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Monday, June 20, 2011

Bears As Monsters

Amid the flurry of cross-blog debate about nihilism and other absurdities in various RPGs, JB's Bear Week posts (and a couple bear-related posts on other blogs) were overlooked. Which is a shame, because it reminded me of a couple things, in particular some special combat abilities: the "bear hug" and the ability to fight after "death" for a couple rounds.

The bear hug, as far as I can determine, first shows up in Greyhawk (Supplement I.) I see a reference to it in the stats for the bear given in the Bag of Tricks description, and an allusion to it in the Owl Bear description, where it is said to be like a wearbear's hug attack, except I don't remember the werebear actually having this in its description. That's because the werebear appears in Monsters & Treasure, which doesn't use the "attack routine" approach from Greyhawk. So, even if JB is wrong about the bear hug being a myth, bears don't hug in pre-Greyhawk D&D, because the mechanics don't make sense in the LBB world.

I've already made it pretty clear I prefer the LBB system over Greyhawk. But dropping the hug does make bears seem less dangerous, doesn't it?

Maybe not. Remember, humans do only 1d6 damage with melée weapons... but according to Monsters & Treasure, large animals do 2 to 4 dice of damage. Under the slightly modified damage rules for monsters in Liber Zero, small bears would do the same damage as an ogre (1+3,) grizzlies and polar bears would do troll damage (2-1,) and cave bears would do 2 dice. Either way, the bear outclasses normal humans. Plus, it might be a good idea to let bears attack multiple men and beasts of 1 HD or less, as if they were fighters; the carnage would be fantastic.

Edit: I guess I should mention that, since Supplement I only gives one 6 HD bear, I wrote the above assuming that black and brown bears would be 6 HD, grizzlies and polar bears would be 7 HD, and cave bears would be 8 HD. That's considerably higher than in AD&D and perhaps various forms of Basic. However, it has the side effect of making bears nastier and letting me use a simplified version of the morale roll guidelines for crowds of humans intimidating a bear that JB wrote about: if there are more people than the bear's hit dice present, roll a morale test; half effective hit dice for black bears, and skip tests for cave bears.

Another option, especially against PCs, is to allow not necessarily a hug, but definitely a maul attack. I'd implement it this way: if a bear rolls a 6 on one of its damage dice against an opponent, it mauls on further attacks, doing damage every round automatically, no attack roll needed, unless it is slain or somehow driven away from the victim. Take that, adventurers!

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