I’ve had a soft spot for gnolls ever since playing in a party with one as a monstrous PC.
(drawing by Kevin McDonough, who was also the player of the gnoll in question)
The stat block for gnolls in Pathfinder and 3.5 is basically identical; Pathfinder’s rules for playing monstrous characters are a lot more fast and lose, though. Since PF counts a monstrous PC’s effective character level as its CR, the standard Bestiary gnoll would have an effective character level of 1, and could jump right into a level one party. That PC wouldn’t get a class level, but they’d get -two- monstrous hit dice and some pretty decent score adjustments (+4 Str, +2 Con, -2 Int, -2 Cha), so call that a fair trade. By 3.5 rules the same gnoll would have an effective level for 3, meaning that if your fellow characters had three class levels, you’d still be a basic gnoll with no class levels and two hit dice; only once they hit 4 would you start to gain class levels, so you’d always be a bit behind.
Of course, my friend did not actually play a regular gnoll; he played a flind gnoll, from Monster Manual III. Flind gnolls are not really what you’d call an inspired creation, which I guess is why it took three Monster Manuals for WotC to resort to them.
"Hey, remember gnolls?"
"What about, like… stronger gnolls."
Yes, the flind’s weapon of choice was “flind bars”, a pair of metal bars joined by a chain. For some reason they also decided to give the flind the option of being a monstrous PC, which is why we had no choice but to roll one up for our party:
FLINDS AS CHARACTERS
Flind leaders are usually rangers or blackguards. Flind clerics typically worship Erythnul, deity of slaughter. Flind characters possess the following racial traits.
—+6 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +4 Constitution.
—A flind’s base land speed is 30 feet.
—Darkvision out to 60 feet.
—Racial Hit Dice: A flind begins with two levels of humanoid, which provide 2d8 Hit Dice, a base attack bonus of +1, and base saving throw bonuses of Fort +3, Ref +0, and Will +0.
—Racial Skills: A flind’s humanoid levels give it skill points equal to 5 × (2 + Int modifier, minimum 1). Its class skills are Listen and Spot. Flinds gain a +2 racial bonus on Charisma-based checks made to influence gnolls.
—Racial Feats: A flind’s humanoid levels give it one feat.
—Weapon Familiarity: Flinds treat flindbars as martial weapons rather than exotic weapons.
— +2 natural armor bonus.
—Automatic Languages: Common, Gnoll. Bonus Languages: Draconic, Elven, Goblin, Orc.
—Favored Class: Ranger.
—Level adjustment +2.
That effective character level of 4 at level 1 is pretty rough to deal with, but for a total of +12 ability points, I daresay our flind gnoll PC did pretty well for himself. We treated him like an illiterate idiot, naturally, but in actuality his intelligence score was higher than most of the rest of the party; I guess you have points to spare for Int when you’re getting a +6 strength bonus.
Luckily, there is no flind gnoll in Pathfinder; without level adjustments I don’t know that they’d be tenable as PCs (I don’t know that they were to begin with, though I certainly never minded having one on our team. Sort of. I mean, he was on our team most of the time.)
Final note: It seems like a dick move to worship Erythnul, you guys. What about Yeenoghu, Demon Prince? His deity portfolio has one word in it: gnolls. Throw him a bone!
Get it? Because…
Because he’s a dog.