Bugbear Guide 5e

Published on June 10, 2020, Last modified on June 9th, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the bugbear will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your bugbear. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Bugbear in 5e?

Source: Volo's Guide to Monsters

Bugbears are large Goblinoids. They are known for their vicious, antagonistic behavior. Bugbears tend to live in family groups that operate like packs of wolves, with a pack Alpha. They mainly coexist peacefully, but when moods towards the Alpha turn sour, other strong members of the clan may try to oust the Alpha and claim rule for themselves.

Bugbear 5e Traits

Ability Score Increase: 2 STR, 1 DEX a fairly rare, yet unuseful racial bonus.

Age: Reach adulthood at 16, live till 80

Alignment: Chaotic Evil

Size: Medium

Speed: 3oft Walking

Darkvision: 60ft

Long-Limbed+5 reach provides solid offensive ability. Coupled with Polearm Master and Sentinel and it becomes dangerously broken

Sneaky: Free proficiency in one of the most important skills in the game is super good.

Surprise Attack: An extra 2d6 on surprised creatures is great. Especially for Assassin Rogues.

Powerful Build:  Doubling your carrying capacity will certainly come up a fair few times in the length of a campaign.

Languages: Common and Goblin.

Bugbear 5e Subraces

Updated

In the Monsters of the Multiverse update, bugbears have received significant buffs to some of their traits and are now considered to be descended from the fey.

Darkvision: This is the same as the original bugbear.

Fey Ancestry: Advantage against being charmed and being unable to be put to sleep by magic will come in handy in some tough situations.

Long-Limbed: This is the same as the original bugbear.

Powerful Build: This is the same as the original bugbear.

Sneaky: In addition to being proficient in Stealth, bugbears can now enter spaces that would only fit a size Small or smaller creature. This can be useful for a scouting character, especially in tandem with the Stealth proficiency, but is situational and doesn’t add much to this trait.

Surprise Attack: The change to this trait is the biggest buff to the bugbear. As long as the creature you are attacking hasn’t made an attack of its own yet, you can get Surprise Attack damage on multiple attacks in a single round if you roll well in initiative and your class has Extra Attacks.

Which 5e Classes Work With Bugbear?

Artificer: Nothing here for an artificer.

  • Updated: Two artificer subclasses gain Extra Attacks, namely the Armorer and the Battle Smith, which works well with the new Surprise Attack buff. You can still Take +2 INT with your ASI so you won't be restricting your spellcasting ability either.

Barbarian: +2 STR is what Barbarians are all about. The DEX helps with AC and a free stealth proficiency is great.

  • Updated: The new bugbear is even better with the barbarian class due to the Surprise Attack update. Still take +2 STR, but now you can decide between DEX or CON for your secondary ASI.

Bard: Nothing here for a bard.

  • Updated: Two artificer subclasses gain Extra Attacks, namely the College of Swords and the College of Valor, which works well with the new Surprise Attack buff. Going early in combat shouldn't be too tough if you pick up some DEX and use your Jack of All Trades to boost up your initiative rolls.

Cleric: STR and DEX are good, but mostly wasted together. The racial traits don't work well for a class that wants to cast a lot of spells, but can work if you are more focused on weapon damage.

  • Updated: Not much has changed for cleric bugbears as they do not have Extra Attacks to take advantage of the buffs.

Druid: Nothing here for a druid.

  • Updated: The only realistic option here would be a druid focusing on Wild Shape, so the Circle of the Moon is your best bet. Several beasts offer multiattack, even as early as 2nd-level when you can turn into a brown bear, allowing you to take advantage of the Surprise Attack trait right from the start.

Fighter: +2 STR for STR-based fighters and +1 DEX for DEX-based fighters. If you are going for a STR-based bugbear build it would make sense to pump DEX and wear medium armor that doesn't grant disadvantage on Stealth checks in order to make the best use of the bugbear's racial traits.

  • Updated: With a whole load of Extra Attacks, fighters are the perfect candidate to take advantage of the new bugbear Surprise Attack mechanics. Focusing on DEX here makes sense, as you can boost your initiative really high while also making use of the Sneaky trait.

Monk: Nothing here for a monk, there are plenty of races that give a +2 DEX bonus.

  • Updated: Monks get a ton of attacks, so they will be able to take advantage of the new bugbear Surprise Attack mechanics. Monks naturally like DEX, which synergizes well by boosting your initiative and allowing you to make use of the Sneaky trait.

Paladin: The STR bonus is useful and paladins are classic Polearm Master/Sentinel candidates, making good use of Long-Limbed. The proficiency in Stealth can help your disadvantage while wearing heavy armor.

  • Updated: DEX-based paladins could be a reasonable option, though they only get one Extra Attack.

Ranger: Nothing here for a ranger.

  • Updated: Rangers only get a single Extra Attack, but they usually are DEX-based and use bows, both of which contribute to the effectiveness of Surprise Attack. Gloom Stalkers are probably the best choice as their Dread Ambusher trait allows them to boost their initiative rolls even higher.

Rogue: +1 DEX is a hard choice for Rogues, but taking the Assassin for the Assassinate trait, combined with Surprise Attack and catching your enemies by surprise can lead to mega damage even at lower levels.

  • Updated: The new bugbear is about as good as the original for rogues since they don't get any Extra Attacks. Just like most rogues, Two Weapon Fighting is very worthwhile to improve your odds of landing a Sneak Attack, and in this case, a Surprise Attack as well.

Sorcerer: Nothing here for a sorcerer.

  • Updated: Bugbear sorcerers can now take CHA, and the new Surprise Attack can be very effective with spell attacks that deliver multiple hits. You can get scorching ray at 2nd-level, which allows you to make three ranged spell attacks for 2d6 damage. With Surprise Attack, these now do 4d6 damage each bringing you up to 12d6 damage as early as level 2.

Warlock: Nothing here for a warlock.

  • Updated: Bugbear warlocks can now take CHA, and the new Surprise Attack can be very effective with spell attacks that deliver multiple hits. Eldritch Blast only gets better with Surprise Attack as you level up and gain additional attacks for each cast.

Wizard: Nothing here for a wizard.

  • Updated: Bugbear wizards can now take INT, and the new Surprise Attack can be very effective with spell attacks that deliver multiple hits. You can get scorching ray at 2nd-level, which allows you to make three ranged spell attacks for 2d6 damage. With Surprise Attack, these now do 4d6 damage each bringing you up to 12d6 damage as early as level 2.

Sources Used in This Guide

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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