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Basic Beasties
By James Wyatt

H ere's a quick collection of miscellaneous critters I haven't covered here.

Before I get to that, though, I realized that I messed up last week. Lorcan, the cambion that features so prominently in Erin M. Evans' Brimstone Angels novels, is half-erinyes. not half-succubus. So we'll be discussing the cambion some more.


Huge Beast
Alignment: unaligned
Level: Medium
Environment: Grasslands and hills

Aptly called a landshark, a bulette is a Huge (12 feet long), terrifying predator that lives only to eat. It attacks anything within its territory that it regards as edible, which is generally anything that moves (although it won't eat elves and dislikes the taste of dwarves). It can detect prey while it burrows underground by sensing the vibrations in the earth, at which point it breaks to the surface and leaps to attack.

A bulette normally attacks with its gaping maw and its two front feet. When cornered, it can manage surprising jumps over its opponent's head, making four claw attacks (but no bite) as it goes. Stupid, mean, and fearless, a bulette attacks without regard to the size, strength, or numbers of its opponents.

A bulette can burrow through earth but not stone, and it does not leave usable tunnels behind it. It is much faster above ground, though, and will hunt above ground when it is particularly hungry. It has a high Strength and Constitution, and an Intelligence of 2.


Large Monstrosity
Level: Medium
Environment: Hills and wastelands

A manticore is a horrible monstrosity with a vaguely leonine form. Its face is more humanlike that beastly, surrounded by a bedraggled, matted mane. Two huge, batlike wings sprout from its shoulders, and a ridge of spines run down its back. The end of its tail is a thicket of spines that it can loose in a volley with a flick of its tail. These spines regrow quickly; in the course of a day, a manticore can loose a total of 24 spines, six at a time. The spines of its back, combined with its bad temper, make it unsuitable for riding.

Manticores are fierce and bloodthirsty, enjoying the taste of human flesh. They are dimly intelligent—smart enough to manage a few words. A powerful evil master who catches a manticore can bargain for the creature's service, though it will be rebellious unless it is well fed.


Large Monstrosity
Level: Low
Environment: Forest

The horrible owlbear is probably the crossbred creation of a demented wizard. It is vicious, ravenous, aggressive, and evil-tempered at all times, making it much more fearsome than a mundane bear. It tends to attack nearly anything that moves without provocation, slashing with its claws and tearing with its bite. If it can grab a foe in both claws, it deals terrible wounds to the held creature with its beak. It stops at nothing to kill a creature once combat is joined.

Owlbears live in mated pairs in the depths of tangled forests, ranging over a territory of one or two square miles. Though they share a territory, they rarely hunt together, because they spend as much time fighting each other as they spend hunting for prey.

Owlbears cannot be domesticated or trained, but they are sometimes placed as guardians by wizards and others who can reliably bypass the owlbears by magical means. Thus, owlbears can be encountered in dungeons or ruins serving that role.


Tiny Dragon
Alignment: Neutral good
Level: Low
Environment: Forest and woodlands

Pseudodragons are Tiny (1-1/2 feet long), playful members of the dragon family with minor magical powers that they can share with other creatures, making them prized companions and familiars. It has average Intelligence (about 8 or 9), but normally communicates only by making simple animal noises to express pleasure, surprise, hunger, or anger. When it forms a bond with a companion, however, it can communicate telepathically with that creature, transmitting what it sees and hears at a distance of up to about a quarter-mile. It has high Dexterity and very low Strength appropriate to its size.

A pseudodragon prefers to attack with the stinger at the end of its long, flexible tail, though it can also deliver painful nips with its needle-sharp teeth. The poison of its sting induces a catatonic slumber that can last several days and sometimes even result in death. It has a chameleonlike power that helps it hide in any surroundings.

A pseudodragon has magic resistance and can see invisible and ethereal creatures and objects. When it forms a bond with another creature, it passes these abilities to the bonded creature.

What Do You Think?

I don't think there's anything particularly controversial here. But maybe I didn't push hard enough to make these creatures more interesting. You tell me.

