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Animals of Crossroads

Here are a few examples of the strange and wondrous animals that live in Crossroads. Additional animals will be revealed as they come up in Unfamiliar Heroes episodes.

Content Warning: This page contains spoilers for various Unfamiliar Heroes games, including the Adventurers Academy game that is in the planning stages. It also contains descriptions of predators, animal reproduction, and creepy invertebrates.

Black and white illustrations of five mythical animals: a phoenix, dragon, unicorn, griffin, and hydra.



Dragon Weasels

Illustration of a white weasel head poking out from behind a snow covered rock.

Appearance: Adult Dragon Weasels are double the length of an ordinary weasel—nearly three feet long, if their feathery tails are included. They are shining white with six short legs, two pairs of feathered wings, a fluffy ridge of fur running down their spines, and shimmering scales down their bellies. Their faces look just like weasel faces, with beady black eyes, small round ears, and a dark triangular nose surrounded by whiskers.

Main Traits: More than anything else, Dragon Weasels are weasels that can fly and walk on air. Like their weasel ancestors, they are built to fit through the narrow tunnels of rodents, their wings tucking tightly to their sides to navigate tight twists and turns. In order to stay warm while being skinny enough to fit through narrow tunnels, they have a high metabolism and no ability to store fat. This makes them voracious predators that need to eat half their body weight every day. Their high metabolism also makes them quick and energetic.

Habitat: The Warped Magic Zones with abundant Air Magic in the Cloud Mountains.

Senses: Their sight, hearing, and sense of smell are all acute. They also have whiskers on their face and the backs of their front legs to help them find prey in the dark and feel their way when moving underground.

Diet: They are carnivores that eat a wide variety of small prey, including animals that are larger than they are themselves, but rodents form the bulk of their diet. Many of the rodents that Dragon Weasels feed upon, such as Cloud Mice, have magical traits that allow them to navigate and take advantage of the abundant Air Magic in theses Warped Magic Zones.

Magical Adaptations: In order to catch their magically enhanced prey, Dragon Weasels have their own magical adaptations. Two major ones are being able to walk on air, which allows them to move through the air with unusual stealth, and becoming transparent, another stealth enhancing adaptation. Each Dragon Weasel also has a unique magical gift. Because these gifts are all different, their prey doesn’t have a chance to adapt to them.

Reproduction: Dragon Weasels need Air Magic to reproduce (this magic is necessary for fertilization and development of the fetus). This means that, as a species, they can only live in the Air Magic rich Warped Magic Zones of the Cloud Mountains, making them rare magic animals.

Interactions with Sapient Peoples: Because they are rare, Dragon Weasels are valuable, both as exotic pets and as a source of rare magic ingredients. Poaching is a significant threat to wild Dragon Weasels.




Cute and comical illustration of a brown owlbear sitting in the back of a wagon.

Illustration of a brown owlbear sitting in the back of a wagon. They have a feathered owl head and a furry bear body. A band of feathers encircles their waist. The owlbear has an intense, focused look on their face as they sit awkwardly on their tush with their hind legs splayed out. This adorable work of art was created by the amazing Meghan Dornbrock.

Appearance: These powerful predators look like combination of a bear and an owl. Their bodies are shaped like that of a bear with powerful hooked beaks where a bear’s snout would be and large disks of brown and white feathers around each large eye. Their ears, like those of an owl, are hidden in theie feathers. The rest of their body is covered in fur, except for a crest of feathers that runs from the top of their head all the way down their spine and band of feathers that goes around their bellies and hips (much like a feathery tutu).

Main Traits: Owlbears walk on all four legs like a bear, but can stand up on their hind legs when they need to. Their fur and feathers are thick, functioning much like armor. Like bears, they have strong arms with long claws and powerful jaws. Male and female owlbears have a similar appearance, with the females being slightly larger and darker in color. Owlbears are magical animals and, as such, have a natural resistance to magic. It is still possible to affect them with magic, but not as easy and magic will sometimes have unusual effects on them.

