My Games

Monday, September 9, 2019

War Dogs: TNT Type and Caves & Canines Hack

This is an experimental new character type for TNT, and also a TNT hack built specifically around this Type for a swift and brutal dog tactics RPG. I believe I've seen classes like this for OSR but can't think of any off hand, which is why I'm calling this experimental. From both an RP and gameplay perspective, this Type operates uniquely from other Types. You play not as a single character, but as a War Dog Pack, and there are some other unique mechanics which will be described below. It's loosely inspired by the novel Belka, Why Don't you Bark? I actually wasn't that into the novel, to be honest, but I did appreciate how it described the history of dogs in combat and dog fighting tactics, and I thought it would be cool to translate that to a tabletop RPG. It takes some inspiration from the dog units in the Red Alert RTS videogames as well.


You play as a War Dog Pack. A level 1 War Dog Pack consists of three War Dogs. They can be the same breed or different breeds, real breeds or fictional, magical, cybernetic, bio-engineered, etc. Even if they are the same breed, they should each have their own name, personality, behavioral quirks, and at least one distinctive feature. They can be "real" dogs who happen to be well socialized and able to follow rules of civilization and complex commands, but it might be better if they have heightened intelligence if not outright uplifted, and some means of communication. It can be a magical ability to speak, or telepathic impressions. Even if they are uplifted, their cognition and behavior should still be animalistic. Or you could just use intelligent animal cartoon logic and roll with that.

A War Dog Pack generally operates as a single unit, but can be split up. However, the Type loses many of its benefits if there are fewer than three War Dogs in a pack at a time.

War Dogs have high damage output and powerful Pack Maneuvers. However, they are extremely vulnerable, operating very differently from other Types, with a Stress Track rather than subtracting damage from CON / HP.

War Dog Mechanics

  • Must start with Dog Senses as a talent.

  • Being quadrupedal and lacking opposable thumbs, War Dogs cannot normally wield weapons or wear armor designed for humanoids, or use or carry items or tools.

  • Gain 2d6 combat dice for each War Dog in bite or claw attacks as part of a single action, plus combat adds as normal. 
    • I.e. A first level War Dog Pack has 6d6 combat dice plus combat adds.
    • If one War Dog split from the Pack, the two-War Dog Pack would deal 4d6 + combat adds, and the lone War Dog would deal 2d6 + combat adds. However, neither group would be able to use Pack Maneuvers (see further below).

  • For each level, the maximum Pack size increases by 1, and at advancement a new War Dog will join the Pack within one day.

War Dog Stress Track

  • War Dogs do not subtract combat damage from CON. Instead, each War Dog has their own Stress Track.
    • If a War Dog would take damage, it gains a Stress.
      • Any time a War Dog takes stress, it is incapacitated for the remainder of combat.
    • If the amount of damage would exceed the War Dog Pack's CON, the excess damage is taken by another party member (if group combat) or to another War Dog in the Pack.
    • Normally, Stress is permanent.

  • Given how vulnerable War Dogs are compared to other characters, under normal conditions where the party loses an opposed combat roll, there is a 1 in 6 chance that a War Dog will be the target. This may be greater or lesser depending on the context, at GM discretion.
    • War Dogs can also be specifically targeted by missile attacks but defense / evasion SRs against enemy ranged attacks are 2 levels lower than normal.
    • A War Dog may only be the victim of Spite Damage in special circumstances, at GM discretion, where it would be narratively interesting, and ideally giving the player some reward in exchange.

    Effects of Stress

  • One Stress: While this War Dog is in the Pack, the Pack takes -2 to STR or DEX, or -1 to each (random, based on the injury, or GM discretion), and +1 to IQ. They have a permanent injury represented by a visible scar or disfigurement, but are wiser for their loss.

  • Two Stress: The War Dog is maimed or in some other way significantly impaired, causing all SR challenges for either STR, DEX, or CON to be one level more difficult, including Pack Maneuvers. Alternatively, the War Dog is traumatized. Every time it enters combat, there is a 1 in 6 chance it goes Feral, permanently leaving the Pack, and possibly attacking the party or innocent bystanders, and may eventually turn into a Lone Wolf (NPC). Whether maimed or traumatized, or if maimed, which stat is affected, can either be random, based on the injury, or determined by GM discretion.

  • Three Stress: The War Dog is either fatally wounded, too impaired to continue with the Pack, or goes Feral, and even if it recovers, it becomes a Lone Wolf (NPC).

  • If the Pack has fewer than three War Dogs, a new War Dog may join the pack within 2d6 days until there are three War Dogs in the Pack. 
    • For Packs with a maximum size greater than 3, additional War Dogs may be recruited within 1d6 days at the cost of 100 + (10 * current pack size) XP up to maximum.
    • I.e. a level 3 War Dog Pack that has lost two War Dogs and currently has three War Dogs may recruit a fourth War Dog for 130 XP in 1d6 days, and after that a fifth War Dog for 140 XP in an additional 1d6 days.

