Owlbears – DM’s Pocket Guide
Welcome to DM’s Pocket Guide, where we discuss the rules, spells, and monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, 5th edition.
Rachel: Okay, so now we’re gonna talk about Owlbears on page 249 of the Monster Manual.
Tricia: I love owlbears.
R: Yeah, they are pretty good. Fun fact about owlbears is they are a large monstrosity.
T: Oh, a monstrosity.
R: Not a beast.
T: Interesting. Yeah I definitely would have assumed that they were a beast.
R: Yeah. So this is important for druids who wish to Wild Shape into creatures. They can only Wild Shape into beasts, not into monstrosities.
T: Okay, so no druid is turning into an owlbear.
R: Yeah. And they are unaligned. They aren’t neutral, they aren’t even anything. They’re not evil, not good; they’re not chaotic. They are just unaligned. Owlbears have an armor class of 13, so pretty low. And they have 59 hit points. So kind of up there – pretty tough. You take a lot of damage. And they can move 40 feet –
T: So faster than the average character.
R: Yeah, definitely faster than level one characters, they can be outrun by an owlbear. For their individual characteristics, strength is up there with a nice +5. These things are immense hulky things. I’ll probably point out at this point that it is an owl head on a bear body, not a bear head on an owl body.
T: Yeah, they got those powerful bear limbs – so strong!
R: Yeah, and a big fierce beak. So yeah, big strength makes sense. Big body of a bear. They aren’t very smart; they’ve got a -4 for their intelligence. Not charismatic either, unsurprisingly. And just like reasonably dextrous. They get a +3 to Perception. You can imagine, like keen eyesight, keen senses.
T: They’re probably gonna see you coming.
R: Yeah, they’re gonna know you’re there.
R: They’ve dark vision up to 60 feet. So, even if it’s dark and you’re in their lair, they’re gonna know you’re there with a Passive Perception 13, which is pretty reasonable. They don’t speak any languages.
R: And they have a challenge rating of 3.
T: Okay, pretty good for early days
R: Reasonable challenge, yeah. Yeah. And the feature that they’ve got on this sheet is keen sight and smell. They owlbear has advantage on Wisdom Perception checks. They rely on sight or smell, so when they are trying to find prey – find characters – yeah, they’re gonna have an advantage on those rolls. This thing is ready to hunt things.
T: Yeah, it’s a hunter.
R: It gets a multi attack when it’s in combat. They can make two attacks, one with its beak and one with its claws.
T: Oh man, I remember this, the first time fighting an owlbear was the first time that I think a multi-attack ever happened, and it, like, blew my terrified little D&D mind, like, “It can hit twice!?”
R: Yep, it’s just weapons all over this thing. So the beak is going to do 1d10 +5 piercing damage. So this is the big chomper. They get a +7 to hit as well. So these things are pretty, pretty brutal in battle. And then its claws do 2d8, so higher average damage but probably more. Yeah, claws are what you want to be using to deal out your damage. Again +5 for the damage and then +7 to hit as well. So it does only have a melee attacks, it’s got nothing ranged.
T: Right. It’s got to get up close.
T: To bite your face off.
R: Indeed, yeah. So that’s what the stat block has to say. You’ve got kind of a picture of what this thing is like. The flavor text in the Monster Manual sort of goes on to describe these creatures as rushing into attack whatever has come into their territory. They don’t care if it’s bigger than them. If you are in its space, it is going to attack you and you will know it’s coming.
T: Yeah. They’re the barbarians of villains, of monsters. They’ll just rush right in.
R: Mmhm. Yeah. So they like hooting and screeching as they’re charging in. They’re probably thick and bulky, and they… it says they prefer, like, denser forests so that their prey doesn’t have room to escape. So you can imagine them, like, crashing through the undergrowth, like you’re gonna know when an owlbear is coming at you.
T: Yeah, I think that is important. This is not the stealthy monster. This is the, “Oh, my goodness. What is coming at us?”
R: Equally with an owlbear den, you’re also gonna know that by the smell. Apparently, these creatures drag their prey back to their den so there’s a lot of rotting carcasses around and other creatures that – the scavengers, they come in and pick through these things. So if you’re gonna have your players come across an owlbear den, there’s definitely some great flavor text in the –
T: Yeah, this is definitely the, like, intimidation creature.
R: Yeah, for sure. They typically are solitary creatures, but they do mention hunting in mated pairs.
R: But they typically only stay together as long as it takes their young to be able to hunt for themselves essentially. And we should probably talk about what happens when your party encounters and owlbear –
T: And they want to adopt them!
R: Yes. So their intelligence is pretty low. It’s a 3, which is required for any kind of, like, training or use as a mount. It is possible to do it, but it takes a lot of good rolls and probably a bunch of time to, to train your owlbear.
T: Okay. Yeah. This is not just one good Animal Handling.
R: Oh, no, no, many, many good animal handlings. And probably even after that, like, there’s always a chance that your owlbear will become unruly, and –
T: Yes, it could bite the hand that feeds it.
R: Yeah, for sure. So that goes on to sort of describe some different ways that owlbears have been used in different cultures, which is kind of cool. Like a good way to get an idea about how these creatures interact with the world, have been interacted with by the world, and then their origins are very mysterious.
R: Yeah, scholars have long debated the origins of the owlbear, and some people say that it was like a demented wizard that made this first hybrid.
T: Of course.
R: Yeah. And then some, there’s some things about a fey ancestry, or like they’ve been around for a lot longer than –
T: So you can kind of make up whatever background you want for these creatures because canonically, it is ambiguous.
R: In fact, there is a really good book that has this as a feature: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames has a whole like hunt for owlbears, and that’s definitely – I’ve heard that wizard thing from that book. Yeah, excellent. Well, that’s owlbears on page 249 of the Monster Manual.
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