There are polar bears all over the island of Thule, for the Black City campaign, so I was adding stats for the bears to the bestiary. While looking at how some of the games have handled them, I saw quite a bit of variation by edition. Check it out.
BX Version: The Moldvay edition puts the polar bear at 6HD, with claw/claw/bite attacks doing 1-6/1-6/1-10. If both paws hit, it does a "bear hug" for an additional 2-12 automatic damage. 6 HD makes the polar a serious threat for 0-level men and low level characters; bears are the terrors of the island.
I couldn't find any evidence that real bears "hug" anyone or anything, so I wonder where the expression originated. The most I saw was that a bear will rear up and rend repeatedly with a flurry of claws. Going forward, I'm going to treat the "bear hug" as such a rending attack, but keep it otherwise the same mechanically. If someone knows more about real bears doing bear hugs, I'd love to hear or see it!
AD&D didn't have a polar bear in the monster manual, but it does eventually show up in MM2. At that point it's given HD 8+8, doing damage of 1-10/1-10/2-12 and a hug for 3-18 if one of the paws scores an 18 or better. This version is significantly tougher than the BX version, as well as the brown bear from the first monster manual.
The king of 'over-the-top' polar bears is the version in LOTFP's Weird New World: this guy is given 12 HD! Damage is 1-8/1-8/1-10 with a hug of 2-16 - above BX, below AD&D, but the sheer toughness of 12 HD (and the attack roll bonuses it gets) means this guy would challenge even a high level party. I'm not sure why James beefed the polar bear up so much; he had a weight guideline for predator HD and a 1500 lb bear is right in the 6-8 HD range. Regardless, all those Speak with Animals type spells suddenly become a lot more important when 12 HD man-killers are walking around. They don't see people, they just see 'Big Mac', 'Quarter Pounder', 'McNuggets' - that's the party halfling... (McNuggets would be a great name for a halfling character, by-the-by...)
Speaking of LOTFP, I need to get a post up about the 'grand campaign'. There are a few of the proposed adventures that are pretty dang interesting. Seems like a good Friday post for tomorrow.
ACKS usually follows BX pretty closely, but the Polar Bear and Cave Bear are switched around in order, so I think that's just a typo or mistake.
The BX version will be fine for my assumed demographics; a 6 HD polar bear is plenty threatening to a group of 1st or 2nd level characters, easily capable of killing a character per round. I might save a bigger HD version for a 'demon bear' or similar monster. It does raise an interesting question, which is how do you size your 'real world' monsters against fantasy monsters and people? That 12 HD polar bear could probably kill a white dragon. Should a bear be able to kill a Hill Giant, assuming your campaign has such monsters? What level of hero should be able to go out alone with spear and helm and be able to best a bear in single combat?
The island of Thule is modeled after Spitsbergen island, and polar bears are a serious threat, even today. I remember reading at one point that all new citizens have to take mandatory rifle training and always carry a rifle with them; while there are strict protocols governing when a bear can actually be shot, it seems that every year someone is killed by a bear while walking outside of the towns without a gun.
Black City Update
I've been second-guessing the decision to create a description for every hex of the ruined city. You may recall a few weeks ago I was struggling with the use of random tables during game play, versus using them in advance to facilitate creation, and wondered if I shouldn't just generate everything in advance. 320 hexes later, and I now have something like 60 pages of brief notes. What's done is done, and it will certainly 'play fast' at the table.
Here's a point on the importance of good NPC's: many of the serious enemies in the ruins are other adventuring parties, and NPC party stats take up a large footprint of page space. Once you're in the ruins, law and civilization melt away, and these armed bands of Norse explorers behave like a mix of outlaw bikers, vicious pirates, and bandits from the American west. Trust no one, and keep your axe ready.
Tigers are bigger than lions, but a male lion is tougher for its size, b/c tigers are solo hunters and need to live for another day, but female lions do the hunting, and male lions are built primarily for fighting other male lions.ReplyDelete
A grizzly is built for digging, among other things. They are much MUCH stronger than a lion or a tiger. As in, kill-with-one-blow stronger. I once saw skeletons of a grizzly and a tiger next to each other. The bones of a grizzly are much more robust.
A polar bear is taller than a grizzly, but they are built for swimming. They are much more lightly built. I suspect that the more badass polar bear stats are generalizing from their height rather than taking account their actual strength.
