One small step for man…
What are giants?
Giants are an ancient race of humanoids that are much larger than regular humans. Typically, they can trace their lineage back to Annam All-Father, the father of all “true” giants. There are many types of giants and each type varies in appearance, skills and intellect. Typically, giants are as intelligent as humans, but often have additional abilities based on the type of giant.
As much larger creatures than most humanoids, giants also require a denser bone structure. While this makes them tougher, it also makes them slower. Often, giants are slow both in movement and decision making, not due to a lack of intelligence, but because of their long life-span. Anciently, giants were immortal, but with each generation, their life-spans have become shorter with most giants living for a few centuries (although stone and storm giants tend to be longer lived reaching lifespans of a thousand years). Most giants will reach adulthood at about 50yrs old. Their natural toughness makes them immune to most diseases and resistant to poisons as well as having keen darkvision.
Giants aren’t particularly common, mainly because they require large amounts of food for their large body size which is often difficult to maintain in large quantities. This also compels giants to tend to live in tribes or families rather than larger groups or even cities as feeding a population of that size would be a tremendous undertaking!
Types of Giants
There are many types of giants, often typified by their unique abilities and where they dwell.
True giants are giants that can trace their lineage back to Annam All-Father. They also have a very definitive position in the ordining (the giant’s hierarchy of power):
Cloud giants are large even by the standards of most giants. While few live in the clouds (at least not anymore), they do typically live in high areas such as mountaintops, often above the cloud line itself. Some ancient cloud giants do retain ownership of cloud castles, structures built literally from the clouds themselves. The knowledge of how to build such structures has been lost though.
Storm giants (also known as uverjotens) are the most powerful and majestic of all giants, but with this comes an aloofness, regarding themselves as superior beings to all others. They are one with nature and feel its presence all around them, not just in the usual sensations of sight, sound and touch, but through the signs it provides them that foreshadow certain events or provide knowledge.
Fire giants are master craftsmen. They were the officers, engineers and crafters of the ancient kingdom of Ostoria and maintain their skills even now making them haughty and arrogant individuals. Often, they’re busy building increasingly powerful and formidable weaponry as their abilities in combat are considered only second to their craftsmanship.
Frost giants choose to settle in ice cold regions such as the snowy spires of Icewind Dale. They feel comfortable in the cold and find anything warmer than a body to be like the heat of a naked flame. Frost giants are brutish beings that settle disagreements with shows of pure strength.
Stone giants are reclusive creatures preferring to hide away in caverns than to venture into the great outdoors among all of its hustle and bustle. They are gentle beings when not provoked who prefer the pursuit of artistry over all other endeavours respecting most those who demonstrate incredible, artistic flair.
Hill giants are the weakest of the true giants. They are less smart, less strong and less charismatic than all other true giants. The only thing they’re better at is eating (if being better at eating means you can eat more of the stuff). Hill giants live to eat, it’s not just a necessity of life, they take great pleasure out of eating and will do so at absolutely every opportunity. This does mean that almost all hill giants are extraordinarily fat.
Exceptionally strong and cruel giants that tend to live in mountains. They’re closely related to hill giants.
Stealthy giants that are closely related to cloud giants.
Brutish and ugly two headed giants that have a lowly rank in the ordining but are true giants based on their lineage.
The largest of all giants. They fled to Arborea when their progenitor was cursed by Othea
True Giant Offshoots
Some giants, while being able to trace their lineage back to the All-Father, either had no place in the ordining or their position is unknown:
- Ash Giants – Closely related to stone giants, they typically live in ashy plains near volcanoes
- Craa’ghoran Giants – Also close relatives of stone giants, their bodies have been infused with elemental earth energy giving them natural, earthy magic and causing rocky growths to protrude from their bodies.
- Maur – Descendants of storm giants that were once exiled to the underdark where they must hunch to move around meaning they’re no longer capable of standing up straight
- Paerlin Giants – Descendants of stone giants whose minds have been warped by phaerimm magic from the underdark sending them mad and turning them into savage creatures
Giant-kin share their ancient mother in common with true giants (Othea) but do not boast being part of the line of Annam All-Father and so are considered to be last in the ordining. Such giant-kin include:
- Firbolg – Intellectual and nature-loving, firbolgs do not share many of the qualities of other giants who seek power, instead, they focus on friendship and community
- Fomorian – Giants that once tried to subjugate the Feywilds. For this, they were punished, their bodies contorted into horrendous disfigurements
- Ogres – Brutish creatures that are smaller than most giants, but still very large compared to most humanoids
- Verbeeg – Cunning giants that use subtler means to defeat their enemies
- Voadkyn – Once known as wood giants until their true lineage was discovered as not being related to Annam All-Father
- Cyclops – Brutish one-eyed giants
These giants are native to the South Eastern islands of Zakharan. These giants are not related in any way to Annam All-Father and came into being separately:
- Desert Giants – Nomadic giants that live in deserts. They have been afflicted by a curse that will eventually turn all their race to stone
- Jungle Giants – Skilled hunters that eat only meat and dwell in jungles
- Reef Giants – Aquatic giants that are skilled in foraging the ocean floor, often working as traders of the goods they find
- Island Giants – Beastial giants that hate everyone and everything, including each other
- Ogre Giants – Unintelligent giants that use their physicality to impose dominance over others
Some other giants are known to exist though their relationship to true giants is unknown so they do not fall under any specific category of giant:
- Eldritch Giants – Massive, even for giants, they have been granted arcane powers that still provides them great abilities despite their fall from power
- Death Giants – When the Netheril empire collapsed, some giants traded their souls for the power to survive, they are now known as death giants
- Sand Giants – Desert dwelling giants that are bound by a code of honour and discipline
Giants are intelligent, often more intelligent than humans, particularly in the case of true giants. While giants vary considerably between variations, one element in common is their adherence to the ordining, a social hierarchy that determines a giant’s positioning in their social structure based on various attributes deemed important to that giant type. Typically, all giants consider themselves to be superior to all other races, and their large, imposing size certainly helps them stake this claim.
Lineage to giants is also hugely important and they often find common ground in their relationship to one another (they are a very tribalistic culture after all). Typically, they will recite their lineage to one another upon meeting, tracing their lineage back to Annam All-Father, from whom true giants are descended (and would help establish their position in the ordining).
Giants have a different concept of good and evil from other humanoids. A good act is deemed to be one that brings honour to their deity or family. This might be an act of bravery such as combat. The consequences of such actions are unimportant, just the act of bravery itself. Evil on the other hand is considered to be an act of cowardice or betrayal to one’s own kind bringing disrespect on their family.
When it comes to deities, all giants revere Annam All-Father in the same manner that other races might revere a god. Each race of giants also has their own gods that might even vary from tribe to tribe.
Giants adhere rigidly to a social structure known as the ordning. Each type of giant has their own method of determining who in their group is the best and most important. For fire giants, it comes down to their ability to forge great weapons and armour, for hill giants, it’s their ability to eat profuse amounts of food. In each case, this determines who is in charge and an order of seniority.
The ordning also works between the different types of giants with certain giant types being considered more powerful than others and having seniority. If you were of a lower type of giant, even the highest ranking in the ordning of your type, was of lower status than the lowliest member of a higher ranking type of giant. In this way, all cloud giants are considered senior to all fire giants who are all considered senior to all hill giants and so on.
The ordning between giant types currently has the following order of seniority:
- Storm giant
- Cloud giant
- Fog giant
- Fire giant
- Frost giant
- Stone giant
- Mountain giant
- Hill giant
You can learn more about giants and the different types you might encounter in D&D by purchasing a copy of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.