Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Discussion on game mastering Earthdawn. May contain spoilers; caution is recommended!
Avanti
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Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:31 pm

Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Avanti » Mon May 13, 2019 11:24 am

Hey fellow GM's!

I'm having some doubts in regards to training animal companions.
My Scout decided to branch a little into that and is considering which talents and skills to take.
An now we came to a dispute: wouldn't it be possible to train an animal using Animal Talk? it even looks to be a bit easier when you can explain what you need the animal to do?


Bonus question - how hard is it to train a Griffon as a mount? I remember reading that its rather difficult but doable. RAW, using talents, it will take a couple of days tops...?

Calamrin
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Calamrin » Mon May 13, 2019 6:27 pm

As a gm.

Animal talk is a non skill possible, 6th circle beastmaster talent...a 6th circle beastmaster in my group, with a well established companion would not need to use animal training to teach it how to do things unless they were very specific and complicated.

Lursi
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Location: Münster

Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Lursi » Mon May 13, 2019 6:58 pm

At first glance would not let him train that griffon so easily as it takes quite some effort to bring skills to a sufficient level.

Btw, being knocked down from such an animal without own wings or suitable talents can have pretty catastrophic consequences.

So in a way such a Scout-Cavalaryman without the necessary talents is an exciting character to play. Just one that wont get old, but sounds great for a Hero that wants to die young anyway.
Of all things I lost, sanity I held dearest.

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by ChrisDDickey » Mon May 13, 2019 9:09 pm

I always hate it when players try to bring logic and reasonableness into game rules. It's a game, a simulation. Everything is already simplified to an absurd degree and logic just mucks stuff up further. Each Talent does what it says it does, and no more. However if you have already agreed to debate the topic and are looking for arguments to support one position, think about what the Talents really do, and what they don't do.

Animal Bond makes the Animal feel helpful. It is willing to put up with training, or attempt whatever tasks it knows how to do. However it does not make the animal any smarter or better trained. It simply makes the animal willing to try.

Animal Training teaches a new behavior, or gives direction or refinement to an existing behavior. For example an Animal can be trained to attack a designated target (rather than running away or just attacking the nearest target). However many GMs insist that the trained behavior be somewhat programmed (IE: the player does not get to pick aggressive/normal/defensive stance on the fly, but picks what the companion is trained to do at training time, or other such limitations). Animal Training does not really involve communication as speech. The animal is just brought to an understanding that when it's trainer does X, that it it does Y, then it's friend will give it a treat and rub it's belly.

Animal Talk allows you to communicate with animals by imitating the animal species own sounds and gestures, but does not make the animal any smarter. Thus what you can communicate is limited by the animals intelligence. You can't talk poetry with a pig, it does not understand the concept. The rabbit will not be able to say that there were 7 horsemen that passed by. It can't count that high. When role-playing animal talk, I tend to go towards village idiot. Respond only to the last sentence spoken, since that is the only sentence the animal remembers. Say "what?" a lot. Refuse to understand any word outside the animals experience.

So to the debate.
In certain instances Animal Talk can be used INSTEAD of training. You could ask a Friendly monkey, "please climb this tree and throw us down some fruit". This is a task a monkey can easily understand and might be happy to do. Likewise, you could take the Standard Action to activate Animal Talk and ask an animal to attack somebody. However asking a monkey that has not been training in "Pick Pockets" to steal a pouch, might be very difficult, and the monkey would probably mess it up badly (ether just attempt to run up and take the pouch with no attempt at stealth, or just botch it up in some other way). It is the sort of activity that requires practice.

But obviously Animal Talk is not required to perform Animal Training. As to whether it would be helpful, that is debatable. Animals learn by doing, not hearing. Even Humans learn much better by doing than hearing. Think back to when you first learned arithmetic (a very human practice). You probably spent 10 or 100 times more time practicing, than you did having the concept explained to you. Teaching a monkey to pick pockets, the practice time is 100 times more important than time spent explaining. It can be done without explaining at all. Whether an animal inelegance would do better if what is wanted could be explained is unknown.

