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  1. - Top - End - #121
    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I feel the Underdark, Shadowfell and Feywild all cover the various subtypes under the theme of "bizarre and frightening reflection of the normal world" pretty well. Adding Underdarks to the two current Negative zones would start to verge on parody.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    I feel the Underdark, Shadowfell and Feywild all cover the various subtypes under the theme of "bizarre and frightening reflection of the normal world" pretty well. Adding Underdarks to the two current Negative zones would start to verge on parody.
    But not adding them lacks consistency. Major geographical features are supposed to stay recognizable across the Feywild, Material and Shadowfell. Crystal Peak becomes Old Smoker becomes Skull Mountain, that kind of thing. And the Underdark is certainly a major geographical feature.

    Unless, as suggested, you consider it a plane of its own, but... There are plenty of planes already and I do think it works better as an impossible cave system.

    Now, I didn't mean for the conversation to go from the Astral Plane and Limbo, homes of the gith, to the Elemental Chaos, home of the githzerai in the previous edition, to now completely unrelated places (except maybe for illithid hunt). Sorry about that.
    Last edited by Millstone85; 2017-03-15 at 07:46 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #123
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    But not adding them lacks consistency. Major geographical features are supposed to stay recognizable across the Feywild, Material and Shadowfell. Crystal Peak becomes Old Smoker becomes Skull Mountain, that kind of thing. And the Underdark is certainly a major geographical feature.
    The Shadowfell is supposed to be suffused with mind and body altering negative energy. Assuming that's radiating from below, the Shadowdark should be the necrotic equivalent of drinking a Chernobyl Slag slushpuppy, and Dendar is the one working the counter.

    Ultimately I just feel like the Underdark is its own "Biome" and it's cheapened by having two less unique "twins".
    Last edited by War_lord; 2017-03-15 at 07:50 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    The Shadowfell is supposed to be suffused with mind and body altering negative energy. Assuming that's radiating from below, the Shadowdark should be the necrotic equivalent of drinking a Chernobyl Slag slushpuppy, and Dendar is the one working the counter.
    It is radiating from everywhere but yeah it is particularly bad below the surface. Like I said, you don't go there. But you might encounter a shadow crossing during a "regular" Underdark campaign, leaking that really nasty oil into the tunnels.

  5. - Top - End - #125
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Millstone85 View Post
    Also, don't call them the Feydark and the Shadowdark. It ruins everything.]
    Calling them the Feywild and the Shadowfell is already pretty bad. I'm just going to stick with "Plane of Shadows" and, I don't know "Faerie" or something.
    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    I feel the Underdark, Shadowfell and Feywild all cover the various subtypes under the theme of "bizarre and frightening reflection of the normal world" pretty well. Adding Underdarks to the two current Negative zones would start to verge on parody.
    I don't think the Underdark is a reflection of the normal world, so much as it's own thing, so I somewhat disagree. Though, really there's no reason to be in the Shadow Underdark unless you open a portal to the Plane of Shadows while in the Underdark, in which case it would be completely bizarre to end up in a twisted reflection of the surface instead of a reflection of the caves you're in.
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2017-03-15 at 08:19 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I call the Shadowfell Mabar and the Feywild Thelanis, and we had it first, thank you very much (although the Plane of Shadow is older)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sharur View Post
    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that there was at least one setting where the Underdark was actually a plane, rather than merely "big underground cave system".
    Eberron, but Khyber is both, sort of. It's complicated. You can get there by falling into a right (wrong?) hole and propably by digging long enough, but it may be bigger than the surface world, with separated "realms" that can't be physically traveled to from each other (even if you try to dig) without entering the surface in between, similar to layers in the more classical planes.

  7. - Top - End - #127
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by ShikomeKidoMi View Post
    I don't think the Underdark is a reflection of the normal world, so much as it's own thing, so I somewhat disagree. Though, really there's no reason to be in the Shadow Underdark unless you open a portal to the Plane of Shadows while in the Underdark, in which case it would be completely bizarre to end up in a twisted reflection of the surface instead of a reflection of the caves you're in.
    It has bizarro versions of Elves, Dwarves and Halflings. It definitely has its own flora and fauna, but there's definitely a strong theme of "like above, but twisted".

