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Basic Information

The gnoll is one of the more obscure fantasy beastmen, usually consisting of a fusion of human and hyena - although various, mostly canid things seem to be substitutable in a pinch, depending how good the artist is at drawing hyenae. As a result, they tend to have an above average interest in scavenging and, given traditional perceptions of hyenae, are generally cruel, cunning, lazy and mostly amoral. Very few versions bother to explore the interesting gender dynamics found in the spotted hyena … possibly due to a general ignorance that such things exist. For those keeping track the hyena aspect seems to have been introduced by Gygax himself … prior to this they might have been more human, or might have resembled a Jerusalem artichoke1.

For reference, the gnolls of Discworld (per. Terry Pratchett) are, by contrast, largely shapeless things composed of miscellaneous organic matter and perhaps related to soil as his trolls are to rock2.

The anthropophagous carrion eater role also puts them in competition - or possible in league - with ghouls3, and probably similar critters such as wendigo and tamanous.


Ursual Vernon's "Digger" - mostly about a wombat, but one of the few versions that uses the gnollish4 gender dynamic.

1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • "That RPG" places the gnolls and ghouls as allies for theological reasons - the conflict option is just as possible.
  • Vernonesque female dominated gnolls could be an interesting departure for a setting.
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