More Dog Blog

I’ve been in training for my real job for a couple weeks so there hasn’t been much time to work on my side job.  Still, I’ve gotten a little writing done and I’ve started playtesting the D&D Next release.  Keep an eye out for a review of my experience in a couple weeks.

I’m finally getting back to the material about dogs for Savage Worlds, though.  Here it is:

Another Edge:

 

Pack Hunter

Requirements: Novice, Canine

You truly do think like a pack animal.  You can almost read the minds of your companions in combat and know just when and how to strike to keep your foes off-balance and set them up for your pack.  You get and provide an additional +1 bonus when ganging up.  These bonuses do not stack.  If multiple Pack Hunters are attacking the same target only a single +1 bonus from the Pack Hunter Edge rather than 1 per character who has the edge.

 

Here’re a couple more magical collars for dogs:

 

Protective Collar:  This is a chain collar which often includes a few small plates engraved with protective runes or mystic charms.  No matter what its appearance, it helps protect the dog that is wearing it.  It provides a bonus to armor and parry of anywhere between +1 and +5 depending upon the quality and expense of the item.

 

Cask Collar:  Often worn by dogs who are trained for search and rescue but also worn by those who associate with healers of all kinds, this ordinary leather collar has a small cask attached to it.  Once per day, the sweet, thick liquid in this cask can be drunk for to provide the following effects:  First, the drinker gains environmental protection, as per the power for a full 10 hours.  Second, the drinker regains wounds as though the healing power had been cast on him.  The skill level for this portion of the potion is d8.  This power works even if the wound was suffered more than an hour previously.

 

And here’s a special dog or two to add to your campaign either as a threat to your players or as a distinctive ally for your character:

 

Almatian Guard Hound

Created by the great arcane flesh shaper, Sir Kirdan Burrus, Almatian Guard Hounds are favored pets and guard animals for many royal families and rich merchants.  They are still a rarity and quite expensive, but one would be hard pressed to find an animal with better guard capabilities.

 

An Almatian Guard Hound has a stocky, powerful body.  Its fur is usually black and red or black and blonde.  The most distinctive trait of these animals is the fact that they each have two fully functioning heads.  These heads are square with powerful jaws, sharp ears and bright, intelligent eyes.  Each head has its own personality and one is always dominant over the other, though they are quite affectionate toward each other.  Though it is not their natural inclination, Almatian Guard Hounds can be trained so that one is awake while the other sleeps, allowing them to continuously guard an area.

 

Agility: d8, Smarts: d6(A), Spirit: d6, Strength: d6, Vigor: d8

Skills: Fighting d8, Guts d8, Notice d10*

Pace: 8             Parry: 6            Toughness: 5

Special abilities:

Bite: Str + d6

Fleet-Footed: Guard Hounds roll a d10 when running instead of a d6

Go For the Throat: Guard Hounds instinctively go for an opponent’s soft spots.  With a raise on its attack roll, it hits the targets most weakly armored location.

Small -1: Guard Hounds are relatively small.

Dual Heads:  A Guard Hound’s heads are independent though they instinctively coordinate the movements of their body.   As such, they draw two cards in combat and act on the better of the two.  However, any time either card is a black deuce, they lose a turn as the heads bicker with each other over what to do.

Dual Senses:  A Guard Hound’s two heads allow it to watch in all directions at once and to spot and hear things one head might miss.  A Guard Hound gets a +2 to all Notice checks as long as both heads are awake.

Dual Jaws:  A Guard Hound can attack once per round with each head at no penalty.

 

Ravnivori Royal Terrier

Descended from ornamental lapdogs, Royal Terriers were bred to defend their owners.  A nobleman realized that his wife carried her dog with her everywhere and, finding its uselessness somewhat offensive, he decided to breed something for his wife and daughters that would actually protect them.

 

He found the most aggressive, loyal, brave lapdogs that he could find and began breeding them together.  His sons took up the task after his death.  Within a few generations, they had developed an actual breed.  The results are dogs that are incredibly loyal to their masters (usually mistresses,) playful, and affectionate.  They bond with their masters and defend ferociously both their masters and anyone their masters care for (though they are often jealous towards their owners husbands.)

 

Royal Terriers are small, with curly, exceptionally soft fur.  They have upright, pointed ears.  Rather stocky, they have short legs.  Their muzzles are relatively short and they have powerful jaws.  They have big eyes that are usually a very deep brown but are occasionally pale blue or, even more rarely one of each color.

