Even bigger and more powerful than the mighty grizzlies, polar bears are the undisputed lords of the Arctic Circle. That crown is a little harder to hold onto in a fantasy setting (blame those frost worms), but the CR 8 dire polar bear can certainly hold its own against a remorhaz or even a young white dragon (particularly if they were, say, tussling over lairing rights in a cave that prevented the dragon from going aloft). All in all, polar bears prove you don’t need a lick of magic to be mighty.
Some puffin sprites (treat as bird-bodied grigs with a swim speed that matches their fly speed; they play tautiruts instead of fiddles) are being preyed upon by a polar bear. Adventurers who aid them will make lifelong friends skilled in navigating the arctic.
Bear-baiting is still a popular sport in Monkrot. The half-orc fixer Ferston Two-Shames wants adventurers to capture him a polar bear to spice up fight night.
Some of the arctic’s most carefully kept secrets are the ley line refineries that mine and process raw magical power, driving factories that churn out enchanted weapons, metal ships, and even ritual firearms. Magical pollution is rampant as well—for instance, the purple-black Aurora Eldrena is no true aurora at all, but a result of eldritch venting. Said pollution has also caused warped creatures to be born, including dire polar bears of sizes not seen since primordial times. The beasts lurk in the trash heaps and slag pits in the shadow of the refineries, scavenging for food and careless factory workers.
—Pathfinder Adventure Path #67 82–83 & Pathfinder Bestiary 5 41
One of the first issues of Dragon Magazine I ever bought, #141, featured Mickey Zucker Reichert’s “The Ulfjarl’s Stone,” a great story about a son trying to live up to his father’s deathbed demands—and in doing so, having to face a polar bear alone in the wilderness. Worth the read.
I feel like I’ve talked about this issue before, but if I have my Google-fu is failing me. So to make sure I’ve covered my bases, let me officially say that this issue is very worth checking out even beyond the fiction, especially for a 27-year-old magazine. (Not all 1e Dragons fare so well.) Focused on humanoids and giants, it serves up a number of subspecies and new species that might inspire your own monster creation, as well as an article on tactics that might still be useful even today, and an encyclopedic article on the worship habits of humanoid and giant shamans and witch doctors. (Given how demanding evil humanoid deities were back then, it’s no surprise humanoid spellcasters were so rare.) History buffs will also be into “Hey, Wanna Be a Kobold?”, an early attempt at humanoid PC generation in AD&D. (…Though D&D’s GAZ 10 The Orcs of Thar had already beaten them to it, because Bruce Heard is the bomb.) So yeah, like I said, worth the read.
No radio show last night, as you may have noticed. Lots of life stuff going on. That’s also the reason this entry is a week late. …Offfff course, it’s also late because I spent an entire evening searching for an entry on dire polar bears (along with some great lumpy dire polar bear art) that I swore was in the pages of Pathfinder Adventure Path…only to discover it was really in the 3.5 D&D tome Frostburn all along. D’oh! (PS: If you’re new to this blog, check out my thoughts on FB and so many other 3.5 books—why they're good on their own, and how they might fit in your Pathfinder game—right here.)