Half-lion, half-eagle, griffons are ferocious avian carnivores that prey upon horses and their kin (hippogriffs, pegasi, and unicorns). This hunger for horseflesh often brings griffons into direct conflict with humans and demihumans.
Adult griffons stand five feet at the shoulder and weigh over half a ton. Their head, upper torso, and forelegs are like those of a giant eagle. This eagle half is covered in golden feathers from its wing tips to its razor-sharp beak. Their powerful forelimbs end in long, hooked talons. Wings, with a span of 25 feet or more, rise out of their backs. The lower half of a griffon is that of a lion. Dusky yellow fur covers the lion half's muscular rear legs and clawed feet. A lion's tail hangs down from the griffon's powerful rear haunches. Griffons speak no languages, but emit an eagle-like screech when angered or excited (usually by the smell of horse).
Griffons hunt in groups of 12 or less, searching the plains and forests near (within 20 miles) their lair for horses and herd animals. With their superior vision and sense of smell, griffons can spot prey up to two miles distant. If the prey is horse or horse-kin, griffons are 90% likely to attack even if the horses have riders. Griffons hunt only for food, so a rider who releases one or two horses can usually escape unharmed (though in all likelihood his horse won't). Any attempt to protect a horse brings the full fury of the attacking griffons on the protector.
When attacking ground targets, griffons use their great size and weight to swoop down from above and raking their opponent with the talons before landing nearby. Griffons always fight to the death if there is horseflesh at stake.
In aerial combat, griffons are equally fierce, lunging into battle and tearing at their opponent until they or their prey are dead. Many a griffon has plummeted to its death with a struggling hippogriff caught firmly in its grasp.
Griffons prefer rocky habitats, near open plains. Once griffons establish their territory, they remain until the food supply has been exhausted.
Griffons, like lions, live in prides, with each pride comprising several mated pairs, their young, and one dominant male. The dominant male is responsible for settling territorial disputes with other prides and choosing the direction the hunt will take.
Each pair of mated griffons in the pride has its own nest, located near the pride's other lairs. Griffon nests are usually situated in shallow caves, high along a cliff face.
The nests are made of sticks and leaves, as well as an occasional bone. Griffons collect no treasure, but their caves frequently contain the remains of unfortunate travelers who tried to protect their horses from the griffons.
During spring, female griffons lay one or two eggs that hatch in the late summer. For the first three months griffon young are known as hatchlings; thereafter, until they mature the young are called fledglings. Griffon young grow rapidly for three years until they are large enough to hunt with the pride. Adult griffons are extremely protective of their young and attack without mercy any creature that approaches within 100 feet of the nest.
If trained from a very early age (three years or less), griffons will serve as mounts. The training, however, is both time-consuming and expensive, requiring the expertise of an animal trainer for two years. Once trained, though, griffons make fierce and loyal steeds, bonding with one master for life, and protecting him even unto death. A griffon mount knows no fear in battle, but attacks any horse or horse-kin in preference to other opponents.
Acquiring a griffon fledgling is a very dangerous venture as the adults never stray far from the nest and fight to the death to defend eggs or young. Any given griffon nest is 75% likely to contain one or two fledglings or eggs. Fledgling griffons sell for 5,000 gold pieces on the open market; eggs sell for 2,000 gold pieces each.