A Brown Bear in the real world is considered an Apex predator. A Grizzly or Kodak, in particular, is at the top of their game. They have been used by many figures in pop culture, such as the ridiculously over-the-top Baki, as a test of a warrior’s strength.
That’s the real world; in the world of the Forgotten Realms, could a Grizzly Bear hope to stand up against an adventurer?
In DnD, you have a world that is absolutely sprawling with fantastic beasts, all given a mind-boggling amount of lore. So you would be forgiven for thinking a Grizzly Bear has little room in your Dungeons and Dragons campaign.
I would like to argue that they have many narrative merits. Particularly early on as a comparison between real-world horrors and those that will await them.
Welcome to a Brown Bear 5e Guide.
Brown Bears, Ferocious yet Fluffy
The brown bear is the second most powerful natural animal in the Monster Manual and DMs Guide that you are likely to encounter. the Polar Bear wins by one point. At 19 strength, a Brown Bear shows what peak strength a ‘monster’ of the natural realm poses.
A Brown Bear might seem innocuous, but they hold two significant purposes in a DM campaign. The first is a comparison of threats. It is easy enough to say something is strong or more substantial than a bear.
However, having the party face a Grizzley rather than a bunch of basement rats is a far better show of what damage dice are supposed to portray.
Their second purpose is to be used as support by a party capable of it. DMs discretion is what allows for a party companion.
However, a Druid’s Wild Shape and the Druid/Ranger spell Conjure Animals can enable a party to extensively use one of nature’s mightiest predators.
- Brown bears prefer to be left to their own devices.
- Brown bears typically hunt during the day but start hunting nocturnally near civilization.
- Brown bears are omnivores but favor hunting methods that conserve energy.
- A brown bear hunts and eats a significant amount to conserve energy for hibernation when resources are scarce.
- The 3rd level Druid/Ranger spell, Conjure Animals, will allow a player to summon two bears, with more at higher spell slots.
- At 8th level, a Druid can use Wild Shape to transform into a bear.
- Brown Bears are the most muscular real-world beast next to Polar Bears. At least, going by DnD stat blocks.
- Bears represent immense strength, but they also represent natural wisdom and motherly protection.
- Bears are adorable, but that does not mean they find humanity charming.
- Werebears exist. They are generally gentle giants.
Brown Bear Statblock
- Unaligned Beast (Large)
- CR 1 (200 XP)
- Passive Perception 13
- AC: 11 Natural Armor
- Hit Points: 34 (4d10+12)
- Speed 40 feet. 30 feet if climbing.
- Str: 19 (+4)
- Dex: 10 (0)
- Con: 16 (+3)
- Int: 2 (-4)
- Wis: 13 (+1)
- Cha: 7 (-2)
- Skills: Perception +3
- Keen Smell: The bear’s sense of smell is its most robust predatory feature. Therefore, an advantage is given to Perception Checks relying on scent.
- Multiattack: The bear makes one bite and one claw attack in a single turn.
- Roll to Hit: 5
- Range: five feet, single target.
- Hit: 8 (1d4+4) piercing.
- Roll to Hit: 5
- Range: five feet, single target
- Hit: 10 (2d6+4) slashing
Brown Bears are one of the largest predators in the real world. On average, they grow 7 to 8 feet tall with 700 to 800 pounds of mass.
They are found commonly found in forested areas, particularly along fish-laden waterways. Bears are omnivores with a varied diet allowing them to thrive just about anywhere fruit and small mammals will thrive.
For this reason, adventurers should be wary of rivers and camps lacking proper food storage.
While a brown bear does get an included climbing speed, they will do this more out of curiosity or laziness rather than offense or defense. While capable of climbing, Brown Bears tend to just prefer not to.
Black Bears are more well known for exploring the upper brush thanks to their smaller bodies, but a brown bear is more likely to attempt to push a tree over.
Should a target scale up a tree, the brown bear might consider it, but they are more likely to wander off to find something easier to hunt.