 

Agility: d8, Smarts: d6(A), Spirit: d8, Strength: d4, Vigor: d8

Skills: Fighting d8, Guts d8, Notice d8

Pace: 7             Parry: 6            Toughness: 4

Special abilities:

Bite: Str + d6

Fleet-Footed: Royal Terriers roll a d8 when running instead of a d6

Go For the Throat: Royal Terriers instinctively go for an opponent’s soft spots.  With a raise on its attack roll, it hits the targets most weakly armored location.

Size: -2

The Dog in the Fight: Due to their small size, attackers subtract 2 from their attack rolls against Royal Terriers

The Fight in the Dog:  While sweet and loving to their masters, Royal Terriers are fierce, fearless fighters against their foes.  They gain a +2 bonus to fear checks and to opposed rolls to resist being intimidated.

One Master:  Royal Terriers bond closely with a single owner.  If they see this owner attacked, they gain a +1 to all attack rolls against that attacker.

 

And a Canine Race:

 

Dogmen

Dogmen were created by a wizard in the distant past.  This wizard forced his wolfling slaves into a selective breeding program in much the way humans domesticated and specialized wolves to develop the numerous breeds of dogs.  He bred his subjects for loyalty foremost and they served him well over the centuries of his unnaturally extended life.  Eventually, however, a rival managed to slay the wizard and scattered his creations.  Since that time, the Dogmen have tried to make their way in the world.  Some have turned “feral” roaming the countryside attacking any victims they can find while others have found new “masters” in the communities of other humanoids.  Their loyalty remains their primary trait and they will not betray their packs or their communities.

 

*Loyal:  Dogmen find it difficult to betray their companions.  They will not leave a comrade behind even if it will put them in danger.

*Keen Nose:  Dogmen have very keen senses of smell.  In fact, they depend as much on their sense of smell as sight.  They receive a +2 to any Notice rolls that have a scent component.

*Adept Trackers:  A combination of their senses of smell and their training from puppyhood, Dogmen are natural trackers.  They start with a d6 in the Tracking skill and may add their Keen Nose bonus to their tracking checks assuming they can pick up a scent.

*Powerful Jaws: Dogmen have mouths full of sharp teeth and strong jaws.  They can use their mouths as natural weapons and do Str + d6 damage with their bites.

 

Strike Force 7 Review

A little more progress on all fronts.  One True Thing has gone from being a pageful of notes for a game that was basically a variation on NEP to several pages of something unique.  There’s still a lot of writing to be done, not to mention getting art for it, but I’m really excited about it.

I continue editing my novel.  A little bit everyday.  No end anywhere near in sight, but it will come.

And, Jake has confirmed that he’s going to work on art for Adventuring! Company, the first scenario for NEP.

And to keep you all entertained (I hope) my review of Strike Force 7: Winter Strike…

Given the title, it’s not hard to guess what kind of adventure Strike Force 7: Winter Strike is going to be.  If there is any confusion, though, let me clarify.  It is an action movie turned into a Savage Worlds adventure.  That’s no criticism as the Fast! Furious! Fun! style of Savage Worlds fits an action movie plot perfectly.  In fact, a useful way to determine if a Savage Worlds adventure is going to be good is to try to imagining Arnold Schwarzenegger from the 80’s starring in it.  If you can, it’s going to be good.

In keeping with the action movie vibe of Winter Strike the plot involves the U.S. in a three way struggle with the U.S.S.R. and a terrorist organization known as Skorpion.  As if the cold war tension was not enough, having a group known as Skorpion gives the adventure a very action movie feel.

With all that, the adventure is not meant to be comedic or satirical.  It is actually presented rather seriously.  In fact, two ways to run the game are given depending on how intensely the GM wants to run the game.  The first way is cinematic and fits the action movie theme while the second is much more realistic, and thus lethal and dangerous.  But even with the cinematic method, the adventure is serious and is intended to be played as a Spec Ops adventure.

One of the interesting things that Winter Strike presents is the idea of Real Time Events.  These in game events involve a real world timer to determine in game actions.  For instance, players may have a minute in real world time to determine what their characters do in a scene.  As I learned in a recent Dread game, having a real world countdown amps up the tension in a game.  This, in addition to a few other suggestions for the GM to keeping the game moving, is certain to keep the players on edge and instill in them the dangerousness of the scenario.

