Firbolg

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Firbolgs are a race of giant-kin -- that is, giants who aren't big enough to be "proper" giants, but still bigger than humans -- introduced in the Monster Manual 2 for the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and have managed to sneak into every edition since.

In general, they're described as neutral-with-good leanings, being a reclusive and fairly reasonable race of giants. They look very human, essentially appearing as 10ft tall Irish Celts, probably because their name is taken from a race of mythical, magical giants in Irish Celtic folklore. Perhaps because of this, 4th edition tweaked them into a race of fae giants who worship a Maiden/Mother/Crone trinity (Sehanine, Melora and The Raven Queen respectively) and who engage in the Wild Hunt. 5e kind of watered them down pretty badly, earning many complaints that they now resembled the Voadkyn more than they did their original selves.

They have the distinct honor of being one of the few giant-kin races that have actually been traditionally playable, if always hindered by the rules -- for example, the 3.5 Firbolg had a Level Adjustment of +18, showcasing just how ridiculous that mechanic could get. Playable versions of the Firbolg appeared in the Book of Monstrous Humanoids (AD&D), the Monster Manual 2 (3.5) and Volo's Guide to Monsters (5e).

They should not be confused with the Furbolgs from World of Warcraft, who are large, nature-loving bear-people.

2e Firbolgs[edit]

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The original playable giant viking!

Firbolgs actually had two entirely separate batches of lore in this edition. The first was their "generic" D&D fluff, which could be found in the Monstrous Manual and in the Complete Book of Humanoids, and the second was their fluff for the Forgotten Realms, which appeared in Giantcraft.

Generic AD&D Firbolgs[edit]

Of all the giant-kin, the firbolg is the most powerful, due to natural intelligence and considerable magical power. Firbolgs appear to be normal humans, except that they are over 10 feet tall and weigh over 800 pounds. They wear their hair long and keep great, thick beards. Their skin is a normal fleshy pink, with any shade of hair color, although blonde and red are most common. The flesh and skin of firbolgs are unusually dense and tough. Their voices are a smooth, deep bass, thick with rolling consonants.

Firbolgs are cautious and crafty. They have learned to distrust and fear humans and demihumans. If possible they avoid an encounter, either by hiding or with deception. If forced to fight, they do so with great strategy, utilizing the terrain and situation to best effect. They operate as a group, not a collection of individuals. Ten percent of all encounters is a large group of 4d4 members en route to an enclave of some sort.

Firbolgs live in remote forests and hills. These giant-kin distrust most other civilized races, and stay well away from them. They keep on even terms with druids and the faerie creatures, including elves, neither asking nor giving much, but avoiding insult or injury. Strangers are met with caution, frequently in illusionary disguise as one of their own race. They do not attack or kill without reason, but do enjoy pranks, particularly those that relieve strangers of treasure.

Firbolg society is close-knit and centered around the family or clan. Each clan has 4d4 members and frequently a shaman. The level of the shaman is determined by rolling 2d4-1 if the DM doesn’t wish to choose it himself. The clans live apart from each other, existing as gatherers and sometimes nomads. Their homes are huge, single-storey, wooden houses with stout walls and a central fireplace opening in several directions in the common room. When great decisions are needed, the clans involved meet in an enclave. This happens at least once a year at the fall solstice, just to celebrate if nothing else. The shamans preside over these events, and settle any disputes between clans.

Firbolgs live off the land and with it. Their homes are built from trees cleared from around the house. The clan does keep a field for harvest, but only enough to supplement their diet. They trade tasks involving great strength for food, usually with other peaceful folk in the forests or hills. The rest of their food is obtained by gathering and hunting an area up to 20 miles from their homestead. Meat is used in small quantities for most meals, although major celebrations always include a large roast of some sort.

Although many creatures are capable of killing a firbolg, none hunt them exclusively. They are stronger than most forest beasts, and intelligent creatures know better than to mess with them. They avoid true giants, except storm giants, and aggressively repel other giant-kin from their lands.