Energy conservation is critical to a Brown Bear, after all. Their massive bodies mean climbing a tree after prey might just be a net loss, and brown bears don’t get the time for red ink in their margins.
Besides mating, bears prefer a solitary existence. The only genuine social bonds are between a mother bear and her cubs, who she will aggressively protect with her life.
Most violent encounters with a brown bear involve cubs being protected or their personal space being encroached.
Bears will roam and hunt around their chosen hibernation cave in an area considered their territory. However, brown bears usually only aggressively contest their personal space rather than the overall environment.
The size of their hunting territory typically relies on the food resources available.
A coastal area with abundant fish and edible vegetation will likely have bears spread out in territories of 80 square miles/200 sq kilometers.
On the other hand, bears in climates with scarce resources, such as a Tundra, will cover a territory of an estimated 3000 square miles/ 8000 sq kilometers.
Among feral predators, Bears are surprisingly intelligent hunters. While their intelligence score may be low, their curiosity is shown through their 13 wisdom, outmatching many commoners across the forgotten realms.
While in an area with zero or minimal civilization, brown bears typically prefer to hunt in the early hours of the day.
However, should a human settlement or increased humanoid activity be found near their hunting territory, the brown bear will favor the twilight and night hours.
These habits may vary thanks to the unique weather patterns that can be found across the magical forests and landscapes of the Forgotten Realms. In the real world, a Bear can survive despite having a high required calorie intake thanks to its intuitive ability to hibernate.
Even in the wilderness of Earth, Brown Bears of certain regions will be active throughout the year, including winter seasons. This is based on resources.
Throughout the productive seasons, a bear will accumulate excess energy through its high-calorie diet, gaining as much if not more fat as it has muscle.
When winter, or similarly scarce seasons for the fantasy regions, brown bears will hunker down in a safe spot, often deep underground caves or caverns.
A hibernating bear will lower its body temperature, pulse rate, and respiration to sap out as much energy as possible from the fat accumulated when resources and temperatures are high.
As such, adventurers will require a higher perception check to notice a hibernating bear coiled up in the corner of a dungeon instead of a napping bear. However, the hibernating bear is significantly harder to wake up for the same reasons.
Ancient mythology is loaded with stories and more profound meanings surrounding bears. All of which can load a Player or DM with inspiration.
Our ancestors have long held deep respect towards the motherly protection, tree-shaking strength, and curious wisdom the bear harbors. This makes them a fan favorite familiar of countless Rangers, Druids, Forest Paladins, Neutral deities, and beastmasters.
A mother bear protecting its cubs is a force of nature comparable to a forest fire.
As such, bears often represent motherhood. The female’s fierce protective instinct has inspired countless myths. Goddesses connected with bears often hold protection in their divine portfolio, with their followers comparing the security they are given to a momma bear and her cubs.
To that same end, the male bear’s solitary nature does not keep it from being considered a protector. Male deities with bear themes usually favor aspects of hunting or stealth.
Protection often focuses on the guardian’s strength rather than their instinctual need to protect under their teachings.
Civilizations continually attributed wisdom with equal measure to a bear. Their curious nature and habit of dipping out the moment they see a humanoid gives the impression of a judgmental forest spirit more than a predator.
This wisdom would usually lean toward stealth and hunting, with a powerful blow waiting in the darkness.
This wisdom and physical strength often combine to embody medicine used in natural settings.
For example, healing Deities will often commune with their followers through the guise of an otherworldly brown bear. In addition, forest clerics and priests will often use the fur and iconography of the brown bear for their uniforms.
Sadly, the bears’ personal space problems have caused their reputation to sour in the modern era.
In the natural world, Bears cover a vast territory. So it stands to reason that in a world full of mind-stealing evils, Bears will appear as unexpected foot soldiers to more than one type of creature in the Forgotten Realms.
Thanks to the solitary nature of a bear, these groups will usually only have one bear. Potentially, and most dangerously, a mother bear with two cubs.
