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Friday, December 15, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - Xanathar's Guide to Everything Review


You can buy Xanathar's Guide to Everything Here.
You can buy the DMs Guild Xanathar's Lost Notes to Everything Else here.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything is a book full of new sub-classes, rules, spells and more for Dungeons & Dragons. I'm going to go through the book, then talk about the art, then give my overall thoughts. I put most of my favorite pieces of art in this review.


Rules: We start this thing off with some rules clarifications. The very first one talks about how the DM is the final authority on how the rules work in play. It can be very hard to figure out when you should deviate from the rules. I tend to hand-wave rules too much, and I think it cheapens the game.

Most of the other entries in this section tell you not to stack things of similar type.

The most important of these, in my opinion, is this: "If you want to cat a spell that has a casting time of 1 bonus action, remember that you can't cast any other spells before or after it on the same turn except for cantrips with a casting time of one action."

I've seen a lot of confusion on that one.

Character Options
I'm not too big on this stuff, but it makes up the bulk of the book. There are new subclasses for every major class!

Here's my favorite things:

Barbarian Superstition: "If an elf looks you in the eyes, she's trying to read your thoughts."

Bard Instrument: "A tinker's harp of gnomish design."

Druid Mentor: "You were tutored by a dryad who watched over a slumbering portal to the Abyss."
How does a slumbering portal work? Does it require a key, but nobody knows what the key is?

Forge Clerics: You can imbue a weapon or suit of armor, giving it a +1. You can create items through an hour-long ritual. Anything! You need to use metal (coins!) to form the item. It's a fun way of buying items when you're far from civilization.

Fighter: Fighter is probably my favorite class in D&D. The charts of details for them are a bit tame. The Arcane Archer is pretty cool. As you level, you can infuse your arrowa with different magical effects.

Beguiling Arrow greatly amuses me. Basically, you're Cupid. Your target takes 2d6 psychic damage and has to make a save or be charmed by your chosen ally.

Samurai: Wow. You can give yourself advantage on attack rolls on your turn and 5 temporary hit points. You can do this three times before taking a long rest!

Monk: The monk stuff is just awesome. Monk monastery: "Your monastery is built beside a volcanic system of hot springs, geysers and sulfur pools.You regularly received visits from azer traders."

The monk masters are very cool. Whenever I think of a monk master, I think of that dude from Kill Bill vol. 2.

Drunken master! I love everything about this. I would be dying to hit 6th level so I could use "Tipsy Sway" to redirect an enemy's attack toward someone else.

Kensai: A weapon specialist that can parry and does extra damage with thrown weapons.

Story time: Long ago in 2nd edition, I made a hengeyokai (shapechanger) kensai. My job was to guard a woman who was going to become a goddess of good. Another member of the party became a super-vampire, and he decided he wanted to abduct her for his own evil purposes.

The super-vampire was extremely powerful! I squared off against him. He punched me, and I rolled to see if he knocked me out, as per the 2e rules. There was like a 5% chance. I rolled a d100 and got... a 02. He knocked me out with one punch.

Then he did horrible things to the lady and it's haunted me ever since.

Paladin Nemeses: "A rival paladin who trained with you became an oath-breaker and holds you responsible."

Oath of Redemption is one of those sort of "pacifist" character types. I haven't really seen that ever work in a campaign. The rest of the group kills and the pacifist is sort of neutered. I think it could be awesome with the right group.

Ranger: "Gloom Stalker" is such an awesome name for a subclass. The art seems completely wrong for this. A blonde-haired dwarf with a pick? Gloom stalkers should be creepy and dark. This one is  wearing bright green?

Horizon Walkers.... why didn't they call them Planewalkers? That's what they are, right? Maybe they're saving that term for a future book.

Aside from that quibble, horizon walkers are really cool. They can detect planar portals and, eventually, they can enter the ethereal plane. They get teleporting powers and everything. I love this one!

Monster Slayer! The name alone has me interested. They can look at monsters and find weaknesses, a handy way to avoid the "how much do I tell them?" problem when the group rolls an Arcana check for Monster knowledge. At 11th level, you can use a reaction to try to shut down a spell being cast.

This doesn't really feel like a monster slayer at all. They're not particularly monster-focused.

Rogue Benefactor: I really live this one. "A dragon didn't eat you when it had the chance, and in return you promised to set aside choice pieces of treasure for it."

An inquisitive is a detective, sort of. They can pick out lies. I was thinking that this is cool but nobody will use it, and then I saw the power that lets you make sneak attacks even if you don't have advantage as long as you can win a special opposed check. People will use it!

Swashbuckler! Wow. You get sneak attacks as long as no other creatures are adjacent to you. I love "Panache". You're so charming that your foe is distracted by your witty banter and has disadvantage  when trying to hit you. Love this one!

Sorcerer: I like this arcane origin: "You were made in a vat by an alchemist."

The shadow sorcerer  is just awesome. You draw your power from the Shadowfell, you can cheat death, and you can summon a "Hound of Ill Omen." They have a great list of quirks, too.

Warlock: They give some details on the relationship with a patron, something that I think could lead to tons of awesome stuff. Using the patron as a recurring NPC could be really cool.

I like this: "When you use an eldritch invocation, you must speak your patron's name aloud or risk incurring its displeasure."

Hexblades are epic. You can keep the spirit of someone you just killed as an ally that serves you until the end of a long rest. You could do so many cool thing with this!

Wizard: Lots of great charts. Only one Arcane tradition: War Magic. Normally, I don't care about stat stuff too much, but this strikes me as a bit weak in terms of power.

You can give yourself a bonus to your AC as a reaction, but you can't cast anything but cantrips until the end of your next turn. Then at 6th level, you can give yourself a few points of extra damage if you use counterspell or dispel magic successfully.

Counterspell is a real downer. I use it on my players once in a while, and it seems to hurt the overall experience. I don't like the idea of encouraging it with this class.

I guess it could be fun, but honestly I feel like I almost feel like I am bullying my players when I use it. The spellcaster character is completely shut down.

This Is Your Life

This is an extensive series of charts that let you randomly determine your background. I love this thing.

I'm making a character for a charity game that will take place tomorrow. I'm making a fire genasi forge cleric.

My idea is that my character is grim and gritty, but also relentlessly positive. So, basically, I'll angrily hiss at someone: "I offer you unconditional love!" and then punch a wall. Let's roll my life:
  • I know who my parents are, I have no siblings.
  • Lifestyle: Wealthy!
  • No permanent residence. We moved around a lot.
  • Why am I a folk hero? A parent or one of my relatives was an adventurer, and I was inspired by their courage.
  • Why did I become a cleric? A supernatural being in service to the gods called me to become a divine agent in the world.
  • 2 life events: 1. I fell in love and got married...? 2. I made an enemy of an adventurer. I am to blame for the rift. Sounds like this is my wife!
My Wife: Let's randomly determine the details of my estranged wife with the charts on pages 72-73:
  • She's Neutral
  • She's a cleric! Like me!
  • She is alive and well.
Putting it Together: Huh. So why did we break up? The DM told me that I found a relic, and that's what I draw my cleric power from.

