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Although I am running a homebrew campaign, a lot of the typical fantasy tropes carry over, such as large forests filled with a wealth of creatures.

Specifically, I'm looking for a forest creature that would hunt an Owlbear, but in a broader sense I would like to know if there's any kind of food chain, or something to that effect, established in the Forgotten Realms.

I'm thinking of this mostly because I want to show my players that not all creatures they encounter need to be killed — I have a suspicion a predator targeting Owlbears will invoke some sympathy from them!

I'd love to use a dragon, but I've already established some lore surrounding dragons that means they won't just be trivial finds in a forest.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @JamieBrace Will you accept an answer dealing with the owlbear specifically? \$\endgroup\$ – kviiri Feb 9 '17 at 14:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @kviiri the more specific to Owlbears, the better :) \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Feb 9 '17 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ When I read "Food Chain" I immediately thought you were talking about a "fast-food chain". While I missed the point of your question, the idea of a place to order for some Owlbear nuggets or a McDragon-Burguer with double bacon was pretty amusing. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Feb 9 '17 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TSar hmm perhaps my next setting will be Forgotten Realms in the modern day. "Welcome to McNightstone, can I take your order?" \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Feb 10 '17 at 8:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ Remember that top predators are eaten by parasites, scavengers, each other (sometimes), and decomposers. Not to mention anything that can catch them when they are too young to defend themselves. A food chain is many interlocked loops, not unidirectional. \$\endgroup\$ – keshlam Feb 11 '17 at 1:12
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A quick search of the AD&D Monstrous Manual indicates that Gargantuas, Trolls, Yeti, and (white) dragons eat bears, but no mention of owlbears specifically. The classic Dragon Magazine article "Ecology of the Owlbear" (Dragon 214) is similarly tight-lipped on the subject of creatures that eat Owlbears (but points out that humans consider the meat poor).

Elminster's Ecologies describes Owlbears fleeing Pyrolisks, but again does not mention Owlbears being consumed by them.

A lot of the ecology descriptions hint (or outright state) that owlbears are the creation of a "mad wizard", which places them in the position of being an invasive species in most settings. In this case, they would not have a natural predator, per se, but wold likely still occupy some of the same space as bears. This, combined with their famously bad temperament, makes them something of a poor dietary choice for any but the fiercest predators.

If I were looking to introduce something that was not a dragon that ate owlbears, I would make them prey for wyverns and trolls: wyverns tend to favour owlbear cubs, and only occasionally attempt to eat an adult; and trolls possess the regeneration ability to survive a fight with an owlbear. I suspect seeing an owlbear cub being suddenly snatched from above by a wyvern will give your player sufficient sympathy for them. Also remember that wyverns are quiet when doing a dive attack, like an owl. Feels poetic, somehow.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 simply for that last line! Perhaps a horde of Humanoid type creatures have a trained Wyvern and they allow it to hunt on it's own? \$\endgroup\$ – Jamie Brace Feb 9 '17 at 15:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ For the owlbear cubs, use this picture: s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/30/6e/79/… It's from Baby Bestiary and it's sure to produce sympathy from the players. \$\endgroup\$ – Urist McDorf Feb 9 '17 at 16:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm just thoroughly impressed that you could find an old Dragon magazine article like that? Was that memory or a database I don't know about? \$\endgroup\$ – russellmania Feb 10 '17 at 19:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ @russellmania Both. Last year I read through all the back issues of Dragon, so I remembered that the article existed. Then, I used aeolia.net's DragonDex to find which issue it had been in. \$\endgroup\$ – lostgrail Feb 13 '17 at 14:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JamieBrace It depends on what you want this to lead to. If you just want the feeling of sympathy for the owlbears, then a lone hunting wyvern is almost better. It will create a sense of paranoia. If you want to inlclude it as a breadcrumb towards some other event in the area, then by all means have it "domesticated". \$\endgroup\$ – lostgrail Feb 13 '17 at 15:02
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While there are no specific canon 'Food Chains' out there...there is some information that will help you figure this out.

In the back of the DMG is a series of Monster Lists. The ones I'm speaking of specifically are the ones that list Monsters by Biome (page 302).

In order to find a predator that would potentially hunt Owlbears, all you have to do is find a Biome containing Owlbears, and look for something carnivorous that sits higher on the CR tables than it does...or something that operates in packs and is sufficiently hostile.

To give an example...the 'Forest' biome includes the Owlbear, which has a CR of 3. Also on that table you have the Gorgon (CR 5) and the Grick Alpha (CR 7). Both of these are listed as predators in the monster manual...and thus could be feasible predators for an Owlbear. Then, of course, you have the more intelligent monsters that could hunt an Owlbear in groups, but if you want a 'Natural' predator...I'd look for unintelligent creatures.

