This article is part of a series! Click here to see the other entries.
D&D has historically featured a whole bunch of dog-like monsters in its bestiaries, and Fourth Edition is no different. This Monster Manual entry collects a bunch of them.
The monsters in these entries are basically large dogs with various supernatural powers, so you already have a good idea of what they look like and what they’re used for: pets, guard animals, trackers, and so on.
In the implied Fourth Edition setting, mundane dogs kind of compete with drakes in the roles I mentioned above. The supernatural powers of these monstrous hounds make them more powerful than a typical drake, though.
First we have Hell Hounds, who have the ability to both resist and breathe fire. Despite the name, they originate in the Elemental Chaos, being one of the early creations of the primordials. Fire giants have been breeding hellhounds for millennia, and their efforts result in larger and more powerful specimens than can be found in the wild or in the service of less experienced breeders.
Next we have Shadow Hounds, native to the Shadowfell and embodying many of the real-world myths of spooky black dogs that foretell your death or simply attack you while you’re out in the moors.
And finally, we have the Hounds of the Wild Hunt, the favorite pets of those epic-tier Eladrin and fey nobles. Their vigor is boundless, their strength unmatched, and their intelligence super-canine.
Though the doggies in this entry are quite diverse, they do have a couple of traits in common. They’re Medium Beasts, they generally run fast, and they have trained Perception. Everything else varies.
Hell hounds are Medium Elemental Beasts (fire), and Level 7 Brutes with 96 HP. They have Resist 20 Fire, run at speed 7, and are surrounded by a fiery aura 1 that does a bit of fire damage to anyone caught inside.
Their main attack is a bite that does a mix of physical and fire damage, and they can also breathe fire (Close Blast 3 vs. Reflex, recharge 4-6).
Simple and direct creatures, you only need to fix their damage before adding them to your game. A pack of hell hounds doesn’t need to worry about friendly fire if they surround the PCs, and they can pair well with ranged monsters or with other fire-resistant frontliners.
Firebred Hell Hound
The variety bred by fire giants is also a Medium Elemental Beast (fire), but it’s considerably stronger: a Level 17 Brute with 205 HP. The fiery aura does a bit more damage, its fire resistance is 40, and its ground speed 8.
Firebred hell hounds have the same attacks as the basic model, plus a Fiery Burst (Close Burst 3 vs. Reflex, recharge 6) that gives then more options for dealing area-effect fire damage.
These are Medium Shadow Beasts, and Level 6 Skirmishers with 70 HP. They run at speed 7, and have a teleport speed of 7 as well. They’re surrounded by a Shroud of Night (aura 5) that makes all light within one step darker, and have Vulnerable 5 Radiant. Obviously, they also have darkvision.
The shadow hound’s basic attack is a bite, which does extra sneak attack damage and combat advantage if used right after the monster teleports adjacent to its target. They can bay as a minor action (Close Burst 5 vs. Will; Fear, sound-based; recharge 5-6) to inflict a -2 penalty to all defenses of anyone they affect, lasting for a turn.
In combat they’ll keep bouncing between PCs, to get that sneak attack damage, and will bay whenever possible to keep their defenses lowered.
Wild Hunt Hound
These good boys are Medium Fey Beasts, and Level 21 Skirmishers with 205 HP. They have low-light vision, speed 10 on the ground and in the air, and their Menacing Growling acts as an Aura 10 that inflicts a -2 defense penalty to all enemies within.
These hounds also get +2 defense against opportunity attacks, and cause extra “sneak attack” damage when they have combat advantage. Their bite does even more bonus physical damage against immobilized targets. The first time they hit, the target is also slowed and prevented from teleporting; the next hit after that will immobilize instead. A save can end these conditions.
Finally, Wild Hunt Hounds can execute a Mobile Melee Attack at will, moving 5 squares without provoking opportunity attacks and biting someone at any point along the movement.
These things are terrifying when accompanied by a band of epic-level wild hunters (like the Ghaele of Winter or equivalent fey).
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
Each hound type gets a sample encounter:
Level 6: 2 shadow hounds, 2 shadar-kai gloomblades, 1 shadar-kai witch.
Level 17: 2 firebred hellhounds, 2 azer beastlords, 1 azer taskmaster.
Level 20: 4 wild hunt hounds, 1 bralani of autumn wilds.
Hell hounds are a classic, and I like that they took some strong mythical figures for the other entries. Despite the usual damage bugs the stat blocks themselves also seem fairly simple and effective in a fight.