The Neo-otyugh is the larger and meaner version of another early Dungeons & Dragons monster, the Otyugh. As we would learn in an article by Ed Greenwood in Dragon #96, both of these creatures are Gulguthra or “Dung-Eaters.” These creatures survive as scavengers, eating anything that they can find, including a party of adventurers, if they are available. While no full illustration of either gulguthra appear in that article, it does have an illustration of one in hiding and waiting to ambush an unsuspecting victim with art by Roger Raupp.
The pronunciation of this monster is hard to nail down. In an article by Frank Matzer from 1985 in Dragon #93, the Otyugh pronunciation is given as AT-yug, but in the Monstrous Manual eight years later, the pronunciation is changed to Aw-tee-ug. I prefer At-yug, although up until I read that article, I pronounced it as Ot-yug.
The Neo-otyugh, would appear in first edition Monster Manual (1977) and in all monster books that would follow. So it is not surprising that it would make an appearance as a Monster Card.
This art on this card is from Jim Roslof. His depiction, captures a leathery blubbery mess of a creature with strangle alien tentacle that sting and grasp. Its skin is dull shades of tan to reddish brown with hints of sickly pale green. The grey background was a great choice, since it makes what would be a subtle color choice stand out. This is a formidable monster that is absolutely monstrous in every sense of the word.
In the original art for the Monster Card, you can see the slight trimming they did to make it fit on the card. Its unfortunate we do not get the full extent of the mess on the floor that the Neo-otyugh is standing in, it helps to illustrate that this is a creature that lives in dung heaps and garbage dumps.
The stats of the Neo-otyugh match up nicely with the stats in the 1st Edition Monster Manual (MM). The description on the card stresses encounters, so it is a little longer that the MM. What is interesting about this card is that is references the disease giving ability material for the Otyugh. It also point you to a page in the Dungeon Masters Guide (DMG). It is the first Monster Card in the series to do so.
The depiction in the MM by David Sutherland is great, I especially enjoy how it is breaking out of the panel that it has been placed in. Here it is next to the Otyugh, by David Sutherland and Jean Wells. As you can see, the Neo-otyugh is a lot more threatening, but you gotta love the artist signatures on the bone.
We also get some bonus art where we see the Neo-Otyugh in action. Helpful to see it with some scale next to an adventurer.
The Neo-otyugh is also in the Monstrous Manual, with art by Tony DiTerlizzi. This depiction has thinner tentacles, which are a lot more hairy and worm-like. This seems very appropriate for dung-eating creature. In this book, the monsters entries have been linked under Otyugh with the material from Dragon now becoming book canon as the term “Gulguthra” makes an appearance here.
In addition to Dragon #93, the Neo-otyugh is mentioned in several other articles over the years.
- In Dragon #128 in an article they appear as a possible random monster encounter in Welcome to Waterdeep by Ed Greenwood.
- The letters section of Dragon #163 has a humorous but bizarre reference. I think I need to include the letter here, since it would be difficult to explain otherwise.
- Ed Greenwood mentions them again in Dragon #425, in his work of fiction, The Night Thelva Clovenaxe Flew.
- The fascinating article, Playing in the Paleozoic by Gregory W. Detwiler appears in Dragon #176. In this work, Detwiler mentions that the Giant Opabinia, a creature from the Paleozoic, could be a distant relative of the gulguthra. In the wandering table of monsters in that same article, both the Neo-otyugh and the Otyugh are mentioned.
- Blake Ward put together Random Monster Tables for every level of characters in Dragon #34, in his article, For Fearsome but Familiar Fiends: What Every Monster-Maker Needs. Both the Otyugh and the Neo-otyugh make multiple appearances there.
- The Last Slave Lord is an adventure by Robert J. Schwalb that appeared in Dungeon #215. They appear as guards in a fetid cave working with a group of Grimlocks.
Outside of rule books and magazines, the Neo-otyugh would appear in various modules like:
- Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (G1)
- Lost Tomb of Martek (I5)
- The Elixir of Life (RPGA4)
- To Find a King (C4)
In 1984, TSR in association with LJN, released a line of bendable action toys. One of the toys was the Neo-otyugh. On the packaging of this figure, we get yet another pronunciation! This one is NE-O-OT-YUG, which is the closest to my childhood pronunciation. The figure looks great, very much like the art on the Monster Card.
The Neo-otyugh is a terrifying creature that makes a great edition to any dungeon crawl. They fall into the category of dungeon cleaners, along with the carrion crawler and gelatinous cube. So no matter where you put them they are believable. If you read their full ecology in Dragon or in the Monstrous Manual, their placement becomes even easier, since they will function as guard for other monsters working simply for waste product. So if you are DM, have fun with this monster, and its smaller less-Neo version. If you are a player? Beware of suspicious garbage piles.
Neo-otyugh Random Encounter
The harbor town of Pine’s End has a problem. A garbage barge has made its way down river and into their small harbor. There it has run aground on a small rocky island. Unfortunately, the barge contained a Neo-otyugh who has turned the island into its nest. The town thought it could just let it stay on the island and eventually it would starve, but it seems like this particular Neo-otyugh has learned to swim.
Can the party get to the island safely and defeat the creature? If so, the town will pay them handsomely.