Life of Pets II - Man's Best Friend
As I wrote about in last week’s article, everyone in our current campaign has a pet of some sort except me. Mine is an animal companion - a worg named Worg. I do not consider her a pet as she follows me of her own free will and knows that she can leave whenever she wants to. My half orc is currently using her as a mount, and she fights along side us when it suits her. (She is a worg after all).
The pets are fun, as they add color to our game but not much else. Some have been trained to do certain basic things, but they don’t really provide any tangible benefits outside of love, companionship and emotional support. But what if they could? Let’s take a look at man’s best friend, the dog, and see how this pet can provide your character with actual in game benefits.
There are over 300 breeds of dogs. They can be broken down into seven major categories and each group has a skill or natural ability that is common within that group. The groups are as follows: (Credit - National Dog Show)
All but two of the terriers evolved in the British Isles. The geography of the specific area (water, rocky terrain) helped to determine the exact duties of each breed, but it usually involved hunting vermin and varmints ranging from rats to badgers to otters and more. These are dogs of great determination, courage and self-confidence, with a great willingness to go to ground in search of its quarry.
Toy dogs have been around for centuries, and are bred for one purpose: to be companions for their humans. Many have been bred down from and still resemble their larger cousins.Their small size and portability make them ideal for city dwellers and those with limited space.
While the uses and appearances of the dogs in the Working Group vary, most are powerfully built and intelligent, performing various tasks for their people. These dogs are working farm and draft animals. They guard homes and livestock, serve heroically as police and military dogs, security dogs, guide and service dogs and hunters.
The invention of the gun led to the development of the sporting, or gun dogs, to aid in hunting upland game birds or waterfowl, performing at the direction of the hunter.While a number of these breeds perform more than one task, it is generally the duty of pointers and setters to point and mark game; for spaniels to flush game; and for retrievers to recover dead and wounded game.
Originally classified as sporting dogs because of their function as hunters, breeds in the Hound Group are of a great variety of size, shape and coat. Most of these breeds were developed to hunt somewhat independently for their humans, who usually followed on foot or on horseback as the hounds chased down the prey. This group informally consists of scent hounds, dogs that hunt by tracking a scent, and sight hounds, who spot their game and run it down.
The AKC originally registered dogs as either Sporting or Non-Sporting. Eventually, hounds and terriers were split from the Sporting Group, and the Toys and Working dogs were split off from Non-Sporting, with the Herding Group eventually splitting from Working. Today, the Non-Sporting Group is literally every breed that is left, resulting in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, hair, function and history.
Herding is a natural instinct in dogs that is seen in the wild. Humans have used that instinct to their advantage on farms and ranches with herding dogs who have the sole purpose of gathering and moving livestock from one place to another.
As you can see, each group has specific characteristics and functions. The breeds within each group can even have specialization within each group, as some dogs truly excel at what they do. With that in mind, I have created this homebrew that details what a certain group of dogs can provide to your character.
For those that don’t want my thought process behind Man’s Best Friend:
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While anyone can find a stray dog on the street, the ones listed are of pureblood (except the lovable mutt) and cost accordingly. One cannot just find a purebred German Shepard that is fully trained just wandering around. Breeders can be found in most large cities and the DM can choose what breeds the trainer may specialize in. It is extremely rare for a breeder to specialize in more than one group of dogs.
Breeding and training takes time and the cost is reflected in the skill set that the dog may be able to learn and the time that it will take. Each breed of dog is broken down into one of seven groups… eight if you include the Mutt. Some dogs take longer to train, but they usually have a wider range of skills available to them. Below is a list of the more common dogs in each group. Discuss with your DM if you are looking for a specific breed and find out what group they belong to.
Dogs Groups & Breeds
Terrier - American Staffordshire, Bull, Fox, Rat, Russell
Toy - Chihuahua, Poodle, Pug
Working - Akita, Doberman, Rottweiler, Husky
Sporting - Brittany, Labrador Retriever, Pointer
Hound - Beagle, Bloodhound, Wolfhound
Non-Sporting - Bulldog, Eskimo, Shiba Ina
Herding - Collie, Corgi, German Shepard
Ahh, the lovable mutt. The dog that everyone loves but no one knows what they are. Mutts can be found in most big cities, sometimes traveling in packs, sometimes as loners. They have learned to fend for themselves and sometimes have skills that purebred dogs don’t. Mutts are usually wary of humanoids, but food is the great equalizer. If a player wants to have a mutt as a potential pet, they can make a DC 12 Animal Handling check to see if mutt is willing to befriend them. If the player makes the check, the DM will make a roll to see if they have any special abilities.
01-50 - No special abilities, other than loving you…as long as you have treats!
51-65 - +2 to all attacks on medium creatures or smaller. Life on the street has made some mutts skilled at defending themselves. They have to hunt and fight to survive, and therefore gain a bonus to their attack rolls.
