Men & Monsters of the Aegean: Cynocephalian (D&D 5th Edition Race)

Michael O. Varhola
Anpa lay flat and immobile on the sandy dunes that formed one edge of the necropolis and overlooked it, scanning amongst the low, boxlike mastaba tombs for some sign of what her keen nose had already told her was there. Then, fully exposed in the light of the full moon, she saw a pair hunched, hairless creatures skulk out into the open ground between one sand-scoured tomb and lope toward the open door of another. “Ghouls,” she thought, recognizing them as the vile scavengers that defiled unguarded tombs and consumed the bodies of the sacred dead that they were. Uttering a prayer to Anubis, protector of the dead, she stealthily rose up onto one knee, knocked an arrow in her bow and drew it back, and took aim at one of the undead monsters …
Cynocephalians are dog-headed people who, like Humans, vary greatly in height, build, coloration, and even the specific appearances of their most characteristic features, which can be similar to those of wolves, jackals, or any other sort of canines. From the neck down they are humanoid in form but have coats of fur-like body hair that can range from very light to bestially heavy; have limbs that can be articulated so as to allow them to easily move on all fours; and have nails that are longer and hornier than those of Humans.
Widespread and Adaptable
Cynocephalians are nearly as widespread and adaptable as people and can be found in as many places, with numerous subspecies dwelling in the environments most suitable to them, from searing deserts to arctic wastes. They generally dwell in remote and isolated places and lead simple lives as hunters, herders, and scavengers, keeping to themselves and preferring their own company to that of others. Those that make friends with or serve members of other races, however, tend to be fiercely loyal to them.
Peaceful and Hardworking … Mostly
Under normal conditions, the majority of Cynocephalians are peaceful and hardworking and will not eat the flesh of other humanoids. Occasionally, however, such as when food is scarce, there is disease among their flocks, or they come under the domination of evil masters, Cynocephalians can become aggressive and predatory. They can then turn to raiding and banditry and at such times have even been known to eat their victims. Regardless of their behavior, it is not uncommon for others to confuse them with Gnolls, werewolves, or other creatures of similar appearance.
Pack Creatures
Cynocephalians typically organize themselves into hierarchical packs, with a clear chain of command in which each individual knows who it is subordinate or superior to and what its relationships with fellow members are. When Cynocephalians are part of adventuring parties or other groups that include members of different races they try to understand their place in and relative relationships in the same sorts of terms. Cynocephalians encountered outside of their homelands are likely to work as adventurers, bodyguards, mercenaries, and expert trackers.
Cynocephalian Names
Cynocephalians normally have names derived from legendary figures or divine representatives of their race and are much less inclined than many other peoples to further embellish these with titles and the like. Those who live among other races, however, might adopt the names or naming conventions of the people with whom they dwell or are associated. Following are characteristic names with standard male and female suffixes, but these might be modified in any number of appropriate ways (e.g., Fenro might be adapted into Fenrir or Fenrus, a male Cynocephalian might adapt the the female Morrigan into Morrigo).
            Male Names: Anpo, Cano, Duamuto, Fenro, Garwlwo, Guinefo, Lyco, Reprebo, Sarameyo, Shvan, Vanagandro, Wepwawo.
            Female Names: Anpa, Bua, Cana, Coya, Fenra, Garwlwa, Lyca, Morrigan, Samra, Vanagandra, Wepwawa, Xola.
A Cynocephalian character has a number of traits common to members of its kind.
            Ability Score Increase. Three of a Cynocephalian’s ability scores increase by 1 each.
            Age. Cynocephalians reach full maturity much more quickly than humans, by about age six, and live commensurately less long, typically not making it past their late forties.
            Alignment. Cynocephalians in general tend toward law, and to a lesser extent toward good, and to work well in groups that include members of other races. There are, however, plenty of exceptions to this tendency, to include thoroughly chaotic “lone wolves,” those that are decidedly evil, and everything in between.
            Size. Cynocephalians range in build and size as much as Humans, from somewhat over 4 to nearly 7 feet in height (although there is generally much less variation amongst the members of a particular subspecies). Their size is Medium.
            Speed. A Cynocephalian’s base walking speed is 30 feet. If it has nothing in its hands and is on all fours, however, it can move at a base speed of 40 feet.
            Languages. A Cynocephalian can speak, read, and write Common and Cynocephalian. Dwarvish, Gnomish, Goblin, and Halfling are among the additional languages most commonly known by Cynocephalians.
            Keen Hearing and Smell. A Cynocephalian has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on hearing or smell.
            Bite. A Cynocephalian can make a bite, just as if it were using a melee weapon with which it is proficient, against one target and with a reach of 5 feet and a base 1d6 piercing damage. If the Cynocephalian successfully bites a creature while operating on all fours, the target must succeed on a Strength saving throw or be knocked prone; the DC for this save is 8, plus the Cynocephalian’s proficiency and Strength bonuses.
            Pack Tactics. A Cynocephalian has advantage on attack rolls against a creature if at least one of the Cynocephalian's allies is within 5 feet of the target and that ally is not incapacitated.
Cynocephalians In the Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting
In the Swords of Kos Fantasy Campaign Setting, and possibly in other settings with a basis in the history, geography, and mythology of the real-world Mediterranean, a number of specific details apply to Cynocephalians:
            * Cynocephalians can be found in remote and isolated areas throughout the region of the Mediterranean and beyond. North of the Aegean Sea, for example, the Hound and Wolf tribes live in mountain valleys, herding sheep and evading the Human and humanoid peoples who dominate the area; jackal-headed Cynocephalians roam the desert fastnesses of Libya; a huge pack of savage Cynocephalians of the worst sort infests the ruins of ancient Carthage in Tunisia, prowling the salted ground on all fours and seemingly dominated by a large and powerful antlered figure known as the Master of the Hunt; and huge, shaggy, wolf-headed Cynocephalians dwell in the frozen reaches of distant Hyperborea. Some of the largest and most sophisticated Cynocephalian communities can be found along the banks of the Nile in Aigyptos, where they founded two large communities, Lykopolis and Cynopolis, and are noted for having helped defeat an invading army from Aethiopia.
            * Cynocephalians who are divine spellcasters or otherwise of a religious bent tend to revere deities who they perceive to be members of their species, to include Anubis in Aigyptos, Fenris in Hyperboria, and Samra in Bharata. In cases where such dog-headed deities are considered evil or malignant by Humans, Cynocephalians tend to see them as being more nuanced and possessed of much broader portfolios and to be in any case well-disposed toward them.
            * The Common tongue employed by Cynocephalians is Greek and Aigyptian is one of the additional languages most likely to be known by members of this race.