Owlbear 1st Edition
Owlbear art from the first monster manual.

Owlbears have long been a popular monster in Dungeons and Dragons.  You can find them in the Monster Manual and the Basic Rules. They have a provenance that stretches all the way back to the beginning of the game. It has gained renewed notoriety as the Wild Shape of choice for Doric in Dungeons and Dragons, Honor Among Thieves. These monsters were originally based on cheap plastic figurines that Gary Gygax bought to use in wargaming. 

Let’s take a look at the stat block:

What Makes Them Winners?

Owlbear, 3rd Edition
A 3rd edition owlbear

The owlbear is a Monstrosity. This creature type is a bit of a catch-all, but typically refers to creatures that are unnatural creations.  In 5e lore, these creatures are both said to have been the creation of wizards, using magic to hybridize giant owls and bears.  The Monster Manual states that elves have had a long relationship with owlbears and that they are natives of the feywild.

I think the popularity of the owlbear lies in our cultural understanding of the two creatures this monster is mashed up from.  People love owls and bears, but also recognize them as powerful predators.  When this portmanteau of a being crashes out of the woods and into an encounter with PCs, the DM doesn’t have to spend a lot of time spelling out what this creature does.  That said, it’s unique enough that it feels like a distinctly fantasy being.

Using Owlbears in Your Game

Owlbear, 5th Edition.
And the owlbear art from the 5e Monster Manual.

Of course, you could always just but one of these monstrosities in a good old, stand-up fight.  If the players need a little help with the fight, set the combat in a place with narrow pillars.  An owlbear is large, and so narrow passages with cause it to have to squeeze.  This slows down it’s movement and gives the players advantage on attacks against it. 

People love owlbears, so consider making them non-combatants.  They can be used as mounts or guard dogs. An owlbear cub might make a nice pet for your party.  Just remember, they are dangerous critters, so there will always been some risk involved in interacting with them. It’d be a shame if the party brought that owlbear into an inn and it mauled someone.

Stop by the magic item store for item prices you can use in your games.


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