Having just read this piece, in which a modern-day war-dog (a Belgian Malinois) plays a starring role, I got to thinking about dogs in RPGs. As any old schooler knows, dogs are indispensable to an adventurer - especially to magic-users. They give muscle, an extra set of eyes, an extra nose, and, if push comes to shove, meat. Forget hirelings. No 1st level character should ever leave home without a dog or three.
They're also historically accurate. Real-world D and D parties - for instance, bandeirantes and conquistadors - were constantly surrounded by dogs and pigs wherever they went. Dogs were used for hunting and fighting (the conquistadors used armoured mastiffs specially trained to disembowel their semi-naked native American adversaries), and pigs were slaughtered for food (it is believed that escapee pigs were one of the major disease spreaders in native populaces). It would be extremely unusual for a group of roguish adventurers in a fantasy world to venture out into the wilds without a pack of hounds.
I've always been fond of the AD&D 2nd Edition DMG's 'Horse Personality' table, which allowed you to randomly determine a set of traits for any given horse (from being a good jumper to being a notorious biter). So without further ado, here's the equivalent for a conquistador's best friend:
Dog Personality Table
A dog will have d2 traits, randomly determined from the following table (roll 1d12); if the dog is expensive (+10% cost), add +1 to the roll, and if it is particularly expensive (+25% cost), add +2 to the roll; corresponding negative penalties should be applied to the roll for cheap and particularly cheap dogs respectively.
-2: The dog is extremely bad tempered. It will attack anybody except for the owner who approaches within 5 feet.
-1: The dog has only three legs. It moves at half rate.
0: The dog is very bad tempered. There is a 25% chance it will attack anybody except for the owner who approaches within 5 feet.
1: The dog is a coward. Before a fight it has to check morale (10) or it will cower behind its owner.
2: The dog is stupid. It cannot be trained to do anything, though it will attack enemies of its owner and is generally docile otherwise.
3: The dog has an unfortunate body odour that doesn't seem to go away. The stench can be detected within 15 yards.
4: The dog is easily distracted. It will try to chase anything fast-moving that it sees.
5: The dog is a nipper. Anybody except the owner who tries to touch it will be bitten (roll for attack as normal; damage is 1 hp).
6: The dog has a strange taste for a certain type of food (player's choice). It will try, remorselessly, to eat this food if it ever comes across it.
7: The dog is greedy. It will eat uncontrollably at any chance it gets, and if it kills an opponent will stop to feed rather than continue the fight.
8: The dog is very intelligent. It can pick up new tricks very easily (+3 bonus to Animal Training proficiency checks).
9: The dog is very tough (maximum hit points).
10: The dog is very fast (+2 to initiative rolls).
11: The dog seems to be a very good judge of character (will growl at any evil human it comes across).
12: The dog is extremely brave and loyal (always passes morale checks).
13: The dog has animal perception (can see invisible things on a 25% chance).
14: The dog is immensely powerful (+4 damage)