Bugbears have a reputation for being the most uncivilized and unintelligent sub-race among the goblinoid races. Many civilized humanoids go as far as to refer to them as lowly predators with near-human intelligence [Without the sentience] and parents describe them in children’s stories as scary animals (the bogeymen). They wait in the darkness to snatch and strangle children who wander off late at night.
Despite being notorious for their brutality, tendency towards cannibalism, and penchant for decapitating and dismembering weaker creatures, These Big Hairy goblinoids are surprisingly intelligent creatures with wits comparable to most humanoids.
Bugbear Intelligence and Motivation
Bugbears are gifted in stealth tactics and can speak, read, and write two distinct languages. They are known to be capable of making crude tools and surprisingly effective traps. They also aren’t insentient as some assume. Bugbears are a playable character race and not simply tougher than average creatures to be killed for XP while walking through the forest. They however don’t look or sound the part because Bugbears just don’t see value in the application of intellect in the useless activities of weaker creatures in the food chain.
To the Bugbear, the ultimate goal of life is to simply survive, eat well, hoard treasure, satiate their bloodthirsty desire for hunting and violence, and of course to sleep… a lot. Fortunately, these goals are easily attainable by keeping to their natural lifestyle and indulging their base impulses that there has never been the need to develop what scholars of civilized races would consider intelligent practices or technologies. Even the traps and tools that they are capable of making rarely get made because bugbears find it more enjoyable to personally attack and kill prey. This union of Aggressiveness and Lethargy is also more in tune with Bugbear’s religious beliefs.
Cruelty and Laziness are next to Godliness
Bugbears are cruel and lazy naturally and also religiously. Bugbears only have love for two brother deities, Hruggrek, the elder, and Grankhul, the younger.
Hruggrek exemplifies the perfect bugbear, Massive and powerful in battle, beheading his enemies and mounting their living heads on spikes where they cry for mercy and sing praises of his might. He inspires Bugbears to take pride in their natural strength and physiology, to chase might and battle prowess as the most valuable qualities in life, and to be cruel to their victims.
Grankhul inspires their wit, stealth, and ironically, their laziness. Grankhul is believed to have gifted the Bugbears with their stealth despite their size. He also is a powerful warrior bugbear who fights alongside his elder brother Hruggrek, but most notably to bugbears is his activity outside the battlefield. It is believed that Grankhul stays eternally awake to protect Hruggrek while he sleeps from their many enemies. To achieve sleeplessness Grankhul takes away the vigor of all Bugbears. So you could say that by being lazy and sleeping a lot, they are performing sacrificial worship to Grankhul.
Bugbears can speak Goblin Language (Ghukliak) and Common although they are not often very fluent in these languages. This is not a fault of deficiency in intellect but simply because of their aforementioned worldviews.
Naturally, there wouldn’t be any need for Bugbears to even learn the languages that they now know. They are generally selfish creatures who rarely interact with other races and fellow goblinoids on diplomatic terms. However, they sometimes see the benefit of forming small family units (gangs really) with other Bugbears to hunt together and sometimes trade.
Also for religious reasons, they reluctantly participate in the Hobgoblin-led campaigns as a way of honoring their patron deities, Hruggrek and Grankhul, who, after being spared by the conquering god Maglubiyet, were sworn to be subservient to the patron god of the Hobgoblins. Other Scholars from the 14th Century however seem to believe this is a deception used to control bugbears and that they were bred in ancient times as slave races by the Hobgoblins which they believe explains the submission of the species to the Hobgoblins as well as the exposure to a shared language.
Thus it makes sense that the Bugbears would, out of necessity, pick up the basic common tongue spoken by most of the world and enough of the goblin tongue to obey orders from their more civilized cousins, The Hobgoblins.
Apart from these particular inter-species relationships, there is little use for languages to them as the only occasions they see fit to approach other creatures is if they have something to gain from them. In such cases, bugbears would rather pounce, steal, and kill than start a dialogue. Although in some cases, they may be motivated to serve as mercenaries in the armies of other races if there is much gold to be gained.
Common is the lingua franca of the continent of Faerun and is written using the Thorass alphabetic system by most people except some elves who use Espruar. It is a basic language with the advantage of being easy to grasp by most inhabitants of the continent. It is however not as expressive as other languages and as such, cannot communicate much nuance as is needed for deep conversation.
Variations of common existed from region to region but generally, communication between these thousands of dialects was possible. While not having any real-world equivalent, it is often conveniently represented as English although it has its unique script.
a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.
Ghukliak is the language of the Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears and was originally in Dethek. Since the 15th century to date, however, the Thorass script has since replaced the Dethek script.
Ae, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, ti, j, k, l, m, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, rit, z.
En, Dut, Tris, Fur, Viv, Zik, Sep, Out, Nin, Des. (1-10 respectively)
This language allows bugbears to be able to understand most races if spoken to, however, Bugbears seldom listen to other creatures unless they sense them to be strong in numbers or have enough gold to hire them as mercenary grunts. If these conditions are not met, the usual encounter with a gang of bugbear either ends with death or enslavement if they find you useful as an underling.
Some sources say that it is possible to use the language that bugbear understands to trick them by casting a spell to make the trophies (Heads of slain victims) to speak. Bugbears are very religious and will easily interpret the message from the talking heads as divine instructions from Grankhul.