An Aquatic PanzerLion Profile picture
Aug 21, 2018 37 tweets 14 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
For everyone other there treating lore from Volo and Morderkainen like it's carved in stone, remember that they're unreliable narrators, and that their sources aren't 100% accurate or free of bias. That's right, even fictional characters can have biases. #DnD #ttrpg
What do I mean by this? I mean that they're fallible, and subject to propaganda and rewritten history. Neither has the ability to "get it right" 100% of the time, and the places where the facts are kept are barred to mortals for the most part.
So when Volo describes Gnolls as being "created whole from demon's blood and hyenas", it's a pretty good chance that he's repeating back some nonsense he heard that Yeenoghu wants to the be the "known" origin of the species. That's right, this is a stan for #Gnolls thread! #DnD
Gnolls have always gotten the short end of the stick in #DnD; a poor man's orc stand-in at best for when you want to throw a different but completely disposable enemy to your players to mix it up a bit. But they are literally SO MUCH MORE.
Before Volo and his overblown repetition of mythology as fact, Gnolls were that rarest of things, an unconventional monster race that was, in fits and spurts, evolving in lore and nature. It was easy to miss though, because you had to buy or download specific material to see.
The TL;DR: of it is that gnolls are an ancient race, and that, at some point in their history, came under the influence of the demon Yeenoghu, who warped them into the monsters we all know and love today. But it wasn't a complete job, and his grip on them slips more and more.
Through 3e and 4e specifically, a lot of lore and "read between the lines" implications all indicated that Yeenoguhu is a more successful Sess'Innek (the demon lord trying to subborn the Lizardfolk), but that some Gnolls remained free or break free.
What Volo describes in his works are a demon possessed/driven Gnoll warband; what Yeenoghu wants everyone to think that Gnolls are. Why? Because it means that the few Gnolls who still defy his rule are likely hunted by opportunistic adventurers, eliminating them from the world.
Gnolls are awesome. These pics from 1e and 2e made me ask "Hey, how come we can't play as gnolls?" They look cool, and clearly have something going on. But instead, they languished until 3.5e came along with its Races of the Wild book. Then Gnolls got a needed shot in the arm.
Races of the Wild (well, all the "Races" books from 3.5e) is an amazing text that I still strongly recommend to #DnD players and DM's alike, along with the other books from 3.5e that created the accidental setting (read more about that here:…). But Gnolls..
Gnolls needed this book. It contextualized them and placed them in a niche in the monster/player race ecology, where before they'd been "Meh, I'm tired of orcs and ogres, I think I'll use gnolls next week." one off swap outs for more standard monster enemies.
It also pushed them up from the "Why the fuck would you want to play a Gnoll?" 2e status they had, where, like most "humanoid" monster races, they had insane level caps and class limitations that made it so homebrew was mandatory to keep them viable as characters.
Anyways, so this book laid out about 3.5 pages about #Gnolls themselves, but also included how they got along with Catfolk, Centaurs; how their language (not just yips & whines, but language) was a part of the norm in wilderness areas. It also laid out their diaspora's framework.
In essence, it normalized them as a natural part of the world. But it dovetailed nicely with lore coming from the Forgotten Realms. The FR's deep history, there is an unknown creator race, one that created a number of mammalian sentient/sapient races in the Days of Thunder. #DnD
#Gnolls were one of those races, and at one point, came into conflict with the Aearee-Krocaa (sound familiar?), who had been created by the Avian creator race, the Aearee. The war was going in the mammals favour, until the avians created wyverns. Then things started going badly.
The Gnolls were pushed into a corner, and at some point; someone turned to demonic aid. This is where Gnolls as we commonly known them start, and what followed is undocumented, but the result was that Yeenoghu took over, and the Aearee-Krocaa were in turn driven to demons.
What? That's right. Put on your tinfoil hats. It's time for some #DnDLoreTheory.

