The Hound is one of the classes from Heart, our upcoming RPG. Check out the Kickstarter here – at time of writing we’re in our last 48 hours.
In the past: the 33rd Regiment were sent down to pacify the Heart by a mad warrior-poet from the City Above. Of the nine hundred or so enlisted soldiers who set off, three hundred survived. Surrounded by forces beyond their understanding and on the verge of total destruction, the surviving officers did what they could to save their troops – and they did something terrible.
Now: there are three hundred badges, each marked with the name of the original hero who carried it; when you steal one, or have it bestowed upon you, you join the Hounds – the new name of the 33rd, protectors of the fragile populace of the Heart – and you carry the weight of their deeds on your shoulders.
You hear tell that some of the original three hundred are still out there, still wearing their badges. You’ve heard of Hounds holding back the darkness alone, withstanding tremendous amounts of punishment, defending havens for days on end without sleep or food.
The Hounds draw on one another, and the people of the Heart, for strength. So long as someone draws breath in the City Beneath, they cannot be destroyed; this is their gift, and their curse.
The core ability of the Hounds, IN THE THICK OF IT, does two things: firstly, it lets you mark stress to Fortune rather than any other resistance. Secondly, when you take fortune fallout, you roll with mastery for the remainder of the situation.
Hounds are unable to gain Fortune protection; they’re a perpetual underdog and bear the brunt of the worst luck that the Heart has to throw at them. Their core gives them a way to super-charge their abilities in exchange for getting in over their heads, and puts them in a cycle of perpetually not having everything under control.
Hounds are tough. The UNSTOPPABLE ability lets you get more dangerous the more you’re hurt, and shrug off trifling problems like broken legs or sucking chest wounds; STARE DOWN turns your gaze into a weapon, filling your adversaries with terror.
Like the Incarnadine, Hounds are more concerned with people and havens than the other classes. A lot of their minor abilities come with once-per-session tricks that let them find shelter or work out who’s threatening the inhabitants of a settlement; CONDEMN, a major ability, lets the Hound gather evidence and name someone as a wanted criminal, which spells doom for them.
My current favourite minor ability for the Hound is OUR GLORIOUS LADY, which gives them access to the Religion domain, and lets them heal another character once per session as they beseech their goddess for aid.
Once you pick up the badge and you rise to power, one of two things happen:
Your first option is to be subsumed into the immortal gestalt consciousness of desperate soldiers that is the 33rd, and over a series of weeks you’ll physically change into one of the founding members of the regiment, the original owner of your badge – a legendary hero with their own motives and agenda. But before you go for good, maybe the 33rd can do you a favour for returning their fallen comrade to them.
Your second option is to forge your own legend worthy of the Hounds and change the name written on your badge to your own, overwriting the previous owner. Now filled with tremendous power from the hopes and fears of every person living in the Heart, you are capable of great things – but you are more than flesh and bone, and suddenly have bigger concerns to attend to than your own petty desires.
We took a while to find our way with the Hound.
Initially, they weren’t at all arcane – they were just people with guns who tried to keep the Heart safe, channelling cops and soldiers and the like into one broad class with a lot of situational abilities. It wasn’t great to play, and next to Junk Mages and Deep Apiarists it was easy to feel like they just weren’t special enough.
We did a lot of thinking, and we ended up with a Paladin. Not a Paladin of a god, mind, but a Paladin of people’s desperate, frantic desire to survive in a world that wants to kill them. An agent of that collective obsession who draws power from it as they foster its growth. There’s a lot of Vimes from Discworld in there, but without any of Pratchett’s trademark subtlety; there’s also a good deal of Ray Winstone in any role Ray Winstone’s ever played, because Chris has a soft spot for morally-grey characters who simmer with terrifying malice.
So: now they’re slightly outside of the realms of mortal power, and that gives us a bit of room to design some more interesting abilities for them that would have pushed the limits of credibility before. All their supernatural abilities are coincidental; you could write them off as toughness, determination, luck or intimidation.
They’re still mortal, and still punching way above their weight, keeping an eye out for the little guy. They just have a mystical force made up of three hundred eternal protectors to back them up, now.