Ursoi

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Ursoi are a minor race from the Dragonlance setting of Dungeons & Dragons. A race of beastfolk who resemble humanoid polar bears, ursoi hail from Charone, the southern polar region of Ansalon, but migrated to the north pole and aided the icefolk - the human arctic barbarians - against the tyranny of the White Dragon Overlord. Unlike the thanoi, the northern walrus-folk, ursoi are a noble and honorable people... save for the little oddity of their practicing funerary cannibalism.

The Ursoi first appeared in the Dragonlance splatbook "Otherlands", for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons; here, they were described in very brief and vague terms as a primitive, tribal society of hunter-gatherers - with an emphasis on the hunting aspect, since they prefer meat to all other food, despite being omnivorous. After this, they fell into obscurity until Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition, where the 3.5 splatbook Races of Ansalon gave them far greater detail.

3e Fluff[edit]

Ursoi look like intelligent, bipedal polar bears. They wear some clothing and use tools, and they have thick, clawed fingers instead of paws. Ursoi fur is striped in places, usually in patterns along the sides of their heads, distinguishing them from one another. An ursoi male can reach a height of ten feet and weigh well over 800 pounds; females are only slightly smaller. Though they can understand the various humanoid languages of Krynn, their vocal chords are unable to form them, and so they rely on a combination of their own language of bear noises, body language, and sign language to communicate both with each other and with other races. Ursoi names are bold, gutteral, and almost impossible to pronounce unless you’re an ursoi. Ursoi who become adventurers usually gain nicknames based on their deeds or else allow non-ursoi to make their best attempt at their ursoi name: Axethrower, Farseeker, Hillclimber, Manhunter, Tuskslayer, and Wyrmkiller are common male ursoi names, while females go by less aggressive names such as Clanmother, Deersinger, Iceprayer, Nightwisher, and Truthspeaker. Quite often, they take on Icefolk names as their human name, and rely on their non-ursoi traveling companions to announce them. These adopted names include Gunnar, Helgard, Lars, Reigvasser, Tornassuk, and Volker.

Ursoi have strong, unshakeable beliefs in the importance of nature, clan loyalty, and justice. Individual ursoi place a great emphasis on personal honor and repaying debts owed to others, and some ursoi have been known to serve as bodyguards and protectors to non-ursoi to whom they owe their lives. Ursoi command respect, and they give it to those worthy of it. They have no special intolerance to other races, but form quick impressions of individuals based on their actions. An ursoi’s word is his bond, and this more than any other character trait is key to understanding their personalities.

Although their size and natural weapons seem fearsome, ursoi are not violent by nature. Most are in fact gentle and considerate outside of a fight. Ursoi are ferocious in battle, but do not enter into it lightly. They are not berserkers, and know when and where to choose their fights. Because they are equally dangerous armed or unarmed, an ursoi will not hesitate to use whatever means is necessary to engage an enemy, whether that be with a pick or with its claws and bite. An ursoi will, unless told not to, keep the bodies of those foes it has slain as food for later. This is a behavior that is often curtailed once the ursoi realizes his companions are horrified by it.

The ursoi organize themselves into nomadic clans, which follow sources of food throughout the cycle of the year. Ursoi young are raised by the community of females, while the males hunt and defend the clan.

Ursoi settlements are temporary, as the clans are nomadic and rarely stay in one place for longer than a month or two. Favored sites for ursoi camps include ice caverns, ravines, openings in the side of Icewall Glacier, and other locations that combine shelter with adequate cover against potential threats. The ursoi do not hibernate, the way bears do, but they have been known to settle in for weeks at a time in the coldest months of the year, sending hunting parties out to attain food.

Clans are led by chieftains who are in turn supported by sub-chieftains. Clan chieftains come together regularly to share information, discuss the fate of the ursoi, and plan for war. Chieftains pass their title and position to their nephews or cousins, never to their sons; this has avoided the problem of rigid patriarchy and nepotism. These heirs are usually named as sub-chieftains ahead of time, giving them time to learn the art of leadership. Marriages between families are arranged by chieftains in order to secure enough relatives that a successor may always be found. Because the ursoi are fiercely honorable and loyal to the clan, internecine strife is almost unheard of, and a chieftain remains in his position until he dies or abdicates.

