Races of the East: Gnoll
Bestial and bloodthirsty, gnolls are a savage race of hyena folk considered a blight upon the face of Faerûn by other races. Great numbers of gnolls inhabit the Plateau of Thay, providing the Red Wizards with fierce warriors to terrorize their own people as well as the neighboring lands.
Personality: The typical gnoll has few redeeming virtues. He is a cruel, hateful bully, quick to rob from or torment those weaker than himself, and just as quick to grovel in the presence of those stronger. Lazy and ill-tempered, he prefers to steal what he needs and murder anyone who objects. Only the promise of loot and easy slaughter can stir him to real effort, and even then he is likely to abandon ongoing tasks to indulge his larcenous instincts unless a strong leader cows him into obedience.
A small number of gnolls rise above the craven and violent nature of their fellows, taking pride in their skill at arms and their natural ferocity. While still contemptuous of weaklings, these gnolls have a savage nobility and can endure privation and real danger to prove they're the toughest warriors around. Where a common gnoll is all bluster and bullying, a superior gnoll doesn't waste time on words - he strikes hard and strikes fast to get what he wants. A gnoll with such determination and courage is rare and generally rises to a position of leadership among his people.
Physical Description: If a hyena could walk on two legs and carry weapons, it would not be far from a gnoll. Gnolls' skin is a greenish-gray color, and the furry hide is marked with brown spots and a reddish-gray to dirty yellow mane. These massive humanoids are nocturnal carnivores by nature, and they're not particular about who or what they eat - or, for that matter, whether it's been cooked. A gnoll can stand up to 7 1/2 feet in height.
Relations: No one harbors goodwill toward gnollkind, not even gnolls themselves. Civilized folk such as humans or elves view them as cruel, rapacious marauders no better than orcs or goblins, and even other savage races do not get along with them. Gnoll bands serve the Red Wizards of Thay out of fear and the chance to plunder or torment those weaker than themselves.
Alignment: Most gnolls are chaotic and evil, taking what they want from anyone not strong enough to defend it, and having no patience for rules. Those who behave otherwise either bury their nature beneath slavish devotion to a more powerful master or drive themselves to be better at what they do.
Religion: Gnolls worship Yeenoghu, a demon lord who is the patron of their vile race. They are not particularly reverent, but a tribe or clan down on its luck might propitiate Yeenoghu through the sacrifice of living captives.
Language: Most gnolls speak only Gnoll, but player characters speak Common as well. Bonus languages include Giant, goblin, Mulan, Orc, and Rashemi.
Names: Male - Brask, Durrash, Faush, Lask, Thovarr, Wesk; Female - Amal, Hett, Ishtish, Senga. Surnames: Blood-fang, Ear-taker, Face-ripper, Spearbreaker.
Adventurers: Generally regarded as vicious thugs and brigands, most gnolls live down to expectations. However, in lands where gnolls are common, a small number are reliable enough (barely) to hold down jobs as guards, trackers, or hired muscle. As a sword-for-hire, a gnoll usually falls in with the worst sort of adventuring party. At best, a gnoll adventurer is willing to go along with good-intentioned comrades, provided he's paid well for his services and given the respect he feels his prowess deserves.
Gnoll Racial Traits
Gnolls have the following abilities and characteristics.
- +4 Strength, +2 Constitution, -2 intelligence, -2 Charisma: Gnolls are tough and strong, but are not especially bright or personable.
- Land speed 30 feet.
- Darkvision: Gnolls can see in the dark up to 60 feet.
- Racial Hit Dice: A gnoll begins with two levels of humanoid. This provides 2d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +1, and base saving throws of Fort +3, Ref +0, and Will +0.
- Racial Skills: A gnoll character's humanoid levels give him skill points equal to 5 x (2 + Intelligence modifier). Gnoll class skills are Listen and Spot.
- Racial Feats: A gnoll's humanoid levels give him one feat.
- Natural Armor: +1 natural armor bonus.
- Weapon Familiarity: Gnolls treat battleaxes and shortbows as simple weapons. No gnoll grows to adulthood without learning something about fighting.
- Automatic Languages: Common, Gnoll. Bonus Languages: By region.
- Level Adjustment: +1. A gnoll has an effective character level (ECL) of 3 plus class levels, so a 1st-level gnoll ranger would have an ECL of 4. See Powerful Races.
- Favored Class: Ranger. A multiclassed gnoll's racial Hit Dice and ranger class do not count when determining whether he suffers an XP penalty.
Gnolls eat only meat, preferably uncooked. They hunt and raid under cover of darkness and sleep through much of the day. They take special delight in tormenting and devouring intelligent beings.
A gnoll's life span is around forty years, though an individual that reaches such an advanced age is a remarkable specimen. Most gnolls die in their twenties while in battle or from the rigors of a primitive life.
A female gnoll gives birth to two to four pups about six months after conception. The pups are nearly helpless for eight weeks, doing little besides suckling and sleeping. A warrior gnoll hands off the pups immediately after birth and returns to her normal activities without another thought. The young grow up in creches, left in the care of wet nurses and slaves until they can fend for themselves. After the first two months, a young gnoll begins to grow rapidly and develop impressive muscle mass. It begins to eat meat at this time. Weaned pups move to a different cave where they practice hunting skills and observe the behavior of adults.
It is not safe for them to enter the main body of the tribe until they reach adult size - a pup that gets underfoot makes as good a meal as anything else. Gnolls reach adolescence in two years, when they enter the rest of the tribe and begin to hunt and make war on their own.
