1 This category includes barbarians, oracles, rogues, and sorcerers.
Gnolls are an opportunistic race of humanoids who prefer to scavenge rather than actively hunt; they happily reap the rewards of others’ hard work. Much like the hyenas they resemble, gnolls prefer to wait for others to complete a task, and then the gnolls sweep in to benefit from the others’ labor. While they are physically powerful, gnolls are also lazy and cowardly, so they avoid entering melee with other creatures, unless the gnolls know they have some advantage over their foes. To many civilizations, gnolls are notorious slavers or despicable killers, and settlements neighboring gnoll territories have numerous tales of such gnoll exploits.
Physical Description: Gnolls are impressively built creatures standing anywhere from 6 to 7 feet tall and typically weighing 250 pounds. They have coarse fur and coloration similar to that of either striped or spotted hyenas, depending on the gnoll tribe. Their legs have a hyena-like structure, with their high anklebones making their legs, which end in blunt, non-retractable claws, appear to have a weird bend. Gnolls’ upper body structures are similar to their apparent hyenidae relatives, which gives the bipedal gnolls a somewhat hunched appearance but also gives them their powerful build, which tapers down to their lithe lower bodies. Gnolls have forward-facing ears atop their heads and short, furry tails. A gnoll has sharp, piercing teeth that allow them to rip meat from the bone of their or other creatures’ kills, but their teeth and jaws are not strong enough to provide them a bite attack in combat. All gnolls have guttural voices when they normally speak, but, as gnolls become stressed or excited, their voices reach higher pitches and sound like manic laughter.
Gnolls wear whatever armor they scavenge, steal, or force slaves to fashion, so they often have mismatched pieces of varying quality they use for protection. Much like their armor, gnoll weapons are a mishmash of collected swords, spears, flails, and other weapons gnolls can easily wield.
Gnolls only lightly adorn themselves with jewelry and the like. They wear small earrings to differentiate themselves from other gnolls, but they do not wear anything overly large, as such objects could be a liability in a battle. The adults of certain tribes also brand themselves or use specific dyes from plants or berries to give their fur a peculiar shade. These adornments help identify their tribe members and outcasts— the latter’s brand being removed or obscured and/or their dye removed by shaving or painful abrasives.
Society: Gnolls live in nomadic tribes that roam the land searching for the most favorable places to scavenge or hunt in warm plains or deserts.
Most tribes separate into at least two smaller bands of 10 to 100 adult members and their non-combatant entourage, including children (an additional 50% of the band’s numbers); 5-8 hyenas; and 10-20 slaves.
Tribes can often contain up to 200 adults and have more slaves and 4-7 hyaenodons, though a charismatic leader can pull more individuals under his or her sway. The more successful gnoll tribes often establish semi-permanent settlements after putting their slaves to work building warrens, homes, rolling buildings pulled by slaves, and other structures—not to mention gathering supplies and water, or even hunting for the lazy gnolls. Separate gnoll tribes may have rivalries, but they rarely attack one another, and a gnoll never takes another gnoll as a slave, so a victorious gnoll band just absorbs defeated gnolls into the band, or slays them if they would burden the victorious gnolls’ resources.
The pack, band, or tribe is the most important thing to gnolls, and anything threatening the gnoll unit meets with strong resistance or— against a superior foe—dispersal. This unity extends through all aspects of gnoll life, and breaking that unity in any way constitutes the greatest sin in gnoll culture. Thus, a gnoll who kills another gnoll or betrays a gnoll to a racial enemy faces the most severe punishment: exile (and branding or other marking to indicate that a gnoll is an outcast). Due to the gnolls’ strong aversion to hard work, a gnoll faces exile if the gnoll forces another gnoll to work, steals from another gnoll, or kills another gnoll’s slave.
When a lone gnoll arrives at a gnoll encampment or settlement, the gnolls there inspect the new arrival for any markings that might call the gnoll out as an outcast.
Most outcast gnolls find their way to large population centers, where they attempt to quell the loneliness of exile and team up with others who might be tolerant of them. Perhaps counter intuitively, outcast gnolls do not band together, because gnolls regard exile so strongly that they reject other outcast gnolls while maintaining a strange sense of denial about their own situations. Gnolls regard any group of non-gnolls they have joined as their new tribe and try to spend as much time as possible with their new tribes-mates.
