|Alignment||Usually chaotic evil|
|First appearance||Dungeons & Dragons Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure (1974)|
Gnolls, called kell by the Flan, are fierce humanoids with bestial, hyena-like features.
Gnolls are pure carnivores, preferring their meat raw. They devour every part of their prey, including the bones, and have no aversion to carrion. They may even dig up corpses in graveyards, as ghouls do, to crunch the bones buried within. Gnolls are nocturnal creatures, hunting in the dark and sleeping throughout much of the day. They delight in tormenting and devouring intelligent prey.
The life-span of a gnoll is about 40 years, though most die in their twenties in battle or through some other malady their savage lives inspire.
Female gnolls remain pregnant for about six months, after which they give birth to litters of two to four pups. For the first two months they are helpless, raised communally in crèches in the care of wet nurses and slaves while their mothers return to their warrior lifestyles. After two months, they begin to eat meat and are weaned, though they remain in the crèche until they are about two years old. Younger gnolls are likely to be devoured by the adults of their tribe, including potentially their mothers, if they venture out before then. At the age of two they join the rest of the tribe and are ready to hunt and make war. Young gnolls fight one another, often to death.
Gnolls have a strong affinity with hyenas, hyaenodons, and the like, training them and working closely with them in battle.
Gnolls are found in virtually every climate. They are usually nomads living on the edge of civilization. The largest numbers of gnolls dwell in the Pomarj and the Bone March. Notable populations of gnolls also exist in Rift Canyon, the Gnarley Forest, the Rakers, Loftwood, Sterich, the Howling Hills, the Troll Fens, and the Blemu Hills.
Gnolls do not build structures, but typically lair in caves, dungeons, or abandoned buildings. They will happily murder the previous occupants if necessary, or they may make arrangements to share a home with those they cannot simply kill. Sometimes their dens are guarded by trolls.
Upon arriving in a new home, the tribal leader (the largest and strongest member of the tribe, usually a female) marks her territory with a clan sigil drawn with the blood of the nearest lower-ranking member of the tribe, then identifies the area to be used for rearing the young and lets the rest of the tribe fight among themselves for living quarters.
Typical physical characteristics
Gnolls have gray skin and hyena-like faces and manes. They usually have dirty yellow or reddish-brown fur and bristly manes. Their eyes are green or yellow, though those with demonic blood may have glowing red eyes. An adult male stands about seven feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds. An adult female averages about six inches taller and 100 pounds heavier. It is otherwise very difficult to distinguish female gnolls from males unless they are pregnant or nursing.
Gnolls are savage creatures who delight in cruelty and the flesh of thinking creatures. They are typically chaotic and evil, though some are neutral evil. Some few are unaligned, but good or lawful gnolls are unheard of.
Gnolls are pack hunters who cooperate with other members of their tribe in battle. Known gnoll tribes include Scarsavage, Gashclaw, Lowgorge, Foulpelt, Retchtongue, and Battlehowl.
Gnolls are scavengers, not only in the food they eat but in the weapons and armor they collect. They have few metalworkers of their own, and must steal from the corpses of those they slaughter to arm themselves.
- Slaves occupy the lowest rung of gnoll society, used for heavy labor, cleaning and mending, food, and to satisfy sadistic whims.
- Most common gnolls in a tribe sort out a rough hierarchy with the stronger dominating the weaker. The elderly and unfit are given menial positions, such as the task of rearing the young, but they still are far above slaves in status.
- Gnolls treat their slaves harshly and often devour them, so slave-takers are needed to regularly replenish the supply. Slave-takers rank slightly higher than the general population in the pack hierarchy. Other gnolls and hyenas often accompany them on their sojourns.
- Those gnolls who worship Yeenoghu (most of them) often interbreed with demons. These half-fiends often become the leaders of gnoll tribes, and their demon-blooded children become their lieutenants. Half-demonic gnolls often demand that their children become priests of Yeenoghu in order to supply them with healing magic.
- Flinds also often become the leaders of gnoll tribes.
The earliest known deity of the gnolls is Gorellik, though most of his worshippers have been drawn to the cult of Yeenoghu in modern times. Erythnul also attracts many gnoll followers, and sometimes assumes gnoll form; he is sometimes worshipped by gnolls in conjunction with Karaan. Geryon has historically attracted some gnoll followers. Gnolls superstitiously avoid full moons, believing it to be dangerous to leave their lair while one of the moons shine full in the sky. The adventure "To Bite the Moon" in Dungeon #48 mentions a gnoll goddess of fear, the serpentine Refnara, whom gnolls believe will bite a full moon back into its crescent phase in exchange for sacrifices or offerings.
Gnolls have few clerics; most of those that exist have some amount of demonic blood running through their veins.
Gnolls speak their own language, which is called Gnoll. In 4th edition, they are said to speak Abyssal.
Though some myths claim that gnolls were created by Yeenoghu, the demon prince is actually a relative latecomer to the gnollish faith. However, their previous chief god, Gorellik, is not associated with creation myths at all.
Gnolls are the literary descendants of Lord Dunsany's "gnoles", who were clever, evil and nonhuman. This connection is evidenced by Gary Gygax's description in the earliest edition of "Dungeons & Dragons" (1974): "A cross between gnomes and trolls (...perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale. Otherwise they are similar to hobgoblins..."
The gnoll was one of the first monsters introduced in the earliest edition of the game, in the Dungeons & Dragons "white box" set (1974), where they were described as a "cross between gnomes and trolls." With the 1977 publication of Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual gnolls were described in greater detail as hyena-men, a characterization that continues to the present.
- Baker, Keith. "Playing Gnolls." Dragon #367. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2008. Available online:
- Gygax, Gary, and Dave Arneson. DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures. Lake Geneva, WI: Tactical Studies Rules, 1974.
- Holian, Gary, Erik Mona, Sean K. Reynolds, and Frederick Weining. Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2000.
- Jones, Spike Y. "The Sociology of the Flind." Dragon #173. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1991.
- Kestral, Gwendolyn. Monster Manual IV. Renton, WA: Wizards of the Coast, 2007.
- Moore, Roger E. "The Humanoids: All About Kobolds, Goblins, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls." Dragon #63. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1982.
- Slavicsek, Bill. The Complete Book of Humanoids. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1993.
- Smedman, Lisa. "To Bite the Moon." Dungeon #48. Lake Geneva, WI: TSR, 1994.
- [Gnolls on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnoll]