Another appointment in the series Who did it better?: today we talk about the Orsogufo, the historic D&D monster!

In this article we will talk about theBeardog, one of the original creatures of Dungeons & Dragons and one of the most popular.
L'Orsogufo won a quick poll done on the Facebook group The Shipwrecked of Atlantis and therefore I gladly indulge the popular will. 
So let's see which of the many editions of D&D e Pathfinder made the Orsogufo better, with some special mention too.
As always, this will be a semi-serious article and judgments will be based solely on my personal taste.

The plastic "dinosaur" that inspired the Bear Owl
The plastic “dinosaur” that inspired the Bear Owl

What is the Orsogufo?

First, the Bear Owl is an ancient creature.
It is in fact one of the Hong Kong 3 (definition I just invented). The Hong Kong 3 are three monsters created by TSR when Gigax brought a plastic dinosaur bag to the office made in Hong Kong. None of those beasts resembled a dinosaur, but they provided inspiration to create three iconic monsters from the world's most played RPG. We are talking about the Bulette (who has already been a guest of this column), the Rugoofago and the Orsogufo.

The Orsogufo as a bestiary monster plays the role of massive beast of medium-low level. If encountered alone, it can be a serious battle at low levels. Hence, it may prompt the characters to seek alternative approaches: appease him with offerings or magic, or distract him and move on. At medium levels, it continues to make a good impression in a pack or as a mount / partner of some character.

My experience with the Orsogufo
ATTENTION: this paragraph contains SPOILERS on the Adventure Path of Pathfinder, Skulls and Stumps

I admit that, personally, I have not used the Orsogufi as a master. Probably due to the fact that, when I was a young player, we risked the TPK against one of them and, many years later, a master who did not understand very well how the Challenge Ranks worked put six of them against a party of poor third party adventurers. level.
So, back from these traumas, I have put a few in my adventures.
Aside from that, here's a little pop of color. The best "Beardog Moment" so far was when your G-Seeker summoned one in the battle we ended the Adventure Path with. Skulls and Stumps. The Bear Owl gripped the evil pirate Harrigan in his deadly grip, making it much easier for the party to take him out.

The charm of the Orsogufo

La lore Orsogufo has always been quite consistent. It's a magical experiment aimed at combining the qualities ofbear and owl, which was then released into the wild and happily multiplied. The Bear and Owl percentages depend on the edition, but usually it involves applying the massive mass of a bear to the predatory abilities of an owl.
A synthetic judgment on the sensibility of the thing was expressed by the magician Vaarsuvius inepisode 322 di The Order Of The Stick
Part of its charm is certainly in being at the same time a magical creature, but clearly bestial and therefore with an altogether understandable behavior. An animal that we know how it behaves we can bring it to the screen in a more convincing way than an Ethereal Spider, a Tendriculos or other unlikely beasts.

The new popularity of the fifth edition of D&D made a lot of new recruits interested in the game, and quickly the Bear Owl has become a popular mascot. The creature then saw an explosion of fan art, miniatures, plush and merchandise.
A reputation more than deserved since it is a very versatile creature that it oscillates very well between the puccioso and the terrible.
On the other hand, the Orsogufo is the perfect combination of two creatures that embody this ambivalent aspect of nature and animals very well. In fact, the bear and the owl are nice-looking and tender creatures, but they can be dangerous or frightening when needed. So, as for any animal: let's admire it, but from a distance.

The Orsogufo from the first edition of D&D
The Orsogufo from the first edition of D&D

D&D first edition: little bear and little owl

We are not quite there. In the name of the forgotten deities of never released settings: what is this thing ?!
Nothing of the bear, and even less of the owl. This creature has definitely been given the wrong name here. You can observe how the artist faithfully reproduced the plastic figure that was probably thrown on his desk. Meanwhile, someone had worked out the creature card and its related one lore

The creature has a look deformed. It has a raven's beak (certainly not an owl!), A hunched head that resembles that of a Kappa Japanese (or perhaps a tengu in some ancient representations), sparse feathers on the head and a long tail that neither bears nor owls possess.

The text immediately mentions genetic experiments carried out by a magician. So the fantasy world of the first edition of D&D predicts that genetics exist, work (unlike ours) and be studied by wizards. Ok.
In the text they already attribute to the Orsogufo the classic move of mortal embrace + peck. It seems fair to me: like all bear-related things, you always have to apply the good old bearhug of wrestling.
Obviously the manual, in full Old School style, reminds you that you can capitalize from the death of a Bear hog, indicating how many gold coins you could make by reselling them. eggs.

Vote: 1/ 10. This is what happens if the illustrator and writer don't talk to each other!
The Orsogufo in AD&D
The Orsogufo in AD&D

AD&D: an Eagle Bear?