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 14/19, Dexterity 8/15, Constitution 12/18, Intelligence 8/18, Wisdom 8/18, Charisma 3/14
Ability Score Adjustments: +2 Strength, -2 Charisma
Can only be a Fighter (max level 12) or a Shaman (max level 7)
+13 hit points at 1st level
Natural AC of 3
Gain spell like abilities in response to levelling up. All Firbolgs gain Detect Magic at 3rd level, Diminution at 5th level, Fool's Gold at 7th level and Alter Self at 9th level. Firbolg Shamans also get 2 random Illusion spells as SLAs each level; 1st level spells at levels 1-5 and 2nd level spells on levels 6 and 7.
Can wield two-handed human weapons in one hand
Can wield Large-scaled two-handed weapons
So long as they have at least one hand free, they can try to deflect incoming missiles by rolling a D20; a 6+ harmlessly deflects the missile. A firbolg can deflect two missiles per round.
Large missiles like thrown boulders or catapult shots can be caught and then thrown back with a -2 attack roll penalty.
15% Magic Resistance, even against benevolent spells.
Cannot wear armor or use shields
Firbolg Fighters double the XP needed to gain a level, whilst Firbolg shamans triple the requisite XP.
Weapon Proficiencies: Club, Halberd (Human and Giant-Kin), Two-Handed Sword (Human and Giant-Kin)
Non-Weapon Proficiencies: Agriculture, animal handling, animal training, blacksmithing, cooking, eating, gaming, herbalism, hunting, intimidation, reading/writing, set snares, weaponsmithing, weather sense.

Forgotten Realms AD&D Firbolgs[edit]

Firbolgs are the most intelligent of the kin. Of all the various giant races, only the firbolgs reject the concept of ordning. Instead, they value free will over all, and the restrictions of rank have no place in their clannish societies. In fact, firbolgs pioneered a crude form of democracy known as "the cast". Whenever a decision affecting the clan is necessary, a call goes out to all able members of the tribe to assemble and vote on the issue. To cast their ballots, the firbolgs use flat rocks engraved with their own personal runes. The actual casting of the stones differs from area to area and clan to clan, with some clans throwing the stones into holes dug in the ground and others simply holding the stones over their heads when called to vote. In a large firbolg settlement located in the Cold Mountains, there is said to exist a 50-foot-tall balance scale that the firbolgs use to dramatically display the results of a cast. The kin of this steading vote by placing their stones upon one of the huge pans on either side of the scale, with the heavier side winning the issue.

The Code[edit]

Long ago, the firbolgs developed a stringent code of conduct that governs their actions. Although the code is obviously thousands of years old, its exact origins are now obscured by the mists of time. At the heart of the code is the idea that individuals should be judged based upon their actions rather than upon their birth; to the firbolgs, people's deeds are the truth of their being. Another of the code's important concepts is the idea that the individual is nothing without society, and the preservation of society must be of the highest priority of all individuals. Every firbolg clan reacts differently to the code, but all see it as vital to their survival and elevation. Most firbolgs keep the code to themselves, believing it is virtuous to simply live the code rather than preach it. Merely talking about deeds and philosophies rather than living them is sometimes looked upon as a form of cowardice.

A firbolg who breaks the code faces grave retribution. Minor transgressions might be settled by spending a period of time as a slave to the tribe. Major transgressions inevitably require banishment. Of course, few of these penalties are ever necessary since the code is so indelibly ingrained into most firbolgs from birth that few could even think of straying.

Most firbolg clans require their members to carry the code with them in a written form. For example, the members of one clan (the Kappebror) write copies of the code on fine parchment and seal them in amulets they wear around their necks, while another (the Helligbror) tattoo the code upon their chests in red dye, and yet another (the Kriggabror) etch the words upon finely made bracers they swear never to remove.

The Firbolg Code (in the original): Prakt, Strev, Rang, glang byrd. (Bravery, Effort, and Honor over birth.)

This dictum illustrates the firbolgs' disdain for the concept of ordning and all it represents. To the firbolgs, actions make the individual.

Also, firbolgs see the honor and mettle of an individual as representative of the honor and mettle of a tribe. This is why the concept of bravery is so important to them. If observers should notice a firbolg acting weak or cowardly, they would probably assume the firbolg's entire clan to be weak and cowardly, perhaps prompting an attack on the clan. The firbolgs believe that the only way to avoid unnecessary wars and battles is to convince all observers that all firbolgs are fiercely brave and capable.

Stomm rang glang du. (The tribe's honor above your honor.)

The whole of the clan is more important than an individual member. To honor the tribe or clan, the firbolg must do great deeds and, when given praise, explain that the deed would have been impossible if not for the support, education, and resources of the clan. This provision has also been interpreted to mean that the will of the individual is secondary to the will of the clan. Some renegade firbolgs contend that this is not the case, and that the will of the individual is more important than the will of the clan.

Blod ettin er blod kong. (The blood of a runt is the blood of a king.)

This provision reminds the firbolgs to treat all intelligent creatures equally. Just as Hartkiller was a runt himself, so may the lowest beggar be elevated to the throne.

Gi tusen val nul. (Give one thousand for nothing.)

