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Gnoll in Everquest RPG art

Generic gnoll warrior

(Everquest)


Context

Everquest , released in 1999, was one of the first modern Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) . Though an early effort aimed at a hardcore public, it was remarkably successful and invented many MMORPG genre conventions. It paved the way for another landmark game, World of Warcraft, which drew liberally from Everquest but made it more accessible.

The feeling of immersion and the community around the game remained remarkable for several years, leading to some derision about how obsessed with the game its enthusiasts were. This writer played it heavily from 2000 to 2004, and retains fond memories  of it.

I haven’t much time left to play EQ so this is not thoroughly researched and relies a fair bit on EQ information compilation sites.


Background

  • Base Of Operations: Chiefly the Western half of Antonica, around Qeynos and the Karanas.
  • Height: About 6’7” tall Weight: About 220 lbs.
  • Eyes: Varies Hair: Varies


Powers & Abilities

Gnoll are large, canine humanoids. They have sharp hyena-like senses, but their intellectual acumen and discipline are usually poor. While they are usually larger and stronger than a human warrior, their lack of tactics, courage and discipline mean that they are unlikely to fare well in a confrontation with a standing military force or capable raiders.

A key asset of gnolls is their fertility. While their breeding grounds have never been found, gnolls have little difficulty refilling their ranks even after they suffer major losses. This makes them a persistent thorn in the side of their neighbours.

Possibly related is the fact that female gnolls are almost never seen. Howbeit, it is possible that most humanoids simply cannot tell the males from the females under ordinary circumstances.

Map of the Blackburrow upper levels

Topmost levels of Blackburrow. Spot A is the short tunnel to Qeynos Hills, spot B is the long tunnel to Everfrost.

Engaging gnolls on their home ground is also a difficult endeavour. Their keen hearing means that they can respond to distant commotions. If a small group of gnolls is assaulted on its home turf, there are good odds that many more will come pouring to the rescue.

Some packs of gnolls are notoriously tougher than the profile above – which would be an average Sabertooth Clan gnoll fighter. Some packs are even both considerably more dangerous and mystically adept, such as the Underpaw Clan gnolls. And of course individual gnolls within a given clan or pack can be considerably tougher, or even qualify as mystically-powerful shamans.


History — gnolls before the Sundering

Gnolls have little written history, most of it confusing. They are thus chiefly known through their interactions with outsiders, and these are mostly hostile.

Their origins remains unknown. They may have been created by Brell Serilis the Duke of Below – the god of earth. Gnolls usually organise by clan. Each clan is normally made up of various packs, who are sort of very large familial units sharing certain characteristics, such as fur colour patterns. Some packs seem larger than small clans.

Gnolls chiefly live on the continent of Antonica (formerly Tunaria) in a triangle bounded by Qeynos, Halas, and Lake Rathetear. They are mostly known by their large underground strongholds. This is because bands of gnolls roving on the surface tend to be repelled by local powers. By contrast, storming an underground gnoll den is only possible for a determined army.

Blackburrow

The famous gnoll stronghold of Blackburrow never fell in recorded history. It is located North of the pre-Sundering Qeynos Hills, under the southernmost part of the Everfrost Peaks.

Map of the Blackburrow lower level

Lower level of Blackburrow. Spot A is the ramp up the higher levels, spot B is the giant snakes pit.

Back during the Age of Turmoil it was mostly known for hosting the only tunnel between the Qeynos Hills and the frigid plains of Everfrost. Gnoll ambushes would prevent the fair-weather traveller from crossing the tunnel. Even strong parties were best served by making haste, as the gnolls enjoyed giving chase to travellers. And they could do so in such numbers as to present a genuine threat.

Generally, the road from Qeynos to Halas was best navigated by professional, well-armed bands travelling lightly and quickly. Trying to have a conventional trade caravan cross Blackburrow would have been folly.

Some Blackburrow packs such as the Darkpaw or the Timberclaw conquered large swathes of the nearby Jaggedpine Forest. They posed a serious threat to most residents and permanently took hold in caverns bordering the Forest.

Blackburrow raiding parties were less successful in their attempts to threaten the mighty city of Qeynos. That was despite the numerous stratagems of raid leader Fippy Darkpaw (who later nearly became a demigod of the earth – long story).

Gnolls had slightly more success against the village of Surefall Glade. But the hardened rangers and druids of nature-loving Surefall always managed to defeat them until Surefall burned during the Sundering.

Other packs within the Sabertooth clan include the Skindancers, the Dankfur, the Cavemaw, the Rockpaw, the Dustpaw and the Bloodtooth.

Splitpaw

Splitpaw, a large underground den in the Southern Plains of Karana, was the stronghold of the Splitpaw clan. At least until they were overthrown by their rivals of Clan Torn Ear.

Torn Ear gnolls were organised in an elaborate manner. They had an illegible system of social classes and guilds rather than straightforward packs. Explorers were never quite sure whether a gnoll the others called, say, a Rosch Val, was part of the Rosch Val pack, or was a Rosch pack gnoll of the Val guild, or was working as a Val for the Rosch, or some unfathomable combination of such.

