Thursday 20 November 2014

Black Dogs in Balazar

My last post was on the Barguests, the ghostly black dogs of Britain, and +PT on Google+ asked me do do a Runequest version.

It just so happens that I had already had the basics done, there being a lot of spooky dogs in Glorantha. They come in a wide variety of sizes; some are spirits, some are daimones there might even be essences that manifest as dogs.

In Balazar black dogs are usually nothing to be scared of. As I mentioned in the post back in August 2012 (, there are a number of dog breeds with a variety of skills.

In Balazar it is extremely common for a shaman's fetch to manifest as a dog, but dogs can also be shamen in their own right. Dogs kept by Brother Dog shamen can become 'awakened' and achieve human levels of sentience, and even become heroes.

Awakened Dog

A dog that gets the maximum score in INT, POW and CHA is considered enlightened and among the approximate 1% of Gloranthan animals that can talk. It will gain a further 1d6 in each of these stats.

Balazaring Dogs will be Primitive, gaining 100 cultural skill points. They may take Folk Magic as an addition to the Primitive Professional Skill list.

Professions available are: Hunter, Physician, Scholar, Scout, Shaman, Thief, Warrior, and dogs owned by the White Goat clan have the option of being a Herder as well.

All Balazaring Dogs may spend Bonus skill points on Binding (Brother Dog Tradition) and Trance.

Awakened Dogs do not need to use fetishes, their spirits will inhabit their teeth, which will magically acquire tiny carvings when so inhabited.

Awakened Dogs who live independently of humans will spend their time caring for stray dogs and human children, and may help a tribesman who has become lost in the wilds. They also patrol the plains looking for creatures of chaos, and will band together in a pack to hunt them down, or seek out a human tribe to inform of the danger. They are often able to smell out criminals and will hunt down those who have murdered their kin. They gather on the perimeter of tribal camps to howl when a notably evil member of a tribe dies and will pursue and hunt down his spirit in the spirit world as it flees his body. They also gather to honour great shamen, and guard their mortal remains during sky burial, at least until the funerary rites to inter the naked bones in a burial mound.

Awakened dogs do not learn the skill Obey Orders, they may follow any order they have the language skill to understand of any complexity and quite frequently come up with plans and issue orders to the humans in their hunting party.

Spirit Cult of Brother Dog


Any Balazaring, human or dog, may be a follower of Brother Dog, and bind up to ¼ of their CHA in Dog Spirits. Being a member is simple, look after your own dog (if you are a human) or look after your own human (if you are a dog). May learn Train Dog or Obey Orders, Dogspeech and Speak Balazaring. Dogs are limited to INT+POW %age in Speak Balazaring unless they are awakened.

Spirit Worshipper

Must have 50% in five of the following skills: Train Dog, Obey Orders, Dogspeech (if a human) Speak Balazaring (if a dog), Survival, Athletics, Bite attack, Track by Scent, Endurance, Folk Magic, Binding (Brother Dog). They may bind up to half their CHA in dog spirits.


Must have 70% in four skills which must include Binding (Brother Dog) and either Dogspeech or Speak Balazaring, depending on species. A Shaman may summon a Brother Dog fetch. This will always have Manifestation as one of its abilities, appearing as a dog. If it has the shape change ability in addition it will enable a dog shaman to temporarily appear as a human. They may bind up to ¾ of their CHA in Dog Spirits, and they may go on a spirit quest to bind one of the heroic powered spirits noted below.

High Shaman

A High Shaman needs 90% in three skills, one of which must be Binding (Brother Dog). A High Shaman may summon Dog Ancestor spirits, which can be bound into their living descendants to create Awakened Dogs. This is no easy task, as an ancestor powerful enough to do this is at least Intensity 4, and must be willing to lose a good part of its Power in order to become mortal again. They may bind all of the CHA in Dog Spirits.

Special Spirits of Brother Dog

These spirits may be found after quests into the spirit realm and bound there if the Shaman has the skill and the standing in the Brother Dog tradition. Most may be used by humans as well as dogs.

Detect Kinslayer, Intensity 4, Geas: Never let a kinsman down, dog or human.

This Truth rune spirit enables a shaman to detect the odour of guilt on a person who has slain a member of their own tribe. There is no obligation to take the person to task for this, though independent dog shamen often do.

Spirit Hunt, Intensity 4, Geas: Never let prey escape.

Makes Trance skill rolls one step easier when hunting down a specific spirit in the otherworld, enables the hunter to add their Trance critical range to their tracking skill as they can follow the prey's spiritual traces as well as is scent and can allow a spirit hunter to enter a trance and follow a trail as a disembodied spirit for up to 1km per point of POW. Linked to the Spirit rune.

Giant size, Intensity 2 + 2 per d6 SIZ+STR gain, Geas: Never obey a smaller creature or one with less CHA.

Can only be used by dogs, this spirit is linked to the Earth rune and enables them to grow to sizes comparable to or even larger than humans adding at least 1d6 to STR and SIZ and 1d3 to CHA. Dogs with this spirit become very assertive and will not obey anyone smaller than it is, regarding itself as a free agent and perhaps the master of any human it comes across.

Howl of Darkness, Intensity 4, Geas: Only hunt at night

This spirit is linked to the Darkness rune and makes the fur (or hair) of the shaman go jet black giving it +10% Stealth at night. It allows use of the Theist miracle Fear at an intensity equal to the Binding (Brother Dog)/10. At night the spell has +25% intensity, and if a pack of dogs joins in they add their Binding (Brother Dog) crit range to the intensity as well.

