Do Bugbears Make Good Hirelings?

Non-traditional hirelings can supplement your guild or mercenary company. In this installment we will examine the bugbear. Why would you hire a bugbear? They might be looking for a job! In Rime of the Frostmaiden you stumble across a group of 6 bugbears sheltering from the cold in the same place you are exploring, though you arrived there first. Brekk, the leader is described as a thug who can be bought. He wants 2gp/day per bugbear to work for the PCs. Is that a deal?

With 5th Edition pricing 2gp/day is reasonable for a skilled occupation such as guard or soldier. The 3rd Edition Arms and Equipment Guide suggests a daily wage of 2sp per day, but also assumes that the patron will buy their mercenaries equipment appropriate to their level, rank, or other status. Light foot soldiers start up cost is 20-90 gp for progressively better equipment. In the context of Icewind Dale, finding strong, armed humanoids that seek adventure to join your group is going to be difficult since most commoners are fishers or trappers. If all you need is muscle then bugbears may be the way to go.

The bugbear stat block provides insight into what we might hire them for. They have above average STR, DEX, and CON which makes them well suited for melee or ranged combat. Their WIS score is slightly above average which makes them suitable for bodyguard duty or standard dungeon delving. A below average INT and CHA score means they are not suited for puzzle solving, leading investigations, or trade negotiations. We would assume their leader Brekk would not have the standard stat block since he opened negotiations with the PCs and is business savvy. Their standard Chaotic alignment says they might be unruly, but since Brekk is supervising and has turned the group into sellswords they might be

Paired with the right group of PCs bugbears could round out missing skills. A party of all wizards could use some hard hitting melee attackers. In utility situations the combined strength of a group of bugbears moving a heavy object or forcing a door would be more than a group of wizards or rogues could muster. The additional muscle and size of bugbears could also give bonuses to an intimidation check performed by a high CHA character if using optional rules for “props” to obtain cooperation from the 3rd Edition Book of Vile Darkness. A bugbear with a big club is likely as effective as a knowledge cleric inquisitor with manacles and thumbscrews in scaring others into cooperating.

Bugbears would be worth hiring when compared to a human guard at the same price. The stat block indicates that they may need more supervision than a human guard, but good bosses always provide the appropriate amount of oversight.