Moorbounder 5e Creature Guide: Ride a Big Cat From Critical Role

Dangerous predators that roam the swamps (not moors, somewhat ironically) of Southern Xhorhas — a scarred landscape overrun with beasts spawned during a magical war from centuries past — Moorbounders are feared by those who would escape their notice and highly prized by the folk brave enough to capture, tame, and use them as mounts. 

Welcome to our guide to Moorbounders, a breed of big, tailless, panther-like creatures with long tusks and retractable claws native to the Critical Role setting of Wildemount written by Matthew Mercer. 

In this guide, we’re going to give you an overview of the abilities and features of moorbounders.

Then we’ll take a closer look at their appearance and behavior as well as what they’re like to fight and how you can potentially acquire one for yourself to ride into battle.  

What Is a Moorbounder? 

A Moorbounder is a type of tusked, tailless, highly aggressive panther-like creature that stalks desolate swamps in southern Xhorhas.

There are two types of Moorbounder: the common Moorbounder and the more dangerous Bristled Moorbounder. 

Both are fearsome predators with the ability to leap huge distances and that have a devastating claw attack. 

Moorbounders have wiry, dull, grayish-purple fur that is matted along their back but fluffy around their shoulders.

Their eyes are huge and fishlike rather than looking like they belong to a cat, and their long, curving tusks protrude from their lower jaws — making them more suited for goring prey and fighting other Moorbounders for territory than shearing meat from a carcass like a mastodon. 

Moorbounder Behavior 

Both varieties of Moorbounder are carnivorous and hyper aggressive. It’s not uncommon for Moorbounder cubs in the same litter to kill and eat each other unless given enough food.

They aren’t fussy and will eat just about any type of meat they can get — including their owners if they aren’t properly fed. 

Moorbounders are pack hunters that rely on short bursts of speed and a powerful leap to bring down their prey rather than stealth or endurance. 

Moorbounder Abilities

Let’s start by taking a look at the basic Moorbounder. 

Moorbounder

Large beast, unaligned

Armor Class: 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 30 (4d10 + 8)

Speed: 70 ft.

STR: 18 (+4)    

DEX: 14 (+2)

CON: 14 (+2)  

INT: 2 (-4)  

WIS: 13 (+1)

CHA: 5 (-3)

Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages

Challenge: 1 (200 XP)

Standing Leap: The moorbounder’s long jump is up to 40 feet, and its high jump is up to 20 feet with or without a running start.

Actions

Claws: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d4 + 4) slashing damage.

What we effectively have here is an ambush predator that — contrary to what you’d expect from what’s basically a big cat — prioritizes Strength over Dexterity.

What we have here is something that feels a lot more prehistoric and primordial — a black-furred saber-toothed tiger rather than a panther that hunts by brute force and sprinting speed rather than by any real guile or grace. 

This is reinforced even more by the fact that moorbounders get no bonus to Stealth checks, and their passive perception is lousy. These are not delicate, precise killers, but they are rather brutes and scrappers. 

The best thing about a moorbounder is its standing leap, which allows it to escape or get into combat in a single bound.

Being able to leap further in a single bound than most players can run — not to mention cover an insane amount of ground with a 70-foot movement speed — means that if a moorbounder wants to fight you, fleeing is more or less off the table. 

As a CR 1 monster that could reasonably be expected to go up against low-level characters, that speed and ferocity makes moorbounders a surprisingly scary opponent. 

Then, there’s its attack. 

Statistically, more smaller dice are usually going to come up with a bigger number than fewer big dice.

It’s the reason why the greatsword is technically a better weapon than the greataxe. Even turning 1d12 into 2d6, you’re eliminating the possibility of rolling a 1 for damage. 

The fact that moorbounders’ claw attacks deal 4d4 (+4!) slashing damage makes this beast consistently likely to deal serious damage in a range of 8 to 20 slashing damage.

That’s a nasty amount of pain that means a CR 1 moorbounder is perfectly capable of downing a 1st- or even 2nd-level player character in a single hit. 

Now imagine how nasty it would be if it had multiattack… 

Bristled Moorbounder

Large beast, unaligned

Armor Class: 15 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 52 (7d10 + 14)

Speed: 70 ft.

STR: 18 (+4)    

DEX: 14 (+2)    

CON:14 (+2)

INT: 2 (-4)    

WIS: 13 (+1)    

CHA: 5 (-3)

Senses: Darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages

Challenge: 3 (700 XP)

Bladed Hide: At the start of each of its turns, the moorbounder deals 5 (2d4) piercing damage to any creature grappling it.

Standing Leap: The moorbounder’s long jump is up to 40 feet, and its high jump is up to 20 feet with or without a running start.

