Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scout Niche Errata & Update

I've never been entirely happy with the Scout niche I designed.  So, I'm revising it.

The following Scout Niche Ability description replaces the one in the Quick Start Characters document.  I will upload a new version of that document in the next few days.

Niche Ability: When you select Scout as your niche, you become a consummate explorer and investigator, and a master of interpreting scent messages left by other animals.   

Your mastery of scent marks allows you to glean details about the animal(s) who left them behind, even if they are not members of your species.  With an Average Scout lore check, you can easily identify the name of an individual of your species who left the scent behind, as well as their stated intent.  A Tough lore check allows you to identify another species by her lingering scent, and ascertain how long ago she left the scent mark behind.  A Challenging lore check gives you a general, one-word idea about this other-species individual's message (i.e., "mine," "help," "returning," etc.).  With a Formidable lore check, you can translate the individual's name, approximate age, and Size.  And a Heroic result tells you exactly what the scent message says in detail, allowing you to translate it precisely to others.

In addition to all other bonuses (including Scout level and Scout niche die results), you add +2 to all lore checks when attempting to detect traps, find hidden objects, follow a trail, identify subjects by use of your senses , or spring traps. 

Finally, you begin the game knowing how to communicate with other species better than your comrades: in addition to your species language, you know an additional 1d5 (+ Scout niche die result) languages of other species in your habitat.

My First Interview!

I'll be a doing a Q&A for Great & Small on the Hardboiled GMshoe's #rpgnet chat on Tuesday, Sept. 1 at 7 p.m. CDT/5 p.m. PST.

Stop by and say hello, especially if you have questions or want to give me direct feedback.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Familiar Niche

The concept of the magic-user's familiar has a long pedigree in fantasy tales and games.  In an animal fantasy campaign, the Familiar can become a protagonist in her own right.  While she largely plays a support role for a Magic-User, the Familiar is endowed with certain unique abilites of her own that make her a viable character option... especially if the Magic-User in question is an NPC.

This niche is optional, and intended for use in campaigns that feature "real"magic, such as a standard classic fantasy setting, or a modern fantasy setting.  It has no place in "reality-lite" campaigns where the supernatural is a subtle influence if it exists at all.  

The Familiar
Magic-Users are notoriously vulnerable at the starts of their adventuring careers, and often call upon arcane forces to protect themselves.  Some spells or rituals allow Magic-Users to call an animal into their service, with whom they share a magical bond that benefits both parties.  These animals, called Familiars, then embark on a life of adventure with their Magic-User partner.  And some learn from their "master," then go on to earn their independence.

Niche Ability:  When you take Familiar as your niche, you benefit from a handful of special abilities rooted in your bond to the Magic-User who summoned you. 

Your mystical bond with a Magic-User allows you to add her maximum possible hit points to your own total, giving you both a better chance at survival.  However, if your Magic-User is ever killed, you must permanently subtract these hit points from your own maximum possible total, which may lead to your own death.

Second, you share an empathic link with your Magic-User, and are always aware of her general location within 200 feet.  You may share your perceptions with her, and she with you, giving each of you a form of remote sensing, and you may speak to each other in your native tongues with perfect understanding.  You also benefit from any spells your Magic-User casts on herself.

Third, you gain a bonus Species Trait from your bond: a +1 bonus to any single lore outside your own (reflecting the fact that most Magic-Users are human, and you are thus sharing in their versatility).  If you become the Familiar of an Elf, you instead gain immunity to the touch of ghouls.  If the Magic-User who called you is a member of some other species, you gain a bonus Species Trait from them based on the BM's judgment.  (NOTE: In some settings, such as the Trucewood Vale, it is possible for animal Magic-Users to have longpaw familiars!) 

Finally, you receive a +1 bonus on all saving throws so long as you are in service to your Magic-User.

Beyond 0 level, this bond grants you further advantages.

At 1st level, a you become an arcane dabbler.  With a successful lore check, you can activate magical items normally only usable by Magic-Users as though you were a Magic-User of equivalent level.

