Pugmire: A Cautious Sniff

Sister Picassa Collie (Pugmire Poster 1)
Sister Picassa Collie (Pugmire Poster 1)

Until Gen Con, I’ll be blogging about Pugmire here on my site. These posts are slightly updated from the ones I’ve made on the Onyx Path website over the past year, containing more accurate and new information. If you like the attached image, you can get a poster of it from DriveThruRPG!

Waaaaaay back in August 2014, Rich and I announced Pugmire for the first time at Gen Con. It’s a new creator-owned fantasy game (specifically, owned by my company, Pugsteady) that’s being created in collaboration with Onyx Path Publishing. Which is a really fancy way of saying that Rich and I decided to do a game about dogs.

Well, okay. It’s more complicated than that. Here’s something from the current design bible to help explain.

Pugmire is a fantasy world with evolved dogs as the main characters. These dogs have learned to use tools and language, living in the ruins of the world of Man. They (along with other races of animals) have rebuilt the world left to them in their image. The kingdom of Pugmire, named after the family of one of the greatest dog heroes, is a center of civilization.

Dogs strive to learn about Man, deifying them as examples all people should strive to emulate. Other nations, such as the cats of the monarchies of Mau, have different perspectives on Man, but all of them recognize that there was a world before this one, and it is now populated with mysteries and dangers. Some people have learned how to use the rare and unusual magic and relics left by Man. These are the magic items, spells, and enchantments of genre fantasy, as well as a very literal exploration of Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Pugmire juxtaposes the tropes of high fantasy with our relationship with domestic dogs. Dogs adventure to uncover the lost ruins of Man in search of relics, knowledge, and danger. Dogs have access to magic that they master through faith or academic study. They have enemies who can either be monstrous, or simply other misunderstood people. They have a moral code that classifies some people as “good” and others as “bad” (although not “evil”—that’s reserved for insane monsters that only seek destruction and chaos). And they fall into callings that determine their role in society and in their adventuring parties.

That’s the core of the game right there. It’s genre fantasy, but with some sci-fi. It’s adventure, but with a little morality. It’s a fantasy game about dogs, but with lots of room for dramatic potential. It’s what you expect, but it’s not what you expect. Which makes it sometimes hard to explain when people ask me what the game is about.

There hasn’t been much to talk about over the past year. As I mentioned, I created a bible, all of which was so preliminary and early in design that a document full of outright lies might be more accurate. From that, I built a “vertical slice” of the game engine. For those who don’t know, a vertical slice is a working demonstration of all components of a game’s design — it’s not complete, but it’s comprehensive. From there I’ve been playtesting it over the past six months, refining, expanding, and redesigning that core to get it to where I need it to be.

So, that’s where things are at — it’s a cautious sniff toward something to put in front of a larger audience by the end of the year. In the meantime, I plan to continue blogging at Onyx Path’s website about the game, and give progress reports where I can.

Go forth, warriors of Pugmire! Be a good dog! Defend your kingdom!

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