Thursday, May 9, 2019

Monster Manual II: Shadow Mastiff

When it comes to monstrous canines in D&D, there are wolves and dire wolves, staples of wilderness adventure thanks to their long history of real world notoriety, blink dogs, which I don't think I've ever used in actual play, and hellhounds, which in my opinion don't live up to their name (Big dogs that breathe fire? So basically a small furry flightless dragon. Yawn.) Then you've got the shadow mastiff from the MMII, a creepy, otherworldly beast that can howl at the moon in my campaign world any time. They have a nice Hound of the Baskervilles feel to them that really stokes my imagination.

The MMII states that they're found mainly on the Plane of Shadows (whatever that is) but in my mind they fit perfectly well in any forlorn, shadow-haunted place in a campaign world. Dark forests, foggy moors, gloomy mountain passes, the dreary halls of some abandoned fortress ... I would have no qualms about deploying a pack of shadow mastiffs in any of them.

They're listed as semi-intelligent (the same rating as normal dogs and wolves) and of Neutral alignment with evil tendencies. Obviously they're not going to be hatching evil plots, so I interpret the evil leanings as a mean or cruel streak. Maybe they take pleasure in killing, inflicting harm, and spreading terror, rather than simply hunting for survival.

Led Zeppelin wrote a song about me, but never mentioned me in the lyrics.

The shadow mastiff is remarkably simple and straightforward for an AD&D creature. It's not wildly overpowered or loaded with a laundry list of spell effect powers "usable once per round, one at a time, at will" or any such complications. It's an easy conversion to B/X.

Armor Class: 6
Hit Dice: 4**
Move: 180' (60')
Attacks: 1
Damage: 2-8
No. Appearing: 1-8 (4-16)
Save As: Fighter:2
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Neutral

Shadow mastiffs appear to be large, shadowy-black canines. They are able to blend into shadows, surprising on a roll of 1-4. In dim, shadowy conditions, they can attack and then retreat into shadows on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6 so opponents are unable to attack in return. They hate bright light, and are unable to hide in shadows in well-lit conditions. Bright light also reduces their movement by half and they suffer -2 to all attack rolls; their morale drops to 6.

Shadow mastiffs travel in packs. The baying of a pack (at least 4 mastiffs) causes fear and panic in a 120' radius, forcing any creature of less than 4 HD that fails a saving throw vs. spells to flee for 2d6 rounds.

A shadow mastiff lair may contain 2-5 pups, who are non-combatant and at the DM's discretion may be trained or sold for 100-400 gp each.

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