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  • D&D 5e: Let’s Build A Bugbear!

    August 20, 2021 9 min read

    When you hear Bugbear, you'll most likely imagine a hulking miniboss to face adventurers at the end of a Dungeons & Dragons 5e session. And chances are, you won't likely be thinking of a Bugbear as a Player Character. That's just insane, right? Well, if your Dungeon Master allows exotic creatures as PCs, then a Bugbear might add that necessary charm to your party. After all, a Bugbear won't just give your team tanking potential, but a potential entertaining character to boot.


    However, where do we even begin? There's little data on Bugbears as PCs in the 5e Player's Handbook as it is. However, this quick guide to Bugbears in D&D 5e can enlighten you to their potential.

    Basics: The Traits

    • Ability Score Increase: STR + 2, WIS + 1
    • Age: Bugbears become adults by the time they’re 16 and can live up to 80 years.
    • Size and Speed: Medium (6 to 8ft tall, 250 to 350 pounds average), 30ft walking speed.
    • Alignment: Bugbears often have harsh lives that force them to become independent, making them lean towards Chaotic Evil alignments.
    • Racial Features: Bugbears have these racial characteristics:
      • Darkvision, which grants the Bugbear the ability to see 60ft of dim light as though it’s bright and see greys in darkness as though it were dim light.
      • Long-Limbed, which grants the Bugbear the ability for their melee attacks to have an extended 5ft reach.
      • Powerful Build, which counts the Bugbear as one size large when it comes to weight they can lift, drag, or push.
      • Sneaky, which gives them proficiency in Stealth.
      • Surprise Attack, which grants the Bugbear extra 2d6 damage when they attack surprised enemies. They can only use this once per combat.
      • Languages, of which Bugbears know how to write, read, and speak Goblin and Common.