Though the adventure is exciting and the story told in it compelling, there are a couple of flaws with Winter Strike.  The first is that some of the encounters are a bit too ambiguous.  While few Savage Worlds adventures provide an exact number of opponents in an encounter, they generally provide a ratio of opponents to the number of characters.  Some of the encounters in Winter Strike do not even have this guideline.  While a GM could come up with a challenging number of opponents on his own, this oversight only makes the GM’s job harder when the purpose of a published adventure is to make it easier.

Additionally, the art in the book is a bit unusual for an RPG supplement.  Rather than drawings or even paintings, most of the pieces of art are actual photographs.  This is a convenient source of images given the nature of the subject of the adventure.  Military photographs are prolific and are perfectly appropriate for this adventure.  There is some hand drawn art included as well, though.  The cover, one piece of art toward the back of the adventure as well as all of the pictures for the character profiles are hand drawn.  Perhaps the real life images are included to make the adventure feel more real and to give it more impact.  I’m not sure if that’s the effect that the pictures have but I prefer hand drawn art.  My criticism may simply be a matter of taste.

Overall, Strike Force 7: Winter Strike is a good adventure for anyone looking for a Spec Ops style Savage Worlds Scenario.  It’s full of excitement and action and makes me want to go take down Skorpion!

Horror Companion Review

Lest I forget what this blog is about, namely keeping everyone out there informed about the ongoing adventures of the Black Guard Press, here’s a little update:

For those of you who don’t follow me either on Twitter or Facebook, I wrote a book.  It’s called “The Becoming” and it’s about the dangers of scientific meddling in what we don’t fully understand and the impact that has on one man’s life.  You can find it on Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008190NYU

I also just finished the first Scenario Supplement for NEP.  It’s called Adventuring! Company and it’s about being larger than life fantasy heroes in a corporate world.  I’ve contacted Jake Ekiss for art for the project, and, depending on how quickly he can turn it around, I just might have it up on Drive Thru RPG next month.

And speaking of NEP, I’ve come up with a new idea for a game using the core mechanics, such as they are.  It is tentatively called One True Thing and will focus on magical worlds, whether fantasy, modern or whatever else.  That’s currently just some notes on a page at the moment so it’s a ways away from being done.

And finally, I’m working on another book.  I’m just over halfway through editing it, so again, a ways away from being done but it is called The Lost Temple of the Soulless World.  I’m hoping it’s as pulpy as that title implies and it’s about sword and sorcery people living in a world after a zompocalypse.

So, there’s what’s going on in the world of Black Guard Press.  Now for something completely different:  My review of the Savage Worlds Horror Companion:

It embarrasses me a little to admit that it took me three of the Savage Worlds genre companions before I realized that the same woman was presented on each cover.  She is simply changed to fit the genre contained within the book.  The red-headed Amazon on the cover of the Fantasy Companion is the red-headed flying heroine on the cover of the Super Powers Companion and the red-headed vampire on the cover of the Horror Companion, simply adapted to each genre.  The cover art is not the only thing the companions share, though.  Each of them also includes extensive rules to modify the simple core Savage Worlds mechanics to make them an appropriate gaming system for each genre.

As in the other companion books, these genre mechanics begin with edges and hindrances in the Horror Companion.  These edges and hindrances alone do a great deal to help foster the feel of a horror game.  Horror Companion hindrances include things like Bleeder and Screamer while the edges are things like Necromancer and Monster Hunter.  It should not be hard to guess the purpose of those hindrances and edges given the names and all of the edges and hindrances presented in the book reproduce classic features displayed by characters in horror stories.

The player section of the book also includes a number of new character races.  This is one place where the Horror Companion noticeably diverges from its sister books.  The Fantasy Companion has a short section of fantasy appropriate races which are carefully balanced and rules about how to create additional balanced races specific to each group’s campaign.  The bulk of the rules in the Super Powers Companion consists of balanced character creation, with the idea that alien and unusual races are simply created by generating them using the character creation rules.

