Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Hellhound

Hellhounds are an interesting beastie.  In many RPGs they are the first monster one runs into to let you know that there is something "else" out there.  But they are far more interesting than that.  The Hell Hound, spectral hound, barhgest, black shuck, Cu Sith, or any other number of spectral, ghostly or otherworld hounds represent one of our deepest fears; that something familiar we have let into our lives is in reality a demonic being.

Even before there were demonolgists or even Christians, Muslims and Jews, we had "hellhounds" of one sort or another.  Greek myths had them as companions to the Goddess Hecate.  Likewise the Norse had them as companions to the Goddess Hel.  The also, respectively, featured unique hounds like Cerberus and Garm that guarded the gates of the afterlife.

Hellhounds though also are also popular in popular literature. The most popular story of a hell hound was Sherlock Holmes and the Hound of the Baskervilles.  Though it could have been more about a Black Dog or even Black Shuck.  In the end it wasn't any of those of course.

Dogs of course are one of humanity's oldest companions.  When we were just figuring out what to do with civilization, dogs were there with us.  They have evolved much as we have.  As a psychologist and atheist I find it very fascinating that we can demonize them so.   As a gamer I find them equally as fascinating.

Hellhounds were introduced to the D&D game back in the earliest days in the Greyhawk supplement to the Original D&D rules. This book included another dog-like creature, the Blink Dog, which seems to be the "good" counterpart. They appeared next in the classic Monster Manual and have been in every edition of the game ever since.

Given the horror aspect, and out of respect to ACD, here is the hell hound for various game systems, but focusing on Victorian age ones.

Ghosts of Albion, Unisystem

Creature Type: Demonic Animal
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1

Str: 4
Dex: 4
Con: 3
Int: 1
Per: 5
Will: 4

Ability Scores
Muscle: 14, Combat: 14, Brains: 5
Special Abilities: +10 to Brains Score for smell and hearing sensing, Demon, Fear, Hard to Kill, Lesser Sensing, Cold Vulnerability, Breathe Fire, Resistance (Fire).

Anyone seeing a Hellhound for the first time must make a Fear check (Willpower x2).
Hellhound do not take damage from fire but take double damage from cold.

Name Score Damage Notes
Bite +14 11 Slash/stab
Fire Breath +14 15 fire* (extra fire damage based on SL)
Deflect +9 - Magic defence action; deflects spell 45˚

Savage Worlds (Rippers / Gaslight)

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d10, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Guts d8, Notice d8, Stealth d6, Survival d4, Tracking d10
Pace: 8; Parry: 5, Toughness: 9
Special Abilities:
• Bite: Str+2
• Breathe Fire: A hellhound can breath a jet of flame that causes fire damage (Spirit +2)
• Fear: Anyone that sees a hellhound must make a Guts roll.
• Fleet Footed: Hellhounds have a d10 running die.
• Go for the Throat: If a Hellhound gets a raise on its attack roll, it strikes its opponent’s least armoured location.
• Resistance (Fire): Hellhounds take n damage from fire.
• Weakness (Cold): Hellhounds take +4 damage from cold or cold based weapons.

Victoriana 2nd Edition 

Rank: 2 (Generalist)
Physical competence: 6
Mental competence: 4
Health: 5 (10)
Signature Skills: Conceal +5, Hide & Sneak +5, Perception +5,
Traits: Fire immunity, Night Vision

Armour: 1 (thick fur)
Combat Abilities: Bite (2 dice), Breath Weapon (3d)
Damage: Bite (3d), Fire (4d)

Victoriana 1867 Edition 

Mental Competence: 10
Physical Competence: 15
Health: 35/15 (surrounded by flames)
Skill Picks: Hide & Sneak (10), Dodge! (8)
Combat Picks: Bite 2d+4 lethal (10), Gaze (8) – opposed roll against opponent’s resolution, or the target is stunned for 2 rounds, Breath Fire (10) for 4d+4.

Hellhounds are 1st circle demons, slightly above imps.

Basic Era D&D / The Witch (because I can)

Armor Class:  3 [16]
Hit Dice: 4d8+4* (22 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws / 1 bite / breath weapon
Damage: 1d4 / 1d4 / 1d6+3 / 1d8 (fire)
Special: fear, low-light vision (120’), scent
Movement: 90’
No. Appearing: 1 (1-3 in lair)
Saves As: Fighter 5
Morale: 7
Treasure: None
Alignment: Evil
XP: 150

Hellhounds cause fear as per the spell (Save vs. Paralysis to negate).  They also breathe out a lick of flame while attacking, save vs Breath Weapon for half-damge. 

Five systems is pretty good.  That's a whole pack of hellhounds.


Misha Gerrick said...

It is interesting how dogs can be demonized, since they're actually such wonderful creatures.

On the other hand, dogs can strike fear into people's hearts as well, just by snarling...

Timothy S. Brannan said...

I know. I have heard it said that dogs are the only creatures that love you more than they love themselves. So a demonic dog is a very frightening concept. Like I said as a pyschologist I find it fascinating.

LA Nickers said...

Not a gamer ...
But I am intrigued by some of these themes in literature.

Stopping by from the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge FB page.

Ameron said...

I have always had a fondness for Hell Hounds in D&D. The idea of a fire breathing dog just seemed so cool. In the Lair Assault Forge of the Dawn Titan there were two particularly nasty Hell Hounds who decimated party after party when I ran the adventure (hee hee). In Paull Kidd’s novels White Plume Mountain, Descent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits (all based on the classic Greyhawk modules) the character Justicar has a cloak made from the pelt of a Hell Hound. The creature is still bound to its skin and acts as his animal companion. The real kicker is that it can still breathe fire. I always thought it was a creative way to use a Hell Hound but not just make it a boring old dog.

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, this takes me back to my D&D days. I've also seen them in video games in my younger years.

Unknown said...

Interesting read about hellhounds throughout history and literature!

Valerie said...

I love the Hellhounds on the show Supernatural. :0)


Valerie Nunez and the Flying Platypi

Mark Means said...

Ah...good ole' hellhounds. I've had a few characters get roasted by them (as well as the evil GM behind them) :)

Left and Write

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tim .. I'm sort of lost - but the think about the A-Z it opens our eyes to other areas of life ..

This was interesting - particularly as I could at least get some link to Sherlock Holmes ..

Imagination can take us everywhere can't it ...

Cheers Hilary