The Owlbear is a classic D&D monster: a goofy hybrid of owl and bear. Its origin is similarly goofy; along with the bullette and rust monster, it was one of the creatures that was based on some plastic toys that Gygax and friends used as miniatures.
Growing up, I had a plastic rust monster and bullette, but I don't remember having an owlbear. I might have.
I haven't looked back at old versions of the owlbear's stats. I remember them as fairly fearsome creatures. However, Jeff's recent research shows that in Basic D&D they were on par with normal bears - nothing to sneeze at, true, but not really an improvement on the original bear either. In 3e, the owlbear is statistically very close to a brown bear.
I just don't see the point.
So... I asked myself, "Self, imagine you were a crazy wizard (most of my conversations with myself start off similarly) who created a monstrous hybrid of owl and bear. Why did you do it?"
Well, I thought, surely an owl has some properties that a bear desperately needs. Raptors have more efficient musculature than mammals... and they are less massive by volume (hollow bones and all). Owls have good night vision. I could see a bear becoming more streamlined by the addition of owl-bits. Owlbears don't really have wings, so they can't fly, but maybe they could jump well and pounce upon their prey like an owl swooping down for a kill. If their victim lives after the initial assault, they can then grab it like a bear would.
I could see owlbears as sudden strikers who hunt in the night. That adds some needed flavor.
Now... we run into the power level issue. My solution to that? Make owlbears out of different sorts of bears.
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