Ecology of the Frost Giant
Varstel leaned his shoulder against the tavern door and used his thin frame to push it closed as the howling wind blew against him and the cold snow hit his face. Pulling his hood down and knocking the snow from his robes he looked around the small room. The fire burned brightly in the hearth and its welcome warmth began to remove the chill from his bones. He began to notice all eyes of the dozen or so people in the room were on him. He began to feel a little unnerved at the steely gaze of these men and women hardened by life on the edge of civilization. Likely they did not see many wizards or scholars, and the ones they did see they probably did not trust.
Clearing his throat and trying to sound nonchalant he said “I am looking for a man, a ranger, who goes by the name of Rydin. I have made arrangements to meet him here.”
The heads in the crowd turned to stare at the back corner of the room furthest from the fire. There at a table was a figure that could have been mistaken for some great beast. The figure rose and turned to face the mage. It was a man, a large man wearing a long thick cloak and boots of bear skin and armor made of hides. “I am the one you seek city dweller.” The man said.
Varstel looked the man over. He was well over six foot tall and had to weight over two hundred pounds. The thick hides covered a massive frame, he was more than twice as wide as Varstel and it was easy to see it was hard earned muscle and not fat that made up his thick frame. His hair hung to his shoulders and was thick and tangled, as was his long curly beard. His skin had a leathery appearance, and was still slightly tanned even though it was the middle of winter. A red scar ran across one cheek to the corner of his mouth and one eye was milky white. Varstel made his way over to the man as the rest of tavern turned and went back about their business. Reaching the table Varstel sat in the chair opposite the rough looking ranger, it was then he noticed the intense stare the man was giving him. Goose bumps rose on Varstel’s arms and he swallowed hard, it was the kind of gaze predators give heir prey just before they pounce.
“It was a long journey to find you Rydin, I have been traveling for nearly two weeks and last night just before we reached the outpost the storm hit us unexpectedly.” The mage said nervously.
“Unexpected? I have been expecting this storm for more than a week.” The ranger said derisively. “What is it that brings you all the way from your walled city to speak with me.”
“Upon exhaustive inquiry it was determined you would be the most knowledgeable person in the kingdom to speak with on the subject of frost giants, and the king insisted I gather as much information as I could as quickly as I could.” The mage said wringing his hands.
The ranger stopped the cup of grog half way to his lips at the mention of frost giants. He set it down on the table and leaned forward his eyes wide and lips turned into a snarl “And what would the king want information on frost giants for” Rydin asked angrily.
Varstel shrunk back into his chair under the angry blaze in the weathered rangers eyes “There have been some attacks on caravans and raids of small villages in the east. From the descriptions given by survivors we have determined frost giants responsible.”
The ranger leaned back in his chair and his face relaxed “Well I guess I know as much as any man about the vile bastards. Eighteen years ago they killed my best friend, and I spent fifteen years leading expeditions to wipe them out. There were once three clans in this region and we killed off the last of them three winters ago. There shouldn’t be any frost giants within two hundred miles of here, so if a new problem has sprung up in the east then it’s because a clan was driven from its traditional territory. Never minding where they came from though, what is it you want to know.”
Varstel licked his dry lips and motioned for the barmaid to bring two drinks.
“We want to know how they think, what their objectives are, how to find them, and the best way to stop them.” Rydin looked at the slender mage for a moment and burst into laughter, the sound of it boomed through the small tavern and made the barmaid nearly spill the drinks she was delivering. Rydin took a long pull of ale and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “I was just picturing you city dwellers going after a clan of frosties with your silk robes and pillows under your bottoms as you ride your horses.” Varstel bristled at the insult, but held his tongue. This certainly wasn’t the place or person he wanted to start trouble with.
Shifting his huge frame to get more comfortable Rydin looked seriously at the slender mage. “As to how they think, they think they are your better. Normally they consider humans little more than an annoyance. However if they have recently been displaced from their territory by humans or demi-humans and are looking for a new place to settle then they will not ignore you, in fact they will simply try to destroy you.”
Varstel narrowed his eyes “Do you mean they would not try to destroy us if they had not been displaced?” The ranger shrugged “Maybe, maybe not, frosties are unpredictable. One day they may treat a group of humans they stumble across as their most dire enemy, the next day they may simply treat them like play things. Regardless an encounter with them will never be good, you just don’t normally know how bad. As for their objective, well it’s to establish new territory.”1
“So the raiding of villages, slaughtering cattle and people, destruction of entire caravans is about territory?” The mage asked.
“Yes, normally an established clan would raid the caravan kill those who stood against them and care less about those who flee. They would take anything they found useful and move on. When raiding a village they would take animals and crops they wanted for food and leave he rest for later. They would not perform wholesale slaughter since that would leave them nothing for future pillaging, but when establishing their territory they are testing you. They are seeing how far out they can plunder to the most extreme and receive little to no resistance. They will do this in every direction from their homestead, frosties like to have a fifty mile radius of complete control over any race in the area, human or not.”2
Varstel reached into his robe and pulls forth a book and quill with ink and began to scribe notes as Rydin watched with a wry smile. “You can also expect to find them in large numbers.”
The mage looked up “I thought they lived in small family groups.”
