The Pugmire game is a great example of a light-hearted concept that still leads to dramatic game play. While I’m still waiting to run a full campaign of it (despite having Molly ready and waiting), I’ve been enjoying the actual play videos from No Survivors over at Geek & Sundry. I’m also excited about the Monarchies of Mau Kickstarter, even though it’s about freakin’ cats. I thought I’d look through the Monster Manual and Volo’s Guide to Monsters to see what other options are out there for Pugmire GMs.
In this post I’m going to be talking about the two sources mentioned above, although there are certainly more sources out there both from Wizards of the Coast and through the DM’s Guild. I’ll be using the abbreviations MM (for the Monster Manual) and VG (for Volo’s Guide) to give you page references. Also, I’m avoiding cats altogether because I’m expecting lots more in Monarchies of Mau.
Badgers, Lizards, and Rats
The Pugmire core rulebook mentions these three animals and has some stat blocks for them as well. These work well and you can also borrow stat blocks from other sources as well. The tribal badgers with their primitive weaponry and savage nature could work as reskinned gnolls (MM 163 and VG 154), especially if you want to use the creepy and supernatural gnoll witherling (VG 155) to give the badgers something magic-oriented. Using stealthy gnoll hunters (VG 154) for badger stalkers is a good way to create a nerve-wracking journey through the woods while the flind (VG 153) could be a larger related species like a wolverine.
Lizards are a little more difficult because their pseudo-Arabian culture and open, nomadic culture doesn’t match up with either kobolds or lizardfolk. The best fit in my book would be the yuan-ti (MM 309-311 and VG 206), although this opens the door for a much more sinister interpretation of the lizards in Pugmire than the talkative traders the core book presents. You can run with this if you want a really cosmic horror Pugmire experience but I think reskinning to more friendly versions reduces the evil nature of the yuan-ti. First of all, there’s no alignment in Pugmire so you can take that straight out. Secondly, removing their shapechanging doesn’t serious affect their combat abilities but it means they won’t be slipping into dog cities. With these changes the abomination (MM 309) makes for a good lizard archsorcerer while the malison (MM 310) and broodguard (VG 203) make for temple guards or caravan escorts.
There are no rats in Pugmire core but the picture painted in the setting descriptions of Chapter One is an interesting one. According to Yosha Pug, rats are secretive and rare but a small minority of dark cultists give the rest of them a bad name. It might not be your first pick but for me the best fit here is kobolds (MM 195 and VG 165-167). The winged kobold (MM 195) and the dragonshield (VG 165) aren’t the best fit but the pack tactics of the normal kobold (MM 195) are a strong fit and the inventor (VG 166) and scale sorcerer (VG 167). For nastier rats, you could bring in the dragonshield (VG 165) and consider the elemental resistance to come from demonic possession. For the demons themselves, I would use the barghest (VG 123) and have its shapechanger ability shifting between a rat form and a monstrous demon. The barghests (you don’t even have to change the name) move freely through rat society, corrupting others, and worryingly they can do the same in rat communities within Pugmire.
If your players want to play these animals, I would use the hobgoblin traits (VG 119) for badgers, yuan-ti pureblood traits (VG 120) for lizards, and kobold traits (VG 119) for rats.
Hawks, Moles, Frogs, and Bats
It’s hard to give a strong criterion for what animals are sentient creatures in Pugmire and what are… well, animals. Insects (like the giant ants and the bone bugs) are monsters and from the illustrations it seems like birds are well and good, but I’m not sure what else makes sense as sentient beings. The existing list is all domestic pets except for the barbarian badger so maybe pets are civilized and wild animals are strange and tribal.
Taking the other way around, let’s look at what creatures in these books make for good additions to the world of Pugmire. First up is the aarakocra (MM 12) which can be used as hawks. Following the example of badgers, they are territorial and dislike strangers. Rather than roaming around looking for a fight like the badgers, however, the hawks live high in the mountains forming the northern border of Pugmire, watching from on high and swooping down to confront any interlopers. They warn off those who get too close and any who actually see their eyries are forced to remain to prevent the hawks’ secrets spreading.
Gnomes are also great options for burrowing, magical creatures of some sort. Personally, I would use the normal gnomes in the Player’s Handbook as moles and the deep gnomes (MM 164) as the creepier star-nosed moles. These creatures are almost stubbornly against technology, preferring to keep themselves pure by avoiding the taint of worked metal or surface magic. Their obsidian war picks are enough technology for most moles and they consider their innate earth and nature magic to be very different from the sort of spellcraft practiced by dogs and cats. They are more willing to talk sociably than badgers or hawks but they refuse to let their homes be sullied by crafted items.
One really easy choice is to include frogs by including the grungs (VG 156-157). Aside from changing the name you don’t need to change too much about them event. They are tree-dwelling frogs that live in marshy areas in the southern wilds outside of Pugmire’s border. They trade exotic goods from their swampy lands to the dogs of Pugmire but rumors also persist that they take slaves and that dozens of hapless dogs toiling in the fetid pools where the grungs’ spices are harvested.
This is a stretch, but my last animal species would be bats using the harpy (MM 181). They don’t look alike but harpies fly, have nasty attitudes, and use sonic magic. Add in some blindsight and you’ve got a very bat-like creature. I see the bats as existing hidden within Pugmire, occupying cave complexes in the hinterlands and coming out in the night to steal what they need for their colonies. They are superstitious and hold rituals at every new moon. Dogs in the area know to stay in on such nights or else they will meet “devils” on the road. Your PCs may dismiss these stories or expect something magical, so imagine their surprise when they come across chattering cultist bats!