Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Owlbears and 24 Other Birds

Chris's scrivenings.
Archon's marks on more.
My first foray into the birdlands.  This is part 2.

the great and common potoo
26. Pyorn - A common riding animal.  Horses are tougher and capable of longer distance travel.  Pyorns are capable of faster sprints and some truly incredible jumps.  They are also omnivores, and are known to enjoy cats.  They have strange heads--their beak covers their entire face, with their eyes peeking through apertures.

27.  Owl - They are not birds, and yet people think that they are.  Owls are lunar creatures.  Pluck the feathers off an owl--pluck all the feathers off an owl, and you will be left with nothing but feathers, a skeleton, and eyes.  The gossamer stuff that stains your cuticles--that's the real owl.  Owls never make a single noise, except for their call, which they make upon their death.  Their feathers are sometimes used to make truly silent cloaks.

28. Educated Owl - Not all owls have forgotten their names.  These owls still remember the moon, and they teach their children their histories inscribed on the inside of hollow trees.  They can emit a 20' zone of silence at will, which blankets all sounds, except their voice should they deign to speak.  They regurgitate mouse skeletons animated by their necromancy.  Their weaver caste will weaver "wicker men" from thorns, which they then pilot like mecha.  They have a strange business here, which no one has ever quite figured out.  See also.

29. Bladed Heron - Bladed herons have beaks that are sharpened on two sides, which they use to chop fish in half.  The males also fight each other in tremendously acrobatic duels, resembling nothing so much as a pair of dueling swordsmen.  In some communities, metal blades are actually bolted onto the heron's beaks, greatly improving their ability to kill.  Lvl Def none  Beak 1d8 or 1d12.

30, Smidge - A miniscule cousin to the smirch, a smidge is a tiny black bird, smaller than a fingernail.  They will latch on to your jugular and suck your blood.  Any attempt to forcibly remove them will result in grievous harm to your brain's blood supply.

31. Cryoninus - A bird of ice, and a cousin to the phoenix.  Winter flows from their wings, and their breath is cold enough to shatter glass.  It is painful to breath around them, your own lungs revolting at the impossible stillness of the air.  Their heart is a thing of absolute zero, a perfect point of stillness inside a mercurial, flowing beast.  When you kill one, it ushers in a permanent ice age at that location, a backstop against the heat death of the universe.  When you kill one, it will kill the kingdom that contains it, perhaps half a continent, and you, if you tarry.  Best to harvest the parts quickly and be gone.

32. Mondlieb Harrier - A bird that possesses an impossible style of flight.  When it spreads it's bizarrely-shaped wings, it takes off vertically, and at high speed.  When it closes its wings, it falls.  It uses this strange method of flight to "jump" hundreds of feet into the air and land on its prey, impaling them on its spike-like hallux.  Their preferred prey are small deer and tax collectors (because of their oily livers).

33. Peryton - The victims of an ancient curse, perytons are enormous raptors with the heads and antlers of stags.  They cast the shadows of humans, and their mating rituals require a fresh human heart.  When a peryton is killed, the shadow will walk off, heading for the River of the Dead.  It is said that a mortal cannot find the entrance to the true River of the Dead except through this method.  It is a difficult journey--perytons do not live near Greywing Bay, and the walking shadow never tires nor slows.

34. Heravia - The serpentine bird, the heravia lacks wings or legs.  It is long and sinuous, and crawls on its belly.  It does possess a tremendously versatile tail fan, which it uses to communicate, imitate animals, and defend itself.  They grow up to 50' long.
HD 5  Def plate  Tail Slice 1d12+poison

35. Great Hesperiachis - A monstrous branch of hesperornithes, the great hesperiaches is completely marine.  It grows as long as 100' long.  It feeds on krill, and spends its time in the northern seas.  It lays floating eggs, which float south on the current until they hatch in warm water.  Boats are sometimes painted with eyes to ward off the amorous attention of great hersperiachis.

36. Mordant Vulture - A curious species of vulture that instructed the first necromancers.  After impregnating the female, the female will subdue her mate and eat his heart.  Over the next few days, she will eat other organs, eventually replacing them with her own gastroliths.  After three days, the female will lay her eggs; simultaneously, the male will arise as an undead bird.  For as long as a decade, the undead male will provide for his family, bringing them fresh carrion and keeping watch through the long nights.  For decades, the female will continue to lay her dead mate's eggs.