Actions

Multiattack: The moorbounder makes two attacks: one with its blades and one with its claws.

Blades: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Claws: Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (4d4 + 4) slashing damage.

Mechanically, the only thing that sets the Bristled Moorbounder apart from its common or garden-variety cousin is its improved AC, hit point pool, and extra attack relating to its bladed coat.

I think Matt Mercer is trying to engineer his own owlbear here as the Bristled Moorbounder and the classic, magical, hybrid monstrosity are very similar in terms of damage output and fighting style

Honestly, the fact the Bristled Moorbounder deals 2d4 damage to a creature grappling it is kind of nothing.

It’s a boring rule that exists purely to justify banning players from turning the bigger, better Moorbounder into a mount disguised as fun game design. Boo. 

I’d personally have loved it if the Bristled Moorbounder was less about dealing offensive damage (like store-brand owlbear) and instead focused on reflecting damage back at players.

Maybe just making a melee attack against a Bristled Moorbounder caused it to fire off a small salvo of spines — dealing 2d4 + 1 to the attacker and 1d4 piercing damage to every other creature within 5 feet.

This is a big, guaranteed damage boost for the Moorbounder, so to balance it out, take away its blade attack.

This now turns the Bristled Moorbounder from yet another bag of hit points into an interesting puzzle that requires spells, ranged and reach weapons to solve — all while this monster that can jump 40 feet and run 70 feet every turn is trying to get up in your face. 

Still, for its flaws, the Bristled Moorbounder is one of my favorite types of monster in all of gaming — right out of the best sorts of Mario levels.

It’s a scarier, slightly altered version of a monster the players will have seen before. 

DM: “You see the hulking, muscular form of a big black cat — tailless, with two long tusks jutting from its lower jaw and large, bulging eyes — prowling toward you, leaping from rock to rock, eyes gleaming in the light of your torches.”

Player: “Oh, a moorbounder. Get ready, gang! They’re tough, but we’ve leveled up, we’re at full health, and we’ve got all our spells. This should be easy!” 

DM: “Out of the darkness the beast stalks, closer, closer… As it steps into the torchlight, you see it stands a full head taller than the beast you saw before, and its coat — rather than glossy black fur — ruffles with thousands upon thousands of razor sharp spines as though its skin is cloaked in daggers.” 

Players: *confused screaming

As a DM, I love powerful monsters that riff on less powerful versions of themselves, adding more hit points, abilities, and actions to a template that’s already familiar to the players.

It’s not just about gotcha! moments though. 

Once they get over the shock of underestimating their new-and-improved foe, the players are actually in quite a powerful position.

They have a good idea of how this creature will probably act and a roughly accurate expectation of its abilities.

It lets you feel like you’re ramping up the tension while letting your players use hard-earned lessons from previous encounters. 

How Do I Ride a Moorbounder? 

Whether purchased at great expense or trapped and trained in the wild, Moorbounders make excellent hunting companions and mounts.

They tend to cost 300-500 gold pieces, depending on their quality, age, and where you’re buying one. 

While they can’t match the endurance of a riding horse or the load-bearing capacity of a traditional beast of burden, there are few land-borne mounts that can match the Moorbounder for speed. 

However, it’s important to stress that moorbounders that haven’t undergone proper training or established bonds of trust with their masters tend to attack and even eat their riders. 

Establishing such a bond of trust with a moorbounder is probably only going to be possible if the creature is a cub or has been bred in captivity and then sold to you.

It’s always worth repeating that the Animal Handling skill is described in the Basic Rules as being mostly useful as a way to calm and ride domesticated animals — rather than turn you into the horse whisperer.

Nevertheless, as long as you start out with the right moorbounder and make one or even several Animal Handling checks successfully, you should be able to forge a deep, long-lasting bond with your new mount. 

If you do manage to establish a bond of trust with a moorbounder, they make fearsome allies in battle and will carry you where you need to go at speed. 

Which Classes Work Best With a Moorbounder 

The Beast Master ranger included in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything in particular could make great use of a Moorbounder as the combination of a powerful animal companion and mount is invaluable. 

For classes that want to use a moorbounder solely as a mount, the Cavalier fighter excels at mounted combat — and riding something into battle that can comfortably inflict 8-20 additional slashing damage every turn starts to make your average warhorse look like a very pedestrian choice. 

Lastly, the Moorbounder also makes a fantastic candidate for a Circle of the Moon druid’s Wild Shape ability.

Other druid classes gain access to CR 1 creatures at 8th level, but the Circle of the Moon subclass can turn into a giant, ridable (it’s probably best if the other party members ask permission from the druid first, of course), vicious beast with great speed and solid damage.