Sunday, February 21, 2010


So I made this rule...

(Ok, "rule" is maybe too strong a word.

"Snap decision" maybe is the word here.

I mean, "phrase." Anyway...)

The decision was that, ok, since the PCs are in a creepy little town at the moment instead of a big city then they have to use the AD&D Player's Manual Equipment list instead of the DeLuxe stuff available in 3.5.

"So, ok, ladies, you say you're going to shop before you go up and kill the vampire, what are you buying?"

So if you're familiar with the AD&D equipment list...

What do you think they want? What do you think drew the roving eyes of my players when they got vampire slaying on the brain and 200-some g.p. burning a hole in their collective pocket?

That's right, the livestock.

Top of the second page. The one where it says what armor is what armor class.

Gary gets a lot of static about all the pole-arms on that equipment list, but what about the ox? What's up with that, Gary? Did that come up a lot?

Yeah, so the girls go shopping...

I want a dog. I want a hawk! I want a pigeon. I want a guard dog! I want a pig, a warpig.

"A warpig? There's no warpigs."

"Why not, I mean why not just..."

"There's no fucking warpigs!"

So they walk out of there with a guard dog, a hawk, and a pigeon.

I rolled some dice for this hawk. How well-trained is this hawk? Apparently it can be directed to attack things smaller than it and it can deliver things.

The pigeon can deliver notes because otherwise what's the point of buying a pigeon? Seriously?

I am actually kind of thinking this is some real Old School game balance issue here. Like anybody with 30 gp or whatever can buy a hawk. Why doesn't everybody have a hawk?

Y'know why?--maybe--it's because my players are as rules-exploitive as any other Old School player, but then plus on top of that they're girls, so they want warponies and biting donkeys.

That came up, that actual thing--like "Hey, if I get a donkey can I train it to bite people?"

"There's no fucking biting donkeys!"

And unlike maybe the guys they're not distracted from the livestock section by the weapon-damage chart on the opposite page.

Which is actually wise because--seriously cleric--a mace? Fuck that, check out the damage for a wardog bite. That's a 2 hit dice monster you got right there. Right off the equipment list. Suck it, celestial badger.

So then after shopping then they've got these animals working overtime.

I tell the pigeon to drop acid on the magic statue, I tell the hawk to dump flaming oil on the vampire's house, I tell the guard dog to run into the acid fog cloud...

That was kind of not maybe the best tactic for a dog-lover, that last one. 2d6 is kind of a lot for even an AD&D 2+2 HD wardog to handle.

"Yeah, the cloud clears and your dog's dead."

"What? Can I take him to the Spider Cult and kill a kid and get him revived?"

"They don't do dogs."

"I loved that dog!"

"We got 80 g.p., we can buy two more."

Unfortunately, by that time all the locals had fled, what with all this vampire-baiting and animal-assisted arson the ladies had gotten into. They took their livestock with them.

But then the girls figured, Hey, free armor!

So then they were creeping around the armor shop in the dark.

"You hear something rustling behind the armor."

"I cast Color Spray at it!"

"Mrrrowwwl! Thuk."

"It was a cat?"


"Can I train the cat?"


  1. I wanted a war dog for my halfling to ride about on.

    Not supported in D&D4.


  2. Funny thing is that, back in the day, buying animals and livestock actually came up more often than you'd think. There was a halfling in one campaign who regularly bought guard dogs rather than hirelings, since he felt they were cheaper, more loyal, and more easily replaced. In another campaign, there was a druid who used his gold to buy and "liberate" livestock, like piglets, which he then set free into the wild. When asked by his companions if he realized that releasing pigs and sheep and so forth into forests filled with goblins and worgs would likely result in the deaths of the animals he'd just saved, he explained that Nature was often cruel but at least a few of the animals would survive, which were better odds than their being slaughtered for meat in the city.

    We also had a cleric who used pigeons to deliver messages -- and scrolls -- to his superiors in the temple. And a thief with a trained monkey who helped him in his burglaries.

    Good times ...

  3. At a convention I had players buy a load of livestock to take with them into the Tomb of Horrors.

    "I toss a chicken through the misty archway!"

  4. This isn't weird to me at all. Heck, back in Earthdawn we used to rib the Windling (pixie, basically) that the only reason we let him adventure with us is that he's cheaper than a trained falcon...

    & in Middle-Earth Role Playing, the penalty for convincing a hiring to come with you is only -35 & the example they give is "come adventure with me!"

