... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Short Shameful Review: The Bulette

Tim Brannan a while ago suggested that we need satire. Now, I don't know if I'm willing or able to provide full-on satire. However, I've been pretty worn out lately (stuff keeps happening around here) and I've been meaning to salvage some old material from elsewhere, anyways, so maybe I'll start first hunting down some old funny "reviews" of D&D monsters I posted to Usenet a little over eight years ago.

This first one is actually not the first in the series, but actually the second or third. It's just the first I scrounged up. It's from July 2nd, 2003. I've edited it a little, because this was from a period when I disdained the use of capital letters, because I was lazy. Also, I removed one of the two links in the post, because it's now a dead link and I forget what the joke was, anyways.

So here is "Short Shameful Review: The Bulette".


So anyways, Jake discovered the gloriously amusing bulette, aka "landshark", and asked me to write a review. I was planning on doing the beholder family next, but hey, bulettes are pretty amusing.

Let's get something out of the way first. Apparently, there are certain websites out there promoting the idea that "bulette" is pronounced like "BOO-lay". This pronunciation was obviously dreamed up by some kid from the Deep South who likes to show his sophistication and education by greeting people with "BONE JOWER! COMMIE TALLIES VOWZ?" Come ON, people! You don't say "cigaray" or "penn jillay" or "my beautiful laundray", do you?

Bulettes are these weird rhinoceros-sized creatures that look like a cross between an armadillo and something else. There seems to be some confusion about what that something else is: the D&D books say "turtle" while Hackmaster says "shark". Sharks certainly sound scarier than turtles, plus claiming turtles as part of their ancestry suggests that bulettes are slow (as Jake puts it: "O NO! A BULETTE! LET'S BREAK INTO A SLOW WALK AND ESCAPE!") But actually, the stats show that bulettes are faster on land than a barbarian -- and remember, this is a game that thinks barbarians are SUPERMAN.

If you are puzzled what a bulette looks like, check out this picture:


As I already mentioned, bulettes are also called "landsharks", as well as "dirtfins" (Hackmaster) and "Teeth of the Earth" and various other weird things. This is because they also burrow through the dirt and attack people from below. Keep in mind this was YEARS before the movie "Tremors" and even a few years before Dr. Who had to fight the tractators, but somewhat after Spock did the nasty with the Horta.

According to Dragon #74, bulettes are able to travel through the dirt because a bulette "secrete[s] a slime from its skin that works like the potion for transmuting rock to mud ... But this secretion must be weaker than the potion in strength and duration, and it seems to work only on earth, not rock." Hmmm. Transmute dirt to mud. The secretion must be WATER!

Bulettes are supervoracious and will eat anything, apparently, but they don't like the taste of dwarves and they never eat elves. No explanation. You would think that maybe it's because elves have a distinctive smell and are poisonous, but no, the Dragon article says bulettes have a very poor sense of smell and hunt entirely by sense of seismic activity. Maybe bulettes have learned not to attack any creature that skips.

The Dragon article, incidentally, takes the usual "gamer fiction" route of having a bunch of fantasy sages sitting around in a tavern discussing exotic animals, but this one has a twist! It's based on Melville! There's this hunter, you see, named A'ahb, and he hunts this rogue albino bulette the natives call Mobh Idich. he uses a captive kobold as bait (no mention if the kobold's name was Itzmayl.)

There's a problem with the article. See, bulettes are rare, which is a Good Thing, since they devour all animals withing their 30-mile territory. So this A'ahb guy travels far and wide to find one, and eventually finds an area where the locals use mud from a hole where Mobh Idich has recently emerged to use on their plows (to make the plowing easier.)

So A'ahb kills the bulette. Smooth move, A'ahb! I hope all those starving local children yowl all night outside your window!

Bulettes have this neat defensive adaptation where, when they are enraged, their dorsal fin sticks straight up and exposes their only vulnerable spot. Of course, this is vulnerable in the sense that scalemail is vulnerable (D&D tends to overprotect its beasts. D&D IS YOUR MOM!)

Also, getting close enough to stab this dorsal weak spot with your stabby sword is pretty difficult, because for some reason a bulette can JUMP STRAIGHT UP AND KICK IN FOUR DIRECTIONS AT ONCE. I've seen comical comments about the bulette before, but no one has mentioned how humorous a jumping bulette would look.

On the whole, bulettes are pretty interesting, although they have their problems (but what fantasy beast *doesn't*?) If you think that supervoracious burrowing turtles are bad, you should check out the tarasque -- essentially the pseudo-medieval fantasy equivalent to a giant rubber Japanese monster, emerging every few months to devour a few villages. I mean, 840 hit points! THE HELL? 50 feet tall? This thing can hold two bulettes in its mouth! IYKWIM!

And then both bulettes would jump up and kick out the monster's teeth.


  1. I approve of this post! Mostly. ;)

  2. I really enjoyed this post! It's nice to see some humor, and I enjoyed your writing style. I'd definitely be up for seeing more of these posts from your past.