Bugbear Variants for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition

If there was ever an official “first level boss” in Dungeons & Dragons, it’d have to be bugbears. They’re the bigger, grumpier, and harder-hitting cousins of the goblinoids. Basically, sasquatches with a morningstar.

And I love ’em. Needless to say I’m excited to make some much-needed bugbear variants.

Here’s what to expect from this article:

  • What is a bugbear?
  • How do 5e bugbears fight?
  • What bugbear variants are needed?
  • 5 new 5e bugbear variants.

What is a bugbear?

Heh, so if you put “bugbear” into Google, it spits out a pair of definitions:

  • cause of obsessive fear, irritation, or loathing.
  • an imaginary being invoked to frighten children, typically a sort of hobgoblin supposed to devour them.

Now, the latter makes sense for sure. But I had no idea that it was also a cause of obsessive fear, irritation, and loathing. That’s cool!

Checking out bugbear lore, looks like they originated in Germany, Wales, and England as a forest bogey man. Apparently, the etymology for bugbear and bogeyman both share the German root, too: bögge. Neat!

In Dungeons & Dragons lore, bugbears have been around since the Greyhawk boxed set, debuting alongside beholders. Here’s what a first edition bugbear looked like:

bugbear-first
Hello… is it me you’re looking for?

Bugbears have since been in every edition. In fifth, Bugbears act as the muscle for goblin tribes.

Bugbears have interesting fluff, too. They’re big and strong and sneaky. But they’re also lazy AF. They worship a pair of brother gods named Hruggek and Grankhul. Hruggek gives them their strength whereas Grankul gives them their stealth. And if they’re not careful, Skiggaret, the bogeyman of the bogeymen, will possess them and put them at odds with the bros by turning them into total cowards. That damn Skiggaret!

How do bugbears fight in 5e?

Bugbears are total one-monster wrecking crews for early-level adventurers. They’ve got above average Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. They’re also sneaky as hell with an impressive +6 bonus to Dexterity (Stealth) checks. Plus, if they manage to catch the PC’s flat-footed, they deal an additional 2d6 damage during the surprise round. Couple that with their Brute bonus, and suddenly there’s a bigfoot swinging a morning star for 20 (2d8 + 2d6 + 2) damage. Wowzas!

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing‘s Keith Ammann pretty much lays them out as “rarrrr BASH BASH BASH” monsters. They go for the surprise first, then it’s melee attacks ’til whatever they’re hitting is dead. And they’re not smart or wise enough to know the difference between different types of threats. For bugbears, it’s all just “hit what’s close and let Hruggek sort ’em out.”

What 5e bugbear variants are needed?

When reviewing the bugbear, I realized that there aren’t just two bugbear variants in the Monster Manual; there’s seven. Because bugbears are goblinoids and travel with other goblinoids, goblins are going to fill the void of the “sneaky, little lesser bugbears” and hobgoblins represent the “elite warrior bugbears.”

And to make things even nuttier, there’s 2 more goblin variants in Volo’s Guide to Monsters (if you count nilbogs and barghests, that is), and 2 more hobgoblin variants, too. That means that our vertical options are covered with goblins and the bugbear chief, and a lot of our horizontal options are covered (hobgoblins).

Therefore, we probably need to expand upon bugbears and their relationship to their gods.

Religious bugbears.

I love the story of the two brother gods. And I think that’s where I’ll start. Bugbears are supposed to pay homage to both, and if they fail in their duties with one or the other they’ll either get a lightning bolt in the arse (thanks, Hruggek) or struck with sudden blindness (thanks, Grankhul). I imagine that if a bugbear pulls too far to one side and basically says “screw it!” accepting the fate given by the opposite god-brother, they’ll trade in some of their traits for amped-up versions of the others. In other words, I’ve got two cool variants right there.

And what about Skiggaret? How cool is that guy! Let’s make a bugbear that’s constantly possessed by Skiggaret. A shaky, wimpy, constantly crying bugbear that’s so pitiful not even H&G care to strike him down.

Finally, reading up on Realms Lore, it appears that Hruggek follows Maglubiyet who follows Bane. Confusing, right? But ol’ Maggie and Bane are both vicious Gods of Tyranny. If you’re going to move up in the world and don’t want to get smote by Hruggek and/or Grankhul, why not just go straight to the top, to Bane? That’s probably one bad ass bugbear.

