in the Forgotten Realms
A Brief Tour of Canines (Sort of) and Their Uses
By Robert Wiese
The dog. Man's best friend. Loyal companion. Loving pet. Dogs are prevalent throughout the Forgotten Realms because they are so useful to humanoids. As a result, dogs are sometimes taken for granted, because they are numerous and have been domesticated for millennia. There are those, however, who value their canine, or canine-like, friends highly, and breed them for specific purposes. Dogs vary across Faerûn just as humans and elves and dwarves do. Travelers across the Realms have cataloged, or at least encountered, some of the more unusual variants, and adventurers should beware some of these as they travel.
The jungles of Chult are home to an unusual variant of dog, or something that people call a dog even though they are not quite sure it is canine. This creature, domesticated by the yuan-ti, is called a snake-dog. One adventurer referred to snake-dogs as "a cross between a snake and a dog, with the worst aspects of each." An unjust characterization, this, as snake-dogs merged the best qualities of both species. Snake-dogs live deep in the forests and in the cities of the yuan-ti. Some have reported seeing snake-dogs in the Vilhon Reach, as well, also in the company of yuan-ti.
Hit Dice: 3d10+3 (19 hp)
Speed: 40 ft., swim 20 ft.
AC: 16 (+3 Dex, +3 natural)
Attacks: Bite +4 melee
Damage: Bite 1d6+3 and poison
Face/Reach: 5 ft. x 5 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison, trip
Special Qualities: Scent
Saves: Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +2
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 17, Con 13, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 4
Skills: Hide +3*, Listen +7, Spot +7, Wilderness Lore +3*
Climate/Terrain: Temperate swamps and forests, aquatic
Organization: Pack (6-17)
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Always Neutral
Advancement: 4-5 HD (Medium Size), 6-9 HD (Large)
Snake-dogs are strange creatures. They are the result of a cross between a venomous snake and a dog. Anyone who has thought about their origin has concluded that they are not natural and that perhaps the same demented wizard that created owlbears also created these creatures. It is certain that the yuan-ti did not create them, but the snake-men do take advantage of them. Snake-dogs are aggressive, but not overly so, and they act in a very protective manner toward young and females in the pack.
A snake-dog stands about 24 inches at the shoulder, and it resembles a dog for the most part. It has an elongated body, and its snake-like tail can lash menacingly (though it does not attack with its tail). Its neck is as long as its body -- about 4 feet -- and it has an elongated flattened head that looks like that of a snake, except for the 6-inch ears. It has a powerful jaw that can unhinge like a snake's, allowing it to bite creatures larger than a normal dog can. A row of sharp teeth fills its mouth, and among the teeth jut two fangs. Snake-like scales with patterns cover the snake-dog. Not only do the scales allow it to blend into its swamp or forest environment, but it also serves to give it great mobility in the water.
The yuan-ti of Chult discovered and domesticated snake-dogs. They serve the yuan-ti in a manner similar to the way dogs interact with other races, and the snake-dogs are particularly good at tracking in the swamps where the yaun-ti make their homes. They eat small rodents, mammals, and vermin that live in burrows in the ground; the snake-dog's snake-like neck helps it get at creatures deep in burrows.
Snake-dogs are not found outside swamp, jungle, or forest environments unless they are captured and imported into other climates. They prefer the moisture, and they don't survive long in dry environments -- unless they have a place to swim frequently. If trained, they can make fearsome and protective pets, but stories abound of trainers who were poisoned while working with snake-dogs because they treated them like dogs and forgot about their venomous bite.
Snake-dogs are best suited to fighting small creatures, as their strength is in their jaws rather than in their necks. In a pack they will try to bring down larger prey. They rely heavily on their poison to weaken opponents, even though they have powerful jaws to bite with.
Poison (Ex): Bite (Fortitude save DC 11); initial and secondary damage 1d6 points of temporary Constitution damage.
Trip (Ex): A snake-dog that hits with a bite attack can attempt, because of its snaky neck, to trip its opponent as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip the snake-dog.
Skills and Feats: A snake-dogs receives a +4 racial bonus to Listen and Spot checks. *It also receives a +4 racial bonus to Hide checks when in a forest or swamp environment, and a +8 racial bonus to Wilderness Lore checks when tracking by scent. In addition, the snake-dog receives Dodge as a bonus feat.
Deep within the Chondalwood, the druids fight fiercely to protect the forests. Some of these druids, having turned to evil, developed magic to transform forest creatures into fierce forest protectors. These evil druids use their animal friendship spells to make friends of small forest creatures, and then the druids subject them to a spell of their own creation, create frenzy dog. The resultant creature acts friendly toward the druid who was its friend (or under the effects of animal friendship or dominate animal), but the nature of friendship has changed into something twisted and more controlling on the druid's part. Druids send these creatures to kill any who would invade the forest to destroy it.
