In this article we compare the different graphic creations of the Bulette in the different editions of Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Who will have done it better?
First of all, a warning: this will be a semi-serious article on how different manuals of classic d20systems represented one of my favorite monsters. We are obviously talking about the Bulettes. The judgments expressed here will be entirely personal, even if they will be masked by scientific considerations. If you like a certain Bulette, while I give her a measly 4 out of 10, no problem: they are tastes!
Could this article become the first in a series? Maybe if I have the time. But for now, we'll focus on this wonderful creature made of teeth and a lot of love for halflings and horses. Ah, yes: in Italian, some say la Bulette, others il Bulette. Again, it's a matter of taste. Maybe Seeker G will write us about an article, like she did with quickstart e hack.
After a brief introduction on what Bulettes are, we will present and judge them graphic representations in several manuals of D&D e Pathfinder. Eventually, you will find some tips for adventures in which to use the Bulette.
What is the Bulette?
The Bulette is my favorite monster because it is called "Earth Shark". And what's better than a shark, if not a shark that attacks you when you are on land? Also, Bulette eats horses (which are awful people) and halflings (which I dislike). So, if there is a stronger qualifying adjective than "favorite" teach me and I'll use it to indicate the Bulette.
Joking aside, what is the Bulette? Well, the Bulette is a monster born in the dawn of D&D, that is a ferocious magical creature in the shape of a shark with legs, the result of some shady magical experiment. The Bulette moves underground and rises to the surface to surprise its prey.
When and why was Bulette born?
As we said, the Bulette was born as a monster for the first edition of D&D, in 1976. More precisely, it was first shown in the magazine Dragon, and its creation bears the signature of Tim Kask. To find out more about its origins, I recommend watching This Page. Its particular appearance is due to the way in which the monsters of the time were created. In fact, when Gary Gigax and Dave Arneson began collecting creatures for their bestiary, they drew inspiration from three main sources:
- Mythology and folklore: from here come pegasi, hydras, minotaurs, gnomes and similar creatures;
- Fantasy literature, with Tolkien obviously as leader: ogres,
hobbithalflings, enttreants, various undead and other similar amenities;
- Toy bags. Yes, the kind you find on the market with counterfeit games or in the best tobacconists.
It is to one of these toy bags that we owe some of the most iconic (and non-copyrighted) figures in D&D, role-playing and fantasy in general. Such are, for example, the bear owl or the russet beast, of which there are never enough. Of course, the Bulette is also based on a plasticky toy found in a bag of mixed monsters.
That said, no more chatter: let's see who designed the Bulette better!
The original: the plastic toy
Well what about. Here the myth is born.
Admire the robust shape, the dermal plates, the dorsal fin, the chthonodynamic body. The long beaked nose, the expressive eyes (or vacuous, if the Hong Kong worker who made it didn't also wear white) and the Michelin limbs.
A pucciosa creature, almost a pet to have in your party rather than a death sentence for your horses (and halflings).
Vote: 7/ 10. Because she is very plump, but she doesn't know what to do with her life, you can see it in her face.
La Bulette in the first edition Dungeons & Dragons
Basically the author has put the plastic toy on paper and gave him some mobility. After all, it was the 70s: gamers were busy with Satanism, diverting youth and taking drugs while listening to Led Zeppelin. The anatomy of the monsters was a secondary factor!
We can observe the scales / bricks on the back regularly placed like a barrel vault, the dorsal fin that seems to lift from the rigid part of the back like a badly cut piece of plastic, the feet and arms drawn with minimal effort. Check out the mischief in his eyes and the sketchy smile as he looks forward to the halfling snack he's about to make!
Vote: 4/ 10, for laziness in the execution. But 10/ 10 for bullying halflings!
The Bulette in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Here the matter gets complicated.
The line of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was born relatively early, in '78 to finally separate from Basic around 81. But it is the second edition, from '89 that interests us most. We are in the axial age for the nerdy world: the years '88 -'93 were a decade full of nerdy cultural products on all fields (in other articles we will talk about this better) and they built a large slice of today's nerd imaginary . D&D enters this historical period with a straight leg with its edition of AD&D and in 93 he published the Monstruos Manual with this lady illustration.
