The long-forgotten Beastmen are, in the context of Dungeons & Dragons, one of two different monstrous humanoid races that appeared in the game's infancy.
The Mystaran Beastman is native to the Hollow World sub-setting, and appears as a race/class for Basic D&D. These Beastmen are the primeval ancestors of several modern monstrous humanoids - orcs, goblins, ogres, cyclopses and trolls. This makes them an extremely mutable human-like species, complete with tables upon tables of random features.
The Greyhawk Beastman is a furry, forest-dwelling humanoid with semi-feline facial features native to Oerth. With green-tinged fur that provides camouflage, they are also a playable race for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, appearing in the Complete Book of Humanoids.
The Mystaran Beastman (or Grruuk, as they call themselves) is an ancient species of protohumanoid, the magically-wrought and mutation-plagued rootstock that eventually diverged and stabilized into myriad races of humanoid, including orcs, goblinoids, ogres and trolls. Extinct on the surface of Mystara, having bred themselves into stability due to the weakening of their original chaotic nature, they now survive only in the Hollow World, where they inhabit the bleak permafrost regions at the northern pole of the planet, which have been unceremoniously dubbed "The Beastmen Wastes".
Beastmen were artificially by a malevolent Immortal of the Sphere of Entropy by the name of Hel, starting with the base material of souls taken from evil humanoids. Introduced to the world in the year BC 4,500, they instantly began making a nuisance of themselves, until they were ultimately driven towards the cold, artic regions of the planet by the humans of Blackmoor. Here, they settled and eventually began to calm down - which was fortunate, as Blackmoor went on to blow itself up in the Great Rain of Fire a few centuries later.
Over the generations, the beastmen changed in two major ways. Firstly, they stopped being evil by nature, mellowing out into their current cultural form. Secondly, their physiques became increasingly less chaotic; specific traits were more and more likely to breed true, meaning the beastmen were evolving into the various humanoids that now inhabit Mystara.
This increasing physical stability upset Ka the Preserver, among other Immortals, who regarded the beastmen as an interesting species and worthy of preservation. So, he secretly guided a large breeding population of beastmen to migrate through the northern polar opening and settle in the Hollow World, where their mutability would be preserved forever more.
The beastman culture is fundamentally an arctic-tribal culture, focused on surviving in the harsh environment they have chosen and committed to enjoying themselves. They live in igloos, hunting and fishing for their daily meals. The hunter-warriors of the tribe seek glory through the demonstration of their skills, and gender is a non-concern; the strong are admired and encourged, regardless of their sex. When not bringing home the meat, bone, fat and fur they need to survive, beastmen enjoy boastful tale-telling and friendly competitions; bragging is an artform to them, but whoever spins a tale is expected to provide proof that their story happened if they want to receive full admiration.
Perhaps because of this, beastmen are surprisingly friendly; so long as a stranger to the tribe's land isn't immediately hostile, beastmen will happily invite them to spend an evening with them, sharing food, drink, warmth and entertainment. They won't support useless people for prolonged periods, but everybody is owed that one night of free hospitality.
Incidentally, because of their own extreme mutability, beastmen are a race of xenophiles; humanoids and demihumans alike may find themselves with quite a few beastman (or beastwoman, if male) suitors if they make a positive impression on the tribe.
And when we say "extreme mutability", we mean it! The Hollow World Player's Guide presents extended tables of the many bizarre physical features they can have, including snout-like faces, a body covered in fur, tusks, vampire-like fangs, shark-like teeth, a single eye like a cyclops, and having three eyes. Needless to say, two beastmen look almost nothing alike.
Beastmen are presented as a PC race in the Hollow World Player's Guide. Like all Basic D&D non-humans, they essentially function as their own class, although they can also become Wokani (a sort of primitive Wizard) of up to 4th level and Shamans (primitive Clerics) of up to 8th level.
- +1 Strength, +1 Constitution, -2 Dexterity
- Minimum Str 10, Minimum Con 10, Maximum Int 16, Maximum Wis 16
- Prime Requisite: Strength; a beastman gains +5% EXP for a Str score of 13 and +10% EXP for a Str score of 16
- Natural AC 7
- Infravision 60 feet
- Saving throws are as a Fighter of equivalent experience level
- Maximum level: 18; after 18th level, beastmen gain another general skill slot per 960,000 EXP earned.