My character is a good guy. Maybe she just wasn't "good" enough. Maybe we came upon someone who needed help, but she didn't want to take the risk. Disgusted, I went to help. Maybe she reluctantly followed and almost got us killed, and that was it for me.

Maybe..! She's the only other person in the world who can also draw power from the relic, and she wants to take it from me.

I rolled pretty tame on these charts but I still ended up with good stuff that I wouldn't have come up with on my own. This is my favorite thing in the whole book.

Feats: There's some Nine Hells stuff in here! I definitely get the sense that a future product will be tied to the Nine Hells in some way. Here's the hell feats:
  • Flames of Phlegethos: Phlegethos is a fiery layer of hell ruled by Belial and his daughter, Fierna. They have a creepy relationship. The feat gives you a stat boost, a fire damage boost, and you can call forth a protective wreath of flame that does a little bit of damage.
  • Infernal Constitution: Resistance to poison/cold, +1 CON. This one feels like it could use some pizazz.
Dungeon Master Tools


DM stuff! We start off with some rules notes.

Sleeping in Armor: If you take a long rest in medium or heavy armor, you only regain only 1/4th of your hit dice and no levels of exhaustion are removed. That seems fair. Players HATE taking off their armor when sleeping. Make sure you know how long it takes to put armor on. Plate takes forever.

Knots: When tying someone up and using a knot, a sleight of hand check determines the escape DC..

Tools: Then comes a great part. They expand what the different tools can do.

For example, if you use your Cook's Utensils to prepare a meal at the end of a short rest, you give everyone a +1 to every hit die spent! These are really great and should not be overlooked.

Spell Info: We then go into some rules about identifying spells being cast, the shapes of spells, and encounter building.

Traps: This section details more elaborate traps. I tried some out. They worked fine. I would have preferred it if they put the countermeasures near the top of the block, but no big deal.

Downtime: I went over all this when it was being playtested. This section elaborates on what happens during downtime. I like it, but I still feel like it's not detailed enough.

Awarding Magic Items: This helps you figure out how many magic items the party should have at different levels. The charts confuse me a bit, because they are listing the total items an entire group gets, but how big is the group? I assume that it is 4 players, so that means each character finds 25 items from levels 1-20.

I like having this as a guideline, but I enjoy dumping lots of items on the group. They can only attune to 3 at a time, and the ones with attunement are the most powerful!

Common Magic Items: These are very weak items. They're great! I love the tankard of sobriety: You can drink alcoholic beverages without becoming inebriated.

Spells

There's a lot of spells in here. Quite a number of them are taken from the Elemental Evil Companion, which is a bit of a bummer. That said, there's a lot of cool stuff in here.

Charm monster is in there. They have been really careful about summoning and charming monsters, haven't they?

I love ceremony, a utility spell that lets you make holy water, conduct marriages (giving the couple a +2 to AC when they're 30 feet of each other.. lasts one week).

Healing Spirit is very cool. You summon an entity that can move around and heal allies each round for up to 1 minute!

My favorites are the devil and demon summoning spells.

Summon lesser demon and summon greater demon lets you summon them for up to 1 hour. Lesser summoning calls forth a random number of low-level demons who do not follow your orders. Greater demon summoning lets you control your demon a long as you maintain concentration.

Infernal calling is similar. You summon a devil of up to a challenge rating of 5. Commanding it to do things requires an opposed check.

I just love the idea of summoning demons and devils. It seems like a really cool thing for a character to do and could lead to all sorts of great moments. It's nice to have concrete, simple rules for doing it.

Character Names: Then we get a massive pile of character names. This is so handy! Any time your group meets a random NPC, you can pull a name out of here real quick. They even put it in the back of the book, so it's easy to flip open to and find.

The Art

The art is good, but in most cases, not too exciting. There's no "edge" to anything. In some cases, they make fantasy worlds look mundane. I was able to post most of my favorites in this review, but I also LOVE the fountain on page 122, which has the "badass" quality I think 5e art is lacking. I also love the halfling vs. the ettin on page 15.

Full Pagers: My biggest observation is that the art on the full page spreads just don't work. The piece on page 6 is very dark, not too detailed, and looks very mundane.

I get that a fantasy world should look "lived in", but to me, these come off like photos from the set of a low budget fantasy movie.

The one on page 76... most of it is an owlbear's arm. We can't really see the heroes and they don't look cool. It feels like the space wasn't used well.

These spreads also focus on the 5e halfling. The 5e halflings have really weird proportions and they just don't look right to me. 

Recycled Art: There's a lot of recycled art in this. I don't have a big problem with that, as most of the recyclables are mauled to death by the page rips, so you won't really notice. I still wish they'd actually let us see the full landscape art in these books.

Overall

It's hard for me to say anything negative about this book when it is apparently the best-selling D&D book of all time. You can't argue with success.

I guess I like it. The fact that a lot of the content in Xanathar's was released as playtest material long ago left few surprises. Using all of those spells from Elemental Evil kind of took the air out of my tires, too.

When it comes down to it, the subclasses are cool, many of the new spells are a lot of fun, and the name list is handy. Xanathar's Guide to Everything is sort of like the 1e Unearthed Arcana book, but much better.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 73 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 73: Tortle Recall

This episode is very different from the others. Mostly, it's about the relationships between the characters.


If you are into the action/adventure side of D&D, you might not like this. If you are into roleplaying or are interested in the characters, I think you'll love this.

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

(Mark Hulmes) Guest DM

The group is in the jungle and hungry. They meet an old tortle fellow. He's humming to himself. There's no sense of death or decay around him.

The tortle's name is Xopa, an old, friendly fellow. He says that he's not long for this world. He's hoping to travel to a  few far-off regions on Faerun.

Xopa asks the group to help him cook a big meal. The group introduces themselves. Paultin claims to be Strahd von Zarovich, who will not be reduced to chopping vegetables.

As they cook. Xopa wants to hear their stories.

How Diath Met Strix: Diath talks about his time in Waterdeep. They were in Waterdeep. Diath was having lunch on a rooftop. In the crowd below, and he saw a "black mass" moving among them. It was Strix, who was living on the streets. He noticed that and the crowd was either avoiding or ignoring her.

He could see that she was hungry, so over the next few days. He started leaving her food anonymously for a while When he first tried to engage her, she cast a firebolt at him.


Strix and Diath traveled together for a few years. They were having small adventures to fund their meager lifestyle. I had no idea they knew each other for so long!

Mark's old man voice is really great.

