Image courtesy of Wizards of the Coast-
My favorite summoned-demon-to-a-victorious-ravenous-war-band-of-gnolls is on the table this week!
A Shoosuva is a hyena-demon gifted by Yeenoghu (the gnoll god) to an especially powerful Gnoll (typically a Fang). A Shoosuva manifests shortly after a Yeenoghu-centric war party achieves a great victory, emerging from a billowing, fetid cloud of smoke as it arrives from its "air dnd" in the Abyss. In battle, the Shoosuva clamps its jaws around one victim while striking out with the poisonous stinger on its tail to bring down another. A creature immobilized by the poison becomes easy pickings for the savage gnolls nearby.
Each Shoosuva is bonded to a particular favored Gnoll of Yeenoghu and fights alongside its master. A gnoll that has been gifted with a shoosuva is second only to a Flind in status, and carries with them a sense of dread for any who oppose the approaching slaughter.
Let's Go A Little Deeper
Shoosuvas have a history deeper than 5th Edition.
With the prevalence of the gnoll in Dungeons and Dragons legacy, the Shoosuva went hand in hand, though their art has certainly evolved.
An artist's example of the emaciated, nearly humanoid Shoosuva from 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons.
By 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the Shoosuva are much more...furry.
But I prefer its most recent rendition in 5th Edition. The patchwork fur, as if striated from a living corpse; the exposed rib cage, with light emanating from within, so when the thing opens its maw, the nauseating yellow glow from within pours out, the last thing a victim sees before it chomps down on their head. Leprous throats, glowing and bloated eyes, and vicious, jagged teeth...don't you just wanna' hug him?
You'll have to stand on your tippy-toes - these good boys are 6 feet tall, with a series of bony spikes and ridges running up the spine, ending in a glistening, barbed tail with a poisonous stinger (which causes paralysis). Super fun. You want one of your own? Then you'd better stock up on spare carrion, as this thing's favorite food is rancid meat. Though you might be able to coax it with your wit and wiles, as, especially by gnoll standards, these things are pretty smart (Int 6-8), but not THAT smart.
Getting a cleric on your side to turn or tame one might be a wasted effort, too. Though they look undead, their forms seemingly powered by that necrotic light within their torsos, their demonic lineage grants them the tell-tale resistances to such radiance, along with the standards of energy damage - most are resistant or immune to things like Lightning, Fire, Poison, and Cold, not-to-mention that ever-tricky "damage from non-magical weapons" deal.
By the numbers, a Shoosuva is a hefty beast for most middle-level adventurers, and a deadly encounter for young parties. Thing is, they're rarely alone; fighting alongside a gnoll war band and, most likely, a seasoned gnoll warrior who's a cut above their fellows. Their demonic nature cuts most damage in half and you can kiss that charm spell goodbye. Their natural armor isn't amazing, but they make up for it with a boatload of hit points and an extra attack. Plus, they share the gnoll's iconic Rampage ability, so the moment the wizard goes down, you can bet he's coming for your cleric next. The thing to really watch out for is its Tail Stinger - it's got a 10-15 foot reach, rocking d8s in damage, and a nasty Constitution save or be PARALYZED (hits become crits, yo). Creatures can repeat the saving throw at the end of their turns, if they survive that long.
How Much Is That Demon In The Window?
Alighted in the face of battle, Shoosuva charge in with savagery and wild abandon, pulling in as many foes as possible to rend asunder. A Shoosuva fighting alongside their bonded Gnoll will coordinate dangerous and vicious tactics, alternating from riding and vaulting the wild Gnoll into foes, feinting with their poisonous tail while the Gnoll fells attackers immobilized by the venom. Nasty stuff.
In a war band's hierarchy, a Shoosuva's companion answered only to a Flind, but even that could be usurped in the loose tribal nature of a Gnoll pack.
If you were to summon a Shoosuva directly, without the chosen of Yeenoghu, a powerful shaman could acquire instructions on how to summon their hyenadon companion - some induce visions by gorging on bad mushrooms and wandering the wastes, while others keen on linguistics may yet uncover the sparse written tomes on slabs of rock in the deep, dark caves of precursor war bands. Often the ritual involves taking the skull of a previous shaman or witch doctor, carving it into the shape of a hyena skull, then smashing it onto the ground; if it's favorable, the current shaman may utter Yeenoghu's name, opening a gate to call the Shoosuva. But these fine puppies only hang around for an hour or until slain, and do not bond to any favored warrior.
You could, of course, attempt to just ask Yeenoghu directly. Pray really hard, and maybe he'll port in a Shoosuva to hang out and solve a little problem you've been having. You could do that...though even the most faithful will get silence, or worse, they get a Shoosuva who promptly kills them for being unable to solve their own problems. If you are graced with a new puppy pal, the thing would only stay for minutes or even seconds; just long enough to maul a paladin or two, and then he's outsville.
Shoosuva in Ionian Lore
The gods are tricky beasts, and Yeenoghu is one to involve himself in the lives of his followers through portents, visions, and signs. To his sovereign best, however, a Shoosuva was crafted as a personal bodyguard and intermediary to his favored warriors. Shoosuva in Gnoll translates directly as "returner", and were believed to be the reincarnations of Yeenoghu's greatest disciples; a glimpse of the honorable next step for his favored here in the material. Die in glorious battle and return one day in this new form to fight again.
As the tides of time passed and Asmodeus led his mythic Consolidation, Yeenoghu and his disciples fled a collapsing Abyss and held court among the stars. This disruption led to the ascension of another demigod to bless the Gnoll tribes...and free them from their fiendish hunger, a ripple that erupted across the magical bindings of a Shoosuva and their companions. Suddenly, a demon bound for life began a journey all their own.
Would they wander the wastes of this new world? Find packs of their own, or evolve into something new? Only time (and games), will tell.
See you at the table.
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