Monday 2 November 2020

My Owlbear Laboratory


One of the canonical D&D monsters and a really hard one to conceptually Goosify.

  • Things about the Owlbear;
  • I don't know if its copyrighted.
  • Its goofy as fuck .
  • I already did a version of it in FotVh as 'Imperator Ape'.
  • It doesn't seem to do anything even mildly interesting mechanically.
  • Ecologically there is almost nothing interesting.
  • Is basically - a big ferocious hyper-territorial bear.
  • Added to all this is the difficulty of making an "this instantly attacks you" encounter something for GG&G

Ok lets summon some Galaxy-Brain energy and break this one down;

All images by Scrap Princess - thanks Scrap!

Interesting things about Owls;

  • Flight.
  • Utter silence.
  • Can fly real slow too.
  • Because of the super-silence they are not waterproof, will avoid rain and can drown easily.
  • Whiteness (for barn owls) linked with death.
  • Seem to stand upright, more so than other birds.
  • Forward facing radar faces (unusually characterful for birds).
  • Dumb long legs.
  • Young ones sleep face down.
  • Fucking terrifying talons.
  • Hypersenses in the dark.
  • Nocturnal.
  • Mythic associations with death, wisdom.
  • Super soft feathers but very murdery.
  • Pose well on fenceposts and Godess shoulders.
  • Very goth.
  • Derpy in internet images - the old-school 'O Really' meme was an owl I think.
  • Puke out nuggets of dried stuff which you can collect and dissolve to retrieve the fine bones of their small prey.
  • Have a cool spooky call (though the cool-looking barn owl actually just does a screech).
  • There are small tunnel-dwelling owls that live in and around prairie dogs and native Americans used to call them the shaman of the prairie dogs.
  • HEADS ROTATE I can't believe I fogot that, can't turn their massive eyes, probably due to their size and the thickness of the optic cord piping shitloads of bandwith to their tiny brains so move their heads like periscopes.


Interesting things about bears.

  • Fucking massive.
  • Act kinda dumb.
  • Climb like motherfuckers.
  • The most dangerous thing a modern man can meet in the forest.
  • Can kill their way through most stuff.
  • Colour coded (very D&D).
  • Deep mythic associations with strength, potency, bigness, toughness, arguably a sub-association with being a bit dumb/direct.
  • This association strong enough that there are a few names which mean 'bear', like Bjorn, (so far as I know, no-one ever called their kid 'Owl'. Though it might have been cool if they did.
  • Fish for salmon.
  • Polar bears are basically bears-plus.
  • Dumb short legs.
  • Look kinda fat.
  • Very not goth.
  • Look slow but actually quite fast.
  • Like HONEY - famous for it.
  • Killed Timothy Treadwell.
  • Have to scratch their backs on trees, look derpy doing this, have favourite trees and you can tell which ones due to all the bear hairs.
  • Get in your garbage.
  • An old name for "Bear" might actually be a kenning or side-name as if you used their true name they might turn up and they were so potent and feared that you had to be real scared of them much of the time.
  • you can allegedly kill one by waiting for it to rise up on its hind feet then get a spear underneath them, then when they come down on you the spear runs them through
  • (this method seems one of those ok in principal but how the fuck do you actually do it deals).

Curious things about Owlbears

  • They are alone in their imaginary phylum - there are no colour-coded bears or "this-terrain" bears. fifty kinds of giant but only one kind of owlbear.
  • They don't have any noted interactions with any kind of monster race - no "hobgoblins ride/keep owlbears as guards" or "wizards love to have owbears patrol their gardens", they seem to be pretty much dangerous to everything all of the time.
  • No reason for them to have treasure, other than by accident - like they carried a body back and its former stuff is hanging around lost in the dirt.
  • No particular, specific reason for them to be in the adventurers way, at least any more than any other wild beast, they don't guard a special plant or love useful-to-humans areas.
  • Its just this single encounter, out in the forest, with this single creature, which is the only thing of its type.
  • And it specifically says that when it attacks it just goes the fuck at you till either you die or it does...
  • Almost the quintessence of the D&D single monster attack encounter.
  • They don't even have some bullshit mythic origin, its literally "yeah probably a wizard did it".
  • They have almost none of the particular and interesting elements of either owls or bears, they are not silent, cannot fly, do not have barn-owl radar faces, do not swivel their heads, are not nocturnal, have no hypersenses, are not goth, have no mythic associations, do not hibernate (I think), don't scratch their backs on trees, maybe they eat salmon and honey??


