|First appearance||Greyhawk (1975)|
An owlbear (also owl bear) is a fictional creature originally created for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. An owlbear is depicted as a cross between a bear and an owl, which "hugs" like a bear and attacks with its beak. Inspired by a plastic toy made in Hong Kong, Gary Gygax created the owlbear and introduced the creature to the game in the 1975 Greyhawk supplement; the creature has since appeared in every subsequent edition of the game. Owlbears, or similar beasts, also appear in several other fantasy role-playing games, video games and other media.
In the early 1970s, Gary Gygax was playing Chainmail, a wargame that bore some precursors of Dungeons & Dragons. In order to give his players as many different challenges as possible, Gygax was always on the look-out for new monsters. Although he was able to draw on pulp fiction and sword and sorcery stories for many of them, he also looked through dime stores for figurines that could be used in battle. On one of those occasions, he came across a bag of small plastic toys euphemistically labeled "prehistoric animals". Made in Hong Kong, the set included monsters from Japanese "Kaiju" films such as Ultraman and the Godzilla franchise. Several of these were odd enough to catch his eye, and he used them to represent several new monsters, including the owlbear, the bulette and the rust monster.
The owlbear is depicted as an eight to ten foot (2.5–3 meter) tall cross between a bear and an owl. According to descriptions in Dungeons & Dragons source books, owlbears are carnivorous creatures, famed for their aggression and ferocity; they live in mated pairs in caves and hunt any creature bigger than a mouse. They use a "hug" and their beak to attack. In the game's third edition, it was categorized as a "magical beast".
The actual in-game origin of the owlbear has never been definitively revealed, but the various Monster Manual editions indicate that it is probably the product of a wizard's experiments. Within the franchise's mythology, the lich Thessalar claims to have created them, but his insanity and egomania put the accuracy of this claim in doubt. In the 5th edition, some elves claim that owlbears have existed for millennia and older fey say that they have always existed in the Feywild.
Within the Dungeons & Dragons system and in other role-playing games, the owlbear usually serves as a "monster". Within the context of RPGs, "monster" is a generic term to describe potentially hostile beings and obstacles for the players to overcome. This role is also the one the owlbear was originally designed for.
The owlbear is among the earliest monsters in Dungeons & Dragons, and, like the bulette and the rust monster, was inspired by a Hong Kong-made plastic toy purchased by Gary Gygax for use as a miniature in a Chainmail game.
Dungeons & Dragons
The owl bear was introduced to the game in its first supplement, Greyhawk (1975). It is described as a "horrid creature" which "hugs" like a bear, and deals damage with its beak. The owlbear is also listed on random encounter tables in Eldritch Wizardry, the third supplement. The illustration shows a bear-like creature on all fours, and bears no resemblance to the plastic toy that had given Gygax his original inspiration.:66
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition
The owlbear appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a "horrible creature that inhabits tangled forest regions, and attacks with its great claws and snapping beak". The illustration of the owlbear shown in the Monster Manual was done by Dave Sutherland, and closely correlates to Gygax's original plastic toy.:66
Basic Dungeons & Dragons
This edition of the D&D game included its own owl bear, in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (1981 and 1983). The owl bear was also later featured in the Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1991), the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991), the Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game set (1994), and the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game set (1999).
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition
The owlbear was detailed in Dragon #214 (February 1995), in "The Ecology of the Owlbear", which also included the arctic owlbear and the winged owlbear. These variants were later reprinted in the Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Three (1996).
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition
The owlbear appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2000).
The owlbear appeared on the Wizards of the Coast website for the Chainmail game, in 2000.
The winged owlbear in adult and juvenile form appeared in Dungeon #84 (January 2001).
The supplemental book Unapproachable East features a feat, an ability that player characters can obtain, named "owlbear berserker" that allows a player character to use a ferocious owlbear-like fighting style.
Dungeons & Dragons 3.5
The ancient owlbear appeared in Dungeon #107 (February 2004).
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition
The owlbear appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008) along with the winterclaw owlbear. The flavor text mentions that owlbears can be tamed to serve as guards.
Dungeons & Dragons Essentials
The Monster Vault boxed set contains the owlbear as well as various subtypes like the young owlbear, trained owlbear, wind-claw owlbear and again the winterclaw owlbear. The cover of the monster book included in the box and the box itself feature an owlbear alongside other monsters.
Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition
In May 2012, Wizards of the Coast employee Jon Schindehette announced that the inclusion and design of the owlbear for the upcoming fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons was being discussed.