How the Group Met: One day, Diath and Strix decided to stay at an inn (I believe it is called "The Rusty Pommel"). Evelyn was there.

As a paladin, Evelyn loved to listen to music. She had discovered Paultin playing in filthy bars, and attended all of his shows. She never said anything to him. Paultin played at a number of venues, because he'd get into trouble with whatever bar owner he was working for.

Evelyn was listening to Paultin's music when Diath and Strix entered.
The "jackhole" bartender/owner accused Diath of stealing his coin pouch. Paultin was very drunk and was barely playing coherently. Diath hadn't stolen it. The guy started insulting Strix. As a tiefling, most people in Waterdeep assumed she was evil.

Evelyn saw the commotion and came over. She stuck up for Diath and Strix. She punched the bartender! Evelyn tells Strix and Diath that she didn't want to see their romantic dinner ruined. Cracked me up! Strix is quick to point out that it wasn't romantic.

Things escalated and a barfight broke out. People were throwing food. Strix grabbed the morsels off the floor and kept them.

Paultin was sick from all the booze. He needed to get out of there... he's the one who stole the coin pouch! Nice. Evelyn asked Paultin to come along and he decided to join them.

From that point on, they adventured together.

Paultin & Evelyn: Evelyn and Paultin go into the jungle to find some mushrooms.

Evelyn wants to apologize to Pailtin. When she was almost pulled into the Soulmonger, she thought it was because she was found unworthy to pass into Lathander's Court. She thought Paultin was thwarting Lathander's plan for her. She didn't realize that Lathander was working through Paultin.

Paultin says he saved her because he saw that somebody he cared about was in trouble. It wasn't because of Lathander. Somewhere in here, Evelyn amusingly reveals that she's jealous of Esher (the dude Paultin was almost forced to marry in Barovia).

Diath & Strix: Strix is wondering why the Skizzixes are after Diath.
Diath tells Strix that he actually saw the Skizzixes when the group went to Sigil a few sessions back (episode 69). Strix is dismayed to hear this. They keep wondering what the "Skizzix Kazrum" is.

In the jungle, Paultin says he had noticed Evelyn in the crowd way back when. People in the chat are screaming KISS HER, but no dice. They return to the camp.

Diath's Early Years: Before Diath met Strix, he was all by himself. One day, he was in a tavern where a bunch of adventurers were throwing money around and bragging about their recent exploits. They saved Phlan, and more recently, they killed a bunch of gnolls.

Diath left and decided to check out the lair, looking to scavenge stuff they missed. He found a pouch. In it was an amethyst. It was only worth a couple of gold, but he considers it his most precious treasure. Diath had discovered a new path in life that could help him survive.

Paultin & Strix: Paultin and Strix go into the jungle to get some bark. She starts drinking Paultin's wine and she advises him to stop drinking so much. She tells him to work on showing emotion, because he's tearing the group apart.

Paultin admits that he keeps everyone at arm's length because he is sure that they will die or leave him. Strix does not accept this. Strix says she was alone for 50 years and she's not losing anybody else. She runs back to camp, crying.

Gifts From Strix: Evelyn comforts her. During her 50 years alone in Barovia, she had made creepy little dolls of the waffle crew. She talked to them. Strix takes out the dolls and gives each character their puppet. It looks like Holly actually made them and mailed them to the players.

Yep! Wow. The dolls are awesome/creepy.

She also wrote each of them a note: 
  • Evelyn: "I will always be your friend."
  • Paultin: "I will find you more wine."
  • Diath: "I promise I won't run away."
Paultin gives Strix a drunken hug. It transforms into a group hug.

Diath says that if Strix makes another doll, he'll trade his for it.

Diath tells the group that he shouldn't be their leader. Strix says he has to, if not, they'll die. Diath pulls Evelyn aside.

He tells her this little story about how he looks to the stars every night and that she is the brightest of them all (this speech is transcribed here).. He tells her not to give up on Paultin.

Evelyn asks Paultin when he knew he loved Strix. He says: "The first time I saw her eyes not clouded with fear." Jeez.. ProJared is killing it. Diath goes back to camp.

This episode is heavy! 

Xopa dies and fades away.

Overall

Great show! I think a lot of people would say this was one of the best.

I don't think I've ever seen a group more invested in their characters. A lot of thought went into this and it was very well-done. I think very few groups could pull this off, but the waffles did it.

Mark Hulmes did a fantastic job of handling the structure and pacing. That dude is a great DM!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Tomb of Annihilation 11 - Whirling Fury

You can watch this session on Youtube here.


Annalisse couldn't make it to this session, so I reached out and was able to get Lysa Chen to jump in as a guest star. Lysa is one of the Guild Adepts. She's the one who made the bath house encounter (from Tomb Episode 5) that I like so much, and she also is the co-author of Ruins of Hisari.

Lysa also played in a special dinosaur race show that will be on youtube soon. That one was epic!

I declared that Val and Hoppy the froghemoth vanished in a cloud of shadow. She and I had worked out a fun idea that I hope to link to her character's storyline.

The Party

(Ryan) Mistletoe - Human Druid
(Garrett) Ramrod - Goliath Barbarian
(Lysa) Humility - Yuan-ti Bard
(Joe) Zavagor - Half-orc Warlock

Humility

The jungle section of Tomb is hard to pace. It's so easy to let it drag. If it feels like progress isn't being made, or if the group gets bogged down doing something less than thrilling, your campaign can die.

I've been tip-toeing around the jungle with this group, trying to give them the coolest stuff I can find. I also want to use the jungle journey to set up my idea that each hero has a major entity that wants to help them, giving them boons similar to what the trickster gods give.

I started this one off with the group coming upon some pterafolk attacking an aarakocra. In the adventure, this aarakocra is a prisoner of the pterafolk. His name is Nephyr. I want to use him to direct the group to Kir Sabal.

I love the NPCs in Kir Sabal, and that flight ritual will make it easy for the group to make great progress toward Omu.

Right now, my Mezro group is in Omu and they have 3 of the puzzle boxes! It's fun having all of these groups in the jungle at the same time. I am wondering if one group will get partway through the tomb and die, and then the next group will go in and make more progress.

The sound of battle attracted the heroes as well as Lysa's character, Humility. She's a yuan-ti!


The fight started off a bit too much of a bland roll-fest, but I was able to turn it around a bit when a pterafolk got its beak stuck in a tree.

The group met Humility. They were unnerved by her, but decided to let her come along for a bit.

The heroes rested in a cave I made up. This cave is linked to Gwynharwyf, a fey entity from the 3e Savage Tide adventure path.

I mean for Gwynharwyf to be Mistletoe's patron. She offered him a boon, which he immediately accepted. He now has a floating magic sword.

I'm hoping to link each member of the group to a different entity. Zavagor will be interesting. He hates his patron! He will reject her. I'm still mulling over things  can do with that.

