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The Slayer's Guide to Gnolls

Reviewed by Nicholas H.M. Caldwell &copy:2002

Edited by Suzanne Campbell for The Guild Companion

 

The Slayer's Guide to Gnolls is the second outing for Mongoose Publishing's Slayer's Guide series for the d20 System. Each Guide focuses on a specific monster race with details on their beliefs, society, and battle techniques; adding and expanding the material found within the Monster Manual entries without contradicting any of that canonical material. There are also five short independent fiction pieces scattered through the book, which provide further ideas on gnolls, their habits, and motivations. 

Gnolls are hyena-like humanoids, exceedingly cruel and vicious carnivores who enjoy killing and eating members of other sentient races. This Slayer's Guide looks first at the physiology of gnolls, especially their senses and diet, which will provide devious GMs with additional opportunities to make gnoll attacks even more devastating. Their weakness is described in the Mindset section, namely complete selfishness and dedication only to their own personal survival. 

After a brief foray into typical gnoll habitats and lair structures, the Guide looks at gnollish society in terms of its pack structure and the eternal struggle for dominance by adult males. The reliance of gnolls on captured slaves for menial labor and a ready food supply should chill PCs. Such societal aspects, including their fraught and temporary alliances with other races, are consistent with and give the impression of being natural consequences of physiology and psychology. Gnoll religion, its clerical adherents, and the evil gnoll druids are also described. 

The danger with any humanoid race is that while the GM appreciates the new depth given to the race, old habits die hard and a pack of the brutes will simply be dropped into a dungeon chamber or a wilderness area to attack the unfortunate PCs. The "Methods of Warfare" seeks to prevent this by exploring gnoll martial gear and tactics for ambushes, lair defenses and occasional open warfare. GMs who utilize this section will give their PCs a real challenge. A couple of pages worth of scenario hooks will provide GMs with some inspiration for using gnolls in a campaign. Players with a flair for the different may find the page on role-playing gnolls as PCs useful. 

The last section of the Guide is a full-blown gnoll lair with history, maps, and game statistics for the pack leader and typical gnolls. Dealing with the perils posed by the Edendale lair should keep even an experienced medium-level party busy for a few sessions. 

At 32 pages, of which two are sacrificed to the Open Gaming and d20 Licenses (the latter needlessly), The Slayer's Guide to Gnolls is a slim and relatively expensive d20 System supplement. It is well written and its mix of coherent source material, practical gamesmastering advice, and scenarios will appeal to many hard-pressed D&D GMs.  Would I buy it? (Or indeed any of the other Slayer's Guides?) No, the price/page count ratio is wrong for me. However the quality is good enough to convince me to look seriously at Mongoose Publishing's more substantial products.

 

Editor's Note: The Slayer's Guide to Gnolls is published by Mongoose Publishing who can be found at http://www.mongoosepublishing.com or by email at info@mongoosepublishing.com.

 

 

 

 

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