The monster was included in the "bestiary" of the D&D Next Playtest Package, a compilation of files available for gamers interested in playtesting this Dungeons & Dragons version before its official release.
The owlbear is included in the Monster Manual of the full release of the game, published in 2014. The flavor text states that remote settlements have used owlbears for racing, and it also states the fact that owlbears are more likely to attack their tamer, than actually begin the race.
In other role-playing games
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
The owlbear is an official monster in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game that is based on Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition. It is included in the game's first bestiary, and elaborated on in Dungeon Denizens Revisited. Dungeon Denizens Revisited also includes a variant named siege owlbear. Furthermore, Paizo released a part of the series Behind the Monsters dedicated to the owlbear, which features the bearowl, the possibly "even stranger offspring" of an owlbear. Additional official Pathfinder variants of the owlbear are the arctic owlbear, Darklands owlbear, fruss owlbear, great hook-clawed owlbear, screaming owlbear, sleeyk owlbear, slime owlbear, sloth owlbear as well as the spectral owlbear.
The adventure module Pathfinder #7 – Curse of the Crimson Throne Chapter 1: "Edge of Anarchy" originally published by Paizo Publishing for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 edition under the OGL contains a taxidermic owlbear. It is a regular owlbear with the skeleton template allowing the game master to turn a regular monster into an undead one. A skeletal owlbear illustration was also done by Goodman Games artist Nick Greenwood.
Retro-clones and OSR RPGs
As only the design of a role-playing game, not the rules are protected by U.S. copyright law, it is possible for third-party publishers to release RPG systems based on the rules of Dungeons & Dragons without using the actual name or trademarks associated with the brand. These systems are referred to as "retro-clones" or "simulacra". Games not directly using rules of a Dungeons & Dragons edition but claiming to capture the style are often called Old School Renaissance (OSR) games.
The following retro-clones and OSR systems feature the owlbear as an opponent:
- Swords & Wizardry, modelled after the original Dungeons & Dragons from 1974 and published by Mythmere Games.
- Labyrinth Lords by Goblinoid Games.
- Dark Dungeons, Darker Dungeons and Darkest Dungeons (later renamed Blood, Guts and Glory) by Gratis Games all include the owlbear in their bestiary.
- OSRIC, a system emulating Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
- Mazes & Perils, inspired by the 1977 Holmes version of Dungeons & Dragons.
- Adventurer Conqueror King by Autarch.
- Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games.
- In Basic Fantasy, the owlbear appears together with the fire-breathing owlbear.
- Microlite74 Basic, Standard and Extended all have owlbears as monsters.
- For Gold & Glory, emulating Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition.
- Castles & Crusades by Troll Lord Games.
- Burning THAC0, a variation of The Burning Wheel.
A male half-owlbear, half-blue dragon hybrid named Dragore is featured as an antagonist in the Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 supplement Foul Locales: Beyond the Walls by Mystic Eye Games.
Later on, Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game was renamed World of Warcraft: The Roleplaying Game. This edition's Monster Guide, equivalent to the Manual of Monsters, includes the owlbear-like "wildkin" described as a benign creature and associated with the game's Night Elf faction. A larger and more ferocious subtype listed is the "owlbeast".
A third-party Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition quick reference card for the owlbear has been published as part of a series of Monster Knowledge Cards.
The owlbears appears in the HackMaster 4th edition Hacklopedia of Beasts Volume VI and the HackMaster 5th edition Hacklopedia of Beasts. Variants included are the lesser owlbear, great horned owlbear and the spotted owlbear.
The HackMaster adventure module Little Keep on the Borderlands features owlbears as enemies and an owlbear on the cover.
In video games
Dungeons & Dragons-licensed games
Several video games based on Dungeons & Dragons feature the owlbear:
- The owlbear appears as a regular enemy in the arcade beat 'em up Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom as well as in its sequel Shadow over Mystara. The games were later re-released in a bundle for the Sega Saturn as the Dungeons & Dragons Collection.
- As of update 19, the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online (originally released as Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach) contains owlbears as combat foes and hireling pets.
- The owlbear makes an appearance in Dungeons & Dragons Tactics for the PlayStation Portable.
- Owlbears appear in Curse of the Azure Bonds, Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures and Neverwinter Nights, which are all part of the so-called Gold Box series of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons video games by SSI. Some or all of these titles are also included in a number of collected editions of Gold Box games.
- The owlbear is a regular opponent in Dungeons & Dragons: Warriors of the Eternal Sun, which was developed for the Sega Genesis by Westwood Associates in 1992.
- The owlbear is an epic rarity ridable mount in Neverwinter.