Previous Poll Results

How do you think the succubus and incubus presented here square with their history and place in the game?
1—I hate it. 69 4%
2—It’s not working for me at all. 98 6%
3—I’m ambivalent—it has its points, but it still needs work. 291 19%
4—It’s pretty good, and I can imagine using a succubus or incubus in this way in my game. 739 47%
5—It’s awesome, and I can’t wait to use a succubus or incubus like this in my game. 359 23%
Total 1556 100.0%

Are we right to treat the succubus and incubus as two sides of the same coin—a single monster with different names depending on gender?
Yes, and I’m glad to see the incubus acknowledged up front. 1318 84%
Not sure—I’ll probably never use the incubus, since it doesn’t have a solid place in the history of the game. 131 8%
No, they should be completely distinct monsters. 54 3%
No, the game doesn’t need an incubus at all. 43 3%
Total 1546 100.0%

Is it crazy to move the succubus and incubus outside of the ranks of both demons and devils?
It’s not crazy—it makes perfect sense and solves a tough conundrum. 854 54%
It’s not crazy, but it’s less than ideal. I think it makes them harder to use in the game. 199 13%
It’s sort of crazy. I don’t understand their place in the cosmos. 244 16%
It’s really crazy—they need to be demons. 166 11%
It’s really crazy—they need to be devils. 93 6%
Total 1556 100.0%

Is this a good use of the cambion name, applying it only to the offspring of succubi and incubi?
Yes, it makes perfect sense and solves a tough conundrum. 784 50%
Yes, I guess it works, though I prefer treating all humanoid half-fiends as cambions. 434 28%
No, I definitely want to see all humanoid half-fiends called cambions. 173 11%
No, I definitely want cambions to be half-devils. 50 3%
No, I definitely want cambions to be half-demons. 105 7%
Total 1556 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
These descriptions are pretty boring. They are dry and hardly evoke any story ideas. Don't get me wrong, I think they are very accurate, even helpful, but a tad soulless.

Where did the description of the Owlbear as a creepy hunter go? I think it has a potential of being truly mad, in pain of conflicting instincts- two very different predators brutally combined, too violent and hungry to tame or even understand. They can build nests filled with bones and go on a winter's slumber in them, or whatever. They could be scary, if the demented experiment origin is pushed to the front a bit.

The Manticore is utterly useless for a DM looking for story hooks. Where does is come from? What makes it interesting? I know not every monster should have a great story behind it- some monsters are just mean and scary, and that's okay- But at least give it some flare so that players will respect it and remember an encounter with one.

The Pseudodragon is also lackluster. I ... (see all)
Posted By: Ashtoret (9/28/2013 11:25:31 AM)


Couldn't agree more. I think the Manticore is fairly lacklustre as well, considering it is the one creature on here that has legitimate mythical status. It could well have been developed into the back-story of other creatures (it's Indo-Persian, so it would fit well with, say, the Raksasha)...
Posted By: Edgukator (10/28/2013 12:07:55 AM)


Although I realize it's not a big deal, I just have to point out, that a "bulette" is a type of meatball-thing in german, so personally I'd be much happier, if "Landshark" would be the primary name for the monster... (probably the reason, I've never seen it used)
Posted By: Archelaos (9/27/2013 2:04:31 PM)


Bulettes are much more interesting to play if they are cunning after a fashion. Without instinctual strategies that help them make use of being able to burrow, the point of the LandShark concept is lost.

Probably also worth mentioning specific tactics it'll use in battle (and how they might pay out in TotM). I've founds Bulettes to be one of the really interesting tactical battles, as they go where the players can't.
Posted By: Otto_von_Rheinsberg (9/25/2013 8:39:19 PM)


bullettes eat ANYTHING!!! using that as a description and then saying that they don't eat half of the primary races you've created for the game? c'mon! that's a no brainer (about a no dinner, lol).
Posted By: Evilbastage (9/25/2013 5:22:28 PM)


Absolute no on the owlbear.

I thought we'd already dealt with the owlbear.
Posted By: DoctorBadWolf (9/25/2013 5:16:31 PM)


It should always be possible for Owlbears to be domesticated. We've seen domesticated owlbears in countless adventures (including the Age of Worms adventure path) and even (though it started as a joke) the Waterdeep board game. Tons of adventurers have faced an owlbear working in concept with those that have confined and trained it.
Posted By: Alphastream1 (9/25/2013 12:23:10 PM)


These are all staples, and so I don't mind them not having some sort of major overhaul.

An owlbear is an owlbear plain and simple. I don't think it needs to be psychically attuned to the forest or have a symbiotic relationship to grey ooze or whatever.

Some monsters work best by simply being themselves.
Posted By: michaeljpatrick (9/25/2013 2:24:15 AM)


Dull, dull, dull. Same old same-old. But at least you've stopped asking whether they're suitably, familiarly "D and D" for us.
Posted By: RadioKen (9/24/2013 11:21:35 PM)


Jump made by sharks aren't so impressive, after all.
Even jumping, bulette can remain focused with bite attack instead of claws.
I agree to give them one reason for not eating elves.

A real bear can climb up to trees, so wy not for a winged one to attack from this advantage position?

The search for a strong pseudodragon familiar may be placed on adventure or used in downtime at medium-high leves.

