The Ursine – A Bipedal Bear Race for D&D 5th Edition

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Bear Cavalry, with more bears!

 

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Fearsome Woodland-born Heroes

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Physically, the ursine look like somewhat bipedal bears.  While actual bears rarely move on their hind legs, these creatures are somewhat bound to it by default.  However, they can move on all fours like their wild cousins.  Like many strange creatures encountered throughout the realms, the ursine were creations of strange and often horrific experiments.  Tribes are what separate the ursine from one another.  Usually, each tribe is based off the species they originated from.  Beyond that, each tribe has a caste system of sorts; hunters/gatherers, farmers, traders, guards, and the elder councils.  While there is no official hierarchy, some social branches gain more respect than others. Despite their bestial appearance, they tend not to be hostile with ‘regular’ humanoids.  Their actions with outsiders rarely venture beyond trade and negotiations, but it isn’t too uncommon to see an ursine travel as a guide or bodyguard.  Within their lands, many tend to live off a diet associated with their wild equivalents, while some have successfully imported and maintained food stock from the outside world.  While this has lead to slight infighting and social conflict, these resources have been a blessing in tougher times.

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Free Minds and Free Spirits

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In ages past, several kingdoms captured and trained bears as a means of tactical offense and element of surprise.  Already built for survival, they made powerful allies among their battle companions.  Their service continued until wartime had ended and an uneasy age of ceasefire had begun.  In this age, arcanists, alchemists, engineers, and biologists began to experiment with new methods of advancing the society around them.  While most kept to a code of ethics, the scientists from the land of Markovia cared not for petty morality.  With their bred battle stock wandering aimless and without purpose, they used them as test subjects.  After months of brutal testing and no direct results, the bears began to exhibit more and more human-level intelligence, as well as slight mutations to make them seem a little more humanoid.  The developments were gradual; more bipedal structure, slight speech capabilities, and even hand-eye coordination/operating items requiring human hands.  Through crude methods of communication, they relayed plans to stage a coup.  When Markovia’s ‘dumb animal army’ were ready for feeding time, the bears’ plan was carried out.  While the Markovian military suffered many casualties, the legion of bears suffered only a few.  They failed to destroy the government, but succeeded in escaping the territory.  Luckily, the country’s fuehrer, Vladek, was more interested in other things besides hunting the bear creatures down. Free from the shackles of tyranny and corruption, they set out to start their own tribes and try to live in this new, confusing state.  Eventually, each experimented species branched off and created their own societies.  Their newfound intelligence came with the dysphoria of not being a true humanoid.  To keep outsiders from fearing them as savages and wild beasts, they attempted to adapt to “civil” environments and incorporate humanoid customs into their new societies.  Never forgetting their roots, each of the cavalries maintain a strong defense and stronger pride in freedom.  Most Ursine are trained at a young age to defend themselves, as well as honing the wild instincts from youth.  This isn’t to say that ursine society is completely wild.  Many have imported and learned to forge all sorts of arms and armory to fit their needs.  However, due to their specific needs, outsider smiths are either likely to massively inflate prices for their pieces or outright reject giving service.  Even with trade complications, they are a very civil people.  Many prefer diplomatic reasoning over war and rely on their councils of elders for wisdom.  Among the few things to rile them up are oppression and authoritarian rule, due to the traumatic past of the “Founders”, as they call them.

STATS AFTER THE JUMP

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Ursine Traits

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Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by +1

Age: Ursine age a little quicker than humans and mature around age 15.  On average, they live about 65 years, with 80 as the highest recorded.

Alignment: Ursine are typically good-natured souls, so good alignments are common.  However, their ancestry has made them adverse towards evil (and to an extent, lawful) characters.  Thus, those alignments are rarer.  All other alignments are typical within Ursine culture.  Adventurous ursine can be any alignment, due to their long term exposure of the world around them.

Speed: Despite your immense size, you can charge and barrel through at great speed.  Your speed is 30 ft.