The grizzled ranger nodded “Normally they do. A clan is made up of several families all under the lead of the Jarl. Each family will have their homestead and control a certain amount of area for the clan. The full clan will meet once a year for celebration and to swear loyalty to the clan Jarl. However when displaced and looking for new territory the clan stays together for strength. Until their new territory is established they will not break apart into family controlled areas.”3
Varstel turned pale at this news “then I guess the king will need to raise more cavalry for this quest.”
Rydin smiled a large smile revealing several missing teeth “You think the giants are gonna line up and meet you for a fight on some open field? If you want to fight them you’re gonna have to do it on their terms. They aren’t gonna march around like some army, they will be moving in raiding groups. You’ll never know when or where they will strike, and in weather like this during the winter, you most likely won’t see them coming till it’s too late.”4
“Then what is the best way to fight them?” the mage asked.
“Find out where they lair and infiltrate. A small group who knows what they’re doing can do more damage than an army of mounted knights trying a frontal assault. Remember each giant is its own catapult with the way they can throw boulders. The group that attempts to infiltrate will need to beware as frosties often have those blasted winter wolves as guards, they also could have weaker humanoids in the area as servants.”
“And how do we find them?”
“Scout the area looking for signs of their movement. They do not bother to cover their tracks, but in the winter the snow does the job for them so you will have to be quick to respond. Frosties tend to like keeps, castles, or some kind of fortified structure. They also like caverns, but since there are no mountains to contain caverns large enough in the east I would look for old abandoned fortresses they could be using.”
Varstel scribbled furiously “What else can you tell me?”
“In the lair you’re going to encounter not just the males but the females and young as well. Don’t overlook them, the females and young can crush a man with ease. The males tend to use weapons they have forged on their own, while the woman and young tend to use smaller weapons. Their craftsmanship is often crude but the weapons are effective. They like to use axes and spears and even swords that are twice as large as what us humans use, and with their great strength a single blow will kill most men.5 If you are going to take some mages along make sure they don’t bother with any cold type spells, frosties are immune to even magical cold. Sometimes they will even have subdued a white dragon and forced it into service. Of course if they have been displaced it’s unlikely this group has a white dragon with them”6
Varstel finished his writing and closed his book. Taking a sip of the potent ale he gagged just a bit as he looked at the ranger and with his most authoritative voice said. “Thank you for the information, now just one last thing. By order of the king you are to return with me to the capital where you will be leading the expedition to drive these giants from the eastern territory.”
The tavern went quiet as everyone looked expectantly at Rydin, after a minute of silence a broad smile broke across the gruff mans face and he let forth a deep laugh. “I have sworn a pledge to protect the people of the north, people your king has never even laid eyes on. I will be staying here fulfilling my pledge, and you will not be leaving for several days either as this blizzard is not going to pass quickly.” Draining his ale the ranger stood and pulled his fur cloak tightly around his shoulders.
“But…but the king…” Varstel objected.
“Tell your king if he wants my assistance he can travel here and ask himself.” Rydin said as he snapped his fingers and turned, heading for the door.
Varstel sat at a loss for words, and watched as the ranger pushed open the door and trudged into the whirling snow and darkness. He was so shocked at the blatant dismissal of the king’s order that he did not notice all eyes had once again turned to him.
1. Because of there chaotic nature, typically no two encounters with frost giants will be the same. Sometimes they may attempt to destroy any intruders, other times hey may try to strong arm them into performing a task or paying them tribute. If however the frost giants have recently suffered an attack or are survivors that have been driven from their lair, they will attack first as a matter of course.
2. When raiding a human, demi-human, or humanoid settlement frost giant’s typically take what they need and keep destruction to a relative low level so they can return to pillage again at a later time. When establishing new territory however the frost giants tend to destroy the majority of the settlement leaving little behind. This is in order to see how far they can go before meeting strong resistance. Human and demi-human settlements within the frost giant area of control will normally have to pay tribute to the giants in order to keep their raiding to a minimum, and small humanoid tribes, not strong enough to resist the giants, will typically serve them as both servants and troops.
3. Frost Giants typically lair as individuals or family groups of 1-8 giants, however each of these families are members of a larger clan. Every frost giant within a 50 mile radius are members of the same clan and each family is responsible for a specific amount of territory. Once per year at the winter solstice the clan will gather for celebration, the month leading up to this is normally a time of increased raids and plundering. If the giant clan has been driven from their territory and are trying to establish new territory, they will not break up the clan until they are certain the have gained control of the area. At that time the jarl will assign each family a certain amount of territory to control.
4. When outdoors in the snow frost giants have a 4 in 6 chance of surprising opponents.
5. An alternate way to determine frost giant damage is to add strength bonus of +9 to weapon damage. Frost giant weapons do two times the damage of a comparable human weapon. As an example a frost giant battle axe would do 2-16 +9 for strength for a total of 11-25. Female and juvenile frost giants use standard size human weapons adding a strength damage bonus of +8 for females and +6 for juveniles.
6. There is a 10% chance that a frost giant clan has subdued a white dragon of adult or old in age, this dragon will be kept near the lair of the clan Jarl.
The Looking Glass
The following is a new item I will be introducing in a new module that should be published soon.
Ring of Understanding XP: 500 GP Value: 1,500
This plain copper band acts similar to a Comprehend Languages spell. Allowing the wearer to understand a foreign spoken or written language as long he is touching the object that is to be read, or the creature speaking. The ring does not however allow the user to speak or write the language in question.