Animal companions are a tradition in Dungeons & Dragons. The Ranger with a hunting dog; the halfling riding a wolfhound; the dogs guarding the entry to the castle — all have status as tropes. In the standard rules the “Mastiff” represents all of these.
But not every dog is a mass of muscle, teeth, and bark.
Other dogs exist in any fantasy world. These doggos deserve game-love, too. Inspired by Ambrose, the ranger in the game where my dwarven axe-wizard Awf slings spells and swings a battle axe like some kind of D&D version of John Casey, the Herding Dog leapt into existence.
The desire with the Herding Dog was to not have an increase in power for a medium canine, but represent how shepherds, collies, sheepdogs, and other AKC Herding Group members are different from the working group types that the Mastiff embraces.
There’s a small dip in strength, constitution, and damage with the most significant boosts being adding Animal Handling (to embrace the ability to make the herd go places) and Pack Tactics (to represent that herding dogs often work in groups).
The minor changes give this dog a different identity, stay at the same power level, and give Ambrose a friend that isn’t purely a means to biting enemies. We’re using the Herding Dog in our campaign. Let me know if you decide to add it to your own.
Terriers and Retrievers are on my list of potential design additions.