Sunday, July 31, 2011

A cross between gnomes and trolls

The gnoll is one of the signature monsters of D&D. They were first mentioned in a short story by Lord Dunsany as gnoles. They were mentioned again about 40 years later in a parody or homage to Dunsany by Margaret St. Clair.

Then in 1974, they were described in the OD&D white box set by Gary Gygax as "A cross between gnomes and trolls (...perhaps, Lord Dunsany did not really make it all that clear) with +2 morale. Otherwise they are similar to hobgoblins". Gygax disavows this attribution in a later interview, but regardless of the origin of the name, I think that Gygax can take credit for giving us the hyena-like gnolls we are familiar with to this day.

While there are many great choices for gnolls in 28mm, the choices for 1/72 are a lot more limited. The following are the few miniatures that I found suitable for use as gnolls in this scale. From left to right: Mage Knight Gnoll Hunter, Gnoll Fletcher, and Gnoll Poacher; Grenadier Knoll (Monster Manuscript Vol.V 1505, MM42); and a gnoll game piece from the World of Warcraft boardgame.

Of this bunch, I like the Grenadier Knoll the best because it has the canine rear legs that I prefer my gnolls to have. The Mage Knight gnolls look good as well, but their legs are too human-like. The Hunter and Fletcher are originally from the Ral Partha All Things Dark and Dangerous line, and are still available from Iron Wind Metals, along with the other gnolls from the series. The Poacher is unique to Mage Knight, but is just an archer with a weapon swap (from bow to crossbow). The good thing about Mage Knight miniatures is that they are cheap, and their legs can always be modified with a little work.

The WoW gnoll has its good points; it has the proper hind legs, and I like the way it has the high hunched back. However, it is a bit too cartoony looking, and the arms appear oddly positioned on its body. If I ever pick up some more of these pieces, I may try some modifications by moving the arms higher, and replacing the head.

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