The gnolls are a race of hyenamen that live on the continent of Ardune in the Inner World. Their statistics, racial feats, and so forth can be found in WotC's 'Playing Gnolls' article.
Gnoll culture is rather simplistic, whether you view the followers of the Way of the Hunt or the Way of Slaughter. The two have many differences however, so it's best to vuew the two seperately.
The Way of the Hunt describes the way gnolls have for the most part lived since their creation. Gnolls don't form cities, tribes, or even packs, rather the entire race sticks together in one large horde that marches through the jungle. Once they find a good hunting ground, the horde settles down for a time, before taking turns going out in the area in a hunting party, bringing down every piece of game they can find. Hunting is rather sacred to the gnolls, and is extremely exciting for them. Once the gnolls have killed everything in an area (aside from sentient life, see the Way of the Hunt below), they once again move on to find another likely place to hunt in. This isn't to sugegst that the gnolls spread death and devestation in their wake. In fact, with the little things that gnolls do to promote new growth such as spreading the inedible parts of their preys body as fertilizer, it's likely that the place they move on from will be even more abundant of life within a few years than when they left it. Followers of the Way of the Hunt follow a strict set of simplistic laws that can be seen below in the next section. Currently, the followers of the Way of the Hunt is lead by one of the two remaining Elders, Beryl.
The Way of Slaughter describes the path a seperatist horde of gnolls took up under the leadership of one of the two remaining Elders, Russet. Whilst the followers of the Way of Slaughter are also nomadic, they promote no new growth as they pillage the earth around them. What's more, they rarely move in search of hunting grounds, but in search of settlements that they can pillage and devour their inhabitants, taking their weapons, armor and other tools for their own. The followers of the Way of Slaughter recieve their enjoyment from conquest and bloodshed rather than the hunt, though they do not take slaves like their demon worshipping counterparts: anyone weak enough to be capture, deserves nothing but a grisly death.
The religion of the gnoll also differs by whether they follow the Way of the Hunt or the Way of Slaughter. The followers of the Way of the Hunt worship the God of Chaos Chroma, and show their devotion by painting their fur with symbols of bright rainbow colours gathered from plants and kills, and spreading multicouloured flower petals over make shift altars. The followers of the Way of Slaughter, on the other hand, currently worship no god. They still utter prayers as they decapitate their victims, and write sacred blood symbols on themselves, but to who they're praying nobody knows.
The First is the group of seven gnolls who were first created from Hyenas by Chroma. Unlike other gnolls, who have a thrity year or so lifespan, the First are ageless, though still mortal. Each of the First paint themselves with a different colour, bedecking themselves with coloured symbols. The names, colour, and current position of each of the First are as follows, ordered from most recently killed to least:
Russet - Red - Leading the followers of the Way of Slaughter
Beryl - Blue - Leading the followers of the Way of the Hunt
Bice - Green - Killed by Russet during the Divide
Flush - Pink - Killed by another gnoll over a dispute over a stag
xanthous - Yellow - Killed by her own hand after the death of her mate, Titian
Titian - Orange - Killed by a falling tree
Perse - Violet - Killed by a water buffalo during a hunt
History (The Way of the Hunt) Edit
For the first few centuries of their race, the gnolls parsisted in the same way of life that brought them much joy: basically, hunting an area dry before moving onto the next, a little like a plague of locusts that ate only meat. However, after the death of one of the First at the hands of another gnoll, the gnolls found it necessary to encode a basic set of laws despite their naturally chaotic nature.
And law they received. Five, to be specific. It should be noted before they are stated that gnolls regard other sentient races as gnolls also, though of a different pack. As such, any law that applies or protects a gnoll also applies to and protects a non-gnoll. The Way of the Hunt was to follow these five laws, in accordance to the sense of rightness given to them by the god of chaos:
1. Do not steal from your fellow gnolls, in tools or prey. If they will not share with you, that is their choice, but taking by stealth or force is not right. Likewise, when a gnoll is killed, only take from him what he has allowed you. All else shall return to the earth with them. 2. Do not hunt in other gnolls territory. To kill something and rob another gnoll of the thrill of the hunt is a grave crime. 3. Do not attack a gnoll unless you first are attacked or gravely insulted. Violence without cause is no different to killing a deer and leaving the flesh to rot wastefully: it is destructive and serves no purpose. 4. To kill a gnoll is one of the worst sins a gnoll can perform. Only if that gnoll has sinned by breaking one of the tenants can this even be remotely justified, and even then it is advised to show prudence over recklessness. 5. The worst sin a gnoll can perform is to eat of another gnoll. To do so is to desecrate their body, and their memory. A gnoll is not prey to be devoured, it is a predator to be buried and honoured. A gnoll who eats of another gnoll, is not a gnoll in the eyes of their people.