All that balance goes out the window in the Horror Companion.  This makes sense in a genre that includes angels, demons, werewolves and vampires as possible characters.  It would be purely illogical to assume that these creatures start out at a power level balanced with that of even an uncommon human.  There is nothing stopping a member of a gaming group from selecting one of these strange races, except the rest of the group and the GM should it not be appropriate.  Getting the whole group’s agreement or at least the GM’s permission would be vital to using these character races as it would be all too easy for a player with one of these characters to steal the limelight from the rest of the group if they were playing ordinary humans.  For that matter, the unusual races presented in the game are not even balanced against each other.  The angels, for example, are far more powerful than the other races presented.

The last section of the book aimed specifically at players is gear.  This section of gear is quite extensive and it seems as though every piece of equipment that appeared in any horror movie ever has been included in this book.  This includes everything from armored collars that protect an individual’s neck from a vampire’s bite to cameras that can take pictures of ghosts to assorted types of ammunition meant to exploit the vulnerabilities of various supernatural creatures.

A variety of genre rules come next, including systems for handling all the usual tropes in any horror story.  This includes things like the Buckets of Blood rule which means that any attack that succeeds against any character causes fountains of blood to spray everywhere, causing fear in the people it lands on and attracting any monsters who feed on blood.

Perhaps the most important genre rules in the book involve sanity.  After all, what would a horror game be without rules to monitor just how close to the brink of madness the characters are?  It would be impossible in a game featuring Cthulu and even a high adventure game would suffer from not having such rules.  Without the chance that your character is reduced to a drooling shell of a man or a bloodthirsty, raving lunatic, it just isn’t a horror game.  In true Savage Worlds style, the Sanity Rules are fast and easy but effective.  Unlike dedicated horror games like Call of Cthulu Sanity is not a one way street in the Horror Companion.  While it is not easy, it is entirely possible to strengthen a character’s fragile grip on his frayed sanity in Savage Worlds.

Another valuable set of rules in the book involves magic in a horror setting.  While appropriate in a rare few horror stories, the usual fireball throwing, spell casting on the fly style of magic that is common to most Savage Worlds settings does not have a place in most tales of terror.  To that end, rules for ritual magic, including long casting times and assorted types of sacrifice are provided to replace the usual rules from the core rulebook.  There are also a number of spells provided that are particularly appropriate for a Horror campaign.

Additional magical actions for Horror Campaigns are provided by the Signs and Portents and the Wards and Binds systems.  The former system is a way for game masters to provide plot clues and motivation in a  way that is designed to build the tension and the story.  The latter system brings in all the strange rules in myth and legend for trapping demons and other supernatural horrors and the multitude of ways that the creatures know of to break out of such bonds.

Most horror stories also involve an arcane artifact or other magic item in some form or another.  To this end there is an extensive list of magical items provided in the Horror Companion.  Unlike an adventuring game, these artifacts are rare, if not unique and they are generally of a darker bent.  If they are not simply creepy in origin they require something from their user that impairs or corrupts them.

The game master section of the book starts with monsters.  A lot of monsters.  In fact, it may seem strange to say, but there seems to be too many monsters.  While the book covers a lot of different horror genres and there needs to be a wide variety of monsters to cover them all, the broad array of monsters in the book almost makes it feel like little more than just a bestiary for the Fantasy Companion.  After all, most horror creatures can be broken down to variations on a few of the same themes.

This customization of a theme is the approach that is taken with Vampires in the book and while there are a couple of different stat blocks for the creatures, most of the specifications for Vampires are given as variable special qualities that the GM can pick and choose from to make the creatures exactly what he wants them to be in his game.  The same is true of the Zombies in the book.  Given zombies’ recent rise in popular culture, there are a dozen or more different types of zombie ideas.  Rather than giving individual stats for each one of these possibilities, a number of variable abilities is given that can be picked and chosen to narrow down how a zombie behaves in each campaign.  The zombie section of the bestiary has a feel not unlike that from the zombie selections made at the beginning of an All Flesh Must Be Eaten campaign, though obviously much more simplified.  In fact, there are enough variables for each of these that a gaming group could play two campaigns back to back with a few different special abilities for the antagonists and make a completely different feeling game.  For that matter, there could be multiple types of zombies in the same campaign to keep the players on their toes.

