This majestic beast has the body of a lion, the head and forelegs of a great eagle, and a massive pair of feathered wings.
AC 17, touch 11, flat-footed 15 (+2 Dex, +6 natural, –1 size)
Str 16, Dex 15, Con 16, Int 5, Wis 13, Cha 8
Environment temperate hills
Organization solitary, pair, or pride (6–10)
Griffons are powerful aerial predators, swooping down from their high aeries to take their prey with beak and talon. Aggressive and territorial, they are no mere beasts, but rather calculating combatants and loyal companions to those who earn their respect, fighting to the death to protect their friends and kin.
Weighing in at over 500 pounds and measuring 8 feet long from hooked beak to tufted tail, the griffon strikes an imposing silhouette that has long been used in heraldry and other iconography as a symbol of power, authority, and justice. In reality, the griffon is less concerned with abstract concepts than with hunting food and protecting its own. While they can sometimes be trained or befriended to serve as mounts, griffons have no inherent affinity for humanoids, and frequently come into bloody conflict with civilized races over their attempts to secure their favorite food—horse flesh. City folk may marvel at the trained griffon’s stately manner and 25-foot wingspan, but those farmers forced to share territory with its wild kin know to hurry home and secure their barns when the beasts’ hunting shrieks split the sky.
Griffons mate for life, and will often search for years to take vengeance over a slain mate or child. It was likely this innate stubbornness and fierce loyalty that first brought them into domestic use as mounts and guardians of treasure hoards. Despite the inherent danger, trade in captured griffons and stolen eggs is brisk, with their eggs worth up to 3,500 gp apiece and live young twice that. Characters eager for griffon mounts, however, should note that buying or forcibly domesticating intelligent creatures like griffons is still recognized as slavery by most good deities, and winning a griffon’s allegiance of its own free will is no easy task. Reaching a mutually agreeable accord (or even a friendship) is a much more elegant and safe route to securing a griffon mount.
Before it can be ridden in combat, a griffon requires practice bearing the weight of its rider. In order to be trained successfully, a griffon must first be helpful toward its trainer (possibly requiring a Diplomacy, Intimidate, or Handle Animal check). After that, 6 weeks of practice and a successful DC 20 Handle Animal check is sufficient for the beast to be comfortable with its burden, and due to their intelligence, trained griffons can be treated as knowing every trick listed in the Handle Animal skill description, possibly even responding to new, simple requests made in Common.
Griffons can carry up to 300 pounds as a light load, 600 pounds as a medium load, and 900 pounds as a heavy load. Riding a griffon requires an exotic saddle.
Scholars and adventurers alike have long considered the griffon a creature that combines grace with power, one that possesses both the power of the lion and the captivating majesty of the eagle. Those who wield a banner bearing the likeness of a griffon admire the beast for its pride, stubbornness, and regality, and usually claim themselves to be harbingers of good.
In actuality, while intelligent, griffons are far less concerned with such vague abstractions as honor, and are more akin to the base animals they resemble in terms of motivations. Their love of horsemeat and their territorial natures often put the creatures at odds with civilized races, though for the most part griffons keep to themselves. Those who do find themselves in contact with humanoids may decide to join ones whose goals coincide with their own, casting themselves as mounts for particularly compatible riders or as protectors of treasure for those who bribe them with gifts. New riders are often surprised at how reluctantly their mounts respond to both spoken and unspoken commands, and it quickly becomes apparent to the uninformed that griffons are no mere beasts, but rather highly protective predators with intricate systems for interacting with others.
While unable to speak, griffons that grow up in the vicinity of humanoids quickly learn the local tongue, understanding even complex arguments and discussions, though the creatures themselves can only communicate via gestures, grunts, and cries. Griffons’ intelligence becomes even more apparent in the heat of battle as they execute complex maneuvers and basic tactics in order to gain the advantage against their enemies. Similarly, griffons possess a keen awareness of the more discreet plots taking place around them, and remain a figure representative of both silent strength and powerful insight.
Young griffons reach maturity after 4 to 5 years, at which point males leave their homelands and seek out mates. A male griffon may travel as far as several hundred miles before encountering a potential female partner, but when he does find one, he is steadfast in his determination to win her favor. The courting ritual for griffons differs depending on region, but most such courtships take anywhere from 6 months to 6 years to complete, during which time the male familiarizes himself with the land, builds a suitable nest, and discovers herds of animals to prey upon, favoring horses above all other creatures. The male brings gifts of raw meats and rare fruits to his object of desire, and the gift of horsemeat is seen as an outstanding display of skill and admiration. A griffon suitor who slays a particularly large or powerful steed and presents it to his potential mate frequently gains her favor more quickly, and such a show of mettle is often used to settle disputes between rival suitors.
When a female griffon accepts a male’s courtship, she engages in an elaborate mating ritual with her suitor, leading the dance as the two perform various cartwheels, swoops, and somersaulting descents, at some point locking talons and plunging toward the earth at high speeds, only to release each other just before they would hit the ground. Should the male fail this final test and fumble one of the complex maneuvers involved in the dance, his chances of mating with the female are effectively nullified, and the female rejects the suitor. However, should the dance succeed, the griffons are thereafter considered united. Griffons mate for life, and should one of a mated pair die at any point, the survivor lives out the remainder of its days alone. Mated griffons who are separated for extended periods of time-either by natural happenstance or forced capture-ardently look for one another, often forgoing food and safety for days in order to find their missing mates.
