Bullettes, or Land Sharks, have been a part of D&D since the very beginning. As legend has it, Gary Gygax got the inspiration for them from a cheap plastic “dinosaur” toy he had lying around. They look like a cross between a rhino and a mole with, yes, a bullet-shaped head. Their bodies are covered in tough plates.
They’re on both the Monster Manual and Monster Vault: the MM has a normal Bullete and a Dire Bullette. The Vault updates these two and adds a Young Bullette. If you have the Monster Vault you can safely use only its versions of the monster without missing anything. The lore below is combined from both books, with the Vault containing the most detail.
In 4e, land sharks are naturally occurring predators. They’re both always hungry and dumb as a bag of hammers. The creatures will arrive at a region, eat everything that moves, and move on in search of more food. When this happens near a human settlement, the usual response from the humans is to pull up stakes and move away.
Bullettes hunt by detecting prey with their tremorsense and bursting out the ground with great force underneath the chosen victims. They’ll try to eat anything smaller than themselves, and to fight anything larger out of sheer orneriness. These beasts are solitary, but might “accidentally” become part of an encounter with other monsters by bursting out of the ground mid-fight and trying to eat everyone.
All bullettes here have darkvision, tremorsense 20, a ground speed of 6 and a burrow speed of 6. When they burrow or emerge from the ground, the squares where the transision happened become difficult terrain. The longer a fight against a bullette goes on, the more messed up the surrounding terrain becomes.
The young bullette still hasn’t fully developed the boundless stamina of an adult specimen. It’s a Medium Natural Beast and a Level 7 Lurker with 68 HP.
Their basic attack is a somewhat weak bite, which becomes a lot more damaging when used as part of the Snapping Jaws power. To use it, the monster must be underground. It burrows up to its speed and emerges adjacent to an opponent, making a much more damaging bite attack as it does so. This doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks.
The youngling can them disengage with Submerge in Earth, an at-will standard action which allows it to shift one square, burrow up to its speed, and recharge Snapping Jaws.
This strong-bite/disengage/strong-bite pattern is what makes the Young Bullette a lurker. It’s not trying to hide from you, it just needs a little run-up to properly tear your head off.
The classic model, a fully developed specimen. It’s a Large Natural Beast, and a Level 9 Elite Skirmisher with 200 HP.
The adult Bullette’s basic bite is a lot stronger than that of the youngling, and does extra damage to prone targets. It can optionally jump up to 5 squares before using it, without provoking opportunity attacks. Climbing a tree will not save you!
If it’s underground, it can use Rising Burst, burrowing up to its speed without provoking opportunity attacks and attacking on a Close Burst 2 when it emerges. This is a little less damaging than the single-target bite but still does half damage on a miss.
All of the three attacks above are at-will standard actions!
As a move action, it can use Earth Furrow, which allows it to burrow its speed at a depth of 1 square (again without provoking OAs). If it passes beneath an enemy space, it makes an attack against the enemy’s Fortitude, which does no damage but knocks the enemy prone on a hit.
All of these abilities can come together to make an impressive alpha strike: Earth Furrow to enter the fight while knocking people around, and then a Rising Burst followed by an Action Point-fueled Leaping Bite. “A bullette bursts from the ground and catches 25 feet of air with the wizard in its mouth!”
The Monster Manual version is pretty much the same, but buggier. Slightly lower damage, oddly lower accuracy, and it forces you to reference the rules for standing long jumps to figure out how far it leaps. MM bullettes can also use a Second Wind once per encounter, which recovers 51 HP and gives them a temporary defense boost.
Second Wind on monsters is an early mechanic that quickly fell out of favor with players and designers. It’s pretty much just a more convoluted form of giving monsters an extra 25% HP, and generally only serves to make fights last longer.
Every natural predator has a dire version. The bullette is a natural predator. Therefore, it has a dire version. This nightmare is a Huge Natural Beast, a Level 18 Elite Skirmisher with 350 HP. Its ground and burrow speed are 8.
It fights exactly like the “common” bullette, with increased damage appropriate to its level. Its leaping bite allows it to leap 7 squares instead of just 5, and the Rising Burst has a radius of 3 instead of 2.
Being Huge, it’s likely to make the whole battlemap into difficult terrain before the PCs manage to slay it.
The MM version even has similar differences! As with the common bullette, you don’t lose anything by using the MV version at all times.
Encounters And Thoughts
The suggested encounter in the MM is level 9, a bullette intruding on a fight with a group of 3 trolls.
A bullette is kind of a one-note monster. However, it plays that note very well indeed. I like it!