    My idea was that the contents of the twisted reflection of the cave you're in is probably a pocket of negative energy, which you really don't want to try and walk around in. Anyway, this has veered really far from the topic of the Gith.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by War_lord View Post
    I feel the Underdark, Shadowfell and Feywild all cover the various subtypes under the theme of "bizarre and frightening reflection of the normal world" pretty well. Adding Underdarks to the two current Negative zones would start to verge on parody.
    Frankly, I think the Shadowfell is redundant with the unseelie parts of the Feywild. In the 5e setting I'm working on, I've nixed the Shadowfell for that reason.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    Frankly, I think the Shadowfell is redundant with the unseelie parts of the Feywild. In the 5e setting I'm working on, I've nixed the Shadowfell for that reason.
    Eh, I dont know about that. The Feywild is all about life, good life with the Seelie fey and the bad life with the unseelie.
    The shadow fell is about death, which I guess is just bad. If you want to fix this system, add a friendly half of the shadow fell, full of friendly ghosts and warm fires and helpful skeletons.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    I call the Shadowfell Mabar and the Feywild Thelanis, and we had it first, thank you very much (although the Plane of Shadow is older)



    Eberron, but Khyber is both, sort of. It's complicated. You can get there by falling into a right (wrong?) hole and propably by digging long enough, but it may be bigger than the surface world, with separated "realms" that can't be physically traveled to from each other (even if you try to dig) without entering the surface in between, similar to layers in the more classical planes.
    you might have something with thelanis, but birthright totally has you beat on the shadowfell in all but name (and in a way, it is also the faerie's home world, and is actually where the cerilian elves come from as well as both the seelie and unseelie court, so maybe that was the first feywild as well :P )

  11. - Top - End - #131
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by MasterMercury View Post
    Eh, I dont know about that. The Feywild is all about life, good life with the Seelie fey and the bad life with the unseelie.
    The shadow fell is about death, which I guess is just bad. If you want to fix this system, add a friendly half of the shadow fell, full of friendly ghosts and warm fires and helpful skeletons.
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    Eberron, but Khyber is both, sort of. It's complicated. You can get there by falling into a right (wrong?) hole and propably by digging long enough, but it may be bigger than the surface world, with separated "realms" that can't be physically traveled to from each other (even if you try to dig) without entering the surface in between, similar to layers in the more classical planes.
    Mabar and Thelanis don't have underdarks because there was/is only one Khyber, and he/she was on the Material Plane when they were bound by their sister Eberron and became the underdark, birthplace of fiends and prison of aberrations.
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by JackPhoenix View Post
    I call the Shadowfell Mabar and the Feywild Thelanis, and we had it first, thank you very much (although the Plane of Shadow is older)
    Quote Originally Posted by VoxRationis View Post
    Frankly, I think the Shadowfell is redundant with the unseelie parts of the Feywild. In the 5e setting I'm working on, I've nixed the Shadowfell for that reason.
    Quote Originally Posted by MasterMercury View Post
    Eh, I dont know about that. The Feywild is all about life, good life with the Seelie fey and the bad life with the unseelie.
    The shadow fell is about death, which I guess is just bad. If you want to fix this system, add a friendly half of the shadow fell, full of friendly ghosts and warm fires and helpful skeletons.
    Quote Originally Posted by GorinichSerpant View Post
    It's our job but we're not mean,
    in the town of Halloween
    Joke aside, that fix would be truer to the Shadowfell concept as it was introduced in 4e.
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    Notice how Eberron's Shadowfell isn't identified as Mabar, but as Dolurrh.

    That's because the Shadowfell is supposed to be the first step of a soul's journey to the afterlife. Possibly the last one too, very likely so in Eberron.

    Of course, 4e FR was already messing with the concept, connecting it more to Shar's darkness than to Kelemvor's Fugue Plane.

  14. - Top - End - #134
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I view the Underdark as the "bad part of town" for the Prime Material plane. It's not a separate plane, it's just a nasty place you can reach by going down far enough from nicer places. That matches the fluff from most settings; monsters from the Underdark arise when dwarves dig too deep et cetera.