- Bugbears often create encampments around bear caves. It is not uncommon to see these camps having befriended the bear leading to one rushing to the aid of the other.
- Annis Hags often make minions of hulking forest creatures. While this typically includes ogres and trolls. Bears have become transfixed to the point that they will ignore their typical solitary actions. The Annis Hag also finds their discomfort in being around other bears entertaining.
- Fey, at least those that the root systems respect, are protected by nature to the point they are an exception to the singular bear (or mother bear family pod) behavior. An ArchFey or Powerful Fey in magic or sway will often charm the protection of the forest to their side.
- Druids 8th LVL and up can use Wild Shape to transform into a bear.
- Magic-Users capable of casting 3rd-level spells with access to the Druid and Range spell sheet can summon Fey Spirits to fight for them in the bodies of animals such as brown bears.
Related read: Bugbear 5e Guide.
Fantasy Brown Bear
The Brown Bear has inspired storytellers to create new and exciting monsters since humans first hit the hunting and gathering stage of evolution.
So, of course, we are gonna have a couple monsters that act as a ‘brown bear plus.’
A Dire Bear is the massive 12-foot-long and ground crumbling 8,000-pound ancestor of the Forgotten Realms’ brown bear. They hold faintly demonic features such as horns and scaled skin. In a sense, they act as the next tier of the bear after the Polar Bear.
- Dire bears have an increased damage threshold and can perform one bite and two claw attacks per turn.
- It gets an advantage on Con saves towards exhaustion
- Dire Bears gain 2 extra hit points per hit die.
- Most threateningly, all their physical traits take a massive jump. Str 22, Dex 12, and Con a staggering 20.
All in all, they are larger and far deadlier than a typical bear. Where a brown bear will only conservatively eat a human, Dire Bears are large enough to consider a human an efficient food source.
As its name implies, an owlbear is a creature like a brown bear in build but with a giant owl head instead of the typical mammalian one. Its beak is serrated, simulating a bear’s fangs, and its coat is a thick mixture of fur and feathers.
In regards to monster creation, an Owlbear further helps you get an idea of how changes and upgrades to existing monsters reflect on the stat block. To help clarify, its strength is now relative to a Polar Bear. However, the Owlbear has slightly better dexterity stat-wise.
The significant differences between a Brown Bear, Polar Bear, and Owl Bear, stat-wise, are as follows. I have included the Polar Bear as the real-life creature with the same strength stat of 20.
- The creature is overall physically stronger at 20 strength. The stand-out physical differences are shown in its modifiers. It now has a +5 to Str and +1 to Dex. Its mental stats are not notably different. A brown bear is +4, +0 for comparison.
- Its new owl eyes have given it 60-foot dark vision and now have an advantage on sight & scent as opposed to only smell.
- It has lost its ability to climb, but its movement speed is the same. No, it cannot fly.
- Its chance to hit has upgraded to +7, accounting for its increased agility and a higher predatory instinct.
- Finally, its Beak does 10 (1d10+5) while its claws now do 14 (2d8+5). This is accounted for by an Owlbear being more physically imposing.
Player’s Deadly Helper
Pets and companions are a matter to take up with your DM, but at CR 1, a bear is a reasonable creature to pester your DM about. However, should you be a higher-level party, a Dire bear is Cr 5. It can also easily pull a wagon should you pepper it with love and treats.
I suggest feeding your Dire bear companions goblins. A party’s warmth and constant resources will discount their need to hibernate. However, this will prove a dietary risk should they eat like they are planning to hibernate.
Should your DM nix the idea of a party pet, there are a couple of options for the bear fanatics. Be wary of this first one, though. Making deals with fey can have peculiar results.
The Conjure Animals spell is a 3rd level spell available to the Ranger and Druid spell lists. You get a set amount of creatures that can be buffed up using higher spell slots.
Rather than beasts, fey spirits are conjured, which take on the form of a beast you have seen. At the base slot, these fey spirits can take on the form of two brown bears, which make excellent tanks and damage dealers, and can help distract enemies while either the Ranger or Druid takes their shot.