At 2nd level, you become capable of delivering touch spells from your Magic-User to targets normally beyond her reach, as though you are an extension of her body.  And with a successful Familiar lore check on your part, the activation of this spell no longer depends on the will of your Magic-User.  She can cast another spell before you deliver the one you are carrying, and you are capable of changing the intended target to one of your own choosing.

And at 6th level, you become capable of storing extra spells within your mind, that your Magic-User can call upon as though she had remembered or prepared them for the day. The choice of which spells are stored in this way belongs to your Magic-User.  However, you're also able to activate these spells yourself, with a successful Familiar lore check!  You can store a number of spell levels equal to your Familiar level.  Thus, at 6th level, you could hold six 1st-level spells, three 2nd-level spells, two 3rd-level spells, or any other combination of levels that adds up to your total Familiar level (for instance, four 1st-level spells and one 2nd-level spell).

At 10th level or any time following, after years of loyal service, you have the option of gaining your independence from your Magic-User.  If you part ways amicably, you lose all of the above abilities except the extra hit points, bonus on saves, and arcane dabbling, and gain the spell-casting abilities of a Magic-User equal to half your level.  You may then continue to advance in spell-casting abilities by level as though you were a Magic-User yourself... even being able to summon a Familiar of your very own!

Other Abilities:  Add your Familiar level (plus your Familiar niche die result, if applicable) to all lore checks when attempting to intuit the function of magical items, recall or remember ancient mysteries, magic traditions, or cryptic phrases, or to deduce what kind of spell a Magic-User is about to cast by observing her gestures.

Saving Throw: Spells

Threat: Easy (+9). This increases to Average (+6) at 2nd total level, Tough (+3) at 5th total level, and Challenging (+0) at 8th total level.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Sylvestara, Queen Of Cats, Goddess Of Familiars

Sylvestara is the goddess of small cats. She is also often portrayed as the familiar of the deity of magic, and her followers sometimes claim this status made her the first of the Eld-Beast Kings. The Cat Queen watches over all small cats who live in proximity to the races of Man, be they domesticated or feral. She also watches over familiars and animal companions of all species, and as such has picked up a handful of longpaw worshipers.

Queen Sylvestara values self-sufficiency, curiosity for its own sake, and the revelation of others' secrets. Though largely benign, she can be unspeakably cruel, and has a dark aspect who encourages followers to toy with their prey.

Priests of Sylvestara are encouraged to be nosy about other people's secrets while closely guarding their own.  They tend to be loners, but take a special interest in befriending wizards with familiars, druids or rangers with animal companions, and elves.  In small communities, they also serve as pest controllers, and sometimes have a pride of small cats who follow them wherever they go.

Holy Symbol: A housecat sitting in a pentagram.

OSR Notes
Clerics in service to Sylvestara often multi-class as magic-users or thieves, not least because doing so allows them to use easily concealed bladed weapons.  Even single-classed (usually human) clerics practice stealth and misdirection at every opportunity.

D&D 5e Stats
Sylvestara, queen of cats and goddess of familiars -- Alignment N; Suggested Domains: Knowledge, Life, Trickery; Symbol: housecat sitting in a pentagram.

Pathfinder Stats
Title: Queen Of Cats, Mistress Of Familiars
Portfolio: Small cats, familiars, animal companions, magic, secrets, stealth, deception
Alignment: Neutral
Typical Worshipers: Arcane magic users, awakened familiars or animal companions, thieves
Typical Worshiper Alignments: Chaotic Neutral, Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, True Neutral
Domains (Subdomains): Animal (Feather, Fur), Darkness, Knowledge, Magic (Arcane), Trickery
Favored Weapon: Nekode
Favored Animal: Small cat

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Anaxskylos, Patron Deity of Dogs

Anaxskylos, King of the Dogs, is a minor deity whose influence is more widespread than his name.  Closely associated with deities of agriculture, community, nature, the hunt, war,  protection, and the home, he is specifically the patron of the ancient sacred bond between man and dog.  Though rarely popular with adventurers, he is widely revered by common folk, thanks to the role of his priesthood.

