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Thread: Buying Monsters

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    Orc in the Playground
     
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    Default Buying Monsters

    In a game that's coming up, one of the characters is interested in spending most of their cash on non-intelligent creatures from the Monster Manuals. What would be a good guideline for pricing the ones that don't come with a given cost for eggs/young/etc? In the same vein, what about the training costs/DC's? (If there are already rules for this, please point me to them)

    Thanks to anyone who can help
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    As a rule of thumb where no other price is given I'd say menagerie prices would be something like 1,000gp/CR for standard (non-templated) magical creatures, possibly with a surcharge for rarity and exceptional abilities.

    Not sure about the costs of training creatures by RAW. IIRC there was a section on this in the 2E DMG, but then there were rules on prices for subdued dragons in those days. Yes, you could seriously beat down a dragon, loot its' hoard, and then sell the thing into slavery for even greater profit!
    Last edited by bosssmiley; 2008-12-16 at 08:08 AM.

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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    Quote Originally Posted by bosssmiley View Post
    Yes, you could seriously beat down a dragon, loot its' hoard, and then sell the thing into slavery for even greater profit!
    Those were good times.

    OP: Check out the Stronghold Builder's Guidebook. IIRC, it has prices for trained/exotic animals.

    Additionally Monster Manual 2 has a 'Warbeast' template for war-trained animals. It includes costs for such training and I'm sure some of it can be used for guidelines.

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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    The thing to remember is that the price of the animal must be the same as the price of a magic item that would do all the same stuff the animal will.

    I was going to say to price it as if it grants you the druid's Animal Companion ability, but I see now there are no rules in the magic item creation section of the SRD for adding a class feature to a magic item. So here's the way I'd rule it.

    Ask what kind of monster the player wants, and compare that to the monsters that can be summoned by the Summon Monster and Summon Nature's Ally spell families. Once you find which spell would be most appropriate to summon the monster the player wants, use that as your base spell.

    For example, if your player decides he wants a Howler (and if you decide he can find a merchant who will sell him one!), you'll notice that's already available through the Summon Monster IV (SM4) spell. So we'll use that as the base spell.

    SM4 is a 4th-level spell, but it's not a perfect analogue. SM4 doesn't require feeding or healing your monster; it comes ready for battle each time, and if it dies or gets hurt you just summon a new one next time. On the other hand, SM4 takes a full round to cast whereas your purchased monster will already be at your side (hopefully) when battle begins. So, looking at those two factors, owning the monster is somewhat weaker (but not a lot) than summoning it repeatedly. Let's say the "spell level" is 3 rather than 4 - this will save a lot of money.

    So now all we have to do is see what it would cost to get unlimited use of a 3rd-level spell, which is essentially what your player wants.

    The base price for such an item (which will count as a "user activated or continuous" item) is equal to the spell level x caster level x 2,000 gp.

    The spell level we're using is 3. The caster level? Well, we have to make that up. At least 5 to cast a 3rd level spell, which would allow the creature to be summoned for 5 rounds. Of course, your player doesn't want the monster 5 rounds, he wants it for unlimited rounds.... but let's assume that most 3.5 battles end in 6 rounds or less, and use a caster level of 6.

    3 x 6 x 2,000 = 36,000gp. That's just the base price, but since there are no expensive material components to pay for we can say that's also the market price. Yikes, 36,000 gp for a howler!

    That's probably more than he was expecting, certainly for a CR 3 creature. Luckily we can cheapen it up a little more. First of all, continuous use of Summon Monster is cool, but not exactly what your player is getting - your player is getting continuous use of Summon Monster during battle. The creature is worthless the rest of the time, even if you think Howlers are cute and it learns to fetch the paper. On average a D&D party should get into 4 fights per day. So we can treat this item as if it were a use-activated/continuous item with 4 daily uses. That reduces the base price from 36,000 to 28,800gp.

    Plus, this item "requires skill to use" (you have to give the creature orders verbally and hope it can/will carry it out, whereas summoned monsters auto-obey). That reduces it by 10%, bringing it to 25,920. Any good salesman would round that up to 25,995.

    If that still seems high, remember that's what it would cost to buy the same ability in magic item form. If the party wizard decided to set up auto-Howler on his own using his creation feats, he'd pay half of that plus XP. It's expensive, but power is expensive in D&D, at least in 3.5. The character is essentially getting extra attacks per round, free flanking, a wisdom damage ability, and 39 hp of meat shield. Awesome!

    Anyway, that's why you shouldn't just make up a formula or random number. This kind of pricing keeps it in line with what other party members can afford. For this price I'd have it come trained (and a good thing, too, since an Int 6 CE outsider might eb hard to train). If the adventurer is willing to quest to capture one and just have someone else train it, I'd drop the price in half (removing the material cost). If the adventurer wants to catch & train it himself, it's free, but good luck - you might need to put some heavy magtic on this thing to get it under control.

