Our Legion has a bear Rookie. On his sheet it says “Is an actual bear.”
He’s not magic, he can’t talk, he’s just a bear.
I had this idea after remembering reading about Wojtek, who served with the Polish army during WWII. He was a bear. He learned to salute, slept with the other soldiers, had an official rank (and was even promoted to corporal after helping carry (huge) ammunition crates), and he marched, wrestled, and drank coffee and beer with the other soldiers.
Well, now you, too, can have a bear in your Legion!
Making your bear: We started with the Rookie playbook. He’s a bear, so he’s a ‘special snowflake’ (ie: the “doesn’t have a heritage, so add more dice” alternative for the Unique Heritage option). You pick four more dice in any Actions as usual, with the exceptions of Shoot (sorry, he’s a bear), Research, and Rig, plus pick another two dice for his heritage. You may also use a die to mark a +1d Resistance box in Insight or Prowess instead of in an unavailable Action, so your bear isn’t crippled for Resistance rolls. You may also put one of your starting dice in Anchor instead of an Action (because he’s a bear).
Dealing with social Actions as a bear:
How does a bear Consort? Just like everyone else. Everyone loves the bear.
How does a bear Discipline? Well…are you going to argue with a bear? Angry bear is terrifying.
How does a bear Marshal? The bear is a symbol and a spearhead for actions rather than a tactician.
How does a bear Sway? HE’S A BEAR AND HE’S OMG CUTE-AMAZING. HE HAS A LITTLE HAT.
Basically, figure it out, follow the fiction in terms of obvious restrictions and for possibilities.
What about Special Abilities?
Literally every Rookie Special Ability just works for a bear, even Home Cooking (“Hey, look, the bear caught fresh fish for us!” “The bear found blueberry bushes!” etc.) Someone else cooks, obviously.
One caveat here is that I don’t know how Every Inch A… is supposed to be handled for a character using the optional rule for a Unique Heritage, but that’s less a bear thing than a general rules thing. Just add another two dice for Actions? @Stras?
Promoting your bear: when promoting to Soldier, the Grenadier and Cavalry Special Abilities are probably not going to be available (because he’s a bear) – I mean, I know bears are pretty dexterous and can hold things, but I think a bear trained to (safely) use grenades and explosives is a bit much. The other doesn’t work unless your bear is the cavalry and everyone rides bears into battle (GO HORNED ONE!). All the other Abilities work fine as is.
Your Specialist bear: a bear can promote to a Heavy or a Scout without any problems, everything works. A bear can’t promote to a Sniper because he’s still a bear (but can take Ambush or Notches as Veteran Advances; maybe One Eye also) nor promote to a Medic (but can take Attache or a variation of Moral Support as Veteran advances – everyone loves the bear, I mean, LOOK AT HIS LITTLE HAT). A bear could possibly become an Officer with some serious tweaking: the bear’s actions would actually have to be undertaken by some kind of human handler, but the fact he’s an incredible bear is what enables the handler to pull it all off – it’s all a bit hand-wavey, though.
What about the Horned One?
If the Legion travels with the Horned One, it’s possible the bear can talk to everyone in the Legion and conversely everyone can talk to the bear. However, he’s still a bear, and talks and thinks about bear-ish things like honey and fish and sleeping and beer and that pretty sunset: he does not become genius Orite clockwork engineer bear. But even if no one else can talk to the bear, the Horned One can and probably does communicate, gives the bear more complicated instructions, explains things to the bear, and so forth.
Equipment load-outs and your bear: the bear does not need Winter Clothing (he’s a bear) – really, the bear is their own winter clothing. The bear is always armed with a Heavy Weapon (a few hundred pounds of tooth and claw). This becomes a Fine Heavy Weapon once the bear promotes.
But most Equipment makes no sense for the bear or he can’t use it. To make up for this, even if the bear can’t use most Equipment, he can carry items as “spares” for the rest of the squad (who doesn’t want a spare Shield if they’ve ticked theirs already? Or extra Supplies? Again, to make up for the fact the bear can’t).
Certain load-outs may simply make no sense for the bear, even as carried extras, but you might be surprised by the ways you can make it fit: the Scout’s Light load-out might not make sense, unless you decide the spyglass is a bear’s superior sense of sight and smell, or that maps are a bear’s superior navigational ability, etc. Another option for this situation is to give the bear +2 utility if he takes a Light Load, +1 utility for Normal Load, and another +1 utility for a Heavy Load. As the old saying goes, “If you have a bear, you’re always prepared.”
Depending on how you want to run things, the bear probably does not have bear-appropriate Armor (if not, the QM might start an LTP to make some). If the bear promotes to Heavy, one option is to rule that the QM has, during the interim, managed to scavenge and design enough appropriate pieces that the bear does have Fine Armor and Fine Heavy Plate available for his Equipment load. Seriously, if you would put armor on horses… but you would not armor your bear? You’d be a monster.
Things you didn’t know about your bear: they have human-like finger articulation (minus a thumb, plus three-inch claws) and can hold and manipulate bottles and other items; bears are around primate-level smarter-than-a-dog, they can even distinguish a difference in number up to about eight things; they “get” humor and playing jokes (and love to play a “sticking their whole head in your mouth” game that they smile and laugh about but you probably don’t get the humor of… bears, man) (BTW, bears laugh like muppets, silent and mouth wide open); bears are inquisitive, highly adaptive to new situations, and will mimic the behavior of those around around them (like carrying ammo crates). However, they also regularly get their heads stuck in buckets, are terrified of dogs (which, you know, are tiny in comparison… bears, man), and are somewhat clumsy.
NOT KIDDING. EVERYTHING ABOVE IS TRUE.
Now you can add a bear to your Legion.
Can bears talk to baerngard? Maybe!