66-85 - Advantage on Intimidation and Persuasion Checks. Some mutts would rather deal directly with humanoids to get food. Sometimes they use scare tactics, other times the try to look all cute and tug at the heart strings of people.
86-99 - Knows Sit/beg and 4 other basic abilities. Not all mutts have lived their entire lives on the street. Some have come from homes that, for one reason or another, got rid of the dog. Some families couldn’t afford the dog due to financial ruin, others are cruel bastards that kicked the dog out, and the worst of the worst may have abused the dog and it ran away (there is a special place in hell for those people). Some of the previous owners took the time to teach the mutt some basic skills and they use these skills in an attempt to look cute and get food.
00 - Speak common. Just for shits and giggles.
All dogs have the ability to learn simple commands. Dog owners everywhere have at one time or another tried to teach their best friend some of these basic commands, with varying amounts of success. But training takes time, and you have to have some skills to teach your dog some of the harder ones. I borrowed the chart on basic skills from Stephen’s Downtime Days article. Since there are too many to list here, I attached the link so you can check them out.
As stated above, different groups of dogs have different skill sets. Dogs get certain bonuses depending on what group they belong to. I had a great time researching all sorts of dogs. The skills below are based on their history, training and how they have been utilized in the past and continue to be now.
Terriers - These little dogs are rodents worst enemy. Trained to hunt down vermin, they can burrow through the earth and track them underground. This is their primary skill set. Therefore, these dogs get bonuses when it comes to hunting and killing tiny creatures. Spending a great deal of time in dungeons? Get yourself a terrier.
Toy - The nobility of dogs. Sure, you have to carry them around in you purse (or satchel in the D&D world), but they are naturally charismatic and can charm the pants off of most people. They are the dog of choice for the nobility class.
Working - The most functional of all dogs. These dogs do it all, but their primary purpose on this world (or whatever world your on) is being a guard dog. They are fiercely loyal and will protect their owner to the death. The breeds in this group are on average some of the largest dogs and therefore do a little more bite damage than the rest of the breeds. If you want a dog that will have your back, breeds in the working group are the dogs for you.
Sporting - If you’re looking for a dog to help you hunt in the forest, breeds in the sporting group are your obvious choice….I’m looking at you rangers. Forests are their natural terrain and they are experts at finding and killing all sorts of beasts. They are also larger sized dogs (still medium size, but on the big side). The mastiff is a sporting dog, so this group also has the ability to serve as a mount for smaller humanoids.
Hounds - Expert hunters. History tells us that many of the smaller hound breeds travel in packs, and when they do look out. These packs will tirelessly chase their prey, wearing them down until they are surrounded.
Non Sporting - This group is a mish-mash of all the dog breeds that don’t fit into any other group. These dogs are usually loyal, cute and easily trained. If you need a friend who will love you unconditionally, get yourself a French bulldog. He’ll never leave you and will charm the pants off of all your friends.
Herding - This group is the smartest of all dog groups. Herding dogs use their intellect to size up beasts and humanoids and can often sense what they are feeling. Dogs in this class are also great at gathering and separating groups of beasts; therefore herding dogs can disrupt any beasts that have the pack tactics ability.
Negative Effects & Flaws
Like all things in life, with the good sometimes comes a little bad. No matter how much you train some breeds of dogs they just can’t go against their natural instincts and can get themselves into a spot of trouble. They don’t mean to, but sometimes your best friend can cause headaches for you and your merry band of friends.
Terrriers, those cute little dogs with boundless energy may not realize just how loud they are as they are running through the forest looking for rodents. Stealthy they aren’t.
Toy dogs are prima donas who feel that their paws should never touch the dirty hard ground. They must be carried at all times (unless to do their business) and while small, will add 10 lbs. to your weight carried.
Sporting dogs can get so focused on hunting their prey, sometimes they look up and have no idea where they are. When chasing that tasty looking deer, they spend so much time watching the deer they have a chance to get lost in the forest. These breeds will be able to find their way back eventually, and hopefully you and your friends are waiting, and aren’t being attacked by a horde of kobolds.
Beagles sure are cute, but they will howl their asses off occasionally. Hounds are known for being loud dogs, especially when potential prey is around. So sometimes, just when you have fallen asleep after a long day of adventuring, they will wake you up when they start barking at that stupid squirrel.
Non sporting dogs are cute and loyal, but attack dogs they are not. When confronted by an enemy, they will cower and hide. Being loyal to their owner, they won’t run away, but loyalty has its limits and taking on the wolf bearing down on you is where they draw the line.
The DM can also decide to roll to give your dog a flaw, just like his owner probably has! Everyone has a flaw (most of us have a lot more than one) and dogs are no exception. Some dogs can be vicious towards strangers, some want to cuddle all day long, and others just like to pee on everything to mark it as theirs.
So there is it, the Dog. If you get a chance, go to GM Binder and take a look. In addition to everything above, you’ll find stat blocks for each group. Man’s best friend can be more than your friend… s/he can be a useful pet in D&D.