Pugmire: The Code of Man

Princess Yosha Pug (Poster 2)
Princess Yosha Pug (Poster 2)

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!

Before I talk about Pugmire, I want to talk about the dog in this picture below.


This is Sanford. He is a rescue pug that we fostered for several months while we help him get to his forever home, and when I first wrote this post he was playing with a squeaky toy behind me in my office. We loved (squeak) having a guest in our house for a while (squeak), but some people we’ve talked to have mentioned how lucky and blessed Sanford is (squeak squeak squeak) to have someone who is willing to act as a foster family for him.

And that got me thinking about a comment I copy-and-pasted from one of my original Pugmire posts.

Can you tell us anything about Pugmires Mythos, what’s the common beliefs among the peasants and what major religions that they worship or is it to soon?

As I mentioned before, the dogs have deified humanity and following in their footsteps. We as a race (collectively called “Man” by the dogs) are somewhere between a pantheon of dead gods and a philosophical construct: Man existed before, but what the dogs know about Man is a hodge-podge of legend, anecdote, racial memory, and inconsistent archaeology. Part of what they know is that Man uplifted them, giving them intellect, a voice, and the ability to manipulate tools. One of the reasons Man did this may be because dogs were the animals closest to Man, for isn’t it said that dogs were Man’s best friend?

If you believe that a race of people that you can’t see are so far above you that they can change who you are, and that everything you have is somehow thanks to that race… well, that’s really close to a religion. In fact, many common phrases in the dog language use “Man” where we would use “God,” such as “Man-damn it” or “for Man’s sake.” The kingdom of Pugmire created the Church of Man to help other Dogs, to learn more about Man, and to follow the ideology Man has laid down for dogs… according to them. It’s a code which they follow, compiled from what they’ve learned and what they feel is right.

The shepherds of the Church know the works of Man, and are well-versed in the nuances, interpretations, and expansions of the teachings. However, not every dog has the patience or capability of knowing so much about what came before. As such, the Church has boiled down most of the tenets into a simple code, called the Code of Man.

1. Be a good dog: The core tenet, and the one most debated philosophically. It’s clear to scholars that this was really important to Man, but what actually comprises the behavior of a “good dog” is a subject of intense debate. It’s also the tenet that many of the Church of Man go back to — any infraction of the other tenets is an indication that you may not be a good dog.

2. Obey the master: Dogs should obey those that are in charge. This hierarchical structure is what allowed the dogs to build a kingdom, and it has resulted in a quasi-feudal government. Some dogs, however, feel that they are their own best “master,” or that only Man has the right to be called “master.”

3. Bite only those who endanger you: “Bite” isn’t necessarily literal here — it means inflicting harm (and sometimes dogs will use it colloquially, such as “don’t bite my tail” to mean “don’t mess with me”). But one of the agreed-on tenets of being a good dog is that you only bite when you are endangered. Of course, what constitutes “danger” is also debated.

4. Protect your home: Although “home” can be broadly defined, this is probably one of the least controversial tenets — most every dog can agree that guarding and protecting your home, your family, and those around you is a good thing. If you can justify protecting your home, you can probably get away with “biting.”

5. Be loyal to those that are true: Dogs were valued by Man for their loyalty, and that should extend to other dogs (and indeed, to anyone else). But what is disloyalty? If you betray a friend to save a group or your family, are you still true? Are you really a good dog?

6. Protect all from the unseen: Long ago, dogs have tried to warn Man about dangerous things (ghosts, demons, spirits, the possessed, people of ill intent, or even just bad things about to happen). They barked fierce cries of warning whenever unseen danger was near, but unfortunately Man never listened. Over time, some dogs lost their ability to sense such things, but they still feel it is their duty to protect all people from hidden danger.

7. Fetch what has been left behind: Dogs also seek to retrieve the relics still undiscovered in the world, and bring them back. The Church of Man helps to identify, authenticate, and in some cases activate these relics, but any family that can claim ownership of an important or powerful relic can be elevated to nobility. The Church teaches that fetching such items brings dogs closer to Man, but some pariahs (and even a few other dog kingdoms) feel that such pursuits are mercenary and smell more of cat logic than something a dog should be doing.

The Code of Man is what all the good dogs of Pugmire are expected to follow. Those dogs that do not follow the Code of Man are bad dogs, at least in the eyes of some. Some bad dogs (and even some good dogs that don’t agree with some interpretation of the tenets) decide to leave Pugmire, or are forced out. These are the pariahs, dogs that have cast off the leash of civilization and strive to be good dogs outside of anyone else’s code.

Different kingdoms have different ideologies. The monarchies of the cats, for example, also believe in Man, but look on them as a race of treasured servants that left without telling their master where everything was. They value Man and Man’s teachings, but more as a collection of good suggestions rather than societal laws. They certainly wouldn’t create a code based on that.

Which leads me back to Sanford. He looked at everyone in my family as a rock star — he was really happy to see us, and just wanted to be a part of whatever we were doing because he thought we were so cool. But what would happen if all of us were gone? What would he tell his puppies about us, or the other dogs he meets? And what would other dogs think of him when he talks about the people that saved him and gave him a home and presented him with presents and love without anything in return? Would Sanford be a prophet to his people?

Probably not; he never quite figured out that the laptop isn’t a place to sit on, after all. But these are the things I think about as I continue to work on Pugmire.

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