    : The Best Classes To Build

    • Barbarian: Given the Bugbear’s relationship with nature, it’s normal for a lot of people to assume the best warriors of their kind become Barbarians. However, Bugbear Barbarians shouldn’t stick to stereotypes of being savage warriors. Players can play a Bugbear Barbarian that’s as calm and cold as the winter, only unleashing their rage when their tribe, home, or friends are threatened. They fit well with archetypes that represent the land or people they protect.
      • Thanks to the Bugbear’s innate STR and WIS Ability Score Bonuses, they prove strong enough to protect their tribe with their Rage, but still wise enough to know when to stop. These innate advantages separate them from other Barbarians, as they’re naturally built to be strong and insightful, making them both efficient leaders and heads of the vanguard.
      • The Barbarian’s special Rage status grants them Advantage on Strength checks and Strength Saving Throws, as well as getting bonuses on Strength-based attacks. This essentially makes the Bugbear a behemoth in the battlefield. And given their resistance to slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning while Raging, then the Bugbear Barbarian is something enemies just want to avoid.
      • The Bugbear’s natural STR gives them massive boosts when it comes to the Barbarian’s Class Features. For instance, Reckless Attack grants the Barbarian an Advantage to melee weapon attacks during the first turn of combat. Moreover, investing in DEX also enables the Bugbear Barbarian to make full use of Unarmored Defense and Danger Sense, both of which rely on Dexterity to enhance AC and DEX Saving Throws, respectively.
      • The Bugbear Barbarian might opt for the Battlerager, Beast, and Berserker Primal Paths, especially if they want to stick with the characteristic that a Bugbear Barbarian is a stalwart protector of their families and lands. Ancestral Guardian is also a great fit in terms of flavor, especially if the Bugbear has been living in a particular area for generations.
    • Druid: Thanks to the Bugbear’s affinity with nature, it’s natural for a Bugbear to find a kinship with the flora and fauna of their home. Moreover, their innate connection with nature may allow some Bugbears to be adept with communicating with the spirits of the plants and animals around them, making them extremely skillful druids. A Bugbear Druid may end up travelling to save their home or even find some cure to a curse that’s been plaguing the land they and their tribe has been living in.
      • Thanks to the inherent STR Ability Score bonus of the Bugbear, their Druids can become naturally deadly in close combat. Moreover, their WIS Ability Score bonus becomes an efficient supplement to the Druid’s spellcasting trait, of which it uses WIS as a primary attribute. As such, Bugbears can essentially cast deadly spells and at the same time position themselves to defend their allies against enemies unfortunate enough to get in their way.
      • The Bugbear’s sheer appearance and strength becomes a perfect fit with Wild Shape, the primary component of the Druid’s arsenal. This immediately gives the Bugbear the flexibility they need in order to capitalize on the abilities of animals they encounter in the wild, which can they take full advantage of inside and outside of battle. Moreover, the innate features offered by the Druid Circles give the Bugbear just enough flexibility to become a tank, damage dealer, and even healer of the entire party.
      • In terms of Druid Circles, the Bugbear Druid might work best with the Land, Shepherd, and Spores variant thanks to their intimate connection with nature. Moreover, these Circles offer just enough utility spells that fit the general theme of the Bugbear becoming nature’s protectors, which can serve as a great jumping-off points for interesting stories.
    • Fighter: The stature of the Bugbear makes them perfect for battle, as their size can complement a heavy weapon, such as a great sword or a hammer. Moreover, with the right training, a Bugbear can become a Fighter capable of following and issuing commands, all with the potential of performing specialized maneuvers geared towards using the battlefield to their advantage. A Bugbear Fighter can end up fighting to defend or tribe or even serving in armies for nobles in faraway kingdoms.
      • Thanks to the Bugbear’s innate STR and WIS Ability Score bonuses, their Fighter can become a natural asset in the battlefield. They have a natural alacrity when it comes to melee attacks that makes them efficient Fighters, while also offering a straightforward class that gives Players enough free room to tinker with utility skills. In fact, the WIS bonus might motivate Players to transform their Bugbear into a Cleric or a Ranger (with the right DEX), further diversifying the Fighter’s offerings in the field.
      • Players who want to capitalize on the Bugbear’s innate STR and WIS bonuses can rely on the Fighter to offer them frequent Ability Score Improvement options. If Players don’t want to improve their Ability Scores, they can capitalize on Feats to further customize their character’s abilities instead, making them extremely flexible components in the battlefield. These Feats, when fit with the right Martial Archetype, can transform an ordinary Fighter into a general or even a weapon master.
      • Thanks to the sheer strength of the Bugbear, they can capitalize on Martial Archetypes that transform them into behemoths in the battlefield. These include the Brute, Battle Master, Champion, and the Monster Hunter, all of which offer utility features such as maneuvers that make the Bugbear a force to be reckoned with. Players may also surprise opponents with a Bugbear Fighter that dabbles into magic, such as an Eldritch Knight, a Psi Knight, or a Psychic Warrior.
    • Paladin: A Bugbear might end up serving a deity, swearing fealty to a god for protecting them or their family in times of danger. Now a fighter wielding the might of a deity, a Bugbear Paladin can smite foes to the high heavens should they fall in their list of enemies. A Player with a Bugbear Paladin might see confused looks on the faces of people around their character, as it’s not exactly common for them to see a Bugbear take up the armor and shield and become a Paladin.
      • The innate STR Ability Score bonus can aid the Bugbear Paladin in dealing massive damage to opponents. Moreover, their WIS bonus also gives them the ability to resist mentally debilitating spells against powerful spellcasters. In addition, a little investment in CHA will allow the Bugbear Paladin to either persuade or intimidate their foes, giving them considerable edge when casting spells or communicating with individuals outside of combat.
      • Bugbear Paladins, despite being uncommon sights, fit the stereotype of the “big honorable protector,” which makes them perfect for Players who want a more lighthearted approach to roleplaying. However, Bugbear Paladins can be behemoths in the battlefield. Players should remember that Paladins have natural Divine Sense, Lay on Hands, and even Divine Smite features, enabling them to tank mobs of opponents without breaking so much as a sweat. Moreover, the sheer size of the Bugbear lets them offer an imposing presence on the battlefield.
      • While the Paladin is often associated with providing extra healing on the battlefield, the Bugbear Paladin may not necessarily have to follow this assumption. In fact, Sacred Oaths can also focus more on dealing divine punishment to foes, such as the Oaths of Conquest, Glory, Treachery, and Vengeance. Meanwhile, Bugbear Paladins may also want to focus on their affinity with nature for their Sacred Oath and can go with Oaths of the Ancients, Crown, and Devotion.
    • Ranger: Who says Rangers always had to be Elves? A Bugbear invested in protecting their home and their natural habitat may have gotten the experience needed to know their land well so that they know exactly how their environments work and its relationship to its denizens. A Bugbear Ranger isn’t just someone skilled in fighting enemies, but also skilled enough to use their environment to their utmost advantage. A Bugbear Ranger wielding two blades may go on a flurry that would leave opponents dead before the Bugbear finishes their dance.
      • Thanks to the innate WIS Ability Score bonus of the Bugbear, they can make ideal Rangers – especially when it comes to spellcasting. Moreover, their innate STR Ability Score bonus gives the Bugbear Ranger the opportunity to strike down intruders in melee combat, easily devastating multiple opponents while turning the Bugbear’s natural territory against them.
      • The Bugbear’s sheer strength and dominating presence might make sense for their inclination to become Rangers, as their ability to protect their territories may have soon granted them with the gift of a Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer. Moreover, the Ranger’s Natural Attack, Hide in Plain Sight, and Vanish can all complement the Bugbear’s attack bonuses in order to unleash hell on their opponents in the battlefield – and quickly too!
      • Interestingly, the Bugbear Ranger’s Conclave can also be a mix of their flavor or even their preferred way of traveling. For instance, a Bugbear Ranger dedicated to protecting their territory can become a Hunter, a Horizon Walker, or even a Swampkeeper. Meanwhile, Bugbear Rangers with a bit of a mystical flair can also opt for Primeval Guardian, Horizon Walker, or Gloom Stalker variants.

