[Let’s Read] Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Azimer the Mad

Knight of Chaos
Validated User
Thanks to this thread, I've totally headcanoned it that Storm Giant arguments are entirely resolved by intelligence; whichever bullshit con-artist cold-reader is best at making a case that the wisps of passing clouds agree with him wins. Being a Storm Giant oracle is a cross between being a mentalist magician and being John Edwards... a douchebag mentalist magician.

Shit, I'm going to do this.

Okay, the Storm Giant leader in my Waterdeep game is now based on Uri Gellar.

He bends iron bars... WITH HIS MIND.
 

vitruvian

Registered User
Validated User
Thanks to this thread, I've totally headcanoned it that Storm Giant arguments are entirely resolved by intelligence; whichever bullshit con-artist cold-reader is best at making a case that the wisps of passing clouds agree with him wins. Being a Storm Giant oracle is a cross between being a mentalist magician and being John Edwards... a douchebag mentalist magician.

Shit, I'm going to do this.

Okay, the Storm Giant leader in my Waterdeep game is now based on Uri Gellar.

He bends iron bars... WITH HIS MIND.
The only problem with having them be BS artists about this is that they're in a world where divination actually works. Sure, it may not be the exact same Augury or Commune spell that a PC has access to, but I don't see where their claims to have innate powers of this kind are presumptively unfounded. Not that there aren't charlatans in the world, too... but it might be more difficult to get away with if your peers have the ability to check your work.

Of course, a lot of divination effects in the game rules are still subject to interpretation, so you could have it be an interesting mix of the two themes.
 

s/LaSH

Member
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Is it still divination if you make it happen through sheer force of will?

Storm Giants are, after all, quite strong. In many ways.

This might be how their divinations work. It's not that they respect con artists. It's that they respect con artists who can then make the con true. That takes strength.
 

DavetheLost

Registered User
Validated User
Beyond this being a world where divination actually works, it is also a world with magical lie detection. This might put a bit of a damper on con artists and charlatans. They would have to at least believe their own BS get past a Detect Lie.

Being able to make your BS come true is a whole other can of worms.
 

Numanoid

#rocksteadyrollhard
Validated User
Thanks to this thread, I've totally headcanoned it that Storm Giant arguments are entirely resolved by intelligence; whichever bullshit con-artist cold-reader is best at making a case that the wisps of passing clouds agree with him wins. Being a Storm Giant oracle is a cross between being a mentalist magician and being John Edwards... a douchebag mentalist magician.

Shit, I'm going to do this.

Okay, the Storm Giant leader in my Waterdeep game is now based on Uri Gellar.

He bends iron bars... WITH HIS MIND.
"But... why don't you just bend them with your hands?"o_O
 

NobodyImportant

Registered User
Validated User
"And in that time of darkness, Man became Beast, And Beast became Man."
- WFB. Or WFRP? I don’t know. It pops up all over.

Gnolls: the Insatiable Hunger

The first thing you have to understand about gnolls is that they are classed as Humanoids only for tradition’s sake. They may be better suited as Monstrosities, or even Fiends, but they are certainly not Humanoids. They are the Abyss’ scars upon the world made manifest.

When the demon lord Yeenoghu rampages across the material plane, the slaughter does not end when he is defeated or banished. Hordes of hyenas follow in the Lord of Slaughter’s wake, feeding on corpses until they become bloated and immobile. Suddenly, in a spray of gore and gristle, these hyenas warp into a humanoid shape. The first gnolls of a world are born, and the rampage continues.

Yeenoghu, like all demons, believes himself to be the perfect child of the cosmos, the true heir to the stars who will remake the world in his image. What that image might be varies from demon to demon. Baphomet, for example, wishes to cast down the Gods and transform the cosmos into his hunting grounds, with himself as the greatest predator. Of all the futures demons wish upon the world, Yeenoghu’s is one of the most vile. Yeenoghu sees beauty in destruction. If he had his way, existence would terminate in a brief, bloody battle of all against all. The warfare would not be sustainable; in the end, a single combatant would survive. Yeenoghu would descend into the world and slay that final champion, reigning eternal over an endless expanse of moldering corpses. Such a world would be eternally perfect. Gnolls represent a manifestation of the demon lord’s wish.

Gnolls are creatures of bloodlust. They kill, they eat, they fashion weapons from the bodies of the fallen, and they kill again. In his benevolence, Yeenoghu gifts each of his followers - gnolls or otherwise - with an eternal, gnawing hunger for slaughter and death, so that they might better serve him. They must kill and consume sapient beings. Other prey may fuel their bodies, but it does not cause the hunger to abate for an instant. Gnolls search tirelessly for victims, rarely even sleeping. The only thing that can half them in their advance is a true atrocity. After massacring a village or performing a similar assault, the hunger will briefly abate. For a few days, gnolls will put down their weapons and rest, knowing that they have pleased Yeenoghu. This is the only time in their lives that a gnoll can know peace. And then the hunger begins again, and the hunt resumes.

Much like storm giants, gnolls see omens from Yeenoghu everywhere. Reading such omens is instinct to a gnoll, built into them from the moment of birth. Besides dreams and visions, gnolls see omens in blood splatters, flying arrows, and wind that sounds like cackling laughter.

The top half of this page bears an image of a group of gnoll ritualists standing over a glowing green pit, from which dretches are emerging.