IIRC, a polar bear is much more likely to see a human as a potential food source than a grizzly, which is more likely to think of a human as a strange thing to be avoided.ReplyDelete
It strikes me that weapon length or some such should play a part in human vs. bear combat. 5 guys with spears can kill a bear, but I bet a grizzly could kill 40 men armed with daggers.ReplyDelete
It sounds reasonable; however, why make this a special case? Shouldn't weapon length count as a variable in all combats? In my gaming, abstract combat is used - sometimes the result is somewhat against reality, other times it saves a lot of time and energy which would have been spent on arguing or running a complex game system.Delete
In my book, a Hero (i.e. a 4th-level Fighting-Man) should have an equal chance of failure and success, while a Superhero (i.e. an 8th-level Fighting-Man) should be able to kill a bear single-handedly.
You could just bring 20 or 30 pages of hexes with you (or whatever would be over kill for 1 nights gaming) and roll a d12 and take whichever hex you rolled (starting from the top), and move replacement ones up to take the place of hexes used. Then just make a note on the hex as to what hex it actually is. You could even just use them in order as they encounter hexes since they are already random, recording which hex is which as they go. This of course assumes all the terrain and random tables used for each hex is the same.ReplyDelete
I've thought about this method before, but if the focus of a hexcrawl is supposed to be that player choice matters, doesn't taking the top hex (or even a random hex from the top 12 as you suggest) sort of defeat the point? How would players ever be able to gather info so that they could make a meaningful choice?Delete
I've been wrestling with this myself, the hitdice sizes of real world animals that is.ReplyDelete
In LL Saber tooth tigers, woolly rhinos and great white sharks all have 8 HD which puts them up there with dragons...
It feels like some monsters are made on a different scale. Complicates homebrewing...
I don't have a problem with a polar bear being able to kill a 10' tall hill giant, though it should take awhile. I'd expect it to be a pretty even match. Perhaps hill giant heroes hunt polar bears solo to prove their manhood.ReplyDelete
A frost giant vs polar bear would be like Michael Vick vs a pit bull, though. I can see frost giants handling packs of trained polar bears like hounds.
I take it that the relatively low dragon hit dice is because dragons are not that big! Or maybe they're very lightly built, in order to fly? :)ReplyDelete
The BX White Dragon in Moldvay also has 6 HD - that 12 HD polar bear would maul that thing if the dragon were forced to fight on the ground. But yeah, when you take in the whole package (flight, breath weapon, spell potential) you can see how the dragon should win handily in an outdoors encounter.Delete
I know Smaug is my go-to dragon visualization, but I think you're right, and that D&D dragons just aren't that big. They have to fit down 10' corridors after all. And, a $62,000,000,000 treasure hoard would be rather much.Delete
Gearing up to run Labyrinth Lord now, trying to decide how to stat the notorious equipment list 'guard dog'. This will be a 3d6-in-order, rolled hit dice game, my first ever! :) So inflated animal stats are a significant issue.ReplyDelete
The Wolf stats seem ok for Tolkienesquw wargs, but for mundane hounds would be very overpowered compared to a 1 hd orc or human warrior. For a rottweiler sized animal I'm thinking something like:
Guard Dog hd 1d6+1 AV 19 AC 7 dam 1d4 (bite)
Smaller dogs might be hd 1d6 AV 20 AC 7 dam 1d2
I recently had the chance to re-watch the original Conan the Barbarian, I needed some Arnold to help me forget that remake from last year starring Khal Drogo. Anyway, there are some really vicious war dogs in the beginning sequence when the raiders attack the barbarian village. It's probably a major problem for game balance, but if that's what a bunch of real war dogs are like, those 2HD monstrosities might not be that far off. But I don't blame you scaling them back for 1st level balance.Delete
It kinda depends what level Conan's dad was, and whether he had already lost most of his hp fighting the raiders before the dogs attacked him. :)Delete
One definite issue I have is that being savaged by a dog is not as immediately lethal as being stabbed by a sword or spear. Wardogs are/were used to create fear and disruption in enemy ranks, but they take a long time to kill someone, much longer than a warrior with a sword would.
Also I don't think a 50-80 lb dog should have 2 hd; 2 hd is for a horse or a 7' tall hyenaman. Maybe a 200 lb dog should have 2 hd, but I don't see you getting one of those fully trained for 25gp.
For whatever it's worth, in my OD&D game war dogs are one hit die creatures that fight and save as standard 1 HD monsters.Delete
Thanks Brendan, I feel validated! :DDelete
I always thought the "bear hug" attack originated with The Battle of Five Armies in the Hobbit, when Beaorn, in his bear shape kills the goblin king by crushing him between his paws.ReplyDelete