Thursday, November 6, 2014

Gnolls are the New Orc; or, Monstrous Humanoids of Vadhyislavia Redux

I got a lot of really good feedback on yesterday's post debating whether or not to put orcs and half orcs in Vadhyislavia.  And I think ultimately orcs are going to be left behind for this campaign setting.  Like I said, I overused orcs in my last Pathfinder campaign, and honestly their niche is being filled by Hobgoblins and Gnolls in Vadhyislavia.  And if I can mentally justify leaving out gnomes because dwarves and halflings fill their niches better, I can leave out orcs and let hobgoblins and gnolls replace them.  I'd had ideas from the start to have Gnolls as an invading, savage force from the southeast in this setting, and I think I'm going to run with that -- have Hobgoblins as the servants of evil spellcasters and more powerful warlords, and gnolls as the savage monsters lurking in the dark forests and hungering for human flesh.

I'd previously stated that Hobgoblins in Vadhyislavia are goblins that have acquired iron boots and undergone a subsequent metamorphosis, becoming taller and more cunning.  I'd also stated that goblins were made by subjected kidnapped children to strange alchemies.  On further reflection, that second bit doesn't work for me.  There's no way enough kids can get kidnapped to produce a proper number of goblins without completely decimating human civilization.

At work today as I was pondering this, I hit on the idea of "Goblins" being created when alchemical runoff from careless wizards' laboratories pollutes a swamp or pond, corrupting frogspawn with magical energy, causing the tadpoles to mature into goblins.

And then I said, "Well shit, if I'm gonna go that direction, why not just use Bullywugs?"

In 5E, Bullywugs and Goblins have the exact same CR: 1/4.  Hobgoblins, Orcs, and Gnolls all have CR 1/2.  Why have three antagonistic humanoid races running around that fill the exact same mechanical purpose?

So while I think my idea of hobgoblins as goblins that magically get tall and militaristic upon putting on shoes still has merit, truth be told I used a lot of goblins, hobgoblins and orcs last campaign.  I've never used Bullywugs (are they considered WotC IP?) or gnolls in a campaign before.

So here goes, round two:

Bullywugs are the result of carelessness on the part of wizards and witches.  When alchemical runoff from a wizard's laboratory pollutes a pond or swamp, occasionally the corruption gives rise to a tribe of bullywugs.  These squat, amphibious humanoids arise when tadpoles mature in alchemical sludge instead of clean water.  Somewhat tragically, bullywugs as a species are addicted to the alchemical waste they were born in, and as much as they strive to form an independent society of their own, they are quick to debase themselves in service to witches, wizards and other spellcasters if it means getting their "fix."

Between their consumption of toxic waste and their tendency towards inbreeding, mutations are common. The most frequently-observed of these mutations include a panoply of extraneous limbs, unusual size, and clusters of sac-like glands on the creature's back, capable of being contracted to spurt poisonous slime, sometimes with astonishing range and accuracy.

Gnolls, or Beastmen, are exactly what they sound like; savage creatures that haunt the darkest forests of Vadhyislavia, their bodies twisted combinations of human and animal features.  The most commonly seen in Vadhyislavia have the features of boars, wolves, rams or stags, or some combination thereof.  An "average" gnoll might have boar's tusks, wolf teeth and ram's horns, with the tail of a goat and feet twisted into a parody of a hog's trotters.  Regardless of their features, they subsist wholly on flesh, and are more than happy to consume even the foulest of carrion.

Gnolls seem to have little to no real society of their own, with packs ruled by the strongest, most vicious, most unrelentingly brutal female among them.  This bitch or sow (scholars debate the appropriate terminology) is usually a massive, heavily-scarred horror who has birthed a number of litters and has dozens of kills to her name.  This bitch typically maintains her position through casual violence towards lesser pack members, but is often also supported by a shaman or seer.

These shamans have little magical ability and seemingly no connection to the divine; instead, they are masters of pharmacology and intense scholars of entheogens and hallucinogenic toxins derived from plants and fungi.  Whenever possible, gnoll shamans feed their pack mates a broth stewed from such plants before a raid, sending their warriors into ecstatic fits of maddened bloodlust and frenzy.

Gnolls do not produce anything of their own, except carnage.  Their armor and weapons are scavenged from those they kill, and when a sword or axe becomes too badly-notched or blunted for use, they discard it and find a new one, fighting with their nails, teeth and horns if nothing else is available.

1 comment:

  1. Love the flavor text of Bullywugs. Added that to my campaign world!