    The question I have is should the Feywild be associated with Radiant energy since the Shadowfell is associated with Necrotic? By symmetry it makes sense.
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I admit, I derped on the Mabar thing, I wasn't fan of certain changes 4e did to Eberron (like forcing Baator there to fit with tieflings being base race and all that **** from default setting) so I haven't paid much attention to 4e version, I just remembered they called one of the "shady" planes to Shadowfell, I just wasn't sure if it was the Mabar or Dolurrh.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    C'mon guys, page three? We're really slipping.

    Githzerai

    Introduction
    The other side of the Gith coin, the proud Githzerai are deadly unarmed combatants. They prefer peaceful contemplation to fighting, though they still retain the bitter grudge against mind flayers that all Gith possess. They establish small monastaries in Limbo, carving out little chunks of order in the primal chaos. They are stoic and calm, and their fighting style is considerably more defensive than the Githyanki.

    Art
    Nothing spectacular. I could have really used a more dynamic martial arts stance to be honest. Ironically the pictured guy carries a curved knife on his belt, which jars with the unarmed only fighting style in the statblock.

    Purpose and Tactics
    The Githzerai seem like they'd be better off as NPCs than as enemies like the Githyanki. Their fighting style is a bit more boring - without any real killing moves their shield ability seems more likely to just prolong the fight, a dissapointing comparison to the Githyanki's aggressive teleport and strike tactics. On the other hand, they make great background actors - their preference of preservation over aggression means that they're very suited to being the Rivendell sort of people, a shelter that the party can return to and be safe at.

    Their passivity will also help sidestep the Elminster dilemma - why aren't these guys intervening to help us? Because they prefer to stay out of combat.

    They also make a great background story for players who took the monk class.

    That being said, they still hit like a truck with all that extra psychic damage. If I had to use them as enemies, I'd use them in some sort of cliff ambush where their jump and feather fall abilities would really test the party's ability to co-ordinate.

    Fluff
    Defectors from the Githyanki, the Githzerai obey a sort of stoic philosophy that helps them deal with the constant pain and pressure they're put under. With nowhere to go, this iron discipline allowed them to find a home in the most inhospitable of places, and for me they really are the iconic lawful good creature, even over Modrons. They break the usual law of entropy, that things tend towards chaos, by defying it and forging their little homes in a place that should be anathema to them. To quoth the Dark Knight Returns, "the world only makes sense when you force it to". However, as with anything so disciplined, they can also potentially become inflexible or fanatical, and therefore can be potentially used as villains as well.

    Hooks
    A monk wishes to learn more advanced techniques; legends say of a famous training ground, deep within sacred mountains, that could help him on his quest.

    The masters of every dojo in town are being slain, one by one in single combat. Their killer pronounces any who he comes across as weak and an agent of chaos. Can your party put a stop to this mad master of martial arts?

    The mighty cleric Solomon Stran has had his hands badly damaged in a carriage accident. Perhaps if he travels the planes in search of the famous Githzerai monastery they can help him cope with his loss; and perhaps your party can help him find them!

    Verdict
    While not the easiest creature to find a use for, these psionic gurus have carved out a fairly decent niche for themselves in the DnD canon and many GMs will be able to make good use of them if the right situation occurs; however, those situations may not be very common.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Bumping because this fantastic thread seems to be fading.

    I don't own a copy of the Monster Manual myself so I sadly cannot contribute to this fantastic resource. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading people's write-ups in this and the seminal thread.

    I was really glad when the newer contributors became more impartial and practical, giving interesting thoughts and good ideas regardless of the "new-to-me-ness" of the monster.

    I hope this continues!

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Agreed that the Githzerai are better NPCs than enemies. They could also be quest givers; e.g., "I alone cannot wipe out this nest of Mind Flayers - but with your help it can be done".
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Shining Wrath View Post
    Agreed that the Githzerai are better NPCs than enemies. They could also be quest givers; e.g., "I alone cannot wipe out this nest of Mind Flayers - but with your help it can be done".
    I wondered why they weren't made to match the Githyankai's CR.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by INDYSTAR188 View Post
    I wondered why they weren't made to match the Githyankai's CR.
    Watsonian answer: It could just be a question of demographics. More Githyanki are training to go out and lay waste, not to mention actively doing so. The githzerai stat-blocks should include a lot of proficiencies in flower-arrangement and temple-maintanence.