Anaxskylos' priests are enjoined to provide healing support to a community's animals, especially domesticated ones, and those rare few to whom he grants actual spells thus serve as a sort of magical veterinary/rescue service.  They often also oversee the health of temple hounds, noblemen's stables, and other collections of domesticated animals.

Sometimes affectionately called "Rex" even by his human worshipers, Anaxskylos has many other names, as well: Garmr, Lykegenes, Wepwawet, Xolotl, and St. Guinefort being only a few.

All priests of Anaxskylos must adopt a puppy to raise and care for throughout the creature's life, and treat this dog's life and needs as equal to their own.  This dog serves as a living connection to their deity, and they cannot regain spells if the hound is absent from their presence.

Holy Symbol: A dog's paw extended in friendship.  However, the canine companion also serves as a living holy symbol; if priest and dog are traveling together, a cleric can channel her turning ability through the dog, who growls, barks, or otherwise frightens away such foul beings.

OSR Notes
Most priests of Anaxskylos aren't members of the cleric class, and don't have any spell-casting abilities. They are normally just community herbalists and such. Those few adventuring clerics of Anaxskylos are similar to standard clerics in every respect; however, they are noted for favoring the mancatcher as their weapon of choice.

D&D 5e Stats
Anaxskylos, god of hounds -- Alignment NG; Suggested Domains: Life, Nature, Trickery: Symbol: dog's paw extended in friendship

Pathfinder Stats
Title: First Dog, Friend Of Man
Portfolio: Community, loyalty, protection, play, the hunt, domesticated animals
Alignment: Neutral Good
Typical Worshipers: Breeders, farmers, hunters, paladins, rangers
Typical Worshiper Alignments: Lawful Good, Neutral Good
Domains (Subdomains): Animal (Fur), Community (Cooperation, Family, Home) , Protection (Defense)
Favored Weapon: Mancatcher
Favored Animal: Dog

Streamlined Initiative & Updated Runner Niche

One of my goals for the final version of Great & Small is simplified rules using a unified dice resolution mechanic.  Which is the reason I settled on the current engine, 2d10 +/- modifiers = 20+ meaning a success.

My current version of initiative has always felt too clunky to me, though.  I adapted it more or less as-is from B/X and the Rules Cyclopedia, but I've never felt it works simply enough for my design goals.

So, here's a streamlined version, that will likely replace the version in the Quick Start Core Rules.  The change alters the niche ability of Runners, as well.

Your initiative equals your Total Level (or Hit Dice) + the Speed of the action you are declaring. Higher total scores go first, then next lowest scores in descending order.  In the event of a tie between player and BM, both sides should roll the core dice and add their Total Level (or Hit Dice).  The higher result wins.

Changes to the Runner niche
Under these revised initiative rules, Runners now add their niche die roll result to their total initiative score, instead of having all actions default to a Speed of Quick.  Thus, Runner characters' initiative equals Total Level (or Hit Dice) + Speed of declared action + niche die result.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Featured Creature: Raven

NOTE: These stats have been edited to conform to the rules revisions posted on 9/8/15.

At a reader's request!

Ravens feed on carrion and gather in isolated, abandoned places.  For this reason, they are often seen as dreary or spooky by other beings, despite their great aptitude for play.  They also have a reputation for pointless thievery, often taking great risks to collect meaningless shiny objects from the places they visit. Nonetheless, ravens are highly intelligent and social beings, and the best tool-users among all of bird-kind.

A raven's favorite food is the eyes of the dead.   They feel it honors the fallen by passing their dying sight onto another, becoming the basis of stories that will perpetuate memories of the dead long after they are gone.  Many ravens claim to experience visions or prophetic dreams after eating the eyes of the dead, though whether these visions are genuine or just mad rantings is any non-raven's guess.

