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A bugbear is a bipedal goblinoid, rising to the the same height as a human, though preferring to hunt and stalk with a stoop that makes it look considerably shorter and more bestial. Short, dark fur spreads all across its powerful, hulking frame. Its large ears hang loosely from its skull, and its eyes are unnaturally large—almost alien. It is not unusual for bugbears to reach nearly 7 feet in height, and they weigh more than most humans, some even reaching 400 pounds.
Bugbears can be found anywhere their favourite prey huddles away from the dark in fear. Bugbears originally stalked the woodlands that once covered much of Avistan and were dominated by the ancient elves. That race used to be bugbears' favoured prey, and bugbears used to be particularly populous in the ancient elven region of the Mierani Forest before the elves abandoned it.
Now bugbears lurk near humans, from darkened forests at the edge of villages to shadowy abandoned houses nestled in busy city districts.
Bugbears are particularly common in the barely settled wilderness of Varisia, where they prey on lonely homesteads or poorly protected caravans. They've inhabited the Isle of Kortos since before the ancient forests were razed, and now haunt Absalom's streets as monstrous serial killers.
Bugbears are consummate hunters, their every waking moment devoted to it. Rather than hunting creatures, bugbears hunt fear, going to excruciating lengths to wring every drop of fear from their victims; for them, terror is an intoxicant more addictive than any drug. Bugbears are the largest of the goblinoids, and while hobgoblins are a tyrannous evil and goblins are selfish and capriciously evil, bugbears seem to enjoy evil for evil's sake, relishing every agony they can inflict on their victims.
Bugbears are incredibly stealthy for their size, and in using this to their advantage they play mind games, causing bumps and noises in the night, and opening doors and windows in settlements. They normally escalate these games by abducting a target's loved ones out from under their noses, then leaving bloody hints of their fate, like knocked-out teeth or a bloody finger. The bugbear then watches the ensuing terror before leaving the victim's mangled body someplace where it will soon be found.
After a particularly vicious and successful hunt, bugbears take trophies. Sometimes the only trappings of civilisation they have are their weapons, armour, and bloodied trophy collection. Another common bugbear memento is a grisly necklace fashioned from the severed ears of their favourite victims.
Bugbear life is merciless, short, and violent. Most bugbears only live 20 or so years, though the deadliest among them can kill hundreds in this short span. Obsessed with the hunt, bugbears rarely mate, judging their partner's worthiness by the scars they mark themselves with, each telling the unique tale of their most impressive hunt. When a bugbear gives birth, it is usually to twins or triplets, and sometimes more, although the births grow more dangerous with each additional child. Mothers frequently die during childbirth, but this proves little hindrance as their children's bloodthirsty instincts are strong from birth, and most happily hunt humans within two years and reach their full size in five. Even if their mother survives childbirth, young bugbears are soon abandoned, and only the most fearless and brutal survive to adulthood.
Bugbears tend to be loners, utterly devoted to the hunt with no time for anything else. According to one myth, this may be because of their origins: the first bugbear was supposedly born to goblin parents. Soon after birth, the bugbear proved too dangerous even for goblins, torturing fellow children and murdering many members of the tribe, and so it was banished. Some claim these mysterious births still happen, with adventurers finding entire goblin villages completely deserted but showing hints of atrocious violence.
Bugbears, most of whom natively speak the goblin language, seem to loathe the company of all other creatures and are not even that keen on other bugbears. While they sometimes form groups, these strained communities that rarely last. Still, these small groups have given way to some odd social practices.
Scarification is almost universal amongst bugbears, and after particularly impressive kills a bugbear gives itself a unique scar, which other bugbears can "read" to learn of the bugbear's achievements.
Bugbears also produce a unique alcohol called Bramble-Sick Brandy made from a bramble called Tomb Herald. The concoction, which is nauseating to humans, enhances a bugbear's ability to hunt. As the largest of goblin-kind, bugbears sometimes force their smaller relatives into servitude, especially the easily cowed goblins. The bugbear's violent nature tends to make these groups short-lived. Some smarter hobgoblin commanders try to utilise the bugbear's savagery as front-line fighters, or failing that as a terrifying diversion to release against an enemy.
- See also: Category:Bugbear/Inhabitants
Bugbears plagues many regions of Golarion. Locations of notable bugbear activity include:
- The Chitterwood and Voghul Caverns of Isger, site of the Goblinblood Wars and home of the Jagged Knife and Marrow-Lick bugbear clans.
- The Echo Wood, often as leaders of goblin war parties.
- The city of Katapesh, where bugbears mingle and brawl with the rest of the city.
- The Ketz Desert of Qadira, where bugbear slavers hunt for captives and escapees.
- Varisia, from devil-worshiping bugbears of Devil's Platter who hunt at night, to solitary bugbears who hunt the Whisperwood and Nettlewood, and even a few who work in cities such as Magnimar as hired killers.
Bugbears easily adapt to new hunting grounds, and for almost every environment where there is human prey, there seems to be a type of bugbear adapted to hunt them.
- Kardans are not adapted to any particular environment, but instead seem to be even stealthier than regular bugbears, even gaining supernatural abilities allowing them to hide in plain sight.
- In more wintry climes, wikkawaks stalk their prey across frozen wildernesses, leaving nary a footprint in the snow when passing.
- In the swamps and tropical waterways of Garund, strange murds utilise their ability to move like mud to by pass barriers and infiltrate homes.
- Human cities have given rise to a new variety of bugbear known as the slate-stalker, which is perfectly adapted to hunting in the populous regions that humankind considers safe.
- The rarest variety of bugbear is the koblak. Born dead and somehow returning to life, sometimes hours after their birth, koblaks posses an unnatural affinity for death. These bugbears are seemingly immortal, as death rarely claims them and they can survive for centuries. They are also by far the most powerful of all the varieties of bugbears.
- Bugbears sometimes rise as a particularly hateful kind of incorporeal undead known as frightful haunters who, like bugbears, prey on the fear of their victims.
For additional resources, see the Meta page.
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