While gnolls have no literature of their own and do not bother with books other than as a means to keep a fire going during a chilly night, they have storytelling traditions they pass down to young gnolls. These stories tell of great deeds performed by powerful gnolls, but they mostly serve to remind the gnolls about the importance of pack unity and the price for betraying the pack. Another common moral of gnoll stories is the importance of getting other creatures to do their work for them, and these stories point to the most successful gnolls whose laziness has rewarded them. For some gnoll tribes, the oral traditions stretch back dozens of generations, so they might contain information about local events from a century or two prior.
In larger gnoll enclaves where slaves do the vast majority of work, including hunting, gnolls have time to engage in leisure activities. Most of the time, these activities involve betting on slaves in gladiatorial games, but occasionally gnolls turn to artistic pursuits. A gnoll’s idea of art consists mostly of body modifications, such as cropping or otherwise sculpting the ears; piercing and adornment of the ears, nose, or other body parts; branding; and fur dying. Gnolls also engage in painting, but they do not have the patience to fully express their visions, so their paintings are crude affairs, typically dealing with successful hunts. Gnolls dislike anything involving crafting, such as sculpture or woodwork, since that requires an effort beyond their comfort and attention level.
Child-rearing is a communal affair, and sometimes gnolls entrust the care and feeding of gnoll young to slaves. When a young gnoll reaches the age of eight, the gnoll travels with the rest of the viable hunters on a hunt. The elder gnolls hang back during the hunt and allow the prospective adult to do most of the work; if the gnoll survives the hunt, the pack considers the gnoll a full-grown adult. Gnolls have short lives and die of old age in their forties (see the included Age charts), but the vast majority never makes it through their twenties.
Gnolls treat their dead like they would any other dead creature and engage in cannibalism, but they may offer a brief ceremony for a revered member of the pack prior to devouring the fallen gnoll.
Gnolls have no livestock, unless they belong to a large tribe, and they have slaves who can tend to cows or sheep. Even then, gnolls have no patience for husbandry, and they usually devour their herds before they can produce any young to keep them viable. Gnolls prize hyenas and take the animals as companions on their hunts; most gnoll settlements feature roaming hyenas. In a surprise departure from their normal aversion to work, gnolls will spend time training their hyenas, which they sometimes consider more important than rearing their young.
Relations: Gnolls, due to their scavenging and slaving activities, have difficulty gaining acceptance by most civilized races. Many people avoid known gnoll-infested areas, and many crusaders have taken it upon themselves to eradicate what they see as a blight on the land. City-dwelling gnoll outcasts are met with suspicion or outright disdain, and they find it difficult to gain sympathy, especially from those victimized by gnoll slavers. Some outcast gnolls actively reform their views in order to fit into their new societies, but they occasionally revert to old habits, especially in times of stress. A gnoll’s insistence on eating, rather than burying or burning, the dead is particularly off-putting to most civilized people.
Gnolls regard other races as competitors for resources and attack weak, unprotected settlements for their resources and for slaves. They give strong, well-protected communities a wide berth, but they ambush caravans or travelers to or from those areas.
Outcast gnolls temper their views of other races in their attempt to join a new “pack,” and they get along with humans, half-orcs, and the occasional gnome or halfling. These gnolls find elves and half-elves too frail and aloof, and must see evidence of those races’ battle prowess before giving the fragile ones any respect. Outcast gnolls have difficulty with dwarves, whom the gnolls view as too rigid in their lawfulness, but these gnolls respect a dwarf’s loyalty to his or her clan.
Alignment and Religion: Gnolls are, with few exceptions, extremely selfish with respect to non-gnolls and tend toward evil. They also believe themselves beholden to no laws, except for whatever benefits their tribe most, making gnolls generally chaotic. Gnolls, when they choose to give honor to deities, worship gods and goddess who make their hunts easier, give them more bestial power, or control the weather. They actively distrust any follower of a deity who advocates hard work or toil as a means to prosperity.
