Hounds of Haxan (3.5e Prestige Class)
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The Hounds of Haxan
For everyone that wanted to play a Dog, or have something to advance an animal companion in other then by HD or some bipedal class...here's something for your Intelligent Cohort Hound.
Secris snarled to himself in both satisfaction and frustration. The attack on the farmstead had not gone at all as he had thought. True, the home and barns of the iron-working filth were aflame, and he counted five men dead, and two women who dared to fight the forces of Nature unleashed.
But his treasured companion Earthpaw lay dead, the great mass of the dire bear’s body slumped atop the carcasses of his slayers. Secris could still see the old man on the graying horse, driving his spear deep, so deep into Earthpaw’s brave chest, even as a log-sized forepaw had nearly ripped the white-haired fool in two and shattered the back of the horse he rode in one valorous blow.
The trees he’d animated were aflame, by oil and shattered lanterns…the boars he’d summoned were still here…whatever power was in these foul, corrupted plains had seen fit that he’d be denied the spirits he’d learned to call to him. With a sickened feeling, he knew he’d not be calling on Rootgrub, Tufthoof, Onionose, and Shrinktail again.
A dog snarled at him, barking short, sharply, a high-pitched yapping from its place by the great mass of Earthpaw’s carcass. A mongrel breed, too short, fur carefully, hilariously cut, as much ornamental toy as dog, long claw marks from a casual swipe of the bear’s leg bleeding profusely on its wiry fur, almost as bright as the ribbon on it’s notched left ear. Such softness…these Haxans could not even let their animals die at their proper time…the old dog, smaller then a 3 month wolf pup, had a leather patch over one eye and a pegleg in place of its right foreleg, too!
Secris snarled again to himself as he rose from the ground in his elemental form. He’d have to find a new companion now, to aid him in showing these Haxans the proper respect for Nature, the corruption of their ways. He streamed away back north and west, towards the hill country where he might find an unspoiled animal to befriend.
A barn owl, rousted from its hayloft home by fire and carnage, lifted from a broken fencepost after him. The glowing eyes of the family cat followed its steady path, eerily brilliant in the firelight, and the single eye of an old, wounded terrier, bright with rage and hate, did the same.
Secris permitted himself a gaseous smile when the sad, mournful howl of the little dog rose into the air behind him. How fitting. Let the useless beast mourn those who provided for it before Nature’s harsh lessons reasserted themselves and claimed it for worthier species.
Secris screamed as the fires burst all about him, screaming eagles and falcons in dizzying array dropping balls of alchemical disaster all about him. His summoned and allied beasts were under massive assault...by other animals!
Barded great hounds, their fangs filled with silver, had already hamstrung the great tiger he’d called down from the north, moving with a precise teamwork beyond anything Nature could have devised, calling to one another with eerie barks that weren’t any canine language his magic could translate…they were talking to one another!
A short, pug legged beast had a hold of the nose of a great boar, and simply wasn’t letting go no matter how hard the beast thrashed…jaws flashed ivory and its hindquarters crumpled, and two small dogs locked their teeth in on its hindquarters and did not let go. A charging bull mastiff slammed into the side of the wild pig… In an instant three dogs were on it, ripping it open with fantastic, precise savagery.
He had been hounded from the skies by endless avian assaults, firebombs that lashed at his air elemental form, picked out with eerie, impossible skill from flocks of ravens and crows, and when he had come to earth, the hounds had been on him, and never let up.
Ignoring the fires, leaping thru infernos that should panic any beast, they destroyed his plants, avoided his elementals, came for him with leaping jaws, defying his commands to turn aside, to obey him, filled with wild hate and more then animal cunning.
He spread his hands to summon a wildfire to envelope the whole of the area…a necessary sacrifice to buy him some time.
From somewhere he heard a familiar yip.
A barn owl was in his face, clawing, lashing, slamming him with wings and talons, making concentration impossible. With a cry, he slammed it away, readying another spell and clutching his dagger, and something bounced up his leg and filled his face with wildly scratching, yowling vengeance.
“A cat?!” he screamed, toppling over as he fought off the insane feline. A cut of his dagger and its blood burning poison, and he threw the beast away, trying to wipe his eyes clear, and instead found its jaws closed tight upon his thumb.