This was a decent session. I keep forgetting to make sure that each battle should be something of a set piece. I want it to feel like an action scene rather than final fantasy tactics. Sometimes it's hard, though. If you'/re fighting in an open field, what exactly are you going to do?

I probably should have had the pterafolk flee and then conduct hit and run attacks throughout the day. I get so antsy about getting stuff done that I neglect to think from the point of view of the bad guys.

Planescape - Blood War XXVIII. Theran's Soul

You can check out the podcast version of this session right here.




Recordings: I have recordings of hundreds of D&D sessions stretching back to 2008. I have recordings of many of these Planescape sessions. I can't really post them as they are full of real life conversations and it would be a huge hassle. I am thinking of cutting out good parts and putting them into collections, though.

Unity of Rings: Theran had actually died in the last session. I had to think for a while about what happens when the living embodiment of a law of the multiverse dies. Unity of Rings is the law that states: "Everything comes full circle." If Theran dies, is the circle broken? Or is his death part of the cycle somehow?

I decided to go with the death meaning the end of the multiverse as we know it. There's fun consequences to that one. Most bad guys won't want to kill him, but the Doomguard will! The Doomguard is looking forward to the end of everything. Killing Theran ushers that in!

Once the Blood War is over, I can have a field day with that story. I want to do a bunch of Sigil and faction stuff once we wrap up the Blood War.

I mapped out the final sessions of the Blood War. I am hoping to get this finished in the next three sessions, complete with a final battle against Lamashtu. I have plenty of ideas and I think it will wrap up quite nicely.

The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Black-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Thrul Ravenscroft - Albino Dwarf Fighter

Lamashtu

George had made his new character for the next campaign, which will be a Spelljammer/Rod of Seven Parts thing. I thought it would be fun to introduce the character (named Thrul Ravenscroft) now and use him here and there.

We used Xanathar's to roll up his backstory, which was hilariously horrible:
  • Thrul was a dumpster baby
  • His mom was tortured to death
  • His siblings were killed by monsters (spyder fiends searching for the Rod of Seven Parts).
  • He was forced to be a pirate.
  • He ended up a slave.

Bidam bought slave Thrul and boom, he's in the campaign.

Bidam found out that Ygorl, one of the Slaad Lords, had Theran's soul. This is because Theran was technically a golden slaad when he died.

The heroes visited the ruler of the earth genies to get some info, and then made their way to Limbo. They brought their new friend, Goldforge the golden dragon, to use as a mount.

While flying through Limbo, the group came upon a chaos pinwheel. If you mess with it, it deals out random effects. Thrul touched it, and gained a sinister ally that only he could see. The entity told Theran that he'd been trapped in Limbo for ages, and now he was free, but bound to Theran.


Ygorl, Lord of Entropy
The group got to one of Ygorl's repositories. It was guarded by a death slaad riding a dragon. Bidam fought the bad guys while Thrul busted in to the repository. I rolled out a bunch of Xanathar's traps to overcome, which he did.

Bidam used the mutability aspect of Limbo to make a big water phallus and beat the bad guys with it.

The group got the soul, returned to the ruler of the earth genies, and he offered to grant them a wish. Bidam carefully worded his wish, which was for Theran to be brought back to life. We stopped there.

Character Death: On the one hand, it feels a bit cheap to bring Theran back so easily. What meaning does death have in D&D when there's no truly major hurdles to resurrecting someone?

In this case, I let it be easy because Theran's death means the death of everything. The entire multiverse would be scrambling to bring him back, right?

The True Danger: I guess the real threat of this campaign isn't the death of the heroes, it's the death of their NPC friends. On top of that, the threat of simply failing to achieve their goals would have disastrous effects. If Iggwilv can, she will ruin the group utterly.

I think that the big threat that they are avoiding is that they could end up trapped in the Wells of Darkness for all eternity! They have about 64 days to capture a major entity in their iron flask. If they fail, they really are doomed.

It could actually be interesting for that to happen. In future campaigns, other heroes could visit them and get advice. Bidam and Theran know a lot. Also, if they're in the Wells of Darkness, they won't die and thus the multiverse will be stable.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Planescape - Blood War XXVII. Baphomet's Revenge


I finally posted a session as a podcast. I've been recording these since the beginning.


The Party

(Jessie) Bidam - Black-Scaled Dragonborn Fighter
(George) Theran - Golden Slaad Wizard

Last time, the group helped out the lobster-woman-goddess Blibdoolpoolp in exchange for aid in changing Nocticula's truename.

Nocticula is a demon lord who was under the control of Iggwilv. Changing the truename means that Nocticula is free.

Xanathar's Experiment: I had just gotten Xanathar's Guide to Everything.. I had the group go to a charity auction and play 3-dragon ante with other Sigil "celebrities" (NPCs from Faces of Sigil).

Basically, I wanted to mess with the gambling rules in Xanathar's. For gambling, there's a series of checks to bluff, play your hand, that kind of thing. It worked fine! Better than anything I'd ever come up with.

It turns out the money went to the orphanage that Eo Kaplan the Michael Jackson NPC was building in the mansion that the group owns.


Harpies: Then the group met with their friend, Uralinda, who is right on the precipice of becoming a demon lord. She was able to break up with her demon lord boyfriend, Pazuzu, by not bathing or brushing her teeth for weeks.

The heroes had obtained a big pile of soul larvae. Once Uralinda devoured them, she had the power to become a full-fledged demon lord.

I had been trying to figure out how to differentiate her from Ardat, the official demon lord of harpies. I love the tropical harpies from Jungle Treks, so I decided to make her Queen of the tropical harpies!

Making the Same Mistake Over and Over: The group went on a little side quest to free some tropical harpies from the control of a giant. It took too long and in the end felt like I probably wasted time with it.

Sometimes when preparing, I get a hair up my butt to include an idea like this.It's almost always a mistake.

In around 2012, I decided to run the Temple of Elemental Evil. The group should be about 5-6th level before they go in.

I could have had the group just make 6th level characters, an start them off right at the entrance. I didn't. I spent a lot of time pulling out old classic dungeons and had the group go through them so they could start at level 1 and earn their way up.

That was a huge mistake. Those sessions dragged the whole thing down. I'm running the temple of elemental evil, but the first 7 sessions was weird BS that was barely linked to the main story.

I still have trouble side-stepping these kind of things, mostly because I think either it will go real quick and make things feel more "earned", or I think it will lead to funny stuff, but it doesn't.

I say that, when in doubt, just keep it simple.


Baphomet Again: Then the group decided to fulfill an old agreement with Baphomet, demon lord of Minotaurs. Baphomet wanted to be allies with her.

Nocticula agreed to go meet him. The group forgot that Nocticula's whole gimmick is that she assassinates other demon lords.

They go to Baphomet's maze. Their buddy Bovina leads them through the maze. Nocticula meets with Baphomet and immediately attacks! Baphomet is badly wounded. The battle causes the tower they're fighting in to crumble.

