Bugbear Race Guide for D&D 5e

Learn about the goblinoids known as Bugbears

Bugbears are large, hairy beasts with the stealth of a cat. They are goblinoids and related to their smaller, less savage cousins; goblins, having their origins in the feywild as well. Bugbears are generally known for their long-limbs and their savagery in combat making them excellent melee combatants. Along with this savagery though, is an adeptness when it comes to sneaking and skulking around, often dealing large amounts of damage when surprising an enemy in attack.

Bugbears were first introduced to D&D 5e as a playable race in Volo’s Guide to Monsters and have since been updated in Monsters of the Multiverse. Our guide will tell you everything you need to know to play as these skulking goblinoids.

What are Bugbears?

Bugbears are neither related to bugs or bears and share little in common with either of these creatures. They are instead goblinoids, related to goblins and hobgoblins, but larger, tougher and hairier than Goblins and lazier and less disciplined than Hobgoblins. Bugbears were created by the goblinoid god Maglubiyet with the intention of conquering in his name While some conquests did happen, Bugbears generally lack the motivation for sustained warfare, preferring to operate more subtly (or sleepily), despite their large and intimidating frame.

Bugbear appearance


Bugbears share goblinoid features like pointed ears fangs and an angular face, but they’re considerably taller, dwarfing even the size of an average Human as they stand at about 6-8ft tall. Bugbears are quite hairy too, especially by goblin standards as goblins have no body hair whatsoever. Despite a large and muscular frame, Bugbears are surprisingly flexible and limber and are capable of squeezing through spaces only much smaller creatures could ordinarily get through.

This imposing stature paired with cat-like stealth has earned Bugbears the honour of being the bogeymen of D&D as they could sneak up on you while you sleep without you ever noticing!

Bugbear Personality

Bugbears make strong warriors and do enjoy fighting. Unlike Tritons or Leonin though, they lack honour in battle and prefer to skulk about in the dark, granting themselves the greatest advantage they can against their enemies. However, they are not the conquering type, mainly because they’re too lazy to bother. Bugbears enjoy a good long snooze over most other activities. Bugbears are also notorious bullies and will rarely pick a fight with an enemy that appears tougher than they are. Instead, they choose to pick on smaller, weaker creatures and force them to do their bidding with a icked sense of humour.

Bugbear Names

Bugbears tend to have simple, 1-3 syllable names and rarely adopt surnames, and when they do, it will be as an association with a group or gang.

Most Bugbear names are made up of guttural noises like the following: Blogus, Bulkar, Grol, Diggonn, Rirgonn, Ghar, Vath Vun, Ghurk, Stun, Thergimkk, Chragork

How to play as a Bugbear

If you choose to play as a Bugbear, you’ll likely want to lean into the idea that Bugbears are exceptionally lazy. If a Bugbear can pass off some task or work that it doesn’t want to do on someone else, then it will. Bugbears are cunning too so will use all sorts of tactics to do so. When speaking with races Bugbears perceive as weaker, they’ll tend to bully them about and get them to do their bidding. If a creature is larger than a Bugbear, then they will tend to avoid confrontation at all.

This bullying nature is also something to lean into. Bugbears are quite happy intimidating others both physically and verbally and are happy to make jokes at the expense of another. While this might make for a difficult travelling companion, Bugbears are excellent combatants and will roar into action with a burst of energy when required to. Their cunning in combat is also something of great use to adventuring parties.

Bugbear Features in 5e

Ability Scores+2 to one ability score and +1 to another or +1 to 3 different ability scores
Creature TypeHumanoid
LifespanAbout 80 years
TraitsDarkvision, Fey Ancestry, Long-Limbed, Powerful Build, Sneaky, Surprise Attack
Book found inMordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, Volo’s Guide to Monsters, Eberron: Rising from the Last War

If you want to play as a Bugbear, your character will have the following traits and abilities:

Bugbear Traits

Darkvision – You are able to see up to 60ft in darkness as if it’s dim light and in dim light as if it were bright light, though can only do so in shades of grey.

Fey Ancestry – You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed.

Long-Limbed – When making a melee attack on your turn, your reach is 5 feet longer than it would normally be.