     AC 7
     AT (Dam): Bite (1d3); talons (1d2; this is a single attack with both feet at once)
     Beginning HP: 3 
     Habitat: Temperate
     MV: 3; 20 flying
     SZ: Tiny   

Species Traits:
  • Bauble-Snatcher's Curse: All ravens carry their mythical hero's curse, and find shiny trinkets of any or no value almost irresistible.  Whenever you encounter such a trinket -- be it well-guarded or not -- you must succeed at a Challenging Charm save, or be compelled to try and steal the object from whoever possesses it.  Luckily, you  get a +2 bonus on your Trickster lore check when attempting this larceny. This bonus does not apply in circumstances where you succeeded on your saving throw.
  • Eye Peck: On any unmodified attack roll of 19 or 20, you can pluck out or otherwise damage one of your enemy's eyes (provided the enemy has eyes, that is).  This attack blinds her in that eye, imposing a -2 penalty on all further attack rolls, or lore checks that rely on paw-eye coordination.  If you manage a second such attack against the same opponent, she is permanently blinded, a condition that can only be healed through magical means.
  • Flyby Attack
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Tool-Use: You gain a +2 bonus on all Scout lore checks to use tools or decipher the function of simple longpaw devices.
  • Ultravision
  • -4 penalty on all lore checks involving feats of strength.
  • +3 bonus on Runner or Trickster lore checks that involve flying stunts
  • Suitable Niches: Familiar, Guardian, Herbalist, Magic-User, Runner, Scout, Seer, Trickster.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Spandrels: A Kind Of Magic For Animal Characters

Spandrel is a term in evolutionary biology (borrowed from architecture) referring to a characteristic that arose as a side-effect of evolution, rather than as a direct product of natural selection.  They are traits that were not necessarily adaptive in themselves, but got passed on because of the adaptive traits they were associated with.  Some can get co-opted into new uses that themselves become targets of natural selection.  A classic example is flight in birds.  Flight is a side effect of having feathers (feathers appear in the fossil record millions of years before the first flying birds).  Feathers evolved in response to some other purpose, and only accidentally made it possible for bird ancestors to be better at gliding.  Over time, the advantage provided by this accidental by-product of evolution (gliding) was acted on by natural selection, and birds became capable of flight.

In the Great & Small game, "spandrel" refers to secondary traits that animal characters can acquire through adventuring and experience.  In most cases, these will be the traits of other species, but in campaigns with classic or modern fantasy elements, they can also be magical "items" that become part of the character's biology.

Any time an animal character overcomes a significant (as defined by the BM) challenge posed by an NPC from another species, the BM can reward her by granting her one of that character's Species Traits as though it were her own, permanently adding it to her repertoire of abilities.

For example, a rabbit PC who defeats a dog that was trying to eat her or her friends could be rewarded with one of the dog's unique traits, such as Ultravision, Versatility, a +2 on lore checks to understand longpaw devices, or perhaps the dog's better base Movement Rate.

The in-game explanation for precisely how this transfer occurs is up to the BM.  Spandrels are a kind of "magic" or treasure for animal characters, and shouldn't be any more (or less!) of a hassle to acquire than standard magical items for longpaw characters.

Speaking of standard magical items, their powers, too, can be acquired as spandrels by animal characters who discover or encounter them, assuming the item cannot be used as-is by the animal.  For instance, animals can benefit from potions by drinking them, just as longpaw characters can (however, potions are subject to the Dosage & Target Size parameters described in the Herbalism document).  In settings like the Trucewood Vale, where sapient animals and humanoids interact on a fairly regular basis, collars can be enchanted with the same sorts of magic as rings, and suits of magical armor can be made for non-humanoid species.

In most cases, however, animal characters will have to gain a magical item or weapon's benefits by eating it, either partially or completely (depending on both the size of the item and the size of the character).  Standard magic items aren't entitled to a saving throw to resist being consumed in this way; it is simply how the gods have decreed that animals can access magic from longpaw-crafted items.  Artifacts and relics, however, are entitled to saving throws, and are difficult to digest in any case.