  • Soft, white, silent predators.
  • Nocturnal.
  • Can fly.
  • Expressive radar faces.
  • Head rotates.
  • Derpy as fuck.
  • Fucking huge, like the size of a bear.
  • Easily freaked out by loud sounds, bright lights and strange behaviours.
  • Also vulnerable to water and rain as not waterproof, can drown easily.
  • Very soft.
  • They look round but remove the feathers and they look very odd indeed.
  • Sleeps lying face down like an idiot.
  • Head rotation.
  • hibernates but randomly, stores up huge amounts of food before hibernation causing it to raid everywhere nearby, then finds some place it likes (often just a barn, attic or stable) and falls asleep there face down for who knows how long.
  • If you wake them up from this they freak the fuck out, but you can move them in a group so long as everyone is extremely quiet.
  • Silly long legs.
  • Hypersenses.
  • Cool spooky call.
  • (Or maybe a really stupid but somehow still sinister call? Like "WHOOOO WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA". This is meant to be a game for families so something the DM can do which will be fun would be nice.
  • Can kill its way through most stuff.
  • Walks like a dumb violent penguin when it finally hits the ground (an innovation on my part rather than synthesis).
  • Often flies into trees and stuff with a WHACK also houses, barns, windows, anything really.
  • Has really great taste in food, honey, salmon, cavier, mice, resteraunt bins, cooked food. 
  • Real, reaaaaal dumb.
  • Like its a terrifying apex hyper predator due to its size, supersenses and natural abilities, but the side effect is that it is a moron.
  • Like you can fool one by making mice out of honey, dressing up as a mouse, pretending to be a salmon in distress, hiring honeymice (its natural prey) to lure it. (Note to self, add 'Honeymice' to the game.)
  • If they eat a person they poop them out as one wet bag of skin and guts and also puke up a dried nugget of bones, clothes hair and shoes - to put the person back together you need to find all the wet bits and the dry nugget and bring them to a barber, or at minimum, a really good seamstress, and reassemble them.
  • Like to scratch their backs on trees, soft feathers can be collected from here, quite valuable. 


  • "Owlboar"????
  • Fowlbear??? - like a terrifying duck-headed bear?
  • barn bear???
  • Strigibjorn

These are all terrible

So, the mysterious...


(better names in comments please);

Beehives, Honeymice, resteraunts, confectioners, butchers, food delivery people and fisherment are attacked in the glaoming or the darkness by a creature of 'a terrible whiteness'. Something utterly silent, fleeting in on pale wings as quiet as the dawn.

At nights, the mysterious call of the Strigybjorn echoes through the woodlands and shadowed hills; WHOOOO WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA it cries mournfully, WHOOOO WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA WHOOOO!

The Strigibjorn, an Owl with the size, ferocity and temperament of a Grizzly Bear, and the intelligence of a cart-flattened hedgehog. Once this unearthly and untraceable creature moves into an area it preys on all nearby sources of honey, fish, truffles, picnics, caviar, fresh pizza and pie. Ghosting through the darkness in the most absolute and terrifying silence, swooping down to seize its prey in talons like scimitars and either feasting where it lands, or leaping off into the night.

The Strigibjorn flys alike unto the bumble-bee, its flappy wing arms, which seem insufficient to support its weight in flight, thrumming with increadible blurring speed, yet still with the unearthly silence of the night-haunting owl, its huge body vertical, swaying slightly with the inertia of its flight, the Strigibjorns head swivelling this way and that like a periscope.

The Strijbjorn tunnels its lair beneath a massive tree, or in some dry and sandy ground, either using its own scooping limbs or cohabiting with some other large tunnelling beast. There it lies in the wan day, huge, majestic, face down on pizza boxes like an idiot, surrounded by its own dry vomit.

As night falls, the Strigibjorn emerges to pose on a tree, hopefully one large enough to bear its weight, but as the Strigibjorn is real dumb it often lands on a wrong-sized branch, which bends or snaps off, sending the Strigibjorn to the ground.

Then it rises like a spirit into the starless dark, using its incredible hearing, smell and telescoping night vision to locate its prey; always some kind of delicious food, nothing cheap you know?

That food can be a person! But not a poor one.