Female griffons tend to be larger and heavier than males; the additional weight aids brooding individuals in keeping their eggs warm, a task that can be difficult during winter months in the hilly regions griffons inhabit. A pair of griffons typically produces one to four eggs per year. During the incubation period, the female griffon fervently watches over the nest and the male hunts for food, the latter giving much of his own share of the prey to his mate so she can keep warm while roosting. When an egg hatches, a young griffon the size of a small dog emerges; this youth requires large amounts of food and attention in order to develop. While raising a nest of young griffons, the mother becomes even more aggressive toward possible intruders, and the father must take down larger and more dangerous prey in order to feed his family. Young griffons typically learn how to fly 6 to 9 months after hatching, at which point they become dangerous creatures capable of taking care of themselves, often guarding their younger siblings from threats. griffon families are in a constant state of flux; new hatchlings emerge every year, and matured sons and daughters continually leave to find their own mates. Griffons can live for up to 50 years, though most individuals in the wild are lucky to live past 20.
Griffons’ love of horsemeat is a well-known trait of the mythical creatures, and one that causes much distress to ranchers who find their herds straying too close to griffon hunting grounds. Hunting horses often leads griffons into fatal trouble with particularly protective herders who have the means to fend off such huge creatures, but horsemeat can also be used to bribe and train griffons. Good-natured breeders and ill-intentioned thieves alike find reason to tempt griffons with such meat, as the beasts are voracious in their appetites, and can consume as much as half their weight in a single day. That hippogriffs resemble flying horses with beaks is a point of contention griffons hardly care to acknowledge, regarding the beasts as mere flying horses for the purposes of determining prey.
Griffons are highly territorial, and once a male and female have established a nest and family, they passionately drive any other creatures away from their territory. In purely territorial disputes between two groups of griffons, most acts of aggression rarely move past threat displays, as griffons share an innate understanding that land is only worth so much, and rarely is it worth the price of blood. However, should a griffon continue to harass a rival or turn its threats toward a nest, youths, or a brooding female, confrontations quickly become deadly.
Since griffons make their homes in hilly regions with moderate climates, they come into contact with humanoids and other civilized creatures often, and are used to such creatures in their lands. This does not mean griffons take kindly to these races, of course, as they know that such intelligent creatures are often after their eggs or young. Because of this, griffons have a reputation for being violent toward humanoids, since males and females alike attack any who come within a mile or so of their nests. While they don’t actively hunt humans as sources of food, a griffon that slays a human sees the body as a fresh kill nonetheless, and will bring the corpse to its nest to feed its family.
Griffons prefer to make their homes in isolated mountainous areas with plenty of cliffs, bluffs, and crags to confuse intruders and protect their homes. Ideally, griffons situate their nests on tall peaks so humanoids and creatures that cannot fly must climb unforgiving pinnacles in order to reach them. These locations are easy to defend, as a griffon can spot intruders while they’re still at a distance, and the defensive griffon then mercilessly harries her foes throughout their approach to the nest, whether that approach is a climb or an ascent through magical means. Griffons first meet intruders by swooping in to attack, resorting to fighting on the ground if doing so would allow them to maneuver opponents to cliff edges or other perilous positions.
An unmated griffon is much less aggressive toward humanoids than one that has established a nest and family. Such an individual is also typically more receptive to becoming a mount, and will dedicate itself to a particular rider if that creature proves worthy. Griffons are always proud, and so demand shows of strength and superiority before submitting themselves to being saddled. Those who fail to impress a griffon are rebuffed and ignored, but should a potential rider prove his worth to a griffon, the creature will bow its head in a show of submission, allowing the humanoid to mount it. A griffon that has partnered with a particular rider long enough often regards the humanoid as its charge and treats her much like it would a frail mate, fervidly protecting her in battle. Griffons do not regard riders as their masters, instead viewing them as partners with similar goals. When a griffon’s rider dies, the creature does not take any other rider for the rest of its lifetime, and most such individuals flee back to the wilderness to spend the rest of their lives alone.
Griffons are sometimes incorporated into campaigns as potential allies to the PCs, and can aid them as mounts (either temporarily or permanently, depending on the particular griffon’s agenda) or fight alongside them in combat. Of course, as all griffons possess unique motivations, they are equally suitable enemies for PCs to face off against, either as the beasts they are or as mounts for powerful NPCs. The threat of a villain’s mount is heightened exponentially when the creature in question is as intelligent and loyal as a griffon. While an ordinary mount would flee upon its rider’s death, a creature as stalwartly dedicated to its rider as a griffon is only made more dangerous when its partner is slain, as it will immediately seek bloody vengeance for its loss. Griffons are also commonly used by wealthy individuals as guardians for their treasure hordes, which can make for interesting encounters with griffons alongside other vault guards. Since much of the challenge in fighting a griffon relies on the fact that the creature can fly, placing one as an enemy in different terrains can dramatically alter the difficulty of the combat. While a griffon encountered in a dungeon might be easier to corner or sneak past, griffons in their natural environments can pose a serious threat-especially if encountered as a group-as they drive PCs onto precarious terrain alongside steep precipices.
