Ecology of the Hill Giant
“Here he comes” I said as I handed the spying glass to captain Vance.
The captain took the instrument from my hand and held it up to his eye “The reports were right, the thing is as tall as two men put together”1 he said as the creature moved from among the trees at the top of the hill and towards the horse and wagon.
It wore a tunic that appeared to be made out of multiple bear skins and carried a large tree branch in its right hand. Its skin was brown in color and its hair was a black as coal. It looked much like a burly human who had been magically doubled in height and width, and it stood at least 10 feet tall if an inch and must have weighted upwards of 500 pounds.
“It seems the ploy of the horse and wagon has worked Formor. Perhaps the beast is as dumb as you predicted, and perhaps you are not entirely useless after all.” the captain said snapping me out of my fixation on the creature.
Duke Reyas had sent me here as an advisor to help the town guard with their raiding problem. It seems a giant has been attacking caravans and stealing their contents. Looking for an opportunity I answered an ad for an expert on humanoids and their behavior. Once I arrived at the small town I began to regret that decision. The towns forces consisted of 10 spearmen and 15 archers led by the ever present captain Vance a man of great self importance. Upon arrival I was immediately grilled by the captain on what magical assistance I could provide, when I informed him I was in fact a simple scholar learned in the ways of humanoids and not a wizard his demeanor turned frighteningly cold. It was evident the good captain had little use for book learning, never the less I was able to interview one of the travelers who had survived an encounter with the creature, and from the description it was easy enough to identify it as a hill giant. The captain was less than impressed when I informed him I knew of the creature and its mannerisms and habits. “Will knowing this allow you to create a ball of fire or bolt of lightning to use against the beast? No, then what good is it?”
I told the captain what I knew of these giants “They are of a very clannish nature, and often you will find them dwelling in small groups of males or even an individual male. If there are more than you can count on one hand then it will tend to be a family unit that includes females and their young. While not as powerful as the males even the female and young can be ferocious when cornered. Oddly enough single females or small groups of just females are not known to be encountered.” 2
“Fine, fine” the captain said dismissing my report “but what use is that information to me. The reports we have received are of a single one of these giants attacking caravans traveling to town. I need to know how to kill it, not how it lives and reproduces.”
I looked down as I shuffled my feet nervously “This particular race of giants is known for their low intelligence and brutish demeanor, although they have been known to be devious at times. They are also known for their great greed and impulsive behavior. Setting an ambush for a solitary creature should not be difficult.” 3
“Go on.” The captain said leaning forward.
“Well if the giant is attacking and raiding caravans why don’t we give him what he wants. Abandon a wagon and horses, and when he comes to raid it ambush him with hidden troops.”
“Finally something sensible comes from your mouth. Sergeant take a squad and find a suitable ambush position.” With that the captain began making his plans and informed me I would be coming along as well.
The giant approached the wagon with club raised. It stopped and looked around when about 15 feet away, seemingly surprised at seeing no fleeing humans or meeting no resistance. After a minute it seemed satisfied enough as it continued towards the wagon. Just before it reached its target the sergeant blew on his horn. From behind a ridge to the east his 15 longbow men stood and began firing volleys of arrows at the creature. The giant bellowed as much as in shock as in pain when the arrows began landing. Many missed him but other seemed to hit their mark, another volley flew and the giant seemed to shake off its surprise at this unexpected attack and brushed at the arrows protruding from its chest. I noticed many of the shafts simply shook away revealing that many we believed had injured the creature had never fully penetrated the thick hide it wore. He had not escaped uninjured however as there were arrows visibly sticking from its arms, legs, and upper chest.
Another volley flew as the giant bounded toward the archers. The archers had positioned themselves on the other side of a small ravine that was nearly 20 feet across, the thought was this would slow the giant down as he would have to work his way around it. Imagine our shock when instead the creature leapt through the air and landed on the other side. 4 There was a gasp from the sergeant as he fumbled for his horn and blew it twice more. At this sound the archers began to quickly retreat from the on rushing giant and the captains spearmen rushed out from behind their hiding spots of a string of boulders.
