Friday, November 30, 2012

Bear Warrior Redux

I fucking love the bear warrior prestige class. It rocks, even if it is suboptimal in so many ways. It is a prestige class that worked despite the rules. Basically, who doesn’t want to tear their enemies limb from limb?

Alas, love can’t last. The rules for bear warrior wound up playing very cumbersome. I literally needed a spreadsheet to play the character as so many numbers changed between forms. Since those early, heady days of 3.X, I’ve thought about what I would change and how I would make the class better. In the end, I said “fuck this” and created my own idea of the same class.

BEAR WARRIOR (Prestige Class for 3.x/OGL)

Bear Warriors are combatants who have formed unions with powerful bear spirits. Through the use of these spirits, they gain great advantages in melee. Most bear warriors are humans, half-giants, and half-orcs

Prerequsites: Power Attack, Cleave, Great Cleave, BAB +5 or better, Non-Lawful, (Human, Half-Giant, or Half-Orc)

For to-hit and saves, continue your progression up your primary class table.

1. Too Big for My Britches, Slam ‘Em, Powerful Blow
2. Whirlwind Cleave
3. Bear-Out, Improved Multi-Attack
4. Can’t Hold Me Back
5. Improved Bear-Out

Too Big for My Britches - With the infusion of the bear spirit, you grow. You aren’t quite large, but then again, you aren’t quite medium either. You gain the advantages of being large where advantageous to you.

Slam ‘Em (Ex) - Once per round, after you’ve hit a target, you may make a strength check against that target. If you succeed, your powerful blow hurls or drives your target back five feet (one square) per strength bonus. Medium or smaller creatures literally fly backwards, taking no additional damage from the slam.

Powerful Blow - Due to your larger size, you now hit harder. Treat one-handed weapons as two-handed weapons where advantageous. For example, a dagger (a light weapon) now gets 1.5x strength bonus on damage.

Whirlwind Cleave - When you hit an opponent, you may cleave into the next opponent. (Note: By 7th level, the easily cleavable opponents have been left behind. This also gets us the cinematic effect of a big guy powering back lots of little guys.)

Bear Out (Su) - As a swift action, you polymorph into a brown bear. Your attack bonus remains the same for both claw and bite. Your your claws retain all properties of your primary weapon, but now use d8 as the damage die. Your bite gains the bonus and properties of any secondary weapon you may be wielding or carrying. You retain your armor class (but lose any shield and shield enhancement bonuses.) You also retain the special abilities of any magic item that you may be wearing.

For example: If you are wielding a +1 flaming longsword, for a +10 attack bonus and +6 damage bonus, your claws now use the +10 attack bonus and +6 damage bonus.

Rip It Apart - When attempting to break an inanimate target, it’s break DC is 5 less. While attempting to damage an inanimate target, it’s damage resistance if five less.

Can’t Hold Me Back - You may now attempt to break free of a grapple as a free action or a move action. This means that you can normally get three checks to break a grapple per round.

Improved Bear Out (Su) - You are now a bigger bear than before. Your claws do d10 and your bite does d8.


The problems of bear warrior are deep and distressing. Basically, the prestige class is not supported by the rest of the game. It's a cool idea, but once you start playing it, it's really out there in terms of support. 

Perhaps the worst part of the class is that your character loses all benefits of magic equipment when changed into a bear, which is a massive nerf to a tank character. In many respect, the class trades you for power rather than gives you extra power. What's the point of that? The prestige class really needs to work with existing equipment and abilities.

One of my conundrums was addressing the matching of magic weapons to natural weapons. Should I go with a strict 1:1 correspondence of man-made to natural weapon, or should I go lax? As written, a bear warrior should not need to regear just to use his cool powers. He should be able to recycle his weapons with the greatest of paperwork ease. So I chose to go with a lax matching of primary weapons to natural weapons. That does the give character an advantage in gold pieces, but considering that lower powered classes will take this prestige class, the advantage winds up fairly minor.

The bear warrior also has a problem with weapons. He's a natural for two-handed weapons, but his bear form is a dual wield build. Even worse, dual wield builds don't translate into natural weapons and multiattack. Talks about a design trainwreck! So, we just need to make sure that the bear warrior gets the feats that he needs to be effective.

I use the term “where advantageous” in this sketch-up. I could write lots and lots of detailed rules, but the rules really come down to, “get the good stuff and ignore the bad stuff.” I’m not going to go through and work out every possible situation and account for it in the rules.

The prerequsites are still iffy. Not every race makes a good bear warrior. I dropped the small races as they just made the rules more complicated to write. Sorry, small guys. Thematically, small peoples really don’t fit with bear warrior. I was ambivalent about dwarves, but decided against them. Maybe create a boar warrior class? (I'll do that later.) Elves just don’t fit as bear warriors.

I do confess that I addressed only a few of the problems that sharp critics levy against the lower powered classes. Alas, they are all still there. I may, however, bring up the lower powered classes a tier.