Best of the Beastiary, D&D

Gnolls: Angry Hyena Furries

Ah, gnolls. Another fantasy classic. Maybe they’re not as beloved as creatures like dragons. But they’re still a welcome addition to any fantastical setting.

Question is: do they deserve to be in yours?

Lore: Hounds of the Demon Lord

If you’re familiar with fantasy, you’ve probably got a general idea of what gnolls are about. They are feral monsters that raid small villages, slaughtering and devouring anyone who dares cross their path.

Long ago, the demon lord Yeenoghu wandered onto the Material Plane. While he rampaged, packs of hyenas followed in his wake, eating those killed by the demon lord. Slowly, they were transformed into gnolls. When Yeenoghu was banished from the Material Plane, they remained, scattered across the world.

Unlike more intelligent creatures, gnolls attack completely at random. Like a plague of locusts, they’ll ravage a land then move on to the next. They’ll choose small villages over fortified castles, always preferring the easy prey. It’s rare for them to settle down and build anything. They’ll simply steal from the corpses of those they kill and move on like a deadly wind.

There is no reasoning with a gnoll. It’s heart is filled purely with malice and hunger, just like the worst demons. None can tame these beasts. Even the most savage orcs of the land avoid them.

A gnoll pack is lead by the alpha, the pack lord. They will rule with might and cunning, eliminating any who would stand in their way. They’ll often decorate their fur with the most valuable of their plundered goods and dye their fur with demonic sigils in the hopes to appease Yeenoghu. For they believe that their demonic creator has the power to give them invulnerability.

Gnolls will celebrate a victorious raid by performing demonic rituals in Yeenoghu’s name. Sometimes, the demon lord will reward those who please him by sending a demonic spirit to possess them. The recipient is marked as Yeenoghu’s favorite, becoming his fang. These will undergo a horrific transformation, becoming the mightiest gnoll that could be born. They reproduce more rapidly than the average gnoll, leading to massive inflations of their population. In order to contain them, one must first slay the fang.

The lore here is surprisingly cool! You can mix them into a plot about demons pretty easily! Whether you only need them for one fun encounter or as a setpiece for a greater villain like Yeenoghu, these guys can fit the bill!

Design: NYEH NYEH NYEH!!

Did you ever play Guild Wars 2? You know the Charr from that game? Yeah, it’s kinda like that.

There’s a charming simplicity to the gnolls. What’s not to love about walking hyena men? They’re just fun!

But… well, they’re kind of generic. You can find gnolls in pretty much any fantasy out there and they’ll look exactly the same. Not even Blizzard changed them in World of Warcraft! And that’s a game where Kobolds are rat people!

This isn’t a bad design. But it lacks the creativity that we look for in Best of the Bestiary. Still, it’s better than ‘a normal dude with different colored skin’.

Boy, I can’t wait until next week…

Stats: RAMPAGE!!

We’ve got three different flavors to go over. Three. So… we might be here for a bit.

The basic gnoll is hardly a dangerous foe. It’s AC is average and the HP is fairly low. It can bite you, stab you with a spear, or shoot you with a longbow. None of them do very much damage and they can only do one at a time.

The pack lord is a bit more dangerous. The AC is the same and its HP is well over double. It’s got a glaive, a longbow, and it can bite you. None do much damage, but it can do more than one of them at a time; it can make two attacks with any weapon per turn. It also has a special move called Incite Rampage, but… well, we’ll get to that.

The fang is the strongest, yet simplest, of the lot. Its AC is lower than the others, but it makes up for that by having the highest HP pool. It can bite you, rake you with a claw, or do two of the ladder and one of the former. Once again, damage isn’t that high. Although its bite does have extra poison damage, provided the victim fails a saving throw.

All three gnolls have an ability called Rampage. This is activated when a gnoll reduces a creature to 0 HP with a melee attack. When active, it can take a bonus action to move half of its movement speed and take a bite attack. And the pack lord can incite this ability in others with its Incite Rampage ability.

Which means that you’ve got to have one in your fight. Or else these guys are gonna be super boring.

Placement

The gnolls are a fairly decent enemy. They’ve got cool lore and a decent design, and their stats could make for a fun fight if utilized properly. For an early game enemy, they’re surprisingly tricky for a Dungeon Master to use properly. But if they do, it can be a pretty memorable time.

With all that in mind, let’s put the Gnolls on the Best of the Bestiary!

  1. Beholder
  2. Death Tyrant
  3. Dragon Turtle
  4. Green Dragons
  5. Red Dragons
  6. Blue Dragons
  7. Black Dragons
  8. White Dragons
  9. Silver Dragons
  10. Couatl
  11. Behir
  12. Aboleth
  13. Bronze Dragons
  14. Brass Dragons
  15. Copper Dragons
  16. Gold Dragons
  17. Chuul
  18. Gibbering Mouther
  19. Chimera
  20. Death Knight
  21. Fomorian
  22. Bone Devil
  23. Dracolich
  24. Faerie Dragon
  25. Ankheg
  26. Storm Giant
  27. Hill Giant
  28. Empyrean
  29. Efreeti
  30. Dao
  31. Cloud Giant
  32. Drow (all four of ’em)
  33. Shadow Demon
  34. Marilith
  35. Drider
  36. Aarackockra
  37. Azer
  38. Demilich
  39. Spectator
  40. Marid
  41. Cambion
  42. Fire Giant
  43. Animated Armor
  44. Banshee
  45. Basilisk
  46. Yochlol
  47. Bulette
  48. Cloaker
  49. Darkmantle
  50. Doppelganger
  51. Ghoul and Ghast
  52. Ettin
  53. Pit Fiend
  54. Erinyes
  55. Chain Devil
  56. Bearded Devil
  57. Barbed Devil
  58. Spined Devil
  59. Ice Devil
  60. Djinni
  61. Nalfeshnee
  62. Glabrezu
  63. Chasme
  64. Barlgura
  65. Horned Devil
  66. Balor
  67. Shadow Dragon
  68. Vrock
  69. Dretch
  70. Gnolls (all three) <————————
  71. Goristro
  72. Hezrou
  73. Manes
  74. Frost Giant
  75. Duergar
  76. Quasit
  77. Dryad
  78. Flumph
  79. Githyanki
  80. Planetar
  81. Imp
  82. Flameskull
  83. Displacer Beast
  84. Carrion Crawler
  85. Githzerai
  86. Rug of Smothering
  87. Bugbear Chief
  88. Bugbear
  89. Vine Blight
  90. Twig Blight
  91. Needle Blight
  92. Bullywug
  93. Ettercap
  94. Gas Spore
  95. Cockatrice
  96. Lemure
  97. Solar
  98. Deva
  99. Cyclops
  100. Centaur
  101. Ghost
  102. Fire Elemental
  103. Water Elemental
  104. Air Elemental
  105. Stone Giant
  106. Dinosaurs (All six of them)
  107. Earth Elemental
  108. Galeb Duhr
  109. Flying Sword
  110. Crawling Claw
  111. Violet Fungus
  112. Shrieker
  113. Gargoyle

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