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General The Ethics of 'Awakening' an animal


In a game recently, we found glasses that sets the bearer's Wisdom and Int to 9. (it used to be 10 but we damaged them). The idea popped up that we should give it to my character's mount, a Mastiff named Fu. It was then that a debate broke out about how the dog would feel alienated and alone among his dog-peers. That we were doing Fu a disservice.

For funsies, I'd like to hear opinions on the matter.

For the record, this isn't required reading for the discussion but, here's the essay I wrote to back my argument, The characters are Jin (my halfling character), the dissenting character named Wax and our dwarven Forge Cleric (who has yet to form an opinion). There's some fun poking fun at the characters in there as well.

I think Wax is grossly overestimating the role of Intelligence in the personality of a dog. Intelligence is the realm of problem solving, decoding and knowledge. It isn't the realm of force of personality/social interaction(Charisma) or critical thinking/Intuition(wisdom). All three together make up personality.

A smart dog won't be up all night wondering about theology or philosophy. That's the realm of Wisdom. The Smart dog could definitely memorize MORE dogma and canon, religious texts and cerebral concepts. Having all those ideas gained from Intelligence will give him much to mull over, though, since a dog is very wise, more wise than Wax, in fact. But, sadly, his ability to philosophize will diminish (Wisdom of 12 going to 9). So, maybe his bouts of philosophical dilemma will be tempered. Or, perhaps, having a less developed wisdom will make it more difficult to resolve the conflicts that arise from his new-found knowledge. On the other hand, His ability to Empathize and interact with people and other dogs will remain unchanged as his charisma will remain 9. In socializing, he will be just as capable of navigating the complex social structure of dogs. He won't suddenly adopt human social structures but he may understand human reasoning better.

Furthermore: the AVERAGE dog Intelligence is 3. Some might be 2 some might be 5 or 6. He's getting a 9. Lets look at our esteemed Dwarf. Who has an Int of 8 - which is just below average for a Dwarf's 10.5(average of 3d6). What if we gave him a band of Intellect? Would we be doing him a disservice by giving him an INT of 19? Would he now be no longer able to interact or empathize with other Dwarves? Nope. He'd be fine. He'd just be better able to memorize all their stupid dwarven laws. He might get a bit more cocky and become the local rules lawyer. Maybe he'd want to read tome after tome of ridiculous Forging techniques. What's up with that? Why is he learning all that Dwarvish stuff with increased fluency??? Why isn't he doing more Elvish stuff? Or Gnomish stuff? Elves and Gnomes are the smart races! Your argument suggests that he'd feel alienated from his peers because he'd become 'less dwarven'. Because of his new Intelligence, he'd be more like 'smart' races. I argue that, he'd be a more capable dwarf, able to learn many new dwarven things. Just because Fu is smart, it does not make him more like a human and less of a dog. It will, instead, make him a more capable dog.

Fu will still be a dog and he will still like dog things but will be more capable at those doggy things. He will always, with adeptness, get the food out of those stupid food-puzzle things that people give dogs. He will be superior in games of 'hide and seek' and 'chase' and other doggy games because he will be able to out-strategize his peers. He will still like to do the things that dogs do, such as, run and fetch and play but he will have an edge in many of these. He will be able to learn grade 8 math and learn a language. He will still like to play fetch but he may ALSO like to play checkers (or Shogi, in Jin's case) But Being able to understand Shogi, doesn't mean he must like it because he's still a dog, bred with an instinct to run and hunt and conditioned with the fond memories of doing fun dog activities as a puppy. Furthermore, He will actually better understand commands. His ability to follow commands will remain unchanged because his charisma is still 9. In fact, he may be more pliable because we've actually lowered his wisdom so he'll be less stubborn. In the end, I actually think I'm doing him a bigger disservice by lowering his Wisdom from 12 to 9 than I am increasing his Int from 3 to 9.(edited)

On a purely metagame level, what might change is knowing which skill is more appropriate to use: animal handling or persuasion

Animal handling is the ability to read an animal and know the best way to 'break' it, train it and get it to do what you want. Make it 'understand' you. A smart dog understands already. If it actually can learn Common, persuasion might be more fitting. But animal handling is also understanding the things that dogs love and how their social hierarchy works. Animal handling represents knowledge of animals and the ability to leverage that knowledge. That probably won't change much.

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Small God of the Dozens
Or perhaps he would feel empowered, and move to rule over his dog peers like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Emperor Fu. I think the idea sounds like fun as long as the DM feels like roleplaying the dog. Personally, I can see that being a riot.


I'd say you'd want to ask Fu. As the glasses are reversible, you can apply them and then use one of the various telepathic communication /speak with animals methods to ask if he likes the change.
Jin has already thought about asking Fu first. We are going to employ the services of a druid or ranger. We also have a scroll of augury. Eventually, Jin will be a totem barbarian and be able to speak with animals (part of the reason I decided to take that barbarian archetype is directly related to the fact that we found these glasses)

Or perhaps he would feel empowered, and move to rule over his dog peers like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Emperor Fu. I think the idea sounds like fun as long as the DM feels like roleplaying the dog. Personally, I can see that being a riot.
Yup, I think there will be shenanigans. The DM and I have been talking about it for a while.


Or perhaps he would feel empowered, and move to rule over his dog peers like the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. Emperor Fu. I think the idea sounds like fun as long as the DM feels like roleplaying the dog. Personally, I can see that being a riot.
Well, Int 9 / Wis 9 seem to be the caps for world leaders these days, so he barely qualifies. Good thing they broke.


Theres a batman animated episode that deals with a baby Gorilla taken from the jungle by poachers and experimented on to raise its intelligence to human levels. When the Ape matures it of course escapes and seeks revenge on the vivisectionist and poachers, so Batman has to stop it.
At the end Batman takes the Gorilla back to Africa and offers to remove the brain enhancement so it can rejoin the other apes. The Gorilla refuses stating that though it will be alone, it can use its natural strength and all the cunning and guile it learnt from humans to defend the jungle from future poachers - just as Batman defends his territory in Gotham.

Anyway, an awakened Dog might feel the same way, it is alienated from dogs but it can also become their defender
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Thinking about it more, increasing intelligence still means it’s an uneducated, ignorant, and illiterate dog. But now its potential to learn new and advanced concepts has grown exponentially.


Oh this is where the title goes?
I'd say that in the contest of dnd, you are way overthinking this. You aren't hurting the dog, normal characters are always happy to increase their intelligence, and it is reversible. Giving the glasses to the dog is a good act, in the dnd alignment scheme.

As a real life ethical question, I feel confident that most people would give their dog the glasses if they had the option. Only professional ethicists would think hard about it.


Of course, you never know how the Awakened creature's personality is actually going to turn out. That was the backstory for an NPC I made in a seafaring game, the Dread Parrot Polyfex - he'd been Awakened by his master, a piratical druid who despised arcane magic, but then the parrot went on to study necromancy in secret, overthrew the druid in a mutiny, and raised him and his loyal allies as zombies. Now he captains the ship himself, still riding on his former master's undead shoulder.

Mythological Figures & Maleficent Monsters