    One solution is to make the animals act like animals-- dump flaming oil on the roof? How the heck did you communicate this to the hawk? Might be a dick move.

    Speaking of dick moves, you could always threaten to start giving the animals a cut of the xp. Of course, they might be INTO that...

    It sounds to me like your players are the type to really get into those "you get to 8th level...a...(rolls)...blink dog shows up & a 1st level fighter..." tables.

  5. Kelving-
    Are you playing with rules os strict you cna;t say Ok, Halflings ride dogs. Or is that a joke?

    James Mal--
    Is there no livestock on the OD&D list? If there are, why aren't there any animal pals in Dwimmermount.

    Yeah, mine figured that trick out early.
    Only it was a pig.

    And they loved the pig.

    And it all ended in tears.

  6. Isn't the pigeon just lunch for the hawk?

    Is there a fantasy version of PETA in your world?

  7. Oh man, you have the best bunch of players, ever!

    A bunch of guys would have bought stakes and garlic and holy water and all that crap. The ladies buy pets! :)

    I so want to find a all girl group of players now.

    - Neil.

  8. They forgot the garlic (sssssh), but otherwise covered the other bases.

  9. Just because someone selling some badass medieval beast-mastiff that is trained to kill humans doesn't mean that it wouldn't ever turn on it's owner...

  10. I ruled, as is the DM's prerogative, that once it's dead it won't.


  11. Then there's the classic rules-hack (i.e. stupid edge case that the GM says "no" to) where you get a gazillion chickens and make them attack the dragon, because one *will* get an insta-kill critical.

  12. I think that some of it stems from the fact that female players don't always bother learn the rules that well (not to make a sexist generalisation just in my experience of dming 3 boys and 3 girls).

    Paradoxically not thinking in terms of "the rules" seems to make them more creative problem solvers (as well as more likely to do random whimsical stuff).

  13. AD&D 2+2 HD wardog

    Wardogs man. I've maintained for years that one (or four) of these big, slobbering brutes are the best 25gp your low-level ass will ever spend. ;)

    Out of sleep spell? Cast "ravening dog pack" on the goblins

  14. leopardi--
    statistically speaking, at least looking at the view from around here, that, too, is my observation.

  15. "But the warpigs have the power!"

    I think I'm going to give the PCs an opportunity to start a farm soon...

  16. Time for my dog story, I can see.

    My buddy Pat was running Doc Phostarius, a badass necromancer. Westbrook was playing Phylo Bryta, a.k.a. The World's Tallest Half-Elf. Only the two of them showed up one session so they decided to beef up the party with NPCs. Pat hired a passle of 0-level men-at-arms with spetums or ranseurs, I forget which. Westbrook decides to buy some attack dogs, which he quickly develops strong pet owner type feelings for.

    Things go sour in an encounter with some goblins and the necromancer starts laying down gods of arcane fire everywhere. Since he couldn't possibly give a shit, I rule the blast gets the dogs, too. When the smoke clears the Half-Elf is standing there, tears streaming down his face, cradling a badly burnt dog corpse. He holds the carcass out to Phostarius, bitter accusations lighting up his eyes.

    Pat deadpans: "No thanks. I'm not hungry."

  17. awesome!
    i want pets too
    also, why AREN'T there biting donkeys? donkeys bite a lot you know

  18. man, because of you, seconds a go, I had to add war ponies:P

  19. I've been beating to the punch, but when I played in a retro 1E DnD game, my Paladin was going to spent all his excess gold on chickens.

  20. There was a halfling in one campaign who regularly bought guard dogs rather than hirelings, since he felt they were cheaper, more loyal, and more easily replaced.

    This is a standard tactic for any of my 1st-level characters, as well. Especially if I'm playing a magic-user (hey, M-U's usually have some gold left over after char-gen is done, so why not buy a guard dog?).

  21. While we never really had issues with livestock per say, the familiar is practically a major NPC type in my campaigns, far more developed and in depth than any patron, barkeep or local healer.

    Pets are awesome.

  22. "Paradoxically not thinking in terms of "the rules" seems to make them more creative problem solvers (as well as more likely to do random whimsical stuff)."

    I'd agree with this as well, based on my own experience. Also, with two ladies in my three-person D&D group, we've had a lot of animals show up so far. In fact, last session one of the animals--a war badger--saved the party's bacon with a critical hit at a crucial moment.

