M is for Mastiff
Mastiff - Dog is man's best friendWarhammer world is a grim and perilous. Characters can get killed easily if they aren’t cautious or lucky. Players want the best for their characters: good equipment, good characteristics, good career, good skills and so on. Most players will maximize their armor and weapon damage but very few will look beyond that. Game master must encourage their players to tap into another dimension: henchmen and animals. These resources offer a lot of role playing and gaming materiel. Let’s use the mastiff and typical utility dogs as a sample.
If players are looking only for combat, then they should purchase war dogs. They are cheap even if not commonly trade. They could make the difference between life and death. Firstly they are sold trained so not much skills are required to handle them. Upkeep costs is not worse than the one of a horse or armor. Mastiffs fight efficiently and are expendable resources. Same as with dog, they offer all the advantages of their keen sense. Having dogs watching over a sleeping camp is a valuable defensive addition.
Players looking for other aspects can focus on hunting dog, truffle seeker, rat catcher, artist for street shows. Characters can become kennel master or anything related to the breeding and trading of dogs. Option are really endless. If players overlook dogs, game masters should give some animal to any clever NPC. Characters are hunt down, give hunting dog to the party trailing them. Guards can fall asleep, be not really reliable. But for sure characters archenemy will be protected by bodyguards and few of them will be canine handlers.
Why should game masters let their players have animals? First, they are handled by characters so that’s not much overhead. Owners can track dog progress and manage them as side character. Secondly they offer some options when a party is too weak, having an extra fighting unit is a way to keep some balance. Finally, dogs are just animals, they are more expendable than player character. Game masters can control them for their own good or doom. How does a war dog react to a monster causing fear or terror? Use whatever behavior producing a good story. That’s a middle ground before game master directly controls a character. More options giving different leverage points are always nice to have.