Habitat: Heavily vegetated mountainous areas.

Senses: Their large owl eyes give them excellent low light vision. The disk of feathers around each eye acts as a sound catcher which gives them excellent hearing. Because one of their ears is higher than the other, they can easily tell where sounds are coming from. Inside their large snout is the same olfactory organs that bears have, giving them a keen sense of smell.

Diet: Owlbears are aggressive and intelligent carnivores. They are primarily hunters, but will also scavenge. Owlbears are good at keeping populations of various magical pests under control. Zombies are among their favorite prey. Owlbears are most active at dawn and dusk. Each mated pair will defend a large hunting territory together. They typically hunt individually, but when prey is scarce they will engage in cooperative hunting with their mates. Historically, owlbears have been a major threat to livestock. Owlbears can be overwhelmed by zombies.

Reproduction: Owlbears reach sexual maturity at about four to five years, at which point they find and bond with a mate. Same sex pairings are regular occurrences in this species. Mating involves elaborate courtship dances that focus on displaying their feather crests. With their mates they build large nests of dry leaves in caves or dens that they dig out. They lay their eggs in February (a typical clutch is 2-4 eggs) and take turns incubating them by curling around them and tucking their eggs into the brooding patch on their bellies, which is a section of bare skin surrounded by a band of feathers (the skin of the brooding patch is only bare during the nesting season). The eggs hatch two months later in April. Owlbears are devoted parents that raise their chicks over the course of several years. In fact, the parenting drive is so strong that owlbear pairs that have either lost their eggs to nest raiders or that were unable to lay their own eggs, will try to steal eggs from other owlbears. If the egg theft is successful, they take the eggs back to their own nest to raise as their own.

Interactions with Sapient Peoples: Although owlbears don’t usually hunt people, they react aggressively when someone gets between them and food, when startled, or when protecting their young. When they are upset, they will stand up on their hind legs, puff up their feathers (making themselves appear bigger), and screech threateningly. They attack with their massive clawed paws and their powerful beaks.

Large predators like owlbears have been a significant threat to people and livestock for a long time. In the period called the Organized Monster Slaying, the leaders of Crossroads put significant effort into eradicating these large predators from all populated areas. Since then, many unexpected problems have arisen. Several of the animals that these predators were eating have gotten out of control and are causing great hardship by destroying crops and forests. Attempts to directly control the populations of these animals have been met with mixed success.

Now the focus is on discovering methods to allow people and these large predators to live safely side by side. The recent development of the fast-growing Stinky Pricklebushes, which produce a pungent aroma that owlbears hate, has been the turning point that allowed owlbears and people to safely coexist. These bushes grow tall and can easily be sculpted into fences to protect homes and livestock.

Now that an effect method for coexistence exists, the first stage of the Owlbear Reintroduction Program is underway.



Little Giant Bumblebees

Illustration of a flying bumblebee with long, shaggy hair. It has a yellow ruff around its head, black between its wings, then more yellow, followed by black, and ending with a rusty orange tail.

Appearance: Little Giant Bumblebees are the size of small dogs, with round bodies and long, soft, fuzzy hair. They have a yellow ruff around their head, a black band between their wings, then a yellow stripe, followed by a black stripe, followed by a rusty-orange tail.

Giant Bumblebees: The magic that made the flowers of the Giant Flower Forests giant also made their pollinators giant. Like the majority of their ordinary-sized bumblebee counterparts, Giant Bumblebees are social insects that form small colonies. They range from the size of a small dog to that of a large dog, but most are medium sized. Giant Bumblebees feed on nectar from giant flowers and gather pollen to feed their young.

Like ordinary bumblebees, Giant Bumblebees can sting repeatedly if they need to, but they are generally docile and ignore people and animals. In fact, having fewer predators than ordinary bees, Giant Bumblebees are even more gentle and docile. They don’t attack unless something harms them or enters their hive.