    Doylist answer: Monsters the PCs aren't meant to fight (and can't summon) end up with poorly-balanced statblocks. Slash, making them weak fighters helps answer the Elminster dilemma, adding to their passivity as Spellbreaker mentions.

    Bull**** answer: githzerai use 90% of their brain to maintain a portion of their communities in Limbo. Even in the most desperate times, a githzerai will never forsake this concentration, because to do so might mean the loss of untold lives. *The needs of the many outweigh the needs of few* *hand-waving about how their dying isn't the same or worse as them losing concentration* *Spockspockspock* Naturally this means rogue githzerai, or ones warped by Darke Majjyks, can pull out all kinds of DBZ nonsense.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Gnolls

    Introduction
    Spawn of the demon lord Yeenoghu, hyenas made humanoid, the gnolls get an entire chapter in Volo's. These are one of the most iconic monsters in the D&D universe, going back to first edition and appearing in every subsequent edition. The first edition gnoll traced back to Lord Dunsay's gnoles, and were more like troll-human crossbreeds than hyena-men, although socially like hobgoblins. With Advanced D&D, though, gnolls become the canine devotees of Yeenoghu, and have remained thus ever since. Terry Prachett found the name to be iconic enough to bring them into Discworld, although not as hyena-men.

    Art
    The strip on the left is vague; it may show the results of the passage of a gnoll warband. The actual gnoll, though, is excellent. The pose, the one damaged eye, the slaver, all combine to give a sense of bestial menace.

    Purpose and Tactics
    To kill them all, for numerous different values of "them". They roam across the land killing and eating. They don't reduce fortresses very often; instead, they pick off villages and farms. The upgraded Pack Lord and Fang of Yeenoghu don't offer much variation; bigger and stronger with more HP, but not too much in additional capabilities. With longbows and melee, though, the standard gnoll is a fairly effective warrior. The Rampage feature makes them only slightly more dangerous in battles with PCs, where it is unusual for someone to be reduced to zero HP. If a gnoll group is engaged with low level PCs, this somewhat increases the odds of Total Party Kill (Gnolltal Party Kill?), which may or may not be desirable depending on play style.

    Fluff
    You aren't supposed to make friends with gnolls. There aren't supposed to be gnoll NPCs, really, let alone PCs. These are ravening beasts, spawned of a demon and with the personality of one. They are explicitly called out as being incapable of being anything other than evil killers. Even orcs won't try to ally with gnolls; their hand is against everyone, and everyone's hand is against them.

    Hooks
    No one has come down the north-west road to Coldstone for days on end. A small patrol of light horse was sent to investigate; it did not return. Can the party determine what has happened out there?

    The hobgoblin king Urvagish the Bold has a problem. A Fang of Yeenoghu has appeared on his borders, and the gnoll population is booming. While the might of the hobgoblins is unquestioned, he will deign to pay a party of adventurers to destroy this pest.

    A cult of human worshippers of Yeenoghu has crept into the city and is prepared to open the gates to the ravaging gnolls. Can the party find the cultists in time?

    Verdict
    Not an interesting race as presented in the Monster Manual, but they aren't supposed to be interesting. They are supposed to be unambiguously evil, dangerous creatures that a party can kill without remorse, and they do an excellent job of that. Volo's adds quite a bit more flavor and some more interesting variations, especially the CR 9 Flind. From the beginning they have been low-level foes a party can cut its teeth on (you should pardon the expression), and that they remain. An excellent creature for low levels.
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I was surprised with what they did with Gnoll this edition, the first time I've read it. Surprised, but not displeased.

    As much as I like humanoid hyenas with personality and society (frankly, hyenas should have more of this), the Gnolls of previous editions were kind of the "yet another savage raider species" people, when there was already a lot of other species in it. In 5e? Nope. They're not your generic horde, they are rampaging bands of near-demons who will gnaw and hurt and eat and feast and claw and scream and fight until nothing is left for them to inflict that on.

