I first saw a krenshar in the 3e Monster Manual, though it’s possible they originated a bit earlier than that.
Krenshars are large carnivorous felines somewhat similar in size and behavior to lions. They live in groups called prides, and use teamwork to hunt. Some individuals within the pride grow to a larger size than the rest and possess a pattern of blood red spots on their fur. These seem to have a higher social position within the pride, and focus on protecting it from threats rather than on everyday hunting.
The thing that makes krenshars fantastical is their ability to peel back the skin on their faces and expose their skulls in order to intimidate their enemies and frighten their prey.
While I agree a krenshar’s display must be quite a striking sight, your typical PC is likely to have met quite a few things that are scarier than that even if they’re relatively low level. This leads me to believe their threat display might be augmented by natural fear magic, since it’s meant to be effective even against adventurers.
Gnolls, hobgoblins and humans frequently try to domesticate krenshars for all the usual reasons. This is a difficult process because it’s hard to suppress their threat display, so lots of trainers end up paralyzed by fear and killed.
We’re given two krenshar stat blocks here. Both are Medium Natural Beasts with a land speed of 8 and low-light vision. They also have two signature abilities:
Their Fearsome Visage is an aura (5) that inflicts a -2 penalty to saves against fear effects to all enemies caught inside. Unnerving Skull is a minor action usable once per round. It’s a close burst 5 that targets the Will of one enemy and inflicts a -2 attack penalty on a hit (save ends). This is a fear power, so it’s enhanced by the aura.
The basic model is a Level 4 Controller with 55 HP and all standard traits. Its basic attack is a hooking swipe that damages and knocks prone on a hit. It can combine its threat display with a roar to perform the Roaring Skull attack, a Close Blast 5 that targets Will and dazes (save ends). A target who is already dazed is instead weakened for the duration of the daze, so there’s benefit in several krenshars roaring at once. This recharges on a 5+, so it will likely happen more than once in the fight.
Krenshar Blood Slayer
The red-spotted variety, focusing more on physical power than on scary roars. It’s a Level 5 Brute with 75 HP and all standard traits. Its basic attack is a claw that is somewhat weak, but can be used twice per action. If both attacks hit, the target is grabbed and the slayer can bite it. Bites hit automatically and do double the damage of a claw strike.
Sample Encounters and Final Impressions
I guess your typical krenshar pack will include a mix of blood slayers and standard krenshars. The krenshars open up with a “volley” of Roaring Skull attacks, and then the blood slayers focus on grabbing dazed/weakened individuals and biting them to death. Grabbing a squishy is always a good move, but it’s also worth their while to try it with the defenders, since their bites don’t care about AC.
The sample encounters are a pair of deathpledged gnolls wrangling a pack of krenshars (level 5), and a human slaver with a pair of javelin dancer goons and a trio of blood slayers (level 6).