The spearmen had been placed between the archer’s position and the ravine. If the giant had survived the arrow fire as it made its way around the ravine, then it would surely be weak enough for the spearmen to finish off. At least that was the plan, as it turned out by leaping the ravine the giant was not in as near bad of shape as we had hoped. The spearmen rushed forward bravely towards the giant, and as they met him they trust their spears forward. Some were caught up in the thick hide of the giant’s tunic while some others found home in its dark flesh. 5 The giant howled in pain as it swung its great club at one of the men. The terrible sound it made when it connected was almost like a clap of thunder 6. From our position not far from where the bowmen had relocated I could see the mans neck disappear as it was driven into his torso, the bent mangled helmet the only thing holding the semblance of a head perched atop his chest. The men bravely continued to trust their spears at the creature, some able to strike a solid blow but only against non vital areas. Again and again the giant swung it club each time smashing one of the men into oblivion killing him as sure as if he had fallen head first of a cliff. I looked at the captain, with half his spearmen dead and the giant still on its feet I could see panic starting to set in.
“Blow the horn” the captain demanded looking at the sergeant.
“But sir, the spearmen are in the line of fire”
“Blow it I said” the captain yelled.
The sergeant blew the horn once again and the bowmen prepared to fire.
The men drew their longbows and let their arrows fly. There was a cry of surprise and pain as the arrows fell among the remaining spearmen and giant. The spearmen still standing, broke for the cover of the boulders. The giant, wounded and bloody, looked towards the bowman. He must have realized he was too weakened to reach them as he turned to flee back the way he had come. Fortunately, or unfortunately if you were the giant, he wasn’t able to make it far. As the giant turned the arrows continued to rain down piercing his back. Staggering the giant fell to his knees, and as the arrows continued to fall the giant collapsed onto the ground unmoving.
Blowing the horn twice more the sergeant stopped the barrage of arrows. Moving forward he called the three remaining spearmen to him, and they cautiously moved forward towards the giant. As they got close the spearmen jammed their spears into the unmoving creature to be sure he was in fact dead. When the giant continued to lay unmoving a cheer rose from the soldiers.
Beaming the captain recovered his horse and rode towards the gathering.
“Great job men, you executed my brilliant plan well. Now we must build a contraption to pull this beast back to town. We have to show the commoners we have defeated the threat.”
I watched as the men set about building a large stretcher out of canvas and poles from the wagon when the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. I quickly looked around but saw nothing strange. It took the three spearmen and five of the bowmen to lift and carry the giant’s corpse as we began the three hour trek back to the village. After about forty five minutes of travel the road ran into a valley between two rocky hills, the hair on my neck rose once again and I felt as if I was being watched. It was then that the large boulder crashed into the bowmen trailing behind the stretcher. The captain’s horse reared in panic as a second boulder crashed into the spearmen lugging the giant. A third and fourth boulder quickly followed crashing into the soldiers as they screamed in pain. Looking up I saw at the top of each hill a giant, they were reaching for more small boulders and I froze as they once again let them fly. The sound of bones snapping shook me from my initial shock. I looked ahead and saw a third giant move from behind some boulders to block the road, and behind us an ogre had appeared from hiding and he released a pack of the largest wolves I have ever seen. 7
The sergeant called orders to try and regroup the remaining soldiers as the captain drew his sword and charged the giant ahead of us. I watched as a grotesque grin split the giants face and it raised its massive club with both hands. As the captain reached striking distance the behemoth swung with all of its brute strength. The club connected with the charging captain and blew him from his mount. He flew at least fifteen feet through the air before landing in a twisted crumpled heap.
The sergeant had finally rallied the soldiers as the two giants along the ridge began making their way down to the road. As they began to lose their arrows I quickly ran a short way up the rocky hillside among the boulders looking for a hiding place. I cringed as I heard the screams of the men as the giants and wolves reached them. That’s when I noticed that beneath one of the largest boulders was a small space. Shaking I began squeezing myself underneath. I was half way through when my robes got caught on the rock. I exhaled and pulled with all my might, my robes ripped and the rock cut into the skin of my back but I did not even notice. The space underneath led to a pocket between this boulder and another, almost like a small cave. For what felt like an eternity I listened to the screams of the soldiers. Eventually the screams stopped, I then heard the sound of movement and muffled voices from around my position. I held my breath and shut my eyes, not even daring to breath. There was shouting from the direction of the road and the footsteps outside of my hiding spot moved away quickly. I leaned my head against the boulder and let my mind slip away as exhaustion over took me.