Map of the Splitpaw Lair

Splitpaw.

Even after it was occupied by the more powerful Torn Ear gnolls, most outsiders continued to call the den Splitpaw.

Even with Torn Ear in charge, the Splitpaw underground was eventually lost. Gnoll prince Farsoth Mal, son of Ishva Mal, attempted to depose his father by conjuring elemental servants. But his sloppy planar gate resulted in an invasion by powerful elementals who took over the underground. These slaughtered the gnolls and sent the survivors packing.

Other gnoll clans

Loping Plains

Pre-Sundering there existed persistent rumours about marauding, nomadic gnolls in the Loping Plains in Faydwer. These supposedly ran as fast as a horse. Reputedly these packs had more coyote-like features and fur. One confirmed gnoll clan in the Loping Plains were the Sareth’tal, who reportedly were peaceful and mostly interested in agriculture.

This pastoral clan was destroyed by hateful dwarves. This transgression led the divinity Brell Serilis to destroy the dwarven soldiers and their commander, Ranthok Redbeard. It is possible that the “running gnolls” were the ancestors of the Sareth’tal before they became agrarians.

Rumours persist that the ancient queen of the Sareth’tal, the Mother of All, is somehow still active – perhaps as an undead. She supposedly now governs a coalition of packs called the Seeking Clan.

Iceclad Sea

Exploring the Iceclad Sea came as surprise for Qeynos and Halas-area adventurers. The indigenous packs constituting the Snowfang Clan were not particularly hostile and would even do basic bartering.

These white-furred gnolls are quite adapted to life in frigid climates. They wear clothing much like traditional Inuit garb and excel as fishergnolls and hunters.

Most Snowfang packs live in the Icy Fingers, the string of densely-packed islands in Iceclad. But they sensibly avoid the Tower of Frozen Shadow.

Serpent Spine Mountains

At least one gnoll clan lives in the Serpent Spine mountain range in the middle of Antonica. In particular they attempt to prey on the traffic in High Pass. High Pass was the main trans-continental route between Freeport and Qeynos before the Sundering.

They never were too successful. That was in part because of the goblin and orc hordes that also infested the area, and in part because of the troops in Highkeep. Highkeep was a mercenary fort making revenue off travelling merchants and gamblers.

Northern Steppes

The Darkfell clan (or perhaps pack) lived in steppes in northwestern pre-Sundering Antonica. It is possible that they merged with Sabertooth gnolls during the Sundering.

Reportedly, Darkfell gnolls had unusual strength. That likely was because they lived close to the magical emanations of the destroyed Portal of War used by the Rallosian Army in antiquity.

Lake Rathetear

Lake Rathetear includes a gnoll burial ground along its Northwestern shore. The corpses there are from an unknown clan. This is a small cemetery, but many of the corpses now shamble around as zombies. And it is right on the path inexperienced travellers will probably take.


History — gnolls after the Sundering

Through the accounts are confused, it would seem that during the Sundering Blackburrow was invaded by desperate refugees. These were looking for some form of underground shelter. The refugees couldn’t oust the gnolls and the various races were forced into hostile, violent coexistence.

It would seem that the gnolls eventually got the upper hand and reclaimed their turf, killing and driving off the refugees. Their deep tunnels later allowed the gnolls to survive the entry of large fragments of the moon into the atmosphere of Norrath.

Accounts from Blackburrow speak of a traveller and oracle who taught the gnolls some wisdom. In particular he brought them much improved mining techniques and a much better sense of what to do with ore, from smelting and forging to bartering and selling.

The gnolls used this new knowledge, and the depopulation of Antonica after the Sundering, to expand. Blackburrow is now larger than ever and Sabertooth gnolls control parts of the Thundering Steppes. These roughly correspond to parts of the pre-Sundering Qeynos Hills and Western Plains of Karana.

The identity of the oracle is unclear, but it might have been Fippy Darkpaw. *Which* Fippy Darkpaw is unclear since many gnolls have borne the name. One reputedly was a sly thief who sabotaged the great clock at Ak’anon by stealing a key cog.

During the Sundering, the Blackburrow tunnel to Everfrost collapsed. The gnolls have shown an interest in excavating the uncountable tons of rocks to reopen the tunnels. But such a project would take decades if not centuries.

Beyond Blackburrow

It would seem that most of the Splitpaw survivors moved to the great refuge of Blackburrow after the elemental invasion. It was presumably during the Sundering that part of the survivors of Splitpaw left to become the Underpaw clan. These devolved into redoubtable cannibals preying upon their former kin.

This grave threat made the Splitpaw gnolls in the Thundering Steppe agree to receiving outside help, a rarity among gnolls.

Splitpaw and Underpaw still use the confusing Splitpaw social organisation, centuries after the Farsoth Mal disaster. Whether the post-Sundering Splitpaw gnolls are actually Splitpaw survivors, or Torn Ear gnolls calling themselves Splitpaw after their lost den, is unknown.

