Article Header Image
They Might Be Giants
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

I have two more Greek creatures to talk about: the cyclops and the titan. The titan actually takes us from Greek myth to something more purely D&D, and from there we'll look at one more D&D giant, the ettin.

First, a linguistic note. Cyclops is a Greek word, literally meaning "round-eyed." Its correct Anglicized Greek plural is cyclopes, but at least some dictionaries also list cyclops as an acceptable plural, and it's the one that I think is most natural in English speech. So for now, at least, we'll use cyclops in the singular and plural.


Huge Giant
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Hills

Cyclops are giants that should be encountered at medium level (somewhere around levels 8–12; they're not firmly established in D&D lore). Like the cyclops in the Odyssey, they mostly keep to themselves and want to be left alone—they live in caves in the mountains and raise herds of sheep. They live near each other, but not together. They're not inherently destructive, but they capture slaves and herds from people who live too close. The best way to deal with a cyclops is to trick it—only a fool fights one, because when it gets angry it brings the beatdown.

Cyclops have high Strengths scores and low Wisdom scores. They're good at melee attacks but not so much at ranged attacks—they can throw boulders like other giants, and hit hard when they hit, but their accuracy is poor.

There's nothing in here that says they're enslaved by fomorians in the Feywild—but there's also nothing that says they can't be. Again, we're aiming for an inclusive approach. When we talk about the Feywild in actual products, I think we'll most likely include the idea of subterranean fomorian kingdoms with cyclops servitors, because I think that's a strong (and popular) addition to D&D lore about the fey. But as I said in my column about fey, I don't want to assume that the Feywild is an important part of any given DM's game, so we need to make sure that cyclops have a good story apart from the Feywild as well.

That inclusivity applies to their statistics as well, by the way. As they currently appear in the playtest Bestiary, the basic cyclops is a dirt-simple beater, but the entry includes an optional evil eye power that reflects the creatures' capabilities in 4th Edition.


Huge Giant Alignment: Any chaotic (by individual)
Level: High
Environment: Any wilderness or planar

Titans are not true giants, but they are closely related to both giants and their gods. Titans are demigods, usually offspring of one of the giant gods and sharing some characteristics of their divine parent. Some titans (particularly those with the blood of Stronmaus or Annam in their veins) are noble, beautiful creatures of towering size and godlike intellect. Others are raging elemental monsters, such as the offspring of Surtr whose hair and beard are made of living flame and whose blood is molten rock. Each titan is unique, but all of them are more powerful than the strongest storm giant. They are often mercurial, even whimsical, but prone to violent fits of temper.

This approach to titans, by the way, allows us to keep both the godlike titan of early editions of D&D and the elemental creatures of 4th Edition in the game as titans. Here are three examples of titans, created purely as examples, for playtest purposes.

Paverus the Sky Titan. Paverus is a noble and mighty titan of chaotic good alignment, and he dwells in an enormous temple-palace atop a mountain that rises high above the Great Glacier of the far north. He is at the high end of Huge (nearly 30 feet tall) but otherwise appears as a handsome, muscular man draped in fine, flowing robes of rich blue. He wields an enormous maul in combat, which he can use to shatter castle walls or topple towers, not just to smash smaller opponents. He can wreathe his maul in crackling lightning with a word, and a blow from the weapon unleashes a deafening crack of thunder that can stun all nearby creatures.

A titan of the sky, Paverus can fly, control winds and weather, and summon elemental air creatures. He is friends with storm giants and good cloud giants, silver dragons, and djinn. He is unharmed by cold, lightning, or thunder. He can use chain lightning and create waves of thunder with a stamp of his foot or a clap of his hands to send nearby creatures careening away. A word from his lips can charm an enemy (charm monster) or stop a rampaging beast in its tracks (hold monster). He is immune to weapon damage except from magic weapons, and he has magic resistance.

Paverus's ability scores are godlike. He is stronger than a storm giant, and his Charisma score is about as high, but his other ability scores are equally impressive.

Karrith the Destroyer. Karrith is a warlike titan of chaotic neutral alignment, and she wanders the multiverse in search of battles worthy of her strength, where she joins the losing side in an effort to turn the tide. Sometimes she wanders off when her side has gained the upper hand, and sometimes she switches to the other side to ensure that the battle drags on. She is Huge (between 25 and 30 feet tall) and looks like a steel-skinned giant with enormous muscles, draped in mismatched pieces of heavy armor assembled from various sources (most of them never intended to be armor). She bristles with weapons of all sorts, sized for her use and kept in pristine condition (in contrast to her armor). She is an expert warrior and strikes with devastating effect, cleaving through masses of foes.

Karrith is a titan of war, and she has a variety of special abilities related to that specialty. She can create a blade barrier and set any number of weapons around her to attack on their own, as if they were dancing weapons. She can strike terror into enemy forces and rally the most demoralized allies. Her commands must be obeyed (suggestion or dominate monster), and she can teleport or travel the planes at will. Karrith cannot be surprised and opponents' attacks against her never have advantage. She is immune to weapon damage except from magic weapons, and she has magic resistance.

