In 1st Edition AD&D, the Monster Manual states that Troglodytes

...emit a secretion which smells extremely disgusting to humans...

If I want to keep the party on their toes, I would like to say something like, "As you approach the entrance to the cavern, you smell a strong odor, reeking of ZZZZZ and ZZZZZ", instead of just saying, "Hey, you smell trogs around the corner!"

Has anyone read one of those 'Ecology of...' articles that might describe in more detail the particular odor of the troglodyte secretion?

I can always make something up, but I'd prefer not to contradict existing literature if it exists.


4 Answers 4


According to "Ecology of the Troglodyte" in Dragon #235, it's not that they stink per se, but that they use scent to communicate.

...the overpowering stench that can reduce a human opponent to weak-kneed vomiting during combat with troglodyte, is merely the build up of olfactory battle cries, combat orders, screams of rage, pain, and hunger, and other smell/phrases which are spoken/emitted in such profusion that the combined smell overpowers non-troglodyte.

The scents they describe are many and varied; in fact the name of the trog in the piece is "Rose-Boiled Cabbage-Mild Skunk" as his name is a mix of those scents. But to the average human, more than one or two scents at a time just smell like "stank."


There's no canon that dates to anywhere near the 1st edition—WotC developed D&D in a very different way after the buyout, so I tend to make a division between TSR canon and WotC canon, because of the different design ethos.

My suggestion (and my conception of the "1e way") is to make something up the first time your players encounter trogs. The next time, use that again—and if they're smart, they'll know exactly what it means.

The advantage to this way of doing things is that your game will develop its own mythology and detail. You won't have to memorise it—it'll be part of your shared experience, and much more easily recalled than something you looked up in an article. The collection of facts about the world that "trog smell" will be a part of also gives your players a sense of a little bit of ownership and mastery over the world—they can be proud of their experience and knowledge in a way that they don't quite get if they're just reciting memorised canon.

This is actually one of the things that keeps bringing me back to 1e and 2e. The game is detailed, but there are enough holes for the DM and players to fill in, that the world slowly takes on colour and depth that's all yours. That's unlike other editions (or most other games) that hand you truths in the sourcebooks, to be contradicted at your peril. Of course, that's just me—that's not going to turn everyone's crank.

For what it's worth, I always imagined it like garter snakes or those black beetles, which stank when you caught them. (Of course I write in the past tense, because it's been a long time since I've been a kid down in the grass trying to pick up stinky animals.)


OK, I'm ready for the down votes...

Have you ever gone into a tunnel, subway or enclosed stairwell that was frequented by those living on the streets and often used as a urinal? That's a Trog!

Interestingly, ogres smell of spoiled milk or rancid cheese.

This is based solely on our table's experience. I know of no canon describing the smell.


In my experience, the best way to describe it is as a "nauseating pheromone scent" with a character all its own. That way you don't need to relate it to anything in the real world or endure rules-lawyers trying to acclimate to it.

Maybe try describing it almost like a chemical attack? The idea is that their reaction to the smell isn't just 'nausea' so much as an involuntary response to what's in the air. Like chopping onions or getting tagged with MACE.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The querent is asking for existing literature - were he not, this question would have been closed as opinion-based. From this and other answers of yours, it looks to me you're trying to interact with this site as if it was a forum. Unfortunately, writing answers that do not answer precise questions, or going tangential is the kind of noise we don't want on this site and the system is designed to gather downvotes around these kind of interventions. Reading our help center might have you understand why we want this kind of environment (discussions are not bad, but they belong to forums, or to Role-playing Games Chat) \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Jun 9, 2017 at 18:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Although normally this would be a fine solution ("abstract it a level to avoid having to define it"), in this case it doesn't solve the actual problem in the question, which is aiming for a specific scent so it can be used as a clue. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2017 at 19:07

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