Dragon's-Eye View - The Making of an Owlbear, Part 2

Dragon's-Eye View
The Making of an Owlbear, Part 2
by Jon Schindehette

You've had some time with the owlbear now, and so have we! Senior Creative Director Jon Schindehette revisits this particular beastie and gives you some more visual food for thought.

Talk about this article here.

astralArchivist.com - 4e D&D house rules, homebrew, and story hours - now featuring ENWorld's Zeitgeist adventure path! Will Thibault is a winged, feathered serpent rarely found anywhere except in warm, jungle-like regions or flying through the ether. Due to his intelligence and powers he is regarded with awe by the inhabitants of his homelands and is considered to be divine.


/owlbear

Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
Is anybody else madly in love with the quadruped?

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
Where is the "All of these options look bad and you should feel bad" option?
Khyber is a dark and dangerous place, full of flame and smoke, where ever stranger things lie dormant.
Where is the "All of these options look bad and you should feel bad" option?

The comments section. Jon actually reads it and even sometimes replies directly. Though, if you want that comment to be helpful, I recommend explaining exactly why you don't like them and/or showing an example of what you do like and why you like it.

Why, yes, as a matter of fact I am the Unfailing Arbiter of All That Is Good Design (Even More So Than The Actual Developers) TM Speaking of things that were badly designed, please check out this thread for my Minotaur fix. What have the critics said, you ask? "If any of my players ask to play a Minotaur, I'm definitely offering this as an alternative to the official version." - EmpactWB "If I ever feel like playing a Minotaur I'll know where to look!" - Undrave "WoTC if you are reading this - please take this guy's advice." - Ferol_Debtor_of_Torm "Really full of win. A minotaur that is actually attractive for more than just melee classes." - Cpt_Micha Also, check out my recent GENASI variant! If you've ever wished that your Fire Genasi could actually set stuff on fire, your Water Genasi could actually swim, or your Wind Genasi could at least glide, then look no further. Finally, check out my OPTIONS FOR EVERYONE article, an effort to give unique support to the races that WotC keeps forgetting about. Includes new racial feature options for the Changeling, Deva, Githzerai, Gnoll, Gnome, Goliath, Half-Orc, Kalashtar, Minotaur, Shadar-Kai, Thri-Kreen, Warforged and more!
We're getting Monkeybees too, right?
You know, originally I was digging the Track 1 owlbear from the first article, but now I'm totally in love with the quadruped.

Either would be acceptable, but boy, the quadruped version looks kind of scary.
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When i started 4e, I told the players they could get away with anything which was, and I quote, "not as silly as an owlbear."

Dragonborn?  Tieflings?  The last surviving warforged of some ancient battle?  Whatever, it's less silly as that sanctioned bit of Gygaxian absurdity -- the owlbear.  Something to remind us all that we should not take the game too seriously.

Art looks great.  But it's still an owlbear. 
Some interesting art ideas. I kind of liked the original track 2 best, but oh well.

What really amused me was the effect nostalgia had on comments: people asked for an "owl beak" (which is obviously very small) when they meant a "big beak." This could be because they just accepted the old big-beaked owlbear as authentically owl-like, even thought it wasn't. Similarly, people were apparently bothered by the addition of teeth, even though the original was toothy as well. Memory!

truth/humor
Ed_Warlord, on what it takes to make a thread work: I think for it to be really constructive, everyone would have to be honest with each other, and with themselves.

 

iserith: The game doesn't profess to be "just like our world." What it is just like is the world of Dungeons & Dragons. Any semblance to reality is purely coincidental.

 

Areleth: How does this help the problems we have with Fighters? Do you think that every time I thought I was playing D&D what I was actually doing was slamming my head in a car door and that if you just explain how to play without doing that then I'll finally enjoy the game?

 

TD: That's why they put me on the front of every book. This is the dungeon, and I am the dragon. A word of warning though: I'm totally not a level appropriate encounter.

I like the screecher (though I'd prefer larger hindquarters on it), grizzowl, and tallgriz.  Voted for screcher, though.  I thought it looked neat.

I'm fond of owlbears. I think of them as one of D&Ds most iconic monsters because they are unique to D&D, much like beholders. An owlbear says "Dungeons and Dragons" to me way more clearly than a dragon or an armored cleric does.


That said, the classic owlbear design looks nothing like an owl or a bear. It's always been a misnomer. That doesn't realy bother me personally, but it does mean that when redesigning it, artists have to face a question: "Should I make this look like its name, or should I make it look like its traditional portrayal?"


Personally, because of the nostalgia and brand-identity that I associate with owlbears, I wouldn't want the design to move too far away from the original. "Longbeak 05" is the closest in that sense. "Tallgrizz 02" is still pretty traditional but has a head that looks more like an owl's, so I kind of like that too.


But if you want to move a mostly-traditional design closer to "real owl", you need to make it's head a lot bigger. Owl heads are really big compared to the rest of their bodies. Sizing up the head would also allow for a larger beak (compared to an adventurer) while keeping an owl-like head:beak ratio. And make them look more freaky, to boot. Now that I think about it, none of the new designs have a head:body ratio as large as the original's, even, so that's something I'd like to see you play around with... If Tallgrizz 02's head were doubled or tripled in size, and set lower down in the shoulders a bit (owls don't really have visible necks), I think that would be almost perfect.