If I wanted to bother making a house rule for this, I might, at most, go with something like "the number of successes on an Animal Talk test can be applied as step bonus to the next Animal Training test" or something like that. But I certainly would not allow it to be used instead of an Animal Training test.


As for griffin's It says right there in the GM guide creature description.
In order for a griffin to be used as a mount, it must be captured young and subjected to extensive and intense training, an expensive proposition. They are difficult to train, but once broken in a tame griffin is an excellent and loyal steed.
Some of these words are open to interpretation: How young is young? how intense is extensive? etc. But I would tend to err on the conservative side, and say that "young" means small enough for the trainer to pick up. And extensive might mean 4 hours per day, just about every day, for 3 to 5 years. There is no way that phrase works out to "a couple of days, tops".

Sharkforce
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Sharkforce » Mon May 13, 2019 9:17 pm

with animal talk you can explain what you want to the animal as much as you like, it will still only do what you want if it wants to. animal training will get the creature to do what you want, when you want, without having to worry that the animal will just say no (for the most part; there are limits of course). animal talk might make the animal training *skill* easier, but the animal training talent is using magic to impart the information already; animal talk won't help with that.

i would also point out that animal training lets you just make your animal better at specific tasks. since those boosts are magical in nature (that is, the animal training skill cannot do those things), you're not going to be able to explain them into existence with animal talk either.

regarding training griffins: i presume that is largely related to training them via conventional means. consider that they have a social defense of 10 and are wilful(1). that means you need a 15 to train one at the basic level... we don't have the rules for the kind of training that purchased mounts have (i presume it must start from a very young age and lasts years, which is not particularly suitable for adventuring and that's why we don't have them; note that if you buy a griffin, there is no timer on how long the animal will stay friendly or know the tasks it starts with), but it's possible that the difficulty is even higher for that (or that it just requires you to make a lot of successful skill checks without failing too often). 15 isn't too hard for a mid-level adept to reach, but that's pretty hard for a non-magical griffin trainer to hit consistently, and if we consider that NPCs are also subject to the rule of 1, well... let's just say that i would imagine the negative consequences of seriously botching a training roll with a 60 pound dog are considerably lower than seriously botching a training roll with a 1000+ pound griffon strong enough to carry an ork into the air for sustained periods, capable of making attacks twice as fast as the dog, and could be flying hundreds of feet up in the air when the mishap takes place (or could just dive you for insane amounts of damage).

i'd say that the combination of generally having lower attributes (can't buy increased attributes), lower skills (more karma cost, longer training time, lower cap), no karma to expend, no durability skills) and potentially a more difficult rule set, griffin taming sounds plenty difficult to me.

Slimcreeper
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Slimcreeper » Mon May 13, 2019 10:34 pm

Quick note: rabbits can count to hrair*.

* Any number greater than I believe 4

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue May 14, 2019 7:25 am

Yes, Watership Down is the reason I stated so confidently that Rabbits don't know the number 7.


Agreed that we don't have the rules for non-magical mount training, but my inclination is that the "must start young" prerequisite applies to Adepts as well as Skill based trainers.

If you look at the description of the "Jungle Griffin" it says
no jungle griffin has ever permitted a Namegiver to sit on its back. More than one Cavalryman or Beastmaster has been killed and eaten after trying to ride a jungle griffin.
A jungle griffin is only one Challenge Rating higher than a common griffin, and it specifically says that no Adept magic has yet been powerful enough, under any circumstances, to compel a jungle griffin to submit to being ridden. It will not put up with it. Animal Bond does not matter, Dominate Beast does not matter, Animal Training does not matter. It is right there in the creature description, the beast simply will not put up with it. Absent truly legendary circumstances, it is going to try to kill anybody that tries.

The jungle griffin text suggests to me that they were serious when they said training had to start young for normal griffins, even for adepts. You need ideal circumstances to bond with a griffin, and absent those, the bond/domination/training is going to break and it is going to try to attack you and/or escape.

