Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Russet Bear

The russet bear has reddish hair and likes the sweetest things.  It will follow you about hoping for more if you feed it berries or cream.  Whistle a song it will amble along and dance the happiest dance.  Any who see the Russet Bear dance will wish to join in (save at -2, fairy tale magic is powerful).  It has different dances for different tunes:

The twirling dance (twirling, dizziness afterward, prevents attacking etc.)
The hide and seek dance (all viewers flee while the song lasts)
The ring-around-the-rosy (all viewers come in close and link hands)
The single file dance (all viewers form a conga line and follow the bear which will follow the tune maker)

Set a simple tune that players might know like Happy Birthday or the Do Re Mi song, or the William Tell Overture for each specific dance.  That way players will have to experiment a bit to discover the different dances.  And have actually actually whistle the tunes they are trying, heh.  The song doesn't have to be whistled in game, players could use instruments or hum.  To clarify who is affected you could say anyone whistling along is not.  So the whole party can be safe as a dance starts and savvy foes might start whistling too.

The bear will usually wander off in the night unless the party goes to great pains to keep it stocked on lots of sweet foodstuffs.

So the bear is less a monster than an awkward magic item.  I tried to keep the dances whimsical but potentially useful-- say the players are ambushed and have the bear tagging along-- start up the hid and seek dance and the ambushers will clear out giving time for escape.  It might be more about hijinks too, like taking the thing to court and making all the nobles do the conga.  Or I suppose the Russet Bear could be following a troubador npc and be used against the party.

Update: After posting I'm feeling I didn't get the tone quite right here, it's a little too twee.  With the last two posts I was trying to get the creepiness and threat that seems to underlie the apparent childishness of fairy tales.  To get more of that here, I might make the dances more frightening - the twirling dance like the tarantella will dance people to death, maybe add London Bridge which will send dancers over cliffs like waves of lemmings at each chorus of "we all fall down." Something to make players a little afraid of the bear themselves.  Hmm, maybe if you don't keep it fed with sweets it will make you dance.


  1. I would agree that this entry felt a little less menacing...until I got to the line "if you don't keep it fed with sweets it will make you dance."

    That's creepy as hell to me for some reason. Using candy to prevent horrible death is like using young children's voices in a horror movie. It's unsettling.

  2. Thanks, LS. Yeah, I wanted some eeriness from the bear to come from its simple dances not being so innocent but I think if players try to "wield" it there should be a chance each time that it will turn on the tune makers demanding more sweets.

  3. I can see the bear being used by a villain in a super hero game - a campy super hero game. This is not a bad thing at all. I certainly see the potential for creepiness, but I prefer humor over creepiness in my games.

  4. Thanks, Tim. That makes me want to try some fairy tale monsters from the more humorous angle. But to be honest, humor is harder for me than creepy. Humor seems so individual where with creepy or body horror type stuff it seems we have some universal buttons I can see to push.

  5. The opening to this post was soooo close to being a whimsical poem!

    The russet bear has reddish hair
    And likes the sweetest things.
    It will follow you about hoping for more
    If you feed it berries or cream.
    Whistle a song; it will amble along
    And dance the happiest dance.
    Any who see the Russet Bear dance
    ...will wish to join in (save at -2).

    Just fix that last couplet, man!

  6. Heh heh, that was intentional. Thanks and I'm open to any suggestions for how to end it.