The spell that creates frenzy dogs is not widely known outside the Chondalwood, and druids pass it from generation to generation. There are not many frenzy dogs found at one time -- no more than a pack (about 7-15) total -- because they are ravenous hunters that can despoil a forest as effectively as those they were created to fight, if left unwatched.
Creating a Frenzy Dog
Frenzy dog is a template that can be added to any animal of 2 HD or less (see the spell below). The animal's type changes to "magical beast," and it increases in size to Medium-Size. It uses all of the animal's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.
Dice: All frenzy dogs have 5d10+10 HD.
Speed: Increase the animal's speed to 50 ft.; it loses all other forms of movement besides land speed.
AC: Add +6 to the animal's natural armor.
Attacks: If the animal doesn't already have it, it gains a bite attack. All other attack types are forgotten when it transforms.
Damage: The base damage of the animal changes to 1d8.
Special Attacks: If the animal doesn't already have it, it receives improved rage and trip in addition to whatever qualities it had before.
Special Qualities: The animal gains neck spikes and scent in addition to whatever qualities it had before.
Abilities: Same as the animal's except for these exceptions: +7 Strength, -2 Dexterity, +2 Intelligence, +8 Charisma.
Skills: If the animal didn't already have these skills, it receives them as class skills: Intimidate, Listen, Spot, and Wilderness Lore. All other class skills get lost in the transformation.
Feats: An animal gains both Alertness and Improved Initiative upon transformation. It loses all other feats during the transformation.
Climate/Terrain: Same as the animal
Organization: Solitary, pair, or pack (7-15)
Challenge Rating: Same as the animal +3; minimum 3
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Create Frenzy Dog
This spell transforms a normal animal into a frenzy dog (see template above). It affects only normal animals of up to 2 HD, except dogs and wolves. Most druids rationalize such a transformation from the natural state of things as necessary to protect the forests, but the spell is evil and twists nature to protect it. Once an animal is transformed into a frenzy dog, it can be returned to normal only by a successful dispel magic, greater dispelling, wish, or miracle spell.
Sample Frenzy Dog
Medium-Size Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 5d10+10 (37 hp)
Initiative: +6 (+2 Dex, +4 Improved Initiative)
Speed: 50 ft.
AC: 18 (+2 Dex, +6 natural)
Attacks: Bite +7 melee
Damage: Bite 1d8+5
Face/Reach: 5 ft. x 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Improved rage, trip
Special Qualities: Neck spikes, scent
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +2
Abilities: Str 15, Dex 15, Con 15, Int 4, Wis 12, Cha 14
Skills: Intimidate +5, Listen +6, Spot +6, Wilderness Lore +4*
Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative
Organization: Solitary, pair, or pack (7-15)
Challenge Rating: 3
Alignment: Always neutral evil
The frenzy dog is a creation of evil druidic magic; small animals are transformed into these machines of destruction. Frenzy dogs gain a certain manic intelligence, though they use it only to hunt and kill. They eat and sleep when needed, and indeed they eat more than three times what a dog of their size would normally eat. They are not picky about their diet; provided their prospective food is animal (or humanoid) in nature, they devour it.
A frenzy dog stands about 4 feet tall at the shoulder, and it has a pit bull's compact fierce-looking face. Its coat is black with tan and white swirls; the degree of color other than black is determined by the hair or skin color of the original creature. Around its neck it appears to wear a spiked collar, but in reality it has a set of bony spikes growing from its neck. These spikes are about seven inches long and are very sharp.
Frenzy dogs are the epitome of combat machines. They attack without fear, and once engaged they fight to the death (and sometimes afterward, too). They rip victims into small pieces, even though they don't usually eat their opponents. They cannot fight with their neck spikes, but they can use the spikes to prevent grapples.
Improved Rage (Ex): A frenzy dog can achieve a state of rage easily and often (10/day). This gives it +4 Strength, +4 Constitution, and -2 AC. This rage makes them impervious to any attempts to calm them using the Animal Empathy or Handle Animal skills, and they receive a +4 inherent bonus to saving throws vs. enchantment spells and effects.
Trip (Ex): A frenzy dog that hits with a bite attack can attempt to trip its opponent as a free action without making a touch attack or provoking an attack of opportunity. If the attempt fails, the opponent cannot react to trip the frenzy dog.
Neck Spikes: A frenzy dog's neck spikes can cause 1d4+6 points of damage if someone attempts to grapple it.
Skills: *Frenzy dogs gain a +4 racial bonus to Wilderness Lore checks when tracking by scent. They cannot use any skills that they do not have specified above due to their rage nature -- even those skills that can be used untrained.
Go to the Forgotten Realms main news page for more articles and news about the Forgotten Realms game setting or check out the Forgotten Realms message boards for a lively discussion of all aspects of the Forgotten Realms setting.