I generally speaking don't assume that the text in a creature description does not apply to adepts.

Sharkforce
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Sharkforce » Tue May 14, 2019 8:26 am

at most, the restriction on starting young and taking years applies to them acting as mounts. other than that, the only word on them is that they are difficult to train, and as i've already pointed out, that is true; the kinds of people that can reliably train griffins are going to either be extremely experienced non-adepts with their skill probably being near the maximum if not at the maximum (presuming a +6 from attribute and +9 from skill, you're looking at a 50/50 chance of success, for example) or reasonably experienced adepts (say, +6 from attribute still - charisma is not the primary attribute for the adepts likely to have animal training - then +5 from talent and +4 from karma, so we're probably looking at around circle 4-6 for the most part i'd expect if you want that 50/50 chance, though you could get a bit better chance or get it earlier through various methods).

that said, i'd still be disinclined to restrict use as a mount from an adept. they don't obey the normal rules, they're using magic.

on a side note, i wouldn't allow whatever training method is used to get an animal permanently trained for a task that we're all kind of assuming exists (nothing says it does, but nobody i've spoken to expects that if you buy a riding horse you're going to need to regularly send it back to the trainer for it to stay trained as a riding horse). the talent isn't just doing the same thing faster, it is imparting abilities through your magical bond. i *would* potentially allow the equivalent of a named spell to be done, though, if for some reason the adept felt so inclined (though i'm not certain there would generally be much need to do so)

ChrisDDickey
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by ChrisDDickey » Tue May 14, 2019 10:16 am

Yes, I have always played it that trained animals (mounts, guard animals, etc) that are trained young retain their standard training for life and don't need to be sent back for retraining every few months.
Sharkforce wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 8:26 am
that said, i'd still be disinclined to restrict use as a mount from an adept. they don't obey the normal rules, they're using magic.
I see that point, I am just saying that Griffins are also magic, and griffins (or at least jungle griffins certainly, and presumably normal griffins as well) don't obey the normal rules ether. They have specific text that modifies the normal rules for those specific creatures, or I should say establishes alternate norms. I normally would not assume that text in the GM's guide does not apply to adept Talents unless it explicitly says it does not.

But you are correct that adult griffins can be trained as Animal Companions pretty much like any other Willful Creature. It is just that they have specific rules that only young griffins can be trained as mounts. I would pretty much just take that at face value and not just say that it probably does not apply to PCs. My assumption is that just about everything in the rules applies to PCs unless it specifically says it does not.
Last edited by ChrisDDickey on Wed May 15, 2019 10:30 am, edited 1 time in total.

Avanti
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Re: Animal Trainnig vs Animal Talk

Post by Avanti » Tue May 14, 2019 3:11 pm

Somehow I managed to miss that paragraph around training Griffins as mounts :D but I did remember that they were hard to train from somewhere.

Anyways, I enjoy reading all your opinions on this topic. I'm not reguraly going into debating the rules with my players, only when I can see they want to do something very specific and fitting their character I can consider streching the rules to accomodate.
But in this case I'm fine with him training the Griffin to be an animal companion but going to bar him from training it as a mount - as the specific animal he found is an adult already. I may allow him to train it to carry him in it's claws maybe... Not for too long and definetly a painful experience. Also using that versatality to get wind catcher might be a useful prospect :D

As for the animal talk vs animal training (comparing talents only) - I think I also made a decision here to follow exactly what the talents say they do.
Thank you for focusing me on the side that Animals would have trouble understanding concepts that are not natural to them. Also I think since the talent is not a telepathic link but straight up immitation of animal sounds, I even think you can't communicate using full sentences. So talking to a dog you would be able to communicate "back away", "danger", "attack", "hunt" but not "wait here until I come back" or "bark each time you see a man passing here".

However using animal talk would allow an adept to more efficently combine known commands, like "remember this smell, wait here until you smell it and bark" would be possible if the dog knew commands track, wait, bark, guard or some such. Simply because you can accurately judge the dogs response and thus know if it understands.

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