Friday, March 15, 2013


Owlbears?  Oh sweet Iomedae’s blazing knickers…

If there is ever an Extreme GMing Pentathlon, this is what the events should be:

1) Design a drowless Underdark.
2) Create an order of monks that retains martial arts yet owes nothing to Asian influences.
3) Propose a fantasy monotheistic religion that doesn’t offend anyone
4) Differentiate gnomes from halflings and dwarves without changing any of their essential attributes or falling back on machines.
5) Craft an origin story for owlbears that does not involve any of the following words or their synonyms: “mad,” “wizard,” and “experiment.”

The person who takes gold in that event can sit behind my GM screen any day.

Even the doughty and redoubtable Richard “The Skinsaw Murders” Pett basically throws up his hands while tackling owlbears in Dungeon Denizens Revisited.  “Here are their habitats,” he says.  “Here are some awesome variants,” he says.  “And yes, the wizard did it, in the conservatory, with a vat.”

Look, we’ve talked about the silly origins of D&D monsters before.  If the legendsare true, the owlbear was a badly molded plastic toy.  Gygax took a shine to it.  A monster was born, and we’ve been trying to explain it ever since.

But what the heck, right?  In a world full of wizards, one was bound to breed some awful things, and two of those awful things were bound to breed true.  The owlbear is the result.  It’s CR 4.  It’s nasty.  It’s liable to be guarding orcs.  And if you run into a pack of eight of them, that’s 24 attacks in a round.  The owlbear will never make sense, but it’s enough of a threat that you can claw, claw, bite, and grab any PC who doesn’t pay it enough deference.

A trained owlbear was stolen from its orc handler.  The scarred ranger has tracked the beast all the way to Kerr, where he finds the beast being groomed to fight in the arena.  His options are to hire mercenaries to organize a jailbreak, become a gladiator himself and infiltrate the training grounds, or cause a disturbance at the owlbear’s debut.  He is cunning in the wild but lacks a head for city strategies, and could use some help.  Otherwise, bystanders are bound to be hurt.

Arctic owlbears are notoriously hard to spot in their snow-filled forests.  Thus most sled dog teams stick to the coasts, preferring to face ordinary polar bears instead.  One race not afraid of owlbears is the mighty adlets, who train them as guard animals.

People think of the Fey Isle as a land of infinite forests and glades.  But the demiplane has beaches and borders as well.  Where it touches the chaos of Limbo, strange blended animals are born, and owlbears and chimeras serve as both rude guardians and apex predators.

Dungeon Denizens Revisited 34–39 & Pathfinder Bestiary 224

Last Friday the alphabet threw orcs at me; this Friday it’s owlbears.  That’s not even a little bit fair.

Even the master of late ’90s “Ecology” articles couldn’t pull off the owlbear: Jonathan M. Richards’s article from Dragon #214 is an uncharacteristically workmanlike exercise without any of his usual flair.

After yesterday’s post, we are all about the capital letters.  Syringesin:

Otyughs are THE SHIT

And a gold star to Demiurge:

Once, several years ago, one of my players was delighted to discover that otyughs were intelligent and spoke Common. And, based on their low Intelligence, she decided that they spoke like Lolcats.


All of my otyughs have operated under these rules since.

Finally, looking for the owl entry?  It’s hidden here.

PS: Tomorrow’s show (today’s show by the time you probably read this) will be a mix of SXSW tunes and Irish songs.  Tune in (Saturday, 10–noon, U.S. Eastern)!


  1. Owlbears are ostensibly the result of an insane deity of nature, inter-species romance, and fractals making sweet love to an owl while in the form of a bear.

  2. Abridged partial answers to the challenges:

    1. Do you count basically taking Golarion's Darklands, cutting out Nar-Voth and Sekamina, and going straight to Orv?
    2. I can't claim credit for Los Tiburon: . I think this is surprisingly easy to pull off. In a game I DMed, I'd probably model it on the WWE, but you could equally make them practice pankration and stick them on an island like the Eleusinian Mysteries, &c.
    5. Surely the fey are the best answer for this, like in your third adventure seed. Golarion's First World has the oddly confounding notion of being a "rough draft" of reality, so perhaps the Dawn Era (or what have you) had a completely different notion of species.

  3. Terrestrial Dire Platypus. Bam. Your screen is now mine.

    (In serious thoughts, this could actually be interesting in a Lost World scenario. Imagine an evolved Australia, where the insects are venomous, the plants are venomous, the owlbears are venomous (because platypii have venom), and they all want to make your players as miserable as possible.

    Also known as Australia with owlbears.)

  4. Owlbears are aliens. They came from the moon.

    "Then why do they look so much like owls" owls are also from space. Owlbears are the muscle, regular owls are the brains. The BBEG is an owl wizard.