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I'm a new Savage Worlds GM running my first campaign. There are a lot of great things about SW that I enjoy so far. But the one area where we seem to constantly stumble is, when there's a very specific question, we rarely seem to be able to find an answer to solve the dispute. Today it was about the Beast Master Edge.

A member of the group selected the Edge and has a guard dog as his animal companion now. In one of the combat scenarios he wanted to use the dog to attempt a disarm of the opponent. The guard dog abilities are only listed as bite, go for the throat and fleet footed. His rational was that his dog is treated as an Extra and therefore has access to any and all actions available to an Extra. Our argument was that it does not—that he had to stop thinking about the dog as a "dog" in this instance and consider that Beast Master is in fact a novice Edge, and should therefore fall in line with other novice Edges.

To the point of my question, I guess: What's the scope of commands we should be allowing him to give his dog in combat? Thank you in advance for any help in this!

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Are you referring to the Beast Master (no "y") Edge in the core book, or to a different Beast Mastery (with "y") Edge in some supplement? –  SevenSidedDie Mar 23 at 7:19
    
@James Since you're around, care to take a moment to clarify whether you mean Beast Master or Beast Mastery (with a y)? –  doppelgreener Mar 24 at 10:15
    
Sorry just getting a chance to check back in. I meant the beast master edge in the corebook. Apologies. We've decided to map out commands he would like his animal companion to learn and allow him to learn them upon successful extra rank ups (Provided the animal lives that long). Each time he will need to restart this process if the animal dies. Thanks to everyone for the quick responses. Very helpful community. –  James Mar 25 at 2:34
    
@James That sounds like the kind of decision that suits how Savage Worlds does things. Good to hear it! –  SevenSidedDie Apr 4 at 16:39

2 Answers 2

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First off, the Beast Master Edge does clearly state that the animal companion is an Extra and there are no additional rules limiting that. So from a purely mechanical standpoint there are no limitations to what it can do. The question then is whether or not there are narrative limitations.

The movie The Beastmaster that this Edge is named after had its titular hero have the supernatural ability to command beasts to do complex actions (the Edge seems to allude to the hero's ability by saying that the character has "animal magnetism", quotes included). Heck in one scene he even got his ferrets to steal a woman's clothes and then have his tiger act like it was about to eat her so that he could stage a rescue. And let's not forget the tragic ending where the ferret spotted that the big bad was going to stab the Beastmaster and unbidden decided to sacrifice himself to save him.

I think the complexity of the beast's actions depend on the nature of their relationship and the genre of the game. If it's a swashbuckling pirates game and the dog is practically a character on the crew's ship, I would have no problem having a character order the dog to get the keys from he sleeping jailor's hand (with suitable complications). If it's a realistic modern military game and the dog was fresh from the kennels, I'd argue that he can only respond to a few things and would suggest that the player list the commands that the dog knows. Even then, I'd say that as the dog spends more time with his master that he can learn to "read" him and act accordingly without explicit training. In most cases I'd probably default to somewhere in between with animals having the same amount of intelligence as the direwolves from Game of Thrones: able to do some pretty complex stuff unbidden and on their own like plan an ambush, but not so much as doing something completely out of their nature like interacting with civilized items. When in doubt, have the animal make a Smarts roll, with modifiers if necessary.

Although this Edge can be powerful, especially if you are letting the beast do many complex actions, I don't think that it needs to be limited to "be in line with other Novice Edges." The fact that it's just an Extra means that it's dangerous sending it into combat and a clever GM can find all sorts of ways to cause issues for non-combat uses.

Bottom line: let the animals do what makes sense for them given the relationship and setting, probably erring on the side of them doing more for the sake of gameplay.

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What is an Extra?

All characters and creatures are either Extras or Wild Cards, no exceptions. Being one or the other does not determine what the character/creature can do. This dog being an Extra isn't an upgrade from a normal dog, since normal dogs are already Extras.

Being an Extra determines only how you handle its wounds (one) and rolls (no Wild Die). It doesn't have anything to do with actions available.

What is a Special Ability?

These aren't a menu of actions the creature can take—they're not actions at all. Think of Special Abilities as Edges for monsters: they are differences from the norm with fancy names. Bite gives mechanics for the dog's natural weaponry, Go for the Throat gives its normal attacks a special effect on a Raise, and Fleet-Footed changes its run die size.

Special Abilities alter a monster's statistics from the human default. But, they are not the entirety of the differences from the human baseline—the GM is expected to know what dogs can and can't do and run the game according to real-world or genre logic.

What does Beast Master do?

The Beast Master Edge does two things: it makes animals like you and makes one in particular like you so much that it becomes a loyal companion. There's nothing about training, tricks, supernatural communication, or anything else.

With a dog as the chosen companion, what you get is a loyal dog, described in the Bestiary as a breed typical of attack dogs. No special training is implied or given, so basically you've got a big cuddly Rottweiler who would kill to make you happy, but nothing more than that.

What actions can a character take?

Since the rules are generic they expect the GM to use them to create a world (believable or otherwise), and they will not tell you who can or can't take a particular action. The rules give that job to the GM.

Whether a character can do a disarm action or not depends entirely on whether they are personally capable of performing a disarm. Can an armless beggar disarm someone? Can a songbird? Those aren't rules questions, those are simply questions the GM answers as they see fit.

Can a real-world dog disarm someone?

Sure, with training. There are trained police dogs that can disarm a target.

There's no reason why you can't train an animal companion gained via Beast Master to do the same—but it does require those months and years of training, they don't come with it when they show up.

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