He blinked at the next curt yip in the air.
He understood this one.
Two sleek hunting dogs, short of fur and slender of form, muzzles like dark spear points, wrapped in black leather barding studded with silver, stepped deferentially aside to reveal a bounding, leaping, ridiculous little nothing of a dog, with a bright ribbon in one ear, a patch over one eye, bloody streaks down his side, a peg leg for a forepaw, and a look Secris knew all too well in one eye.
Up a log with that stupid, bouncing step, jumping high, higher in the air then should be possible for such a puny nothing of a toy-bred dog.
Firelight flashed on a gleaming foreleg, now fashioned all of everbright mithral, and honed to a spear-like point. Miniscule jaws opened to reveal fangs of that same gleaming silver hue, toothclamps sharper then swords made just for a tiny, irrelevant nothing of a house pet.
Secris tried to get his bronze knife up in time, and could only watch in horrified disbelief as the toy dog lifted that peg leg up in the manner a man might lift his knife, and came down on the Druid of Iiur, punching thru leather and bone and deep into the man’s chest, even as silver teeth planted themselves in his throat and would not let go.
Screaming, plunging his dagger into the little beast again and again, Secris thrashed and flailed and died, uncomprehending of how he could be so overcome. He was the wrath of Nature unleashed, how could he be slain by mere house pets?
The Haxans learned long, long ago that they would need every advantage to survive in a world replete with magic-using races and creatures, gods, otherworldly hopes and horrors, mutant creations, aberrations, and abominable things that stalked the night. They had their own small population of **** magos who could use magic, and their faith in Mithar and Aru, but only a fool counts on forces who had to be attentive to greater powers which threatened them. Thus, they turned to their most natural allies in the struggle for survival…the animals who also were the true Children of the Land.
Those rare folk with the Blood of the Emperor were enlisted to Enlighten the dogs, cats (and great cats), horses, birds of prey, and sometimes other beasts who the Haxans shared the land with. Psionic energies catalyzed their smaller brains to full sentience, waking the beasts to shared awareness with the Men who shared their lives and homes, and a quiet partnership whose true scope is barely hinted at in tales began, and has grown immensely thru the centuries, so much so that it could be said that Haxan is truly a land of Men and Beasts.
Dogs have always formed the foundation of the enlightened beasts of Haxan. Mithar himself has a Hound, Faithful, loping at his side, and few are the families without a Hound to protect and watch over them. From toy terriers to great bull mastiffs, the Hounds of Haxan serve in every size and station to protect and watch over the Men whom they dwell with. Although dependent on Men for enlightening their offspring, as sentience is not hereditary, the Hounds of Haxan are mightily strong-willed by the very process that creates them, and while they acknowledge their status as pack mates to Men, theirs is truly a partnership sealed in blood and tears down through the centuries.
One does NOT kick a dog in Haxan.
- Race: Natural Canine. Felines, avians, and equines have their own progression. Dire, magical, and non-natural variants of canines may not take this class.
- HD: At least One. Two and Three HD dogs are by far the most common, since they have better combat capabilities…but woe the fool who underestimates the scarred terrier! Note that any animal Awakened/Enlightened will have at least the Elite Array for physical stats.
- Feats: Most larger dogs will have Improved Trip as a racial feat…smaller ones may have Weapon finesse (bite). Bull terriers and bulldogs may have Jaw Lock.
- Special: The dog must be psionically Enlightened or Magically Awakened, usually done by a constantly busy network of Haxan psionicists or priests with the Animal Domain who specialize in such things.
