Many living near Forbidden Zones are familiar with the seasonal escapades of the JackO'Bear These bizarre beasts wander into town every year at the seasonal change from Fall to Winter seeking treats and whatever trinkets of civilized ingenuity can amuse them. They are known to break into poorly secured shops, empty out larders, overturn garbage, free mounts, and steal all kinds of small moving gadgets for amusement (crossbows, jointed farming equipment, simple hinges, etc). During this time streets are empty of townsfolk at night, and sweet treats are left in front of dwellings.
Young JackO'Bears are covered with vines that provide them some damage resistance. Eating the leaves will provide a robust natural healing to any creature able to digest them, but causes the vines to die.
While still flush with vines, the young JackO'Bears are easy to hit but difficult to damage, making them very playful and trusting. They assume all creatures enjoy sparring as much as they, and will attack as a friendly greeting.
Mature JackO'Bears have usually been plucked of leaves in their sleep by enterprising wanderers, and/or been captured and held a winter for some nobles' amusement, and are thus wary and aggressive.
Whether young, carefree, and seeking a playmate, or old, aggressive, and wary of strangers, they tend to approach the same way - by detaching and throwing their heads, with regrow in 2-5 rounds. During that time, the creature is blind, deaf, and mute, but also silent and nearly impossible to see in the dark.
All JackO'Bears' heads glow with an inner fire, which provides light as a campfire around the beast's head.
If the head has been thrown, this lights in the regrown head at the end of 5 rounds - unless the flame from a previously thrown head is kept alight after exploding. In this case, the newly grown head does not have a flame, and the Bear has impaired vision and -2 to all relevant checks (but a +4 or 20% bonus to stealth) until the old flame is put out.
HD: 2-7 (1d6+1)
AC: 13-18 (1d6+12)
Damage Resistance: subtract sum of d6 results from HD and AC from 12
Attacks: Bite 1d4, Claw 1d8; Body Slam 1d6 Save VS Fort (or Paralysis) or be knocked to the ground
Special: Head - range: 30 ft, 1d8 on impact, 1d6 fire damage to all within 10 feet of impact til new head regrows
Vines - number of viable leaves equal to sum of d6 rolls from HD and AC, each leaf heals 2HP. Each leaf consumed by a creature other than the beast itself causes a loss of 1 point of damage resistance from the beast.
Stealth in daylight in wooded areas is as that of a 10th level thief. At night it is half that unless their head light is dark as detailed above.
As mounts, JackO'Bears are nearly impossible to keep tame. They require a weekly reaction roll (or however you handle taming wild creatures) when in civilized areas, and a daily roll in wilderness. When this roll does not favor the rider, the JackO'Bear will wander off at the first opportunity, using wit and stealth if need be.
Knights often quest to capture one as a pet for amusement over the long winter, then release it in the Spring.
Rumors about the JackO'Bear:
1. They eat the souls of misbehaving children
2. Are avenging spirits of the recently dead
3. Faeries and similar creatures will be revealed in their true form by a JackO'Bear's light, removing illusions and invisibility (t)
4. Magic spells of invisibility and illusion cast by mortals are dispelled by the JackO'Bear's light
5. Faeries will avenge the slaughter of any JackO'Bear
6. Faeries ride them as mounts
7. Faeries hate them (t)
8. All knights of Escavalon must eat the head of a JackO'Bear before being knighted
9. The blood of a JackO'Bear will keep a fire lit forever
10. If one does not pluck the leaves, and wrestles with it often, they can be good and loyal mounts (t)
The last one stops being true the moment any of the leaves are plucked.