As always the Monstrous Manual (instead of the Monster Manual of subsequent editions) gives satisfaction. The design team is very consistent and although each has their own areas of expertise, the style and feel from one creature to another remain consistent.
This bestiary greatly expands the lore on the creature going to deepen the habitat and lifestyle of the creature. Sometimes I dream of a good animated series as a documentary about the creatures of the bestiary. It would be hilarious.

This Orsogufo lives up to its name, or at least tries. At least the bear part turned out well. The owl part… well. It seems to me aeagle. That is, the shape of the skull is elongated and the eye is lateral. The beak is curved, yes, but too long to be that of an owl. Who knows in how many hours of recreation there was the debate: "it's a Bear hog", "no it's an Eagle Bear!".

Physical curiosities of the Beareagleowl of AD&D

The thing that intrigues me the most are the bumps on the head. At first glance I thought they were ears, maybe a little feathery. Probably the author's intention was just that, but after a careful analysis I realized that they are not. I'm ali. The bear has round ears, the eagle does not have them protruding (no bird has them) and especially those protrusions are located too far behind the skull. They are at the base of the neck, and they are wings.
Tiny eagle wings on a bear's gigantic body. The thing is comical and there is a lot if you think that the creature was born from a magical accident. A wizard's attempt to make a griffin-like creature, but it went wrong. And since the knowledge in Nature usually has the party druid, it is entirely plausible that the wizard was not able to distinguish between an owl and an eagle. 

In the article they say that the creature is so aggressive that it would jump over a cliff to attack you. Remember that these Bears are aggressive and ferocious, but according to the manual they have their own language. Once again, Qui Gon Jin's saying proves true. Probably the creature thus throws itself on the sly also because it is convinced that its wings would support it in flight! 
Unfortunately for adventurers, inflation also affects fantasy worlds and to resell them eggs of Orsogufo you make thousands of coins, but silver in this edition.

Vote: 5/ 10. We are getting closer but the “-owl” part of the beast is missing.
A Beardog from D&D 3 / 3.5
A Beardog from D&D 3 / 3.5

D&D 3 e 3.5: the perfect Orsogufo

Admire him: erect and pissed off like a Bear Owl (nothing else would hold up the comparison), as he screeches and / or roars and spreads his paws to show you exactly how big the bujo de culo he will make you.
This animal exudes aggression from all pores, indeed from all feathers. In fact, the plumage is the first thing that stands out to the eye. Now he stretches along his forelegs, and it doesn't do him much good except being cool and badass, but his impracticality helps convey the idea that it's a magical experiment gone wrong.
Of course, I also really appreciate the fact that the beak is more like that of an owl than that of an eagle. The counter-rostrum on the underside of the beak doesn't make too much sense but it's a magical creature, isn't it?

On top of that, in this edition, the Bears are all Chaotic Evil (and sentient, as they have Intelligence 5), so adventurers shouldn't bother exterminating them and reselling their eggs (which are back to gold coins). On the other hand if they are sentient e wicked, what excuses do they have for doing what they do? Moreover, from this edition the Orsogufi are also trainable! How many of you have tried and ended up reducing the card into as many shreds as the innards of your PC?

Vote: 10/ 10. Everything I want from a Grade Challenge 4 monster in six hundred pounds of meat, fat feathers and aggression.
A Beardog from D&D 4e
A Beardog from D&D 4e

D&D 4e: another Eagle Bear, but from the fairy plane

Why. They don't. They succeed. To do it. To seem. A. Owl?
That is seriously: in 2008 the internet existed, there are references to see how owls are made. It shouldn't be hard to draw one and stick it on a bear's body! 
What then everything else is done well: the pose, the angry expression, the beautiful claws to be placed as soon as possible in the body of some Halfling adventurer. It would have been perfect if they had called him "Eaglebear"!

The process of gryphonization started in the second edition here it is complete: the hind quarters of the animal are clearly ursini, the anterior half is that of a large bird of prey. They have replaced the bear's paws with real eagle claws, even though there are still five fingers and… a thumb? Could these balanced Orsogufi from the most balanced edition ever have opposable thumbs? Not that it is of any use to them, on the other hand they have an animal intelligence. But the thing opens up infinite ecological scenarios with arboreal Orsogufi or who use tools in the manner of bonobos and chimpanzees!

The little lore expressed in the manual is in contradiction with that of the three previous editions and suggests that the Orsogufi come from the plane of the fairies, the Feywild. We take note of the statement and promptly ignore it as the mad wizard hypothesis is much more interesting and beautiful.
The manual also has the serious lack of don't keep us updated on the cost of eggs by Orsogufo and this is probably the cause of the game's low sales. Additionally, the creature loses the hug move to gain a paralyzing screech. Then I believe that people switch to Pathfinder!