The heroes had to fight a nightmare/minotaur. Bidam ultimately shot lasers through the poor guy's scrotum.

Whoops, Theran's Dead: I had set up the ending of this where the entire tower collapses. The group will need to jump out a window to escape.

You can't teleport out of the maze due to magical restrictions. I figured that since the group is 14th level, they'd have a million ways to handle this.

Nope! Theran failed his DEX check. The tower collapsed on him. No way he could survive! Theran legit died.

I didn't expect that! I stopped the session there to give myself time to figure out what to do next.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Dice, Camera, Action: Episode 72 - Tomb of Annihilation

Episode 72: The Star Goddess

Last episode was really good, and so was this one. I'll have some spoilers at the bottom, so beware!

The Party

(Anna) Evelyn - Human Paladin of Lathander
(ProJared) Diath - Human Rogue
(Holly) Strix - Tiefling Sorcerer
(Nathan) Paultin - Human Bard

The waffles have spent 3 days in the wilderness. one night, Diath notices that Strix is gone.

He heads into the jungle and spots greenish witchfire in the bushes. It's Strix. Her staff is spinning in the air. She's trying to turn it into other things. Diath watches, remaining hidden.

Each form the staff takes matches one of the runes on her staff. The forms include:
  • Frying Pan 
  • Fishing pole
  • Lantern
  • Cauldron
  • Feather quill that writes in the air
  • Cuddly owlbear doll
Diath creeps back into the waffle hut.

We learn that Paultin sleeps with Simon and the hand. Chris speculates that maybe the hand does other things for Paultin. The players are aghast.

They travel for 6 more days. The group (except for Evelyn) loses more hit points due to the death curse.

The group enters a frozen section of forest. There's an icy ship in the treetops above them. It apparently fell from the sky. They see some letters on the ship: "AR GO."

The group makes their way up with flying powers and a dimension door spell for poor earthbound Diath. On board, they see a wizard who was killed/frozen by the ice and snow.

Uh oh. The waffle crew is attacked by a sabretooth tiger made of ice! Does somebody else have the ring of winter? The heroes are hit with a blast of cold energy. Diath and Evelyn take 35 points of cold damage, the others take half.

Artus Cimber

Diath chucks a dagger at the tiger... natural 20! Then he has to make a Dex check and rolls a 1. Due to the icy deck, he falls off the side of the ship. Wait.. he grabs onto some vines at the last second.

While dangling, he sees more of the ship's name. "Star Go..."

Strix fireballs the ice tiger. It's vulnerable to fire and takes quite a bit o' damage.

A giant hand of ice hovers over Evelyn and begins crushing her. She takes 13 damage.

Strix looks around to find the person with the ring of winter. Rolls a 20! She spots Artus Cimber in the distance. His eyes are glowing blue. The group correctly guesses that he has succumbed to the evil of the ring.

Artus goes: "ICE to see you, Strix." The group can't handle this premium-quality dad joke at all.

Evelyn tries to escape the hand by igniting the fiery heart of Spinelli. Evelyn acts out the moment because she is into it and thus, it is awesome.

Anna sticks her neck out and pushes the boundary just enough to create space for the other players to feel more comfortable in their roleplaying. This is one of the reasons I think she is the most unselfish and pure D&D player out there.

Paultin is encased in ice. He's frozen with middle fingers up.

Diath maneuvers as the tiger makes a mighty leap. It misses and shatters into pieces.

Strix dispels the ice hand.

Artus casts dimension door and escapes.

The group takes a breath and checks out the wreckage of the ship. One dead person on the ship is holding a frozen key. There's also a chest below decks. Strix sees that the chest has a glyph of warding on it.

Paultin casts locate creature to try to track Artus Cimber. Man! Well done! That's a spell I don't see taken, let alone used very much. Artus is on a tree branch nearby. He's about to snipe them with a longbow.

Diath grabs the key and opens the chest. In it is a black egg with a window in it. There's another key hole. There is some kind of clock in it.

Evelyn flies up and beats up Artus. Strix devastates him with a fireball. Strix yells for Evelyn to cut his hand off. Do it!

Paultin throws the severed hand at Artus. That is such an awesome idea. It latches on to the face of Artus. Artus falls out of the tree and into the ship. He crashes through the deck and he lands near Diath, who is still ogling the chest.

Artus is not moving. Paultin's undead severed hand is trying to pry the ring of winter free. Umm.. do not let that hand put on the ring!

Evelyn lands next to Artus. He mutters something about Alisanda, and dies. Evelyn tries to cast revivify.. nope! His soul is now in the Soulmonger. Yikes.

The hand puts the ring on... ohhh no. Ah.. the hand gives Paultin the ring. Paultin is trying to decide if he should put it on.

Strix examines the "bomb" in the chest. The energy inside it is similar to that of a magic missile. A force bomb?

Paultin puts on the ring of winter!

Next week.. Chris won't be there but there will still be a show..? Waffle crew backstory episode! That sounds great. It will be fun to see the players running around unchecked by the DM.

Overall

I think that the last episode AND this one are two of the best episodes of the whole show so far. I love it when Nate busts out a problem-solver out of nowhere.

SPOILER SIREN

OK. The Wreck of the Star Goddess is on page 85 of Tomb of Annihilation. In the book, the crew is alive and there's an encounter with ghouls. There's no treasure, either.


This egg might be the Navel of the Moon. Check out page 168. There's an egg-shaped egg in a certain container (trying to avoid too many spoilers, here). On page 128, it says that it's a polished, egg-shaped stone  that the wielder can use to "always find the way home to his or her loved ones."

On page 189 it says: "Whether the stone has its purported power to reunite families is up to you."

The thing is that Chris said it is imbued with force energy, which is what magic missiles and walls of force (obviously) are made of. That doesn't really fit, right? I'm probably missing something obvious.

It is possible that Chris has modified the Navel so that it can be used as a device for Diath and Strix to learn more about their past. Maybe the group was meant to interact with the NPCs more in Sigil ? Is there information that the NPCs didn't get to impart that will influence adventures down the line?

The ring of winter is on page 297.  It's insanely powerful! Paultin will probably struggle with this thing, but if he can keep it together, he'll be able to do awesome stuff, such as:
  • Turn people to ice.
  • Create ice creatures.
  • Lower the temperature of a large area.
  • Also.. he won't age!

Pretty cool, right? ...cool? Is this thing on? I think that Paultin's really going to ring in the new year. Anyone?

Great show!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Dungeons & Dragons - A Guide to Gnolls


Today we're going to take a look at a classic D&D monster that all of us have run into at least once. This is a guide to the rampaging hyena-humanoids known as gnolls. I tried to avoid overlapping info with my guide to Yeenoghu, who is a gnoll demon lord.

