Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Humanoids, Demi-humans, and the Pets Who Love Them

Well, love and/or serve.

I've often been fascinated by the selections of animal companions/guards/pets for different types of humanoids and demi-humans. The idea of combinations of monsters is one that harkens back to the original LBBs, of course, but it was also codified in AD&D. A quick stroll through the Monster Manual gives us:
  • Dwarves with wolves or brown bears
  • Gray Elves with hippogriffs or griffons
  • High Elves with giant eagles
  • Sea Elves with dolphins
  • Wood Elves with giant owls or giant lynxes
  • Gnolls with hyenas or hyaenodons
  • Gnomes with badgers, giant badgers, or wolverines
  • Goblins with wolves
  • Halflings with dogs (shades of Farmer Maggot!)
  • Hobgoblins with carnovorous apes
  • Kobolds with wild boars or giant weasels
And, of course, the giants are treated similarly:
  • Cloud Giants with spotted lions
  • Fire Giants with hell hounds
  • Frost Giants with winter wolves
  • Hill Giants with dire wolves or giant lizards
  • Stone Giants with cave bears
  • Storm giants with griffons or sea lions
There are two notable omissions from the list of creatures with animals; humans and orcs. Humans, being the most flexible, adaptive, and unpredictable of the intelligent races, might well not have a single go-to animal suitable in most circumstances (although I would not have thought it remiss if an entry such as cave man or tribesman had "dog" or "wolf" listed).

The omission of an animal companion for orcs is somewhat surprising; they do have ogres listed as possible companion creatures, but that does somewhat break the pattern for humanoids. Wolves would be the natural first choice, but they're already listed for both dwarves and goblins. I very much like the idea of having baboons for the orcs' favored animal; it is both thematically consistent with the hobgoblins' having carnivorous apes, and also has (appropriately icky) connotations with losels.

I definitely like the combination of humanoids and companion creatures, and I like the idea that certain races have affinities for certain companion creatures. Of course, it doesn't preclude a game master from throwing in other creatures in a lair (or in any sort of encounter, for that matter), but having a "standard" gives them a little color with an in-game impact.