Eating a magic item or weapon does not alleviate an animal's hunger, so she will still have to rely on normal sources of food for that purpose. Nor does eating the item harm her in any way.  It does, however, transfer its powers to her as though she were carrying it as a normal part of her body (note that this does not increase her mass in any way).  Magical weapons transfer their effects to one of the character's natural attack forms, and magical armors improve her natural AC.

For instance, suppose a lion Warrior uncovers a cache of longpaw treasure that includes a sword +1, +3 vs. dragons.  If she eats this sword, the magical bonuses will be transferred to one of her natural attack forms of her choice... say, her bite.  Henceforth, one of her natural attacks will be bite +1, +3 vs. dragons.

Similarly, a snake Magic-User who recovers and eats a wand of magic missiles will gain the ability to cast that spell at will a number of times equal to the wand's charges.

The remnants of a partially-eaten magic item are no longer magical.  Their effects have been completely transferred to the animal who ate them.

Finally, magical spandrels can be claimed by foes who defeat their possessors, just as Species Traits spandrels can be.  Thus, an animal who defeated the lion Warrior described above could claim the bite +1, +3 vs. dragons as her own.  In these cases, however, the spandrel retains its current form and cannot be converted into a different natural attack; the magical bite attack remains a magical bite attack ever after, no matter which species claims it.

It should be emphasized that, for unknown reasons, longpaws cannot transfer or acquire magical spandrels in this fashion; they must rely on using magic items in their standard forms.  Similarly, longpaws cannot claim the Species Traits of other animals for themselves (without special rituals), nor can their Species Traits be claimed as spandrels by animals.  The BM is free to concoct any campaign-appropriate explanation for why this is the case, but it is a hard and fast rule of Great & Small.  Altering it will significantly impact the feel of an animal fantasy campaign setting.

Spandrels with permanent or continuous effects are hereditary, and pass from one generation to the next, just as family heirlooms do in human families.  Thus, a lionness can pass her bite +1, +3 vs. dragons on to one of her children if she chooses.  However, she will herself lose the benefit.

Even so, there appear to be exceptions to this rule. It is believed by some scholars that the spandrel process is the origin of chimeric creatures like gryphons, jackalopes, or owlbears, animals who combine the traits of divergent species in a way nature can't do on its own.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Magic-User Niche

Preparing a playtest session for "Secret Of The Spooky Old Warren," and I will be using pre-generated PCs.  One of the players wants to revive an old snake character of hers from a previous animal campaign I ran, who was a sorcerer  (using 3.5 edition rules).  To facilitate that, I'm introducing the Magic-User as an optional niche for campaigns with a classic fantasy (like the Trucewood Vale setting) or other supernatural angle (like Creepy Crawlies).  I've designed it to be "plug-&-play" with whatever OSR iteration the BM prefers, rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.

The Magic-User

Masters of the arcane, Magic-Users channel both the creative and destructive energies of nature to their own ends. Unlike Healers, who tend to be motivated by community support & defense, harmony with nature, and preservation of life, Magic-Users are typically self-interested, relishing the pursuit of knowledge and power for their own sake. This is not to say that Magic-Users are inherently evil, or that Healers are inherently good, only that they use the spiritual forces of nature in different ways.

Niche Ability: When you select Magic-User as your niche, you gain two special abilities: the power to read the magical writings of longpaws, and the ability to cast spells. 
  • Read Magic: With a successful Magic-User lore check, you can decipher magical inscriptions on objects – such as books, scrolls, weapons, tools, and so on – that have been crafted by humans or other longpaws (such as elves), even if you are otherwise incapable of reading at all. This is the main way you find and learn new spells. Reading the magic script does not normally activate the magic itself, though cursed scrolls may be an exception. 
  • Spells:  You learn, cast, and gain spells in a fashion identical to longpaws, according to whatever set of rules your BM has adapted for the purpose.
Other Abilities: Add your Magic-User level (and your Magic-User niche die result, if applicable) to all lore checks when attempting to research, understand, decipher, or recall ancient mysteries, magic traditions, arcane symbols, cryptic phrases, and so on.

