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Gnolls are one of the younger races of Lordaeron. Indigenous to both the Alterac Mountains and the Redridge Range far to the south, these hyena-like humanoids are extremely aggressive and are often found quarreling amongst themselves.
Though relatively intelligent compared to most beasts, they are not very bright by human standards. They have been known to manipulate each other into fights over ridiculous things like "whose shadow is larger". It has often been stated that the gnolls would be quite a fearsome race, if they ever stopped tearing each other to pieces long enough to organize themselves into an army.
Brann Bronzebeard believes that they may be descendants of a hyena Ancient Guardian, though for the moment this is only a theory.
A Kirin Tor mage once used a simple spell on a gnoll leader in Redridge to gain his favor. The gnoll became very friendly to the mage. He discovered that gnolls tend to focus on elemental shamanism.
Among the best-known of gnolls is Hogger who used to terrorize the Redridge Mountains and Elwynn Forest but was incarcerated in the Stockade in Stormwind City.
Gnolls are hyena-like humanoids standing about 7 feet tall. Gnolls of the same tribe tend to share a similar appearance, with either a reddish-brown, black, greenish-gray, or yellow mane. Eyes range in color from pale blue to bloodshot red and are typically small and close-set in the head. In wet conditions, they give off a distinctive musky odor.
Gnolls are brutish and belligerent creatures who value strength over everything else and are fierce and formidable in battle but are not the most intelligent of races. Gnolls have been employed as mercenaries, but their penchant for vicious fighting and their limited intelligence requires constant supervision.
Gnolls are known for their beastly cunning, their ferocious tempers, and their penchant for infighting. Though more intelligent than beasts, they tend to lack the finer reasoning of other sentient races. They enjoy fighting — almost too much. Gnolls make their home in Lordaeron in the Alterac Mountains and the Redridge Mountains, but they have spread throughout Azeroth, even to Kalimdor, where they compete with other aggressive humanoids for hunting grounds. Their tendency to challenge each other over petty matters (such as who is the tallest) prevents them from achieving any real unity and thus lessens their overall threat. This is fortunate, for their numbers are such that they could easily overrun other races of equivalent strengths. Occasionally, gnolls hire out as mercenaries, either as individuals or in small packs of two to five warriors.
Gnoll society is organized entirely around might. The strongest and deadliest gnolls ascend in the tribal order to become the leaders, while the weaker gnolls soon become food for the rest. This lifestyle means the average gnoll tribe is always in a state of tension- the slightest sign of weakness in those leading can cause the tribe to turn upon itself in a frenzy of violence. It also prevents the gnolls from organizing for very long into anything more than a tribe. Gnoll society displays a limited specialization. Brutes are the largest and nastiest gnolls, made stronger by their privileged position in the food chain. Gnoll assassins are noted for their intelligence and use complex weapons such as bows and poisons. Gnoll poachers act as scouts and hunters for the gnoll tribes and use weapons taken from prey. Gnoll wardens have developed a magical connection with nature and use their powers to keep the other gnolls in line.
Gnolls do well as hunters or warriors. Their inborn aggression and decidedly cruel nature drive them to pursue their quarry for the sheer pleasure of the capture and, usually, the kill. Gnoll spellcasters tend to be shaman with strong elemental and warlike tendencies. Occasionally a gnoll might join an adventuring party in pursuit of a common enemy. Sometimes a gnoll is ousted from gnoll society and must make his way in the world outside. Adventuring bands who value aggressive, persistent hunters and warriors may allow a gnoll to join them. Gnolls may take up with either Alliance or Horde, depending on which group has been their primary enemy. (More often than not, though, they join the Horde.) A few operate independently, hiring themselves out as mercenaries to the highest payer. Gnolls are strong-limbed and fierce, but they are poor planners with little forethought and deficient leadership qualities. The Defias Brotherhood have been known to ally with Gnolls occasionally.
Gnolls are extremely violent creatures. They have been known to pick lethal fights with each other over such insane arguments such as who has the longer shadow. Many wonder how these pugnacious creatures ever stand each other long enough to breed. They only gather in large groups when the opportunity for battle or plunder arises. They make vicious, if unreliable mercenaries, as they will go anywhere they can be offered a good fight. It is believed by some that if the gnolls were ever to put aside their differences long enough to band together into a single group, they would make a formidable army.
Lazy and feral, gnolls prefer to pillage and steal what they want rather than working for it. The largest, strongest gnoll in a group is known as the Brute. He is the de facto leader of the tribe, and all others submit to him. Brutes are allowed to take the best loot from raids, leaving what they don't want for the others to fight over.
While most gnolls use melee or ranged weapons, some can use shamanistic or even warlock magic. Their favored weapons are maces (or other blunt weapons) and crossbows. They prefer blunt weapons because they break bones, as marrow is considered a delicacy, and because they are easy to make. When dealing with magic, gnolls prefer the nature and lightning schools. Smaller gnolls and runts are used as assassins and scouts because of their agility.
Gnolls are known to build small settlements with permanent structures (Gnoll Huts) and to mine gold. Gnolls have been seen using complex mining techniques such as railcarts and have been seen in extremely remote and dangerous locations mining gold. They have been sighted in the Jangolode Mine, allied with the Defias Brotherhood.
Many gnolls can be seen wearing a round crest with a paw print in the middle. This symbol is seen in many tribes and its exact meaning is unknown to other races. Gnolls are known to wear leather and metal armor and always wear clothes.
Gnolls speak Low Common, though some speak with a broken Common. Gnolls learn the languages of those they interact with. These are the languages spoken by the races most likely to interact with gnolls: Common, Darnassian, Orcish, Thalassian, and Zandali. The Gnoll language is no longer used.
Gnolls' main stomping grounds are the Eastern Kingdoms. Recently, they have also been seen in Kalimdor, though usually under the employ of one of the goblin cartels or pirate groups, although a few independent gnoll tribes have been seen in Feralas. A gnoll seer named Sayge travels with the Darkmoon Faire as well. He gives out fortunes and different buffs based on how you answer his questions.
Gnolls were first seen in Warcraft III. Thrall leaves his home after a dream tells him to meet with a stranger. He destroys a camp of gnolls. The gnolls in question were most likely Mosshide gnolls, due to their location and coloration.
- Rot Hide gnolls are a tribe of undead gnolls serving the Scourge.