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Gnolls are hyena-like humanoid creatures standing up to about seven feet tall. They are carnivorous humanoids, known in many places for their savage culture and warlike ways.

History

Origin

Gnolls were created during the Calamity when a Demon Prince (likely the demon lord Yeenoghu) came to Exandria and initiated a battle at the Dividing Plains. A pack of wild hyenas happened to be caught in the unholy eminence, transforming them into humanoid versions of themselves.[1]

Campaign Two: The Mighty Nein

The day before they met the rest of the Mighty Nein, Nott and Caleb were attacked by a pack of gnolls hiding in grass,[2][3] and Caleb was knocked unconscious. Nott fed him the health potion Caleb carried on his belt, saving his life.[4]

Fan art of Repulsing the gnoll incursion on Alfield, by GalacticJonah.[art 2]

After an unusually large and organized raid on Alfield, Watchmaster Bryce Feelid had to do overnight research to learn about the attackers, finding that these gnolls worshiped "Yeenoghu."[5]

The Explorer's Guide to Wildemount offers an adventure hook, Take Back the Gate, set in late 835 PD, in which gnolls or other monsters destroy the Crownsguard outpost at the Wuyun Gates.[6]

Society

Tal'Dorei

On the continent of Tal'Dorei, most gnolls belong to nomadic tribes led by a matriarch and her mate. The Dustpaw tribe is an important part of the culture of Turst Fields,[7] and some gnolls have settled in mid-size settlements like Westruun and Kymal, but most are on the outskirts, subsisting on caravan food along the Silvercut Roadway or on carrion.[8]

Many different clans of gnolls live across the Dividing Plains, including the Dustpaws, Whitesnouts, Priest-Easters, and Riverwalkers.[9] The Moonsteeth tribe is based in the Rootgarden Marsh.[10] Other nomadic gnolls prey on small farms of the inland parts of the Bladeshimmer Shoreline.[11]

Wildemount

Dwendalian Empire

In the Empire, gnolls are considered a bestial but minor menace, not making their way deep into the Empire (past Bladegarden) in large numbers. Traveling in small, roving hunting packs of perhaps half a dozen, they are generally seen on the outskirts of civilization. Aggressively hungry creatures, gnolls would eat what flesh they could get, though they were known to be opportunistic hunters, keeping to small game and the occasional person who wandered too far from their fields. On occasion when food is scarce, it was not uncommon for gnolls to turn to cannibalism in their obsessive hunger. Feeding on each other, gnolls would pile up the bones of the dead whose flesh they had devoured. Although they were easily provoked into violence, large-scale raids against points of civilization were generally too dangerous for their small packs, and they would only dare to do so out of desperation.[12]

Kryn Dynasty

Under the Kryn Dynasty, many gnolls live a relatively civilized life, particularly in Asarius where they are nearly a third of the city's population.[13] The gnoll village of Unyeethi in the Many Hosts of Igrathad is fairly primitive but part of a coherent whole,[14] and gnolls are significant parts of the outlying Kryn settlements of Urzin[15] and Vurmas.[16] Gnolls are integrated into the Kryn military: they were among the drow-led group that ambushed Dwendalian scouts in "Xhorhas" (2x51).

Varieties

Yeenoghu-worshiping pack

The gnolls who attacked Alfield had banners made of flesh with the mark of Yeenoghu.[17] They had muscular torsos, thin dog-like legs, extended necks with spots of fur, ears curled upward, and dog-like snouts. They were strong and able to rapidly dart and leap. They communicated in yips and growls and had a hyena-like laugh. As well as their bite, they used spears and longbows.[18]

Fan art of Yeenoghu, mentioned in "The Howling Mines" (2x06), by Callum Lyall.[art 3]

A lord of the Abyss, Yeenoghu is a large, feral, bestial demon who once roamed the Prime Material Plane. He is ever hungering, and ever wandering to conquer and devour all in his wake, leaving destruction, fetid meat, and waves of yipping, angry hyenas that devour what was left behind.[19]

Through rituals performed in the name of this patron, the gnolls around Alfield were able to take the corpses of fellow gnolls they had consumed and raise them up as undead warriors in their service.[20]

Gnoll pack lord

The gnoll pack lord, ruling by might and cunning, earns the best of a gnoll pack's spoils, food, valuable trinkets, and magic items.[21] The pack lord encountered by the Mighty Nein ornamented its body with ornate scale mail armor with thick, bony manticore spines that were woven into the shoulders, the back of his large helmet, and the sides of his armor.[22]

Gnoll witherling (undead gnoll)

With clumps of fur, sloughing dried flesh, and exposed bone, gnoll witherlings were undead skeletal gnolls with part of their skulls pushing out of their snouts. They shambled alongside their living allies and had gnashing teeth, claws for tearing flesh, and heavy wooden clubs.[23]

According to Bryce's research, the witherlings were gnolls who did not survive food shortages. After they were eaten by other gnolls, the dark powers they worshipped raised them from the dead.[24]

Priest of Yeenoghu

The priest or shaman encountered by the Mighty Nein seemed unusual: this apparently human (or similar race) figure wore a hollowed-out skin of a gnoll like armor, using the jawless head as a hood and sections of the arms like handless gloves. Part of this armor was discolored and rotting with long, bony manticore spines piercing through the shoulders and head. They also had had baubles and chains with symbols hanging from their neck.[25]

Known gnolls

Fan art of Covak, by Andrew Jensen.[art 4]

References

  1. See "Curious Beginnings" (2x01) at 0:24:51.
  2. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 1:22:48.
  3. See "Talks Machina #51: 'The Midnight Chase'" (TMx51) at 0:43:01.
  4. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) from 44:01 through 52:30.
  5. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 93.
  6. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, pp. 57–58.
  7. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 123.
  8. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 58.
  9. 10.0 10.1 See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 43.
  10. See Critical Role: Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, p. 86.
  11. See "The Open Road" (2x05) from 3:15:37 through 3:18:21.
  12. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 132.
  13. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 141.
  14. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 146.
  15. See Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, p. 131.
  16. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 3:44:29.
  17. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 2:49:48.
  18. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 49:38.
  19. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 0:47:35.
  20. See D&D: Monster Manual, 5th ed., p. 162.
  21. See "The Open Road" (2x05) at 1:45:47.
  22. See "The Open Road" (2x05) at 1:26:07.  The clubs are mentioned at 2:17:00
  23. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 0:47:35.
  24. See "The Howling Mines" (2x06) at 2:36:29.
  25. See Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting Reborn, p. 88.
  26. See "The Hellcatch Valley" (3x24) at 2:44:37.

Art:

  1. Depiction of a gnoll, by Conceptopolis from D&D: Monster Manual, page 163. This file is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Wizards of the Coast Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
  2. Fan art of Repulsing the gnoll incursion on Alfield, by GalacticJonah (source). Used with permission.
  3. Fan art of Yeenoghu, mentioned in "The Howling Mines" (2x06), by Callum Lyall (source). Used with permission.
  4. Fan art of Covak, by Andrew Jensen (source). Used with permission.
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