Powerful Build – You can count yourself as one size larger than you are when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag or lift.

Sneaky – You are proficient in the stealth skill. In addition, you can move through spaces that are only large enough for a small creature.

Surprise Attack – If you hit a creature with an attack roll, the creature takes an extra 2d6 damage if it hasn’t taken a turn yet in the current combat.

Which classes work well for Bugbears?

As the most recent version of Bugbears can be found in Monsters of the Multiverse which allows you to distribute ability score increases wherever you like, the main thing to consider when picking a class for your Bugbear is which traits work well with each class. The main traits for a Bugbear are Long-Limbed and Surprise Attack which both serve to help in combat.

Best classes for Bugbears

Long-Limbed is very handy in melee combat (not so much for ranged classes) as it adds an extra 5ft to your reach when attacking in melee combat (if you have a reach weapon, that gives you a reach of 15ft)! This is obviously very handy; if you’re a tank character, then you’ll be able to reach enemies that might usually be out of range, if you’re a less tough melee class (like a monk or a rogue), then you can attack and remain out of range of opportunity attacks when moving away from an opponent. This means rogues can use their bonus action for other things than just disengaging all the time. It’s worth noting though that this extra range on melee attacks is only available when attacking on your turn so opportunity attacks don’t benefit from the extra range.

Surprise Attack is also very potent. You add 2d6 when hitting an enemy that hasn’t had a turn in combat yet. This means you can deal some really hefty damage in the first turn. This is great for any class at low levels but only really scales at higher levels if you gain extra attacks (as each attack that hits will receive an extra 2d6 damage). You can get around this to an extent by dual-wielding which will give you an extra attack to throw into the mix. It’s worth bearing in mind though that this only works against enemies that haven’t already had a turn so you’ll want to boost your dexterity to gain advantage of this ability.

Bugbears also get a few other useful abilities like Darkvision, Sneaky and Fey Ancestry which give you little benefits like advantage against being charmed, proficiency in stealth, the ability to move through small spaces and the ability to see in the dark.

With this in mind, the following are the best classes to use for a Bugbear:

  • Barbarian
  • Fighter
  • Monk

Monks and fighters get more attacks than any other class so can deal huge amounts of damage in the first turn with Surprise Attack. Fighters can work as dexterity builds too though monks are a more natural fit for optimising dexterity to improve your initiative. Barbarians get an extra attack which isn’t as well optimised as Fighters and Monks, but Reckless Attack gives you advantage on attack rolls making those hits more likely to land. Barbarians also need good dexterity anyway so are more likely to attack early.

There’s a case to be made for rogues, rangers and paladins here as rogues can stay out of harms way with their long limbs and still attack. Paladins and rangers do get an extra attack too and paladins in particular will benefit from those long limbs when trying to reach their targets. Other melee based subclasses do fairly well like battle smiths, college of sword and college of valor bards and hexblade warlocks for instance.

Worst classes for Bugbears

Clerics are probably the worst option for Bugbears. They’re not bad but typically have low dexterity so it’s hard to take advantage of Surprise Attack and only get one attack anyway so the impact is limited (but still useful). Long-Limbed is only good in melee combat so may be good for some clerics while some of their other abilities are stealth focused which isn’t great for the heavily armoured cleric.

Most bards will get little from being a Bugbear too, despite their high dexterity allowing them to add more to their initiative. Unfortunately, most bards only get 1 attack and stay away from melee range making Long-Limbed a little redundant. The exception here is college of swords and college of valor which do get an extra attack (dual wielding will give them 3 attacks) so some bards do fair better than others.

Sorcerors, Wizards and Warlocks will get little out of Long-Limbed and may get less from Surprise Attack than other classes however, a sorceror does have Quickened Spell so can cast an extra cantrip to get more out of your Surprise Attack.

Other playable races

Published by DM Ben

Ben is an experienced dungeon master and player who's been immersed in the D&D universe since he was a teenager over 20 years ago. When he's not writing for Dungeon Mister, Ben loves creating fiendish puzzles and devious dungeons for his players. He's an especially big fan of the Ravenloft and Dragonlance settings.