Last Updated on June 27, 2023
Brown Bear Stat Block
Large Beast, Unaligned
- Armor Class: 11 (natural armor)
- Hit Points: 34 (4d10 + 12)
- Speed: 40 ft., climb 30 ft.
- STR 19 (+4) DEX 10 (+0) CON 16 (+3) INT 2 (-4) WIS 13 (+1) CHA 7 (-2)
- Skills: Perception +3
- Senses: Passive Perception 13
- Languages: —
- Challenge: 1 (200 XP)
- Proficiency Bonus: +2
Keen Smell. The bear has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.
Multiattack. The bear makes two attacks: one with its bite and one with its claws.
- Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 8 (1d8 + 4) piercing damage.
- Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) slashing damage.
CALL OUT ENDS
What Is a Brown Bear in DnD 5e?
The Brown Bear is a CR 1 beast that roams woodlands and forests in the world of Dungeons & Dragons 5e. It has a pretty measly AC of 11, a solid average of 34 hit points, and an astonishingly high 19 Strength. It’s also probably one of the first monsters that new D&D players fight that has multiattack.
The Brown Bear has a decent bonus to its perception checks to spot incoming threats, which is added to by its Keen Scent ability. Leave enough of a trail or forget to take enough baths, and there’s basically no way that a Brown Bear won’t be able to track you or see you coming.
In terms of aggressive behavior, however, a lone Brown Bear isn’t much of a threat to an adventuring party unless surprised, attacked in its den with nowhere to go, or the PCs threaten its cubs.
I think you could even make the case that, in the Forgotten Realms, bears would behave a little differently from how they do in the real world. In real life, a brown bear (the broader species that contains subspecies like the Grizzly and the Kodiak) is an alpha predator. While they still obtain a sizable portion of their nutritional intake from fishing, scavenging, and foraging, they move around in the open and hunt prey like deer.
Bears in the Forgotten Realms live much closer to the middle of the food chain as they exist in a world where fantasy creatures like griffons, dragons, chimeras, and other monstrosities (including Owlbears) could all, at the very least, chase a bear away from its kill if not try to make a meal of the bear itself. Therefore, bears in D&D are more likely to be scavengers and foragers and even live in groups for protection.
Combat: Fighting a Brown Bear
If you do wind up in a situation where a Brown Bear wants you dead, your best option is probably to fight head-on and trust the numbers advantage to win the day.
Brown Bears have a very good speed for a land animal that isn’t a horse and can easily outpace a humanoid on foot with a speed of 40 feet. Their 30-foot climb speed is also especially scary as that’s basically double that of your average adventurer. Basically, if the bear wants to fight you, there’s not much you can do other than fight the bear.
However, once you get into combat, the bear’s lackluster AC and relatively small hp pool (you know, given how many hit points I feel like a goddamn bear should have) mean it’s not as big of a threat as it initially appears.
The bear’s claw-bite multiattack combo boasts a nasty +6 to hit, which is rather high for such a low-CR creature and is largely thanks to the bear having a higher Strength score than a Young White Dragon… D&D is weird, y’all. It does respectable damage if it can consistently hit its targets and could easily knock a 1st- or 2nd-level character unconscious in a single round of combat with an average damage of 21 slashing and piercing damage if both claws and bite hit.
Roll really well or crit, and you could dish closer to 30 damage in a round, and that’s more than enough to push brand-new adventurers into instant kill territory.
I’m a little sad that bears work differently in 5e than how they functioned in older editions — two claw attacks that, if they both hit the same target, proc’d an automatic, much nastier bite attack. But we can’t have run-of-the-mill forest creatures out-DPR-ing a chimera now, can we?
All in all, a bear is a solid berserker-style fighter. It can close the distance to the nearest PC with a dash of 80 feet and then pours multiattack onto its intended target until it’s distracted or the target goes down. The bear’s low Intelligence means it likely won’t be especially tactical in how it chooses targets, can be distracted easily, and will probably flee from fire and maybe even a burst of light and noise from something like Thaumaturgy or Prestidigitation. Again, that’s assuming you haven’t come too close to the bear’s offspring.
Is a Brown Bear the Best Wild Shape Option?
With a CR of 1, solid damage output, multiattack, good speed, and okay hit points, the Brown Bear is one of the favorite first Wild Shape options for the Circle of the Moon Druid subclass.
However, this Wild Shape option really is just for Circle of the Moon Druids — and low-level ones at that. This is because other druids are limited to CR 1/4 and 1/2 Wild Shape creatures until they hit 8th level. When you’re level 8, a Brown Bear doesn’t bring anything to the table in terms of hit points, AC, or damage. Okay, the Strength is great at pretty much any level, but you can achieve something similar with a Giant Constrictor Snake if it’s grappling you’re after.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.