Adaptations of the owlbear appear in the Warcraft universe in several forms:
- Non-player characters known as "wildkin" appear in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion The Frozen Throne. Variants are the enraged wildkin and berserk wildkin. The actual term "owlbear" is only used in Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its manual, and not used in its expansion.
- The MMORPG World of Warcraft contains a variety of owlbear-like creatures named "wildkin", mostly as NPCs. The alternative term "owlkin" is used of wildkin living in the fictional Ammen Vale. A variant is the mutated owlkin. A more powerful wildkin is the owlbeast, with deranged owlbeast and raging owlbeast being subtypes. Some wildkin are also called "moonkin", which is also a creature players of the druid class can transform into. A quest for players with the druid class involves defeating a moonkin named Lunaclaw.
- Owlbears can be found in the roguelike computer games NetHack, and ADOM. It also appears in the text-based MMORPG BatMUD.
- The owlbear is an opponent in the Famicom game The Quest of Ki, a puzzle-platformer from the Babylonian Castle Saga released exclusively in Japan.
- In Wildtangent's FATE, owlbears are enemies in the game's first version. However, they were replaced by a similar monster called a shrike.
- Owlbears appear as mobs in the MMORPG EverQuest: The Shadows of Luclin in nineteen variants. They are also featured in its sequel EverQuest II. Here, variants include the ash owlbear, cinder, pawcrusher and foulfeather as well as female and elder owlbears.
- The online collectible card game Legends of Norrath based on EverQuest features an ash owlbear card.
- An enemy named "owl bear" appears early into the Master System game Phantasy Star. It resembles an eyeball with bat wings, however, and is called "devil bat" in the original Japanese version.
- The owlbear is a monster in the 1992 SNES game Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride by Enix (later Square Enix). The monster is also included in the later remakes for the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo DS Additionally, the Nintendo DS version features a stronger, purple variant called growlbear.
- In the PlayStation 2 game Wild Arms 5, the owlbear appears as a common enemy.
- Tales of Destiny II for the PlayStation 2 features owl bears (オウルベア in the Japanese original).
- Owlbears appear as enemies in the game, Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis.
- There are also owlbears as enemies in Final Fantasy XII. The Japanese original uses the term "owlbear", whereas the English localisation calls the creature "urstrix".
- Owlbears are the protagonists of the 2011 browser game Owlbear Garden.
- The owlbear is featured on a "monster card", a gameplay element in the MMO Kingdom Conquest by Sega.
- The online game Kingdom Quest by Funzio features owlbears as opponents.
- Another MMO, Lineage, includes owlbears with various levels of strength as well as a variant named "valley owlbear".
- In the PlayStation 3 game Dragon's Crown, owlbears appear as a mob.
- Owlbears appear in the roguelike game Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead as a dangerous enemy
In other media
- The owlbear was card #107 of 750 in the 1991 TSR trading cards factory set, and card #117 of 495 in the 1993 TSR trading cards factory set.
- The Harbinger set, the first set of miniatures for the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game, a collectible miniatures game, has an owlbear miniature. The Blood War set has monster named owlbear ranger. The Against the Giants set includes a furious owlbear.
- In 2012, Wizards of the Coast released a new version of the 1975 adventure board game Dungeon! which features owlbears as opponents.
- Also released in 2012 by Wizards of the Coast, the game Lords of Waterdeep features a quest card called "domesticate owlbears".
- The owlbear was depicted in the webcomic The Order of the Stick, where it was presented as a pointless cross between an already dangerous creature (a bear) and a harmless animal (an owl).
- A creature called a "nightripper" appears in Sagard the Barbarian #2: The Green Hydra game book by Gary Gygax. The nightripper is described and illustrated as a bear with an owl's head but with talons for forepaws. An illustration of it can be found prefacing section 12: The Kingdom Of Darkness.
- In Tabletop, the owlbear often pops up in the background or even as a censoring cover image during season two, from the "Lords of Waterdeep" episode onward. Beginning in season three, the owlbear also appears to point out when gameplay does not match the official rules.
- In Douglas Niles' novel, Darkwell, an owlbear is born from the putrid Darkwell, as a child of Bhaal as a sin against nature.
Chris Sims of the on-line magazine Comics Alliance referred to the owlbear as "the second-greatest monster in the history of D&D". Dave Chalker from Critical-Hits.com, a RPG blog which won the Ennie Gold 2011 Ennie Award for Best Blog, recommended the use of the owlbear as a monster. Rob Bricken from io9 named the owlbear as the sixth most memorable D&D monster.
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