Compare this customization approach to the section for Mummies.  Instead of there being a single stat block for mummies with some variable special abilities that could be added there are four different mummy stat blocks provided.  This limits what can be done with mummies.  This defining of a few mummies actually limits what can be done with them.  Of course, an experienced game master can tweak the stats to his liking, but it would be more difficult than the open way vampires and zombies are presented.  The same is true of the were-creature section.  Rather than providing the method for creating were-creatures, allowing GMs to make a wide variety of the creatures, three examples are given.  While these are useful examples, it simply feels like they are just more foes for the heroes to slay rather than creatures that can be made truly frightening in their capacity to hunt and torment the characters in a specific campaign.

Following the bestiary is a fairly standard discussion of the various genres and settings common to horror games.  As a worldless system, Savage Worlds has to fill any need a game master might have and this section does a good job of explaining how the various rules can be adapted to various settings as well as giving good advice about adding personalized twists to what might otherwise be mundane or common settings.

This section is most useful to the new or inexperienced GM but there are important bits of advice that even a veteran GM could benefit from thinking about and remembering.

The end of the book is some generic advice for GM’s about running horror games.  As anyone who has run a horror game knows, it is one of the hardest genres to present effectively.  While it is entirely possible to scare characters and good players can properly role-play their frightened characters it is all but impossible to actually scare the players or set up the kind of tension that would make the players truly feel like they are experiencing a horror tale.  This section includes assorted techniques a GM can use to overcome the difficulty of immersing the players in the story.

Much of the art in the book is done in what appears to be chalk and it all has a dark feel that is especially suitable to the genre.  This is another area where this companion matches its sister books.  The art in the Fantasy, Super Powers and Horror companions are each diverse but perfectly fit the genres they present rather than being the same sort of art again and again across the three.

There are more than a few typographical errors in the book, with some missing characters, misspellings and formatting issues, but no more than what are common to Pinnacle products and far less than many small gaming presses.  In fact, there are no more than one might expect from some of the sourcebooks from Wizards of the Coast.

It is not certain that the Savage Worlds system can really convey a good horror game.  There are a number of systems designed specifically for such genres and the Fast! Furious! Fun! style of Savage Worlds is antithetical to the brooding, tense feel that a horror game should have.  Still, the Horror Companion examines the genre as thoroughly as any of the other sourcebooks from Savage Worlds explore their genres and if nothing else, it is useful to GM’s who want to add an element of horror to their ongoing or future Savage Worlds games.

Fear The Con 5

You can keep GenCon and Origins. For my money, the best two days in gaming is Fear the Con. Now, I will admit to being ridiculously biased as I’ve never been to either GenCon or Origins, so there is nothing scientific about my opinion. But I can’t imagine either of those bigger conventions beating 26 hours of gaming in a 48 hour period interspersed with hanging out with some of my favorite gamers.

People say GenCon is like going to a class reunion at the high school you wanted to go to but my high school was only 200 people, so the idea of being surrounded by tens of thousands of people, even ones who share my hobby holds no appeal to me. I also get the feeling that GenCon is as much about announcements and sales as it is about really gaming. This is not true of Fear the Con. Other than a booth from a local gaming store, there is nothing for sale. There is no wandering the dealer hall because there is no dealer hall. While this might disappoint some people, it fits what I want perfectly as all the focus is on playing, playing, playing.

Hanging out with a hundred or so people who are focused on gaming, having fun and sharing their love of not only the games but the community and the con..that’s pretty close to perfect for me.

I’ve been to Fear the Con all five years that it has existed and almost without exception it has gotten better. Let me clarify that statement. This year was not quite as good as last year. Last year was ridiculously phenomenal, with 4 of the 6 slots I played being spectacular and the other 2 being only great.

This year, everything was just great. Under any other circumstances, it would have been the best Con ever. In fact it was likely better than the other 3 Fear the Cons. It simply had to compete against a Con with an unfair advantage.

And honestly, the reduction in my enjoyment was my own fault. I learned a lesson last year that I did not follow this year. Last year, all of my sessions except for 1 included at least one person that I knew well and had played with often. This gave me a person whose play style I understood and who I knew I could play off of. Not only did this help me relax around the other people around the table who were strangers to one degree or another, but also it allowed me to set up both my own character and theirs for awesome and/or hilarious situations. I knew how far I could go without offending them and the liberties that I could take without going too far with their characters. Likewise, there was someone at the table that I trusted and that allowed me to go along with their ideas knowing that the payoff would be worth it.

