Dogs Follow You

When I was a kid, I played D&D.

I made my own rules sometimes (because come on, who didn’t?), and one of those rules was that everyone rolled a handicap off an alphabetical list. (Using a Scattergories die, because…because I had one.)

A was albinism. I remember that one. If you got albinism, you had to stay out of the sun. You had bad vision too, and had to mind your step.

B was bad magic, but I forget what that meant. I think your spells failed a lot, and you had to roll saving throws against blowing yourself up.

I can’t remember what C was, but D was “dogs follow you,” which somehow, my players rolled more than was statistically likely. Half our campaigns had a canine cortège. How it worked was, you saw a dog, you rolled a d4. If you got a one, the dog followed you, maybe for a block, maybe the whole campaign. This went for all dogs, and sometimes for gnolls.

The thing is with dogs, though, they don’t have many hit points. A regular dog only has five or six. Even a big one can’t take much of a beating. So our dungeon crawls soon became games of “save the dogs.” A gelatinous cube would appear and the cry would go up—who’s got the dogs? Get the dogs! Save the dogs!

One long-running campaign, we had nine corgis and a hellhound. We were crossing this rope bridge (well, a bench in the park), when I, uh, kicked it over and everyone fell off. I should say, at this point, we didn’t play round a table. We played in the park, sometimes in the woods. We had swordfights with sticks, and threw stones, and climbed trees. So I knocked down the bench that day, and everyone fell off. They plunged into Iron River (well, onto the grass), and the swift current caught them and bore them away. They drifted, helpless, toward the whirlpool and certain death. The end seemed upon them, when, enter Jambone.

Jambone was our hellhound. He was named after ham (well, the French word for ham, with an “e” on the end). Jambone swam bravely, fighting the current. He scooped our party up one by one, onto his back—even the corgis, bless their tiny souls. He swam and he swam till he made it to shore, and everyone jumped off, and there was much rejoicing.

Then, out of nowhere, this wee voice pipes up—“Hey, guys…his fire went out.” No-one got it at first, ’cause, like…fire? What fire? But then, one by one, we understood. Hellhounds breathe fire, and we dunked ours in water.

Now, I was annoyed at first. I was the DM, and I didn’t say that. This kid Jason did, this total dweeb. But everyone jumped on it (even me, in the end). We all dropped to our knees, and we crowded around our hellhound. Everyone started sniffling and stroking the air. Jambone died in our arms, in the grass by the bench, and we gave him a funeral under the trees. It was kind of embarrassing, but also the best. We got flowers and everything, and we built him a cairn. We sang, uh, Adeste, Fideles, because it sounded kind of religious.

I don’t know why I thought of that out of the blue. But that was “Dogs Follow You,” and I’ve been your DM. (Yeah, thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all week.)