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D&D Race Guide: How to Play a Bugbear

3 Minute Read
Oct 17 2023

You probably already know that a Bugbear character is going to be big and strong. But they’ll also give you a few key Dex boosts in battle.

Bugbears are another one of those potential player races that come directly from the Monster Manual. Because sometimes you want to play a classic hero, and sometimes you want to play a hero that looks a little like last campaign’s villain. Also, monsters are cool. This race is distantly related to goblins and hobgoblins, but they’re bigger, stronger, and a little more likely to pack a wallop.

“Bugbears rely on stealth and strength to attack, preferring to operate at night. When they’re not in battle, bugbears spend much of their time resting or dozing, and bully weaker creatures into doing their bidding. From the viewpoint of the rest of the world, their aggression and savagery are thankfully offset by their rarity and lethargy.”

Bugbear Traits

Introduced to 5E’s player-race rotation in 2016’s Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Bugbears are definitely a physical sort of character pick. They have a +2 increase to their Strength ability score as well as a +1 to Dexterity. They average between six and eight feet tall and weigh between 250 and 350 lbs, which sounds large but counts as a medium creature in D&D.

This does give them the “Long-Limbed” ability, though, giving a Bugbear character a reach 5ft greater than normal. Additionally, “Powerful Build” lets the character count as a size larger (so Large) when determining their carrying, pushing, dragging, and lifting capacity.

Darkvision gives them good vision in dim light and decent vision in darkness, while Surprise Attack deals an extra 2d6 damage if a creature is hit and surprised in the first turn of combat.


Best Classes


Right off of the bat, with increased strength and dexterity, Barbarian is an easy pick for a Bugbear character. Surprise Attack plays really well with this class too, between the Barbarian’s reckless attack and eventual feral instinct. But if you’d like to use the Dex increase a bit more, Rogue may be an interesting choice as well. Sneak attack mixed with a surprise attack could create a truly devastating first round for your enemies. When you remember your extra long reach on top of that, enemies almost don’t stand a chance. And that’s before they even knew what hit them.


Tips & Tricks

Bugbears are one of those deceptively simple player race options. It looks like they’ll be your standard fighter or barbarian strength class- and in a lot of ways they are. But they have a few bonus abilities that can make them really interesting in a fight. It’s almost too easy to forget about some of your powers and abilities at the table unless you’re the sort of player who plans out their moves in advance. And let’s be honest about how many of us actually do that…

But luckily, for the most part, Bugbears are pretty straightforward. If you think this is the pick for your next character, definitely highlight or circle your extra Bugbear-y abilities so they don’t get lost. Surprise Attack is something you can use once per combat (with a good initiative roll), so don’t forget to take advantage of that sort of stuff!


Have you played a Bugbear character? Has one ever joined your party? What class would you pick for this build? Let us know in the comments!

Happy adventuring!

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