This year, that happened only a couple of times and my Con suffered for it. Not that there weren’t still some amazing sessions, including a couple that my friends were not involved in. I played in a game with a lot of creative role players that was the perfect introduction to the tension of the Dread system.

Of course, I was afraid that the Con would suffer for entirely different reasons. Fear the Con is no massive money making enterprise and, in fact, I suspect that the hosts over at feartheboot.com likely lose money on the proposition. Thus, I can’t expect them to have a fabulous convention center to throw the Con in and, indeed, the first 4 were held in a relatively small, out of the way, old venue. A relatively small, out of the way,old venue I loved. Free drinks all weekend (including booze, thank you Midwest,) cheap food and the sense of community that only exists when everyone has to help everyone out to make sure that things go well. Oh, and two older gentlemen serving drinks who clearly had no idea what we were doing but were polite and friendly to us weirdoes, anyway. It was not what I expected the first year but ended up being better than I could have imagined.

Two things were changed this year. The announcement that Fear the Con would be at the beginning of May rather than the middle of March did not affect me, much. In fact, I enjoy May in St. Louis much more than March. There is much less chance of snow. But the announcement that they would be changing venues made me wary. It felt very much like trying to fix something that wasn’t broken.

World Wide Wing night was as good as always, with St. Louis standard fare that reminded me that people in Texas don’t eat the unhealthiest food in America and conversation with old friends and new that was so good I stayed up way too late so that it wouldn’t have to end.

The next day, I entered the new convention hall sure that it would not be as good as the old one. I was pleased to discover that it was wrong.

There was a stage in the new one with a real PA system so that the announcements that were made throughout the con were loud enough for everyone to hear and in a place that everyone could easily see. The concession stand was also just a few steps away from all the tables rather than on another floor, a fact which no doubt pleased the volunteer waitresses as much or more than it pleased any of the con goers.

But most importantly, this place had carpet. This may seem like a minor thing but the floor in the old convention hall was made of lovely hardwood. Lovely hardwood that was incredibly conducive to echoes. To be heard across the table at a game you had to yell to be heard over the conversations going on at the tables around you and even at the other end of the hall. Of course, yelling meant that the people around you had to yell to be heard over you at their own table creating a spiral of voice shredding shouting that left everyone hoarse by the end of the weekend. With the carpet to deaden the noise it was easy to be heard by the people at the table. Fear the Con already nearly perfectly scratched my convention going itch but little things like this make a convention better.

Of course, the new place wasn’t better in all regards. I did miss the two old guys and there were no windows in the new convention hall. Without being able to see outside, I completely lost track of time and was continuously surprised when I went outside and the sun was still up.

Amusingly enough, there were not one but two children’s birthday parties at the community center while Fear the Con was there this year. Hearkening back to the famous Princess Party, one can only question what the poor parents thought of the conglomeration of nerdism and geekery they faced when coming to what should have been a simple celebration.

I think the best praise I can give Fear the Con is that there are many people there that I see only once per year who I consider friends. It is just as telling that the last day of the con I wanted just one more day to game, to talk and to hang out. I can’t imagine better praise for a gaming convention.

A Blog and Its Dogs

I am more of a cat person, mainly because they are easier to care for, but I think that dogs are amazing animals.  Their sense of smell and to a lesser extent the intelligence some of them display are impressive but their loyalty to each other and their owners that some show is simply mind boggling.

What was originally likely just two animals (us and them) associating with each other for mutual benefit has grown into the sort of bond that great stories are made of.  There aren’t many people who can sit through the end of Ol’ Yeller with a dry eye and I have to admit that I got choked up when (spoiler alert) my character’s dog in Fable 2 got killed.

Stories of dogs risking their own lives to save those of their owners abound.  In fact, it sometimes seems as though dogs are more willing to endanger themselves for humans than humans are.

So in honor of Man’s Best Friend, here’s some rules for having an unquestionably loyal ally to help you face the dangers of the world.

A trained fighting dog can be purchased for $200.  This is represented by the dog listing in the Savage Worlds rulebook.  Characters without the money for a fully trained dog but with time can train one themselves.  Puppies of the appropriate breeds can be found through the course of adventuring or bought for $100.  It takes a full year to properly train a fighting dog after which time the trainer makes a Knowledge role.  The GM must determine which Knowledge skills are appropriate but Animals, Nature and even Battle are obvious possibilities.  A failure means that another month must be spent training the dog at which time another roll should be made.  Critical failure means that an additional month must be spent and the training is never perfected.  The dog suffers loses a die type in its fighting skill when the training is complete.  Success means that the trainer now has a viable fighting dog with the stats given in the Savage Worlds book.  Each raise on this check increases the animal’s fighting by a die type.

