Thursday, 24 May 2012

O is for Owlbears

... and the other (not-so) classic "mashup" monsters of D&D.
Now, while Gygax et al took inspiration from many and varied sources (popular fantasy, Lovecraft, mythology, etc.) one of their most famous methods was invented when they required miniatures to stand in for various opponents; they would buy dime-store toys and use them as monsters. This led to such classic creatures as the Rust Monster, the X, and of course the Owlbear.
They even copied the artwork straight from this creepy-looking toy.
After all, weird creatures were always welcome in fantasy, and the idea that the Owlbear was some mad wizard's creation (but, for what purpose? I mean, what does an Owlbear have that a regular bear doesn't, barring a distinct hatred of all life?) stuck with many people, and led to many more imitators in later books.

The Owlephant has the dubious honour of being one of the more disturbing.
Like, that thing looks brutal, if goofy as fuck - but it could easily tear you apart with those claws. And why does it have an owl's arse where its neck should be?

Because otherwise, you'd have this.
Fuck the police.
The Squark appears to have crawled/swam/rode a bicycle made out of hatred straight out of a marine biologist's nightmares.
I mean, I seriously hate sharks. When you're a predator that's so good at its job you haven't evolved since the fucking Cretaceous Period, you're clearly too evil for this Earth. Also pretty damning proof that God doesn't exist - man banded together and built a tower to the heavens, an achievement the scale of which had never been seen before, and he struck them down for their hubris. Sharks get so badass at killing things they don't ever have to evolve again? Nothing. I would have knocked the buggers down a peg or two, if I were Him.

And squid are horrible too - the Humbolt is known to attack humans, not for food or territory, just for fun. And scientists believe that they might only experience one emotion - rage. Not even kidding, folks... (I can only guess they recorded an attack, and could hear their Lovecraftian tentacle-faced giggles and screams all the way through...)

And finally, the ever-feared...


While the human-animal mixes are way more common, they're too "standard" to warrant a mention here.

Although, because I can never resist a wee dig at 3.5's sheer lack of balance, check out Savage Species' Anthropomorphic Animal templates. The Anthro Ape gets +2 Strength, +6 Dexterity, and +4 Wisdom, as well as +3 Natural Armour, with no penalties, for +0LA and 2 RHD. Then take the Tiefling: +2 Dex and Int, -2 Cha, Darkvision, a few resistances, and Darkness 1/day, for +1LA.

People are seriously not thinking these things through.

Anyway, back on topic.

Part of their appeal is that they can easily stock up any number of encounters - from a mad wizard's tower, to roaming free and on Random Encounter tables, to the bizarre effects of a spell gone awry, to summoned beasties from some nightmarish realm... the list goes on. And the humble Owlbear has probably ended more parties than any other creature in its level range. They're tough, dangerous, and angry at even existing.

Much like myself.

For a far funnier (and more in-depth) look at some of D&D's weirder monsters, go check out Dungeons and Dragons: Celebrating 30 years of Very Stupid Monsters (and Part 2) and the rest of Head Injury Theatre. The man has a great skill at cartooning, and his mad art skillz have inspired quite a few Risus seeds in my brain.

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