Fippy Darkpaw the gnoll proudly stands in front of Qeynos

Post-Sundering, two kinds of gnolls were discovered in the Desert of Ro. On the surface lived the Anaz Mal gnolls (probably a clan). In the ruins of the Silent City existed the Blackfang (probably a pack). The Blackfang were thought to be undead, but adventurers report that these are actually living gnolls who dress using pilfered mummies’s wrappings.

After the fall of Kaladim, part of the destroyed Dwarven capital was occupied by previously unknown gnolls, the Quaketail pack, from an unrevealed clan. Presumably, they previously lived deep underground and never met surface dwellers before the fall of Kaladim.


Description

Gnolls are generally hyena-like, though some packs may resemble other types of canines. Most gnolls have wolf-like ears.

They tend to make dog-like noises, and their language sounds like barking.


Personality

Gnolls are not terribly nice and are unlikely to be portrayed in a positive light. They tend to be cowardly, undisciplined bullies who are much less clever than they think they are. Yet, they have an undeniable level of slyness and cunning.

Many gnolls are lazy. But they will expand considerable efforts in their somewhat inept attempts to dupe or bribe others (usually other gnolls) into doing their work.

Gnolls respect no one and nothing, not even their own leadership. They have to be kept in line through intimidation and brute force.

Everquest 1 - Fippy Darkpaw the gnoll attacking outside of Qeynos

Gnolls are highly territorial. Thus, most packs will attack people who stray on their turf. However, given the reluctance of most gnolls to engage in anything resembling tough fighting or hard work, they often will wait to have a sufficient mass of attackers (known as a “gnoll train” in some quarters). Fleet intruders may have time to leave before any actual fighting occurs.

A handful of gnoll packs are more civilised and less xenophobic. But they tend to keep to themselves and live in remote, hard-to-access locations. Likewise, some particularly evil packs are considerably more disciplined than the gnoll norm — such as the albino Torn Ear gnolls who once overthrew the Splitpaw leadership and took power, or the Underpaw Clan.


Misc. Universe History

Gnolls are standard fantasy fodder villains. They can simply be used as such during an otherdimensional venture, a brush with a lost underground civilisation, a magical event, etc.


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Generic Gnoll warrior

Dex: 03 Str: 03 Bod: 03 Motivation: Power
Int: 03 Wil: 01 Min: 02 Occupation: Warrior
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 02 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 009 HP: 002

Powers:
Analytical smell/tracing scent: 05, Claws (Bite): 04, Extended hearing: 02, Cold immunity: 01, Growth: 01, Super-hearing: 02, Ultra-vision: 02

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • All Powers are Form Function.
  • Growth is Always On and Already Factored In.

Skills:
Thief (Stealth)*: 03, Weaponry (Melee)*: 03

Advantages:
Familiarity (Mining, Wilderness survival), Language (Gnollish).

Connections:
Varies, normally packmates.

Drawbacks:
Most gnolls have an IA of some sort, often toward lazyness, and a Minor Rage.

Equipment:
Poor quality hand axe [BODY 03, EV 04, R#04].


Game Stats — DC Adventures RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Generic gnoll warrior — Averaged PL 2.8

STR STA AGL DEX FGT INT AWE PRE
01 01 01 00 00 (01) -2 00 00

Powers

Stature ● 9 points (Permanent)
– Growth 1 (Innate)
– Better reach and mass — Close attack 2, Defensive Roll 1, Enhanced Fighting 1
– Big bully — Intimidation 2 (+2)

Canine-like body ● 2 points (Permanent)
– Fur protecting from cold weather — Feature 1
– Bite attack — Strength-based Piercing Damage 1

Canine-like senses ● 7 points (Permanent)
– Senses 5 (Extended olfactory, Extended hearing, Low-light vision, Track 1, Ultra-hearing)
– Insight 1 (+1), Perception 3 (+3)

Combat Advantages

Close attack 2, Defensive Roll 1.

Other Advantages

Equipment 1.

Skills

Athletics 1 (+2), Expertise (Mining) 4 (+2), Expertise (Wilderness survival) 5 (+3), Insight 1 (+1), Intimidation 2 (+2), Perception 3 (+3), Stealth 3 (+4).

Equipment

Crappy hand axe (Strength-based Slashing Damage 2)

Offense

Initiative +0
Unarmed +3, Close, Damage 1
Hand axe +3, Ranged, Damage 3

Defense

Dodge 3 Fortitude 4
Parry 3 Toughness 2/1*
Will 0

* Without Defensive Roll

Complications

  • Quirk Gnolls tend to be lazy and cowardly.
  • Temper

Power levels

  • Trade-off areas Attack & Effect PL 3, Dodge/Toughness PL 3, Parry/Toughness PL 3, Fort & Will PL 2.
  • Point total 31. Abilities -2, Defences 7, Skills 7, Powers 18, Devices 0, Advantages 1. Equiv. PL 3.


By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Everquest MMO.

Helper(s): The pen-and-paper Everquest RPG, www.lorelibrary.com , eq2.wikia.com , Illia’s Bestiary .

Writeup completed on the 20th of October, 2010.

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