|Level|| Base Attack
|1st||+1||+2||+2||+2||Enlightening, Born of the Land|
|2nd||+2||+3||+3||+3||Uncanny Dodge (no Dex), Wisdom bonus to AC|
|3th||+3||+3||+3||+3||Packmate, Evasion, Favored Enemy|
|4th||+4||+4||+4||+4||Crawl Home, Hound's Vigor, Savage Attack +1d8|
|5th||+5||+4||+4||+4||Uncanny Dodge (flanking)|
|6th||+6||+5||+5||+5||Favored Enemy II, Man’s Best Friend|
|7th||+7||+5||+5||+5||Master of The Pack|
|8th||+8||+6||+6||+6||Savage Attack +2d8, Improved Evasion|
|9th||+9||+6||+6||+6||Favored Enemy III, Uncanny Dodge (+1 Traps)|
|10th||+10||+7||+7||+7||Lord of the Pack|
Class Skills (6 + Int modifier per level)
Weapons: Snapteeth/Silverfangs (bite enhancers)
Armor: Light barding. Heavier Barding typically requires a feat, or a level in Fighter. It is a DC 20 Use Normal Device check for a Hound to put on its own customized light barding, and DC 15 to remove it.
Alignment: Most animals are the same alignment as their Enlighteners, with a neutral aspect. Thus, almost all NPC Haxan Hounds are of Good alignment, and most are LG.
Special Note: This class presupposes the widespread existence of intelligent canines and actual teaching facilities set up to maximize educated use of their natural gifts. This class should not be available merely to a Druid who Awakens a Riding Dog...there is as much training and learning here as is typical of any fighting class.
Secondly, this class also presumes the fact that these are intelligent canines, not just Men with four legs. They are highly in tune with their natural instincts, and also very intelligent. They have a whole different set of natural capabilities, and not nearly as many avenues for using tools...and have NO regrets about such a situation. The Hounds of Haxan see Men as fellow great Packmates, capable of doing many wondrous things...not the least of which is make their pups intelligent, too! However, they also realize that there are many, many unnatural things out there in the world that would like to do nothing more then kill Man and Hound alike, take their territory, and make them nothing more then food and slaves. Hounds take threats to territory and packmates very seriously.
As an aspect of their Enlightenment, Hounds don't compete well with Men for precedence in their relationship. A Hound of higher HD then the Men around it will typically go seek a stronger Master of its own accord, or set itself up as Alpha of a Hound Pack. However, a Hound whose master dies considers his family as part of their own, and will watch over it as diligently as his own pups. Men just take so blasted long to grow to usefulness.
A Haxan ranger may forgo permanently his Animal companion to take a Haxan Hound as travel companion, exactly as an improved cohort (hit dice always level-1 from the ranger). Many do so. Hound companions advance as Hounds of Haxan, or as rogues, scouts or rangers at higher levels.
Haxan's druidic tradition is slim to non-existent. The Hounds are the Hounds...products of civilization and millennia of co-existence and training and breeding, they are not wolves. The predilection of druids for Dire companions is also repulsive to Hounds. By and large, Druids see the Hound tradition as yet another civilized taming of nature, and Hounds see Druids as enslavers of animals and mutators of beasts. Naturally, they don't get along too well.
Enlightening: The jolt to sentience confers upon the chosen dog the ability to understand the main spoken language of its Awakener. Roll dice as normal for a PC to determine Int, Wis and Cha for the dog, and give it +2 to Con…in no event will these benefits be less then the base stats for the animal (physically weak Hounds are not enlightened).
Optionally, the dog may simply follow the same process as other (magically) Awakened beasts, with the following caveat: it does not get +2HD, it receives +2 to Con, and its type always remains Animal. Awakening grants understanding, but not the ability to speak another tongue.
An Enlightened animal receives a +10 bonus to identify any creature masquerading as an animal by using a Spot or Sense Motive check. This bonus rises to +20 if the creature being mimicked is its own type (canine, bovine, equine, feline, etc). This ability also serves to identify another Awakened or Enlightened animal.
As a result of the psionic or magical invigoration, the enlightened animal enjoys twice the lifespan of a normal member of its species.
The Hound automatically receives the Track feat and has the Scent feat.
Lastly, the Enlightened Animal may progress in a ‘two-leg’ character class…with no magical ability; this is typically restricted to fighter, rogue, and barbarian, or a non-spellcaster ranger.
Other: It gains +1 to an ability score every 4th HD as normal, and a feat every 3 HD. Base BAB and saves are taken from the progression for a Magical Beast, although the type of a Hound remains Animal/Beast.