I've always liked gnolls. They're a bit scary, they look cool, and they're a neat alternative to orcs and goblins. I haven't really seen them used in interesting ways, though. I decided to do some digging and see what ideas were out there.

Once I went through all the official D&D books I could find, I learned that the early edition gnolls are pretty flat, but that there was an explosion of ideas from 3rd edition all the way to 5e's Volo's Guide to Monsters.

The Essential Information

By the end of the process, I saw how gnolls could be used a a cool, worthy adversary for low to mid-level heroes. Check it out:
  • They travel in packs, destroying settlements.
  • Through a ritual, hyenas who eat slain humanoids can become gnolls. That means that the gnoll pack can grow with each successful siege.
  • The demon Yeenoghu is very hands-on, guiding his packs with omens and symbols.
  • Yeenoghu will sometimes send a demon to aid or guide them.
  • In early editions, gnolls took slaves. In later editions, not so much.
  • There are a TON of really cool variant gnolls. My favorite are the Abyssal Slaughter-Lords. They have really long legs and arms and make a pack look very intimidating.


Tribe: You could use the info in here to make your own gnoll tribe. Here's the tribe I would make:
  • Hordes of Witherlings: Undead gnolls who act as the first wave in an assault.
  • Disease: The witherlings carry a disease known as the slavering canker.
  • Gorgers: The tribe has a number of gnoll gorgers, who the other gnolls are terrified of. The gorgers eat other gnolls to gain incredible strength. The devoured gnolls become witherlings. 
  • Far Fangs: The tribe's archers are known as "Far Fangs". Their "hungry arrows" cause bleeding wounds.
  • Leapers: Many of the gnolls are Havoc Gnoll Far-Leapers, gnolls with the ability to jump great distances.
  • Maw Demon: The tribe has a few maw demons as pets. These maw demons are treated with reverence, as anything they eat goes straight into Yeenoghu's gullet.
  • Refnara-Worshipers: I think it would be cool to have a small contingent of gnolls who worship the gnoll goddess Refnara and are put off by the actions of the Yeenoghu fanatics.
  • Chosen: The assistant to the tribe's leader is a Chosen of Yeenoghu clad in a rotting hooded robe, who has the ability to summon hyena spirits.
  • Cudgel: The tribe is led by a Fang of Yeenoghu, who wields a magic cudgel of bloody teeth. I'd probably mix in traits from the 4e Demon-Eye Gnoll, too.
AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual

Here we get the baseline for gnolls. The details:
  • Gnolls have greenish-gray skin and brown fur. Their eyes are dull black and their long nails are amber-colored. They were piecemeal armor made from horn, metal and leather. Their garments are often shabby, moth-eaten and dingy. 
  • They are Lawful Evil.
  • Gnolls are over 7 feet tall.
  • They ravel in rapacious bands, the largest gnolls dominating the rest.
  • They have a so-called king who is powerful, but his authority extends only as far as his reach. In later editions, it is said that the females rule.
  • Chieftains runs bands of 100.
  • 85% of the time, gnolls are subterranean. In other cases, they live in abandoned villages.
  • They sometime have 1-3 trolls guarding their homes place. Trolls and gnolls get along fairly well (their names rhyme, after all).
  • Gnoll packs have 4-16 hyenas or 2-12 hyenadons as pets and guards. 
  • They always have captives for food or slave labor (1 per 10 gnolls, minimum).
  • Life expectancy is about 35 years, on average.
Keep on the Borderlands

In this classic adventure, the heroes can explore many different caves. Each cave is home to a different type of D&D monster.
  • There is a gnoll cave, and we learn a little bit:
  • Gnolls like to surprise and bewilder their enemies. They are bloodthirsty creatures and, once alerted to intruders, are likely to track down anyone who retreats from their cave.
  • The gnoll pack lord in this adventure has 4 mates.
AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Manual

Check out that DiTerlizzi gnoll! Pretty awesome. For me, that's the definitive gnoll art. We learn some new things about gnolls in 2e:
  • They try to defeat opponents by sheer numbers.
  • They rule by strength, fear and intimidation.
  • They dislike goblins, kobold, giants, humans, demi-humans and manual labor.
  • Gnolls eat warm-blooded creatures, they like the ones that scream.
  • Packs hunt until an area is ruined, and then move on.
Flind: Flinds are special, more powerful gnolls:
  • Flinds are a little shorter, broader, and more muscular than a gnoll.
  • Dirty brown and red fur. Their ears are ronded.
  • Weapon: Flind-bar: A pair of chain-linked iron bars spun at great peed. Can use it to disarm opponents. NUN CHUCKS
  • Gnolls regard flinds with reverence. They have at least a 13 intelligence and an 18 charisma.
Dungeon Magazine 48 - To Bite the Moon


Now we get into the good stuff. This adventure is full of fun ideas. It needs a bit of reworking, but you could do a lot of fun things with it.

The heroes go on a quest retrieve a ring of three wishes and a luck blade (which also grants wishes!). Gnolls stole them, but don't know what they are.

The adventurers are meant to creep through the gnoll lair while 71 gnolls sleep. The gnoll wearing the ring of wishes spots them and is disappointed that they're not enemy gnolls. She actually says aloud, "I wish they were gnolls from another tribe." The wish is granted and the heroes promptly become gnolls!

Useable Gnoll Ideas:
  • Kurgahr: A flind gnoll who leads the tribe. He is a cleric of Refnara, a gnoll goddess of fear.
  • Argor: Kurgahr's mate. She's wearing the ring of three wishes.
  • Gnoll tradition insists on an exchange of gifts whenever members from different tribes meet. You are supposed to say, "I welcome you, tooth brother (or sister)."
  • A spirit naga is impersonating the gnoll deity Refnara, and is using the tribe for her own selfish purposes.
Refnara, Gnoll Goddess: Refnara is apparently a real gnoll goddess!
  • She regularly tests her subjects by exposing them to frightening situations. 
  • During the full moon, Refnara expects a sacrifice or offering, so that she will bite pieces out of the moon and return darkness to the night sky. 
  • Gnolls are terrified of the full moon.
Gnoll Game: Blindfold a gnoll, slap and kick the gnoll while barking furiously. Whoever the blindfolded gnoll can wrestle to the ground is the next victim.

Tribal Dancing: Some gnolls bang on the floor with bones, others dance via hopping.

Complete Book of Humanoids

This book lets you make gnoll characters. Not too much new stuff. Gnolls who become adventurers often exhibit evil tendencies. It is hard for them to break their taste for intelligent creatures. Seems like a hard character to fit into a party without problems.

They have the ability to train hyenadons to use a mount.

