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Tabletop Game / Pugmire

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"Be a good dog."
Central tenet of the Code of Man

Pugmire is a roleplaying game published in 2017 by Onyx Path in partnership with Eddy Webb and Pugsteady. It takes place in a distant future where humankind has either gone extinct or left the world, leaving the various Funny Animals they uplifted to fill the void. While many different sentient races exist, the game focuses on the noble dogs of Pugmire and their rivalry with the secretive cats of the Monarchies of Mau.

The rule system is strongly influenced by 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, with races (canine breeds divided into categories such as Companions, Pointers and Mutts) and classes (such as Artisans who wield ancient high-tech MacGuffins to achieve magical effects, Guardians who defend and inspire with sword in hand, and Ratters who seek out injustice with cunning and flair) forming the core of your character. Stories can consist of getting involved in noble intrigues, defending the innocent from Always Chaotic Evil monsters, seeking out lost technology in remote ruins, and just generally indulging in An Adventurer Is You.

The game falls strongly on the idealistic side, being described by the developers as "a light-hearted and family-friendly fantasy world." Player characters are assumed to be heroic champions of justice or at least Jerks With Hearts Of Gold, and the setting is described in colourful and mildly comedic terms. It's not entirely a Sugar Bowl, however - ferocious monsters roam the countryside, there is treachery and corruption hidden everywhere, and just what it means to be a good dog is something no two characters can entirely agree on.

A companion game, Monarchies of Mau, has been released, which spotlights the cats and their domains.

Tropes found in Pugmire include:

  • Adventure Guild: The Pugmire Pioneers function roughly like this.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Yosha and Pan are characters within the setting, and also address the reader directly in sidebars throughout the core rulebook to explain particular concepts, give examples, and provide their often-different takes on things.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Non-anthropomorphic dogs do still exist, and are called "canines".
  • Cats Are Mean: Or at least they're strange and secretive and most dogs don't trust them. Monarchies of Mau goes into more detail on this. Cats aren't mean (well, individual cats can be, but the same is true for dogs), and so far as many cats are concerned the current negotiations to form an alliance between Pugmire and the Monarchies is a genuine effort founded on common ideals and interests, but their different philosophy and religion can rub dogs the wrong way (while both cat and dog religion revere the Old Ones, dogs place themselves as favoured servants of Man, while cats place Man as the favoured servants of cats). It doesn't help that cats are secretive — or rather, combine a fractious political structure full of intrigue with a seeming psychological need to maintain at least one secret even if it is only maintained by everyone around them politely pretending not to know.
  • The Clan:
    • Dogs use the term "breed" to refer to what modern humans would call their "type", e.g. "companion", "fettle", "herder," "pointer", "runner", "worker", and "mutt". What humans knew as breed are instead "families" within a breed and indeed considered to be large extended families, though marrying distant relatives within your family is normal.
    • Since cat breeds aren't as strictly defined as dog breeds they instead have six "houses" based on the city-states that formed the Monarchies.
  • Clarke's Third Law: Name-dropped in the chapter on "Magic and Technology", which explains that in the Pugmire world, the terms "Magic" and "Technology" apply to the exact same items, and represent different ends of the same spectrum—something is "Magic" when it is irreplaceable and little understood, whilst it is "Technology" if it is understood and mass-producible. Thusly, the ancient relics of humanity are Magic, whilst things like chairs, armor, weapons, clothing, etc are Technology.
  • Code of Honor: The Code of Man, which forms the guiding philosophy of Pugmire, giving instructions such as "be a good dog" and "protect your home."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: In-universe, dog and cat values are extremely different, leading to their cultural clashing and the resultant distrust. Dogs see cats as being fickle at best, abhor their pride in regarding themselves as Man's masters rather than its servants, distrust their secretive nature, are infuriated by the way cats destroy ancient relics instead of honoring them properly, and loathe their embrace of the dark arts of necromancy.
  • Elective Monarchy: A few generations after Pugmire’s founding the Duke of the Hound family persuaded the Queen to establish a royal court of the noble families who would choose the rulers of Pugmire. Though, as with many elected monarchies, it tends to be hereditary in practice, with pugs comprising the majority of kings and queens.
  • Elves vs. Dwarves: Pugmire's group-minded, loyal-to-a-fault dogs versus the Monarchies of Mau's individualistic, intrigue-obsessed cats. They get along like, well, cats and dogs. Despite this, diplomatic negotiations to form a Pugmire-Mau alliance are ongoing, and at least on the cat side many see them as a genuine effort built on common ground and interests.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Companion breeds and herders can learn a trick that allows them to smell the Unseen, and the Church of Man's tenets preach that they could do that before uplift as well, but Man unfortunately didn't heed their warnings.
  • Evolving Weapon: Some relics, once attuned to a wielder, can be upgraded with new abilities as their wielder levels up. As a bonus, in dynastic campaigns new characters can inherit a relic with the upgrades already unlocked.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • The cats and dogs get along about as well as... you know...
    • Rats and badgersnote  aren't particularly well-liked either, and are generally thought of as criminals and barbarians, respectively, by the two city-building species.
  • The Federation: The Monarchies of Mau are six cat city-states united by shared distrust of Pugmire.
  • Fictional Currency: The commonly used currency is plastic coins called, appropriately, "plastics."
  • Funny Animal: All non-monstrous people are some manner of humanoid animal, the dogs of Pugmire and cats of the Monarchies of Mau being the most central ones.
  • Furry Confusion: Non-uplifted versions of the sentient races still exist and are used as pets and beasts of burden like in the real world. The book makes it clear that the dogs of Pugmire do not see the non-uplifted dogs as being part of the same species as them - they regard them somewhat like humans regard chimpanzees, acknowledging the close relation but still seeing themselves as another order of being entirely. To clear up some of the confusion non-sentient animals are referred to by a more general name, e.g. non-sentient dogs are called "canines," non-sentient cats are called "felines," etc.
  • Furry Reminder: The dogs are human for all intents and purposes most of the time, but every so often you get things like taverns serving ale in bowls because long-muzzled customers tend to have trouble drinking from cups.
  • Genius Bruiser: Underestimate rats at your own peril; not only are they stronger than their mice brethren, they tend to be smarter and psychic as well.
  • Good Republic, Evil Empire: Inverted, as far as the dogs are concerned — they are proud of being loyal, orderly and traditional and having a strong central government, while looking down their muzzles on the cats and their more individualistic collection of loosely affiliated nations. It's strongly implied that the cats view things according to this trope, though.
  • Hold Your Hippogriffs: Since their main religion is the worship of humanity's memory, dogs are prone to using the word "Man" instead of "God" in otherwise unchanged modern-day expressions, e.g., "Man damn it," "I swear to Man." The book explicitly admits that one of the reasons for why humanity is referred to by that word (rather than, well, "humanity") is that it makes those replacements so smooth.