Saving Throw: Spells

Threat: Easy (+9). This increases to Average (+6) at 2nd total level, Tough (+3) at 5th total level, and Challenging (+0) at 8th total level. 
When it comes to OSR magic, I much prefer the way it's handled in Flatland Games' Beyond The Wall and Other Adventures, and that is the system I'm assuming in the further design of Trucewood Vale.  But, I'm keeping things vague enough in the rules themselves that players and BMs can use a more traditional system if they choose.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trucewood Vale: The Tale Of Beginnings

The Trucewood Vale campaign scheme is a classic fantasy setting inspired by works like C.S. Lewis' Narnia, or Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar,  in which human(oid)s and intelligent animals adventure together.  It's a perfect starting point for BMs who wish to incorporate classic fantasy game elements like magic, mythical animals, and demihuman longpaws like dwarfs or elves into their Great & Small campaign.

It's the default setting for the sample adventure, Secret Of The Spooky Old Warren (downloadable as part of the Quick Start Pack), although that adventure includes no overt classic fantasy elements.

The following fable should be read aloud at the beginning of any Trucewood Vale campaign, with each member of the group taking turns reading aloud for as long as they feel comfortable doing so.

As with any fable, it may or may not be true.


There are long-distant days that even the elephants cannot remember.

And in those days, the world of Okarthel belonged to the Eld-Beasts.

And the greatest of those Eld-Beasts were the mighty dragons, masters of claw and wing and breath.

And the greatest of these dragons were called the Urathear, who were like unto the gods.

Every Eld-Beast that walked, or swam, or flew, or crawled, upon the face of Okarthel gave reverence to the dragons as the kings of the animals.

But then one day, after much deliberation, the gods decided to call the longpaw races into the world, and to give them the gifts of speech and reason, much as the dragons possessed.

And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among the Urathear and their dragons.

The  Urathear had foreseen the end of their kind's mastery at the hands of Man, unless the humble powers of Man were checked.

And so the Urathear and their dragons feuded with the gods, and the feuds shook the very pillars of Okarthel.

After a time, some of the gods came to see the justice of the dragons' complaint, and suggested a gift be offered to them, to return peace to the world.

And so the gods reached down to the Eld-Beasts who walked, and swam, and flew, and crawled, across the face of Okarthel, and raised up one from among each species to be the new king of its kind.  These Eld-Beast Kings were, like Man and Dragon, given the gifts of speech and reason.  And like Man and Dragon, too, the Eld-Beast Kings held within them the power of magic, if they chose to pursue it.

The gods presented their gift to the dragons in the land now called the Trucewood Vale, and hoped their gift would soothe the Urathear, by giving them sentient subjects of their own to venerate and revere them.

But the gods had committed a folly, for in giving the Eld-Beast Kings speech and reason and magic, they had also given them choice.  And some chose not to revere the Urathear.

Enraged, the Urathear threatened the Eld-Beast Kings, demanding from them the unconditional loyalty the dragons enjoyed from lesser animals.  They showed the Eld-Beast Kings visions of the future of Man, and how Man would drive out dragons and spoil the world.

Many of the Eld-Beast Kings listened, and agreed. These chose to serve the dragons in their cause against longpaws.

But other Eld-Beasts Kings did not trust the dragons.  They knew that Man, like them, had the power of choice.  These Eld-Beasts believed Man could be redeemed.  And so these Kings befriended the longpaws.

And still other Eld-Beast Kings had no love for Man, but saw great benefit to living alongside him.  These chose neither to befriend nor to oppose, but merely to shadow Man.

The Urathear, for all their rage and power, knew they could not prevail against Man unless all the Eld-Beasts stood with them.  And so they chose to leave the world of Okarthel, taking their dragons with them.

This left the Eld-Beast Kings to rule their kind as they saw fit.  Soon the Kings learned that they could pass their gifts of speech and reason and magic on to some of their children, and thus the next generation of Eld-Beasts were born.

Over time, the Eld-Beasts learned that life with Man was tricky and dangerous.  Man was often fearful and violent towards that he did not understand, and so the Eld-Beasts decided that it would be best to hide their true nature from Man.