I don’t know how long I slept, three or four hours perhaps, when I woke up sore and my back burning from the wounds. I managed to squeeze myself back from underneath the boulder and carefully made my way back to the road. There the mangled bodies of the soldiers had been looted of anything useful, I also noticed that the body of the hill giant was gone. The looting was so thorough I could not even find a water skin to wet my parched mouth. Wearily I began the long trek towards the village, snapping my head around at every sound waiting for the boulder that would smash my bones. Either the giants did not know I survived or they didn’t care, because my remaining journey was uninterrupted.
As I approached the village I could see smoke billowing from the horizon. When I got closer I could see it was actually several columns of smoke intermingling. I walked into the village to find only devastation. Bodies lay bloody and broken, homes and shops were destroyed and many set ablaze. The footprints of the giants were so obvious even I could see them everywhere. A few survivors emerged from the wreckage to tell me the farmers outside of town had seen the giants coming and went to warn the others. Many of the villagers fled into the country side, mostly women and children, while many of the men stayed behind to try and defend their homes. The giants along with their ogre and wolf followers quickly overpowered the untrained villagers and slaughtered many of them before the rest broke and ran. The remaining villager informed me they slew but the single ogre before running for their lives and the giants set about looting and destroying their homes and shops.
“And I swear Duke Reyes that is exactly what happened” Formor said wincing as the physician applied the herbs to the wounds on his back.
The Duke scowled as his advisor finished relating his story. “This will not do at all. While I am loath to send my own forces to deal with this issue. If these beasts continue to destroy the villages and kill the villagers then who will pay me my tribute?”
Scratching his beard the duke called to his sergeant at arms. “Prepare 40 men to march on the morn, and you Formor you must be prepared as well.”
“Me my liege? I have relayed all I know, I don’t see of what use….” The advisor let his words trail off at the flash of anger from the Duke’s eyes, he was after all not known as a man of compassion.
“Very well my liege” Formor said as he stood and gave a slight bow.
I wonder if any of the lords in the neighboring kingdom are looking for advisors he wondered as he headed to his quarters.
1. Hill Giants have a varied range of height much like humans and demi-humans with Hill Giants ranging from 10 – 12 feet in height on average.
2. Females and young will not be encountered outside of the lair. Females should do damage of weapon type +3 for strength and young giants should do weapon type +1 for strength.
3. While not of high intellect Hill Giants are very devious, sneaky, and love to set traps. When in an outdoor setting they have a 3 in 6 chance of surprising an opponent. They also go berserk when they are surprised and for 1-3 rounds after being surprised they will rush headlong towards their attacker.
4. A Hill Giant running full speed can leap as far as twice its height in distance.
5. Hill Giants tend to create simple forms of protection by layering together several cured animal hides. This results in a thick loose coat that can tangle weapons that strike it. Any piercing weapon striking a Hill Giant has a 15% chance of getting tangled and it will take 1 full round to untangle it.
6. An alternative way to determine Hill Giant damage is to use weapon type plus strength bonus. A typical Hill Giant size club does damage equal to a morning star, they can also use any human sized two handed weapon with one hand. Damage would be by weapon type +7 for strength bonus. This keeps the listed damage near the same upper end, but greatly increases the minimum damage. For instance a typical Hill Giant with a large club would do 2-8 + 7 or 9-15 as opposed to the 2-16 listed. A Hill Giant who acquired a two handed sword would do 1-10 + 7 or 8-17 etc.
7. Hill Giants who have dire wolves as guards have an additional 20% chance of having a single ogre who serves as the wolf’s primary handler.
The Looking Glass
This week I am including one of the one shot elemental staves from my upcoming module.
Fire and Forget Staff (Smoke)
This is a magical cedar staff that has been enchanted to hold a Shadow Monsters spell. When the command word is spoken, the spell is cast at the 12th level of ability. After the spell is cast the staff becomes a normal quarter staff and cannot be recharged. These staves are usable by any spell casting class including rangers and paladins who have reached the appropriate level to memorize and cast spells.