Last Updated on November 7, 2023
Medium Beast, Unaligned
Cost: A Mastiff mount costs 25 gold pieces
- Size: Medium
- Creature Type: Beast
- Alignment: Unaligned
- Weight: 195 lbs
- Ability Scores: STR 13 (+1), DEX 14 (+2), CON 12 (+1), INT 3 (-4), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 7 (-2)
- AC: 12
- Hit Points: 1d8+1 (5 avg.)
- Speed: 40 ft.
- Skills: Perception +3
- Senses: Passive Perception 13
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
- CR: ⅛
Keen Hearing and Smell: The mastiff has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.
Bite: Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 4 (1d6 + 1) piercing damage. If the target is a creature, it must succeed on a DC 11 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.
Mastiffs are impressive hounds prized by humanoids for their loyalty and keen senses. Mastiffs can be trained as guard dogs, hunting dogs, and war dogs. Halflings and other Small humanoids ride them as mounts.
Using Mastiffs as Mounts and Companions
For PCs, mastiffs can play similar roles of guard dog, mount, or just an attacking ally. At low levels, their higher base speed makes them a viable option for the cost of a mount.
PCs may also wish to acquire a pack of mastiffs; as the next section will demonstrate, mastiffs are primarily effective with allies.
However, for druids, the mastiff represents a good early-mid-game utility pick for wild shape.
Mastiffs are a common breed of dog, and a wild-shaped druid can pass without comment in places other animals with technically higher stealth scores might stand out if spotted.
What’s important to know about mastiffs, however, is that for druids, they are a good option for when you need to infiltrate an estate’s security and they use guard dogs.
Mastiffs in the “Wild“
While it’s technically possible for mastiffs to just show up, it’s unlikely that you’d ever find them in the wilderness or in dungeons. For these beasts, real life is the best place from which to draw inspiration.
In the world of D&D, mastiffs are likely to be bred as protectors and guard dogs, just as they often are in real life.
In addition to serving as a niche and a useful kind of cheap muscle, mastiffs can also serve as mounts for small humanoids like Halflings.
Their ability to be trained for battle and/or hunting make them a popular choice here as well; obviously, more powerful beasts are better in combat, but numbers and price matter a lot more for the average NPC than they do for adventuring parties.
Mastiff Tactics and Uses in Game
Mastiffs don’t have very complex tactics. In fact, you can sum up how a combat encounter with mastiffs will work with one simple rule: dogs don’t work alone.
Instead, mastiffs are usually well-trained and work with allies.
These can be other mastiffs, and a pack of wild dogs could be dangerous if it were large enough.
However, most likely, the mastiffs will have humanoid allies, like guards, they can alert or help, guides to drive them toward their prey in a hunt, or trained handlers with dog whistles meant to coordinate a pack of war mastiffs with the larger army’s formation.
Their primary goal in combat is to swarm an enemy, knock them down, and then either press their and their allies’ advantage against a prone target or force a grapple until they can drag their target away.
While the knockdown DC is low, multiple attempts in a round make it very likely that the target will eventually just roll a 1.
When they’re the only dog around (or if they’re a druid), the strategy is similar: spam attempted knockdowns and grapples.
These tactics can make mastiffs, even at CR ⅛, a multiplier for the effectiveness of a greater enemy (like a pack of mastiffs). Of course, these tactics are relatively simple to counter too, so they aren’t game-breaking.
Avoid melee, use magical push effects, and take advantage of mastiff’s low hit points with AOEs.
However, don’t mistake the ease with which you can counter mastiffs for ineffectiveness. Eight mastiffs only add up to CR1, but added at just the right moment in a more difficult fight could mean a quick loss if your party isn’t careful.
It’s wise to respect the prone condition and the power of multiple grapples, even at a high level.
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Growing up I spent most of my time reading, so when I first started playing RPGs in middle school and got a copy of DnD 3.5’s rules I loved their collaborative take on storytelling. These days I like to use RPGs to develop my creative problem-solving skills as well.