  • Humanity's Wake: The race of Man is long gone by the time of the game, and different races have different accounts of just what it was like and what happened to it. The dogs worship Man as their Precursors and try to live by their ancient commandments.
  • The Klan: The Friends of Man are a secret society of cat-haters who harass cats living in Pugmire and try to frame them for crimes they didn't commit in order to stoke the already existing Fantastic Racism in the setting. They are also organised into cells and wear robes with hoods. Unbeknownst to most of the members, they're led by a demon who's trying to start a war.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Pan Dachshund. He doesn't believe in any of this "Code of Man" crap, but he's ready to lay down his life to keep innocent dogs safe if it comes to that, because that's just the right thing to do.
  • Language Equals Thought: Cats have seven different words for "betrayal." As far as Pan is concerned, that says it all.
  • Mad Scientist: The White Mice of the Cult of Labo Tor, who are prone to kidnapping people and performing horrific experiments on them in their efforts to find the mythical 100 Theories. Even most other rats want nothing to do with them.
  • Magic from Technology: Artisans are most obvious, with their reliance on human-made "foci" to use magic, but Shepherds need holy symbols to work magic and their initiation involves injection with a "Holy Elixir".
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Nobles are expected to marry within their own breed so as not to produce Mutts. Star-Crossed Lovers from different breeds running away together is a popular trope in Pugmire's literature.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The Unseen are firmly believed in-universe to be demonic forces... but there are subtle implications that at least some of the Unseen may actually just be diseases given a coat of religious anthropomorphing. The Rage Demon description, for example, reads a lot like a case of rabies...
    • This is actually a common, if subtle, theme throughout the game. Most the "magic" is pretty clearly advanced technology left by human, like robots or genetic engineering...but not all of it is so easy to explain.
    • Squeaks in the Deep says it's pretty clearly Magic; Unseen have minds a psychic rodent is capable of communicating with, implying they're at least more than diseases, though rodents have little idea of what they are beyond that.
  • Mister Big: A non-villainous example. Pugmire was founded by and is currently ruled by the Pug family. note  Since Pugs are less than five foot tall on average and many other breeds commonly grow as tall as seven feet, this means that many Kings of Pugmire have been towered over by the majority of their subjects.
  • Necromancer: Cat "Mancers" use bones as foci, and their spell list includes a fair bit of the necromancy school in contrast with Dog Artisans. Cats respect necromancers as almost priest-like figures, whilst dogs regard them with superstitious dread.
  • One-Word Title: The kingdom of Pugmire, although it might more properly be called a city-state. There are also a number of other dog communities outside the kingdom.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The Unseen are invisible creatures that live to cause harm. They tend to possess or corrupt dogs to use as tools, though some can physically affect the world all on their own.
  • The Pollyanna: Yosha Pug, who believes wholeheartedly in Pugmire and thinks the best of everyone.
  • Precursors: The race of Man is seen as this by the dogs.
  • Precursor Worship: The Church of Man believe Man were an ancient race of gods who uplifted dogs before ascending to another realm.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Yosha's a princess, the daughter of Pugmire's current ruler King Puckington Pug.
  • Science Fantasy: The game runs on fantasy tropes, but most if not all are said to be caused by poorly understood super-technology, mutations, genetic engineering and similar. For example, the suits of "animated armour" that guard old human installations are strongly implied to be some kind of robots, and the walking skeletons are in fact animated by swarms of alien parasites.
  • Shining City: Pugmire. Pan is always quick to remind everyone that there's a seedy underbelly to the place, mind you.
  • Species Surname: Played with. A dog's surname comes from their family, the equivalent of a present-day dog breed. However, some dogs marry into a family, or are adopted or otherwise accepted, while others may have cause to change their surname, create a new one, or simply drop it altogether.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Technology: Artisans and Shepherds alike wield what looks like magic but which is actually utilising poorly understood technology left behind by Man.
  • The Six Stats: Each type of purebred dog has +2 to one of them. Mutts have +1 to two different ones.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Yosha and Pan disagree on plenty of things and are both clearly biased - she's sweet and pampered, while he is wearing Jade-Colored Glasses. Who is right on any given subject is up to individual gamemasters to decide. Also, it's strongly hinted that neither one of them really understand the cats and the other non-dog species, and that those are likely to have yet another different perspective on things.
  • Uplifted Animal: Man uplifted a number of species before disappearing, including dogs, cats, rats, badgers and related species, and lizards, among others.
  • Vancian Magic: Artisans and Shepherds both have a limited number of spell slots that they can use per day. Though they're both spontaneous casters that know a limited number of spells but don't need to specifically prepare them each day.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: A surprising lot of vile villains, in fact. While much conflict in the world of Pugmire is caused by misunderstandings and prejudice, there's also things like the Cult of Labo Tor who kidnap people to perform hideous experiments on them, the Unseen who possess dogs and drive them to foaming, murderous rage, insects that cram skeleton parts together (usually not in the places where they originally went) and drive them to attack people...
  • You Dirty Rat!: Subverted. The Cult of Labor Tor are rodentine Mad Scientists who view cruel experimentation as an act of worship of man, but Squeaks in the Deep clarifies other rodents don't like them either; rats and mice form a Proud Scholar Race collective who mostly wish to be left alone and understandably fear cats.