Firbolgs prize charity as a virtue, though they feel that any charitable act is nullified if the recipient is aware of the contributor's identity. The act itself is the virtue, not the glory associated with the act. Allowing oneself to take credit for a virtuous action opens the spirit to harm. For that reason, while gregarious with friends, most firbolgs are quiet in public, not wishing to call attention to their often heroic deeds.

Trut zund stommpaart. (Truth is the honor of the tribe).

Much of firbolg society is built around a backbone of truthful communication. Without such communication, the firbolgs believe their entire society will topple. As a consequence, firbolgs don't lie, by either omission or commission. In fact, a firbolg who lies breaks out in a cold sweat; his voice cracks, his limbs tremble. The very act of dissembling causes great physical discomfort.

Firbolg Settlements[edit]

Most of the countless clans of firbolgs have created settlements of their own, away from the giants, in remote regions of Faerûn These settlements generally prove inhospitable to visitors since the firbolgs tend to distrust outsiders. After time, however, the firbolgs tend to warm toward any individuals of a good alignment whom they consider honorable (that is, individuals who wittingly or unwittingly tend to follow the dictums of the code).

Most firbolg clans build their settlements amidst low rolling hills or thick forests. Such settlements usually consist of a collection of grand wooden halls with thatched roofs built among a series of defensive catwalks and observation towers. Always attuned to their environment (though not nearly so much as the voadkyn), firbolgs usually know visitors are approaching their encampment as long as two days before they arrive.

In the Spires, a few firbolgs have chosen to live among Hartsvale's humans, who extend them a great deal more hospitality than the giants of the region. Although most of these firbolgs still operate as "loners" by human standards (many are forest guides and independent scouts in the king's army), a few have truly urbanized. One particularly extroverted firbolg now owns and operates an inn that lies along the main trail connecting Hartwick and the Ice Spires.

Giantcraft Firbolg Stats[edit]

Understandably, alternative AD&D stats for Firbolgs appeared in the Forgotten Realms splatbook "FOR7: Giantcraft". Whilst there were some similarities to the Complete Book of Humanoids version, there were also a number of differences...

Ability Score Minimum/Maximum: Strength 15/20, Dexterity 8/15, Constitution 12/18, Intelligence 8/18, Wisdom 8/18, Charisma 3/14
Ability Score Adjustments: +2 Strength, -2 Charisma
Racial Class & Level Limits: Fighter 1, Ranger 1, Runecaster 7, Shaman 6, Thief 7
+13 hit points at 1st level
Natural AC of 3
Can wield two-handed human weapons in one hand
Cannot wear armor or use shields
Weapon Proficiencies: Club, Giant-Kin Weapons, Two-Handed Sword
Non-Weapon Proficiencies: Agriculture, animal handling, animal training, blacksmithing, cooking, eating, gaming, herbalism, hunting, intimidation, reading/writing, set snares, weaponsmithing, weather sense.

3e Firbolgs[edit]

3e's take on the classic image; a little less polished, but you can see where it's coming from.

Firbolgs are reclusive giants who tend to avoid contact with humanoid races and even other kinds of giants. Unlike some of the more brutish giantkin, firbolgs do not depend heavily on raiding for subsistence, nor do they rely solely on force to resolve problems. A firbolg looks like a 10-foot-tall human and weighs more than 800 pounds. Its skin is a fleshy pink color, and it can have hair of almost any shade, although blond and red are the most common. A firbolg of either gender wears its hair long, and the typical male sports a great, thick beard.

Firbolgs speak Giant and Common.

Firbolgs are both cautious and crafty. They have learned to distrust and fear the “civilized” races, such as humans and elves. If possible, they avoid encounters with humanoids altogether, either by hiding or by deception. If forced to fight, firbolgs employ effective combat strategy, using the terrain and situation to best effect. They always operate as a team, not as a collection of individuals.

Firbolgs usually live in well-fortified colonies, either in the depths of the forest or in cavern complexes dug into hillsides. All firbolg settlements are protected by guard towers. These creatures live primarily by hunting and gathering, but each colony also practices simple agriculture.

As mentioned above, these Firbolgs got an absolutely insane Level Adjustment, mostly due to their ridiculously high stat boosts.

Ability Score Modifiers: +26 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +12 Constitution, +4 Intelligence, +4 Wisdom, +4 Charisma
Size: Large
Racial Type: Giant
Rock Throwing (Ex): +1 racial bonus to attack rolls with rocks.
Spell-Like Abilities: Alter Self, Detect Magic, Feeblmind, Know Direction, all 1/day
Trample (Ex)
Fast Healing (Ex): 3 hitpoints regained each round.
Rock Catching (Ex): Once per round, a firbolg that is aware of an attack being made against it by throwing a rock or similar projectile can attempt to catch it by making a Dexterity save based on the projectile's size (Small: 15, Medium: 20, Large: 25) plus any enchantment bonus to the attack roll. On a successful roll, the firbolg catches the rock.