Ursoi revere Chislev, whom they call the Great White Mother, and to a lesser extent Kiri-Jolith and Sargonnas, who are known as the Brothers of the Hunt. During the early Age of Mortals, some tribal shamans developed mysticism, but almost all have turned back to Chislev in the wake of the War of Souls and the return of the gods.

Ursoi do not hold the dead sacred. They believe that once the soul has departed, the body is no longer the person who inhabited it. Due to the scarcity of resources, therefore, ursoi do not bury their dead—they eat them. The same is true for those the ursoi kill in battle. This has given rise to a marked hostility from other races, especially the thanoi, who are furious at the ursoi’s practices. The ursoi, on the other hand, consider it the highest sign of respect for one’s kin and foe to leave their bodies behind as resources.

Although ursoi are very clan-dependent and do not like to leave their families, some go out into the world to seek adventure. For the majority of these bearfolk, they owe somebody or something a debt of honor. Someone may have saved their lives, or the lives of their kindred, and this can result in the ursoi swearing an oathbond for a year or more. Oathbound ursoi can also come about as a result of swearing vengeance against an enemy or promising to recover a lost family member or heirloom. Those ursoi who leave the clan because of an oath are not looked upon by their clan as deserters, rogues, or unfaithful individuals. Indeed, an ursoi is told as a cub to hold fast to a promise and to seek out something greater than himself.

3e PC Stats[edit]

Because of how powerful they are, Ursoi are naturally victims to the scourge of Level Adjustment, so much so that Races of Ansalon provided an optional racial class, to make it possible to play an ursoi from 1st level.

Full-Fledged Ursoi[edit]

Strength +10, Dexterity +2, Constitution +6, Intelligence -2, Wisdom +2, Charisma –4. Ursoi are one of the strongest races on Krynn, and very tough. While their senses are acute, they are often uneducated and find it hard to interact with others.
Large: -1 penalty to Armor Class, -1 penalty on attack rolls, -4 penalty on Hide checks, +4 bonus to grapple checks, lifting and carrying limits double that of Medium characters.
An ursoi’s base land speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision out to 60 ft.
Racial Hit Dice: An ursoi begins with 5 levels of monstrous humanoid, which provide 5d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +5, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +1, Ref +4, and Will +4.
Racial Skills: An ursoi’s monstrous humanoid levels give him skill points equal to 8 x (2 + Int modifier, minimum 1). Its class skills are Climb, Listen, Spot, Survival, and Swim.
Racial Feats: An ursoi’s monstrous humanoid levels give it two feats.
+4 natural armor.
+4 racial bonus on Survival and Swim checks.
Natural Weapons: An ursoi has two claw attacks that are primary natural weapons dealing 1d6 damage plus Strength bonus. An ursoi can make two claw attacks as a full attack, or when wielding a manufactured weapon, he may use them to make secondary attacks as part of a full attack. Ursoi also have a bite attack that deals 1d8 damage plus half his Strength bonus. The ursoi’s bite is always a secondary attack (-5 to attack bonus).
Natural Spell: Ursoi with a Wisdom of 13 or higher are able to cast spells with verbal components, even though they cannot form traditional sounds with their mouths. Ursoi with Wisdom of 12 or lower are incapable of casting spells with verbal components and make ineffective spellcasters.
Improved Grab: An ursoi who hits with one of his claw attacks may immediately attempt to start a grapple. He does not need to make a touch attack first. This ability works only against targets that are one size category smaller than the ursoi or smaller. An ursoi who has something in his other hand (such as a weapon) takes a –20 penalty to his grapple check to maintain the hold, but is not himself considered grappled and can defend himself or even make attacks against other opponents. See Chapter 7 of the Monster Manual for more information.
Resistance to cold 10.
Scent: Ursoi have remarkable olfactory capabilities and can distinguish smells easily, giving them the use of the scent extraordinary ability. Many ursoi rangers use this to track their prey even in blinding snowstorms or darkness.
Automatic Languages: Ursoi. Bonus Languages: Common, Draconic, Icefolk, Thanoi.
Favored Class: Ranger.
Level Adjustment: An Ursoi has an effective character level (ECL) of 5 + his class levels.

