View Full Version : Roleplaying a Gnoll/Barbarian

2012-02-13, 11:51 PM
I would like some advice on the racial quirks and traits that come with roleplaying a Gnoll. This is my first time roleplaying outside of a Human/Elf and thus have reached the obvious racial barrier between the Human psyche and the half starved crazed murderous hyena man psyche. Also, to stick with my description of Gnolls I have decided to take up Barbarian as a class. If you need to know anything else just ask, thanks for your time.

2012-02-14, 12:05 AM
I'd probably use many taste-words and occasionally eat some animal raw. Getting the "wild beast" thing into use.

Mark Hall
2012-02-14, 12:25 AM
Consider who gnolls are, and what their society is like. I saw an interesting version which based gnolls more fully on hyenas. In this, flinds were actually female gnolls, who tended to attract a male "harem" to them. So a gnoll from such a society might show unusual deference to the opinions of females, but contest with males for dominance.

Know who gnolls are, and then you've got a starting point for who your gnoll is.

2012-02-14, 01:25 AM
Well, first of all I'd like to say that you're roleplaying an intelligent being, so the first rule would have to be that you play your character whatever way you want to. Humanity (or animals, for that matter) have an amazing variety in personality traits, characteristics and so on - there's no reason other humanoid creatures (such as gnolls) wouldn't have the same range :smallsmile:

That having been said, maybe you could do some research on hyenas? Skimming wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyena#Behaviour) I find that hyenas come in (at least) three different varieties that act and operate differently.

Just freeballing based on the wikipedia articles I can imagine three distinct forms of gnolls (brown, striped and spotted) that have different setups:

The Brown Gnolls are shaggy nomadic gnolls that travel in small families called 'hearths' - usually no more than four to eight gnolls. When a male in the family comes of age he'd challenge the dominant male of the hearth - if successful, the defeated gnoll willingly submits his position and the victor takes over the alpha position. If he fails, he is run off from the hearth.

Striped gnolls are burrowers that build great underground dens and rely on trickery and crude traps to defend their lairs. They are opportunistic and will happily pounce on a weak foe (say, a lone shepherd with a flock of sheep), but will flee if facing strong resistance.

Spotted gnolls are more militaristic and much braver than the other tribes. They organize their society like a military unit, live in forts and defensive positions. Disobedience or lack of discipline is punished harshly. Skill with arms and a grasp of tactics is considered essential skills to learn. They often organize gladiatorial arena fights to test their warriors. They are also much more likely to keep slaves than the other tribes. While they tend herds and even do some farming, their primary source of sustenance or slaves would be raiding neighbouring communities. Sometimes a spotted gnoll leaves the his tribe and settles with other gnoll communities. These gnolls often reach positions of leadership, and can significantly alter the way that tribe behaves.

Finally, make sure you run everything by your DM before you decide on it. What you come up with might fit in with the way he has envisioned gnolls (or maybe he hasn't written up anything on gnolls specifically and is happy you've taken initiative), but maybe he has a completely different view of what gnolls are like.

Finally I'd like to apologize in advance to any biology-majors who read this and are horrified at my lack of knowledge on the actual differences between brown, striped and spotted hyena. :smallbiggrin:

2012-02-14, 01:54 AM
There's a dragon mag article a while back describing gnolls as PCs. It's 4e but the fluff is edition neutral. But like Kudaku says, when running a monster race, run it by the DM first.

2012-02-14, 02:04 AM
We don't really know that much about Gnolls as a culture in 'vanilla' D&D. We know they appear to be hyena-people, their preferred food is pretty much any other race of sentient being, they're dominated by the strongest member of their 'tribe', and they concentrate on ambush combat as much as possible.

Taking the hyena aspect; modern hyenas are all 'bone crushers' with heavy jaws. Although they are scavengers, they are also primary predators in many cases killing over 90% of all the food they eat. They act like dogs in some respects, but they're actually closer related to cats and weasels and have behaviours like them as well. For example, hyenas are fastidious about cleanliness like cats, and they don't urinate to mark territory (they have glands like weasels/polecats/etc.).

So you could play up the some of the bestial aspects. Concentrate on the way things smell and taste, rather than the way it looks. Everything is potential food, or a way to get food. Play up the odd stuff like him always wanting to be clean, and his tendency to like subtle scented oils on all his equipment & clothing. Given the limited descriptions of the culture, they probably constantly test each other to maintain the pecking order. They have spiritual beliefs and superstitions, but according to my copy of the MM a tribe doesn't always have specific priests, so you could play up the spiritual angle. Have him constantly quote stuff, as if they are passages from some text. They don't have to always make sense, just be vaguely pretentious.