D&D 3rd Edition

Here;s where the gnolls start to come together. It seems like that Dungeon Magazine adventure flew under the radar. I don't know if Refnara is mentioned in any other product. 3e gnolls:
  • Gnolls are nocturnal carnivores.
  • They think with their stomachs.
  • Gnoll alliances often fall apart when they get hungry.
  • 7 1/2 feet tall, weigh 300 pounds.
  • Gnolls revere the phases of the moon, but most tribes have no true clerics.
  • Their special patron is the demon lord Yeenoghu, who looks like a gaunt gnoll. Most gnolls serve and revere Yeenoghu rather than worship him as a deity.
Monster Manual 3
 

Gnoll, Flind: Flinds are clever tacticians who serve as leaders or elite hunters. Flinds have no great love for their lesser cousins.

Monster Manual 4

Tons and tons of information in this one.
  • Gnolls like to burn civilized settlements. Yeenoghu approves of their atrocities.
  • Female gnolls give birth to two to four pups about six months after conception.
  • Gnolls reach adolescence in about two years.
  • Matriarchal society. Gnoll females are larger and stronger than males. 
  • The dominant female takes the roomiest, most desirable quarters.
  • The alpha female marks her territory with a clan sigil drawn in blood. This blood comes from a slain underling.
  • Slaves endure constant malnourishment and regular beatings.
  • Worship of Yeenoghu is tied closely to the moon.
  • Yeenoghu represents the "ultimate mate".
  • Sacrifices are performed on the new moon. They kill captives and howl for Yeenoghu's favor.
  • Yeenoghu will sometimes send a demon to a tribe who will often take command and produce half-fiends.
  • The Great Geode: A gnoll lair described as an enormous bubble within a range of ancient hills. Completely encrusted with amethysts of little value.
  • Gashtooth: Tribe's leader.
There are new types of gnolls described in this book.

Gnoll Slave-Taker: These low-ranking gnolls travel in groups accompanied by hyenas. They use nets to capture slaves. They think of slaves as a living larder and replenish the supply at every opportunity.

Fiendish Cleric of Yeenoghu: These gnolls are half-demons who act as advisors to tribal leaders. They have darker fur, and their eyes smolder like red coals. They have the ability to cast up to 2nd level priest spells such as spiritual weapon, cure wounds, and cause fear.

Half-Fiend Gnoll Warlock: These are horned, hyena-like humanoid has huge membranous wings and cloven hooves.Yeenoghu is their patron. They produce fiendish offspring to buttress their positions of power.

D&D 4th Edition Monster Manual

4th Edition has tons and tons of new types of gnolls. They came up with a lot of cool ideas that you might want to check out.

4e Gnolls:
  • Decorate their armor and encampments with the bones of their victims.
  • They don't bargain and can't be bribed.
  • Slaves who show strength and savagery might be indoctrinated into the gnoll vanguard.
  • Are mortal instruments of Yeenoghu. They scour the land in his name, and fight among themselves. They participate in rituals that involve acts of depravity and self-mutilation.
Gnoll Huntmaster: Gnoll archers, longbow experts.

Gnoll Claw Fighter: Frenzied gnolls that run around the battlefield, slashing at all enemies.

Gnoll Marauder: Fight tactically with spears alongside allies.

Gnoll Demonic Scourge: Commands other gnolls.

Monster Manual 2

More new types of gnolls!

Deathpledged Gnoll: Vow to die destroying the enemies of Yeenoghu. They fight with bone claws and when they are dropped to 0 hit points, they can keep fighting for another round.

Fang of Yeenoghu: They wield cudgels of bloody teeth. They earn their place in the ranks by capturing slaves and sending them to serve Yeenoghu in the Abyss. The cudgel of bloody teeth continually oozes fresh blood and spittle. When the fang dies, the cudgel quickly rots away. The teeth are from gnolls who died fighting for Yeenoghu. When in death, they can taste the blood of their enemies.

Gnoll Gorger: Gain strength in battle by feasting on their own kind (they heal when they harm an ally). They draw strength from the blood of their own kin.

Allies: Gnolls are known to work with corruption corpses and beholder gauths.

Monster Manual 3

"Accounts from the hollow-eyed survivors of gnoll raids paint a similar picture of death and destruction."

We learn that packs of gnolls war against each other constantly. Victors sometimes enslave the losers.
The Chosen of Yeenoghu are seers and mystics of a pack.

Gnoll Skulker: Runts of the gnoll bloodline. Lurk at the edge of the fray. Very skilled at hiding and ambushing. Like to snipe from a distance and swiftly move to another location.

Gnoll War Fang: Clad in heavy armor scarred with demonic sigils, champions of Yeenoghu who issue challenges.

Chosen of Yeenoghu: Wretched figures bent with age and cloaked in moldering humanoid skins. Can summon undead hyenas!
  • Call Beyond the Grave: Summons 4 hyena spirits. Chosen takes damage when a spirit is slain.
  • Hyena spirits are bound to a tribe by dark magic, continuing to fight alongside them after death. Spectral jaws slow enemies.
  • Shoots bolts of ruination that can teleport hyena spirits around.  
Monster Vault

We get some gnoll factoids:
  • Gnolls attack communities along the borderlands without warning and slaughter without mercy.
  • Gnolls follow Yeenoghu's edicts without question.
  • They are nomadic, wandering and laying waste when they can.
  • Slaves follow behind their raiders to haul their tents and goods. Their only hope to live is to show strength and obey.
Disease: Slavering Canker:-1 to hit, you gain less from healing, you become weakened and must rest twice as long as normal.

Deathpledged Gnoll: Keeps fighting after dropping to 1 hp until the next round.

Gnoll Blood Caller: Blood Call is a psychic attack that sends creatures hurtling backward.

Fang of Yeenoghu: Wields the Cudgel of Bloody Teeth, can unleash the howl of the demon (which lets allies make an attack).

Demon-Eye Gnoll: It has an aura that can cause enemies to attack each other. Fights with a glaive.

Gnoll Far Fang: Have fanged bows that fire hungry arrows that cause ongoing damage.

Gnoll Pack Lord: Demonic Frenzy: Makes many attacks that dazes enemies. Pack cackle allows allies to shift.

Gnoll Demon Spawn: Massive brutes that do a lot of damage with their claws.

Gnoll Huntmaster: Archers

Dragon #369 - Gnolls: The Get of Yeenoghu

This article has a few new categories of gnolls. They are split between two sub-types: Beast-Born Gnolls, Havoc Gnolls, and Ruin-Touched Gnolls.

Beast-Born Gnolls: These gnolls were transformed by Yeenoghu into bestial variants.

Cackling Marauders: Their jaws hang open and crooked. With every breath, a high-pitched cackle emerges from the wretched beast's maw. They are psychotic killers driven by a burning madness. Yeenoghu expects the gnolls to drive marauders out of their ranks without slaying them, so that they may terrorize others. Their cackle causes fear. Their bite is poisonous

Abyssal Slaughter-Lord: As tall as an ogre, these gnolls have arms and legs that are repulsively long. Their whole deal is that they have reach.

