Blood and Stone
“Father? Can I not play a little longer? barked Teemi, his small, furry body energetically bounding over towards a small log on the riverside.
“Careful, son,” his father growled, a large shadow looming over the bank causing nocturnal creatures at the waterside to scatter. He put a large yet gentle paw on his son’s shoulder and grabbed him by the scruff of his collar. “There are dangers in the water during starlight.”
Teemi looked cutely bitter, as only bearkin children do. “But father!”
“It is time to rest,” the elder bear said. Teemi whimpered quietly as he was carried back toward the forest treeline. “You were much too young to remember when your mother met that fate. I will not make the same mistake again.”
Strong, stubborn, and powerful, ursine are a race of fierce, tribal warriors. The bipedal blood relative of their bear ancestors, ursine live in small tribes or clans of about a dozen, deep in the forests, caves, and sometimes arctic wastelands where they are able to hunt and kill their prey with vicious ferocity. Their use of weapons and keen battle sense give them an edge over their unevolved kin, and they are often a formidable foe.
Ursine have strong parental instincts and are willing to fight to protect their clans and families. To the ursine, blood is thicker than water, and few situations would result in a bearkin abandoning their clan and joining a life of adventure. Powerful and protective, they tend to be wary of outsiders but make very loyal allies, though they rarely side with large kingdoms or armies due to their disinterest in politics.
As strong in heart as in muscle, Ursine have a strong natural parental instinct. In their families, both parents are expected to provide and care for their children (known as ‘cubs’) as best they can.
While the Ursine have only been around for a few generations, their origin is surrounded in mystery. Most believe that they are a result of malevolent druidic rituals. The bearkin, is is said, upon achieving true sentience did not obey, killed their masters and escaped.
In Ursine families, gathered around campfires, they tell scary tales of evil druid pacts and monsters that will come to take children who do not perform simple chores or behave, though no bearkin truly knows where they came from.
Other theories of ursine origins are less credible, such as their role as native guardians in the Feywild who escaped to the Material Plane after a war, or that they owe their creation to a pact made by an army of great warriors, given the bodies and strength of bears to dominate their enemies. Intelligent or scholarly ursine often wish to discover this detail.
A traditional ursine tribe consists of one alpha male, the strongest, as a leader with several females. Young ursine who wish to become alpha must battle in honorable unarmed combat to claim the throne – otherwise the youth of the clan usually show great respect to their elders.
Ursine clans tend to have tough, intimidating names like First Tooth, Furious Swipe, and Bloody Roar, and often use simple symbols that they scratch into tree trunks to designate their territory. Veteran travelers who recognize these symbols when traveling know to deviate their course to avoid getting attacked by aggressive tribes.
Most often, an ursine leaves as a result of disgracing their family in battle or breaking code, though many bearkin found in villages credit their abandonment to family massacre, being lost, forest fires, or other causes that physically ejected them from their home. Ursine away from their home are often drawn to a life of adventure as a result of their natural instinct and origin in the wilds.
Tradition an Honor
Traditionally, ursine tend not to be religious creatures though all owe faith to Grizzus, their patron Ancestor. While clans differ vastly in beliefs and ideals, all at least acknowledge the Great Bear’s ideals of clan loyalty and friendship.
Tribes and families of ursine are often found fighting and feuding, although complex politics and many of the concepts of ownership, such as money, are unfamiliar customs to them.
Grizzus, who the ursine believe watches and guides them through play and battle, often contacts Elders or Shaman within tribes as well as particularly powerful warriors. They claim to have seen visions of the Ancient Bear, designating them a specific task, and it is not uncommon for a member of the tribe to leave in pursuit of this mission, which is a sign of honor.
Bearkin names are derived from their grizzly origin, and therefore have strong sounds and syllables. Young ursine also usually have a pet name that they are known as throughout their tribe, and are often referred to as such affectionately by their elders and spouses, even into adulthood. Others who refer to them in this way are sure to raise an ursine’s ire.
- Childhood Nicknames. Butterball, Cub, Flatear, Fuzzy, Prickles, Roughnose, Scruffy, Southpaw, Tiny.
- Male Names. Argus, Brutin, Dale, Duggar, Gorf, Kidas, Mars, Orwin, Pantg, Slark, Tusk, Zalk.
- Female Names. Alici, Brin, Connie, Flore, Mazie, Namina, Varen, Vixen, Tribbi, Willow.
