Just when you thought it was safe to walk on land again…
Origins of Monster
The Bulette is a land shark, and it is one created by the grandfather of Dungeons and Dragons himself, Gary Gygax. Just like the Owlbear, the Bulette is based on a bag of toys that Gygax found in a dollar store, most of which were knockoff plastic figures from the ever-popular Godzilla and Ultraman series. The first official printing of the Bulette was in the very first issue of Dragon Magazine.
Needless to say, the Bulette is a classic, just like the Owlbear and the Gelatinous Cube!
In the fiction, it seems the Bulette alternates between fictional creature and magical mess. Sometimes it’s a horrifying monster made by a wizard, mixing armadillos, sharks, and rhinos. Sometimes it’s just a freak of nature, and really, in D&D, that’s not so weird.
Setting up a Bulette encounter can easily let a Gamemaster stretch their narrative muscles. To prepare, watch Jaws and visualize earth instead of water. Have a character notice the fin sticking out of the earth, like a long, sharp stone. Then they watch as it sinks below the earth and moves forward. Foreshadow each and every attack with that fin, and watch the horror and panic set in on the faces of your players. Nobody likes a shark, but a shark on land is just dead scary.
You walk through the thick and musty grass, your boots squishing and sucking into the ground. It recently rained, so the soil is very fertile and muddy. You can see worms and bugs everywhere you look. After a little time, your leader stops you all to double-check the map. You take the moment to sit on a log and pick the crusted dirt out of your pants. You notice while looking at the ground that the worms and bugs are gone. The air is thick with muck, the whole land is muddy, so where did they all go? You look around, and suddenly, you see it. An angled stone, four feet tall, gliding through the earth, slowly dropping. You yell for the others to look, but by the time they look at what you were pointing at, it’s gone. They shake their heads and get back to the map. But then the stone is back, and it’s heading right towards them!
The Bulette has a very small amount of things it can do. It makes up for this by doing all those things incredibly well. Its bite attack does 4d12 + 4 damage, and that is extremely dangerous. This makes sense, because the jaws on this thing are massive and powerful. It can leap a large distance, and when it pounces on characters, it deals damage and knocks them over or backwards.
You let out a yell of warning, but it’s a moment too late. Your yell is drowned out by the hissing groan of the Bulette as its massive body leaps from the earth directly under your leader with the map. He is swallowed in one bite and the Bulette continues its momentum into the earth, like it was completing a dive. Mud sprays lightly across you all, but it doesn’t splash so much as blast outward. The Bulette moves quickly under ground, and you can barely feel the rumbling as it goes right under you. You rush to the fallen tree you had sat on earlier and pull your sword.
When the Bulette
next makes an appearance, you rush in, feet sliding in the muck as you slash at its side. But the hide on this thing feels like smacking a brick wall with your sword, and a small chunk of the tip chips right off! It spins around and leaps over you, diving into the earth. Then you have a really stupid idea.
You kick around the dirt for a moment, and then leap onto a rock. The Bulette rises up under the spot where you made noise, then notices you off to the side. You scream at it, and as it opens its mouth to bite you….you leap inside sword first. The stomach acid starts to burn at your steel boots and leather pants. You feel claustrophobic and nauseous as you stumble around in the bitten chunks of people. You stab your sword down, towards the belly of the creature, and kick it as hard as you can.
This almost acts like a trap door release, as the sword glides through the flesh of the beast and all inside comes pouring out. You vomit after it’s all over, and try and find some fresh water to clean you and your possessions off. You find the map and a few people still just barely alive in the spilled guts, and you all continue on your journey.
Bulette hide can be used to create armor, to create solid protective shells around carriages, or even to form a giant sled with which the party can drag supplies or gear. Bulettes are not recommended as pets, so if you find any young, run. They don’t stay young for long.
Bulettes are an easy monster to run, a fun surprise for a party traveling, and a really imposing monster to throw at some smaller characters. One bite could take out a 3rd level barbarian if they haven’t been rolling well for health!
Roll on the following table for 1d10 Bulette Encounters!
1: The Bulette has an Ochre Jelly in its stomach that it vomits up when it reaches half health.
2: The Bulette tried digging through an Earth Elemental, which roars and attacks.
3: The Bulette is made out of solid steel, with clockwork insides.
4: A Bulette is eating all the crops in a pumpkin farmers patch, but ignoring his cattle!
5: There’s a Bulette digging massive dirt paths through the countryside. Seen from above, they create alien symbols and odd runes.
6: A Bulette made of solid stone, ridden by a Medusa.
7: The Bulette has a small Carrion Crawler living in its stomach, eating all the dead stuff it doesn’t digest.
8: The Bulette is five times bigger than any Bulette ever seen.
We’re gonna need a bigger cart…
9: There’s a Bulette skeleton defending a long-gone nest.
10: A Bulette has crawled out of the ice near a small village in the snow. It’s got glowing scales and steam coming off its hide.