Finally, an option for manticore, may be to have poisonous and paralizing spines, like in the mithology.
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (9/24/2013 9:13:38 PM)


I feel it necessary to point out a few key features of the Manticore that you've apparently overlooked, mostly gleaned from the scrolls of the Sacred Chalice and several other legendary bardic verses. First of all, it is common knowledge that the Manticore feels happiness whenever you feel sad. In addition, ancient lore clearly dictates that the Manticore invented death and all things that are bad.

Also, bulettes eat whatever they want. Restricting their diet without good reason seems downright silly and also limits their overall usefullness as a go-to monster.

In reaction to some of my fellow posters I have to firmly state that Pseudodragons do not speak - This is not Mulan. If you want Eddy Murphy sidekicks, please don't expect them to be cannon. This goes for any future monster manual entry for donkeys as well.
Posted By: TwystedSpyder (9/24/2013 3:51:00 PM)


Maybe I'm pretentious, but I'd like to see:
- bulette jumping out of the ground half body and biting, like real sharks
- manticore suitable for riding (Zenth mages did it, it's cool)
- tamable owlbear (cool for evil druids)
- talking pseudodragon and no familiar, better like a NPC follower
Posted By: EmmeDiEmme (9/24/2013 2:31:59 PM)


Land sharks, have had a special place in my heart, ever since I came across them in 2nd edition. Somethings just don't fit with the imagery I have in my mind.

1. It won't eat elves? Dislikes the taste of dwarves? Come on! I remember getting the destinct impression that Elves had TOO many immunities in 2nd edition, and I happen to like playing elves. Ghouls have problems with them, Bulette won't eat them. Seriously? The bulette is something that will eat just about anything. I can kind of understand them being hesitant against eating dwarves, but not for the taste. Dwarves, I would imagine, are a great pain to feast upon while they are underground. I can see bulette understanding, even with animal level intelligence, that dwarves are too stuborn to die at times. Hence bulette would only attempt to eat dwarves when the bulette is starving. Elves, though, please give me a decent reason, and if not, add them to the dinner plate.

2. Leaping. I like the idea of bulette... (see all)
Posted By: nefestous (9/24/2013 1:19:41 PM)


Agreed - Bulettes leaping *from underground like a breaching whale* would be fine. A bite attack that works like the one in the shark week video would be fine. But that's not what the article describes; it describes a leap "over your head" that it does "when cornered" - a very different thing.
Posted By: Balesir (9/26/2013 7:04:32 AM)


As far as I'm concerned, the information for these monsters needs to be presented as it was in the 2nd edition monster manual. I'm not saying those stats are the best possible versions of the monsters, but the amount of information, the type of information, and the useful qualities of it make that monster book DnD's best monster book.

It's my go to book regardless of edition and practically regardless of which FRPG I'm playing.
Posted By: davidnoal (9/24/2013 12:59:23 PM)


I know we need owlbears, but couldn't you find something more salient to talk about?
Posted By: RadperT (9/24/2013 10:13:45 AM)


Yeah, it's TOTALLY unrealistic that a 12' long, armor plated predator that burrows through the ground as fast as a man can run is able to leap into the air. I mean, wow, who write this stuff? Haven't they ever studied a REAL bullette?

It's called a "landshark", after all! Having it leap out of the land would be as preposterous as having a great white shark leap out of the water!
Posted By: Lizard_SF (9/24/2013 10:11:45 AM)


Yeah… that Pseudodragons grant magic resistance and see invisible and ethereal…

there's no real point to have a familiar that ISN'T a Pseudodragon, unless ALL familiars are super powerful and magical. >_>

I like my Wild Fey Owlbears that work with Faerie Druids, from 4e, rather than "A Wizard Did It!!!"

Manticores could be ridden in the past. Why change it now?

I think it's cooler if Bulettes can move faster underground burrowing than above ground, and think them jumping high in the air is a little silly. Just my two cents.

I hope you're not using the half-erinyes thing to kill that awesome Cambion concept. :/

Posted By: Marandahir (9/24/2013 9:30:33 AM)


I like Pseudodragons being able to speak. Maybe not being EAGER to do so, but I think they should be able to.
Posted By: sournote103 (9/24/2013 9:28:54 AM)


I like my Owlbears as magical born creatures, no Wizard work.
Posted By: Avin (9/24/2013 9:14:54 AM)


"The spines of its back, combined with its bad temper, make it unsuitable for riding."

I seem to remember specific references to Zhentarim wizards using manticores as flying mounts. Why go through the trouble to add fluff that says you can't ride them?
Posted By: Dragonklaw82 (9/24/2013 8:55:44 AM)


Remember the Segway Randy rides in that South Park episode where they're down on the TSA and airline fares? I think the Zhentarim wizards would like it like that.
Posted By: RadperT (9/24/2013 10:11:24 AM)


These descriptions of bulette, manticore and owlbear, are the same in 3rd edition, except that the manticore CAN be riding (and Celestial Mages of the Zentharim ride them), and the bullette was huge.

