Gnoll Species in 13 | World Anvil


Hyena-like humanoids restricted through godly powers to a single island of the world

Where the gnolls come from, only the gods of this world know. Their existence as a whole is unknown but to a minuscule proportion of the humanoid population. Gnolls do appear in goblin tales all over the world, but few humanoids have ever interacted with goblins for long enough to know about the tales they tell their children to scare them (and to turn them away from a life of order).  

Basic Information


Anatomy & Physiology

Gnolls are bipedal, although their gait differs markedly from that of other humanoids, thanks to their double-jointed legs of a hyena. This is not the only trait they take from hyenas. They also have impressively powerful muzzles, a tail, and some have shaggy manes.   Gnolls tend to be extremely muscular, although it is hard to say whether this is inherent to their physiology or due to the life of hardships they face. Those who are not fit will often end up as the lighthouse keepers, where a life away from the clan and subject to the everpresent terrorific presence of the sea will wear most gnolls down in just a few years.  
Lighthouse keepers are gnolls who are in charge of an essential task: to prevent any outsiders from reaching the dungeon.   They use their ill-named lighthouses to confuse seafarers and most often, smash their boats into the craggy coastline. Sometimes, when the clan needs new slaves, they do guide ships to safety, only to be meat by a band of lighthouse keepers and rovers who enslave the humans under their command.
  A gnoll lives for an average of 30 years, although the end of their lives is accelerated, given the roles given to those unable to hunt or protect the dungeon. Gnolls with a special status in the clan, who are not relegated to the coastline, may live for up to 60 years old.  


by Maria Gatta (Hero Forge)
Female gnolls become reproductive between the ages of 6 and 10, depending on whether their childhood years were lean or abundant. When a female teenager becomes receptive for their first time, she is send away by the matriarch, to face a period of isolation and survival in the wild. If she survives, she is welcomed back into her clan, and the next time she is sexually receptive, she may choose as many males as she wants to mate with.  
A pregnant gnoll is revered, as the clan's survival depends on them. During their pregnancy, gnolls are afforded the opportunity to change their task the matriarch appointed to them during their teenage years. They can choose how they think they can help best the clan. Although not often, sometimes a pregnant gnoll shines in her new role, and she is allowed to change professions after she delivers her litter.   Their pregnancy lasts for about 8 months, after which their life returns to normal, caring for her litter while also caring for whatever her usual duty is. Some pregnant gnolls, however, experience an awakening during their deliveries (often signalled by many of their litter dying during the delivery itself these gnolls invariably join the clergy in one way or another.  

Godly Connections

Gnolls are innately connected to the gods of this world, even if few of them understand them. Most don't even bother to. Their ancestors provide enough guidance to last a lifetime. However, several gnolls, usually female, per generation will be touched directly by the gods, to continue their ancestral pact of protecting their home island, and making sure nothing escapes from it.   These gnolls touched by god are revered and feared at the same time. They usually have a prominent space in society, and when one of them argues for a specific, often unsound path, few dare to oppose, as their insight is seen as divine.  
Beyond a divine order to contain the islands inhabitants to this place, the gods also altered the gnolls in a significant way: they made them utterly terrified of water. The gods also did this with goblins, except, where gnolls tend towards lawfulness and order, goblins tends towards chaos.   Thus, while gnolls have never tried to purposefully set a foot outside of the island, goblins engineer plans to "defeat" the water and get out of the island over and over again.
by Maria Gatta (Hero Forge)
30 years
Average Height
6 ft.
Average Weight
175 to 250 lbs


Gnolls of the island are roughly divided into two distinct societies: the gnolls living aboveground and in the upper levels of the dungeon, and the gnolls living in the depths of the dungeon, who often never see the light of the sun throughout their whole lives.   Twice per year, when the high tides threaten the island, the surface gnolls make a holy procession down into the bowels of the dungeon. The trip is almost as important as the destination, as the trip is riddled with traps, monsters, and other hazards. It is considered a holy duty to traverse the dungeon at least once in their lifetime, and deity-touched gnolls usually make pilgrimage at least once a year.   From these pilgrimages, the two grand clans of hyenas stay connected and keep the dungeon inhabitants in check. Sometimes the pilgrimages result in the exchange of clan members.   In most respects, however, both societies behave quite similarly.  