There’s a sidebar chronicling an unknown arcanist’s attempt to glimpse the inside of a gnoll’s mind. He removes the creature’s arms and legs and waits, but after 13 days it remains alert and ferocious. The arcanist makes contact not with one gnoll’s mind, but with all of them, and through them with Yeenoghu himself. After three castings the arcanist kills and eats a goat with their bare hands, decides they like it, and runs off to become a cultist.

Speaking of cultists, not all worshippers of Yeenoghu are gnolls, but those who are not act as gnolls do. They are wretched and miserable people who have given in entirely to nihilism. Gnolls obviously do not proselytize, but they have no need to, as their lord at times speaks directly into the minds of the lonely and desperate. Most cast the feelings off, believing them to be nothing more than a momentary bout of rage or depression, but a few have been so ill-treated that they will accept any hand offered in kindness, even one so obviously coated in thorns. Most become regional serial killers and are rapidly put down by whatever authority exists in the area, but a few flee into the wilderness to find their new people.

And in case it hasn’t been hammered home enough, Volo says that trying to engage a gnoll in diplomacy will just get you killed. Gnolls bad.

I’ll go over my opinions in more detail at the end, but for now it’s sufficient to say that I’m well in favor of this redesign, although I can certainly see where the controversy is coming from. Tomorrow, we’ll go over three short sections: Gnoll Tactics, Treasure, and Language.
 

Silvercat Moonpaw

Quadruped Transhuman
Validated User
....although I can certainly see where the controversy is coming from.
For me the controversy was that what I seemed to be presented with before was a standard Humanoid race with an extra helping of justification for why it was okay to kill them. But you seem to make it clear this is just an issue of labeling; I don't have quite the same problem with gnolls really being a type of fiend in a humanoid shell. (Mostly it comes down to the whole "evil babies" angle, and this avoids that.)

I maybe have some philosophical disagreements with the existence of forces of pure maliciousness, but that's just tiredness at needing guilt-less killing because D&D wants to be lethal and is a whole 'nother thread.
 

ESkemp

Registered User
Validated User
My opinions on gnolls are well-documented. Mostly the only thing I would say is to address the charge of how the 5e redesign is at least interesting, and say "not universally so."

I was following along the second season of Critical Role, right up until the gnoll part. Now, this wasn't me being offended by the choice to use 5e gnoll metaphysics. I gave it a shot. The problem was that I found that adventure tedious: which shouldn't be a strike against Matt Mercer or the players, who are all dang skilled, but there was just only so much that they could do with 5e gnolls. That thing about "if you try to talk to them it'll just get you killed"? That doesn't exactly make for fascinating antagonists, and this adventure was hours of life-or-death battles against enemies with no individual personality. I wound up finding something else to do, and basically never got around to skipping the gnoll adventure and picking up after.

So yeah. I recognize that others find them interesting. For me, they're just so extra, and there's so much emphasis on how they have to be samey or they lose their edge, that there's nothing to them that I would want to borrow, whether it wore the skin of a favorite D&D critter or not.

(I also have never been tempted to have Romero zombies as a primary threat in a game, and I couldn't tell you much about the time we ran into the shoggoth in our long-running Call of Cthulhu game, either. All the enemies we really hated and feared had dialogue.)
 
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VoidDrifter

Registered User
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...Okay, this is the one part of Volo's Guide that I truly hated, in a book I generally regarded with attitudes of indifference to enjoyment, depending on the sections. It's not "interesting". It's not "innovative". It's lazy! It's boiling down to the most basic, simple, straightforward, one-dimensional interpretation of literally any race that has ever been classified as "Humanoid". This is taking a race and just turning it into apocalyptic rage-zombie demonspawn for mindless hack-and-slash fests, and it's mostly done because the designers didn't feel it was worthwhile to put the effort into making them a nuanced yet still hostile culture.

This incenses me. Gnolls have always had the short end of the stick compared to orcs in the "maybe they have something like a culture", but they still had some nuance in past editions! All editions prior to 4th admitted that there are some gnoll tribes who aren't evil, usually tying them to Gorellik - 3e's Races of the Wild states that there are gnolls who are no worse than any "barbarian" human culture. Mystara had the gnolls of Graakhalia; a peaceful, non-evil nation of gnolls who lived in harmony with elves and had assimilated much of their culture, to the extent that they actually used a variant of the Elf racial-class when played as PCs. In the Forgotten Realms, gnolls were commonly employed as members of the town watch in the nation of Thay, and considered relatively respectable for it. In Eberron, the gnollish sub-nation of the Znir Pact is one of the major stabilizing elements in the fledgling "monster nation" of Droaam.

And all of these have to be thrown out because 5e decided to make gnolls into hyena-based reskins of Dretches!

What makes it an even more bitter pill to swallow is that 4th edition gave us what I regard as hands-down THE best and most definitive gnoll fluff of any edition, in Dragon #367's "Playing Gnolls" article. This article gives them so much character, and makes them so different to orcs - a race well suited for both the hostile NPC role, the allied NPC role, AND the PC role. I just can't believe that, when they had lore like this to fall back on and build up from, they just decided to do a Goblin Slayer for 5e.

No, thank you, WotC. I'll go back to the Nentir Vale. I'll go back to Dragon #367. This? Aside from maybe using the mutations table, I got no use for this.
 
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