Saturday, June 5, 2010

RPG Item: Toss-Dog

The assassin paused beneath the low window, crouching in the shadows and listening to the guards talking within.

"He's only one man. Stay sharp. He won't get past us."

The black-garbed man knew that there was truth in the guards' words. The visiting duke was asleep in his room, but to get there, the assassin had to cross the guards' room. Not without a diversion.

He unslung the bundle he wore over his back. It was a complicated series of bars and gears on a wooden framework. He pulled a cord free and the thing began ticking. Taking a few deep breaths to steady himself, he hurled the bundle through the window into the room. A series of loud snaps and clangs came from the room, accompanied by the surprised shouts of the guards.

The assassin leaped over the windowsill as a shape unfolded in the room and began to bound around, snapping at the guards and causing enough confusion for the assassin to dart through the room and into the duke's chamber.

Image by nancynismo

A toss-dog is a device built to be easily transported in its deactivated state that turns into a vicious attack hound when activated. The device itself is built of metal and wood by the most skilled artificers. The toss-dog is about the size of a backpack when folded up, and the size of a medium-sized dog when active.

In its folded up state, the toss-dog is very resilient and can be hurled long distances onto hard surfaces. There have been occasions where toss-dogs were fired into enemy fortifications using catapults. When unfolded, the toss-dog is somewhat more fragile, as its delicate internal components are more exposed. Nevertheless, its high speed and agility ensure that a toss-dog often causes maximum mayhem before being disabled or running down.

A toss-dog can fight for about five minutes (one encounter) before its internal mechanisms wind down. At this point, the toss-dog must be folded up and re-wound, a process that takes about five minutes for a technically savvy user, or fifteen minutes for the average person. Someone who has no experience with machines is incapable of winding and folding a toss-dog at all.

The parts of a toss-dog are readily available, but they must be very carefully constructed. Some magic is required as well, and a jewel costing at least 3,000 gp must be imprinted with a living dog's mind in order to give the toss-dog life. This imprinting can be performed by any reasonably skilled ritualist, and it causes no harm to the living dog. Rich nobles often commission one or more toss-dogs to be imprinted with the mind of their favorite hunting hound, and a powerful monarch can have an entire hunting pack of toss-dogs modeled on their prize pooch. A necromancer can imprint a dead canine's mind onto a toss-dog.

Though they started out as pets to nobles, toss-dogs came into their own when they were picked up by underworld figures. They were first developed by Iovar Varagundsun, who envisioned them as caravan escorts that could be packed along with the goods and activated if the caravans came under attack. The toss-dogs never really caught on as caravan escorts, but they went through a period when they were extremely fashionable among the wealthy. On Iovar's death, the ownership of the toss-dog workshop was contested between Iovar's protege and his main financier. Both men hired shady characters to help them take over the company, but the cut-throats and thieves preferred to keep the toss-dogs for themselves, finding them incredibly useful for assassinations, burglaries, and jailbreaks.

Most modern toss-dogs are either patched-up originals created by Iovar Varagundsun or cheaper knockoffs commissioned by underworld bosses. A well-repaired Varagundsun original is worth a small fortune, while the cheaper ones are much more reasonable. You'll get what you pay for, though. Many cut-rate toss-dogs will fall apart or run down after activating, or fail to activate at all. Also be sure that the person selling you the toss-dog doesn't have any reason to harm you, or you may find your new "best friend" going for your throat instead of your enemy's.

1 comment:

bluefish said...

He followed me home? Can I keep him? Can I? I'll feed him and take him for walkies and play with him and name him Oscar!

Okay, by "follow me home" I meant "I brought him home in his folded-up state," and by "feed and walk and play", I mean "keep him boxed up until the time comes for him to kill my enemies."

But can I keep him anyway? :D

This seems more useful for tying up large groups of enemies when the PCs are outnumbered and for diversions than as a straight-up fighting tool.