Vote: 4/ 10. One step forward and two editions back.
A Pathfinder Beardog
A Pathfinder Beardog

Pathfinder: a hogwash bear

The first bestiary of Pathfinder it was a great product, introducing new monster looks we were used to and recovering designs from the past in an original way. They do not contradict themselves with this voice of the bestiary.
This Orsogufo is massif e awesome, in a dynamic pose ready to jump on some unfortunate. What is striking is the creature's much more volatile design.

First of all it is finally, unequivocally AN OWL!
I mean, did it take a competing publishing house to have a Bear who looked like an owl at first glance? Was it that hard? 
Kudos to Ben Wootten who created the work.  
I also very much appreciate the attention to plumage, which skilfully sports different colors on the back and belly.

If we really want to find a flaw in the drawing (and we want it, I'm here on purpose) it's that the beast has an expression too staid on his adorable face.
In fact, the text insists that they are a failed and senseless magical experiment, and spends several lines reminding the reader that these creatures are constantly angry and aggressive. Not even the red eye contour was done as indicated in every description of the creature from 1989 to today.
Obviously, as a good continuation of the Third Edition, also here the eggs they can be resold and the creatures trained.

Vote: 9/ 10, save for some negligible details, it is the most orsogufoso Bear made so far.
A Beardog from D&D 5e
A Beardog from D&D 5e

D&D 5e: a nice idea, but a mediocre yield

The Fifth Edition must undo all the damage done by the Fourth. However, he cannot deny it and must reconcile the parties with the difficult task of referring to forty years of tradition while trying to innovate at the same time.
The fifth edition Orsogufo was created based on these difficult guidelines.

The positives

But I must say that at the level of creatures design be a significant improvement compared to that of D&D 4e. The body structure is less clearly separated than the antecedent, and is very reminiscent of that of the third. I very much appreciate that they kept the vestigial feathers on the front legs, I think it was a good choice.
The beauty of it is that it is the first frontal representation of the Bear, here in all its owl. I find that representing him frontally was a good choice. because this fully conveys the hybridity of the creature.

I very much appreciate that it is massif, but perhaps there was no need to do it with muscles so outlined: where is all the fat of the bear? Also, I wouldn't want to be wrong, but the partially raised foreleg feels a bit shorter than the one resting on the ground. Either the author failed to accurately indicate the bend of the arm or the rise of the shoulder. Or he actually has a shorter and good arm there.

The negatives

However, the yield leaves something to be desired. First of all the coloration: a bland gray-brown in a manual already full of bland colors and earthy tones. There is no pattern or shade in the plumage, whereas owl plumage is quite distinctive on that front.
The second thing I don't appreciate is the laying. In the first place because so far in the odd editions it was on two legs and on four in the even ones. Here I get the scheme wrong and it's no good! The idea of ​​portraying him frontally was wonderful, but how much better would it have been if he had been standing, perhaps looking at the reader from top to bottom?

The new lore of the Orsogufo

I really appreciate the manual that there is a lot of space dedicated to lore. In this edition, the Bear Owl loses a bit of the forest berserker aura (after all, he wears a bearskin every day). In fact, more than the perennial anger, it is described as hunting and how the various cultures manage to live with it in a partial domestication. There environmentalist turn it is now clear and there is no mention of reselling the eggs. 
In the abundant paragraph of lore it also tries to reconcile the backstory of the magical experiment (theory credited as majority) with the provenance from Feywild (lie spread by the unreliable Elves). Nice appreciable attempt.

Vote: 7/ 10. We are on the right track but they should have studied the pose and the color better.
A chonky Beardog from Pathfinder Second Edition
A chonky Beardog of Pathfinder Second Edition

Pathfinder Second Edition: a very chonky Orsogufo

Ok, this is the Orsogufo more chonky I've ever seen.
Watch him vigorously scratch his belly and almost certainly emit a loud burp. Probably after eating a beefy Halfling.
The beauty of this Orsogufo is that it keeps the weight and physicality of the bear: a heavy and placed physique that reveals powerful muscles under the round shapes. I honestly wanted a more intimidating pose, maybe with arms up, but it probably wouldn't have been feasible because it would have eaten too much text.

Nevertheless it is a beautiful creature, with variegated plumage and with a texture that conveys the tactile sensation well. I would gladly lose an arm to go and touch that fluffy baby bump. The coloring is also convincing: they could have done something more, but the two-tone with this contrast between white and brown is still better than the dove-gray of that of the 5e. 
The creature's muzzle is carefully made and has a lively appearance, with very colorful eyes. Riding the wave of appreciation the Bear Owl has had in recent years, Paizo has tried to balance the creature's plump and intimidating looks.

