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According to the 3.5 monster manual -

Ettins like to establish their lairs in remote, rocky areas. They dwell in dark, underground caves that stink of decaying food and offal. They tolerate other creatures, such as orcs, if these can be useful in some way.

Otyughs are grotesque subterranean monsters that lurk within heaps of refuse. Although primarily scavengers that can eat almost any kind of refuse, they never object to a meal of fresh meat when the opportunity presents itself.

An otyugh spend most of its time within its lair, which it keeps filled with carrion, offal, and all manner of similar trash. An otyugh usually covers itself with this vile stuff, leaving only its sensory stalk exposed (the stack also carries the otyugh’s olfactory organ) and lies there for hours, shoveling food into its mouth.

Intelligent subterranean beings sometimes coexist with otyughs, which they regard as convenient garbage disposals: They dump their refuse in the lair of the otyugh, which generally refrains from attacking them.

Based on the rules as written would it be far fetched to think that these two creatures would live around each other?

I was specifically thinking of using the otyugh as a kind of guard-dog for the ettin.

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    \$\begingroup\$ With the ettin having Int 6 and the otyugh Int 5, really, who's the guard dog for whom? \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2015 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the record, there's a case of this happening in Storm kings thunder. \$\endgroup\$
    – blade
    Feb 2, 2017 at 18:37

2 Answers 2

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They Are A Pair of Monsters With A Long History Together

You can appeal to Dungeon and Dragons tradition for a thematically (historically?) consistent relationship between an Otyugh and an Ettin in the manner you describe. The rules you are working with don't explicitly say one way or the other, as KRyan pointed out in his answer.

Citation: Article by Ed Greenwood in Dragon Magazine #96, pages 20-22, published in April of 1985, "The Ecology of the Gulgrutha"(1)

The Gulguthra, or Dung-Eaters(otyugh and neo-otyugh), are strange and ravening monsters, deadly creatures indeed. I asked Elminster about them some time ago ... (-- snip-- long article -- near the end we find)

  • The otyugh is most often solitary, but may exist in symbiosis with another (often more dangerous or energetic) creature, such as a doppleganger, ettin, will-o-the-wisp, or even a beholder. For such creatures they serve to guard treasure, which they always conceal at the very bottom of their offal pile, hidden from view beneath the otyugh itself. Encountering an otyugh is bad enough but if you do see one, be sure to look around for another even more fearsome foe!

Ed Greenwood did the original writings on the Forgotten Realms D&D Fantasy setting. Whether or not that makes his article "canon" is beyond the scope of this question and answer. Even if the relationship isn't canon per se for D&D 3.5, it matches the "game history" of both monsters since their appearance in the First Edition AD&D Monster Manual as amplified by Ed Greenwood's articles in Dragon.

It appears that these two monsters arrived intact for D&D editions 3.0 and 3.5. (No massive changes). A lot of the monsters have remained pretty much intact from their original introductions.

If you are interested, color/flavor material for these monsters can be found in "The Ecology of the Ettin" (Dragon Magazine Issue #92) and "The Ecology of the Gulgrutha" (Dragon Magazine Issue #96), respectively.

(1) The "Ecology of _______" articles published in Dragon Magazine ran for a number of years. They added color and back story to the terse entries in the Monster Manuals for a great many monsters.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Did Greenwood explain in the otyugh article why he referred to the otyugh by a different name? (It seems like changing otyugh to gulguthra is a lot like changing nonsense to silliness.) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2015 at 17:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I Can Chan Sort of, but not explicitly. KRyan is pretty much spot on. Ed's articles referred to Forgotten Realms long before the officially published material came out for campaigns and such, so some of it was "artistic license" to make the story sound like it came from a real "other" place, a secondary world. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2015 at 17:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I Can Chan .. the "reference" in the article goes -- "From a report by Phiraz of the Naturalists to the Commissioner of Public Sewers in the city of Scornubel: . . . The greatest of the nuisance creatures that will plague your system is the dungheap or otyugh," --... so he's referring to some unknown foreign language, probably in an attempt to make the story sound more exotic. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2015 at 17:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not to mention, clergy of St. Cuthbert seem to like them as well. For those reading that don't know what I am talking about - Otyugh Hole. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruut
    Aug 11, 2015 at 22:50
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Such descriptions are frequently not considered “rules,” particularly by the crowd that is interested in the “rules as written.” The lifestyles of the big and nasty are setting details; the Monster Manual describes, in extremely vague terms, a default setting (often described as “Greyhawk with the serial numbers filed off”), but other official settings (e.g. Forgotten Realms, Eberron) can and do change these descriptions to meet their own needs.

So the answer to this question depends on what setting you are playing. If you wanted to play “canonical” Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, or Eberron, you would have to consult the material specifically for those settings. If you are playing in your own setting, then you are the canon source for these descriptions – you get to make up whatever you want, because it’s your setting.

If you are looking to play “canon D&D 3.5” or some such, there is no such thing. The “default setting” is intentionally vague and these details are provided in very disjointed form – ettins get a description, otyughs get a description, but an overall picture of either’s dwelling, or interaction with each other or any other creature, are absent – because those are for you to fill in.

If you wish to treat the descriptions given in the Monster Manual as canon for your game, then the question devolves into “do you think that these two descriptions are sufficiently compatible?” which is pretty opinion-based and not really appropriate to this site. Personally, I think they sound compatible enough, though using otyughs as guard-dogs probably requires putting the trash heap in the front door, which is an odd choice to say the least.

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    \$\begingroup\$ ".. putting the trash heap in the front door, which is an odd choice to say the least" -- but it could be the latest in Ettin Chic, Better Caves and Gardens, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 11, 2015 at 17:42

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