Main Traits: Little Giant Bumblebees are the smallest Giant Bumblebee. They are also one of the most common Giant Bumblebees. In addition, they are active for more of the year than other bumblebee species, their smaller size meaning that they need less food, which is a benefit during those times of the year with fewer flowers. They also have especially long, thick hair to keep them warm in conditions too cool for other bees. Little Giant Bumblebees make small nests of twenty to forty bees above ground in hollows or thick grass.

Habitat: The Giant Flower Forests of the High Mountains.

Interactions with Sapient Peoples: A favorite with druids, Little Giant Bumblebees are particularly docile, easily getting used to living near people. When these bees are treated well, they become affectionate, letting people pet and cuddle them.




Arcane Leeches

Illustration of a dark leech with glowing edges that is curled into a crescent shape. Both of its suckers are attached to a dark surface with many specs of blue light shining inside it.

Appearance: Arcane Leeches are six-inch-long, shiny, dark worms with flattened, segmented bodies that are thick in the back and narrow in the front. They have suckers on both ends and are brownish-black, with an oily, rainbow shimmer. In areas that are particularly rich in magic they can grow larger, a foot long or more.

Movement: Typically, Arcane Leeches move by inching along like an ordinary leech. They start by attaching their rear sucker to something, stretching out their front end as far as it can go, and attaching their front sucker. Then they release their rear sucker, contract their body up into an arch, and reattach their hind sucker. Next they release their front sucker and start the process over again by stretching out and waving their front sucker around as they search for something to latch onto.

Main Traits: Originally from the Warped Magic Zones of the Singing Jungle, Arcane Leeches are now a pest that drains, damages, and destroys magic items and plants. Any magic cast on them is likely to go awry. Killing one is guaranteed to make magic go awry. Because of this, they have to be handled with great care using non-magical means, which makes them challenging to deal with.

Habitat: The natural habitat of Arcane Leeches is the Singing Jungle, especially in its Warped Magic Zones. Anywhere outside of the Singing Jungle, Arcane Leeches are considered an invasive species and a pest. Unfortunately, their past use in the Virtue Wars as a tool of sabotage, and then as a dangerous projectile, spread them throughout Crossroads. The current attempts to control them have achieved only moderate success and they are an ongoing problem in many areas.

Senses: Touch and smell are important senses for Arcane Leeches and they are able to feel temperature and vibrations through their skin. They can’t hear, but they have simple eyes that can pick up on light, dark, and moving shadows. Arcane Leeches can also detect magic and are drawn to nearby magic, especially anything powerful.

Diet: Arcane Leeches feed on the magic in objects and stationary magical plants. When an Arcane Leech drains magic it is quite noticeable, unlike the stealthy way that ordinary leeches feed on blood. A flickering glow and whining sound are common side effects of an Arcane Leech feeding. To protect themselves, Arcane Leeches only feed on things that can’t move.

Predators: Several magic animals from the Warped Magic Zones of the Singing Jungle feed on Arcane Leeches. To them, Arcane Leeches are simply a nutritious part of their diet. However, Arcane Leeches are so rich in magic that non-magical animals experience magic side effect from eating them. In fact, Arcane Leeches are so potent that magic animals not adapted to eating them experience side effects from eating more than three.

Reproduction: Arcane Leeches wrap their eggs in a cocoon, creating a bundle one inch long. They bury this cocoon in damp soil near a powerful source of magic, such as a powerful magic object or plant.

Interactions with Sapient Peoples: For generations the peoples of the Singing Jungle have used Arcane Leeches to deactivate and destroy dangerous, damaged, or cursed magic items. This use continues to this day. However, in the Virtue Wars people started to use Arcane Leeches as weapons, either to sabotage their enemies’ magic items or as projectiles that cause magic to go awry upon impact. One of the side effects of this use was that Arcane Leeches were spread to many areas where their magical predators didn’t exist, causing them to become a pest.