The bogeyman.

Okay, there’s already boggles in D&D. And they kinda scratch the “there’s something under my bed, mommy!” itch of D&D. But what about something truly terrible that lurks in the forest? A bugbear that’s a feral savage that lives up to all the legends? Slinking between the trees, eating children, the works?

Yeah… let’s make that guy, too.

 

5 bugbear variants for Dungeons & Dragons fifth edition.

First up we’ve got the bugbear that’s forsaken Grankhul for Hruggek. Grankhul struck the bugbear blind, but no worries, Hruggek had his back. This blind bugbear is stronger, fiercer, and afraid of absolutely nothing. Introducing the bugbear berserker.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the bugbear champion of Grankhul, the bugbear stalker. While its fully embraced the lethargic ways of Grankhul, it is also the stealthiest of all bugbears, capable of sneaking up and dealing massive damage to its target. Just hope that it manages to kill whatever it’s fighting before it dozes off.

Skiggaret’s chosen–the poor bastard–isn’t necessarily a weaker bugbear. Just a bugbear that uses its cowardice to its advantage. This is a bugbear craven.

The most tyrannical of all the bugbears are those that see themselves at the top of the pile. They look beyond the brothers past Maglibuyet and into the black hand of the God of Darkness himself, Bane. And even then, they aspire to take Bane’s own place. Thankfully, these bugbear tyrants are rare.

Finally, we’re taking it back to Germanic lore with the bögge, a horrible, devolved bugbear that slinks through forests looking for weak prey. Stuff of nightmares, folks.

 

bogge

Bögge

Large monstrosity, chaotic evil


Armor Class 13 (natural armor)

Hit Points 85 (10d10 + 30)

Speed 40 ft., climb 30 ft.


Abilities Str 19 (+4), Dex 14 (+2), Con 16 (+3), Int 7 (-2), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 7 (-2)


Skills Athletics +6, Perception +3, Stealth +6, Survival +3

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Languages Goblin

Challenge 3 (700 XP)


Brute. A melee weapon deals one extra die of its damage when the bögge hits with it (included in the attack).

Keen Smell. The bögge has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

Surprise Attack. If the bögge surprises a creature and hits with an attack during the first round of combagt, the target takes an extra 10 (3d6) damage from the attack.


Actions

Multiattack. The bögge makes attacks: one with its bite an done with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8 + 4) piercing damage.

Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (3d6 + 4) slashing damage.

 

bugbear-berserker

Bugbear Berserker

Medium humanoid (goblinoid), chaotic evil


Armor Class 14 (hide armor)

Hit Points 65 (10d8 + 20)

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities Str 17 (+3), Dex 14 (+2), Con 15 (+2), Int 8 (-1), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 10 (+0)


Skills Perception +3, Survival +3

Condition Immunities blinded

Senses blind, passive Perception 15

Languages Common, Goblin

Challenge 2 (450 XP)


Blind. The bugbear can’t see and automatically fails any ability check that requires sight. Attack rolls against the bugbear have advantage, and the bugbear’s attack rolls have disadvantage.

Brute. A melee weapon deals one extra die of its damage when the bugbear hits with it (included in the attack).

Heart of Hruggek. The bugbear has advantage on saving throws against being charmed, frightened, paralyzed, poisoned, stunned, or put to sleep.

Reckless. At the start of its turn, the bugbear can gain advantage on all melee weapon attacks rolls during that turn, but attacks rolls against it have advantage until the start of its next turn.


Actions

Multiattack. The bugbear makes two melee attacks.

Greataxe. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 16 (2d12 + 3) slashing damage.

 

bugbear-assassin

 

 

Bugbear Stalker

Medium humanoid (goblinoid), chaotic evil


Armor Class 15 (studded leather)

Hit Points 65 (10d8 + 20)

Speed 15 ft.


Abilities Str 15 (+2), Dex 16 (+3) Con 14 (+2), Int 11 (+0), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 11 (+0)


Skills Performance +2, Perception +3, Stealth +7

Damage Resistance lightning

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13

Languages Common, Goblin

Challenge 3 (700 XP)


Assassinate. During its first turn, the bugbear has advantage on attack rolls against any creature that hasn’t taken a turn. Any hit the bugbear scores against a surprised creature is a critical hit.