After taking its prey in the darkness, slicing homeward through the air, maybe hitting barn, also possibly a tree or two, the Strigibjorn retreats to its dry tunnelled lair where it eats the prey (if it hasn't already) and then, after digesting it for most of the night, goes outside to drop a wet glutinous poo, before returning to vom up a dry nugget of bones, hair, shoes and coin.

In daylight a Strigibjorn often wakes up woozy, with a terrible itch. Unable to easily scratch itself the Strijibjorn will, (after a few attempts) roll over and get itself up, then stagger out into the wild like a murder penguin, its head rotating this way and that, eyes narrowed against the glare of the sun. Then it will locate a particular tree which it favours, and rub and roll itself against it, attempting to salve the itch. 

The Strigibjorn cannot move its eyes due to its huge tubular optic nerves, instead rotating its head around like a bottle top. If it has an itchy head it will press it against the tree trunk and rotate it, going "WHRRRRRRR ZE ZE ZE, WHRRRRR ZE ZE ZE".

The extremely soft, silent and valuable down feathers of the Strigibjorn are often left embedded in this tree, marking it. These feathers are so soft that shoes packed with them will make no sound and a pillow full of them can put anyone to sleep, even severe and cursed insomniacs

During much of the year the Strigibjorn is a threat in the dark to all, but at unknown times, (for the Strigibjorn never really knows what month or season it is, being surprised each night), the Strigibjorn decides the time has come to hibernate. It will put on weight and prepare itself for the long sleep.

Thence begins a reign of terror as the Strigibjorn goes into predatory overdrive, attempting to eat everything in its chosen territory, smashing into butchers and takeaways, eating delivery boys, stealing cheese and annihilating the populations of Honeymice.

When it has eaten enough, or just forgotten what it is doing, the Strigibjorn will decide that the time to hibernate is NOW and will lay facedown somewhere dry to sleep it off. Though not necessarily anywhere out of the way, it might be a stable, your bedroom, your attic or shed, the post office, an aunts house, who knows?

The Strigibjorns hibernation will last for an unknown period of time. The creature can be moved out of the way, but this must be done VERY CAREFULLY, by several people with slender poles either stretchering it out or putting a bag over its head and carefully and softly, and QUIETLY, rolling it.


The creature has few weaknesses. One is its incredible stupidity, though this is as much a threat as a weakness. Another is water, for the Strijibjorns stealthy feathers are not waterproof at all. It will flee from rain, can easily drown if forced into deep water and drenching it makes it look utterly crazy and severely limits its flight capacities.

For those eaten by the Strijibjorn, there is a slim hope. If someone can invade the creatures lair and locate exactly the right death nugget, and can also find the wet pooping place outside and find most, or even all of the victims wetter elements, they can return to town and dissolve the nugget, revealing the bones, teeth, hair, clothes, cash and socks.

Then, perhaps, a seamstress of incredible skill, a great barber or a Possible Witch could sew the victim back together, with varying degrees of success and horrorfication, depending on the amounts recovered, how well they were assembled, what they ended up being stuffed with and the size of their stitches.


  1. In a Google search I found this:

    A few of them are interesting. The one I found most interesting, that didn't include a citation, but that Gygax may have been inspired by a kaiju toy.

    Also, owlbear martial arts style!

    1. For a list of interesting owlbear facts its kind of hilarious that very few of them are actually interesting. Like; "5th Edition has however created some doubt on this origin. The Monster Manual makes mention of that Elves claimed that Owlbears have existed for millennia and some of the Fey claimed that Owlbear has always existed in the Feywild" - crylaughingemoji.

      It hurts my heart a little to see how fucking hard Pathfinder tries sometimes, like "you like owlbears kids? How about a SLIME owlbear! Chaos owlbear? SIEGE owlbear?

    2. I would fuck with any of those tho 0.o...

      Siege owlbear makes me think of Russian military bears, except it's got a magitech cyborg laser cannon on it's back and a bejeweled exoskeleton like that old rhino drawing...

  2. Owlbrute, Trowll, Brurid, Owl-beast, Glaucles (crude attempt at making the greek " heroic owl" )

    1. All terrible both of you, though no more or less terrible than my idea.

  3. I have a lot of joy reading this. Imagining Sovomedved sleeping face down amidst a towering piles of empty pizza boxes is very fun.

    1. Thanks K. Sovomedved is an unusually beautiful name.

  4. Impressive — I would’ve just gone with the basic “combine two animals into a chimera and act like it is obviously the scariest thing ever”, like Frogtigers or something.

