Friday, July 29, 2022

#JULYGANTIC: Giant Lore & Giants


 Remember all those Legends & Lairs books that came out during Third Edition.  They did one on Giant Lore - let's see how much novelty and inspiration it holds!  Keep in mind that since this is from the d20 era, a good bit of it may be pretty easily compatible with 5e or any Pathfinder with a few tweaks.  More work required for OSR of course.

Dire frost troll, at your service.

The first chapter offers new giants.  The giant amazons, with their beguiling gaze, are suitably pulpy and a nice spin.  The half-ogre, half-hobgoblin brutigans don't do much for me, though.  Dire frost trolls at first seem like something you don't need separate stats for, but then they give them an interesting battle howl and some spell resistance (because they're from the dawn of time and stuff) and we start to see how we might want to use a monster.  Next are ghost giants, who aren't ghosts, but instead stealthy mercenaries with shadow powers.  Ninja giants, anybody?  If you're doing Shadowfell stuff, maybe these guys could play a role.  Glutton giants, self-explanatory.  Nightmare giants that literally puppet sleeping victims like marionettes hanging from their astral silver cords?  Now that's interesting.  Some variant trolls up next.  Finally the tinkerkin, who are giant crafters; I think this statblock makes more sense as a one-off faerie giant thing than yet another subspecies or caste of giants, but you could put one of these guys somewhere on a mountain hex and just let the magic happen.

This being 3e, the next chapter is templates for giants.  We get Avarice, Envy, Wrath, and Plague- all pretty interesting - and then rules for giant-kin lycanthropes.  There's a little templating subsystem for giant lycanthropes of course, but most intriguing are the sample ones they have statted out - the ogre were-rhino and the fire giant were-tyrannosaur in particular.  What if King Snurre turned into a tyrannosaur mid-combat?  One of the templates in this chapter is "troll-blooded", which is painfully 3e.  Why do we need an entire template for this instead of just saying "this giant regenerates at rate x"?  I guess because they add a rending attack.  This one fails the "wow I wouldn't have thought of that" test hard.  Regardless, if you know you're running a lot of giants - especially if they're mostly the same type - maybe a look at this template chapter will provide some variation to keep your players from yawning.  This is followed by a chapter of prestige classes (thankfully they're for giants and don't rehash giant-hunting), which will serve the same purpose for our 3.x friends.

Do all the Legends & Lairs have art this dope?

The feats chapter which follows is full of some pretty standard attempts at specializing giants, but it might serve to inspire.  Of interest is the optional "hammerfall" attack which giants may perform, hurling themselves forward to crush smaller creatures.  We are given details and cost for armor for Large and larger creatures, which could come in handy.  Next up are some spells which...well, other than true enlarge, have nothing to do with giants.

The magic items have more giant flavor to them for sure.  There are giant drums, some weapons, and a cloak which turns a giant into a waterfall.  That's very cool, and there's your encounter right there in the item description.

Dang it, the last chapter is about prestige classes for people who aren't giants.  We get a giant slayer (of course), and the more interesting giant-seed, who emulates a particular kind of giant.  Feats are provided here as well.

As someone who isn't going to use a good chunk of this book, I have to say the parts I do find intriguing - the new monsters, the magic items, the templates and general inspiration - are probably worth the five bucks this pdf costs.  If you're planning a giant-focused campaign - and we've been talking about several of them on the blog this month - dropping the five bucks for these inspirations is probably worth it, even if you're running a pre-d20 version of D&D.  Now I'm wondering if any of the other Legends & Lairs are worth it...

Wizard in the corner has some serious B/X vibes.


Back in the 80s Mayfair Games gave us the "Role Aids" series of AD&D-compatible supplements; Giants is not only all about giants, but designed to accompany a series of Grenadier miniatures.  I remember the Role Aids ads in Dragon magazine - Lich Lords in particular - but the only one I ever owned was one of the monster books.

Giant magic is to be feared!

The work begins with an origin story for the giant races involving Titans, runemagic, and other concepts you've seen before, but mixed in a nice way.  It features not only a unified giant society at one point (like we see in Faerun's Ostoria), but also a fairly recent giant civil war, which is pretty intriguing, and the idea of fire giant vs frost giant (and various allies on both sides) makes good mythic sense.  There's a good section about giant biology, and information on giant society in general (including their pets). Finally, we're introduced to giant magic in the form of runecasting as well as the giant's curse.  Throughout, Giants keeps its subjects mythical and magical.  The first section of the book is rounded out by note on giant weaponry, and using giants as player characters (!).

Then we get into the giants by type!  Each subsection follows the same pattern - we get a description of the giant type, stats, a map of a lair, stats for pets and companions, and appropriate magic items and hooks.  Not too shabby.

The Titans are shining Hellenic good guys, as per the Monster Manual, with pet sphinxes and shedu.

The warped Chaos Giants get a random feature generator, lots of background (because these aren't standard AD&D giants I guess), spells, items.  One of their typical spells calls nearby creatures of chaos, which could be a neat encounter.

The Dwarven Giant seems a strange concept at first, but they could fill an interesting role in your campaign.  They are Lawful, dwarflike in temperament, and often friendly to small-folk.  Plus they have pet xorn!

Just your friendly neighborhood dwarven giant!

The Fire Giants here are pretty standard, although the bonus pets (lava snakes!) are cool.  

Forest Giants are huge druid/ranger types, with all the tropes that entails.  Giant squirrels, tree-shepherds, the whole nine yards.

Frost Giants, too, hew close to their Monster Manual origins, although in the Giants telling of things, the Frost Giants are the progenitors of some of these variant species.  One of the magic items here turns a giant into a snow-shark that can swim through snow and ice; that's pretty keen, but I think I'd want to just give that power to some frost giants were-snow-sharks and see where it takes us.

You want to do a 'cattle raid of Cooley' gimmick with gorgons?  Could be very cool...

The Hill Giants in this book have as their pets giant weasels and a kind of small tyrannosaur (which hunts in packs), and they use gorgons as beasts of burden.  The Sea and Stone giants deliver some minor variation from what you'd expect (the Stone giants in this book keep strange cats in their caverns).  Here the Storm giants are the offspring of Chaos and Frost.  We also get a writeup on Two-Headed Giants, primitive and dangerous.

The last giant is the Death Giant, of which there is only one, though he has many avatars.  He's basically the grim reaper for giants, or the Black Racer if you know your Fourth World.  The last connection between the giants scattered around the multiverse and their plane of origin.

Next up we have a section detailing the city of Clanfast, where giants come together to trade and have council.  I don't think I've seen "mixed city of giants" written up before in a product.  Lots of info and potential encounters here, especially in the part of the city where the dreams of the Titans take material form.  There's an underworld, too, of course.

Mayfair's Giants is pretty interesting.  If you're looking for a substantially-different take on giants, this book will certainly provide that.  The couple novel giant types are interesting, as are the surprising twists on a few of them.  The lair maps might come in handy, too.

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