May 292013

My Favorite Monsters is a showcase of some of the beautiful artwork Turbine has provided so that we have interesting things to kill.

First Edition Monster Manual versionAlthough I am filing this as part the My Favorite Monster series, the Owlbear is most decidedly NOT one of my favorite monsters. Quite the contrary, the Owlbear is about as interesting and useful as a Flumph.

It is a really stupid monster.

There is no reason for the Owlbear to exist. None. It obviously cannot occur in nature, but then most D&D monsters could not exist in nature. But other monsters serve a point; they bring something to the table, something that makes them different, something that will fool or scare or intimidate adventurers, something. Or they are historically relevant. Or drawn from common mythology and/or folklore. Something, anything, that provides a reason for their existence.

The Owlbear, on the other hand, brings nothing except a signature goofiness. Maybe that is the point? Maybe the Owlbear is supposed to be comic relief? After an evening of slaying orcs and dragons and umber hulks, the DM throws in an Owlbear for a good laugh?

First Edition Monster ManualThe Owlbear does nothing that cannot be done with a plain old regular bear. Yes, it has a dangerous bite attack, but so does a bear. Yes, it has very strong claw attacks, but so does a bear. You see where this is going right? It is a bear, but with a silly face, and somehow that silly face was enough to get the monster into the original Monster Manual. More, it was actually on the cover of the manual. I’ve helpfully highlighted the picture of the MM cover. Click it to enlarge.

I always imagined an origin story of the Owlbear where Gygax and his early D&D-playing friends are playing, informally, possibly a little inebriated. The DM, whoever it is, is describing a new type of monster when his (her?) eyes alight on a Woodsy the Owl poster. “It looks like an owl…” begins the DM. The players smirk. An owl? How completely non-fierce. Struggling, the DM casts about and sees the matching Smokey the Bear poster. ” … bear!” Yes, that sounds much more fierce. “An Owl … Bear. An Owlbear!”

Except no, it is not as funny as that. According to Wikipedia, the monster is based off of a Japanese toy that Gygax had laying around and had used as a Chainmail miniature.

But regardless of the origin, it remains a stupid monster that serves no purpose you cannot serve equally well with a regular bear. Also, it is silly. Did I mention the silly part?

After about 5 seconds of thought (and not much more than that photoshopping), I’ve come up with three new monsters that are every bit as useful as the Owlbear. Brand new to the D&D world, you can be the very first to use these soon-to-be-classics in your own campaign!

The fearsome Hyenafinch:

The fearsome Hyenafinch


The converse, a dreaded Finchyena:

The dreaded Finchyena


And my personal favorite, the bloodthirsty Snakeape:

The bloodthirsty Snakeape


Shudder. A Snakeape! Now that is a serious monster! Look at it! So bloodthirsty it can barely keep its eyes open!


πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

  9 Responses to “The Owlbear: An Intrinsically Stupid Monster”

Comments (9)
  1. Now, an owl with the head of a bear…truly frightening!

  2. I find it very funny how the owlbear can elicit such strong emotions in you Geoff (maybe you were bitten as a kid by one? πŸ˜‰ )

    But, I must also agree with you, after such compelling arguments.

  3. How about some kind of otter, with the tail of a beaver & the head of a duck! It swims, and has venomous claws! Oh, wait… πŸ˜‰

  4. Even as silly/stupid it is, It is iconic D&D, right up there with the beholder/eye tyrant. I’m glad to see them in the game. Now, where is the Tarrasque?

    • I think the quest “Stopping the Sahuagin” on Korthos should be retconned, then there could be a new “return to Korthos” quest line for epic characters with the finale as a raid to face it when its woken up & knock it back down into torpor

  5. I am NOT an Owlbear…

  6. Order of the stick has a funny strip on owlbears:

What do you think?

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