    : Interesting Character Backgrounds

    • Caravan Specialist (Elemental Evil): As a Caravan Specialist, your Bugbear is the resident “go-to” person for all things caravans - be it the best routes, the danger zones, and places to check out for travelling caravans in your area. Interestingly, your nature as a Bugbear produces a cool dynamic between your party and other NPCs, as initial perceptions towards Bugbears depict them as vicious beings. As such, seeing your Bugbear be so knowledgeable regarding navigation and roads might spark interesting dialogue options throughout the adventure.
      • Tools: Vehicles (Land)
      • Language: Any one language of their choice.
      • Proficiencies: WIS (Animal Handling), WIS (Survival)
    • Gladiator (Player’s Handbook): Bugbears are feared to be strong and very vicious warriors, which is why other fighters might be easily scared of your Bugbear in the arena. How you became a Gladiator can happen in a lot of ways - perhaps you were captured and separated from your family or maybe you found yourself in a strange city and was captured for trespassing. Whatever the reason is, you found yourself out of this unfortunate situation, and now the world is yours to explore.
      • Tools: Disguise Kit, Unusual Weapon x1
      • Language: None
      • Proficiencies: DEX (Acrobatics), CHA (Performance)
    • Investigator (Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide): Yet another interesting career choice for a Bugbear would be an Investigator. After all, it’s not every day the world can see a giant Bugbear look at crime scenes and interview people about their involvement in various activities. Interestingly, it might be precisely because of your hulking appearance and stereotypes attached to Bugbears that make your job either easier or harder to do. Likewise, seeing a Bugbear Investigator in a city might make nobles and other aristocrats just interested enough to seek your audience.
      • Tools: None
      • Language: Any two languages of their choice.
      • Proficiencies: WIS (Insight), INT (Investigation)
    • Outlander (Player’s Handbook): Your Bugbear may have come from a tribe or a clan from a far-off land and you arrived in this part of town for certain reasons. Perhaps you’ve been clamoring for a life of adventure and now has been the only time you have to take that one step towards becoming an adventurer. Or maybe your Bugbear has been exiled from your tribe and now you’re seeking a new place to call “home.” Whatever the reason is, you carry the knowledge of exploring vast and unknown lands that may prove useful to your new companions.
      • Tools: Musical Instrument x1
      • Language: Any one language of their choice.
      • Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), WIS (Survival)
    • Soldier (Player’s Handbook): Your Bugbear may be a Soldier serving your town or village and have been tasked to do a mission for your chieftain. Or perhaps you’ve been in one of your setting’s big cities to earn a spot in the military, fighting to be recognized amongst the ranks as one of the city’s protectors. Whatever the means, you have the knowledge of a battle-hardened Soldier capable of using your training in order to coordinate the rest of your partyor navigate the rather tricky bureaucracy that surrounds soldiers, mercenaries and knights.
      • Tools: Gaming Set x1, Vehicles (Land)
      • Language: None
      • Proficiencies: STR (Athletics), CHA (Intimidation)