Owlbear illustrations and alternative origins

On Sundays I’ve generally been posting some of my illustrations, which can be used for miniatures in Dungeons & Dragons and other tabletop roleplaying games. This week @sethnidilaw mentioned on Twitter that he and his kids like seeing my drawings each week. So I asked if his kids would like to choose some monsters that I could present as options for this week. Folks ended up voting for owlbears, so here are a couple of owlbear drawings:

2 owlbears

As you can see, one of them isn’t like a standard owlbear – it has fully-formed wings. I’ve been thinking about how to alter the stats for a regular owlbear, to make it a majestic, flying owlbear. I think I’d give it a flying speed of 60 feet, less hit points (to reflect a lighter creature, with a flying ability), as well as decreating strength and increasing dexterity. This is @sethnidilaw and his daughter’s take on the magestic owlbear:

(If you’ve got any suggestions, let us know in the comments.)

While I was drawing these I was thinking about the origins of owlbears. It seems like most editions of Dungeons & Dragons suggest that owlbears were probably created by a wizard. But what other possibilities are there? (Some of these are a bit odd. But may I remind you that we’re talking about owlbears?)

  1. Mutation caused by a magical accident – owlbears could conceivably have been created by wild magic, or by fallout from a magical, industrial disaster (a fantasy equivalent of a nuclear meltdown)
  2. Missing evolutionary link – if you’re up for something absurd or surreal in your setting, you could suggest that owlbears are the common evolutionary ancestor of both owls and bears
  3. Polymorph chaos – sometimes, when an owl and a bear really love each other… Okay that’s a silly idea. But if you wanted to go with it, you could say that an owlbear is a bear who had a ancestor who was an owl polymorphed as a bear. (Similar to how tieflings, aasimar and genasi’s odd appearances reflect their planar heritage.)
  4. Planar influence – in issue #12 of Dragon+, Adam Lee described a pocket dimension inhabited mainly by cats. What if there were also similar dimensions for bears or owls? Maybe an owl who had grown up in a bear dimension, or a bear who had grown up in an owl dimension would become something like an owlbear?
  5. Fey origin – the 5th edition Monster Manual suggests that owlbears may have come from the Feywild, where it’s said that they’ve always existed


Here’s a backstory for owlbears that @sethnidilaw and his daughter wrote:

When the Elven civilzation decided to leave and go to the Prime Material Plane some of them took young Owlbeas with them, intended to be used as they were in the Feywild, as guardians of their realm.

But the travel between planes had unforseeable affects on the beast and so the Owlbears that arrived were not like the ones that left the Feywild.

Over the course of a few generations, magically triggered mutations turned the once docile creatures into the fierce predators they are known as now.

The Majestic Owlbears are a bit of a different story.

Until some time ago they were only a myth, told by adventurers who passed through the Broken Spine Mountains.

But recently repots have been uncovered in the great library of Avon in Ashbrooke, adding fact to fiction.

Those documents show that since Owlbears have the ancestry of both their namesakes, their appearances can be dominated by either one of those.

In case of the Majestic Owlbear the owls are the dominant part.

The most prominent features are their wings and general size. Compared to regular Owlbears the known Majestic Owlbear specimens are about one and a half times to twice their size and can weigh up to five times as much.

Like their smaller, earthbound relatives they are ferociously territorial and only share to mate and raise offspring until they’re old enough to hunt. But their hunting grounds are much larger in comparison, since they dominate the highest peaks of the Broken Spine Mountains where prey is scarse.

In addition the Majestic Owlbears are solely nocturnal and build their eyries on the topmost peaks which adds to them being spotted so rarely.

But elven rangers from Amrenrion have secretly been following them and documenting their development.

Given the dangerous environment and the Majestic Owlbears not being the only predators in that region, most didn’t make it back and so reports have been slow and irregularly coming back to the elven stronghold.

Over two hundrer yeas passed after the fall of Amrenrioni before the first pieces of literature were salvaged and it took another half millenium until the first reports of Majestic Owlbears had found their new home at Ashbrooke.

Since the library at Ashbrooke is a place seldomely visited it took even longer until word had reached Port Aven and the other cities.

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