Born of the Land: Products of natural as opposed to magical evolution, Haxan beasts defy unnatural energies and have a fierce sense of will stemming from their origins. They receive an additional +1 per level bonus on Will Saves against any form of charm or will-dominating influences.
Uncanny Dodge: As the Barbarian ability. With senses far keener then most humans, it is virtually impossible to catch a Hound unawares…it can dodge blows waking up from total sleep, leap away from traps before they close, and so forth. A rogue with more 4 more HD then the Hound may overcome this normally.
Wis Bonus to AC: When unarmored or lightly armored, and unencumbered, the sentient Hound’s awareness works much more efficiently then a man’s or nonsentient beast. He gains his Wisdom bonus to his AC exactly as a monk might...who, after all, learned such things from watching animals!
Packmate: Dogs are born for group fighting. They instinctively flank and make opportunities for their fellows. When aiding others in combat, the bonus a Hound gives to them rises to +4, instead of +2, and the bonus for flanking also rises to +4 for the other flanker.
Favored Enemy: As per the Ranger special ability. Hounds instinctively seek out favored prey, and sentient Hounds take this to a lethal edge. The list of Favored Enemies is of course dependent on experience. Hounds must select a foe they have personally met and battled. Typical are Beasts, Magical Beasts, and Humanoids. Most Hounds particularly enjoy fighting Dire Animals and mutated (templated) Animals.
At every new Favored Enemy step, the Hound may select a foe it has fought before, and another Favored Enemy. The bonus increases by +2 for both, exactly as a ranger.
Evasion: Animals are notoriously hard to pin down, and intelligent ones with hardwired natural reflexes are worse. The Hound gains Evasion. At level 8, this rises to Improved Evasion with the benefit of experience.
Crawl Home: When reduced to negative HP, the Hound may forgo a stabilize self check to invoke this power, giving it the ability to move up to one mile/Hound level towards a place of safety using partial actions only. Upon reaching this place of safety, the Hound’s HP loss resumes, and it will die without external healing (no stabilizing possible). This often allows a Hound to bring warning to packmates before it expires…few enemies think a dying Hound can unleash the wrath of Haxan upon them and bother making sure a dog is truly dead.
Hound's Vigor: As an aspect of this unfailing instinct to head home, the Hound's movement rate increases by +10 permanently. This overlaps (does not stack with) the movement increase from a level of Barbarian.
Savage Attack: Natural instincts wedded to intellect make for a dangerous threat. The Hound gains the listed damage in the same circumstances as applies to both Sneak Attack and Skirmish Damage...but does not stack with either. Watching a pack of Hounds rip apart their prey is a chillingly fascinating sight of feral power at its best.
Man’s Best Friend: Once a day, when fighting in defense of his pack and packmates, or his lair, a Hound may erupt into wild animal Rage, exactly like a barbarian. +4 Str/Con, +2 Will saves, -2 AC, dur Con+3 rds. Unlike a barbarian, the Hound is not winded when its defensive rage expires. Defense means the hound must be near his lair, another packmate must be fighting with him, or he must be protecting young nearby.
Master of the Pack: When leading a group of fellow canines, or other animals it can communicate with using Animal Empathy, the experienced Hound may guide their actions with feral cunning and instinctive control. With a standard action, the Hound can grant a +2 Aid Another effect to up to one Animal per HD + Cha bonus that is following him, typically used to give them all a TH bonus or an AC bonus as he manages their pack tactics. Note that the Master cannot command predators with a higher HD then his own, or herbivores with more then twice his HD. Also, a Master of the Pack adds his Hound Levels to his Animal Empathy check.
A Master’s aura of command is palpable to Animals…he adds his Master level to all Animal Empathy checks to change the hostility level of Animals.
Lord of the Pack: The Hound’s ability to manage groups grows…any normal animal can tell it is a very dangerous member of the canine species. Guiding a group takes only a Move Equivalent action, and the Hound can manage twice the number of animals as a Packmaster.
Optionally, the Hound can manage Packmasters or other Lords, communicating with them to form feral, intuitive tactics and strategy with speed to astound the best of human units.
Mounted: The obverse of the Ride skill is available to intelligent creatures who serve as mounts. Once a round, they may make a Mounted check against an attack roll that has hit their rider…if successful, the rider takes no damage. They may also make a Mounted check DC 20 to allow a rider to mount as a free action.