    Also, the image of a Demon Lord going so ape**** as he destroys countries that the f***ing hyenas get up on their legs, grab weapons, scream at the sky and join him by the sheer power of his presence and bloodlust is a visual that combine nightmare and awesomeness.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Gnolls are a happy medium between predictable goblins without being outright lethal like Bugbears. They're fast, dangerous and ruthless. They're also one of the races that benefit the most from Volo's (hello, Witherling!).

    They make excellent mooks in any circumstance, but in situations that require the party to guard a moving target (such as a trade wagon or an ambassador's carriage) they are perhaps the best encounter bar none.

    I only wish that they had some CR10+ Gnoll Khan or something, a really dangerous pack leader. That would put them alongside Hobgoblins in terms of quality for me.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Gnolls are an incredibly great baddie to use for up to low-medium levels (I'd use a grouping of Gnolls for a level 7 party for example). They attack vulnerable communities by skipping over fortified ones. That leaves PCs as likely the communities best option for defense. The local Lord or City Guard are perhaps more than a day or two away.

    The options included in Volo's also can extend their usability in the DM toolbox. I particularly like that they don't have a complicated society and the fluff on hyenas eating desiccated corpses left behind the war band and turning into Gnolls in turn is fascinatingly gruesome.
    Last edited by INDYSTAR188; 2017-03-26 at 12:48 PM.

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    The treatment of gnolls in Eberron isn't too bad either. While "kill everything from the bumblebees on up" has its charms, the gnolls in Eberron are True Neutral, ironically a stabilizing force in the monster nation of Droaam. They serve anyone, with the condition that gnoll does not fight gnoll. It adds a layer of humanity while allowing the various fiendish variants their place. What's scarier, a ravaging horde of gnolls, or an organized army that's still going to eat your corpse when they win? Combine their rage and hunger with a little Blue and Orange ethics, and we have a different but still unique identity.
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Spellbreaker26 View Post
    Gnolls are a happy medium between predictable goblins without being outright lethal like Bugbears. They're fast, dangerous and ruthless. They're also one of the races that benefit the most from Volo's (hello, Witherling!).

    They make excellent mooks in any circumstance, but in situations that require the party to guard a moving target (such as a trade wagon or an ambassador's carriage) they are perhaps the best encounter bar none.

    I only wish that they had some CR10+ Gnoll Khan or something, a really dangerous pack leader. That would put them alongside Hobgoblins in terms of quality for me.
    Perhaps a re-flavoured demon would fit that role?

  27. - Top - End - #147
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    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by TrinculoLives View Post
    Perhaps a re-flavoured demon would fit that role?
    Most of the mid-higher-level demons have attacks (pincers, tails), or effects (stench, horror nimbus) that would need to be changed pretty significantly to retain a specifically gnollish flavor, I feel. This comment did give me the idea of a Gnoll that could wildshape into a midlevel demon (such as a glabrezu) 1/day, though.

    For a CR 6 gnoll boss I think I'd slap Rampage and Incite Rampage on the Gladiator in the NPC section, (edit) although I guess there are probably a bunch of gnolls around that level in Volo's.
    Last edited by not_a_fish; 2017-03-27 at 04:29 AM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Maybe give them a Chimera? Both Chaotic Evil, both Sadistic, both Demon spawn, both always hungry.

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    ShikomeKidoMi's Avatar

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    Quote Originally Posted by Spellbreaker26 View Post
    I only wish that they had some CR10+ Gnoll Khan or something, a really dangerous pack leader. That would put them alongside Hobgoblins in terms of quality for me.
    Flinds are CR 9, it wouldn't take much to bump one a couple levels of CR if you really wanted a stronger foe. Their Aura of Blood Thirst buffs their minions and their three different Flail attacks give them some interesting flavor (and some nasty combos, if they hit with Flail of Pain first and then strike the same target with their next two attacks).
    Last edited by ShikomeKidoMi; 2017-03-27 at 06:17 AM.

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    Dark Sun Gnome's Avatar

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    Default Re: Let's Read The Monster Manual II: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Fight Them

    I actually preferred the old lore of the gnolls. In the Forgotten Realms, one of their strongholds is the nation of Thay, and gnolls are the overseers of slaves, form units in the armies of the Zulkirs and do some of the dirtiest work in that nation. The new lore makes them pretty unsuited for the role of heavies in that nation.
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