Hound of Yeenoghu: These creatures look like hyenas and are used as hunting hounds. The appearance of a beast-born within a tribe is considered both a gift and a test.

Havoc Gnolls: Havoc gnolls are shorter and broader than others of their kind because they are descended from great gnoll champions. They consider themselves better than common gnolls.

Havoc Gnoll Prey-Taker: They can leap extremely far. They have nets that they use to immobilize enemies.

Havoc Gnoll Tribal Champion: They specialize in tripping foes. They like to fight the most dangerous enemies in a battle.

Ruin-Touched Gnolls: Fanatacs who subject themselves to potent rituals that grant them demonic supernatural gifts. The souls of the ruin-touched who die in battle instantly join Yeenoghu in the Abyss.

Beastcallers: These fork-tongued gnolls can summon flocks of ravens who blind enemies or vermin from beneath the earth.

Bloodwalker: They wield sickles and can teleport to areas where there is spilled blood. Bloodwalker  emit red tears, saliva and sweat. 

Slaughterfang Hyena: These creatures are the size of a small horse. Bred by gnolls to serve as mounts, they have piercings and ceremonial scars.

Dungeon Magazine #160 - Den of the Destroyer

The adventurers must go take out some gnoll mercenaries known as the "Wicked Fang" who live in an Fortress Graytone, and abandoned githzerai shrine.

In the final battle, a "Claw of Yeenoghu" reaches through the portal and attacks the group. The claw is described as a "...massive clawed hand of primordial elemental energy..." If it hits, it grabs you and does fire and necrotic damage until you escape.

Fangren: The gnoll leader. He became convinced that he was a Chosen of Yeenoghu and gathered components for a ritual that would infuse him with power. This involves opening an energy conduit to the Abyss.


Lots of new gnoll-related monsters:

Stonewalker Spirit: Yeenoghu sent this thing to help the Wicked Fang. It is a wispy entity that can turn you into a statue and then possess you! In the adventure, it possesses a statue, animates, and attacks.

Abyssal Wretch: Fangren used energy from the planar breach to transform captive humans and elves into horrific reflections of their original forms, tainted by the evil of Yeenoghu. These wretches could "inspire revulsion", hitting all around them with a psychic attack.

Disciple of Yeenoghu: Gnoll sages who collect the most dark and vile lore pertaining to Yeenoghu. They fight with sacrificial daggers and they can fire "rays of destruction" which do necrotic damage.

There's also a magic item:

Wicked Fang: A shadar kai bad guy made the gnolls a magic longsword called Wicked Fang, a jagged blade permanently stained with the blood of those it has slain. It has the power to cause bloody wounds, which acts as ongoing damage.

Dungeon Magazine #212 - Never Say Die

This adventure actually details a location from the famous White Plume Mountain Map. Dead Gnoll's Eyesocket has a hill that looks like a gnoll's head that has water trickling from its eye socket.

Gnolls have laid claim to a network of caves beneath the hill. They capture humanoids and hunt them for sport in a nearby briar maze called the Twisted Thickets.

Good gnoll flavor text: "A mangy gnoll with matted fur and milky white eyes rises to his full 7 feet of height and snarls."

There's a cool location known as "Yeenoghu's Gullet." It has a stone idol that bears an uncanny resemblance to an emaciated gnoll sitting cross-legged.

Near the idol is a pit full of bones. If people take the two gem eyes from the idol, the bones assemble into gnoll forms and attack.

Blackfang Feaster: The bite of these gnolls has poison that can slow you. They can also knock you prone and begin to devour you.

Dungeon Magazine #221 - The Battle of Emridy Meadows

This adventure is written by Chris Perkins. It appears in the final issue of Dungeon and it details a battle discussed quite a bit in the classic 1st edition Temple of Elemental Evil adventure by Gary Gygax.

This module is broken up into missions. The first mission involves dealing with a gnoll called Gnaragg the Dog King and his lair.

Gnaragg actually rides a displacer beast! He is in charge of a band of gnolls and humans who aren't getting along.

Norghu: Gnaragg's mate. She is a pack lord who rule the lair when Gnaragg is not around.

Gnaragg has a magic item:

Bitbaern's Shield: You can ue this +1 shield to sense which way is east. Also, "...the shield can lead you to places of significant history," including the final resting place of Bitbaern, who was a hero of some renown.

D&D 5th Edition - Monster Manual


5th puts it all together quite nicely.

How Gnolls Came to Be: Yeenoghu entered the Material Plane. Packs of hyena flocked to him, scavenging his kills, which transformed them into gnolls.
  • They scavenge trophies from corpses like teeth or ears.
  • Gnolls have no goodness or compassion.
Gnoll Pack Lord: These gnolls rules by might and cunning. They have piercings and they dye demonic sigils into their fur.

Fang of Yeenoghu: This version of the fang are gnolls possessed by a demonic spirit. They perform rituals and make blood offerings to Yeenoghu. A hyena who feasts on a fang's slain foe becomes a full-grown adult gnoll.

Volo's Guide to Monsters

Volo's has a big section on gnoll lore. We learn:
  • Gnolls want to turn the world into a barren, empty ruin.
  • Yeenoghu ultimately wants endless war to be waged in the world until only one champion remains. Then Yeenoghu will come to the world, slay the champion, and reign over a wasteland of rotting corpses.
  • They are driven by a communal sense of infinite hunger and endless rage.
  • When raiding, they never leave survivors. It sounds like the whole slaving angle is gone.
  • Gnolls don't care about gold or gems.
  • They speak a broken form of Abyssal.
There's a bunch of lists, including one with some fun details to add to a gnoll. My favorites:
  • Infested with maggots
  • Vestigial twin embedded in back
Becoming a Gnoll: We learn a bit more on transforming into a gnoll. A fang of yeenoghu anoints the remains of foes during a ritual. When a hyena feeds on those remains, it becomes a gnoll.

Witherlings: This is awesome. When gnolls get hungry, they eat weaker gnolls. The bones of the devoured gnolls are kept. Pack lords and flind can perform a ritual to turn them into undead witherlings.

Flinds: Flinds are rare, and they are seen as Yeenoghu's special messengers. They are.. "gifted with a keen eye for omens and an ear for Yeenoghu's whispers."

If a gnoll kills a flind, it becomes a flind!

Yeenoghu sometimes sends them demon allies: Barlguras, Dretches, Hezrous, and Manes. Also:
  • Shoosuvas: As a reward for triumphs.
  • Maw Demon: Anything a maw demon devours is teleported into Yeenoghu's gullet.
There's a whole page of details on creating war bands. My favorite part is the shared physical traits:
  • Rune branded on forehead
  • Surrounded by clouds of flies
  • "Covered with strange mushroom growths".
Links:

3e Flind from Wizards Site