Druidic Wild Shape
Wild Shape allows a druid to transform into a creature they have seen before, with a CR limit based on the Druid’s level.
Brown Bears come into play when the Druid reaches 8th LVL, allowing them to use Cr 1 creatures such as the Brown Bear. If a druid is lacking in their strength class, their bear form might just do the trick.
A druid using Wild Shape will keep their skills, personality, and alignment. Their Int, Con, and Wis scores will stay the same while their physical attributes will change to the chosen beast.
Their Hit Dice and Hit points will match that of the beast. Upon reverting, the Druid will return to the HP they had before transforming. Still, if they are forced to convert back by being knocked to zero, they will have to remove the difference in damage from their current HP.
DM’s Strength Meter
A Brown Bear and a Polar Bear help a DMing visualize what the stat difference between a Strength 19 and a Strength 20 actually IS. A brown bear is physically imposing and carries the 19. Still, a polar bear is widely considered one of the fiercest living Mammals and handles the tundra.
Both help a DM think up the varying save descriptions, advantages, and disadvantages of your barbarian player’s sudden increase to a strength of 18.
Additionally, using the predators that live among us in the real world helps us better think up how to describe the outlandish and fantastic once both are put onto the same playing field with the same stats.
To that end, a Gorilla is counted as an ape. However, it isn’t a ‘giant ape‘ based on its stat’s size category of ‘huge.’ I have yet to see a gorilla that takes up nine squares. That means, comparatively, the strength of a gorilla is 16.
A 19 on your player’s piece of paper is just a number. Your descriptions of their feats being performed with the strength of a bear with stats to back it up, however, mean much more.
Question: Where do Animals Like Brown Bears Go when they Die in DnD 5e?
Answer: In the outer planes, between the Neutral Good Elysium and the chaotic good Arborea, lies the conflicted alignment of the Beastlands.
It is not quite Neutral nor chaotic; it is merely natural wild. Any natural spirit in the ecosystem across all the Planes will end up here upon death.
Animals that have their spirit transcend into the Beastlands, one way or another, will find their stats have increased. Most notably, their intelligence will rise.
Some animals found in the Beastlands are actually worshippers of its gods. Upon coming to the Beastlands, these humanoids take on the form of an animal that closely matches their personality.
Question: What is the Deadliest Bear in the Real World?
Answer: A Grizzley Bear is bar-none considered the deadliest. While a good chunk of the reason comes from its physical prowess, the highly aggressive nature of a Grizzley Bear is what makes them so lethal.
Brown bears are typically less willing to back down or flee, but a Grizzley, in particular, will make sure you are dead. The more aggressive or dangerous to act towards a Grizzley, the more likely it will call your bluff and end this hubbub by eating the problem’s face.
Question: Surely, You didn’t Find Any Weird DnD Lore Involving Bears?
Answer: Ohohoh! I always can find weird lore! In Champions of Valor (3.5), a unique NPC is one of the only named Werebears I could find.
Bakar Hispul is an Ogre raised by druids capable of turning into a WereBear. Little lore is given, but he has three stat blocks. Being an ogre, he was classified as a dire werebear.
A Bear might lack the tricks and magics of fiends blessed by godly power like the Abishai. However, it is still massively stronger physically. It might not have a dragon’s breath weapons and resilience, but it holds more muscle than a guard drake.
A brown bear might not be as intimidating as a demon, but a brown bear does not just exist in the Monster Manual.
Any beast with stats nearing twenty is becoming on par with champions of the gods. Sure, plenty of beasts in the Forgotten Realms go over it.
For example, a deity-level being such as Demogorgon has a terrifying 29. But, nothing matches the power of an angry bear when it comes to a statue of true strength in our natural world.
Be sure to keep your food packed up. How embarrassing would it be to be an adventurer taken out by a brown bear in a world full of fiends, fey, and fables?
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