Introduced as a playable Ancestry in the Mwangi Expanse, the Gnoll has a ton of fun flavor and story, but weak mechanics backing it up. There are a handful of good options, but not enough to make the Ancestry stand on its own.
With the added base trait of a bite attack for every gnoll, it appears that the designers made the Gnoll’s Heritage options weak compared to most ancestries. In addition, the Gnoll has no 17th-level Ancestry Feat options, and just two at 13th level. These limitations make Versatile Heritages especially appealing for the Gnoll.
Table of Contents
- Gnoll Ancestry Traits
- Gnoll Heritages
- Gnoll Ancestry Feats
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
Gnoll Ancestry Traits
- : 8 is average, but it’s low for an ancestry that seems to thrive in melee combat. For comparison, the Dwarf and the Orc both get 10. If you’re building for Strength-based melee, Great Gnoll raises this to 10, making it the obvious choice for those builds.
- : Medium unless you take the Ant Gnome Heritage. Medium and small size have few functional differences in Pathfinder 2e.
- : 25 feet is standard.
- : Strength and Intelligence is a hard combination because so few classes can capitalize on that combination. A Wisdom flaw lowers both Perception and crucial Will saves, which is a problematic vulnerability for many martial classes that would otherwise benefit from the Gnoll’s Strength Boost.
- : Ancestry language plus Common is standard.
- : Low-light vision.
- : 1d6 damage is fine and it’s certainly better than the default 1d4, but with no traits you’re not going build around the Gnoll’s bite without further investment.
- Ant GnollME: Small size, proficiency in Deception, and a tiny bonus to Deception for when you occasionally need to claim innocence. Training in one skill is not enough to justify your Heritage, and the other benefits aren’t frequently useful.
- Great GnollME: 2 more hp is nice but won’t matter much beyond low levels. We’re here for the easy +1 bonus to Shove/Trip, both of which are staple tactics for many melee builds. This is an easy go-to option for Strength-based martial builds.
- Sweetbreath GnollME: Trained in one skill and a +1 bonus to Make an Impression if you can get close enouh to a stranger to breath on them. Unless your GM is very generous with creatures’ sense of smell, this isn’t worth your Heritage.
- Witch GnollME: A free cantrip and a situational bonus to some skills. This could be fun for a tricky spellcaster or possibly for builds that depend on hiding in combat.
Gnoll Ancestry Feats
- CrunchME: 1d8 damage and the Grapple trait is a very solid natural weapon. Great Gnoll doesn’t grant Circumstance bonuse to Grapple checks, but between this and Great Gnoll you have an edge with three excellent special attack options for Strength-based melee characters. This could be especially useful for monks, allowing you to use your bite exclusively to Grapple without breaking the restriction on Strikes imposed by your Stance.
- Gnoll LoreME: Survival is very rarely useful, and Stealth on its own isn’t good enough for a feat.
- Gnoll Weapon FamiliarityME: Only Trained, and doesn’t reduce the proficiency type like most weapon familiarity feats. It also doesn’t grant you access to the listed weapons, so you may find yourself proficient with an Uncommon weapon which proves to be horrendously difficult to acquire.
- Hyena FamiliarME: Familiars are really useful, and even if you use it for nothing else you can use its abilities for things like extra Focus, extra Infused Reagents, and as an extra set of eyes for Perception. For more help with familiars, see our Practical Guide to Familiars.
- Pack HunterME: Conceptually very useful, but it won’t stack with Cooperative Nature, and its benefits depend on your allies taking the time to Aid you frequently.
- Sensitive NoseME: Even as an imprecise sense, Scent is excellent.
- Distant CackleME: A very situational 1st-level spell once per day. Buy a scroll.
- Gnoll Weapon PracticalityME: Critical Specialization effects are great, but two feats to get this is too much to justify considering how pool Gnoll Weapon Familiarity is.
- Pack StalkerME: Sharing Terrain Stalker would be great if Terrain Stalker were a better feat, but Terrain Stalker’s usefulness depends on your spending your whole career in a place with whichever of the three types of difficult terrain you chose.
- Right-Hand BloodME: This is really novel and has so much story to it, but spending a feat and taking damage to replace a 50gp item (Expanded Healer’s Tools matches the +1 item bonus) is impossible to justify.
- Breath Like HoneyME: This is weirdly good if you’re a Charisma-based spellcaster (bards, some sorcerers, etc.), but it’s still only once per day.
- Grandmother’s WisdomME: I love Augury, and getting it twice per day is both very fun and can solve a lot of analysis paralysis issues.
- Laughing GnollME: Effectively you get Battle Cry and the biggest benefit of Intimidating Glare, so it’s basically two good skill feats for the price of one Ancestry Feat.
- Ancestor’s RageME: Great for anyone built for polymorph, and it can certainly work for unarmed strike builds (monks, etc.), but once per day isn’t enough and since the spell level doesn’t scale, it won’t remain relevant at high levels.
- Gnoll Weapon ExpertiseME: If your proficiency wasn’t already advancing with those weapons, you should not be using them.