War Dog Pack Maneuvers

  • A War Dog Pack can make a Pack Maneuver as a free bonus action for each round of combat, for every three War Dogs in the pack.
    • I.e. A level 3 War Dog Pack with five War Dogs can make one Pack Maneuver as a bonus action.
    • A level 4 War Dog Pack with six War Dogs can make two Pack Maneuvers as bonus actions, or split into two Packs each capable of one bonus Pack Maneuver (if the party is split- not within the same combat zone).
    • A War Dog Pack of any level with fewer than three War Dogs cannot make Pack Maneuvers.

  • Pack Maneuvers require an SR challenge equal to the MR dice of the target.
    • I.e. A monster with MR 17 has 2 combat dice, so has an SR of 2.

  • War Dogs are swift. Under normal circumstances, Pack Maneuvers resolve before any other combat actions.

Pack Maneuvers List

  • Knock 'em Over: STR SR. Knocks the monster backwards or prone, negating their combat action.

  • Blitz: DEX SR. Bypass a defensive line. If the party wins the opposed roll, the damage can target a specific enemy that would otherwise have been protected.

  • Close the Gap: SPD SR. Catch up to a fleeing opponent or enter attacking range of long distance enemies, allowing for opposed rolls against distant targets.

  • Disarm: LK SR. Bite and claw the weapon or item out of an enemy's hands. They can only contribute unarmed damage to an opposed combat roll and lose any other benefits from the weapon or item until it is retrieved.

  • Stealth Strike: IQ SR. While two or more War Dogs distract the enemy, another War Dog makes a stealth attack. The damage for that War Dog bypasses the opposed roll as if it were missile or spite damage.

  • Disrupt: WIZ SR. The Pack eerily whistles, growls, or howls, disrupting a spellcaster.

  • Intimidation: CHA SR. The Pack growls, barks, howls, snarls, or circles around an opponent threateningly, reducing its morale and possibly causing it to flee. Enemies that are weaker than the Pack, have taken heavy damage, have already been intimidated, or have witnessed an ally flee, are more likely to flee. Whether or not an enemy flees or other effects of lowered morale are at GM discretion.

  • Protector: CON SR. The Pack protects a specified ally from an attack. If the enemy succeeds in a missile attack against that ally or the party loses the opposed roll, one random War Dog in the pack automatically gains Stress. However, excess damage is not re-distributed to the party or the rest of the Pack as it would otherwise be.

Caves & Canines

The War Dog Pack Character Type definitely needs testing, but theoretically it should be playable in a normal TNT game with other Character Types. However, below is a TNT hack built entirely around War Dogs. In this hack, the party as a whole is the Pack, with some altered mechanics from regular TNT.

These War Dogs are more powerful and more versatile than the normal War Dog Pack Type. However, because the entire party are War Dogs, failing a single opposed combat roll has major short and long-term impacts. Enemies also go down quickly, making well-planned, one-hit strikes the way to go. This game is designed with quick and brutal combats in mind, with an emphasis on taking enemies down swiftly and silently.

Because all players are on roughly even footing with this hack, I actually think Caves & Canines may be easier to balance and more intuitive to GM than a normal TNT campaign with a War Dog Pack amidst other Character Types, but part of the fun of the War Dog pack Type is that it's so different, so I think it could be fun either way!

Game Mechanics

  • All players are War Dogs in addition to their normal Type.

  • All players gain Dog Senses as a bonus talent.

  • All players have a Stress Track rather than using CON as HP, however, if the left-over damage of an opposed roll exceeds a player's CON, another War Dog will also take Stress.

  • War Dogs have 3d6 bite/claw combat dice by default, but Warrior War Dogs gain +1d6 combat dice per level, and Wizard War Dogs only have 2d6 combat dice.

  • War Dogs cannot normally wear armor, wield weapons, or carry or use items.

  • Wizard War Dogs may wear a magic collar, or hold a magic bone in their mouth, or something similar serving as their wizard focus.

  • In lieu of doubling armor bonuses, Warrior War Dogs can roll LK SR to avoid taking stress. Each time they succeed, the difficulty permanently increases by 1, starting at SR 1.

  • Pack Maneuvers may be performed as a bonus action for every two War Dogs in the Pack.

  • Enemies also have a Stress Track rather than CON / HP. Most enemies are incapacitated after One Stress, while bosses or powerful monsters may be able to take two or three Stress before being incapacitated.


  1. Very interesting concept. For Caves & Canines there are also Rogue War Dogs right?

    1. By rogue war dogs do you mean NPCs and enemies, or pack-less war dog PCs? I don't think the latter would work well, but the former could totally work, just treat them as any other NPC.

    2. No, Rogue character types, as in the 3rd member of T&T's trinity of core character types. Or are there just Warrior and Wizard character type War Dogs?

    3. Aah, in retrospect I can see how I was unclear on that. Yes, Rogues are also a thing, but they are unchanged from regular TNT Character Types which is why I didn't mention them, but I might edit it in just to be more clear.