Inspiration: Originally I was thinking slug, but I wanted something grosser and creepier, so I went with a terrestrial leech.


Arcane Leech Mechanics

Defending Magic Items: When in an area with multiple Arcane Leeches in various hiding places, characters need to protect themselves against leeches going after their magic items. Most often this will happen one at a time when they are distracted doing other things.

  • Roll Perception for the character the leech is trying to climb on.
  • A failure means that the Arcane Leech climbs on them, attaches to their magic item, and starts draining it before they notice it. Once the draining starts (see below), the character and everyone close by will notice what is happening.
  • A partial success means that the leech is on the character and reaching for the magic item when it is noticed, but it hasn’t attached yet.
  • A full success means that the character detects the leech reaching for them and can avoid it.

Draining an Ordinary Magic Item: Arcane Leeches damage magic items by draining their magic. As the magic is drained, the item shows increasing signs of distress, such as a flickering glow and a whining sound, that grow in intensity. If the leech is removed before the item is destroyed, it is possible to repair and recharge the item.

  • As soon as the leech starts draining, the item is inactive for 1 hr
  • Still attached after 1 round = inactive for 1 day
  • Still attached after 2 rounds = inactive for 1 week
  • Still attached after 3 rounds = inactive for 1 month
  • Still attached after 4 rounds = damaged and inactive until repaired
  • Still attached after 5 rounds = the item is destroyed

Draining a Special Magic Item: Special magic items, such as items with personalities and items that are bonded to specific people, are too tough to be destroyed by an Arcane Leech. For them the draining process stops at the end of four rounds when they are damaged and inactive until repaired.

Draining a Powerful Magic Item: Powerful magic items take longer to drain than ordinary items. How long depends on the specifics of the item and the number of leeches attached to it.

Removing an Arcane Leech from Something it Is Draining:

  • Removing a leech is a Manual Dexterity roll.
  • The best technique for removing a leech is to use a thin, flat object, like a piece of cardstock, to come in from the side and break the leech’s suction. A character with this knowledge and a thin, flat object is prepared on all rolls to remove a leech.
  • A full success means the removal goes smoothly.
  • A partial success means the leech is removed, but the removal process irritated it and it spit up a bit of magic. For the next 24 hours, a magical side effect afflicts the thing the leech was draining.
  • A failure means that magic goes awry. Depending on the situation, the leech may still be attached, get crushed, or escape.

Casting Magic on Arcane Leeches: Because they absorb magic, any magic cast on an Arcane Leech rarely does anything to the leech and the magic has a tendency to go awry.

  • Take a one die penalty to dice rolls for casting magic that directly affects an Arcane Leech.
  • Magic only affects an Arcane Leech on a full success or an outstanding success.

Squishing Leeches: If an Arcane Leech is squished, crushed, splatted, or otherwise killed, then a random magical effect occurs.

  • If the Arcane Leeches are in the path, it is a Perception roll to avoid squishing one of them.
  • A success means that the leech is avoided.
  • A partial success means the leech is partially squished and the nearest magical object or plant gains a strange side effect for 24 hours.
  • A failure means that the leech is squished and magic goes awry, causing a random magical event.

Animals that Eat Arcane Leeches: Arcane Leeches are so rich in magic that most animals, even magical ones, can’t handle eating them.

  • Animals from the Singing Jungle that are adapted to eating Arcane Leeches don’t experience harmful effects from eating them—to them Arcane Leeches are just food.
  • Magical animals that aren’t adapted to eating Arcane Leeches can eat three Arcane Leeches before they start having problems. For each Arcane Leech that they eat after that, the magical animal experiences a strange magic effect to themselves or the people and objects around them. Many of these magic effects will be based on the magical animal’s own magic and magical affinities.
  • Non-magical animals that eat Arcane Leeches experience a strange magical effect to themselves, or the people and objects around them, for each Arcane Leech that they eat.


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