If the Rider has at least 5 Ranks in Ride, the mount gets a +2 synergy bonus to their Mounted checks. If these numbers are 15 ranks, this bonus rises to +4. The obverse is true for ranks of Mounted, benefiting skilled riders.
- Note: Mounted is Wis related…it’s more important to be able to move with and predict the activities of the rider then to be nimble and balanced…that’s the rider’s job. Typically, the youngest children in Haxan start out riding Hounds before graduating to horses. Halflings, of course, delight in the riding of Hounds, as do the rare gnomes who bother.
Use Normal Device: This is the art of using human-designed gear with jaws and paws. Animals with this skill can open doorknobs as a standard action (DC 15), a free action (DC 25), saw thru ropes with a dagger in the teeth (DC 15, slowly, DC 20 as a standard) or slowly hunt and peck and type out a letter on your computer like a one-fingered human (DC 30). Animals with prehensile paws receive a +10 bonus on this skill. Note that they must still figure out or be shown how to use them… This skill is more about manipulation then experimentation.
Use Normal Device checks allow animals to put on their own custom barding/armor, or help another animal to do the same and similar feats.
Handle Animal: Used mostly for herding purposes, a check to herd horses or sheep of DC 15 is much easier then the check to communicate with them (Animal Empathy, DC 25)
Animal Empathy: Used to communicate with other animals, as well as alter initial reactions. A DC 5 check is enough to relate simple warnings (Fire! Enemy!), with progressively higher checks conveying greater meanings. A DC 25 check with a similarly intelligent animal is virtually talking.
This use of the skill is penalized for –5 if not talking to a member of the same type (canine to feline, etc), –10 if across prey types (herbivore to carnivore) or –15 to Men or other non-animal bipeds. If both parties have Animal Empathy (5 ranks), they gain a +4 bonus on the checks, and another +4 if both are intelligent and have the Scent feat. Note that most Haxans have at least a basic knowledge of Beastalk, the same way a lot of people can count to ten in Spanish and know what Adieu! means.
Learn Language: An Enlightened animal can spend one point to learn a verbal language, and then another point to learn its written form. An animal gains a +2 bonus to Sense Motive checks against a being whose language it understands, since they pay considerably more attention to body language then most bipeds do. They may also spend two points to learn Beastalk…a simple pidgin language of body language, foot stomps, tail wags and the like. One point makes them easily understandable to other beasts who know it, another point makes them able to converse fairly fluidly with much less observant humans who understand it (and who don't have Scent).
Unlike humans, Enlightened animals don’t learn languages they aren’t regularly exposed to, and don’t have intellectual aspirations. Trying to teach a Haxan Hound Celestial basically wastes a lot of time if the Hound isn’t around devas or in a church where services are held in the tongue…and it’s not addressed regularly in that language.
The Hounds came back, threescore in number, with the bodies of their own wounded on litters strung between smartly pacing canines, an entourage of eagles circling escort above. Hard-eyed men on horseback watched them pass with tears streaming down their faces, heading past for the pyre where Constad Murnhardt, his wife Esthes, and four of his children now lay.
Atop the pile of once-animate plants, shattered wood, and a bloody broken lance waving solemn honor, they laid the body of the terrier Rumples - companion to Constad almost 40 years, survivor of two campaigns at the Wyrmbreak Wall - at the feet of his master and friend.
Eagles settled to mailed shoulders to watch as mithral snapteeth struck sparks on torches, and warhounds solemnly lit the pyre with flaming sticks grasped firmly in their jaws.
Winds blew and the fires grew quickly, stroked by Aethra’s winds. The Hounds of Haxan drew up in solemn circle and lifted their muzzles in the way of their kind, and howled their eerie, warbling salutes of their ancestors as the flames sent the souls of the slain to rest, avenged.
And when it was done and the ashes smoked and the bones were dust, a grim-jawed rider swung down from his mount and drew his long knife.
“That there is a lot of bear. First cuts to the Hounds.”
Twoscore men dropped off their mounts and drew their own knives. Today, the Hounds ate first.