In the past, our Creature Feature articles have highlighted some of the more popular monsters from DnD cannon: Bulettes, Flumphs, and Faerie Dragons. But there are hundreds of other creatures that we love just as much, that don’t always get the appreciation they deserve. In fact, some have only appeared once – popping up in a single Monster Manual supplement, never to be seen again in any other editions or books. That’s a shame, too, since some are fantastic additions to any game. One such creature is the Bearhound.
What is a Bearhound?
As the name may suggest, a Bearhound is a large, magical cross between a giant hound and a bear. They’re massive, powerful hunters with a frightening visage and a strong moral compass. These neutral-good hunters spend most of their time in isolation, attacking sapient beings only when they are first attacked, surviving off of fish and small game animals like most forest predators. They do sometimes associate with good creatures or adventurers in the name of righteous causes, but only if they are thoroughly convinced of it.
Because of their isolated nature, few humanoids or “civilized” creatures have ever seen one, and even fewer believe in the tales of their existence. One assumes that most listeners take stories about them to be misremembered dire or owlbears. But Bearhounds are so much more. Their claws and teeth are not only dangerous natural weapons, but they also exude a magical aura of their own. Unlike most beasts, their combat has a level of finesse, being able to grab and trip their foes with ease. And once a fight has finished, finding a Bearhound again is nearly impossible, since they leave no trace, even across snow or muddy ground.
A Brief History of the Bearhound in D&D
The first, and only, appearance of Bearhounds in Dungeons and Dragons was in Monster Manual III for 3rd edition DnD. They appear without much pomp or circumstance, listed between Battlebriars and Boneclaws, both of which had slightly more longevity. While they’ve yet to be adapted for any other edition of the game, one can only hope that they’ll eventually appear in the 5th edition, or in OneDnD when it comes out.
Using Bearhounds in Your Campaigns
Bearhounds are wonderful additions to any campaign. You would, of course, have to adapt them if you play any edition other than the 3rd. It won’t take too much work, luckily. They only have a few key abilities, and none of them are too overpowered or unusual in later editions.
If you want to use them as an enemy, you’ll need to figure out a way to explain their antagonism toward the party. Maybe they’ve been mind-controlled, or maybe they take exception to a more violent and cutthroat kind of group. Whatever the causes, a Bearhound is more than capable of tracking down a party when they least expect it.
But since they’re intelligent (they can speak Common and Sylvan, making it easy to communicate with them), you can also use them as an NPC. A party who has been spending their time helping people and saving the world might easily win their trust and companionship, or even serve as a particularly impressive mount to a character or two. Like Faerie Dragons, they can also serve as excellent quest-givers.
Potential Quests from or Concerning a Bearhound
- Traveling through a forest, the party encounters an injured Bearhound surrounded by the dead remains of another adventuring party. The Bearhound initially reacts aggressively, but if calmed will explain to the party that a group of adventurers much like themselves attacked him and his mate not too long ago. While they managed to kill a number of the attackers, they still managed to capture his mate. If they would be so kind as to help him rescue his mate, or rescue them for him, he’d be happy to do some favor for them in return.
- A famous author of bestiaries and wildlife guides (Volo, perhaps?) approaches the party and asks for their help investigating a strange bear he’s heard about – a group of wood elf children recently got lost in the forest, and when they found their way home reported a strange bear that helped them. But there are no tracks and no trail, so the party will have to get creative with how they find the beast.
- A local sect of Harpers gained the loyalty of a Bearhound many years ago. This was a huge boon for the Harpers for many years, and the sect and the Bearhound’s pack have protected each other for a decade. Unfortunately, the extended contact has impacted the cub of the pack – she wants to learn magic. She’ll ask any spellcaster in the party to teach her what they know, despite the objections of the Harpers. And if the spellcaster does teach her any magic, they’ll soon learn just why that was a bad idea…
- A ranger enclave asks the party for their help in taking down a strange, enchanted bear that has been hunting its members in the forest for sport. They say that it’s some kind of possessed monster, but when the party actually encounter the Bearhound it seems reasonable and well-intentioned. If they speak to it, or if they kill it and keep interacting with the enclave, the party may learn about their nefarious hidden goals (maybe a secret cult, or a plan to take out a rival enclave of some kind?).
Have you ever used a Bearhound in your campaign? Do you think you might in the future? Let us know in the comments below!