The new Orsogufo, between innovation and tradition

At the level of lore, the text supports the thesis of the mad wizard (catch this stupid elf with your stupid Feywild!) and then dwells on the territorial and parental habits of the beast.
In a sidebar side hints at the polar version of the Orsogufo (snowy owl + polar bear?) stealthily attacking from under the snowdrifts and a potential winged version flying in complete silence just like owls. I can't wait for more Paizo bestiaries to come out with these creatures.
Moreover, now that I think about it this creature has existed since the 70s and no one has ever thought of putting the only real one feature so a bear would benefit from having the head of an owl: the ability to turn the head 180 degrees!
It would be enough to give him one prodigious dodge or flanking immunity, it would have been a piece of cake.

The Paizo is like that anecdote of the Buddha and the Merchant. He makes others go first, watch, learn and come up with a better result. Very cunningly, the Orsogufo from the second edition of Pathfinder has both the bearhug, which makes longtime fans happy, that the terrifying screech for those who have read the fourth edition and feel nostalgic for it.

Vote: 9/ 10 for mine chonky boy.
The variants of Orsogufo from the Atlas Animalia
The variants of Orsogufo dell 'Atlas Animalia

Special Mentions

The Orsogufi ofAtlas Animalia: the regional variants

Many authors have played on the possible combinations between species of bear and owl or strigidae.
One person who has done it particularly well is Sarah Dahlinger.
In the book Atlas Animalia, the authors explore variations of the more classic monsters and entirely new creatures. The book, after a successful Kickstarter, earned an Ennies nomination for Best Interior Illustrations. In this book you can find variants of the Orsogufo such as the Pandawl and the Powlbear, as well as a careful reconstruction of the musculature and anatomy of our favorite hybrid.
Great if you want to present to your party some variant of the creature in theme with the environment in which they are at that moment (a GS4 is always good at all levels!).

Sarah Lindstrom's bear cub
A culcino di Orsogufo by Sarah Lindstrom
The puppies of Orsogufo

Obviously. The Bear Owl has the potential to be tremendously puccioso, so why not explore that side?
Pups / chicks of both parent species are adorable when young, so a baby Beardog's pussiness should be upgraded to square, right? Quite right.
Observe the tender little creature (which one day will become a beast of 3 meters and 600 kg) how sweet and playful it is! What adventurer wouldn't want to run around in their camp?
Sure, you could have cashed in 2000 gold, but don't you see how adorable it is?
Il culcino (puppy + chick) is the work of Sarah Lindstrom and you can see her other works in his profile on Artstation.

The dilemma of the Orsogufo from The Order of the Stick
The dilemma of the Orsogufo from The Order of the Stick

Ideas for Adventures

The breakfast of champions

Altor, the champion of the Kingdom was treacherously poisoned by Wyvern Yves in the course of the last fight. Now he lies in a troubled sleep in the castle rooms.
The court magician says that, presenting him with a contented breakfast omelette of Orsogufo, Altor will finally be able to awaken from his poisoned sleep. A rich reward has been offered to those who bring the eggs of Orsogufo to the kitchens of the castle.
Will the characters accept the quest or will they try to stop all the self-styled bear hunters? Someone will try to steal their eggs (hoping they are an easier target than a pair of Orsogufi?).

More can be done

Justivan Millemani is a young transmuter who is as arrogant as he is talented. He believes that he can succeed where others have failed: to create a flying Bear Owl and that it is not a crazy killing machine!
To do this he will obviously need the help of the adventurers: they will have to track down and recover the notes of the mad magician who first attempted the mad enterprise. Then they will have to get a live Bear Owl (and it might not be easy already) but also a Giant Owl, which is a sentient creature!
This adventure is meant to be not serious, but also to make the party think about what they are willing to do for the reward and, above all, what they are willing to do for the cause of magical progress and whether or not one should interfere at this level with the nature.

Kodarr Brother Orsogufo

Piccha is a Halfling Druid who loves animals. In the nearby town, he learned that a bear named Kodarr is forced to fight in the arena for the amusement of shady humanoids. Piccha has made a sacred vow not to set foot in any urban territory anymore and therefore asks the party if he can free it on his own. Obviously in exchange for hard cash.
The PCs must infiltrate the city and the arena, coming out with a bloodthirsty and ferocious beast. They will have to resort to stealth, diversion, physical removal of obstacles and all while managing a beast not particularly intelligent or tame. Will they make it or will they lose patience (and limbs) sooner?

Cover image from the video game Dragon's Crown