Adventurers: Most gnolls who overcome their selfish natures with respect to other races prove to be valuable teammates in an adventuring party. Nearly all adventuring gnolls have been outcast from a gnoll band and seek out adventuring parties that give them a sense of belonging. Most gnolls come to understand they have to work and contribute to the party, but their laziness sometimes gets the better of them. Gnolls traditionally take on martial roles, with a strong preference for the ranger class, but they also make good barbarians and fighters. They are also drawn to divine magic and become clerics, druids, or (rarely) oracles; but they generally stay away from arcane magic, especially anything requiring them to read and study. Finally, gnolls have no aversion to sneaking around and using subterfuge, so they also make excellent rogues.
Male Names: Arrk, Gart, Grosh, Klarr, Mett, Parrn, Yarrig.
Female Names: Ayill, Geela, Neep, Nolf, Rill, Varl, Yeet.
The following racial traits are available in lieu of existing gnoll traits, or they include a balancing effect if no replacement trait is listed.
You can combine various alternate racial traits to create gnoll subraces or variant races, such as the following.
Instead of receiving an additional skill rank or hit point whenever they gain a level in a favored class, gnolls have the option of choosing from a number of other bonuses, depending upon the character’s favored class.
The following options are available to gnolls who have the listed favored class, and unless otherwise stated, the bonus applies each time the favored class reward is selected.
The following racial archetypes are available to gnolls:
The following options are available to gnolls. At the GM’s discretion, other appropriate races may use some of these new rules, especially considering that gnolls rarely create their own equipment.
The following items are useful for gnolls.
Anticoagulant Gel: Crafted from the saliva of various stinging insects and other creatures, this pungent rust-brown gel coats 1 medium weapon, 2 small weapons, or 20 pieces of ammunition per dose. Gnolls use this gel to further wear down their opponents and kill them that much quicker. When a weapon coated in the gel deals damage, it also inflicts bleed damage as well (1d4 for medium weapons, 1d3 for small weapons, 1 point for ammunition). Medium and small weapons lose the gel’s effects after 3 such hits, while ammunition only benefits once from the gel.
Battle Dye: Gnolls use this alchemical substance to induce fear in their foes and to thicken their fur, which provides extra protection. The solution must be shaken until it changes to the desired color, since gnolls’ various opponents respond to colors differently. After applying the dye, the wearer immediately gains a +4 alchemical bonus to Intimidate checks. It takes 1 minute for the dye to fully absorb into a gnoll’s fur and thicken, but, after that time, the wearer gains a +2 bonus to his natural armor. The armor bonus persists for 1 hour, while the Intimidate bonus lasts for 4 hours, or until the dye is washed off with one gallon of alcohol.
Hyena Whistle: Gnolls use this reed whistle in the training of a pack’s hyena companions, but gnolls can also hear the frequencies that whistle emits. This allows them to also use hyena whistles to coordinate attacks or pass information among each other without other humanoids noticing. A hyena whistle grants a +4 equipment bonus to Handle Animal checks made with hyenas, and a +2 equipment bonus to Handle Animal checks with other canids.
Triple Flail: This complicated gnoll weapon features three flail heads that an expert wielder can use to attack three separate opponents. A rare gnoll may receive divine inspiration to create one of these weapons, marking one of the few times a gnoll actively pursues manual labor. When the gnoll scores a critical hit with the weapon (or rolls a natural 19 or 20 on a successful disarm or trip maneuver), he may make one additional melee attack (at the same target or another target within reach) as a free action. This attack uses his highest attack bonus and suffers a -5 penalty to the attack roll. The weapon can grant a maximum of two such bonus attacks per round.
A pack of gnolls stumbled upon a meteorite containing an anti-gravitic metal ore that makes their lives easier, and they shared this ore with other gnolls. Naturally, gnolls in possession of the ore force slaves to craft weapons and armor from it.
Anti-Gravitic Ore: Anti-gravitic ore is a rare form of iron that seems to resist the world’s gravitational pull. Working this ore into metal armor and weapons is extremely difficult due to the ore’s behavior during smithing, so smiths usually blend the ore with normal iron to help keep it from pushing off an anvil or workbench.