Ursoi Racial Class[edit]

Racial Traits Characters using the ursoi racial class start with the following racial traits. Note that these are not identical to the regular ursoi’s full set of racial traits because the ursoi’s ability scores and racial Hit Dice increase with level as shown below.

Strength +2, Intelligence -2, Wisdom +2, Charisma -4. Ursoi are strong and perceptive, though intellectually and socially disadvantaged compared to other races.
Medium size.
An ursoi’s base land speed is 30 feet.
Darkvision out to 60 ft.
Natural Weapons: An ursoi has two claw attacks that are primary natural weapons dealing the indicated damage plus his Strength bonus. An ursoi can make two claw attacks as a full attack, or when wielding a manufactured weapon, he may use them to make secondary attacks as part of a full attack. Ursoi also have a bite attack that deals the indicated damage plus 1/2 Strength bonus. The ursoi’s bite is always a secondary attack (-5 to attack bonus).
Natural Spell: Ursoi with a Wisdom of 13 or higher are able to cast spells with verbal components even though they cannot form traditional sounds with their mouths. Ursoi with Wisdom of 12 or lower are incapable of casting spells with verbal components and make ineffective spellcasters.
Automatic Languages: Ursoi. Bonus Languages: Common, Draconic, Icefolk, Thanoi.
Favored Class: Ursoi. An ursoi may not take levels in any other class except ursoi until he has gained all seven ursoi racial class levels. Ursoi usually take levels in fighter or ranger after this point.

Class Features All the following are class features of the ursoi racial class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Ursoi are proficient with all simple weapons, light and medium armor, and shields.
Class Skills: Climb, Listen, Spot, Survival, Swim.
Feats: An ursoi gains a feat at 1st level and 4th level. Typical choices include Power Attack and Track. After 7th level, he gains feats normally according to his Hit Dice, level adjustment, and class levels.
Natural Armor: Ursoi begin with a +1 bonus to natural armor at 1st level, increasing to +2 at 3rd level, +3 at 5th level, and +4 at 7th level.
Skills: At 2nd level, an ursoi gains a +2 racial bonus to Survival and Swim checks. This increases to +4 at 5th level.
Improved Grab (Ex): At 3rd level, an ursoi who hits with one of his claw attacks may immediately attempt to start a grapple. He does not need to make a touch attack first. This ability works only against targets one size category smaller than the ursoi or smaller. An ursoi who has something in his other hand (such as a weapon) takes a –20 penalty to his grapple check to maintain the hold, but he is not himself considered grappled and can defend or even make attacks against other opponents. See Chapter 7 of the Monster Manual for more information.
Scent (Ex): An ursoi has a keen sense of smell. Beginning at 4th level, he can detect opponents within the given range (double range if the scent is upwind, one-half range if it is downwind) and may take a move-equivalent action to determine the direction of a scent. If an odor source, such as an opponent, is within 5 feet, the ursoi can pinpoint that source. Ursoi can use the scent ability to track an enemy by smell.
Cold Resistance (Ex): An ursoi gains resistance to cold 5 at 2nd level and resistance to cold 10 at 7th level.
Large Size: At 6th level, the ursoi’s size increases one category to Large, and his natural reach increases to 10 feet. He incurs the usual penalties for Large creatures.

The Ursoi Class

Ursoi Level Hit Dice Base Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Skill Points CR Special
1st 1d8 +1 +0 +2 +2 (2 + Int mod) x 4 1 Claws 1d3, bite 1d4, feat, +1 natural armor
2nd 2d8 +2 +1 +3 +3 2 + Int mod 1 +2 Str, resistance to cold 5, +2 Survival, +2 Swim.
3rd 2d8 +2 +1 +3 +3 2 +2 Con, +2 natural armor, claws 1d4, bite 1d6, improved grab
4th 3d8 +3 +1 +3 +3 2 + Int mod 2 +2 Str, scent 10 ft., feat
5th 3d8 +3 +1 +3 +3 3 +2 Dex, +2 Con, +3 natural armor, +4 Survival, +4 Swim
6th 4d8 +4 +1 +4 +4 2 + Int mod 3 +2 Str, scent 20 ft., Large size, reach 10 ft.
7th 5d8 +5 +1 +4 +4 2 + Int mod 4 +2 Str, +2 Con, +4 natural armor, resistance to cold 10, claws 1d6, bite 1d8