This is why the tongues of animals cannot be understood by Man.  This is why Eld-Beasts hide their magic from longpaws.

And it is why each new generation of Eld-Beasts is confronted by the original question put to them by the Urathear and their dragons: will you befriend the races of Man, or will you drive them from the world?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Featured Creature: Bears

NOTE: These stats have been edited to conform to the rules revisions posted on 9/8/15.

Bears are among the most physically powerful land animals in the world, with a great capacity for menace.  Yet, they are often highly-regarded as symbols of healing and nobility, thanks to their generally humble personalities.  A bear is often the top hunter in its domain, though black bears often compete with cougars or wolves (grizzlies fear no one, of course).  On the other hand, all bears are omnivorous, giving them many more options for food than strict carnivores like the big cats.  This may help explain their gentle disposition: they rarely see any point in fighting other predators for food, when they could just go eat some berries, honey, or longpaw leftovers.

In some settings, bears are also associated with magic and mysticism, thanks to their long hibernation periods.  These are seen as times when the bear journeys the spirit world and interacts with gods, ancestors, and other spirit creatures.  The bears themselves, however, remain humble about these claims, as they are about most other things.

AC: 6  
AT (Dam): 1 bite (1d5 [1d6]), 2 claws (1d3)
Beginning HP: 7 [8]
Habitat: Temperate forest and mountains
MV: 8
SZ: Small  

Species Traits:
  • Bear Hug: With a successful bite attack against a foe of the same SZ or smaller, bears can attempt a free Wrestle maneuver with their claws.  This grants them additional damage dice to roll on their attacks, as noted in the individual species descriptions.
  • Dream Time: Bears hibernate for weeks on end, during which time they are subject to lucid dreams and visions.  This grants them a +2 bonus on all Seer checks for the rest of the year, even if they do not have Seer as their niche.  They are also subject to recalling these dream time visions during their waking days, if the BM deems such visions relevant to the character's current situation.  However, these visions are involuntary, and the bear has no innate control over them. She can, however, make a Seer lore check to try and affect either the intensity or the duration of the vision. In campaign settings where magic and the spirit world are real, this ability also means that bears spend time traveling in the ethereal plane during hibernation, though they are usually invisible to others there and unable to affect what they witness.
  • Growth Spurts: All bears begin play at Small size.  Black bears reach Medium size at 2nd Total Levels, while grizzlies reach Medium at 4th and Large at 8th.  Polar bears become Medium at 3rd level, and Large at 6th.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Scent
  • +2 bonus on all lore checks that involve climbing.  This bonus becomes +4 if they are climbing rocks or trees.
  • Suitable Niches:  Guardian, Healer, Herbalist, Runner, Scout, Seer, Warrior.
Black Bears
Black bears have all the standard bear traits, except as noted below.

Species Traits:
  • Bear Hug:  On a successful Wrestle attack, black bears do an additional 2d3 [2d4] hp of damage.
Grizzly Bears
Grizzlies have all the standard bear traits, except as noted below.

AC: 8
AT (Dam): 1 bite (1d10), 2 claws (1d7 [1d8])
Beginning HP: 9 [10]
Species Traits:
  • Bear Hug:  On a successful Wrestle attack, grizzly bears inflict an additional 2d7 [2d8] hp of damage.
Polar Bears
Polar bears have all the standard bear traits, except as noted below.

AT (Dam): 1 bite (1d10), 2 claws (1d5 [1d6])
Beginning HP: 9 [10]
Habitat: Temperate, arctic, sub-arctic forests, mountains, seashore.
MV: 8; 6 swimming 

Species Traits:
  • Bear Hug: On a successful Wrestle attack, polar bears inflict an additional 2d5 [2d6] hp of damage.
  • Camouflage: In heavy snow or ice environments, polar bears get a +2 bonus on Trickster checks to hide.
  • Snow Walkers:  Polar bears' wide feet allow them to walk on snow packs without sinking.