Gnoll Life Cycle

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Gnolls: A Field Guide

The typical gnoll life is a wonderful and joyous cycle of killing, maiming, and looting. Though it varies a bit based on clan it is also not terribly complicated, and can generally be divided into three broad phases.


Phase One: Pup

Gnoll pups can best be described as balls of energy. They run, jump, and explore the world around them with a voracious curiosity. Since their curiosity often leads to trouble for adult gnolls, young gnolls are regularly kept within the boundaries of a clan’s village; gnoll pups almost never go on hunts or raids for this same reason. The youngest pups are supervised by a den-mother, who helps guide them in basic tasks like fashioning garb or simple fighting technique.

As pups grow a bit older, they are allowed some leeway to venture beyond the bounds of the village. The younger pups are led by those who are about to come of age and join the hunt. The older pups serve as role-models and teachers for the younger gnolls, while also ensuring that they don’t wander off or end up in too much danger. During this time, the younglings take care of simple, but important clan tasks like killing small game, gathering food and supplies, or terrorizing the occasional humie that gets too close to camp. It is also a great opportunity for the older pups to learn leadership skills and tactics in a relatively safe environment.


Moving From Phase One To Phase Two: Collaring Ceremony

After a pup proves their mettle as a leader, their aptitude as a fighter, or their skill in the arcane arts, they are recognized as an adult in gnoll society. Since gnolls grow quickly in ferocity and strength, this often takes around 12 moons (1 year). Though the specifics of the collaring ceremony vary from tribe-to-tribe, and even from ceremony to ceremony, it is seen as a rite-of-passage that all young gnolls aspire to. As pups see their family and eventually their friends return from battle with the spoils and scars of war, their desire to join the hunt grows ever greater. This has inspired many a young gnoll to tie cloth collars around their necks, or even to train in secret to increase their chances of being noticed by a village elder or long mane. Gnolls don’t wear collars just as a fashion statement, however; there are historical reasons why collars have become so synonymous with gnolls and gnoll culture.

In the earliest days of gnoll history, gnolls would show dominance over their enemies, and even fellow clan members, by biting at their necks. Virtually every foe was forced to surrender with their tender bits in such obvious danger, so the tactic only increased in popularity as gnolls grew in numbers. Collars arose as a natural defense against this, with the biggest, thickest collars representing a high level of prestige as a gnoll. The practice was finally stopped only after the great splintering, when gnolls went from a gigantic, unruly pack, to the smaller clans we know today. Ultimately, the practice never truly went away; as the collar was passed down from generation to generation, it morphed into a symbol of connection: both to each gnoll’s clan and their past.


Phase Two: Adulthood

If gnoll pups are balls of energy, gnoll adults are raging war machines. After many moons of training as pups, gnoll adults are virtually always prepared with the skills, the mindset, and the physicality needed to raid villages, plunder treasures, and render a humie in two. A number of pinkie scholars have theorized that gnolls could represent an existential threat to virtually any enemy, if only they had the numbers, a unifying leader, and the motivation to go to war. Though gnolls are currently growing in numbers, said scholars also see the last two as extremely unlikely, given the long-standing disagreements between most clans and their energies being focused much more heavily on their own people.

Gnoll adults can be broadly divided into three categories: hunters, watchers, and wanderers.

Hunters:

Hunters are precisely what they sound like; these are adults who hunt for food, fun, and profit. No specific weapon set is required to be a hunter. Instead, the expectation is that each hunter will choose based on what they are most proficient with and what is most appropriate for the situation at hand. Depending on the size of the clan and the value of the prize, gnoll raiding parties vary in number. Though it is not an absolute rule, gnolls tend to favor guerilla tactics; as a result, it is rare to see more than 10 gnolls fighting together. With that being said, when gnoll hunters gather en masse against a common enemy, they are truly a sight to behold.

Watchers:

Watchers fulfil two essential roles in clan life. Some serve as den-mothers, and help raise the youngest gnolls. Even if a den-mother never joins the hunt, she is still afforded great respect in her clan because of her role. Beyond that, few who incur the wrath of a den-mother live to tell the tale. Since they often serve as the last line of defense for the youngest pups, they will fight tooth and nail against any enemy or intruder. Watchers are also responsible for the magics and history of each clan. Their work in the arcane arts can bring strength to their hunters, curses to their enemies, and stories to all those who would listen. Watchers and hunters are also not mutually exclusive, as many hands make light work. It is not uncommon for watchers to join the hunt, or for hunters to dabble in the arcane. At the end of the day, it depends on what the clan needs to survive.

Wanderers:

Wanderers are gnolls without a clan. Given the strong support network a clan provides, and the stigma against gnolls in “civilized” society (you know, for raiding and pillaging), it is rare for a gnoll to eschew the clan structure entirely. If a gnoll leaves their clan of origin, they will most likely join a new clan. This allows a wandering gnoll to find a suitable mate, to find a new leader they are more compatible with, or to simply re-establish their identity and role. Since this is a fairly common practice, wanderers are typically welcomed quickly, but given clan secrets much more slowly, assuming they can fill a role or meet a need of the clan they are joining. Wanderers may also be looking to establish their own clan; wanderers who announce this intention are regularly treated with great wariness and suspicion, and are often run out of a known clan’s territory.

Additional Facts About Gnoll Adulthood:

Cannibalism is not unheard of on particularly long hunts, especially if a member of the party is gravely injured. Striped gnolls have a tendency toward monogamy, while spotted gnolls tend to be more casual in their relationships Given their specific skill set, wanderers often sell their services as mercenaries as they look for a new clan. Some are so successful, they never reintegrate into clan society. Gnolls are incapable of producing half-breeds. If a child is born from a gnoll parent, it will either be all-gnoll or not. Non-gnolls born this way virtually always end up as wanderers. As a result, taking a non-gnoll mate is usually frowned upon (but not unheard of).


Transitioning From Phase Two to Phase Three: The Great Trials (Krysh, Fangomas, and time)

Though all gnolls are fierce and fearsome in their own way, some invariably rise above to lead. These are the strongest, deadliest, and most cunning gnolls produced by any given clan. Their body of work includes the bodies of their enemies, and a deep understanding and respect for the traditions and history of those that came before them. They do not need a title, nor do they need to demand respect; that, quite simply, is earned.

With that being said, there are two primary racial titles a gnoll may pursue.

Krysh: The Trial of Blood

Fangomas: The Trial of Magic (this trial is still being developed)


Phase Three: “Long Mane”

Given their proclivity for violence, raiding, and pillaging, it should come as no surprise that most gnolls do not live terribly long lives. Moreover, while most gnolls do not seek death in battle, many do end up dying that way regardless. With that being said, gnolls still need leaders. As such, whether they lead the charge or tend the fires, older gnolls are a tremendous asset to any clan. These are the gnolls who have survived the most battles, are the most adept at magic, and have great knowledge (gnolledge, sorry not sorry) to impart. Though they may not have the same energy as a younger gnoll, they more than make up for it in tactics and treachery.

It is not necessary to have a title to be a long mane. Those who stick around long enough and who are active in the community often gain the distinction naturally. Long manes are the ones with nothing to prove, because they’ve already done so. They serve as pinnacles of gnoll culture, carrying the torch for all who follow. Last but not least, long manes are so named because their manes have grown long with age (sometimes it really is that simple, lol). As the saying goes, “old warriors did not get old by accident; they got old by being wise, having the right knowledge, and being tough. Never underestimate an old gnoll who persisted.”

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