The resulting material is as tough as anything crafted from iron and it can be tempered into steel just as raw iron can. However, it is extremely lightweight, making it easier to move around in armor and to wield or throw weapons. This reduces spell failure chances for armors made from anti-gravitic ore by 5% (to a minimum of 5%), increases maximum Dexterity bonuses allowed by the armor by 3, and decreases armor check penalties by 3 (to a minimum of 0). A thrown weapon or ammunition crafted from this metal increases the range increment by 50% (a thrown spear has a 30-ft. range increment as opposed to a 20-ft. range increment, for example). Melee weapons made from anti-gravitic ore are lighter, so one-handed melee weapons are treated as light weapons, and two-handed weapons are treated as one-handed weapons. This does not affect the ability to wield a one-handed or two-handed weapon with two hands. For other metal items, anti-gravitic ore reduces its weight by half.
Items fashioned from anti-gravitic ore are always masterwork items. Light armor made with the ore costs an additional 800 gp, medium armor costs an additional 1,600 gp, and heavy armor costs an additional 2,400 gp. Weapons cost an additional 500 gp, while ammunition costs and additional 10 gp per item. Finally, other items produced from anti-gravitic ore cost an additional 400 gp per pound. Anti-gravitic ore has 20 hit points per inch of thickness and hardness 10.
Your jaws have strengthened so much that your bite is deadly.
Benefit: You gain a bite attack that deals 1d4 points of damage, plus your Strength modifier.
If you have the bite attack racial trait, your bite damage improves to 1d6. You are considered proficient with this attack and can apply feats or effects that modify natural attacks to your bite.
Your steady diet of carrion has improved your overall resistance to harmful substances.
Finally, once per week, you may reroll a failed save against a disease, but you must use the second result even if it is lower.
In your native desert and savannah environments, you are unmatched in speed.
Prerequisites: Con 13, gnoll.
Special: You may take this feat an additional time, which adds +5 feet to your base speed.
This also increases your run multiplier by 1, and grants you an additional +4 bonus to your Acrobatics checks for jumping after a running start.
Your unsettling appearance and horrific laughter potentially disrupt spellcasting.
Prerequisites: Unsettling Foe (below), fighter 8, gnoll.
Benefit: As a full-round action, you can make an Intimidate check, which applies the +4 bonus from the Unsettling Foe feat and that forces all spellcasters within a 60-foot radius who can see or hear you to succeed at a concentration check (DC equal to your Intimidate check) to cast a spell. This effect lasts until the beginning of your next turn.
You can speak with and understand hyenas.
You are particularly adept at riding dire hyenas.
Your pack mentality allows you to apply tactical benefits to others in your party.
Prerequisites: Any teamwork feat, gnoll.
Benefit: As a standard action you grant one of your teamwork feats to an ally within 30 feet who can hear and see you. This effect lasts for a number of rounds equal to 3 + your Intelligence bonus (if any).
Special: This feat may be taken more than once.
For every time you take this feat, you can designate an additional ally to gain a teamwork feat, which must be the same feat for each ally. You still grant the feat as a standard action.
Your ally helps you make subtle corrections to your targeting with distance weapons.
Benefit: When you stand adjacent to an ally with this feat, you gain a +2 circumstance bonus to your ranged attacks. You also benefit from Point-Blank Shot, Far Shot, or Precise Shot, if your ally has the applicable feat.
You have learned how to knock the breath out of an opponent that you trip.
You have tapped into your hyena heritage and learned how to trip a foe that you successfully bite.
Prerequisites: Bite attack, gnoll.
When you are in combat, you take on a demented appearance, which, combined with your shrill laughter, throws your opponents off.
Benefit: You gain a +4 bonus to Intimidate checks to demoralize your opponents, and you can demoralize opponents who can see or hear you.
Normal: You may only demoralize foes who can see and hear you.
Gnolls have access to the following weapon special abilities and magic items.
Aura: moderate abjuration; CL 7th
Gnolls prefer to fight from an advantage, and the best way they can achieve this is by tripping their opponents. If a gnoll fails to trip an opponent with a melee weapon, the gnoll may face a trip attempt in return or lose the weapon. This special ability, which can only be applied to weapons with the trip special feature, alleviates this concern by unwrapping itself at the wielder’s mental command. If the wielder of a disentangling weapon fails to trip an opponent, the opponent cannot trip the wielder in return.