    Back in high school, when it was all dudes in my group, there was only one foray into buying animals. It ended badly. The party was getting equipped to head down into the Ruins of Undermountain and bought a pack of war dogs (literally noticing them on the equipment list for the first time after, like, years). They were all pretty pleased with themselves until they got down into the dungeon and realized they'd neglected to save a bit of gold to spend on lighting sources. As no one had infravision or a light spell, this was a serious issue.

    I ruled that the dogs started barking in the dark, and started rolling random monster checks every minute while the PCs desperately tried to come up with a plan. Unfortunately, an umber hulk showed up first. And that was the end of that!

  23. I don't know about biting donkeys - but a friend of mine was bitten by a lama once. This is not a common occurence in Ireland.

  24. I was bitten by a Meerkat once at the zoo.

  25. Zak, this was at the start of the campaign, when D&D4 first came out, and the GM wanted to play the new game by the book. If I asked now, he'd probably allow it; it's still not supported by the rules, but he'd be more likely to make something up now.

  26. That brings back some memories. When I ran AD&D back in high school, man, did my players love them some wardogs. Seems like I wasn't alone in that experience.

    Funny, that is one "old school" element I had forgotten about.

  27. Nice post! War dogs can be kind of a headache. I always struggle to manage them so that they don't become too much of a distraction. Regarding the biting donkeys, I'm reminded of a war pony from Knights of the Dinner Table. I think it was Bob who wanted to train it to bite people in the crotch. Mmm...crotch attack.

  28. Epic. I love your adventure gaming reports. They remind me of the wonderfully gamist thinking we used to have back in the day.


  29. I think having a war pig would be cool.

  30. You have the most awesome players, sir.

    And let them train the cat into an attack-cat. It will at least be hilarious.

  31. We'll have to wait at least 1d4 rounds.

  32. We never used animals much. We'd feel bad if they got hurt. Hirelings, not so much. Guess that makes us PETA...

  33. @L.Bailey: If memory serves, and of course there's only a point to this if you go 3.5 or earlier, chicken guano is a component to a rather nice spell. I forget which.

    This is definitely inspiration for a farm based adventure.

  34. I ran into this the first time I ran a game for my wife. First she wanted a war camel. She wanted to be a paladin with a camel fitted for war. Then she tried to befriend every single animal she came across and train everything as pets. If she couldn't befriend it, she'd try to capture it in her bag of holding.

    I blame pokemon.

  35. Zak, D&D4 is fine for what it is, but I'd prefer to be playing something looser, in which fights don't take ages, and stuff like Joe the Wizard Slayer's epic battle can occur without hitting a wall of mechanics. As it is, both of the D&D4 GMs in my group are taking a break from it, and we've launched into a Rogue Trader campaign in the meantime, which is quite a bit more loose and forgiving.

  36. rules, break em.
    chicken porto-farm caravan, bring em!
    stay focused on the final goal. livestock
    great reads.

  37. This is a great post. Makes my group seem pretty tame.

  38. When I used to DM in high school, I got my father to play in our games. He had a barbarian named Boris with two wolves (or wardogs, or something.) Dad was so excited he even had me take him to buy minis. He named the wolves. I can't remember their names.

    Dad also used to drink wine during the game, from a 4 liter bottle of Carlo Rossi Burgundy. Well, as is likely to happen, one of his wolves was killed.

    I saw my Dad cry 2 times in life. That was one of them. Wine-by-the-jug + Pets + D&D = Memories!

  39. I figured warpigs would exist because of the Black Sabbath song.

  40. @SirAllen: A good time to grab the mini for that particular wolf, and get it mounted on a small pedestal, with 'Dearest {name of wolf}.
    Served long and faithfully, and fought to the end.' (or something equivalent and memorable)

  41. Just tell em War Pigs are only for mass gatherings of generals. Later when they get higher level they can have war pig minions.

    This all reminds me of a communist druid I had once; he was fighting to save animals from human bourgeoisie oppression. Towns were always a lot of fun, and he would insist on freeing all the livestock AND the horses. "Be Free Comrades!"

  42. so happy you linked to this from your latest monster post in the letter 'D'. this, is great.

  43. Warpigs are a great idea. I'm starting up a Dark Dungeons game soon, I'm totally going to sic a bunch of kobolds mounted on armored boars at them now. Probably somewhere on their way to the Caves of Chaos.

  44. Sorry to jump into an ancient thread, but serendipity happened and I learned about mythical warpigs.