However, many gnolls did not like following these laws, sparse as they were, thriving on slaughter on conquest. These gnolls, led by Russet, one of the First, caused a grear divide in gnoll society known, appropriately, as the Divide.
History (The Way of the Hunt) Edit
The following story summerizes the events surrounding the Divide well. The gnolls have a strong oral history, so it is likely that this tale passed down among the horde is very similart to how it was first told:
'A gnoll wandered through the woods, a rather scarred looking one at that. For some reason this particular gnoll seemed to ooze venerability and wisdom, as if it could tell you the lesson it had learned with every scar. His name in the gnoll tongue would be something along the lines of three yips, a cackle, and biting the air, but in the common tongue of men and gods he was known as Bice. The green symbols painted over his fur clearly marked him for what he was: one of the first seven gnolls to have been created from hyenas by the god of Chaos, Chroma. Whilst all others of their race grew to old age and died in little beyond thirty years, the First were… different. They remained vigorous, and alive, throughout the centuries, immortals as you would. But though they did not age, they could, tragically, still die. Brice knew that too well…
The First of the elder gnolls died a mere century into their life, killed by a savage water buffalo’s horn during a hunt. The entire race had mourned at her passing; the elders had seemed so permanent, as if they’d always be there for the race… but it had seemed that though they did not age, that did not mean that they were beyond death. Two generations later, a falling tree had crushed another of their number, a tragic accident that again sent the race into despair. His mate, another of the First, couldn’t fathom life without her love, and so for the first time in gnoll history a member of the race took their own life. And quite recently, not more than a few years in fact, the fourth of the First to die was killed at the hands of another gnoll over a felled stag. Bice had been close to her… but he had to confess that at least her death had brought about one good thing.
The Way of the Hunt. It had always been in the gnoll consciousness, lurking on the corner of their mind. Some things felt right, and other things felt wrong. Perhaps it was their natural instincts as pack predators, maybe it was a quirk of the Chaos that had created them. Or maybe, it was some deep felt sense of justice that every sentient creature possesses, even if the viler ones ignore it. It had never been spoken of, or needed to be put in words before: a gnoll would do what he thought was right and only that, they were chaotic by nature and the idea of law was foreign to them. But with the death- no, the murder of one of the First, it was decided that for the first time, the pack would know the word of law.
Though it seemed odd to state their feelings as though they must be followed, and the prospect of law still seemed strange to them, the gnolls had embraced the Way of the Hunt whole heartedly. It didn’t cover some of the minor shows of courtesy a gnoll was expected to make, such as using the inedible parts of a preys body as fertilizer to promote new growth after their passage, but that was not the purpose of the Way. The Way was intended to stop gnolls from destroying themselves, nothing more, nothing less. Anything greater would have been as chains around their chaotic spirits.
Little did Bice know, many gnolls did view even those sparse laws as such. And, naturally, they wanted to break those chains.
Bice continued through the forest, frowning with worry as he looked up at the stars through the dark red sky and the aura borealis overhead. Russet’s hunting party had been gone for too long… the horde was growing worried, and as it’s best tracker Bice and a few of his men had been sent. No more than Bice was strictly necessary, but no gnoll likes being alone… if cut off from it’s pack for too long a lone gnoll was liable to pine away and die from sheer loneliness. There was a certain urgency to the mission though… the bull-headed gnoll pack had been seen to have small bands in this area. Relations between the hyena pack and bull pack had never been good, occasional skirmishes erupted as they trod on each other’s turf. If Russet’s group had come across an overly large group, he could be… Brice urged his gnolls to pick up the pace, brushing through one last group of bushes to come across a small clearing in the jungle.
And then gasped and stumbled back from the bloody scene. It seemed Russets group of gnolls really had come across the bull pack.
If only Brice’s first fear of his death had come to pass.
