Gnolls – A Ferocious Race for D&D 5e

A Gnoll Matriarch Defender

For ages, the Gnoll has been viewed as a threat to developing civilization.  Tales of savage beasts with hyena heads mauling travelers and attacking city walls have struck fear into even the most trained of soldiers.  Their origins are equally mysterious, shrouding them in further mystery and fear.  However, as information spreads and reality dispels mythology, many people driven by old ways began to witness that Gnolls aren’t inherently evil.  Despite their bestial appearance and instincts, they’re more than capable of rationality and guidance.


Wild Hunters, Clever Survivalists


Despite many misconceptions and stereotypes, tales of gnolls being able to take down incredible prey as well as stories of them enduring brutal deserts and unforgiving wastelands contain more than enough proof.  For this reason, more accepting lands view the gnoll as a testament to the tenacity of the wild.  Within their own lands, Gnolls forge resourceful societies capable of repurposing much of what they come across, due to harsh lessons learned in barren wastes.  Also, many Gnollish culture have gained infamy for creating little of their own; relying on the ideas and supplies of others.  This has also lead to the troubling assumption that gnollish travelers are actually raiders looking to jump the unlucky wandering that crosses their path.  Being both scavengers and hunters, they’re able to adapt to any land ripe with hunting game or the barest of dead lands.  Such experiences have hardened them as both nomads and settlers.  Besides their impressive endurance, they’re viewed as incredible hunters more than able to thwart the mightiest of beasts.  While this leads to misconceptions of them being savage brutes who care for little more than brutality and bloodshed, they often save “The Hunt” for when they’re certain they’ll need the resources.  While they find little wrong with hunting other humanoids, this is often for the sake of meals rather than pure sport.  However, some populations have made a sport of hunting anyone who comes too close to secretive grounds.  Granted, they usually post significant warnings first.


Strangers in a Strange Land


No one is sure of where Gnolls came from, and to be honest, neither do the Gnolls!  Some have rumors that they’re the creations of mad cultists and druids, crossbreeding hyenas and humanoids.  Some suggest they’re the spawns of demonic plane-jumping conquerors, set out to hunt all in the name of Yeenoghu.  Maybe they are the result of a mad Bouda Witch corrupting the nearby lands.  Perhaps they’re just beings exposed to the arcane forces of the Plane of the Wyld, forcefully morphed into bipedal hyena creatures.  No matter the truth, Gnolls take pride in what they are and will defend their existence till the end.  Outside of their own tribes and settlements, they are the epitome of outsider though.  While many beastly folk are infamous for coming across as uncivilized and feral, gnolls face this situation far more often.  Their tendency to feast upon carrion, as well as their bone chilling cackle sound is off putting to those outside of their circles.  Their animalistic instincts have also had tendencies to kick in at bad moments.  While many traditions and actions are socially acceptable at home, they are likely taboo elsewhere.  Horror tales of a gnoll making its way into a funerary service, only to feast upon the corpse have become drunken racist jokes at bars.  Other rumors of gnolls mating or hunting in open streets have only further hindered their social status.  One famous tale that circulates through Gnoll-kind involves a wandering starved outcast gorging himself on the foods of a bazaar, before guards arrived and slew him with extreme prejudice.  This story is often toted as propaganda by those who seek to enforce xenophobia within Gnollish society.

But, this doesn’t mean that gnolls are savages without culture or morality.  Gnoll society is typically matriarchal in nature, with a high queen who proves herself through rigorous challenges.  To the outside eye, most gnolls look the same due to lack of dimorphism of their hyena ancestors.  Despite a matriarchal society, male gnolls do not suffer from discrimination like with the Drow.  However, important choices tend to be favored by females of each clan.  Many societies not dictated or ruled by sex/gender tend to view gnolls as a curiosity or are outright hostile towards their approach for many a reason.  Some view them as inherently sexist or biased in nature, whether or not these claims are actually true.  However, many gnolls from other material planes tote a much darker side.  Names such as Lamashtu and Yeenoghu imply an abyssal origin for countless legions.  These gnolls are creatures of chaos and evil, derived from both hyena and demonic bloodlines.  Their values lie within savagery, butchery and dark tributes to their demonic masters.  While it is uncommon for gnolls to become adventurers, it is even rarer for demonic gnolls to explore with creatures outside of their kind.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Gnolls!  I figure I’d give them some vanilla fluff to make them feel a little closer to actual hyenas rather than stick to the generic D&D lore.  Of course, they wouldn’t be gnolls unless I threw a bone here or there (haha.)  With that, enjoy my take on the race (including an inside joke toward the bottom.)  No matter, here’s another entry in support of the RPG Blog Carnival, particular the Homebrew Holiday Gifts theme for the month of December!

