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"Keeping low-level Thieves and Mages alive -- with War Dogs!" Topic

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884 hits since 26 Mar 2020
©1994-2022 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP27 Mar 2020 12:00 p.m. PST

Many years ago, I realized that a simple, realistic, means of keeping low-level weak characters alive, in combat, is to put two War Dogs in front of them, to fight for them! The War Dogs are particularly useful for combat-weak Mage PC's: they have better AC, better To Hit probability, and better damage! The same is true for low-level Thieves/Rogues.

Let these players purchase (once they get enough money) two War Dogs, preferably with heavy barding (improves the AC of the Dogs, possibly equal to Chain Mail, or even Plate Mail). During combat, the Mage PC can use their spells, while safely hiding behind their War Dogs. When they run out of spells, they can still be involved in the combat by running their two Dogs, as combatants, and the weak PC's will likely survive, even if their Dogs do not.

For a Rogue PC, they can stay safely back, behind their Dogs, employing missile weapons, as opportunity allows, or they can maneuver around the backs of their enemies, to make that critical Backstab move…

Fighters, and heavily armored Clerics, can also employ War Dogs, to beef up their combat abilities, without needing to run multiple characters! The entire party can employ two War Dogs each, which are easy to control, to drastically augment their fighting powers, as a party. The War Dogs are more alert, and at least one of them is likely to detect attackers while the Humans sleep, but guards should still be posted…

At lower levels, War Dogs can really beef up the party's combat abilities, without the players needing to run more than one character, in a session. The Dogs require minimal bookkeeping. Keeping them low in available numbers, will make characters less likely to treat them as expendable, even encouraging the players to use magic to heal them. This will also encourage players to spend gold on armoring them up, as best as they can, to keep them healthy, and able to fight for them.

As a DM, I would carefully monitor the morale of the Dogs, as they are not fearless. This, too, can play a critical role in encounters. The better treatment the Dogs receive from their Human masters, the more loyal they will be.

Just some thoughts on how to keep low-level PC's alive longer, without resorting to players running multiple characters, to beef up their party. Cheers!

USAFpilot27 Mar 2020 1:44 p.m. PST

Do the dogs get experience and go up in level? :-)

Chimpy27 Mar 2020 2:21 p.m. PST

Won't wizards familiar's get eaten?

Personal logo FingerandToeGlenn Sponsoring Member of TMP27 Mar 2020 4:52 p.m. PST

Then theres the new "who's a good boy?" spell.

Huscarle28 Mar 2020 11:30 a.m. PST

Back in the day before war dogs became available, it was mules, they were cheap, had good hit dice & packed a kick, and could carry the dead & dying out grin

USAFpilot28 Mar 2020 2:30 p.m. PST

On a serious note, going into a dungeon requires a certain amount of stealth. I think war dogs would make too much noise. And many animals probably wouldn't want to even go down into a dungeon. I'd use dogs more in a defensive role, such as guarding my wagons full of dungeon loot.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2020 6:24 p.m. PST

On a serious note, going into a dungeon requires a certain amount of stealth. I think war dogs would make too much noise.

A war dog is a well-trained dog. I would think that if commanded to be silent, they would be…and would likely make far less noise padding along than the party fighter in his heavy suit of clanking mail!

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP28 Mar 2020 6:28 p.m. PST

Heavily armored knights and warriors, are anything but stealthy.

Last night, at 1:00 AM, our dog began barking, loudly, growling. We checked outside, saw nothing. She came into our room, barking, growling, at our bedroom window. Our son let her out onto the porch, but she would not leave it. We suspect she detected coyotes passing by our house, in the dark (reported to be in the area, recently). We have seen her defend us, against strangers, many a time. She would risk her life to defend us, without a doubt. In real life, I love my dogs, as members of our family.

In a medieval European based, fantasy game, I realize that dogs would be regarded as work animals, and tools, and rarely seen as pets. Their superior senses have been known for centuries. Guard dogs were specifically bred for the purpose, trained, and employed for their superior senses. They were even taken into war, to fight.

In a fantasy game, they would also be used in such a manner, I believe. Cheers!

USAFpilot29 Mar 2020 7:06 a.m. PST

our dog began barking, loudly

Exactly my point. Great for guarding. Not so good for sneaking around dungeons not trying to alert the monsters in the next room of your presence.

Personal logo Sgt Slag Supporting Member of TMP29 Mar 2020 10:42 a.m. PST

I've seen dogs which are trained to growl, when they sense something nearby, not bark. Our dog is not trained. Cheers!

jamemurp12 May 2020 7:46 a.m. PST

It's also where hirelings and guards come into play. Basically a war dog is another character with fewer options.

D&D has this weird power progression where you go from someone who can barely survive a sneeze to a demi-god who laughs at death. Low levels benefit from having multiple expendables/support so your one frail wizard/thief/whatever getting one shotted by a dart trap or your incompetent fighter getting chewed on by a random wandering monster doesn't knock you entirely out of the game.

The whole concept of "dungeons" is also pretty odd. Especially lots of complex ones with all kinds of critters, traps, and treasures. And why they haven't been raided by the local power/warlord/whatever. Or just flooded and collapsed. And how the party just happens to stumble upon them in the right order for progression (because otherwise it wouldn't be a very fun game). So in that context, war dogs (or war cats, war lizards, or war monkeys, etc.) seems perfectly fine. Good way to get around a low number of players. Also seems a decent way to introduce some more customizations, adventure hooks, and money sinks. Downside is it pushes on the ranger and druid animal companion gimmicks. But if they can hire a merc fighter or thief or whatever, I guess it should all balance out.

Albus Malum22 May 2020 8:19 p.m. PST

I primarily played wizards, It didn't take long to realize, that a wardog or three, will provide the extra protection needed when your party members decided their own life was more important then the WIZARDS life.

Not just for low level wizards… but higher level ones also!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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