Friday, August 12, 2011

Pets and working animals in RPG's

Now this is a topic I have touched on briefly before but two of my favourite bloggers are discussing the issue lately (Zak and Noisms) and I thought I would chime back in on what I consider an important gaming topic.

The main issue in a game like D&D is that dogs become utterly useless pretty quickly and die too easily. Is this any different than people? Well that depends...

I believe in using Mythic Animals

So why can't a dog gain levels and have a class? Don't just go right to "Warrior" either. In my most recently completed campaign one of the bard's had a dog for one of his henchmen. The dog was part priest. It would howl and bay to drive off the undead, a turn undead (equivalent) in a party with no cleric was quite useful.

It shouldn't be hard to picture a dog Paladin, I mean..all dogs do go to heaven. What about a dog ranger or druid? A heroic level 7 dog shouldn't be beyond the realm of imagination either. What real logic could you apply to a human (hairless ape) gaining increased power and levels that you could not apply to a dog.

And don't leave this to just dogs, perhaps look to Lovecraft and have a kingdom of cats. Mr.Whiskers is an NPC just itching for use after all. And who wouldn't like a high level horse?


  1. I agree. If adventurers, hirelings and henchmen can level, so should dogs be able to.

  2. I can see your motivation, but I do not agree with the method you are promoting. I do agree that a means should exist to allow animals that adventure with the party to improve over time, but I don't think that giving them class levels is the answer.

    In your linked article "Mythic Animals" you promote the idea of giving animals human-equivalent intelligence with their lack of thumbs being the only limiting factor in them accomplishing everything a Human could. As a blanket boon to award all animals, I feel this would be detrimental to the setting and the game. I have yet to see a non-anthropomorphic fantasy setting use this concept and I can understand why.

    If EVERY animal has Human intelligence and awareness, then why do they not act as if they do? Their intelligence shouldn't only exist for when PCs talk to them or when an animal accompanies an adventuring party - if all animals have this much brainpower, then they should be using it all the time. A world with all animals being that smart would be chaotic and extremely lethal to say the least. How could farms exist? How could hunters ever survive when a forests-worth of human-intelligent animals are waiting to combat them? Further to this, you wish to also give them class levels?

    Given how outnumbered all the humanoid races combined are by all the animals of any setting, were the animals that smart, there would be a brief and bloody war, and the setting would only have animals left.

    If your objective is to provide animals with the means to increase their survival rates as they continue to adventure with PCs, then why not simply advance the animal over time? Give them more hit dice, skills/proficiencies, increased saves and attacks, up a stat every so often. This will go a long way towards toughening them up without giving them class levels. I'm trying to picture a lvl 7 Dog wizard, Druid, Ranger, etc. and unless I'm playing an rpg where all the PC races are talking animals, a la "Wind in The Willows", the idea strikes me as absurd. To each their own of course, but I would find it very difficult to take the game seriously if my GM did this.

  3. I notice the key flaw in your argument:

    "Given how outnumbered all the humanoid races combined are by all the animals of any setting,"

    Why would a rabbit hate a man more than a fox? The fox is more dangerous to the rabbit and the man's farms and garden's provide easy prey to the rabbit. Why would the animals feel the same needs as man to build cities and libraries when mother nature gives them everything they need. Why on earth would they feel a medieval peasant is somehow more dangerous or important to them than any other animal? Perhaps modern man with bulldozers and industrialization and firearms would be a threat, but not a peasant with a wooden pitchfork.

    As for how would farms work? Pretty much the same as they do now. Heck re-read Animal Farm if you wish.