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Shoulders of Giants: Giant Familiars

Shoulders of Giants: Giant Familiars

Humanoids and Giants agree, pets are pretty great. Whether it’s a housecat or a stronghold puma (both named Mr. Boots of course), a prized pig or a ghost boar, cultivating relationships with beasts is fulfilling no matter the size of your footprint.

For mages of all sorts, developing bonds with familiars is beneficial and widely practiced. Yet, we hardly ever see giant mages with familiars. Let’s fix that.

Giant Spellcasters

Our first big step towards giving exceptionally large spellslingers pets to command in battle is to determine which giants could feasibly use a spell like find familiar (since none of them actually have that spell on their spell lists).

For our purposes, we are excluding giants who have innate spellcasting. Their magic is inherent, not through study or practice.

A quick search through the SRD and Kobold Press’s own published works yields just two creatures of the giant subtype who are also spellcasters: the void giant (see Creature Codex) and the cave giant shaman (see Tome of Beasts 2). Not even a proper ogre mage to be found in the bunch. So before we go any further, let’s get an ogre mage on the board.

OGRE MAGE

Large giant, neutral evil
Armor Class 11 (14 with mage armor)
Hit Points 114 (12d12 + 36)
Speed 40 ft., (60 ft fly with fly)

STRDEXCONINTWISCHA
19 (+4)10 (+0)16 (+3)16 (+3)9 (−1)7 (−2)

Saving Throws Dex +3, Int +6
Skills Arcana +6, Perception +2
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common, Giant
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP) Proficiency Bonus +3

Spellcasting. The ogre mage is an 8th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence (save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). The ogre mage has the following wizard spells prepared:

Cantrips (at will): firebolt (2d10), mage hand, message, shocking grasp (2d8)
1st level (4 slots): burning hands, mage armor, magic missile, grease
2nd level (3 slots): misty step, shatter, web
3rd level (3 slots): counterspell, fly, lightning bolt 
4th level (2 slots): wall of fire

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The ogre mage makes two clubstaff attacks or one clubstaff attack and then casts a cantrip.

Clubstaff. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft, one target. Hit. 13 (2d8 + 4) bludgeoning damage.

The Tiny Problem with Find Familiar

Now that we know who our giant spellcasters are, we come to the not-so-little critters that serve them. We need to reset some rules, because Large and Huge size mages deserve proportionately sized familiars, yet find familiar doesn’t let you have anything bigger than an octopus as written. The cleanest way to break here is to give find familiar the following “At Higher Levels” addendum:

At Higher Levels. When you cast find familiar using a spell slot higher than 1st level, the CR of available creatures to choose from improves by 1 for each spell slot above 2nd. Your familiar’s CR cannot exceed half of your own caster level. Additionally, you cannot cast find familiar as a ritual for the purpose of gaining the service of a higher CR creature.

Is this game breaking? Probably. But so is the Deck of Many Things or giving every character a magic weapon that bypasses damage resistances of creatures within the first and second tier of play. That doesn’t stop any of us (me included). So roll with it, or at least keep this behind the GM’s screen.

For an easier encounter, don’t have giant familiars use their attack actions. If you want the encounter to be tougher, let giant familiars take actions as normal.

Of course, you also need to swap in the find familiar spell on your magical giant’s spell list. Or maybe they have a secret tome of deeper magic than what a typical giant might know.

On-Theme Familiars

So we have our wizardly giants and our patched familiar finding spell. But what animals would ogre mages, void giants, and cave giant shamans even want to serve them?

Here are a few suggestions, as well as the Special Trait a giant spellcaster would get while keeping one of these familiars in their service, in addition to all the benefits conferred by the find familiar spell.

Giant Badger. Burly, tenacious, and mean, giant spellcasters find a lot to appreciate here.

A giant spellcaster with a giant badger gets a Bloodied Rage trait, granting them advantage on melee attacks and resistance to bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage when they are reduced to half their HP. Additionally, all attacks made against them have advantage. This effect lasts for 1 minute or until their HP drop to zero. Afterward, they gain 1 level of exhaustion.

Consider giving this trait to your giant badgers as well. Other iterations of the game have given badgers a rage feature, and the current SRD stat block could use a little something special.

Giant Boar. A prized pig is nothing to snort at. They also make comfy pillows for giants to snuggle when “heroes” aren’t around.

A giant spellcaster gains their giant boar’s Relentless trait. Additionally, a giant boar’s giant master takes on a porcine appearance, growing impressive tusks that it can use in place of its standard melee weapon attack to deal 2d6 + Strength modifier slashing damage.

Giant Crab. Giant crabs are favored by cave giant shamans and void giants alike, for different reasons. The former appreciate their companionship in underground rivers and lakes while the latter recognizes the eldritch qualities inherent in crabs.

A giant spellcaster gains their giant crab’s Amphibious trait and a swim speed equal to their movement speed.

Giant Goat. All giants love goats. They love them as pets, food, livestock, and trade goods. A giant goat familiar is sure to be beleaguered by any other nearby giant that isn’t its master. Fortunately, giant goats are feisty.

A giant spellcaster gains their giant goat’s Sure-Footed trait. Additionally, every time they make a melee weapon attack, the targeted creature must succeed on a DC 13 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone.

Using the giant goat’s modifier here saves you some math but if you want to use your giant spellcaster’s own DC, add 8 to the attack bonus of their melee attack action.

Giant Spider. A favorite familiar for cave giant shamans and ogre mages, giant spiders have a delightful creep factor. Their webs can create all sorts of scenarios for clever mages to exploit.

A giant spellcaster gains their giant spider’s Spider Climb and Web Walker traits, allowing them to safely traverse a sticky lair.

Giant Vulture. Giant vultures are fragile, but they get along well with ogre mages and void giants, sharing a bent toward cruelty and malice.

A giant spellcaster gains their giant vulture’s Pack Tactics and Keen Sight and Smell traits, mean and uncomplicated.

Find giants and other big threats in the latest Kobold Press monster book, Tome of Beasts 3.
And speaking of The Next Big Thing, look at Tales of the Valiant on Kickstarter from now until June 23, 2023!

about Sebastian Rombach

We can neither confirm nor deny that Sebastian is actually three raccoons in a trenchcoat. His freelance contributions can be found in Tome of Beasts 2, Tome of Heroes, and more. You can roll dice with him at https://startplaying.games/gm/dontbreakthedm or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @dontbreakthedm.

5 thoughts on “Shoulders of Giants: Giant Familiars”

  1. Giant Familiars follow a grand tradition in fantasy art and lore. Funny how it took this long to come up with a nice idea for giving stronger magic users familiars of comparable strength.

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