Humanoids, Demi-humans, and the Pets Who Love Them

Well, love and/or serve.

I’ve often been fascinated by the selections of animal companions/guards/pets for different types of humanoids and demi-humans. The idea of combinations of monsters is one that harkens back to the original LBBs, of course, but it was also codified in AD&D. A quick stroll through the Monster Manual gives us:

  • Dwarves with wolves or brown bears
  • Gray Elves with hippogriffs or griffons
  • High Elves with giant eagles
  • Sea Elves with dolphins
  • Wood Elves with giant owls or giant lynxes
  • Gnolls with hyenas or hyaenodons
  • Gnomes with badgers, giant badgers, or wolverines
  • Goblins with wolves
  • Halflings with dogs (shades of Farmer Maggot!)
  • Hobgoblins with carnovorous apes
  • Kobolds with wild boars or giant weasels

And, of course, the giants are treated similarly:

  • Cloud Giants with spotted lions
  • Fire Giants with hell hounds
  • Frost Giants with winter wolves
  • Hill Giants with dire wolves or giant lizards
  • Stone Giants with cave bears
  • Storm giants with griffons or sea lions

There are two notable omissions from the list of creatures with animals; humans and orcs. Humans, being the most flexible, adaptive, and unpredictable of the intelligent races, might well not have a single go-to animal suitable in most circumstances (although I would not have thought it remiss if an entry such as cave man or tribesman had “dog” or “wolf” listed).

The omission of an animal companion for orcs is somewhat surprising; they do have ogres listed as possible companion creatures, but that does somewhat break the pattern for humanoids. Wolves would be the natural first choice, but they’re already listed for both dwarves and goblins. I very much like the idea of having baboons for the orcs’ favored animal; it is both thematically consistent with the hobgoblins’ having carnivorous apes, and also has (appropriately icky) connotations with losels.

I definitely like the combination of humanoids and companion creatures, and I like the idea that certain races have affinities for certain companion creatures. Of course, it doesn’t preclude a game master from throwing in other creatures in a lair (or in any sort of encounter, for that matter), but having a “standard” gives them a little color with an in-game impact.

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

6 thoughts on “Humanoids, Demi-humans, and the Pets Who Love Them

  1. Barad has a good point. In Warhammer, boar riders are not an uncommon sight in orc armies. Maybe orcs are just too carniverous and eat any animals they would otherwise have as pets?

  2. I do like the pig snout connection. Nothing says they only have to have one!

    Although, on the other hand, saying they're common in Warhammer might be a strike against the idea. 😉

  3. The Elven Cat is apparently mistaken for a giant lynx, apparently!

    Plus, halfling holy men are druids, so I figure they have an affinity for all kinds of animals.

  4. Perhaps orcs are just too twisted to form any sort of meaningful bond with animals. Or maybe their pets come in a bewildering variety, just like humans.

  5. Months ago, elsewhere on the OSR-webs, I saw someone use the humanoid/demi-human entries in the AD&D MM, including the subsecitons for officers, dependants, and companion creatures; the DMG treasure tables for all those monsters; the notes on lair/burrow layout and common enemies; as a quick & dirty method to craft several related multi-level lairs each with multiple adventure hooks.

    More than enough to fill a large wilderness hex or dungeon sub-level. All starting from "hey look, orcs! now what?"

    Do that a few times (the dwarf thanedom in the hills, the elf-holt, the gnome burrows, the goblin caves, the hobgoblin satrapy, the Fire Giant's volcano palace), consider how the strongholds interrelate and you've got yourself a small sandbox.

    And just like that I've got a project for tonight 🙂

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