When i started 4e, I told the players they could get away with anything which was, and I quote, "not as silly as an owlbear."

Dragonborn?  Tieflings?  The last surviving warforged of some ancient battle?  Whatever, it's less silly as that sanctioned bit of Gygaxian absurdity -- the owlbear.  Something to remind us all that we should not take the game too seriously.

Art looks great.  But it's still an owlbear. 


That made me laugh, perhaps more than it should have.

For anyone who wants more ridiculous D&D monsters that didn't make it forward (mostly), try WTF D&D!?.  Man, I love that stuff.
Feedback Disclaimer
Yes, I am expressing my opinions (even complaints - le gasp!) about the current iteration of the play-test that we actually have in front of us. No, I'm not going to wait for you to tell me when it's okay to start expressing my concerns (unless you are WotC). (And no, my comments on this forum are not of the same tone or quality as my actual survey feedback.)
A Psion for Next (Playable Draft) A Barbarian for Next (Brainstorming Still)
I voted for "Gorillowl 04". The quad owlbear just looks to me to much like a bear with an owl mask glued on.  While perhaps a little simian, the Gorillowl looks more like something a mage would actually want to create and use as a guardian beast.
Playing over the may iterations and views of the owlbear I have to say. The quadraped is hands down the best version of an Owlbear that I've seen.

Imagine that thing standing up on it's hind legs like a Grizzly letting out a loud blood curdling screech from it's beak.

I want a tiny one in a cage in my back yard to scare away burglers.
Is anybody else madly in love with the quadruped?





Me.
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The owl is in the eyes.  If you want to make the beak bigger so it does more damage, knock yourself out but don't give it hawk (or chicken) eyes.  I think the horned owl look is good, but again not if the eyes are too small.  Take the great horned owl versus the great grey owl.  
 
If I had to choose one it would be Grizzowl 01, because it's the only one that looks remotely like an owlbear should.
Khyber is a dark and dangerous place, full of flame and smoke, where ever stranger things lie dormant.
I don't know if this is still news to anyone, but the owlbear, rust monster, and bullete all bear a striking resemblance to some line of cheap platic toys of the early 70s.  I'm guessing they were from Taiwan.  I had very vivid memories of playing with them as a kid, and was surprised when I opened up the Monster Manual in 1980 and saw illustrations that looked just like them.  I still have a "rust monster" somewhere, but the others I'd lost.  I've looked around old-toy sites, and did find an image that included the bullete, too.  

 

I could so totally visualize Gygax or Arneson in those early days, plopping down one of these on the table.

 

 

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all the artwork looks intresting experiments with the concept owlbear.

I have one suggestion:

no matter what the final owlbear looks like it would be a waste not to do anything with the other great sketches.
so i suggest that one of the first 5th adventures that is in the dungeon section of DDI will be a adventure where a wizard has tried to "improve" the owlbear. but his creations are now on the lose.

the players would encounter difrent kinds of owlbear witch might have special attacks based on their build.
( the one looking more like a gorrilla with hands might be the experiment to give the owlbear more utility, when facing him he might pick up stuff and trow it at the players.)
I voted for "Gorillowl 04". The quad owlbear just looks to me to much like a bear with an owl mask glued on.  While perhaps a little simian, the Gorillowl looks more like something a mage would actually want to create and use as a guardian beast.


Agreed.

The owlbear is a fundamentally pretty silly concept, but given that it IS something of an iconic D&D critter, you can make it look very cool - and it's not that silly if you rework it into something that was either specifically created, or which evolved from a precursor (usually an owl which came down to land, or an owl precursor which never left it).  I've seen a number of re-imaginings of it that really work, and some of these are among them.

Tony_V: it's fairly well known that th Rust Monster, at the very least, is a pretty much wholesale copy of that toy.
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I could so totally visualize Gygax or Arneson in those early days, plopping down one of these on the table.


That's how they happened. Gygax picked up cheap dinosaur toys to use as minatures and came up with some weird things like that. So he said the tailed thing was a rust monster, and the armadillo thing was a Landshark, later turned Bullette


I could so totally visualize Gygax or Arneson in those early days, plopping down one of these on the table.


That's how they happened. Gygax picked up cheap dinosaur toys to use as minatures and came up with some weird things like that. So he said the tailed thing was a rust monster, and the armadillo thing was a Landshark, later turned Bullette



And the proto-Bullette was, likely, an Ultraman monster.

www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php...


I could so totally visualize Gygax or Arneson in those early days, plopping down one of these on the table.


That's how they happened. Gygax picked up cheap dinosaur toys to use as minatures and came up with some weird things like that. So he said the tailed thing was a rust monster, and the armadillo thing was a Landshark, later turned Bullette



And the proto-Bullette was, likely, an Ultraman monster.

www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php...


Hahaha, amazing

Now if only someone could find out what the heck the Rust Monster was supposed to be...
Found some more redesigns from the ill-fated ArtOrder owlbear redesign contest:
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I'm really hoping we can get them to eventually DIRECTLY TRANSLATE the original image instead of strictly using it as inspiration. They can't seem to get the same porportions on the thing, and most of the images look like an ape with a tiny head and a beak. 
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