  5. Or it's an Owlear, spouting nonsense poetry and being somewhat awkward and overstaying their welcome...

    I've always thought of them as giant carnivourous sloths, but mistaken as owl/bear mixes in the dark.

    But giant bumbling flying bears is nice.

  6. Speaking of owl-like names, "Сава / Савва" is an archaic name that means 'old man, wise man' and it sounds extremely similar to "сова" (which is owl), although it is, probably, a coincidence

  7. Speaking of bear names, Beowulf = 'Bee-wolf' = 'Bee hunter' = Bear. Or maybe it means 'Battle-wolf' who cares. I also like the idea of owls being shamans of the prairie dogs. Maybe owlbears are shamans of bears?

    I also also like the idea of a frontier town living in perpetual fear of the lone owlbear living nearby, so they capitalize on its fear of loud noises and bright lights by having gigantic parties all the time. Eventually the parties became their own justification, and the owlbear just can't get any sleep anymore.

    1. Owlbears as a rule do not understand commerce, but there is one exception. If you give them food, they will tell you something wise.
      Where they get this wisdom is a complete mystery.

  8. Owlbear babies are the worst. They are charming at first sight but then you realize the mother is going to ruin your day.

  9. Owls are associated with wisdom. Certainly that can factor in somehow to make the thing more interesting.

  10. Relevant xkcd:
    So, an appropriate name could be the "owlarth"? "Arth-owl"?

  11. look this is amazing, the only thing that I don't like is that it flies. At best it should be able to fall slower and have bonuses to jumping due to the feathers.

    1. But how could the ultimate alpha predator not be gifted the power of flight?

    2. By being so stealthy it doesn't have to.

  12. I feel like the bears gaining and losing weight is something you could have fun with. Like, this Bearowl is SO SOFT and SO FLUFFY that if it fluffs itself up like a bird preening it can just bob along and then when it wants to eat you it de-fluffs and falls and just BANG. Nom.

    Also I feel like being rehydrated from the pellet and poop is somehow *more* horrifying? Like, the fact that you can be saved means all these people - what? Have been abandoned? Are still alive in some fucked up way? Like, death is cleaner and neater and more relaxing than this. Gah. Horrifying, I love it.

  13. Another curious fact about owls (in case you haven't read on this).

    Screech owls will sometimes capture texas blindsnakes, which are diminute burrowing mymercophagous reptiles. Though the owls could easily eat them, the abducted blindsnakes are placed on the nest, where they burry below the detritus and proceed to eat small invertebrates, the bulk of which are parasites of hatchlings.

    Biologists suppose it's a case of commensalism since the blindsnakes usually don't thrive well once the nest is vacated and also sometimes fall victim to the young owlets themselves.

    Of course, how you cold adapt this in an interesting way for this concept (or any kind of similar idea with nesting fictional creatures) is another matter.

    1. Stealing snakes to eat your parasites is gold.

  14. "I don't know if its copyrighted."

    Always a messy question. The list of big names that wotc has stated they will target people for are:
    Beholder, Gauth, Carrion Crawler, Displacer Beast, Githyanki, Githzerai, Kuo-toa, Mind Flayer, Slaad, Umber Hulk, and Yuan-ti.
    Tanar'ri and Baatezu should maybe be added to the list.

    This comes from the 5e OGL

    Other banned names that are listed on multiple websites (which I can't find a direct link for) are:
    Dungeons & Dragons, D&D, Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master, Monster Manual, d20 System, Wizards of the Coast, d20 (when used as a trademark), Forgotten Realms, Faerûn, proper names (including those used in the names of spells or items), places, Underdark, Red Wizard of Thay, the City of Union, Heroic Domains of Ysgard, Ever-­‐‑ Changing Chaos of Limbo, Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, Infinite Layers of the Abyss, Tarterian Depths of Carceri, Gray Waste of Hades, Bleak Eternity of Gehenna, Nine Hells of Baator, Infernal Battlefield of Acheron, Clockwork Nirvana of Mechanus, Peaceable Kingdoms of Arcadia, Seven Mounting Heavens of Celestia, Twin Paradises of Bytopia, Blessed Fields of Elysium, Wilderness of the Beastlands, Olympian Glades of Arborea, Concordant Domain of the Outlands, Sigil, Lady of Pain, Book of Exalted Deeds, Book of Vile Darkness