While these generic animals are fine for enemy guard dogs or wolves, a character’s close companion deserves a little more attention.  To this end, an animal either bought or trained by a character can be treated as a distinct ally.  To do so, the player can apply hindrances and edges to their animal companion at creation (either when the animal is first trained or when it is bought.)  The normal rules of a single Major Hindrance and two Minor Hindrances apply and the points gained in this way follow the same rules as normal character creation and can be used for the same purposes.  Of course, not all hindrances and edges are appropriate for our four legged friends.  GM’s have final approval of what is or is not an option but Hindrances like All Thumbs, Delusional, and Doubting Thomas would require a lot of explaining as would edges like Two-Fisted, Rich and Beast Bond.  For that matter, not all skills are appropriate.  Persuasion, piloting and streetwise are obviously out of the question as are a myriad of knowledge skills.

Additionally, these distinct allies should gain advances like the characters they are associated with.  This means that they can buy new edges, advance their stats and buy new skills just like the characters they are associated with.  Of course, these distinct allies might not participate in all the adventures that the character they’re associated with does, so they may not advance at the same pace.  Depending on how closely you want to follow this, they could have their own experience track or their advancement could simply be considered part of the advancement of the associated character and they would get an advance every time the character did.

Distinct allies are still extras unless they buy an edge that makes them wild cards with one of their advances.

It is entirely possible for one character to buy a number of dogs or other pets and effectively have several characters under these rules.  While this is legal, it can be annoying.  It is quite possible for one player to hog the spotlight with a bunch of allies and steal the focus from the other players.  GM’s should keep an eye out for this.  A good rule of thumb is no more than two or three of these companions for a player.  After all, they should be fairly unique, special creatures and having more than a few takes some of that individuality away.

Special Edges for Dogs:

Sight Hound

Requirements: Novice, Canine, Agility d6

Somewhere in your bloodline is a greyhound, saluki, or other sight hounds.  These animals are known for their insane speeds more than their ability to hunt or fight and at least some of that fleet-footedness has come down to you.  Your pace increases by 2 and you role a phenomenal d12 when running rather than a d10.

Boon Companion

Requirements: Novice, Canine, Loyal Hindrance

You truly are one man’s best friend.  While you are loyal to all your companions, you are more than willing to lay down your life for one person.  Once per turn, when you are within one inch of your chosen companion, and he is attacked, you may interpose yourself between him and his attacker.  The attack is then carried out against you as normal with the attack and damage role made as normal.  Your position does not change because of this.

Blood Hound

Requirements: Novice, Canine, Tracking d6

A dog’s nose is a thing of wonder and yours is one of the more amazing ones.  You are capable of following tracks more by scent than by sight.  You get a +1 to all tracking rolls when following anything that has a smell and you ignore lighting condition modifiers when tracking.  Additionally, you suffer no negative modifier when your quarry tries to hide their tracks unless they do something to cover their scent as well.

Elite Warhound

Requirements: Seasoned, Canine, Vigor d8

You are a truly remarkable specimen of your species.  You have been at your master’s side through thick and thin.  Experience has made you tougher, luckier and more skilled.  You are now a wild card and gain all the benefits of such status.

And here are a few pieces of equipment useful to dogs and their owners, both mundane and magical:

Barding: Few knights would consider going into battle without armor to protect their trusty steeds.  People who depend on and love their dogs  as much as knights depend on and love their dogs, would not wish to enter battle without similar protection for their canine companions.  This dog barding protects the dog’s body and head but, to keep from interfering with its freedom of movement it does not cover their legs.

Leather: Armor: +1 Weight: 10 Cost 35

Chain: Armor: +2 Weight: 20 Cost 200

Vicious Collar:  This leather collar features spikes that verge on being ridiculously large.  It has been enchanted with magic that makes the dog wearing it that much more adept and fierce with its bite.  Any dog wearing this collar gains a bonus to attack and damage when using its bite.  This bonus can range from +1 to +3 depending on how powerful it is.