Excerpts Archive | 5/12/2008
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Excerpts: Giants
4th Edition Monster Manual

In today’s preview, we look at 4th Edition’s giants, with R&D’s Jennifer Clarke Wilkes offering the following introduction to their backstory:


As a staple of fantasy, giants are instantly recognizable to any player: big, often brutish creatures that look like people, wielding enormous clubs or axes. They make great opponents at any tier of play, and we naturally wanted to keep them in 4th Edition.

However, giants as a group had some problems. Many giants of previous editions suffered from being too similar to each other. Hill giants and stone giants, for example, behaved almost identically in combat and differed only in Armor Class and Intelligence (stone giant elders were a rare exception.) Yet at the same time, giants as a whole had little in common other than being good at throwing and catching rocks, and carrying around sacks filled with random junk. That’s just not enough to hang an entire creature type on.

Later Monster Manuals introduced more interesting kinds of giants, such as the death giant, wrapped in captive souls, and the eldritch giant, a highly intelligent being that could use magic items and spells to devastating effect. The fantastic qualities of such giants made them more distinctive and challenging opponents. As part of the overall 4th Edition design philosophy, we took the best of those ideas to give giants more variety. At the same time, we decided to emphasize the more supernatural aspects of giants as a unifying factor.

The new cosmology, rooted in a great war between the primordial first creators and the gods, offered a way to incorporate giants into the setting. Many existing giants already embodied elemental forces, such as stone, fire, and wind. The natural next step was to make them into elemental beings, the first creatures shaped by the primordials to assist them in their work. This approach actually returned giants to their Classical roots as creatures embodying natural forces. In keeping with that ancestry, titans also became an elemental race, precursors to and creators of the lesser giants. Now a titan isn’t just a big dude with a ton of spell-like powers, but a powerful leader whose nature is closely tied to an element or kind of energy.

Having been forged in the Elemental Chaos, giants moved into other worlds. The fall of the primordials drove their creations into the planes, where they adapted to local conditions and became less closely tied to their origins. Some giants built mighty empires in the world, enslaving the dwarves in so doing. By adding this backstory to dwarves in the implied setting of the game, we were able to provide some roleplaying hooks for that race, as well as better define the roles of elemental dwarflike creatures in the setting, most notably galeb duhr and azers.

A few, such as the death giants, embody their adopted planes more than the elements—but that heritage lives on, along with their memories of ancient power and empire. When the primordials stir, giants are naturally drawn to their side in order to fight once more for control of creation.

Giants are hulking humanoid creatures with fundamental ties to the world, be that bedrock, uncontrollable fires, raging storms, or inevitable death. The first giants were massive titans of fire and frost, storm and stone. These giants labored under primordial lords to shape the newly forming world.

In the eons since the first days, giants have multiplied and moved on, finding places to call their own in planes beyond the Elemental Chaos, including the Shadowfell and the Feywild, and even in the realm of their masters’ deific foes, the Astral Sea. However, giants prefer the world their labor helped create, and giants of every variety can be found upon it. Indeed, when the primordials retreated from the world, one of the first empires of that dawn era was one created by giants, and their slaves were the children of Moradin. But those heady days are long vanished.

Giants and titans tend to lair in extreme environments, including scrublands, mountain peaks, volcanic calderas, and searing deserts. These brutal landscapes remind giants of the Elemental Chaos where their ancestors first drew breath.

Giants as a whole answer to no particular overlord or higher power, nor are they known to cooperate among themselves. Indeed, giant clans often make war each other, though no one except giants know why they fight. However, should ever an imprisoned or lost primordial return to the world, giants of the lineage once loyal to it would obey that ancient one’s command.

Giants have marshaled just so in past primordial awakenings. Giants have long memories and longer oral histories, and most clans await the day they can renew their claim on the world in service to an unstoppable primordial entity.
--Jennifer Clarke Wilkes






Earth Giant

Creatures of stone and rock, earth giants are mean, uncouth, territorial monsters that often enslave smaller, weaker creatures.

Earth giants live in mountainside caves, as well as valleys, rocky barrens, canyons, and foothills.

Hill Giant
Level 13 Brute
Large natural humanoid (giant)
XP 800
Initiative +5 Senses Perception +7
HP 159; Bloodied 79
AC 25; Fortitude 27, Reflex 21, Will 23
Speed 8
Melee Greatclub (standard; at-will) Weapon
Reach 2; +15 vs. AC; 1d10 + 5 damage.
Melee Sweeping Club (standard; encounter) Weapon
The hill giant makes a greatclub attack against two Medium or smaller targets; on a hit, the target is pushed 2 squares and knocked prone.
Ranged Hurl Rock (standard; at-will)
Ranged 8/16; +15 vs. AC; 2d6 + 5 damage.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages Giant
Skills Athletics +16
Str 21 (+11)
Dex 8 (+5)
Wis 12 (+7)
Con 19 (+10)
Int 7 (+4)
Cha 9 (+5)
Equipment hide armor, greatclub

Hill Giant Tactics

A hill giant hurls rocks at opponents until they close to melee range, at which point it switches to using its greatclub. As soon as two smaller targets come within reach, the giant uses sweeping club to knock them prone. A hill giant is wise enough to flee if hopelessly outmatched.

Earth Titan
Level 16 Elite Brute
Huge elemental humanoid (earth, giant)
XP 2,800
Initiative +7Senses Perception +9
HP 384; Bloodied 192
AC 31; Fortitude 33, Reflex 27, Will 28
Immune petrification
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6
Action Points 1
Melee Slam (standard; at-will)
Reach 3; +20 vs. AC; 2d10 + 6 damage.
Melee Double Attack (standard; at-will)
The earth titan makes two slam attacks.
Ranged Hurl Rock (standard; at-will)
Ranged 20; +18 vs. Reflex; 2d8 + 6 damage, and the target is dazed (save ends).
Close Burst Earth Shock (standard; encounter)
Close burst 2; +18 vs. Fortitude; 2d10 + 6 damage, and the target is stunned until the end of the earth titan’s next turn. Miss: Half damage, and the target is not stunned.
Alignment Chaotic evil
Languages Giant, Primordial
Skills Athletics +19
Str 23 (+14)
Dex 8 (+7)
Wis 12 (+9)
Con 22 (+14)
Int 11 (+8)
Cha 13 (+9)

Earth Titan Tactics

An earth titan hurls rocks at foes until they close to melee, at which point it pounds them with its stony fists, spending its action point to use earth shock. Unlike their hill giants cousins, earth titans stand their ground even when faced with a losing battle.

Earth Giant Lore

A character knows the following information with a successful Arcana check.

DC 20: Earth giants are the most brutish of giantkind. They inhabit badlands, deserts, and canyons, though lesser earth giants (such as hill giants) often gather in high mountain valleys and along mountain passes.

DC 25: Many of the dwarves who were enslaved by the earth giants were transformed as galeb duhrs. Some of them continue to serve earth giants, while others escaped and view giants (and earth giants in particular) as bitter enemies.

Encounter Groups

Earth giants associate with other giants, as well as with galeb duhrs and other monstrous and savage humanoids.

Level 13 Encounter (XP 4,000)

  • 3 hill giants (level 13 brute)
  • 1 displacer beast packlord (level 13 elite skirmisher)

Level 17 Encounter (XP 7,800)

  • 1 earth titan (level 16 elite brute)
  • 2 hill giants (level 13 brute)
  • 2 war trolls (level 14 soldier)
  • 4 ogre bludgeoneers (level 16 minion)


Be sure to return Wednesday for a look at the economy!
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