Bugbears are a DnD race of goblinoid creatures. Not as smart as hobgoblins, but not as weak as goblins; they are the bullies, scouts, and shock troops. Surprisingly stealthy despite their intimidating physical stature, Bugbears are one of the most fearsome races in DnD 5e.

While typically a common enemy of players, Volo’s Guide to Everything introduced them as a playable race, and Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse tweaked their features and added additional lore.

This article will cover bugbear’s features, the best classes for a bugbear character, and common questions about bugbears in DnD 5e.

bugbear, goblin, and hobgoblin minis d&d 5e

Bugbear 5e Features

Bugbear’s four defining features are Long-Limbed, Sneaky, Surprise Attack, and Fey Ancestry. Here’s more info on each of those, as well as the details of their more basic features.

  • Long-Limbed. +5-foot range on melee attacks you make on your turn.

    Very strong for exerting greater battlefield control, and stacks with reach weapons for a potential 15-foot melee range.

    Note that this does not work for opportunity attacks, since they do not happen on your turn. Nor does it functionally work with grapple since, immediately after grappling your target when your turn is finished, the 5-foot range boost is no longer active, and therefore grapple ends (since it ends automatically when the target leaves your range).

    It does, however, function with shove attacks.

  • Sneaky. Proficiency in Stealth and the ability to move through/stop in places large enough for a Small creature.

    Stealth is always a useful skill, and the ability to fit in small places is more useful than you might think, as it’s basically all the benefits of being a small creature with none of the drawbacks. Plus, this feature still functions if you cast Enlarge/Reduce on a bugbear and make them Large.

  • Surprise Attack. +2d6 damage on attack roll hit if your target hasn’t taken a turn yet in combat. This works with all attack rolls, including spell attacks.

    Incredibly strong, and doesn’t require you to actually get a surprise round — it just requires that you beat your target’s initiative roll. This damage doubles with a critical strike and stacks really well with some subclass features (Assassin Rogue and Gloomstalker Ranger come to mind).

    Plus, this can trigger multiple times per turn if you have Extra Attack or another feature that allows you to attack more than once on your first turn, adding up to truly silly amounts of first-round damage.

  • Fey Ancestry. Advantage on saving throws against the charmed condition.

    Not all that common, but hey, Hypnotic Pattern is a powerful charm effect.

  • Ability Score Increase. +2 to one ability score and +1 to a different ability score. Or +1 to three different ability scores.

  • Darkvision. Can see in dim light normally up to 60 feet, and treat darkness as dim light in this range.

    Standard and common among DnD 5e’s races, but still nice to have. Especially if your DM is a stickler for tracking light.

  • Powerful Build. You count as one size larger for carry capacity/weight you can push/drag/lift.

    Basically a ribbon feature (neat, but not mechanically useful), since it doesn’t apply to shoves or grapples. But it might come up in one session per campaign where it makes the difference between being able to move something or not.

  • Size. Medium. Between 6-8 feet tall and 250-300 pounds.

  • Speed. 30 feet.

  • Languagees. Common + 1 of your choice.

Best Classes for Bugbear in 5e

Here are some of the best classes for a bugbear in DnD 5e:

  1. Assassin Rogue. The 3rd-level Assassinate feature grants you advantage on attack rolls against a creature that hasn’t gone yet in combat AND if you surprise a creature, it’s an automatic critical hit. These two effects pair remarkably well with bugbear’s Surprise Attack feature to give you an even more dominant first round of combat.

  2. Gloomstalker Ranger. The 3rd-level Dread Ambusher feature grants you a bonus to initiative rolls equal to your Wisdom modifier. More importantly, it allows you to make an additional weapon attack on your turn that deals an extra 1d8 damage and move +10 feet during your first turn.

    Again, these two effects are extremely effective with a bugbear’s Surprise Attack racial feature. Even better, both the Assassin Rogue and Gloomstalker Ranger get these features at 3rd-level, so you can multiclass into both and have a truly insane first round-combo by the time your character is level 6.

  3. Fighter. The two big draws of a bugbear Fighter are 1) Action Surge (+1 additional action on your turn, once per rest) and 2) Extra Attack, which Fighters get more of than any other class (albeit not until 11th-level).

    The whole idea with a bugbear is to attack as many times as possible on your first turn of combat to take advantage of the +2d6 damage per hit, and Fighter features support this goal well.

  4. Monk. While a bugbear Fighter might make more thematic sense, a bugbear Monk actually takes even greater advantage of Surprise Attack than a Fighter, pre-level 11. That’s because Flurry of Blows allows you to make two additional unarmed strikes on your turn, totaling three — more than any other class can achieve at 2nd-level, sans Action Surge.

    That’s 6d6 damage from Surprise Attack alone, before you even deal weapon damage and add modifiers.

  5. Barbarian. Reckless Attack gives you advantage on your attack roll, which heavily increases the odds of your first-round attacks landing AND doubles the odds of those attacks being critical strikes.

  6. Sorcerer. Scorching Ray is the reason to be a spellcasting bugbear — three separate attack rolls, all of which get +2d6. That’s +6d6 on an already great 2nd-level blasting spell that can be used to thin a pack of enemies or annihilate a single target.

    Plus, with Quicken Spell, you can cast an attack cantrip as well for another +2d6 damage. Throw in a Fighter’s Action Surge for a SECOND Scorching Ray, and the numbers become even sillier.

  7. Warlock. Eldritch Blast also involves multiple attack rolls at 5th+ level, meaning it can trigger Surprise Attack’s damage multiple times…on top of it already being the best damaging cantrip in the game with Agonizing Blast.

Bugbear FAQ

  1. Are bugbears considered large? No, bugbears are not considered Large — they are Medium humanoids, despite their imposing 6- to 8-foot stature.

  2. Why are bugbears sneaky? Bugbears are sneaky because of their ties to the Feywild, where they resided in hidden, hard-to-reach, and shadowed spaces. Blessed by Maglubiyet, their deity, they still retain their gift for lurking just out of sight even after coming to the Material Plane. They are quiet skulkers blessed with fey magic, despite their sizable builds.

  3. Why is a bugbear called a bugbear? A bugbear is called a bugbear because of the Middle English word “bugge,” meaning “a frightening thing,” and “bear, meaning, well, “bear.” Historically used as a story to scare naughty children, the word bugbear was at peak usage in 1868, and only started regaining popularity in the early 2000s (based on books archived on Google).

  4. Can bugbears be female? Yes, bugbears can be female or male.

  5. Can bugbears wear armor? Yes, bugbears can wear armor.