This light brown cloak grants its wearer a +5 bonus to Survival checks in the desert. Once per day, the wearer can change into a cloud of sand, allowing the wearer to move through spaces as if she were three size categories smaller without penalty. She is considered to be incorporeal and cannot make any weapon attacks. While she is in sand form, she can fly 30 feet per round and create a stinging sandstorm with a 10-foot radius centered on her that deals 3d6 points of piercing damage to all creatures in the sandstorm. She remains in sand form for a total of 13 rounds, or until she dismisses the ability. If a strong wind strikes the area her sandstorm covers, this reduces the total duration by 1 round.
This fist-sized piece of desert jasper bears a remarkable resemblance to a laughing hyena.
Upon command, it transforms into a hyena or a dire hyena. Either form has Improved Trip as a bonus feat and can use unnerving laughter once per activation. A desert jasper hyena can be used once per day for up to 1 hour. After three transformations into its dire hyena form, the figurine loses all its magical properties.
Aura: moderate conjuration and divination; CL 9th; Slot: none; Price: 21,905 gp; Weight: 16 lbs.
This +1 distance merciful harpoon explodes in a spray of tentacles when it strikes a target. The tentacles have a +14 CMB and CMD 24, only target the creature struck (or a 5-foot square if the harpoon misses), and deal 1d6+4 points of nonlethal damage to the target each round the target is grappled. The tentacles remain for 9 rounds before the harpoon returns to its original form.
Gnoll clerics typically express their animal natures more fully than the gnolls they lead. These clerics often take the Animal domain or the Fur subdomain, but they are drawn to the Demon, Ferocity, Murder, or Rage subdomains as well.
Additionally, gnolls have access to the following subdomain.
Associated Domain: Animal
You gain an enhancement bonus on Intimidate checks equal to 1/2 your cleric level (minimum +1). Additionally, if you exceed the DC to demoralize an opponent by 5 or more, you can cause the opponent to become frightened for a number of rounds equal to half the duration you would have made the opponent shaken (minimum 1 round). You can use the enhanced demoralize ability a number of times per day equal to 3 + you Wisdom modifier.
Casting Time 1 standard action
Range 60 ft.
While casting this spell, you designate a target or group of targets no larger than 6 individuals, which you have in your line of sight or you know. For the duration of the spell, each of your allies gains a +2 luck bonus on attack and damage rolls against the designated target(s). Additionally, all your allies gain a +4 luck bonus to Survival checks to follow tracks belonging to the target(s). If your allies are untrained in Survival, they can attempt to follow these tracks even if the DC exceeds 10. When you and your allies successfully kill or capture your designated prey, the spell ends.
Casting Time 1 standard action
When you cast this spell, you impart your hatred for a favored enemy to a target creature or you bolster your own hatred. If you target a creature other than yourself with this spell, it grants your favored enemy bonuses to the target for one of your favored enemies. If the target has the favored enemy class feature and already has the chosen favored enemy, the bonuses do not stack; it uses the best favored enemy bonus. If you target yourself, it increases your favored enemy bonuses for all favored enemies by +2.
The transformed creature gains a hyenalike laugh that proves disturbing to opponents hearing it. This laugh does not negatively affect the target’s ability to speak or cast spells. The target may laugh as a standard action, causing any creature within 30 feet of the target to become shaken for the duration if it fails its Will save (DC as the save DC for the unnerving laughter). A creature that successfully saves is immune to this effect for 24 hours. Additionally, the transformed creature gains an enhancement bonus to Intimidate checks equal to half the caster level (minimum +1). If the transmuted creature successfully demoralizes an opponent who has become shaken as a result of this spell, the opponent instead becomes frightened.
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
This spell functions like unnerving laughter, except that it affects multiple creatures, and each targeted creature that attempts to demoralize an opponent grants a +2 circumstance bonus to any other targeted creature that attempts to demoralize the same opponent.
Christina Stiles Presents: Races Revised – Cackle of the Gnolls, ©2013 Super Genius Games; Author: Mike Welham; Text ©2013 Christina Stiles.