Author: Chris Katrev

One of the most captivating aspects of Dungeons and Dragons is the diverse array of monsters and creatures it offers. Some of these beings are inspired by folklore and mythology, while others are unique to the game. Among these fearsome entities is the bulette – the terrifying landshark.

What is a Bulette?

A bulette, often called a landshark, is a massive, armored, burrowing creature that resembles a blend of an armadillo and a snapping turtle. They tunnel through hilly terrain, sensing prey above and then bursting upwards to devour their targets whole. While they primarily hunt animals, in more populated areas, their victims often include people, armor and all.

In terms of temperament, bulettes are big, strong, and not very bright. In the heat of battle, they often raise their ridged, armored backs as an intimidation tactic, inadvertently exposing a vulnerable spot beneath their otherwise formidable armor.

The exact origins of bulettes remain a mystery, even within standard D&D settings. Many believe they evolved naturally like other animals. However, some wizards theorize that bulettes are chimeras, created by a mad mage combining an armadillo with a snapping turtle. This theory is bolstered by the fact that no baby bulettes have ever been observed and by their classification as monstrosities rather than animals.

History of the Bulette

Bulettes made their debut in the first edition of Dragon Magazine. The magazine's inaugural 'Creature Feature' included an illustration of the fearsome monster, a small set of rules for using one, and a brief description. It also clarified that the intended pronunciation was 'boo-lay,' not 'boo-let.'

Since then, bulettes have appeared in almost every edition of the game with minimal changes to their abilities, tactics, or description. They are included in the SRD for both 3rd and 5th editions and are frequently recognized as a classic D&D monster in merchandise and franchise materials like video games and novels.

There have been relatively few changes to bulettes through the years. They keep their tactics, heavily armored hide, low intellect, and tremorsense abilities. They have changed size somewhat through the years. The original article in Dragon Magazine places them from 9–11 feet in height (or length), and in 3rd edition they are sized as Huge. In 5th edition, however, they are only classed as Large, and their challenge rating goes down from 7 to 5. Which, of course, makes some level of sense. Their armor class also goes down from 22 to 17, and their attack bonuses from +9 to +7. 5th edition numbers tend to be lower overall, since abilities grant advantage over small modifier bonuses. 

Using Bulettes in Your Campaign

Bulettes seamlessly blend into most campaigns due to their animal nature, requiring minimal motivation for inclusion. Their presence adds an aura of mystery and tension as characters find themselves hunted by an unseen predator, with only disturbed earth marking its passage.

Alternatively, they serve as formidable adversaries, allowing players to test their skills against a powerful opponent. Their lack of intelligence makes them akin to battling a pack of wolves or lions that have strayed too close to town—defeating them doesn't evoke the same moral quandary as defeating sentient foes.

Encountering A Bulette 

A straightforward plot hook could involve a village seeking the party's assistance in locating several missing citizens. To add intrigue, introduce red herrings such as sightings of nearby drow settlements or a suspicious carnival. However, as the party investigates further, they discover that even these groups have experienced disappearances, uncovering a much larger and more perilous threat. 

Each missing person might have been last seen walking through the hillside or nearby fields, tending to their crops, gathering the day’s hunt from the woods, or engaged in some other unusual tasks. For those weaving larger plots, these scenarios can serve as opportunities to drop clues, perhaps with one victim's activity abruptly interrupted. The party should stumble upon spots in each location suggesting disturbance, resembling makeshift tunnel systems indicative of non-sapient construction.

If the party hasn't deduced the presence of a bulette yet, an NPC could enlighten them, or they could rely on nature and survival checks to gather information about the creature. With this knowledge, they can strategize how to deal with the threat—whether by setting traps, confronting it directly, or even attempting to control the beast for their own purposes, if their inclinations lean towards the darker side.


Incorporating bulettes into your campaign offers thrilling opportunities for mystery, tension, and challenging encounters. Whether as the unseen predator stalking the countryside or the formidable foe to test your party's mettle, bulettes bring a sense of danger and excitement to your Dungeons & Dragons world.

Arra Alpino