A gnoll tribe rarely creates its own dwelling but moves into a cave, ruined building, or dungeon that has been abandoned by previous denizens. Sometimes another occupant inhabits the place, and if it is weak or they out-number it, the gnolls kill it or drive it out. Occasionally the tribe makes an arrangement to coexist with a powerful inhabitant, but more often the gnolls simply look for another suitable home.
Once a tribe has claimed an area, the dominant female chooses the roomiest, most desirable quarters for herself. The leader then marks her territory, not with musk as an animal does, but with a clan sigil drawn in blood. The "donor" is the nearest lesser tribe member, whose neck the leader bites in a demonstration of authority. She then designates areas for child-rearing and marks them in the same way. After this, the other gnolls compete among themselves for living space. Scraps of fur or leather sometimes mark the den of a moderately high-ranking member.
Environment: Gnolls live on warm plains, preferring lightly wooded hills that border grasslands. They often encroach on forests, mainly for hunting, which brings them into conflict with elves.
Typical Physical Characteristics: An adult male gnoll is about 7 feet tall and weighs 250 pounds. Females tend to be larger, about 7-1/2 feet tall and weighing 300 pounds.
Gnolls strongly resemble hyenas, with very powerful jaws and upper bodies. Their brown fur bears spots and streaks, and a bristly mane runs down the back of the head and shoulders.
Alignment: The brutal and competitive nature of their society, as well as their demonic patron, tends to make gnolls chaotic evil in outlook. Some are neutral evil, but a gnoll with a good or lawful outlook is unheard-of.
Other beings generally view gnolls as vicious, brutish, and filthy - which they are. But they are not stupid, nor are they as simple as many assume. To underestimate them as enemies is to fall to their cunning strategies. The smartest gnoll leaders actually play up this reputation so as to lull opponents into false confidence. Only then do the gnolls strike - with devastating effect.
Like hyenas, gnolls have a matriarchal society. The females grow larger and stronger than males, and the alpha female is the absolute ruler of a tribe for as long as she can defend her rank. She takes for a mate the fittest specimen of the tribe, but they form no lasting relationship. Below the alpha, the other gnolls sort themselves according to the simple rule of might, but the leader of the tribe can elevate or demote any tribe member, regardless of status. The most aggressive males can sometimes hold high rank within the tribe, although they must endure challenges much more frequently than females. Gnolls with the least status, and the old, are relegated to menial positions within the tribe - especially child-rearing. Yet even these humble individuals far outrank slaves, who must endure constant malnourishment and regular beatings. Gnolls use slaves for cleaning and mending, and for hard labor such as digging or felling trees.
The gnolls' worship of Yeenoghu is closely tied with the phases of the moon and their matriarchal society. Yeenoghu represents the ultimate mate for female gnolls. The new moon is a time for great sacrifices to the Demon Prince, and gnolls increase their attacks during these times to take as many captives as possible. The gnolls bring captured humanoids to a special cave that represents Yeenoghu's den. There, brown-robed and blood-soaked acolytes slaughter the captives while the tribe's leader and her attendant clerics howl for Yeenoghu's favor. A gnoll leader fervently desires Yeenoghu's personal appearance, but the best she can realistically hope for is for him to send a demon. If the tribe lacks a half-fiend leader, or has a weak leader, this demon likely takes command of the tribe and mates with several gnolls to produce half-fiends that will one day rule in its place.
Gnolls have standard treasure for NPCs of their Challenge Rating. They favor armor and weapons, but clerics and warlocks also use scrolls and potions.
A gnoll's favored class is ranger; gnoll leaders are usually rangers. Gnoll clerics usually worship Etythnul, deity of slaughter.
Gnolls in Faerûn
North of the Moonsea, the Great Gray Land of Thar gives way to the open steppe known as the Ride and the Tortured Land. The Tortured Land holds the ruins of a forgotten city surrounded by countless tribes of flind-led gnolls. Frozen Flindyke, as it is known to bards, might have once been the center of a flind-ruled civlization, or it might have been a bastion of humanity amid a sea of canine humanoids. The gnolls and flinds of the Tortured Land are led by shamans of Yeenoghu, whose predecessors supposedly summoned the Trio Nefarious that laid Myth Drannor low, and they skirmish constantly with each other and the human barbarian tribes of the Ride.
Bands of nomadic gnoll hunters also wander the Shaar, hunting the large herds of herbivores that wander the grasslands. Most of the southern gnoll tribes have traditional homes throughout the hills and lower mountain slopes of every range across the Shaar, including the Dun Hills, the Uthangol Mountains, and the Wyrmbones. They are most common in the western half of the Shaar, especially along the various ridges north of the Channath Vale. Gnolls have historically preyed upon settlements along the shores of Lake Lhespen and the caravans that move through that region. Because of this, the Lapaliiyans to the southwest have mounted major drives to eradicate them several times in the past.
Characters with ranks in Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nature), or Knowledge (religion) can learn more about gnolls. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.
|Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (nature)|
|11||This creature is a gnoll, a savage humanoid with features of a hyena. This result reveals all humanoid traits, including darkvision.|
|16||Gnoll society is based on strength and intimidation. The biggest and strongest lead the others, and a female typically leads a tribe.|
|21||Chaotic as well as evil, gnolls practice some strategy in combat, but they sometimes succumb to their hunger and attack with the savage fury of beasts.|
|11||Gnolls revere the phases of the moon but have few clerics.|
|16||Yeenoghu, the patron god of gnolls, is actually a demon lord. The phases of the moon have a strange relationship with the worship of Yeenoghu. Gnolls are most prone to violence and raiding during the nights of a new moon.|
|21||Most clerics among gnolls are fiendish descendants of a half-fiend leader.|
Also see Gnolls - Wild Race