Karrith's ability scores are godlike. She is stronger than a storm giant, and her Constitution and Charisma scores are both nearly as high, but all her ability scores are worthy of a healthy respect.

Skurdan Surtrson the Fire Titan. Skurdan is a fiery titan of chaotic evil alignment who dwells deep in the volcanic heart of the world. He is Huge (about 25 feet tall) and built like a fire giant, but lava flows in his veins and glows through his obsidian skin, and his bright red hair and beard dissolve into everburning flame at the ends. He wields a greatsword made of fire and hurls viscous lava at his foes.

As a titan of fire, Skurdan has a variety of powers related to fire and lava. With a roar, he can send a ring of fire billowing out from around him, blasting enemies back and burning them. He can create a fire storm or a meteor swarm, and he causes spouts of lava to erupt under his enemies' feet. He can briefly transform himself into pure fire, becoming insubstantial but setting anything he touches (or passes through) ablaze. He is immune to fire and to weapon damage except from magic weapons, and he has magic resistance.

Skurdan's ability scores are godlike. He is stronger than a storm giant, and his Constitution score is nearly as high.


Large Giant
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level: Medium
Environment: Hills and wasteland

Ettins are two-headed giants of Large size (about 13 feet tall). They are a corrupt and degenerate offshoot of the giant races, and they are brutal and savage even compared to hill giants. Their facial features have a distinct orcish cast, and they are as ill-tempered and violent as orcs are.

An ettin's two heads define most of its relevant features. It is difficult to surprise, because at least one of its heads is typically alert (they can sleep at different times), and it might also be difficult to stun, charm, or otherwise afflict with mental conditions. It fights with two weapons, with one head controlling each arm independently of the other.

Ettins have thick, filthy hides, and they wear minimal, if any, armor. They are solitary, living in remote, rocky areas and violently crushing any intruders who venture into their territories. They place little value on treasure, but they occasionally use treasure they acquire to secure the services of orcs or similar creatures to help them defend and extend their territory. They sometimes use cave bears as pets and guards. They have Strength scores comparable to a hill giant, but they're barely smarter than ogres.

What Do You Think?

How did we do this week?

  Cyclops aren’t exactly iconic D&D creatures, but how well does the cyclops described here fit with your sense of the creature?  
1—Cyclops don’t belong in D&D at all.
2—This doesn’t match my sense of D&D lore.
3—I can see a cyclops, but not very well.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a cyclops.
5—It is a perfect vision.

  And how well does the titan described here match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature of past and current editions?  
1—It’s a lame attempt to fuse two different stories.
2—This doesn’t match my sense of D&D lore.
3—I can see a titan, towering above the trees in the distance.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a titan.
5—It is nearly divine, like the titans themselves.

  And how well does the ettin described here match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?  
1—It makes as much sense as a giant with two heads.
2—This doesn’t match my sense of D&D lore.
3—I can see ettin from here, but with double vision.
4—Yeah, I recognize that as an ettin.
5—Two-headed perfection!

As always, please leave specific thoughts in the comments.

Previous Poll Results

How well does the centaur described here match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
1—It's a horse-man, not a centaur. 25 2.1%
2—Ugh. I need better than this. 97 8.2%
3—I can see centaur from here. 185 15.5%
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a centaur. 533 44.8%
5—I would enjoy its tutelage. 350 29.4%
Total 1190 100.0%

And how well does the satyr described here match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
1—It's a goat-man, not a satyr. 8 0.7%
2—Ugh. I need better than this. 40 3.4%
3—I can see satyr from here. 143 12.3%
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a satyr. 560 48.2%
5—It makes me want to dance. 410 35.3%
Total 1161 100.0%

And how well does the harpy described here match with your sense of the iconic D&D creature?
1—It's a bird-woman, not a harpy. 30 2.6%
2—Ugh. I need better than this. 62 5.4%
3—I can see harpy from here, but I can't hear its song. 201 17.6%
4—Yeah, I recognize that as a harpy. 585 51.3%
5—Its siren song lures me in! 262 23.0%
Total 1140 100.0%

Male harpies? Male nymphs and dryads? Female satyrs?
No. Stick with the myths and D&D lore. 1063 81.5%
Yes. The game should reflect the changing times. 242 18.5%
Total 1305 100.0%

Does my refinement to the minotaur make the race description better, worse, or the same?
1—Worse now than it was before. 67 5.7%
2—The same, and I didn't like it before. 107 9.0%
3—The same, but I was happy with it before. 225 19.0%
4—Better, but not quite there yet. 348 29.4%
5—Better, and it's just about right. 436 36.9%
Total 1183 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
There are no comments yet for this article (or rating). Be the first!