PCs might possess any number of reasons to visit a griffon’s nest, which almost always results in an encounter with such a creature. As mated griffons are highly aggressive toward trespassers who get too near their nests, many innocents have met with untimely ends at the talons of these beasts, and local townsfolk or farmers may recruit the PCs to solve the problem once and for all. Alternatively, a messenger or courier carrying a valuable item or military orders might be slain and dragged back to a griffon’s nest for food. griffon eggs are also highly sought after, and PCs with more flexible ethics may find themselves in the business of snatching such items. On the flip side, PCs who apprehend an egg thief would gain a grateful avian ally should they return the egg to its proper nest.
Armor, weapons, and magical items can often be found in griffon nests among scattered bones and other humanoid remnants, as griffons typically kill any trespassers and haul their bodies back home to eat, casting aside scraps of clothing and metallic items in their ravenous feasts. Small, indigestible items such as rings and amulets make their way to dung piles near the nest, and some male griffons courting a female will decorate their nests with various shiny baubles found this way. In areas where there is a higher amount of humanoid traffic, particularly intelligent griffons have been known to leave equipment from past intruders on the borders of their territories as warnings to others who would seek to trespass on their lands. Those who do not take the hint quickly find themselves assailed by griffons seeking to protect their domains, but bold treasure hunters know that if a griffon leaves treasure, there is almost always more near its lair.
Of course, a griffon’s most valuable treasures are its eggs. Unborn griffons are highly sought-after commodities, as many see the benefit of having a flying griffon as a mount. griffon youths are in even greater demand, and though difficult to transport, can fetch prices twice as high. Undamaged eggs sell for up to 3,500 gp apiece, though it is imperative that the egg dealer keeps the eggs warm for the entire incubation period (about 5 weeks). The largest markets for griffon eggs are usually among cultures in lands where griffons’ flight capabilities would be particularly beneficial, such as in mountainous regions, sandy deserts, or dry plains. The benefit of having one’s own griffon raised from an egg is often offset by the difficulty of reaching an egg in the first place, as well as fending off the parents long enough to escape. griffon parents pursue thieves with fervent ferocity, and only give up on a chase after several days of searching for the bandits, viciously attacking any creatures that resemble them in the slightest. It should also be noted that, as valuable as griffon mounts are, their intelligence makes buying or selling eggs the equivalent of participating in child slavery in many deities’ eyes.
The rulers of small kingdoms and other wealthy individuals sometimes seek to obtain griffons to protect their hordes of treasure, so renowned are the creatures for their steadfast protection of their eggs. Because of this, griffons in more civilized areas are often used as guards.
The most common griffon possesses the hindquarters of a lion and the head, forelegs, and wings of an eagle. Variants can be made by combining other felines and avian creatures, and an individual’s relative strength often coincides with the power and size of its disparate parts. The sand-colored griffons of the deserts tend to resemble mountain lions mixed with chicken hawks, and those who dwell in rainforests have qualities similar to panthers and colorful macaws. Such qualities are largely based on a griffon’s heredity, and while such mishmashes as raven-headed white tigers have been known to exist, these rare cross-breeds are often shunned by both parents and left to fend for themselves, ensuring that relatively few of such anomalies exist throughout the world.
While most griffons possess wings, there exists a lesser-known variety of the creature that lacks the power of flight, known as the alce. Alce griffons often dwell in the same regions as their winged kin, but choose to form families of their own kind instead of intermingling.
A griffon egg that is brooded by its father instead of its mother results in an alce griffon. An alce griffon is similar to a normal griffon save that it has no wings and therefore must hone its speed on land in order to survive. Alce griffons are looked down upon by most other griffons, including those in their own nests, and so resent many of their own kind. An alce griffon loses its fly speed and gains a land speed of 40 feet. Its talons deal an amount of damage equal to 1d8 plus 1-1/2 times the alce griffon’s Strength bonus.
The griffon (also spelled griffin or gryphon) is a mythological creature that has roots in Greek and Middle Eastern mythologies, though it also played a prominent role in European heraldry throughout the Middle Ages. The griffon was considered the king of all creatures because of its combination of the king of beasts-the lion-and the king of birds, the eagle. Many cultures regarded griffons as powerful guardians of treasure and other priceless possessions. Ancient Persians thought of the noble beasts as protectors from evil, witchcraft, and secret slander, while yet others thought of griffons as symbols of divine power.
Regardless of these cultures’ differing interpretations of the griffon myth, nearly all saw the creatures as signifiers of strength, wisdom, and power, and thus griffons were commonly featured on coats of arms and in heraldry even up until the Renaissance. Though the griffon is a well-known mythological creature, few ancient stories mention heroes encountering any specific griffons, a fact that in and of itself aptly captures the elusive nature of such legendary beings.