The problem is that, in my eyes, a monster like the massive bulette can't jump, but trample.
The owlbear, instead, can make jump and short plane attack.
Finally, with a pseudodragon so powerfull, who needs other familiars?

Please, try to remove the jump attack from bulette and give it to owlbear and diminish the power of pseudodragon. and owlbears may be feral, but not evil.
Posted By: Eilistraecomeback (9/24/2013 8:54:54 AM)


Personally, I see the pseudo dragon as being unavailable to most as a familiar. You've got to go out and find one and convince it to bond with you, maybe take an improved familiar feat (too), it's not something you can just start with as a first level character. That lets them be awesome, because it's not something that's just built into class balance but more equivalent to a magic item and/or feat. And I'd rather have awesome pseudo dragon familiars that I have to work to get than refluffed ravens built into my class features.
Posted By: powerroleplayer (9/24/2013 9:34:49 AM)


I agree totally! I like a stampeding Bullett, and a jumping (short distance fly?) owlbear,
Posted By: tirwin (9/24/2013 10:18:46 AM)


A straight-forward article about some straight-forward creatures, and some of my old-timey favorites. I'm particularly glad you're including the psuedodragon... they'd make great familiars for lawful good PCs.
Posted By: SirCorin (9/24/2013 8:39:58 AM)


I voted low for the Bulette, but not because it's not been given enough "detail" - I think it's got too much. The concept of something that big and "armoured" leaping over heads seems implausible; surely it's normal method of evasion is to sink into the ground? And what about a mode of attack that involves coming up under a creature and enveloping it in a gaping maw? Those things fit the monster far better than Wuxia-style leaping claw attacks, as I see it.

Then they get arbitrary and somewhat disconnected noted on their gustatory preferences: and of all the assorted stuff they will eat, what they dislike happens to be two types of meat that happen to be playable races. Hmmm. Well, I guess I can always ignore that kind of codswallop.

Finally, they get specifications about the type of ground they can burrow through. Does this mean that the GM has to map out the ground quality whenever Bulettes are met, or is this strictly for use as an excuse wh... (see all)
Posted By: Balesir (9/24/2013 6:47:16 AM)


Most of this is quite fine, but hasn't Lords of Waterdeep taught us that owlbears are able to be domesticated? :P
Posted By: Mr.Tromboneman (9/24/2013 6:40:20 AM)


I liked all four of these. They seem like pretty straight forward and fun monsters. I kinda thought the ornery nature of the owlbear was a good touch (i.e., how they are often used by those who can simply bypass them). However, since when did the pseudodragon become so powerful?? Maybe I just don't remember them correctly. Granting their bonded master the ability to see ethereal and invisible creatures seems pretty hefty.
Posted By: marius4 (9/24/2013 4:37:14 AM)


Not only that, but the pseudodragon gets camoflage for boosted hiding and magic resistance as well, and can telepathically send back what it senses. Remind me what the party scout is here for, again?
Posted By: Balesir (9/24/2013 6:53:39 AM)


They're not suitable for low-level parties, but give non-evilly aligned mages the option to have a familiar which pretty well balances the power imparted by an imp or quasit familiar.
Posted By: RadperT (9/24/2013 10:00:23 AM)


I'm not really wild about the "always evil-tempered" description of the owlbear. Very aggressive is fine, but they should still basically be neutral animals.
Posted By: Dark_T_Zeratul (9/24/2013 3:04:24 AM)


These descriptions look a lot like the 2e versions of the monsters in question. I like all 4 of these, just saying it seems that I've seen this before.
Posted By: Tulloch (9/24/2013 2:54:49 AM)


Compared to the depth some other creatures in past columns have received, I'm a little disappointed this time around. Not to say that each of these needs a complete historical writeup, but I'd be interested in learning a little more about their possible history, mindset, and/or habits. This struck me as the kind of write up we got from V1 - a little too simplified for my taste. But that's just me.
Posted By: jrg1199 (9/24/2013 1:31:14 AM)


I'm not crazy about the ridge spines on the back of the manticore. Otherwise I pretty much like all of these. I just hope that the special vision abilities of the pseudodragon are not passed on to bonded creatures at low levels, but rather after they have been bonded for a period of time (like after a few levels.)
Posted By: thalmin (9/24/2013 12:40:32 AM)


I like the idea of manticores as mounts, as presented in 4E. Keep that as an option. Otherwise, things look solid.
Posted By: Clansmansix (9/24/2013 12:11:18 AM)