37. Coatl - Allegedly, a servant of the Authority's divine wrath.  A flying serpent-bird with coils large enough to constrict elephants, the coatls have the power to ignite anything with their gaze.  And I do mean anything.  Metal will melt, dribble, smoke, and evaporate.  Because everything has a boiling point, if you've pissed off the Authority.  No reputable source has ever seen them.

38. Catching the Simurgh - Since the simurgh is all birds, it follows that all birds are the simurgh.  According to Germanth's Theorum of Semantic Approximation, there must be a fixed amount of birds that qualify as "all birds", since otherwise the definition becomes incoherent in a non-instantaneous universe,  According to this theory, it takes about 71 tons of birds to be considered "all birds".  There are some diversity requirements, but the 71 tons is the more difficult to criterion to meet.

So, first obtain 71 tons of birds, and compress them to a certain critical mass.  Perhaps a sufficiently reinforced aviary.  Perhaps an extraordinarily reinforced aviary--you are in the business of manifesting a goddess, after all.

39. Achelornis - A wingless, quadrupedal bird from the abyssal layers, the achelornis is a predator.  Vicious perhaps, but not evil.  Their not-inconsiderable intellects are mostly dedicated to inventing scary noises and creepy songs.  They are most at home in tunnels, and are agoraphobic.

These are replacements for achaierai.

Lvl Def chain  Claws 1d10/1d10
Move horse  Int 10  Dis hunger

Black Smoke - Achelornises constantly exhale a black smoke.  It take one round to permeate an area (so keep moving and you're fine).  Anyone ending their turn in the black smoke takes 1 point of emotion damage (fear).  At the end of an encounter with an Achelornis, everyone has an X-in-20 chance of developing a phobia to birds, where X is the amount of emotion damage you took from this ability.

<digression> Emotion damage can bring you down to 0 HP, but cannot kill you.  If you would take "lethal" emotion damage, you instead gain a point of Stress.</digression>

40. Cerulophore - A bird of the upper air.  It resembles a chain of blue, translucent birds joined into a singular chain.  They sing songs of prayer without ceasing (easy enough when you have a dozen mouths).  They require no sustenance beyond their own virtue.  (See also, the holy mounds.)  They constantly elongate, producing more "birds" at the end of the chain.  When they wish to reproduce, they fly into a tornado and are torn apart.  Each fragmentary "bird" then becomes the beginning of a new chain.

41. Viridine - A bird of the upper air.  Thin and green, resembling a manta as much as a bird.  They do not land, and spend their entire lives miles above the ground.  They reproduce in thunderstorms, and are seen as spiritual leaders among their kind, and many birds search them out with metaphysical dilemmas, seeking them above the thunderheads.  They have a wingspan of about 50', and weigh about a kilogram.  Like the cerulophore, they are remnants of ancient epochs, and their metabolisms are karmic.  They must perform favors in order to nourish themselves, feeding on the recipient of their benevolence.

42. Tumblebirds - A colonial species that weaves enormous "tumbleweeds" on the Mausphalian plains.  The largest tumblehomes can be as much as five stories tall.  These tumblehomes are usually stationary shelters for the birds, but in times of danger, the tumblebirds will grip the inside and beat their wings fiercely, like a system of fans strapped inside a giant hamster ball.  Thus equipped, the tumblehome can roll across the plains, moving to a more fertile area or crushing any threat beneath their thorny tonnage.  They sound like a chicken coop rolling down a hill.

43. Lackeroon - An evil bird with poisonous eyes.  The glare of the lackeroon causes forced vegetarianism.  If someone affected by this curse eats meat, they will shit blood until they die.  Lackeroons form symbiotic relationships with fruit trees, and will prune them, clean them of parasites, and weave them into protective hedges.  They are favored by exotic gardeners and condescending vegans.

44. Dire Cuckoo - Huge things, the size of penguins.  They steal children and eat them.  In the place of the stolen child, they will leave a cuckoo child, nearly indistinguishable from a human except for small teeth and a strange lightness of body.  The child will spend the next dozen years stealing food to feed its true parents.  Once it reaches puberty, it will flee into the woods and undergo an awkward metamorphosis into its adult form.

45. Doodle Bird - One day, you find a graffito.  It depicts a humorous bird-thing, with goofy eyes, scruffy wings, and gangly legs.  It amuses you, and so you draw it everywhere.  In the dust, on the walls of the bath, scratched into wooden doors.  (Your blood becomes thinner.)  You tell your friends, show them, and you all laugh.  (Your flesh becomes sweeter than nectar.)  You call it the doodly bird, and you are happy to have started a trend.  (Your flesh becomes dense and aromatic.)