- Cultural Melee Weapons: Axe (battle, hand), Dagger, short sword, mace, club, hammer (war, throwing), spear, harpoon, javelin, net
- Cultural Missile Weapons: Sling
- Cultural Armor: Leather, Shield (including Horned & Tusked)
- Shamans can use: Mace, club, hammers, net, leather armor and shield
- Wokani can use: Dagger, club, net
Hollow World Beastman Experience Table:
- 1: 0 EXP required, 1d8+1 hit dice
- 2: 1,200 EXP required, 2d8+2 hit dice
- 3: 2,400 EXP required, 3d8+3 hit dice
- 4: 4,800 EXP required, 4d8+4 hit dice
- 5: 9,600 EXP required, 5d8+5 hit dice
- 6: 19,000 EXP required, 6d8+6 hit dice
- 7: 38,000 EXP required, 7d8+7 hit dice
- 8: 76,000 EXP required, 8d8+8 hit dice
- 9: 150,000 EXP required, 9d8+9 hit dice
- 10: 300,000 EXP required, 10d8+10 hit dice
- Subsequent: 240,000 EXP to gain a level, +2 Hit Points per level
|Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Races|
|Basic Set:||Dwarf - Elf - Hobbit - Human|
|Creature Catalog 1:|| Brownie - Centaur - Dryad - Faun - Hsiao |
Leprechaun - Pixie - Pooka - Redcap - Sidhe
Sprite - Treant - Wood Imp - Wooddrake
|Creature Catalog 2:|| Faenare - Gnome - Gremlin - Harpy |
Nagpa - Pegataur - Sphinx - Tabi
|Creature Catalog 3:||Kna - Kopru - Merrow - Nixie - Triton|
|Dragon Magazine:|| Cayma - Gatorman - Lupin - N'djatwa |
Phanaton - Rakasta - Shazak - Wallara
|Hollow World:|| Beastman - Brute-Man - Hutaakan |
Krugel Orc - Kubbit - Malpheggi Lizard Man
|Known World:|| Bugbear - Goblin - Gnoll |
Hobgoblin - Kobold - Ogre - Troll
Oerthian Beastmen are a very different kettle of fish to their Mystaran relatives. A primitive species of forest-dwellers, beastmen look like pointy-eared humans of short, slender built, covered from head to toe by a two-layer coat of fur. The outer coat is comprised of fine fur that is dark green or olive in color, whilst the inner coat is coarsely textured black fur. Some unusual instinctively triggered effect allows the Oerthian beastman to selectively raise and lower this underlayer; this creates a pattern of sstripes and spots, enhancing the race's ability to blend into the hues and shadows of their forest environent.
It also means they have very little interest in clothing or ornamentation, rarely wearing more than easily removed utility belts or bandoliers.
In fact, this camouflage ability is actually integral to the beastman language, which is a combination of verbal noises, hand motions, body gestures, and specific fur-patterning. As such, whilst other races can learn to understand "beastman", they can never speak it with the true level of fluency and nuance that a beastman can.
This race exists in a Stone Age equipped hunter-gatherer lifestyle that hasn't changed in eons, and are very well adapted to their lifestyle. With nothing the outside world tends to want and wanting from them in turn, the beastmen may never change from this lifestyle.
Beastmen live in tribes of about 40 to 60 individuals, typically weaving houses together in the canopy of their native forest. Each house consists of a family group of 3-6 adults of mixed genders; beastmen practice their own strange form of group marriage. An unambitious people, the tribal chieftain is not set in stone, but is rather the beastman whose skills make them most desireable or valuable to the tribe on that particular day. For example, if the tribe is at war, the chief is the best warrior. In cases where one or more individuals are suited to the task, a competition of some sort decides the leader. It is not considered an honor to be the chief of the tribe, it is just a duty that many are called upon to carry out from time to time. Likewise, there is no shame in never being a chief, or in losing a competition for the leadership spot.
Beastman culture does not discriminate against either sex. The only exception to this rule are pregnant women who, because of their importance to the future of the tribe, are treated with reverence and excused from all heavy activity. Young are raised by the community as a whole.
One of the weirdest traits of beastmen is that they have absolutely no sense of superstition or religion. They do not believe in magic, spirits, ghosts, or anything supernatural, as they believe that anything that cannot be seen, heard or touched simply does not exist. The race is known for its prodigious resistance to magic, but whether this caused them to develop their disbelief in the supernatural or it stems from their ardent disbelief is one of those chicken and egg questions.
Oerthian Beastmen are presented as a PC race in the AD&D Complete Book of Humanoids with the following stats.
- Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 6/18(50), Dexterity 6/18, Constitution 6/16, Intelligence 3/18, Wisdom 3/18, Charisma 3/16
- Ability Score Adjustments: +2 Dexterity, -2 Charisma
- Class & Level Limits: Fighter 10, Ranger 12, Thief 10
- Natural Armor Class 8
- In forest environments, a beastman can Hide in Shadows with a 90% chance of success.
- In forest environments, enemies unaware of a beastman's presence suffer a -6 penalty to their surprise rolls.
- A beastman with proficiency in Herbalism can spend aother proficiency slot to gain the ability to manufacture Beastman Blowdart Poison. This can only be prepared in the wild from the proper ingredients, but anyone hit by an envenomed blowdart must make a save vs. poison at +4 bonus or die in 2d4 rounds.
- A beastman has an 80% resistance to magic, which applies even against beneficial effects.
- A beastman cannot use any kind of magical item other than a magical weapon, and cannot initiate any special magical functions of a magic weapon.
- Weapon Proficiencies: Bola, blowgun, hand axe, knife (stone or wooden)
- Nonweapon Proficiencies: Alertness, Animal Lore, Animal Noise, Cooking, Fire-building, Fishing, Hiding, Hunting, Rope Use, Set Snares, Survival (Forest), Tracking, Wild Fighting