DESIGNER’S DIARY 4: BUGBEARS OF CONFLICT
Despite not being as popular as the other three races in DnD, Bugbears actually made it easy for us in terms of design. After all, while the average DnD player or DM may have quite stereotypical ideas about the others, bugbears, which we predict are less frequently used, are often dismissed as simply larger goblins. But is that the case?
If you have followed DnD since past editions, you will notice that Bugbears are a unique race. Although they share physical and cultural similarities with goblins and hobgoblins, they have many distinctive features of their own.
In the design of bugbears, the sneaky and brute characteristics should have taken the place of the martial theme of hobgoblins. Wouldn’t these still make them good fighters? Absolutely! However, even from a mechanical perspective, it provides a different perspective. Additionally, the fact that bugbears, especially when compared to smaller races, are bullies and are lazy, are notable traits. While these traits are highlighted in the default subraces, the others needed to shake up or deviate from them. So while one subrace could be lazier than usual, another could be more agile. Similarly, while one could be larger than average, another could be more delicate in physical build.
In addition to all of this, we moved away from the themes of gods or settlements that exist in subclass differentiations of other races and focused on the tribe theme, placing differences at the center. Bugbears are not as devoted to their gods as orcs, not as disciplined as hobgoblins, and not as chaotic as goblins. What could differentiate them could be something much more straightforward.
Based on this thinking, the Vulture Tribe became the default bugbear subrace. They would be sneakier and better at ambushes. They would embody the image of a bugbear caricature that you need to be cautious of. If you’re careless, they will swoop down on you, using their powers to render you helpless within seconds. The Serpent Tribe, on the other hand, was similar but with one exception! The secrecy of the Serpent Tribe would be based directly on shadows and magical abilities. They would dwell in the unreachable dark corners of the underground. Additionally, they would provide different role-playing options as cautious people bordering on paranoia.
The Wolverine Tribe presented a great opportunity to bring out the wild side of bugbears. They would be stronger, more savage, and more ruthless, with distinct advantages in combat. Unlike others, hiding wouldn’t be a priority for them. The Mammoth Tribe, on the other hand, was the opposite. They were lazy in contrast to the Wolverine Tribe’s agility. Living in more civilized places would be more appealing to them. Their most notable features would be their outgoing social structure and big bellies!
The Moose Tribe was one of the largest bugbear subraces, but their numbers were quite small. Instead of living with their own kind, they became giants who avoided risking themselves by bullying smaller tribes. The Lupine Tribe, known for their fur in the colors of the forest, became the bugbear subrace that best adapted to natural life and offered an alternative option to experience different aspects of the game.