Friday, 13 October 2017

Rules for Pets in the Black Hack

The longer I run David Black's stripped down old/new school D&Dish retro clone called The Black Hack, the more I find myself writing rules to suit the situations my players create and modify the game to our taste. The more I add and change the more I find myself with what looks like the beginnings of a great RPG that straddles the old school and new school well enough to function as a great little introductory fantasy RPG. That might fuel some posts for later, but for now here are the rules I created for running pets and animal companions in the Black Hack.

My players for my Keep on the Borderlands campaign went into the woods to see if they could find the dragon they heard about and only found the crazy hermit and his lion. They killed the hermit and then they tracked down the lion so they could use a Charm Monster potion on it. The warrior character treated it well and fed it more than the hermit did while they had it under control. I gave the player in control of the warrior a Charisma roll when the potion expired to befriend the lion. I figured with a 6 Charisma I was safe and the lion would just run away.

That's when they rolled a critical and the lion became their pet. Now I have rules for pets work in the Black Hack. These are the expanded and polished version of what I sketched out during that session so they could use their lion right away. They've worked well so far. If your players force you to make up rules for pets you can use these ones!

There is a Moebius image for every blogpost!

Creature companions/pets have three attributes besides their regular DMG, HD and HP: Action, Sense and Loyalty. The ACT and SEN attributes are based on the creature’s HD. ACT is 10 + HD  to a maximum of 16 and SEN is 10 + HD + (roll 2d6 and choose the lowest one) to a maximum of 18. LOY is a usage die and depends on how well trained and well treated the pet is before bad things start happening. A faithful dog that has been with the character for a few years will have LOY of d8 or even d10. A pack animal that was recently purchased will have a LOY of d4.



ACT is used for physical tests like dodging falling rocks or combat. SEN is used to notice something, track or any test that depends on the animal’s senses. LOY is tested any time something bad happens, such as the beast is wounded, mistreated or neglected when hungry. If the LOY result is a 1 or 2 on a d4 the animal will attempt to run away.


Pets and creature companions can play different roles during combat. One option is to attack independently using their ACT attribute. If used this way they risk damage from opponents if ACT rolls are failed. Another option is for them to fight with the character that owns them and add a +1 to their effective HD for the purposes of fighting powerful or multiple opponents. Pets could also harass and distract a single opponent to create an opening and allow the character that owns the pet to get Advantage on an attack. It depends on circumstances, but creativity should be rewarded.


Pets get one action or attack, the same as the characters. Their damage based on HD already reflects the results of using all their natural weapons.


Here’s an example notation of a lion that was charmed using potions and then became a pet:
ACT 15 SEN 15 LOY d8

DMG 1d10 HD 4+1 HP 18

This way all the rolls stay player facing while they roll against the stats their pets have when they take some kind of action. The loyalty die allows whoever is running the game to keep things from getting too out of hand. If the pet is being overused they can call for more loyalty rolls.

Let me know what you think in the comments. Especially if your try them out too!