My theory here is that the primal gods of the animal-humanoid races were in bad shape, like the World Serpent of the Sarrukh. Not only that, but demons had found the created races easy to suborn.
Demon Lords without armies saw these races as easy pickings. Their gods were weak and/or inattentive, and there was too much competition for resources happening. The serpent races proved impossible to take over, too smart, too magic savvy, but Gnolls? They were prime targets.
They were losing a war against a flying species. They didn't have sophisticated magic. They had a weak clergy. But they had leaders. Strong ones that would oppose demons, but they also had a pack mentality. Yeenhoghu likely struck the weakest tribes first.
This worked, and now the demon was leading an army; so he challenged the strongest. Those three Gnoll skulls on his flail? The skulls of the last leaders of the Gnolls who defied him and his demons. Demon Lord status achieved. So what does all this mean? Who cares?
#Gnolls are awesome plot points and potential campaign arcs now that the Blood War has opened up in 5e. That's why you should care, and why you should love Gnolls. As monsters, they are a self-contained collection of badness waiting to happen. 1/2
2/2 Flinds are leaders, enforcing and maintaining the will of Yeenoghu. Witherlings are undead abominations that represent Yeehoghu's unending hunger given unnatural eternal life. Marrashi are actual Gnoll based demons that fly and spread plague. Then there's the suborned....
The suborned being human and demihuman slaves who have embraced or been broken into embracing the ways of Yeenoghu's hunger. The opportunities are amazing right there but it gets better.
Gnolls would be in the Blood War, & be as used as proxy troops in the material plane to attack the worshipers of the devils their demon lord faces. Who doesn't love a conflict between a "civilized" infernal cult and a Gnoll War Band looking to gain the favour of their lord? #DnD
In the mean time, there are scattered tribes of Gnolls who are not only trying to survive the adventurers who keep coming after them, but being adventurers themselves, and probably hoping to one day free their people from the demon who enslaves them. That's a goddamn campaign!
Look at this, and tell me there isn't some kickass potential far in excess of the "blargl, Gnolls are badz" nonsense that Volo regurgitates. Rough honour, toughness, unswerving loyalty to the team... That's some opportunity right there for soem sweet RP and character creation.
Other potential arcs and plots:
1.) Gnolls seak wisdom from Lizardfolk on how they've avoided/defeated Sess'Innek.

2.) A group of Gnolls loses their Flind, and finds they can think clearer and seeks aid.

3.) Demons attack a village/town, and Gnolls come to the rescue? What?
Other cool things: Gnolls that aren't demon corrupted have better technology and a cleaner appearance; they've already got a set of visual cues already to indicate they're different from the blood streaked, rust covered, kill everything Gnolls of a Yeenoghu War Band.
Then there's Half-Gnolls. Yeah, bet you never heard of them eh? Straight out of 1989's Pool of Radiance novel, where they are described as unholy combinations of human and Gnoll features. But what does that tell me? Demon corrupted Gnolls produce corrupted offspring.
Every other "half" race is the game is generally a smooth synthesis of the parents; so this tells me that the demonic corruption is damaging the process. which means there are probably more conventionally attractive/appearing hybrids out there too, probably a lot like Half-Orcs.
Those being the Half-Orcs who are a result of the meeting/merging/allying of a barbarian tribe and an Orc tribe. You know, the logical, non-violent, we live int he same area and benefit each other sort of interaction that is sorely lacking in most D&D world builds.
So, yeah. #Gnolls. More than what Volo says they are, way cooler deep history than expected, lots of potential as both a playable character race and monster threat, and as a plot driver for both short and long term campaigns. Don't sleep on them! #blerd #DnD
Bonus #Gnoll Fact:
Their creator god is unknown; a lesser god named Gorellik taught them to hunt and tame hyenas, but offered no divine magic of note. Gorellik was defeated by Yeenoghu. Gnolls have been known to turn (successfully) to the gods of the Giants.
Partial List of References:
Monster Mythology (1992)
Races of the Wild (2005)
Grand History of the Realms (2007)
Dragon #367 (2008)
#DnD #Gnoll
Bonus #Gnoll Idea:
A #Teifling with demonic ancestry from Yeenoghu or a demon corrupted Gnoll or a kryshtantel (a slave that joins the demonic Gnoll pack). Totally different look than a conventional Teifling, + some cool plot hooks, possible character quirks, and so on! #DnD
Wow... This really blew up, I had no idea #TeamGnoll was so big!

I don't have Soundcloud or a podcast, but please check out my blog if you can, and follow me here if you want to see more of the same!

#DnD #blerd #ttrpg #Gnoll
If you're looking for more #Gnoll goodness, I've got a post up now, looking at their evolution and a way to approach them in game that maximizes their potential as both bad guys and player characters! Check it out! #DnD #blerd #ttrpg #TeamGnoll…

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