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30 September 2021

The Bugbears of Eldar

The physical appearance of bugbears has always fascinated me. Their powerful maw, bodies coated in fur-like hair, and oddly shaped ears. From their depictions in early monster books to their Neverwinter Nights portraits, they've intrigued. However, their place in most D&D settings bores most. They are monsters by the D&D definition of the word, foes meant to be fought and killed with little mental recourse. For my world of Eldar, I've gone ahead and rewritten how bugbears are expressed, crafting a culture spliced with my own ideas and the written cultures of another famous work. Will you be able to see which culture I reference? Let us see.

The legendary Aud Dwarven Defender Loddoul Thal defined bugbears in a sentence during the War of Everspring Forest: "Bugbears, the most honorable backstabbers there is."

Ancient immigrants from the far-flung continent of Garthuun, bugbears who reside on the supercontinent of Aelonis have lived across the land longer than most Aelonian dwarves and dragonborn. Their place in the civilized society of the common races has always been uncertain, but in recent years, it has boomed with the continent's increased interconnectedness.

While most serve in quiet, somewhat stealthy roles, less skilled bugbears have adopted other positions among settlements: butchers, militia members, dock workers, and fortune tellers. Discrimination of their kind is still common in homogenous lands like Aralia, but in diverse locales such as Ghidos, they are viewed as equals.

As a bugbear player character, it is likely you are a rogue, ranger, or cleric of some sort, though bugbear adventurers of other classes certainly exist. Bugbears from villages and towns are usually rogues: scouts, assassins, or masterminds with an eye for plotting and planning the death of a particular target or the execution of a singular mission. Those who live among the wilderness in bugbear tribes are more commonly rangers and clerics. Bugbear rangers patrol miles around their tribe's territory, warding off travelers, dangerous monsters, and collecting valuables from nature.

Clerics typically lead bugbear tribes, almost all of them a part of the Circle of the Ancients, a legendary sect formed in part by their creator, Kax Gol. These bugbears shave their bodies and tattoo depictions of the terrifying deity across their bodies and wield double-sided spears into battle. Bugbear druids always head these battles and are often slathered in blood by their end. The blood they’ve gathered is then cleaned into a great cauldron, boiled, and given to Kax Gol—payment for their beastly might in battle. They hope, eventually, these gifts will give rise to him again. Despite the violent connotations connected to Kax Gol, his tenets outline a code of honor followed by almost all bugbears. They boil down to treating those with strength and courage with respect, and paying none to those who target the weak and reek of cowardice in the face of danger.

Think about the beliefs of your bugbear character. Do they fervently follow the tenets of Kax Gol and partake in this frightening ritual slaughters and blood offerings? Or have they taken on the civility of “normal” society? A mix of both is always welcome—and a sure way to intimidate foes and potential rivals. Read more about bugbears in civilization and bugbears from the wild in the sections below.

Bugbears of Civilization

The most populous bugbear center across all Aelonis is Syroli, where the shady House Hazosi headquarters, their forces empowered by the recent emergence of the Mark of Shadow in their bloodline. Most prominent bugbears are subtle spies and saboteurs, working on behalf of powerful organizations and formidable nations. A select few specialize in assassination, with spears being their weapon of choice. Few question this oddity, for it’s known that the spear is the ancestral weapon of bugbears, dating back to their dead god Kax Gol. And while this is a known fact, many would shudder at the paganistic rituals bugbears perform in their woodland homes, far away from “polite” society.

Though the headquarters of House Hazosi rests in Syroli deep within the sector called the Daggercliffs, they have multiple enclaves scattered across Aelonis—and even a far flung outpost on distant Garthuun. The two most populous bugbear havens outside Syroli are Gol Drata in the capitol of Waalnia and Gol Mata in Ghidos. Formerly, their most populated outpost sat in the center of Klagro, but it was obliterated along with the rest of the country.

Bugbears of the Wilderness

The thickest woodlands are home to bugbear tribes who battle and bellow for their dead god, Kax Gol. Although groups are scattered across mainland Aelonis, the greatest numbers gather in the temperate forests across the Tarok Heartlands and the chilly groves in the foothills of the Scargos Peaks. In these wild lands, they fight for supremacy with other woodland denizens: elves, fey, goblins, lizardfolk, and tabaxi, among others. Famous bugbear tribes include the Blood Drinkers (the Tuat Nek, in Bugbear), the Wood Skulls (the Huri Gor), and the Summer Spears (the Lieg Kor). 

While most practice the dark blood rituals of their ancient past, some have evolved these practices to involve live subjects, usually enemies who attempted to slaughter innocents among the bugbears, including the elderly, motherfolk, and children, all in line with Kax Gol’s tenets. They believe Kax Gol will consume and spit out their vileness, transforming it for courage and power to be eaten by bugbears and others across the world. In an attempt to separate themselves from their wilder kin, bugbears who live in human, dwarf, halfling, or other diverse settlements denounce the bloody rituals of their forest kin and oft try to distance themselves as much as they can from these practices.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, farewell!

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