A Bulette tired, perhaps sated with horses and hairy feet, which looks blankly at the void reflecting on the thac0 or on why after the 18th the percentages arrived in strength. But the confusion it is not only in the set of rules: the smooth face looks like that of some prehistoric amphibian, the dermal plates seem to arrange themselves randomly like rocky debris, the front legs turned inwards like a bulldog. The only positive note is the remarkable dorsal fin, which stands tall and seems made with some consistency. Imagine it as it emerges among the ears of corn in the distance as it runs towards you.
Vote: 4/ 10, the design is not consistent and doesn't even look dangerous.
The Bulette in Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 e 3.5
First love is never forgotten.
Like many who are reading me, the third edition was a cornerstone of my adolescence. In fact, I didn't play 3.5, because it came out when I had just bought all the 3.0 manuals. But let's get back to our beloved Bulette. I met it precisely with this edition.
Admire it: the metal carapace, the powerful claws, the line of the jagged mouth, the little pissed eyes. In some ways it remembers an animal that has put on an armor, or one of those prehistoric fish with the bony plates. Not to mention the long tail, powerful legs and ready-to-shoot posture! Everything in the image conveys the idea of a fast and brutal burrowing monster, a predator not to be underestimated. This is mr design.
Also note the refinement of the chtonodynamic line and the coloring that recall that of one bullet? A giant underground bullet that the master aimed at your horses (and your halflings). (As well as a phallic metaphor, for those who see these things).
Admire the detail of the flap of flesh between the dorsal fin and the back: a small sail for thermoregulation? A muscle to lift or push the fin into place? These are things I can give rise to speculation, and with speculation each master can give their own touch to Bulette and thus to her world.
Vote: 10/ 10. She protecc (herself), she attacks (you) but mostly she digs underground and eats halflings.
La Bulette in the fourth edition of Dungeons & Dragons
It was 2008 and I had stopped playing D&D, moving on to other games. I didn't appreciate the MMORPG twist that D&D had taken. Silly me, who would never have known such a balanced edition of the game. But we are not here to talk about the fourth edition.
The Bulette of the fourth edition is a lot balanced. We can't see it in full form (which usually helps masters and players get an idea of what they're facing), but we see it in action. The changes are noticeable compared to the third edition: the head is less fishy and more da chestnut. You can see the rows of internal teeth that recall the idea of shark. The "dorsal fin" is a plate that sticks out, but it is flat and wide, and would not break the creature's profile. Remarkable and scary claws, ready to gut the balanced halflings (could they be played with the basic manual? Dunno) on his way. For the first time, the beast has more than three fingers on each limb.
Vote: 8/ 10. I would have liked to see it in its entirety, the references to the land shark are in the details but it is a job well done.
The Bulette in Pathfinder
A new challenger appears!
Just a year after the fourth edition, smelling the discontent in the air, a d20 System is produced to please 3.5 players who want to continue playing 3.5, but who also want to continue spending a lot of money on manuals. But we don't care about that, let's get to the important things: how is their Bulette?
Well. First of all it is very gray. Yes, Bulettes have never shone in color, but this one is very gray, with no shading or pattern. There stands for an underground animal. The frontal shot does not do justice to the line of the skull (which in other manuals we have the opportunity to observe better): it seems to have in front more than a land shark a Protoceratops carnivorous. The skin has a nice texture of folds and thick skin, like one turtle on steroids. The dorsal plates are large echelons, with the loving detail of the clods of earth wedged between the scales. The dorsal fin is badly hurt: it is somewhat reminiscent of that of the first edition in its being semi-conical, but it is depicted not in line with the animal's spine.
However, the idea of depicting her frontally is very nice, rasping with one paw waiting to charge your halflings.
Vote: 6/ 10. Beautiful details and pose, but the fin is badly done and knows little about shark after all.
The Bulette in Dungeons & Dragons 5e
In many, too many things, D&D 5e it is a nostalgia operation. Here and there there are many references that celebrate the forty-year history of the game and its numerous editions. However, its success is undeniable and well deserved.