Eyes of Light, Intensity 3, Geas: Only hunt by day

This spirit is linked to the Sky rune and makes the fur (or hair) of the shaman go yellow. It enables the shaman to see twice as far with clarity by day, makes all visual perception rolls one step easier, and gives use of the Folk Magic power Witchsight at will for no mp cost. Only shamen descended from the Golden Legion of Balazar or one of their loyal guard dogs may use this spirit; roll (Cha+Pow+Str+10) or less to be such a descendant.

Telmor's Foe, Intensity 4, Geas: Never let a wolf escape

This spirit embodies Brother Dog's enmity for Telmor the Wolf. Dogs with this spirit develop a white patch somewhere on their body, since this is the colour of the sky spirits and this spirit is linked to the sky. The dog gains 4 AP vs any attack by a wolf or werewolf, reduces any dmage from attack by a wolf spirit by 4mp, may attack a wolf with its normal bite as if a magical weapon, may try and sniff out werewolves in human form using perception and gains one step easier in any task to track a wolf. Needless to say the Grey Wolf tribe of Balazar do not use this spirit, as its powers work equally well against their totem spirits. They insist that Telmor was Brother Dog's father and that Brother Dog spared the wolf after he and Foundchild hunted him down so as not to kill kin.

Two Stone spirit, Intensity 3, Geas: Hunt one reptile a month

This spirit is associated with the Storm rune and makes the fur or hair of the Shaman turn orange-red. The shaman becomes able to smell the winds and, if the wind is strong enough, tell what lies miles away upwind. The shaman also does once dice step greater bite damage to reptiles and dragonkind, any any bite against such a target has a chance of paralysing the location hit for one round. This manifests as sparks of lightning.

This spirits can only be gained by visiting the shrine at Two Stone and starting a quest from there into the frozen land of the hurricane giants of the Three Little Giant Mountains where gales mutter and curse forever through the canyons and glacier carved glens, resenting their banishment from the lowlands by Balazar.

Approaching Two Stone across Balazar's East Plain (Albert Bierstadt)

Two Stone

This sacred site is in the Brothers Hills, where the three sons of Balazar took refuge while their father went with the True Golden Horde to Dragon Pass to kill the Dragonewts. It consisted of three stones, one for each brother, but one, to the south, has fallen and shattered.

The ground within is marshy and wet and lies a couple of feet below the surrounding hill top. Above it is a permanent thundercloud, and the whole area feels tense with electricity, as if a thunderstorm is about to be unleashed. The area is closed off by carved wooden posts strung with painted bison hides to make a sacred enclosure, and is only entered by a wooden gateway to the west. Just outside this gate are a few stone beehive huts where two shamen and their families dwell, with an enclosure for a small herd of goats (the local White Goat clan are unusual in herding these animals), and shelters for a pack of red mastiffs.

The shamen warn people not to venture within the sacred enclosure beyond the stone step they have built just inside the gate. Those with Trance or Spirit Sight will be able to see why, a huge red mastiff paces beneath the ominous cloud and if anyone gets too close it will bark a warning and then savage the trespasser.

Legend has it that this spirit is Grozak, Balazar's own personal guard dog that he took to Dragon Pass with him, and the only Balazaring spirit to return from the Dragonkill war with news of the disaster. The stones represent Trilus, Elkoi and Dykene. Elkoi's is fallen; he was the first to fall out with his elder brother Trilus and was banished into the Elder Wilds, from whence he returned with a group of giants who built him a citadel of his own. The storm cloud represents the enmity of the three citadels, prophets say that when the storm finally breaks, Balazar will be plunged into its worst war yet, and when it clears there will be peace between the three citadels forever.

Scholars will note that the stones bear a remarkable resemblance to the Dragonewt plinths of Dragon Pass, though far more weathered and battered and miraculously one has actually broken; they are commonly thought to be indestructible. Getting close enough to confirm this with the bloody great dog there won't be easy though.

Grozak, huge Red Mastiff Wraith-Shaman

STR 48
CON 18
SIZ 35
DEX 10
INT 18
POW 42
CHA 12

AP 3 SR 14 Armour 3 points

Brawn 166%, Willpower 120%, Evade 20%, Endurance 128%, Howl 126%, Bite 116%, Binding (Brother Dog) 126%, Trance 128%, Perception 120%

Spirit damage 1d8+1d6
Bite 1d10+2d8
Howl – Willpower save or flee in panic, Brawn or Evade save or fall over.

Great Bite Intensity 4 Int 7 Pow 25, Dog Spirit, +20% Bite attack
Crusher Intensity 4 Int 5 Pow 30, Dog Spirit, Special Effect – Break weapon
Greyhound Intensity 4 Int 7 Pow 25, Dog Spirit, Boost Action Points +2
The Loper Intenisty 4 int 11, Pow 28, Cha 7, Guardian spirit, Spectral Combat 85%, Willpower 106%
Yipper Intensity 3 int 10, Pow 19, Cha 10, Guardian spirit, Spectral Combat 79%, Willpower 88%
Blaster Intensity 3 Wind elemental spirit
Howler Intensity 3 Wind Elemental spirit

Requires a magic weapon to affect in the same manner as a Wraith, and all wounds it causes are permanent and will not heal.

It has the abilities of a Two Stone Spirit – its bite damage is enhanced against reptiles and can paralyse and it can smell approaching enemies on the wind from almost anywhere in Balazar.

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