Gnoll society is matriarchal, although males still play an important role in society. The leader is usually the strongest female of the clan.   In the surface gnoll society, however, they often have a non-gnoll leader based on their oracle readings and contact with foreigners. If the gnoll leader sees an outsider as a force destined to strengthen their divine mandate, she relegates her position to that foreigner until they are proven to be not what the gods desire.  

Social Structure

A gnolls clan rules above any individual gnolls welfare. Gnolls are extremely gregarious, and there is no fate worse to a gnoll than to be exiled.  


Gnoll sociality extends to hyenas; many gnolls have hyena companions (underground gnolls often have dire hyenas as companions).

  Gnoll Physical Features
1 – Missing a body part (roll 1d10 and consult the Gnoll missing body table)
2 – Sparse mane
3 – Scarred muzzle
4 – Walks with a limp
5 – Sharpened claws
6 – Various torso and face piercings
7 – Torn ears
8 – Scarified torso
9 – Half missing tail
10 – Fur details (roll 1d4 and consult the Gnoll fur details table)
Gnoll missing body part
1 – Missing a finger
2 – Missing a hand
3 – Missing an arm
4 – Missing a foot
5 – Missing a leg
6 – Missing an eye
7 – Missing ear
8 – Missing eye
9 – Missing a few teeth
10 – Missing its tongue
Gnoll Fur details
1 – Short, light brown with dark spots
2 – Medium length, ligh in the face, quite dark below the neck
3 – Black and white, stripped
4 – Cream with sparse black stripes, and black face mask
Gnoll positions in society (3d6s)
3 – Lighthouse keeper
4 – Farm slave keeper
5, 6 – Roving band
7 – Crafter
8 – Hunter
9 – Mage
10, 11 – Guard
12 – Trainer
13 – Animal handler
14 – Slayer
15, 16 – Holy warrior
17 – Cleric
18 – Leader
Social Position Explanations   Roving band: Low-level, untrustworthy or unskilled gnolls, tasked with roaming around, keeping things in check, and reporting things of interest back to the clan.   Hunter: Proven rovers able to deal with the dangers of the surface and the first few levels of the dungeon. Sent to hunt after rebellious goblins and similar chaotic monsters.   Trainer: One of the few good positions for older gnolls, reserved for renowned gnolls, as well as for those with a natural talent to inspire others.

Cover image: by Maria Gatta (Hero Forge)


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Dec 30, 2022 23:27

Hey for some reason the like button is not working. Perhaps some bb code left open?

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
Dec 31, 2022 06:53

Hey, thanks for letting me know! There were indeed some pesky unclosed bbcode tags. It should be fixed now :D

Dec 31, 2022 08:41

Yes seems to be in order now! ^^

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
Jan 5, 2023 07:26

Good article for a different kind of Gnoll. I like the use of the Hero Forge mini images and the Gnoll mods from various expansions and D&D mods. Also the mystery of the mission of the Gods- defend the island and dungeon.....protect what from whom?

Jan 8, 2023 22:08

Hello!   The mystery is something that will be slowly revealed if investigated by the players. This article was written as prep for the megadungeon I am writing in 2023 (Dungeon23). So I'm afraid I cannot answer your question :S

Jan 9, 2023 00:18 by Paul

I like the roll tables for the appearance of the gnolls. I should start making these, at the very least it will force me to create a few more appearance details for the species!

Join the brave skysailors of Linebound!
Jan 29, 2023 17:29

Thanks! I do really hope they prove as useful at the table as they felt while creating them xD