Hoooo doesn’t love owlbears? They’re fuzzy balls of fluff topped with the best spiky bits from nature, but how to best use them without just dumping them into a random forest encounter? This week’s Dungeon Situational I offer up a few different ways to use these adorable hybrid beasties that may give you some ideas of your own…
Players will encounter Autumnblood as she flees a centaur hunting party, her hide is peppered with arrows, and perceptive characters will observe that she has many scars. The hunters will tell the group that the monstrous owlbear has been raiding their encampment for months, killing their brethren and sistren. A high insight check, or a character who can speak with animals can instead determine that the centaurs attacked her first, destroyed her nest and slew her young.
Siding with one or the other will make a lifetime ally of the other. Autumnblood, a great reddish-brown beast, will follow the party loyally until death, and if she grows to have a bond with a single character she will act as a mount. The centaurs will instead gift the group a silver Horn of Valhalla, except that the summoned creatures are centaurs instead of berserkers.
Stat Adjustments – She has double the hit points of a normal owlbear, an extra +3 to her dexterity and wisdom saving throws, and an armour class of 14. In addition to her actions, she can also teleport up to 30 ft. as a bonus action, if she does the space she vacates is lightly obscured by swirling dust, debris, and dead leaves until the end of her next turn. This ability recharges on a d6 roll of 5 or 6.
Rampart is under siege. The fortified city was build to withstand human invaders, or at least humanoid, but no matter their defences and organisation the enormous pack of black-feathered owlbears are a formidable threat. They make passage to and from the gates impossible, they’re strong enough to scale the towering palisades, and they work together far better than owlbears should. A moderate knowledge of nature tells players that owlbears are typically solitary predators, and that something else drives the Shriekpack to violence.
The people inside the walls have not slept well in weeks, suspicion, paranoia, and anger are causing in-fighting and civic unrest, and the attacks are only escalating. It is as though a malevolent hatred targets Rampart, driving the Shriekpack to work together against the city.
Stat Adjustments – Shriekpack owlbears have pack tactics, that is they have advantage on attack rolls made against creatures who are also adjacent to a creature allied with the Shriekpack.
A Sphinx’s Pet
Never have a party been approached by an owlbear who greeted them politely and introduced itself. Arnoret, Sworn to Bektamun, is an awakened, and immortal owlbear, fluent in the common and celestial languages, stalks the halls of the great sphinx’s palace keeping the place free of vermin, and acting as a faithful companion to the far more powerful beast. When players encounter Arnoret, she offers them refreshment, and upon request will act as an escort to Bektamun’s chambers, but the route she will take leads the group into every defender, trap, and obstacle within the palace.
She is a gracious and friendly host, but highly deceptive. Bektamun’s palace is a test of character, so if a party pass through the obstacles on the path to her throne then Arnoret will gladly usher them in as worthy petitioners.
Stat Adjustments – Arnoret has an intelligence of 14 (+2), and charisma of 12 (+1) and is proficient (+3) in both insight and deception.
Random Encounter Table
Those were long-winded, potentially several sessions in themselves, so here’s a few ideas you can throw into a random encounter table.
The Carcass – A dead owlbear is half eaten in a pit, scattered with old eggshells. A nature check reveals that a pair of young hydras recently hatched here to find their first meal waiting for them.
Caught – A cut-off scream may draw the group to a clearing in which an owlbear is devouring a dwarven hunter. The owlbear’s leg is caught in a heavy bear trap.
Traces – The party have the answer to an age-old question. Do owlbears leave regurgitated pellets or typical droppings?
On The Beach – The great white owlbear drags a harp seal up the cold shale beach to eat in peace, while the rest of the harp seals watch helplessly from the rocks nearby.
Next week’s Dungeon Situational…
A short campaign brief, a simple three-part story designed to take your group from level 1 to 5, but in a setting they may not immediately expect.
Ten gith adventurers, the former slave race of the mind flayers. These alien-looking creatures come from the astral sea, and have very different attitudes to those players may find familiar.
Or ten mounts, creatures you can ride into battle with unique personalities, histories, or properties.