    Anyway you can read all the pricing rules here. Just remember to reduce the spell level by 1 (0th level spells cost 1/2 of what a 1st level spell costs), keep the Caster level at 6. Discounts include 4 uses per day (so divide the base price by 1.25) and "requires skill to use" (so 10% off).

    Have fun.

    ap
    Last edited by Another_Poet; 2008-12-16 at 11:13 AM.
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    The warbeast template pricing is actually not very good, considering price increases linearly. Consider adding the Titanic Template to a creature, then adding the warbeast template to *anything*.
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    Quote Originally Posted by Another_Poet View Post
    SM4 is a 4th-level spell, but it's not a perfect analogue. SM4 doesn't require feeding or healing your monster; it comes ready for battle each time, and if it dies or gets hurt you just summon a new one next time.

    ... That reduces it by 10%, bringing it to 25,920. Any good salesman would round that up to 25,995.
    Way too pricy, IMHO.

    Several problems with it - as you point out, perpetually summoning a creature ensures that it's always at full health for combat, and you don't need to safeguard it in any way. If your pet Howler is killed you don't just get a new one. As well, perpetual ummons actual would have flexibility (you could summon a different beast), and would be portable (since you just summon a new one).

    One way to get prices would be to extrapolate from available prices (say, the price of an Owlbear cub). This might be error-prone though.

    Another way would be to price it in a relative manner. Look at the benefit you gain from a given cost creature, and figure out what it would be in terms of WBL. Work it out in that manner (but as cohort level, rather than CR - some creatures are completely inappropriate because of their special abilities). If an owlbear represents a decent addition to a 4th-5th level party, figure out how much of their WBL it costs. A similarly effective creature for a 9th-10th level party should take a similar proportion of their WBL.

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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    4th ed is simple, price for a standard=price of a magic item of the same level.

    3.x CR means something different and there's no standard price for a level N magic item anyway. So it's a bit trickier.

    A CR N monster and level N NPC are supposed to be of equal value in combat (see the CR of an NPC).

    The NPC without gear is still worth something in a fight. Thus it follows that the full gear allowance of a CR N NPC isn't enough to represent the combat value of a single CR N monster, otherwise all your smart NPCs would not bother much with gear, they'd just have purchased monsters.

    Also you're likely going to gear up the monster some, and IMAO even minimal gear VASTLY increases the combat effectiveness of a monster, mithral barding isn't that expensive and +4 AC is golden just as an example. The price needs to reflect the likely value of the monster + gear - the cost of the gear.

    Just as a first cut I'd go with a flat doubling of CR, then use the gear allowance of an NPC of that level. (i.e. a CR 3 monster costs as much as a level 6 NPC has in gear, a level 10 monster costs as much as a level 20 NPC has in gear.)

    Creatures with really useful powers, especially powers useful outside of combat should cost more, this estimate reflects only the combat value after all.

    Arguably creatures with a listed level adjustment should use HD+LA-1 rather than double CR. (HD+LA is supposed to reflect the actual value to an adventuring party with gear added, the -1 is for the lack of elite abilities.)

    Creatures incapable of using gear or with major disadvantages should cost less.

    But that's what I'd use as a baseline.

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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    Quote Originally Posted by Doug Lampert View Post
    Just as a first cut I'd go with a flat doubling of CR, then use the gear allowance of an NPC of that level. (i.e. a CR 3 monster costs as much as a level 6 NPC has in gear, a level 10 monster costs as much as a level 20 NPC has in gear.)
    I considered going to Cohort route rather than the item pricing route, but it's not quite what you've suggested here. At least in 3.5 (I don't know about 4e).

    To continue using my Howler example, it has a listed +3 LA for use as a cohort. It also has 6 HD, so ECL 9. For creatures who are not available as cohorts, I would not double the CR - I would add the CR to the HD. That's going to be a very high number, but that's being generous - the whole point of a monster not having an LA is that it's not supposed to travel with the party at all.

    So a Howler would act as a 9th level cohort. But the problem is cohort cost isn't based on the cost of their gear; they should bring their own gear based on their WBL. I don't know where you got that rule from. I see now that you're saying a monster's special abilities take the place of the NPC's gear, so that is the cost difference. I like it. I wholeheartedly approve.

    Unfortunately, the wealth by level of a 9th level character is 36k, so your method has raised the price. In fact, yoiu get almost the exact sanme price as I had before I cheapened it down to 25k. So, your method would raise the price, not lower it, and I think the main problem has been that the suggested prices so far seem high.