Gnoll Racial Stats.

Ability Score Increase. The blood of the beast makes you strong, readied to face many foes.  You gain a +2 bonus to Strength.

Age.  Gnolls typically mature around 9 or 10 years old, reaching around 50 to 60 years of age.  However, abyssal gnolls are said to live for up to centuries.

Alignment.  Despite misconceptions, many gnolls are loyal towards their circles.  However, they could care less towards the views and laws of other societies.  As such, tend towards neutral alignments.  However, Abyssal Gnolls tend towards chaotic evil.

Speed.  Gnolls have a speed of 30 ft.

Size.  Despite being a Medium sized creature, gnolls are usually pretty tall beings.  Some stretch well over 6 – 7 feet.

Darkvision.  Going on the hunt well into the dark hours of the night has trained your sight well.  You have Darkvision out 60 ft.

Carrion Eater.  Your exposure to sickly flesh and gross meats has fortified your body against plagues and filth.  You gain advantage on saves vs. diseases and poisons.

Bite.  Your powerful jaws can snap through bones and bring foes to ruin.  You are considered proficient with this attack and base damage is 1d4 piercing damage, using your Strength for attack/damage. This base damage increases to 1d6 at 6th level, 1d8 at 12th level, and 1d10 at 18th level.  You may also use this attack as an “off-hand” attack as a bonus action.

Feral Dash. They may drop to all fours as a free action. By doing so, their base speed becomes 35 ft. In addition, any attack not involving their natural attacks suffers disadvantage. Rules for standing up from being prone apply to this stance.  Alternatively, they can use the dash action and gain a +10 ft. bonus instead.


-Sub-Race – Plains Gnoll

From hiding in tall grasses to jump prey to sneaking past larger threats, the gnolls of the plains are experts in subterfuge.

Ability Score Increase.  You are more agile than most of your relatives.  You gain a +1 bonus to Dexterity.

Brisk Runner.  You gain a +5 ft. bonus to your land speed.  This stacks with feral dash.

Sneaky.  Proficiency in Stealth skill.


-Sub-Race – Desert Gnoll

Chasing meals across empty sand reaches for much of their lives; these gnolls are hardier and more ruthless in their hunting techniques.

Ability Score Increase.  You are much hardier than many of your other relatives, as you must face harsh climates and less supplies than more lush environments.  You gain a +1 bonus to Constitution.

Savage Attacker.  You gain the Rampage ability as detailed in the Monster Manual, except as written here.  You can still move up to half of your movement and make a bite attack against another possible target if you drop a creature to 0 HP.  However, you must take a short rest or long rest before doing it again.

Survivalist.  Gain training in the survival skill.


-Sub-Race – Spirit Blooded

Perhaps you were among those born with demon’s blood, perhaps you come from a clan of oracles and shamans.  Some bring forth rumors that you have the blood of gnomes in you.  Imagine that, a “Gnollme!”

Ability Score Adjustment.  You are more adept at the mystical arts than many others of your kind.  As a result, you are more capable at both spell craft and the art of manipulation.  You gain a +1 bonus to Wisdom.

Cackling Mystic.  You may cast Vicious Mockery and Minor Illusion (sound only) as Cantrips, going off your Wisdom modifier for spell DC.

Born of Magick.  You count as having proficiency in saves versus magical spells and abilities.


Prerequisite: Gnoll race

You are more capable than many others of your kind.

  • Your natural attacks can use Dexterity instead of Strength.

You gain an effect based on your sub-race:

  • Plains Gnolls gain a +1 bonus to Dexterity and gain advantage in using Stealth checks in natural areas (such as tall grass and behind trees).
  • Desert Gnolls gain a +1 bonus to Constitution and may use Savage Attack whenever they bring a foe down to 0 HP.
  • Spirit Blooded gain a +1 bonus to Wisdom and gain Gnollish Magic (detailed below)

Gnollish Magic: You may cast Disguise Self at-will.  You may also cast each of the following once per Long Rest: Fear, Misty Step, Haste, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter.  Wisdom is your casting ability stat for these spells.


Made by Doctor Necrotic, for Doctor Necrotic Media.  Gnolls and the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game are products of Wizards of the Coast.


One thought on “Gnolls – A Ferocious Race for D&D 5e

  1. Pingback: RPG Blog Carnival Wrap-Up – Homebrew Holiday Gifts! | World Builder Blog

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