The intent of this product is to introduce a particularly nasty gnoll tribe that lives in the Tangled Wood area of the Lonely Coast (but who can be dropped in to any similar area of your own world or chosen setting). Rather oddly, it starts talking about how characters can go about identifying treasure looted from them before you get to meet the tribe itself - perhaps this is intended as an incentive, because unless you're into pest control you are unlikely to want to pay them a visit! However, it's about the mechanics of finding out what you have, ahem, liberated, rather than what you might actually find.
So, on to the Bleached Skull Gnolls. Now Pathfinder RPG gnolls generally regard everybody else as either lunch or a slave, but these gnolls are worse... their main use for their luckless captives are as sacrifice to their gods or for what they class as 'entertainment' about which the less said the better. Unlike most gnolls, they have taken well to forest life, although their main livelihood is still from raiding other more industrious folk. They have also begun to worship blood-soaked tree spirits rather than more conventional gnoll deities, although even their shamans believe that they are venerating nameless primal spirits of the woodland. Like many gnolls, they also respect their own ancestors, although this 'respect' takes the form of displaying their bleached skulls in their sacred groves - hence the tribe name.
There are lots of little details which help you picture their society and describe them when encountered in battle or at home, the little snippets that move them from just another bunch of monsters to be faced in combat to a living, breathing part of your campaign world. Game mechanics are not neglected either, with everything from information retrievable by use of the Knowledge (Local) skill to new feats that gnolls - or indeed anyone - can take. There is a whole new type of feat, the battle feat, designed to reflect the particular fighting style that a given group will develop over years of training and fighting as a unit. Their spellcasters, too, have developed appropriate spells, while the tribe possesses some unique magic items - including a really nasty bone knife favoured by shamans, which has necromanic abilities and questionable origins.
To take the tribe information to something more useful than mere descriptions, next comes several detailed encounters with the tribe. In each, the situation when the characters meet them, the numbers involved (including scaling notes) and their likely reactions are given... encounters are, unsurprisingly, liable to descend into violence pretty fast! There are also some useful notes on running combats in woodland and how to take advantage of the environment to make fights exciting. This is followed by a wealth of stat blocks, for different types of tribe member from chieftain and champion through shamans and scouts to the few who remain at home to cook and look after the youngsters. This section rounds out with a mapped and described encampment, should your characters find themselves visiting the tribe at home.
Finally, we learn of the awful result of the gnolls' worship practices... the creation of a bloodspawn treant. Brought to life by blood sacrifice and the fear, despair of victims, they exhibit bloodlust sufficient to impress the most bloodthirsty gnoll, who regard them as the embodiment of the spirits they revere. Full details of their appearance, abilities and combat styles are given; including their creation of horrific blood zombies from the remains of sacrificial victims.
Overall, this is an elegant addition to the denizens of the Lonely Coast... clear descriptions and everything that you will need to introduce them to your characters.
Return to Bleached Skull Gnolls page.
Reviewed: 16 August 2010