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Catfolk have a +1 LA and only 1 HD. Like Kobolds, Goblins, and the PHB races, their class determines their HD, but there's a catch: they start a level lower. In the case of a 2nd-level game, the PHB races will all be level 2, but the Catfolk will be level 1 because its racial abilities are more powerful.
Gnolls have a +1 LA and 2 racial HD, so a plain gnoll is treated as a 3rd-level character. If a creature has more than 1 racial HD, you can't replace those HD with class levels, which means you're stuck with them. Racial HD beyond the first are
Most racial HD are like taking levels in the Warrior NPC class, which sucks. Dragons and Outsiders are the only things with racial HD that don't completely suck.
generally a burden, in that they're inferior to class levels. Case in point: gnolls are CR 1 but they're treated as 3rd-level characters.
Edit: You could work out a progression for the Catfolk and Gnolls. Savage Species has a lot of examples (including a gnoll, I think); they essentially take "levels" in their "racial class", and have to finish it all the way until they're a full-grown version of the creature. Here's a sample progression, which I whipped up on the spot:
Because HD exist to show how tough something is. There are guidelines in the Monster Manual on creating your own creatures, and one of the things it mentions is that creatures of a certain size have a certain range of racial HD they're expected to have. Just as something the size of a rat generally won't have 40 racial HD, something the size of an elephant is gonna need more than one or two.
Originally Posted by flavor text from the Monster Manual
Gnolls are hyena-headed, evil humanoids that wander in loose tribes. Most gnolls have dirty yellow or reddish-brown fur. A gnoll is a nocturnal carnivore, preferring intelligent creatures for food because they scream more. A gnoll is about 7½ feet tall and weighs 300 pounds.
Gnolls, as described, are on the larger side of Medium (and just barely shy of Large, actually). Their racial HD are there to represent the fact that the average gnoll weighs more than an NFL linebacker and stands about half a foot taller than Shaq.
Wait I see a section in "Races of the Wild" about a gnoll monster class that is used for making a gnoll level 1....by calling it a monster class are they actually meaning race? if so this works fine now except, as D&D usually does....they did things half-way and didn't put the catfolk monster class.
Monster class = racial class, yep. For the catfolk, look at things you can trim down a bit to make it on par with the PHB races. I'd suggest reducing the speed to 30', dropping the Dex boost to +2, and dropping the Cha boost and natural armor altogether. That'd be about right, though the exact tweaking is up to you, of course.
Made a Favoured Soul that's just levelled up to level 7. Didn't have time to pick out spells and I'm not sure what to pick since my focus is currently on my studies. 1 orison, 1 level1 and 1 level 2 spell. Sourcebooks only. Sorry I don't have the char sheet to hand so can't tell you what I have already.
For the Favored Opponent feat, would (Attackers of Charge) be reasonable for a bodyguard to have? Not whoever thinks about wacking the person they're protecting, but actually the person who landed an attack last.