Written by Jonathan Wojcik

   A D&D staple, the Otyugh was probably inspired by the Dionaga or "trash compactor monster" from Star Wars, as its entire concept is of an unseen, horrible tentacled thing hiding under mounds of decaying garbage, exposing only its periscope-like eyestalk to keep watch for prey. Also known as a "Gulguthra" which supposedly means "dung eater," Otyugh will eat literally anything organic, living or dead, but particularly enjoy eating and wallowing in the unmentionable waste products of other, larger monsters, whom they live in symbiosis with. Yes, not only do you have an acid-belching black dragon to contend with, but his organic toilet would like a piece of you as well. It's a damn fun concept, and one of the many ways in which various D&D creatures always formed a roughly believable "dungeon ecology."

   One thing I always liked about this first illustration was how the body itself resembled a dripping wad of refuse. I'd always inerpreted its flesh as amorphous, or at least thickly caked in the same stuff it inhabits. This seems to have been forgotten about in all later incarnations, which is really too bad.

   Like the Carrion Crawler, Grell and a few others, the Otyugh was produced as a bendable rubber toy in 1983 (my birth year!) for the Dungeons and Dragons toy line, in my opinion quite a bit cooler than the illustrations in the book. That round, sucking mouth is pleasantly horrendous, the far longer eye stalk makes sense and I like the shaggy texture of the body, not to mention the pumpkiney color scheme!

   My possible favorite Otyugh is, as with several monsters, a Tony Diterlizzi illustration in the Monstrous Manual. Everything about this Otyugh is perfect for a trash-eating, trash-wallowing tentacle beast. I adore the dung-like flesh, the ropiness of its limbs, the sparse hairs and the crazy, panicked look of its eyeballs, details I've been running into the ground with my own monsters since my childhood.

   In current, Wizards of the Coast D&D materials, Otyughs are predictably all intimidation with none of the humor, looking more or less like a bunch of spare dragon parts cobbled together. Wizards tries far too hard to be taken seriously these days, and the results are just so...sterile. Why does the Otyugh even need to be so dramatic? We're talking about a monster that lives in dragon poop, and causes typhus when it bites you with its poop-caked teeth.

   Thankfully, I'm not the only one who prefers monsters with a dash of fun; Paizo Publishing's "Dungeon Denizens Revisited" possibly does the Otyugh greater justice than its entire prior publication history. Their Pathfinder books are unaffiliated with D&D's copyright holders, but the Otyugh is thankfully a part of Wizard's "open gaming license," free for use by other role playing systems. Design wise, the Paizo Otyughs differ only in the addition of far more eyeballs, and conceptually, they couldn't be more lovable.

   Official Dungeons and Dragons books seem to have forgotten that the original Otyugh was capable of speech, whereas Paizo takes full advantage of their dim intelligence; they're still terrifying, alien monstrosities who may think nothing of devouring innocent passersby, but they care as deeply for their mates and their offspring as we do, they display a rudimentary culture in city sewers and the lumbering tripods can even be befriended with a little understanding - just don't dare insult their rotting mountains of "treasure" or ever refuse an Otyugh's "gift," even if it's probably going to give you a skin disease.

Good lord, that is utterly adorable.



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