Dungeons & Delvers: Where Do Baby Gnolls Come From?

In Dungeons & Delvers orcs are the minions of Orcus, demonic spirits tightly wrapped in the flesh of other races, because they cannot remain unprotected in the natural world/Prime Material Plane for long without dissipating.

It might kill them, or just send them back to the underworld. Never really decided. Maybe some particularly powerful or strong-willed orc apparitions can stick around? Or maybe slicing open an orc's skin-shell releases the demonic essence, and it can keep fighting for another few rounds before vanishing?

Anyway, it's because of this that orcs don't need to eat, drink, breathe, or sleep. They don't aspire to much, existing only to slaughter, offering up the remains of victims as sacrifices to Orcus, and using the leftover skins to summon more orcs into the world.

This makes them quite a bit different then your typical orc, and also avoids the whole "is it okay to kill a baby orc" (non?)issue that I saw crop up way back when WotC still had a Dungeons & Dragons forum, which fortunately I never had to deal with at my table.

In Appendix D I didn't go into much detail on gnolls, mostly because I figure most GMs are going to come up with their own flavor, if they even want to bother with that sort of thing in the first place. But, while working on something else I came up with this expanded bit of backstory for them.

Violent and voracious, gnolls don't normally take prisoners, and even when they do they usually devour anyone they capture soon afterwards. Very, very rarely there are too many prisoners for them to eat, or perhaps they manage to restrain themselves (or are forced to by their pack leader). In either case they are often pressured by a need to bolster dwindling numbers.

In these rare instances they'll dump some prisoners into a deep pit. At least two, but more is preferred to better ensure success (and more "successes"). The prisoners aren't given any food or water, because the gnolls want them to turn on each other. So they watch, wait, and cackle with glee.

Assuming the gnolls don't give in to their urges, sometimes the prisoners find a way to kill themselves. The more fortunate ones succumb to illness or injury, or just waste away. This is fine because it makes it more likely that the survivors will resort to cannibalism. After all, it's not like you killed them, right? And maybe this is what they would have wanted? In any case this is what the gnolls want.

After eating one of their own, over the course of a few hours their teeth fall out, which are soon replaced with larger, sharper, stronger teeth, capable of crushing bone (convenient because then they can eat their old set of teeth). Next their skin begins to itch and peel away: the sensation becomes so intense that they'll literally tear their own flesh off (which is also consumed), revealing thick fur underneath, matted with blood.

And thus, a new gnoll is "born".

As an added bonus, here are some gnoll stats in case one of your players wants to roll up a gnoll and you're cool with that (probably because in your game gnolls aren't the result of a what I now realize is a very wendigo-esque cannibal curse):
  • Size: Your size is Medium
  • Ability Scores: +1 Strength; +1 Dexterity or Constitution
  • Skill Bonus: +1 to Perception and Survival checks
  • Bite: Your bite is a light weapon that inflicts 1d4 damage (1 armor piercing).
  • Scavenger: You can devour almost any organic material without any ill effects, and you gain a +1 bonus on saving throws made to resist disease and poison.
  • Pounce: When taking the Charge action, your melee attacks inflict +1 damage.
  • Speed: Your base Speed is 30 feet
  • Languages: You can read and write both Common and Abyssal

For a gnoll monstrous class, I'd use the ranger class as a foundation (this way you can have a hyena animal companion), but also let them choose from the following talents:

You suffer no penalties when taking the Charge action.

Crushing Jaws
Your bite attack gains +2 armor piercing, and scores a critical hit on a natural 19-20.

Pack Attack
When you make a melee attack, you gain a +1 bonus to hit if another ally is adjacent to your target.

Powerful Jaws
Your bite attack deals +1 damage. At 5th-level its damage is increased to 1d6, and at 10th-level its damage is increased to 1d8.

You can make a bite attack as a Swift Action.

During your turn, if you move up to your Speed twice, you can move up to your Speed again as a Swift Action.

Exploit: 18+
Prerequisite: Pack Attack
When you make a melee attack against a creature with at least one ally adjacent to it, the target must succeed on a Reflex save (DC 10 + your Strength + any relevant bonuses, such as a fighter's attack bonus) or be knocked prone.

You can now get a physical copy of Dungeons & Delvers: Black Book in whatever format you want! We've also released the first big supplement for it, Appendix D, so pick that up if you want more of everything.

After months of doing other things, we turned our attention to and released The Warden. It's based on the 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons class of the same name, but judging by the responses we did an excellent job converting it over.

Dwarven Vault is our sixth 10+ Treasures volume. If you're interested in thirty dwarven magic items (including an eye that lets you shoot lasers) and nearly a dozen new bits of dungeon gear, check it out!

Just released our second adventure for A Sundered World, The Golden Spiral. If a snail-themed dungeon crawl is your oddly-specific thing, check it out!

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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