So enraptured, you fall asleep one night, and the doodly bird slips in your window.  First one leg, then the other, and then the whole bird follows.  It is so very tall.  It hums its doodly song, which only works on doodly folks like you, which keeps you deep asleep.  Then it drinks your luxurious, deliquescent flesh through your belly button.

Thus fed, the doodly bird looks for a few more places where it can scratch its memetic graffito, and then points it nose into the wind, sniffing the roadways for the scent of another doodled human.

46. Bird Stamps - It was thought that nearly all of these were destroyed in the Bird wars, but small caches of bird stamps continue to be found in the occasional dungeon.  Birds operate a postal service in defiance of Zulin, and while it is normally only available to birds and bird-allies (certain reptiles, dragons), those possessing a stamp can flag down (most) birds and convince them to carry the letter for you.  Anything heavier than a few grams is unlikely to reach its destination, and you must provide the birds with an accurate address that they will understand.

Bird stamps replace sending.

47. Kenku - A type of hereditary curse that manifests as a sort of stunted, demented, wingless crowman.  If someone steals from the Simurgh, or possesses her treasure, their children will all be born as kenku.  You will find them in the cursed parts of the world, the offspring of kings who do not want to relinquish their flying carpets and--honestly--have enough heirs already.

Kenku can "interbreed" with humans but the offspring is always a stone egg covered with a curse-poem, unique to each kenku.

48. Girshum - An anti-bird, once believed to be the Simurgh's shadow, now known to be a separate species that thrives in the semantic blindness of humans.  (Non-symbolic animals have no problem seeing them.)  They are rarely noticed, but when they are, it is always as an absence of a bird.  "On the branch over there, there is no bird."  "It doesn't come closer, but now there is a spot on the ground near you, where there is no bird."  "No bird is flying away, over the bakery, while looking at you over its shoulder."  They are used to share gossip (only ever concerning birds), and as spies, reluctantly.

49. Snuffy Bird - A bird with a beak like a pipe.  It plucks tobacco, dries it in the sun, tear it into bits, and then packs its sinuses with the snuff.  It ignites the tobacco by sneezing (they are, perhaps, a distant relative to the phoenix).  They are popular pets, since they are attractive and good-natured.  If supplied with a mixture of tobacco and incense, they will always keep a house smelling good.

50. Owlbear 

Obviously the product of wizards and their meddling, owlbears are a melancholy mixture of parts.  Even owlbears who are closely related tend to look distinct, and many have small irregularities (asymmetries, extra fingers).  These are not mutations, but something expressing itself from their essential germ.

Their wings and head are feathered, but their bodies are of bears.  There is some evidence that they were meant to be more than this, though.  The bones in their arms mirror those of a human, albeit thicker and brutish.  And once extracted from the skull, their brain is neither ursine nor avian--it is indistinguishable from a human's.

Owlbears are obviously insane.  They throw themselves from high places, continually attempting to fly.  This behavior does not decrease with maturity--rather the opposite.  (More owlbears die from self-inflicted falls than any other cause.)  And owlbears attempt bearish behaviors, such as hibernating and hunting salmon, and neither with any success.  Even healthy owlbears display characteristic signs of stress, such as "barbering", when an owlbear plucks out all of their feathers and hair.

It is fair to say that owlbears are not happy creatures, which does something to explain their famous aggression.

Lvl Def plate  Punches 1d12/1d12
Move bear  Int 6  Dis Territorial

Perfect Stalker - Silent and perfectly camouflaged.  A stalking owlbear is nearly impossible to detect without magic.  When you roll a random owlbear encounter, it has a equal chances of stalking or attacking immediately.

Dread Hoot - Stalking owlbears always hoot once before they attack.  After 1 round, and every hour thereafter, roll a d6.  On a 1-2, the owlbear attacks.  On a 6, the owlbear has gotten bored and wandered off.

Hatred - Owlbears will always attack spellcasters and birds first.  (fOwlbears can smell the spells in your head.)

Owlbear Discussion

Owlbears are famous as monsters that burst out of the random encounter tables and slay low-level parties.  I see no reason to break with that tradition.  The only modification is that players now have plenty of time to prepare themselves after they hear the ominous hoot.  Even low-level parties can put up a terrific fight if they are well-prepared.


  1. We have entered into a newly enlightened age of Bird Related Content

    1. I really think we need to all pull together and convert all of our blogs to 100% bird content.

    2. Bird is the word. (I'm so so sorry)

  2. I am so glad to see someone else shares my vision of birds as terrifying muppet beasts from hell.