Why lizard is as "wise" as cats, but toad is much "wiser"?

Well, D&D is an epic adventure about human-like races and monsters. Animals in such stories can be just that - instinct-driven dim-wits, helpful or dangerous during low-to-mid levels...

Looks like I really should fine-tune animals _manually_, if I want more realistic animals in my games...

Final solution would be something like second one: assign Int scores manually (ranging from 1 to 12), grant Primal Intelligence trait and (4 + Int mod) skill points per HD. That should do.

1st-Jul-2007 08:47 pm (UTC)
I think I'd just check into the actual animals in the real world and assign them skills based on the real biological counterpart and ignore the skill point rules.

Seeing as their animals, they'd have no choice in the matter of where their skill point are assigned anyway.
1st-Jul-2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
Philosophy aside, animals with different approaches to skills are fun.

I was making a pack of four raptors (it's what led me to this house-rule). One of raptors was the weakest, almost typical specimen. Second raptor had multiweapon and power attack feat, young claws of the group. Third raptor was the cunning one, with mission to flank targets and aid his comrades. At last, fourth one was their hunt leader, with highest HD, best survival abilities and great attacks. His actions were guideline for all pack.
The pack tactics was to sneak (or ambush) their prey, charge (raptors have pounce and four natural weapons!), flank and tear to pieces. If there's some trouble, they would "aid another" (each other) and escape with least possible wounds.

I could do that with displacer beasts, wywerns, digesters... But raptors are as much fun. They were made different (yet realistic) and thus interesting. See, makes sense. And now they can be different not only by their feats and abilities, but by skills too. I hope they will strike fear in hearts of their prey %)
1st-Jul-2007 09:18 pm (UTC)
Yeah, that sounds like fun. I sometimes add animals because every encounter can't be an npc, but I don't usually get that creative once the combat happens.
2nd-Jul-2007 10:13 am (UTC)
Octopi have been known to use tools and solve some pretty complex problems. So you know. ;)
1st-Jul-2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
One skill point/HD is all a lot of characters get too.

Humans get a bonus skill point as a class feature; you could do something similar with animals.

Could have a look at other D20 games. I seem to remember Conan, from Mongoose, having better animals. There's nothing stopping you pinching from a different game(makes it easier rather than going through each animal individually asigning skills etc).

There's a problem with changing the stat; it may make the random guard dog a character buys great at appraise(or at least the best in the party). Since that'd be a bit weird presumably you'd use a limit on what skills animals can use as well as the ones they can buy. It's probably just easier to give them skills as you see fit without asigning a rule that changes int.

Changing skills/HD or basing animal skills on wis seems to make most sense, of the options given.
2nd-Jul-2007 01:12 pm (UTC)
Ok, I think I'm done. Added guidelines for assigning Int score from 1 to 7 (monsters with Int 8+ think too human-like to make that score average for any non-civilized being).

Animals' Int score can now be lowered or raised, just as any other stat, so my animals can now be more or less skillful.

Thanks everyone for your opinions %)
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