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    Instead, cohort cost is based on how much you pay them (if anything) in wages, plus the cost of their upkeep (food, etc.). You don't pay wages to a Howler, though you do pay for their food. Theoretically you could price the howler according to what you would pay it in wages if it were a cohort, but that would be less than a gold per day, so less than 365 gold in a year. Assuming your howler doesn't get killed right out of the stable, let's say it costs what a year's worth of wages would cost - 365 gold? Really? Or less? Yeah, gee, sign all my PCs up for that deal.

    Also, to make it work as a cohort, you'd need to create a feat of some sort that works like Leadership. Presumably you'd need to be 5th level and have some ranks in Handle Animal or something like that, and have the equivalent of a Leadership score. If you have a high Cha you'd still need to be about 7th level to qualify for a Howler (or any ECL9) cohort.

    So, ultimately the cohort route involves houseruling a feat, waiting till 7th level and still not having a realistic price for the thing. That's why I didn't go that route.

    It should be priced as a magic item of similar power. I accept the above criticism that it's weaker than Summon Monster, which is why I reduced the price by pne spell level. But I admit it's not perfect. It ishowever in the right ballpark for a permanent, trained CR3 / ECL 9 addition to the team. Yep, it's killable, so don't use it as cannon fodder - treat it right, heal it as needed and watch it kick butt in battle.


    I'd encourage others to tweak the magic item price math I did and try to make it a little more realistic, but ultimately a creature that tough is going to cost upwards of 10,000 gp or it's going to be an open door to some serious cheese.
    Last edited by Another_Poet; 2008-12-16 at 01:44 PM.
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    A campaign ago I had a PC who kept on buying various different creatures. She ended up with a Megaraptor, a felldrake, a homonculus, a giant eagle, and four climb-dogs. As long as the price is low, you can extrapolate from the monsters that they do list the price for. I can't remember exactly how the formula goes now but I believe I remember that flying creatures costed more than more mundane ones and that the price otherwise increased based on the square of the CR (something like how magic weapon prices are based on the square of the enhancement bonus x 2000gp). I'll edit this post it I recover my method.
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    jcsw - I had a look at the Warbeast template and it was waaaay too cheap for the creatures they're buying. 11,400 for 18HD? Umm, yeah....... Not happening.

    Another-Poet - The thing about the spell method is that there is a limited list of creatures on thosr summon lists, and the CR of a creature is only an approximation. Any creatures not on that list, but of an appropritate CR may be worth more or less than that magic item would dictate. I've seen CR 20 magical beasts taken down by a level 15 party, and level 18+ parties have trouble CR 15- magical beasts. Because of that massive variation between creatures, I'd shy away from the magic item method. It is a simple and easy way of doing it though (At lest to me).

    Doug Lampert - Interesting way of doing it, but I'm not sure how you came to that method... You lost me about halfway. I see how it works mathematically though.
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    Yeah, any pricing is going to be an approximation. In the end it all comes down to: WotC didn't want players to own (or be) monsters, so there's no good pricing mechanic for it.

    I'd say etween me and Doug you have two different pricing lists -

    Cost as Magic Item
    Summn Monst 1 - 4,320 gp
    Summn Monst 2 - 8,640
    Summn Monst 3 - 17,280
    Summn Monst 4 - 25,920
    Summn Monst 5 - 40,320
    Summn Monst 6 - 72,000
    Summn Monst 7 - 103,680
    Summn Monst 8 - 141,120
    Summn Monst 9 - 184,320

    Cost as NPC Gear
    (look up on WBL chart, which isn't legal to reproduce here)

    Between the two of them you should be able to eyeball a reasonable price. Sure, it won't be exact, but if it's too strong it will balance out over a couple of levels and if it's too weak and gets killed you can always give him a discount on the next one.

    ap
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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    I'd say use charm monster as base spell. Will be much cheaper and normally the players will want to catch the monster.
    I'd then take the cost for the spell, charge 50% or 25% of it upfront (say to get basic monster training equipment for this kind of monster), divide the reminder by 365 and use that as the daily monster costs. Say for food, cleaning - and paying for the damage the monster may cause now and then. If they are traveling parts of these costs might by used to bribe city guardsmen to let them into the city, etc.

    This makes sure that the monsters feels cheap to get, but expansive to maintain - which is exactly how it should be, IMO.

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    Default Re: Buying Monsters

    There's still a huge discrepancy. A 16HD Elemental would cost either 260,000 gp, or 103,680, and a 8HD Invisible Stalker would be either 27,000 or 103,680 (Both are on the Summon Monster VII lists, despite one having half the HD of the other).... That makes me think the Summon Monster pricing method would probably be more accurate, but the time required to evaluate the true value of the monster involved if it wasn't on the lists? *Shudder*.
    *rereads method to make sure I got it right* When you go by CR and LA, as was actually suggested, it makes sense, as the CR and LA of them both is the same. I'm an idiot.
    The two methods still vary wildly, which either speaks of a design flaw in that area of the game itself (Which I doubt), or my inability to read posts correctly (Far more likely)
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