- Clan Names. Bloody Roar, Cut Masters, Dust Burners, Final Bark, First Tooth, Furious Swipe, Proud Claw, Sharp Paw, Tough Hide, Warrior Clan, Wild Boar, Yellow Fur.
Your ursine character has a number of traits as a part of their bearkin heritage.
- Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2.
- Age. Ursine reach adolescence at about the same age as humans, but usually only live to about age 60.
- Alignment. Ursine naturally tend toward neutrality, though they are more often good than evil. They also tend to favor a balance between the law of the clan and the chaotic nature of their lifestyle.
- Size. Ursine tower over their companions at around 7 to 8 feet tall, and weigh anywhere from 300 to over 450 pounds. Your size is Medium.
- Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
- Keen Smell. You have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
- Animal Instincts. You have proficiency in the Survival skill.
- Claws. Using your bear claws to attack, your unarmed strikes deal 1d4 slashing damage.
- Languages. You know Common and Bearic. Bearic is a primitive language of clicks, huffs, growls and barks that is most often used to quickly convey details while hunting and to intimidate. It has no written form.
- Subrace. Differences in the backgrounds and locations of their environments have resulted in a number of different ursine subraces. Choose one of these.
The smallest and most timid of the ursine, Blackfurs tend to be smarter and make up clans of single families in caves or other underground locations, occasionally including the Underdark. They mostly keep to themselves and protect their lairs and territories without moving about, but will happily interact with others of their kind.
- Ability Score Improvement. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
- Darkvision. Familiar with the darkness, you have superior vision in dark or dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of grey.
- Stealthy. You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.
Fiercely protective, honorable, and strong, and usually friendly to outsiders, the most common of the ursine have a strong, protective instinct and make up large clans with a lax hierarchy. They often live nomadic lives, moving from forest to forest to cycle their prey and avoid retaliation from nearby developed settlements.
- Ability Score Improvement. Your Charisma score increases by 1.
- Protector. When an ally within 10ft of you must make a Strength saving throw, you may choose to have the effect target you in their place. This feature can only be used twice every short rest.
The rarest of the ursine, icehide bears have thick, winter hides, tend to be very aggressive to outsiders and have very large territories. During harsh winters, icehide tribes raid human settlements at their weakest for food and supplies when their natural prey runs low. For this reason, especially in colder regions, icehide ursine are usually regarded as hostile.
- Ability Score Improvement. Your Constitution score increases by 1.
- Winter Hide. You have resistance to Cold damage. You are also able to weather much colder temperatures than most other races, such as snow and freezing weather.
Found only far in the East, the tribes and customs of Panda Ursine are largely unknown and foreign, partly as a result of their rarity. As spiritual as their notorious appetite, they have a long history and a keen sense of wisdom, preferring to keep out of the eyes of other societies.
- Ability Score Improvement. Your Wisdom score increases by 1.
- Folk Healer. You gain proficiency in the Medicine skill.
- Spiritual Communication. You have the ability to communicate with and understand plants within 30 feet of you, granting them a semblance of sentience. This communication lasts about 10 minutes. You may question plants about events in their immediate area within the past day, gaining information about creatures that have passed, weather, and other such things. If you use this ability with a plant creature, the two of you can communicate as if you shared a common language, and may even work out a rudimentary language with which you can communicate after your ability expires. Once you use this feature, you cannot use it again until after the end of a long rest.
From the distant and untamed islands to the south, the connection between Koalas and Ursine is often disputed; and despite their similarities, Koalas may not even be ursine at all.
Koalas still carry the ferocity of the ursine, however, despite their smaller size. Forming small nomadic communities in the trees of their notoriously hot and dangerous homeland, they drop from low-hanging branches to surprise and attack their prey, which is often many times their size. The rumors of their cannibalistic nature are unfounded (though not entirely dismissed).
- Ability Score Improvement. Your Dexterity score is increased by 1.
- Size. Koalas are much smaller than ursine. Your size is small.
- Nimble Climber. You have a climbing speed of 30 feet. Your base walking speed is 25 feet.
- Dropbear. When falling onto another creature, you only take half falling damage and gain advantage on any attack roll you make during or immediately after the fall.
- Expert Survivalist. When making a Wisdom (Survival) or Wisdom (Nature) ability check, you can double your proficiency bonus if you are already proficient.