by Joe G. Kushner
The second in the Slayer's series of d20 sourcebooks by Mongoose Publishing, this book focuses on
the gnoll. The book provides the GM with a description of what the gnoll
looks like, how powerful these senses are, in this case, very good smelling
and hearing abilities, and what they eat. While they can eat just about
anything, they enjoy eating humanoids.
There are details on how long the gnolls live, how quickly they breed, and
how their society is ruled. Since they are primarily chaotic evil, it's
generally through strength of arms. Those looking for information on where
the gnolls live, and how they live, will find brief information on each
topic. Gnolls tend to live in tunnels and burrows using slave labor that
quickly dies off either after poor treatment or being devoured.
There is very little information on some important subjects like religion
though. Much like the Slayer's Guide to Hobgoblins, the information is
rushed over with a nod to the official demon lord of the gnolls (that's
Yeenoghu to you, buddy!) and some details about how they follow the cycles of
the moon with reverence.
For those looking for a little more help and ideas on how to use gnolls in
their game, the section, Scenario, Hooks and Ideas, has several adventure
seeds. The section, gnolls as player characters lists the gaming
information for using gnolls in the game. Edendale shows how the remains of
a village destroyed by gnolls and the nearby burrows that host Eenoga and
his pack. For those looking for a quick reference, there are several
generic gnolls with stats for a 6th level fighter pack leader, a 4th level
cleric, and a 3rd level pack leader, as well as standard warriors and the
To help add flavor to the book, there are several stories of the groups of
adventurers encountering gnolls. Strangely enough, one of these encounters
has little to do with gnolls as the gnolls appear and are killed outright by
a fireball. Why is this piece of fiction here? To show how easily gnolls
are killed by powerful magic?
The book also suffers from a dearth of crunchy bits. No famous gnolls, no
famous magic items, no new spells, no new prestige classes or anything that
can be inserted into any d20 game. Worse, when the game stats are finally
revealed, they seem to be wrong. The gnoll racial traits include +2 to
Strength and Constitution, with a -2 to Intelligence and Charisma. They
have other abilities including racial bonuses to skills and armor class. The
problem is that they are no modification to the character's starting level.
With these high physical stats which have a direct effect on game play and
the bonus armor class, these creatures should be a minimum of EL 1 if not 2.
In addition, the gnolls favored class is Ranger, but the main pack leader,
Eenoga, is a fighter, and the generic Dominant Male, is also a fighter.
Fortunately, the generic gnoll pack leader is a ranger.
The layout is in standard two column format. Art ranges from great to okay. Mongoose
does make good use of interior covers, using the front one for a gnoll close
up, including the muscle and bone structure and a map of the ruined fort
Edendale on the back cover.
On one hand, this Guide is a short if solid piece of information on gnolls.
It has a lot of background material that can be put into any fantasy game,
regardless of game system. On the other hand, it has so little gaming
mechanics to add to your d20 gnolls, that unless your campaign is going to
focus on these creatures for several adventures or your non-d20 fantasy game
needs another race that you know little about, you might want to wait for an
ecology article in Dragon Magazine, or the upcoming coverage gnolls are
going to receive in the Chainmail rules.