This Bulette however does not impress. It's the same as in 2000, with a little brighter colors and a little cleaner lines. They don't even allow us to see it in its entirety: it comes out of the earth in a somewhat awkward way or, for all we know, is falling into a hole.
The strangest thing is the open mouth. This Bulette he has no teeth and it is not clear whether he has a language or not. The upper and lower jaws appear to be a serrated beak with a huge gap at the bottom. It seems a large ground parrot as of those in After Man, and this opens up a myriad of speculations: until now I had imagined the Bulettes as beings similar to reptiles or dinosaurs. Now they seem to descend more from birds (which are always dinosaurs) or perhaps from ceratopsids? What are they doing with that beak? They keep halflings taken for regurgitate them to Bulette chicks?
Vote: 5/ 10, little innovation, only half an animal on the page, but a world of cryptzoological speculations.
The Bulette in Pathfinder 2
We conclude this journey with the latest d20 System released. After about ten years, it is pressed by the success of the fifth edition of D&D, Paizo updates its flagship product. We talked about it Thu e Thu. But we've all figured it out by now: editions are just a trick to produce new bestiaries. And the bestiaries are just excuses to produce new images of Bulette.
La Bulette from the second edition of Pathfinder disappoints. Other than land shark: it is a gray crocodile. The teeth are that of a crocodile, with the back side of the jaw lazily drawn with triangular cartoonschi. The black eyes are tiny, but full of wickedness (probably towards the person who designed it).
Paizo has decided to copy the Wizard in do not depict the creature in full, but in the act of leaving the earth. However, something in the posture does not convince me: the back bends in a strange way to bring out the "fin", now it is improper to call it that, as an overgrown scale. It almost appears that the creature's spine bends at 45 degrees or that its neck is half the length of the poor beast's back. I would be curious to see the posture of the four-legged creature: it will probably hold its hammerhead relative to its spine, like the Bulette of the previous edition.
I said the creature comes out of the ground, but it doesn't break out like the ferocious creature in fourth edition or awkwardly like its fifth rival. She comes out cautiously, placing one paw on the ground and lifting the other with the disgusted air of someone who has just squashed a halfling and finds her (six?) Fingers soiled with entrails and kleptomania.
Vote: 5/ 10. Little shark, little aggressive, little chtonodynamics.
Bonus Content: Some ideas for your RPG sessions
Arriving at the end of the article, here's a little bit of ideas to use the Bulette in your adventures.
- Jaws. In a farming town, there are tensions between the recently arrived nomadic halflings and the inhabitants. Suddenly, in fact, the halflings begin to disappear, and so do the horses from the prized herds in the countryside. The breeders accuse the carpets of abigeato; the halflings accuse them of kidnapping some of them to sell them as slaves who knows where. Adventurers must investigate the disappearances and prevent tensions from escalating into violence, which skilled demagogues exploit properly. Of course horses and halflings disappear due to a cunning and greedy Bulette.
- Four hundred fins on the horizon. Druid Arlana tried to warn the imperial explorer Wilmut Gambeforti that, however profitable, it is unwise to establish your own ranch along the wild horse migration path. In fact, as horses travel in a herd, so bulettes travel in a herd! They are a sight to behold, but Wilmut's ranch is on the path. The PCs are instructed by Arlana to find a solution that minimizes damage for everyone, and time is running out.
- Jolts. The thief Halfling of the group has obviously stolen yet another precious object unattended. Too bad that now he has been cursed by the rightful owner and cannot set foot on the ground without a Bulette emerging from the ground with the intention of eating it! In a personal (and comic) version of Tremors, the party must help the halfling lift the curse. Get ready to visit libraries, palaces and taverns with Bulette poking out of the floor!
- The last mile. To usher in his reign, a newly hired monarch decides that the ancient will be accomplished horse sacrifice. The region's most promising youngsters (who just happen to be party members) will have to escort the best horse from the royal stables to the ancient temple beyond the forest, swamp and endless plain. After taking care of the horse, having prevented thefts, defeated Stygian birds and other hateful creatures, along the last mile of the open plain, the characters must lead the animal to safety, avoiding it being intercepted and devoured by a dangerous Bulette. Will they feel like having the horse sacrificed after all these efforts?
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