Size: Ursine stand between 6 and 7 feet tall, weighing on average around 300 – 500 lbs.  Your size is Medium, despite looking like a large creature.

Built Powerful: You count as a large creature for the sake of carrying, pushing/pulling/lifting and grappling (or “bear hug”).

Bulky: Your large shape means its harder for armor and clothing to fit you, requiring custom work that costs more on the average.  The price of armor and clothing is doubled for you.

Bear Claws:  You have proficiency with unarmed attacks using your front claws as melee attacks.  The claws do 1d4 slashing damage, utilizing strength.  When you are not using these claws for something else, they can be used as natural weapons.  When you reach level 6, increase damage dealt by the claws to d6.  Upon reaching level 12, increase the damage to d8.  Upon reaching level 18, the damage increases to d10.

Strong Nose: You gain advantage on any Perception check that benefits your powerful sense of smell.  This perception bonus is not granted to any sense other than smell.  Anything that would nullify this sense would disable this ability until long rest.

Darkvision: Your ancestors have long since become used to being active in the night or living by caves, becoming accustomed to little source of light.  You have superior vision in dark and dim conditions.  You can see up to 60 feet in dim light as if it were bright light and darkness as if it were dim light.  You cannot detect any colour in darkness, only a grayscale.

Language:  You can speak Common.  In addition, you can communicate with bears, as well as bear-based creatures.

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Sub-Race: Grizzly Bear

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Ability Score Increase: Your Strength score increases by +1 and your Constitution increases by +1 as well.

Bravery:  You gain advantage on fear related effects.

Athleticism:  You are proficient in Athletics checks.

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Sub-Race: Polar Bear

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Ability Score Increase: Your Constitution score increases by +2.

Arctic Resistance: You have a resistance to cold damage.

Frigid Survivalism:  You are proficient in Survival checks.

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Sub-Race: Black Bear

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Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by +2.

Careful:  You are proficient in Stealth checks.

Mask of the Wild: You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.

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New Feat: True Bear Cavalry

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Prerequisite: Ursine Race

You gain the following abilities:

  • Finesse: Your natural weapons can use Dexterity instead of Strength.
  • Bear Hug: When you hit with your claw attack, you may use a bonus action to attempt to grapple your opponent.
  • Rugged Hide: While not wearing armor, your armor class is 13 + your Constitution modifier.  You may use a shield and still be granted this bonus.

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Campaign Option: Beyond Markovia

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The lore reflects my home setting, Markovia, a cold realm of Gothic creatures and totalitarian oppression.  If you do not wish to include such a land or racial backstory, there are many alternatives.  Perhaps these are nature guardians created by the Fey to ward out intruders.  Maybe they are magically altered bears that fight alongside the infamous meme known as “The Bear Cavalry” (as referenced in title above).  Maybe Ursine are just soldiers who turned themselves into bear warriors to be one with their mighty bear comrades.  Maybe they’re mutants warped by weird technology and radiation, stuck on a post-apocalyptic world.  Perhaps they’re not even bears, but aliens that just happen to resemble them. In the case of settings like The Forgotten Realms; lands with vast, expansive wilderness might suit this race best.  Lands like Vaasa, Ruathym, and the North might even revere this race with a degree of respect.  Despite only two versions of the race present, they could easily exist from Neverwinter woods to the reaches of Shou to Maztica’s endless tropical forests!

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Notice:  Original art by sandara-d4wn6ou.  This race and its lore are the creations of Doctor Necrotic.  Original rules belong to Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro.  Alterations inspired by Cenycal from r/dndnext.  If used, please give credit where due.  All rights belong to their respective owners.

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2 thoughts on “The Ursine – A Bipedal Bear Race for D&D 5th Edition

  1. Pingback: Character Creation, Part 2 | dungeonhacking

  2. I love this race and can imagine it in other places. I am thinking of creating a version of SpellJammer that is more science fantasy based with the aesthetics of raygun gothic/dieselpunk. This and any other human-animal hybrid race you have done. If these were to be collected for purchase in print and/or pdf I would be most interested in purchasing such material.

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