That said...the MM does seem to specify that Owlbears are an apex predator. There may be monsters out there that are tougher than an Owlbear, but most of them leave Owlbears alone because, well...

The owlbear's reputation for ferocity, aggression, stubbornness, and sheer ill temper makes it one of the most feared predators of the wild. There is little, if anything, that a hungry owlbear fears. Even monsters that outmatch an owlbear in size and strength avoid tangling with it, for this creature cares nothing about a foe's superior strength as it attacks without provocation (MM 249)

So, for this specific case....finding something willing to tangle with an Owlbear that is a natural predator might be pretty hard.

Hopefully this is helpful

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    \$\begingroup\$ In most cases, merely being tougher is insufficient to justify a predator-prey relationship. Predators have to fight every time they eat, which means they cannot accept even minuscule chance of injury—to say nothing of death—from whatever they select as prey. It's one reason humans are generally not ported upon, even though there are several predators significantly larger than we are—none are so large as to guarantee flawless victory over a healthy adult human being. Desperation or opportunity is usually behind man-eating. So for something much bigger, you really need something intense. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Feb 10 '17 at 4:35
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The owlbear is probably an apex predator

It is implied in the Monster Manual that other beasts normally leave the owlbear alone:

Even monsters that outmatch an owlbear in size and strength avoid tangling with it, for this creature cares nothing about a foe's superior strength as it attacks without provocation.

However, owlbears, much like their mundane ursine brothers, can be targeted by humanoids for various purposes. Hobgoblins are said to capture and train them as war beasts, giants can have them as pets, and peoples of distant frontier settlements are said to race them. Since humanoids can capture owlbears for these purposes, they are also most likely able to kill them for consumption as well using traps and harrying the captured specimens into exhaustion.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Of course Alligators and Boa Constrictors are both apex predators too. That doesn't stop both of them from hunting and eating each other in the Everglades. For a predator, if you're smaller, you're game. Sometimes if you're larger too... \$\endgroup\$ – T.E.D. Feb 9 '17 at 19:18
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If the goal is

to show my players that not all creatures they encounter need to be killed

you've missed a key point: What happens after you've killed the owlbear?

Before you killed it, it was clearly feeding on something. If it's a full grown specimen, then likely a lot of somethings. Once you kill it, the owlbear isn't there to keep the population of those things down. Suddenly there is going to be a massive overpopulation, possibly causing more problems than the owlbear ever did.

It would be a hoot if the leader of the local village started by thanking your players for removing this scourge that periodically ate some of the villagers. But then months later asked them to go on a quest to find, trap and bring back an owlbear to keep the 'somethings' in check.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "It would be a hoot" — I see what you did there. Also, for what it's worth, other predators might well be able to fill in the additional demand. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Feb 9 '17 at 23:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ "other predators might well be able to fill in the additional demand" - I suppose it depends on what the prey is. If he was primarily eating cows, then yeah. But it's possible owlbears, being notoriously ill-tempered, might prefer something that puts up more of a fight. Since the OP gets to decide for himself what the critter was eating, and what other predators it was keeping out of its territory (also a good point), he can make it as unpleasant as he needs to in order to make his point. \$\endgroup\$ – David Wohlferd Feb 10 '17 at 0:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good comment and something I am going to introduce in my campaigns, clearing too much of one predator will certainly destabilise the wildlife in a region! \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Nov 15 '17 at 12:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri - And not just wildlife. What about bandits? Evil mages? Temples to eldritch beings? While it's easy to think about the "good" creatures that were being devoured, my guess would be that they all taste the same to an owlbear. Who knows what else he was keeping at bay? Or how about the ancient artifact that was "lost" in that area. Searching for it with a hungry owlbear on the prowl would be too risky for all but the strongest villains. But once he's gone... Killing something so powerful that has been there a long time is likely to have a number of consequences. \$\endgroup\$ – David Wohlferd Nov 15 '17 at 20:17
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Owlbears have a type of Monstrosity. From the SRD:

Monstrosities are monsters in the strictest sense—frightening creatures that are not ordinary, not truly natural, and almost never benign. Some are the results of magical experimentation gone awry (such as owlbears), and others are the product of terrible curses (including minotaurs and yuan-ti). They defy categorization, and in some sense serve as a catch-all category for creatures that don’t fit into any other type.

Part of the problem with trying to put them on the food chain is that they are not natural and therefore likely not part of any natural food chain.

For them to have natural predators they would have needed to exist for hundreds or possibly thousands of years so that these Predators evolve. This would likely also entail a displacement of other similar beasts. Through a region was lots of Owlbears would be likely to have less regular bears because they would be competing for similar territory. Of course if something has been around for thousands of years and has displaced other natural species, and it starts to look a lot more like a natural species of its own instead of the monstrosity under which it is listed.

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