Monday, October 08, 2007

The Owlbear, Revisited

The Owlbear is a classic D&D monster: a goofy hybrid of owl and bear. Its origin is similarly goofy; along with the bullette and rust monster, it was one of the creatures that was based on some plastic toys that Gygax and friends used as miniatures.

Growing up, I had a plastic rust monster and bullette, but I don't remember having an owlbear. I might have.

I haven't looked back at old versions of the owlbear's stats. I remember them as fairly fearsome creatures. However, Jeff's recent research shows that in Basic D&D they were on par with normal bears - nothing to sneeze at, true, but not really an improvement on the original bear either. In 3e, the owlbear is statistically very close to a brown bear.

I just don't see the point.

So... I asked myself, "Self, imagine you were a crazy wizard (most of my conversations with myself start off similarly) who created a monstrous hybrid of owl and bear. Why did you do it?"

Well, I thought, surely an owl has some properties that a bear desperately needs. Raptors have more efficient musculature than mammals... and they are less massive by volume (hollow bones and all). Owls have good night vision. I could see a bear becoming more streamlined by the addition of owl-bits. Owlbears don't really have wings, so they can't fly, but maybe they could jump well and pounce upon their prey like an owl swooping down for a kill. If their victim lives after the initial assault, they can then grab it like a bear would.

I could see owlbears as sudden strikers who hunt in the night. That adds some needed flavor.

OK, then.

Now... we run into the power level issue. My solution to that? Make owlbears out of different sorts of bears.




The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.





Owlbear

Black Owlbear
Size/Type: Medium Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 3d10+9 (25 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 30 ft. (6 squares)
Armor Class: 14 (-1 size, +2 Dex, +3 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+12
Attack: Claw +7 melee (1d6+5)
Full Attack: 2 claws +7 melee (1d6+5) and bite +2 melee (1d8+2)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Improved Grab, leaping pounce
Special Qualities: Scent, superior low-light vision
Saves: Fort +6, Ref +5, Will +2
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 15, Con 17, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Climb +5, Jump +11, Listen +6, Move Silently +4, Spot +6
Feats: Improved Initiative, Track
Environment: Temperate forests or hills
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 3
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 4-7 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: —



Brown Owlbear
Size/Type: Large Animal
Hit Dice: 6d10+30 (63 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 30 ft. (10 squares)
Armor Class: 17 (-1 size, +2 Dex, +6 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+19
Attack: Claw +14 melee (1d8+9)
Full Attack: 2 claws +14 melee (1d8+9) and bite +9 melee (2d6+4)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Improved Grab, leaping pounce
Special Qualities: Scent, superior low-light vision
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +7, Will +3
Abilities: Str 29, Dex 15, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Climb +9, Jump +15, Listen +9, Move Silently +5, Spot +9
Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative, Track
Environment: Cold forests or hills
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 7-10 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: —

Polar Owlbear
Size/Type: Large Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 8d10+40 (95 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 30 ft. (10 squares)
Armor Class: 17 (-1 size, +2 Dex, +6 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 15
Base Attack/Grapple: +8/+21
Attack: Claw +16 melee (1d8+9)
Full Attack: 2 claws +16 melee (1d8+9) and bite +11 melee (2d6+4)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Improved grab, leaping pounce
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent
Saves: Fort +11, Ref +8, Will +3
Abilities: Str 29, Dex 15, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Climb +9, Hide -1*, Jump +15, Listen +9, Move Silently +5, Spot +9
Feats: Alertness, Improved Initiative, Track
Environment: Cold plains
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 9-12 HD (Large)
Level Adjustment: —

Dire Owlbear
Size/Type: Huge Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 12d10+60 (126 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: 30 ft. (10 squares)
Armor Class: 18 (-2 size, +2 Dex, +8 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 16
Base Attack/Grapple: +12/+31
Attack: Claw +21 melee (1d8+11)
Full Attack: 2 claws +21 melee (1d8+11) and bite +16 melee (2d6+5)
Space/Reach: 15 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Improved grab, leaping pounce
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent
Saves: Fort +13, Ref +10, Will +5
Abilities: Str 33, Dex 15, Con 21, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Climb +11, Jump +17, Listen +11, Move Silently +5, Spot +11
Feats: Alertness, Cleave, Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Track
Environment: Cold Forests or Hills
Organization: Solitary or pair
Challenge Rating: 8
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 13-36 HD (Huge)
Level Adjustment: —


An owlbear’s coat ranges in color from brown-black to yellowish white; its beak is a dull ivory color. Owlbears tend to be larger and lankier than normal bears. Adventurers who have survived encounters with the creature often speak of the bestial madness they glimpsed in its red-rimmed eyes.

Combat

Owlbears are stealthy and vicious hunters. If they spot prey, they will often wait until nightfall to track it in the hopes of coming upon it unawares. They will launch themselves at their prey in a leaping pounce attack, grabbing their victims in their rear talons while tearing at them with their beaks.

Improved Grab (Ex)

To use this ability, an owlbear must hit with a claw attack. It can then attempt to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.

Leaping Pounce (Ex)

As a full-round action, an owlbear can make a standing jump. If it threatens an opponent at the end of its jump, it can make a full attack.

Superior Low-Light Vision (Ex)

An owlbear can see five times as far as a human can in dim light.

Skills
Owlbears have a +4 racial bonus on Jump, Listen, and Spot checks.
*A polar owlbear’s white coat bestows a +12 racial bonus on Hide checks in snowy areas.

2 comments:

Infamous Jum said...

I always figured owlbears were like regular bears, only crazy. I imagine whatever wizard created them got torn limb from limb before he could finish his masterpiece. Flying bear? Wise bear? Perhaps he was hoping to pump up the bear's wisdom in order to make the bears into clerics?

Kapture said...

Dude! I so still have one of those little plastic Bullettes!

little plastic Bullettes

I like the owlbears, too.