“SAIRA?” FARIS SAID. A CLOUD HAD passed over the moon, and the woods around him were a maze of shadows. Saira’s voice had drawn him away from the campfire, but each time she called, it seemed to come from a new direction; he just couldn’t pin it down. “Saira, what’s wrong?”

“I need you…” Her voice was weak, rough— it was clear she was in pain. “Help me… please, help me…”

She was straight ahead of him. Faris pressed forward, thrashing his way through briars and vines. Then his foot caught on something and he stumbled, falling across a soft and wet mass—a human body with skin cold to the touch and blood matting her hair. It was Saira’s corpse. “I need you.” It was her voice, rough and pained, but it wasn’t Saira who spoke. The speaker towered over Faris, a bloody axe clutched in one hand. Sharp teeth gleamed as the gnoll burst into laughter—a mocking, fluting cry that was quickly echoed on all sides as others stepped out of the woods. The moon broke through the clouds just in time to catch the blade of the gnoll’s axe as it rose and fell, silencing Faris’s cries. 

Demonic Origins

Gnoll legend trace the origin of their species back to a time when the demon lord Yeenoghu found his way to the Material Plane and ran amok. Packs of ordinary hyenas followed in his wake, scavenging the demon lord’s kills. Those hyenas were transformed into the first gnolls, parading after Yeenoghu until he was banished back to the Abyss. The gnolls then scattered across the face of the world, a dire reminder of demonic power.

This is the tale gnoll mothers tell their pups and the story the scourge uses to exhort his troops. Whether it is truth or mere legend, it is easy to see the inspiration for the myth. A gnoll looks much like a humanoid hyena and shares many traits with the animal, including its haunting laughter. And the strength and savagery of these creatures is enough to suggest demonic blood; the typical gnoll band strikes without fear or mercy, tearing into enemies with the fury of fiends incarnate.

Scavenging

Gnolls have no qualms about scavenging the kills of other predators as a source of food. But for the gnolls, scavenging plays a deeper cultural role. The gnolls create little of their own; the vast majority of their belongings are things they have claimed from their kills. Few among them have any gift for metalworking, and they rely on victories and heirlooms as a source of arms and armor. This creates an unusual aesthetic to gnoll armor, which is largely pieced together from multiple victims. Gnoll chainmail is rarely a single shirt, but rather strips torn from multiple corpses and sewn haphazardly onto leather; a single plate pauldron might be included in the suit.

In part, this is a practical action. The gnolls need weapons and armor for their bloody work, and the goods of their victims are better than anything they could make themselves. But there is also a social significance to it. The things they scavenge from their fallen foes are trophies of these victories. The gnoll who wears haphazard chainmail remembers the story of each strip of metal and enjoys reminiscing about each kill. Its patchwork armor is a map of its life and achievements. Some gnolls prefer less practical tokens; a gnoll might take a finger bone from each victim, wearing these on bracelets or even binding them to the haft of its weapon. But almost everything a gnoll owns has a story—and almost all of it is scavenged.

Some gnolls are more civilized and so they might make their own weapons and armor. However, they still keep trophies of difficult hunts or great victories. This could range from the tooth of a fallen beast to a single ring of chainmail from an enemy.

Intimidation and Agression

Other humanoids typically find that even friendly gnolls seem aggressive. When performed correctly, gnolls do not consider intimidation to be a hostile act; instead, the speaker is asserting its strength and seeking to establish its place in the pack hierarchy. One of the simple ways that this comes across is that a gnoll almost never makes requests; when possible, it makes demands, or at the least firm statements. Instead of “Can I help you?” the gnoll says “Tell me what you want!”—pushing the target to take action.

Gnoll aggression starts young. As soon as a gnoll pup is capable of walking, it starts fighting with other young gnolls. Pups seek out small tunnels that adults can’t fit into; in these mazes, they fight to the death. This practice weeds out weaker gnolls, but it also keeps their numbers down.

Gnoll Names

First names have a flow-y yet growl-like sound. Surnames are always the name of the pack they belong to. Pack names will be compounded words. They can describe either the members of the pack, or where that pack lives.

Male Names: Dagnyr, Dhyrn, Doryc, Ghyrryn, Gnasc, Gnoryc, Gnyrn, Hyrn, Lhoryn, Lhyr, Mognyr, Sorgnyn, Thyrn, Toryc, Yrgnyn, Yrych

Female Names: Dagnyra, Gnara, Gnora, Gnyrl, Hyra, Hyrgna, Lhyra, Lhyrl, Malgna, Myrl, Sargna, Shyrla, Tarnyra, Yrgna

Pack Names: Blackpaw, Mosshide, Mudsnout, Palemane, Redridge, Riverpaw, Rot Hide, Savage-Hill, Shadowhide, Stinkpelt, Wildpaw, Woodpaw

Gnoll Traits

Your gnoll character has a variety of ferocious abilities, due to their origin. You have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Strength score increases by 2 and your Dexterity is increased by 1.

Age. Pups reach adulthood around 8 years of age. Due to their violent lifestyle many will be killed when they start showing signs of aging, around 30 years of age. Their full life expectancy is not known.

Alignment. Gnolls do not follow any sort of code or rules; for the most part they are chaotic in nature. Due to their demonic connection many gnolls tend towards evil alignments

Size. Gnolls range from 7 to 7.5 feet. They generally weight between 280 and 320 lbs. Your size is medium.

Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision. Your fiendish heritage grants you the ability to see in dark conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Keen Hearing and Smell. Due to your keen senses are proficient with the Perception skill.

Natural Equipped. You are never unarmed. You are proficient with your bite. As an action you may make a bite attack. It is a melee attack with a range of 5 feet. On a hit you deal 1d4 piercing damage.

Rampage. When you reduce a creature to 0 hit points with a melee attack on your turn, you can take a bonus action to move up to half your speed and make a bite attack.

Howl of the Pack. Choose a friendly creature who can see or hear you within 30 feet. It can use it’s reaction to make one weapon attack. After you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you complete a short or long rest.

Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and Gnoll.

Random Height and Weight

Base Height Height Modifier Base Weight Weight Modifier
6′8″ +2d6 210 lb. × (2d4) lb.