The SRD contains ten giants cloud giant, ettin, fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, ogre, oni, stone giant, storm giant, and troll. Let’s review some of their best features:
- Cloud and storm giants are notable for innate magical abilities, while the oni can also cast spells in addition to changing their shape and regenerating lost hit points.
- The troll has a Regenerate feature (and a Perception-boosting Keen Smell that is more situational), though their aversion to fire and acid damage is so well-known these days that trolls don’t usually heal from fights with experienced adventurers.
- The stone giant has stone camouflage, which is ideal for alpine ambushes, and a rock-catching reaction that on its face seems more suited for encounters with other giants than with humanoid PCs.
- The ettin’s two heads makes them resilient to many conditions and difficult to sneak up on, though tricking the heads into argue with each other is always a satisfying conclusion to an ettin encounter.
These are all stand-out giants, but the rest are less mechanically distinct. All that differentiate the fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, and ogre from each other are ability scores and derived statistics (and in the case of fire and frost giants, immunities to fire and cold damage respectively).
Let Your Actions Do the Talking
So now we know who are big offenders are. The next step is to rehabilitate the fire giant, frost giant, hill giant, and ogre with unique features and actions. Let’s give each of these underdeveloped giants a special feature and an actionthat recharges on a d6 result to make them distinct and memorable.
While many fire giants focus on large-scale craftsmanship and war armaments, some of their kind lean into their elemental origins. Try these features to play up fiery themes.
Firewalk. For every 10 feet of movement spent, the fire giant leaves two campfire-sized fiery footprints in 5-foot square spaces diagonal to each other. The footprints blaze for 1 minute and give off dim light in a 10-foot radius. These effects end if the fire is extinguished. Any creature that starts its turn in or adjacent to a fiery footprint takes 11 (2d10) fire damage.
Tremor Wave (Recharge 5–6). The fire giant smashes the ground before it, summoning molten earth to the surface in a searing, tectonic wave. Each creature in a 30-foot cube originating from the fire giant must make a DC 14 Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 11 (2d10) bludgeoning and 11 (2d10) fire damage and is knocked prone and pushed back 10 feet. On a successful save, a creature takes half damage and isn’t knocked prone.
Encountering a frost giant should instill blood-chilling fear in an adventurer, yet nothing they do telegraphs wintry power. Apply the following features to frost giant stat blocks to reinforce how cool it is to fight a frost giant.
Bitterfrost Cyclone (1/Day). As an action, the frost giant whips up a bone-chilling cyclone that swirls around it for up to 10 minutes. The cyclone generates and repositions up to 3 feet of snow in a 15-foot radius that moves with the frost giant, creating difficult terrain for Large and smaller creatures. Additionally, the cyclone protects the frost giant from projectiles. All but the heaviest ranged weapon attacks targeting the frost giant are made at disadvantage. If the frost giant takes damage it must make a concentration check to maintain the cyclone. Otherwise, the cyclone lasts for the duration, until the frost giant is incapacitated, or until it spends a bonus action to end the effect.
Winter’s Breath (Recharge 5–6). The frost giant expels a puff of skin-numbing breath. Each creature in a 40-foot cone originating from the frost giant must make a DC 16 Constitution saving throw. On a failure, a creature takes 22 (4d10) cold damage and its movement speed is reduced by half. On a success, a creature takes half damage and its speed is not reduced. If a creature rolls a natural 1 on its saving throw, it is restrained in ice (escape DC 16).
Hill giants generally lead cruelly simple lives. While a well-fed hill giant is a witless fool with a low intellect, it still knows how to throw its weight around. Apply the following features to hill giant stat blocks to keep the encounter rolling.
Rebound. When the hill giant is knocked prone, roll a d6. On an even result, the hill giant bounces up to half its movement in the opposite direction of the last attack that hit it and lands prone in the nearest unoccupied space. This effect does not trigger attacks of opportunity.
Boulderous Slam (Recharge 5–6). The hill giant throws itself through the air, colliding with whatever is in its path. The hill giant moves up to 20 feet in a straight line and can move through the space of any Large or smaller creature. The first time it enters a target’s space during this move, that target must make a DC 15 Strength saving throw. On a failure, a target takes 22 (4d10) bludgeoning damage and is knocked prone. On a success, a creature takes half the damage and isn’t knocked prone. This action deals twice as much damage to structures that aren’t made of solid stone.
Ogres are always hungry, and their oversized appetites are a driving force in their decision-making. Apply the following features to an ogre stat block to give players an encounter to chew on.
Big Appetite. The ogre can use its bonus action to eat part of a Medium or smaller dead creature or up to 30 pounds of food in one big gulp. When it does so, it gains 10 temporary hit points that last for 1 minute. Additionally, it immediately recharges its Thunderous Belch action.
Thunderous Belch (Recharge 6). The ogre rips an ear-ringing burp that carries all the foul odor of its last meal. Each creature in a 20-foot cube originating from the ogre must make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. On a failed save, a creature takes 11 (2d10) thunder damage and is poisoned until the end of its next turn, sickened by the gross belch.
Check out the desert giant, flab giant, jotun, and more in the revised, funner-than-ever, Tome of Beasts 1 (2023)!