Russets gnolls were… breaking every law of the Hunt in the worst way possible. They had won the battle against their enemy, and apparently had decided to celebrate. They took the bull gnolls weapons and armour for their own, wielding them proudly as though it were trophies. The minotaurs themselves were bloody and dead on the ground, savagely rended from the assault, some still having a look of fear and surprise in their eyes from the sudden ambush. And… worst of all… they were feasting. Bice covered his eyes in disgust and turned away as the gnolls ate their bull like brother, fighting over succulent scraps of meat and adorning themselves in red blood symbols like the First that lead them.
Thinking quickly, Bice ordered a few of his gnolls to return to the horde and tell the last of the First, Beryl, what had happened here. That task done, the elder silently signalled to his other gnolls, gesturing for them to rush out claws slashing before Russet learned they were-
Bice jumped as he turned around, seeing another group of gnolls standing beside his own. A much larger one than the one he led, with a far more intimidating leader. Russet was big for a gnoll, and his scars seemed less to show a lesson he had learned and more as a count of the number of people and/or animals he’d stomped into the ground for looking at him funny. Like Bice he seemed venerable, but in the same way a thousand year old demon is far more intimidating and evil than a far younger terror. Worse of all, his symbols were red as the sky above them, the smell of fresh blood still wafting from them.
“Russet… what have you done?” Bice asked, half-angrily, half-imploringly, as though testing as if there was still some gnoll in the Elders soul.
“I have done what we should have been doing for some time,” the red gnoll replied. “These… things are not of our kind. Why should we treat them with respect? Hell, why should we treat our own kind like they were children? The weak should be culled, not coddled! Can’t you see it Bice?” he went on, passion filling his voice. “Hunting isn’t nearly as blood boiling as this! Conquest! Slaughter! The blood and flesh of gnolls is ten times as succulent as any stag! Why should we not embrace who we are? Why should we not let loose our claws against anything that thinks and speaks? And why should we not devour the flesh of out so called brethren?” The Elder turned his eyes to his green brother, fangs glistening red with blood in the starlight as he smiled. “Come now Bice, surely you can see it? We’re predators! Devourers of all that lives! Why shouldn’t we act like it?”
Bice just shook his head sadly. “Russet… I had no idea how much of a monster you’d become. Can’t you see the colours in your soul screaming out against this!” The Elder charged forward, claws drawn to his brother, only be caught in one of Russets massive paws by the neck, before being lifted up, choking helplessly.
”I see the colours in my soul quite clearly, Bice,” the red gnoll snarled. “And it’s nothing… but… red!” The gnoll squeezed, and blood splattered.
And suddenly, there were only two of the First left.
Beryl, blue symbols glistening under the rising sun, scouted at the front of the horde with a pack of other gnolls, sniffing after Bice’s trail. The trackers observations were… disturbing. He hoped that it had been some trick of the light, that they were wrong, that Russet hadn’t become the first evil to curse to the continent of Ardune. But soon enough, Beryl came across the site of the slaughter… and found not only half devoured minotaurs, but half-devoured gnolls of his horde. And a half-devoured Bice.
Shocked to the core, the Elder slowly walked over to his dead brother, sinking to his knees, tremblingly lifting a paw to the corpse as though hoping it wasn’t real… before snarling and howling up into the red sky.
From this day forth, the gnolls would be forever fractured: most continued the Way of the Hunt, while the others under the rulership of the savage Russet started their own Way, the Way of Slaughter. There was only one rule for the Way of Slaughter… nobody matters but you and your brothers. All else is as food to your belly, loot for your stash, and excitement for your heart as you slaughter everything you came across. The followers of the Way of Slaughter and the Way of the Hunt met often, and each meeting resulted in blood running across the jungle floor in waves, making the entire land red with it.
And that is how evil first came to the gnolls and Ardune.'
After this event, the horde of the gnolls seperated into two: one half sticking to the Way of the Hunt as they always had, and the other taking up the Way of Slaughter. These two would always have a deep-set hatred for eachtother.. though that does not suggest much from the followers of the Way of Slaughter, as they hate every living thing.
Physical Traits Edit
As the 'Playing Gnoll' article, or in the Monster Manual. The only real difference is that gnolls tend to decorate themselves either with brightly coloured symbols of the rainbow, or red blood symbols depending on whether they are of the Way of the Hunt or Way of Slaughter.
Affiliation and Techs Edit
The gnoll is race is divided in two. Both factions know the warlock and ranger class, though the Way if the Hunt focuses on the vestige pack whilst the Way of Slaughter focuses on the infernal. Gnolls of the Hunt also know how to fashion bows, arrows, and primative shelters.