Grankhul’s Luck (1/day). If the bugbear must make an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw and has disadvantage on the roll, it may choose to cancel the disadvantage for that roll instead.

Leap to Feet. Whenever the bugbear is prone it can stand up by spending 5 feet of movement instead of half its speed.

Lethargic. The bugbear can not use reactions. In addition, the bugbear can take either an action or a bonus action on its turn, not both.

Sneak Attack. Once per turn, the bugbear deals an extra 14 (4d6) damage when it hits a target with a weapon attack and has advantage on the attack roll, or when the target is within 5 feet of an ally of the bugbear that isn’t incapacitated and the bugbear doesn’t have disadvantage on the attack roll.


 

Actions

Multiattack. The bugbear makes three scimitar attacks. Immediately after the attacks, the bugbear falls unconscious as if under the effect of the sleep spell. The bugbear remains unconscious until the end of its next turn, it takes damage, or someone uses an action to shake or slap it awake.

Scimitar. +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 + 3) slashing damage.

Faux Fumble (Recharge 4-6). The bugbear makes a scimitar attack. Immediately after the attack, the bugbear gains the benefit of the Disengage action and its walking speed increases by 10 feet until the end its current turn.

bugbear-craven

 

Bugbear Craven

Medium humanoid (goblinoid), neutral


Armor Class 16 (hide armor, shield)

Hit Points 27 (5d8 + 5)

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities Str 14 +2, Dex 14 (+2), Con 12 (+1), Int 8 (-1), Wis 9 (-1), Cha 8 (-1)


Skills Persuasion +1, Stealth +6, Survival +1

Condition Immunities frightened

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages Common, Goblin

Challenge 1/8 (25 XP)


Possessed by Skiggaret. The bugbear has disadvantage on ability checks and attack rolls while hostile creatures are within its line of sight. Additionally, the bugbear can’t willingly move closer to hostile creatures.


Actions

Morningstar. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 6 (1d8 + 2) piercing damage.

Javelin. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 5 (1d6 + 2) piercing damage.

bugbear-tyrant

Bugbear Tyrant

Medium humanoid (goblinoid), lawful evil


Armor Class 18 (breast plate, shield)

Hit Points 150 (20d8 + 60)

Speed 30 ft.


Abilities Str 17 (+3), Dex 14 (+2), Con 16 (+3), Int 11 (+0), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 15 (+2)


Saving Throws Wis +4, Cha +5

Skills Intimidation +5, Religion +3, Stealth +9, Survival +4

Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11

Languages Common, Goblin

Challenge 8 (3,900 XP)


Aura of Hate. The bugbear, and any fiends and undead within 10 feet of it, gain a bonus to melee weapon damage rolls equal to to the bugbear’s Charisma modifier (included in the attack). A creature can only benefit from one Aura of Hate at a time.

Brute. A melee weapon deals one extra die of its damage when the bugbear hits with it (included in the attack).

Divine Smite (1/day). The bugbear channels divine energy through its weapon. When the bugbear hits a creature with a melee weapon attack, it can add 13 (3d8) radiant damage to the attack. The damage increases by 1d8 if the target is a fiend or undead.

Spellcasting. The bugbear is a 7th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13, +5 to hit with spell attacks). The bugbear has the following paladin spells prepared:

1st level (4 slots): hellish rebuke, inflict wounds, wrathful smite
2nd level (2 slots): crown of madness, darkness

Surprise Attack. If the bugbear surprises a creature and hits it with an attack during the first round of combat, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) damage from the attack.


Actions

Multiattack. The bugbear makes three melee attacks.

Longsword. +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 14 (2d8 + 5) slashing damage.

Frightful Presence. Each creature of the bugbear’s choice within 30 feet of it must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw if it can see the bugbear. On a failed save, the target is frightened of the bugbear for 1 minute. If a creature’s saving throw is successful or the effect ends for it, the creature is immune to the bugbear’s Frightful Presence for the next 24 hours.

 

Thanks for reading!

This has definitely been one of the more interesting series of variants I’ve done. You’ll definitely need to have a tongue-and-cheek sense of humor to play a few of these guys. But you serious DMs out there, the tyrant and bögge are true threats for low-to-mid tier PC’s.

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And if you have any comments or suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Up next, we’re going into land shark territory with bullettes!

See you then!

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