4e Firbolgs[edit]

Mythic-Punk NeoPagan Monster-Hunting Giants... and they say 4e had no cool ideas!

Large, fierce humanoids of the Feywild, firbolgs live for the hunt. They value independence, courage, and the middle ground between good and evil. They are agents of destiny, death, and the unforgiving wild.

Firbolgs are hunters of the Feywild, the creators and keepers of the Wild Hunt. Small settlements dot firbolg territory in the deep wilderness of the Feywild, perched on precarious heights, dangerous terrain, or floating motes of rock for greater defensibility.

Firbolg society is made up of clans led by the mightiest warriors, usually masters of the Wild Hunt. Clan and family ties are strong among firbolgs. Arcana DC 25: The firbolgs’ religion is centered on three deities: the Maiden (Sehanine), the Mother (Melora), and the Crone (the Raven Queen). As a people, they follow the Maiden’s demands that they walk a middle road between good and evil.

Firbolg priests, who are usually female, are called moon seers and are treated with great respect. Seers and elite warriors dedicated to the deities wear masks or helmets that cover their features.

Firbolgs love trophies and treasure, but they value other creatures’ promises more than wealth. Firbolgs call a hunt to pursue oath breakers. It is said that a dark ritual can be used to call firbolgs to the world to hunt one who has broken a vow made to the ritual’s performer or those the performer represents.

Firbolgs respect strength and forthrightness, endurance and skill. Numerous firbolgs serve other fey and mighty nonfey. They also allow others to join in Wild Hunts, which often include firbolg hounders, hunters, and moon seers. The most frightful Wild Hunts are composed of all sorts of fey led by a master of the Wild Hunt and his hounds.

5e Firbolgs[edit]

Seriously, how did we go from the 4e version to this?!

Firbolg tribes cloister in remote forest strongholds, preferring to spend their days in quiet harmony with the woods. When provoked, firbolgs demonstrate formidable skills with weapons and druidic magic.

Firbolgs love nothing more than a peaceful day spent among the trees of an old forest. They see forests as sacred places, representing the heart of the world and monuments to the durability of life. In their role as caretakers, firbolgs live off the land while striving to remain in balance with nature. Their methods reflect common sense and remarkable resourcefulness. During a bountiful summer, they store away excess nuts, fruit, and berries. When winter arrives, they scatter everything they can spare to ensure the animals of the wood survive until springtime. In a firbolg's eyes, there is no greater fault than greed. The firbolgs believe that the world remains healthiest when each creature takes only what it needs. Material goods, especially precious gems and gold, have little appeal to them. What use are such things when winter lingers and food runs short?

Firbolgs have a talent for druidic magic. Their cultural reverence for nature, combined with their strong and insightful minds, makes learning such magic an instinctive part of their development. Almost every firbolg learns a few spells, typically those used to mask their presence, and many go on to master nature magic.

Firbolgs who become druids serve as stronghold leaders. With every action the tribe takes, the druids weigh not only the group's needs, but the effect each action will have on the forest and the rest of the natural world. Firbolg tribes would rather go hungry than strain the land during a famine.

As caretakers of the land, firbolgs prefer to remain out of sight and out of mind. They don't try to dominate nature, but rather seek to ensure that it prospers and survives according to its own laws.

Firbolgs use their magic to keep their presence in a forest secret. This approach allows them to avoid the politics and struggles of elves, humans, and orcs. Such events concern the firbolgs only when the events affect the forest.

Even in the face of an intrusion, firbolgs prefer a subtle, gentle approach to prevent damage to their territory. They employ their magic to make the forest an unappealing place to explore by temporarily diverting springs, driving away game, stealing critical tools, and altering trails to leave hunting or lumber parties hopelessly lost. The firbolgs' presence is marked by an absence of animals and a strange quiet, as if the forest wishes to avoid attracting attention to itself. The faster travelers decide to move on, the better.

If these tactics fail, the firbolgs take more direct action. Their observations of a settlement determine what happens next. If the outsiders seem peaceful, the firbolgs approach and gently ask them to leave, even offering food and other supplies to aid their departure. If those who insist on remaining respect nature, take only what they need, and live in harmony with the wood, firbolgs explore the possibility of friendship with them, as long as the outsiders vow to safeguard the forest. If the settlers clearly display evil intentions, however, the firbolgs martial their strength and magic for a single overwhelming attack.

As guardians of the wood, few firbolgs would dream of leaving their homes or attempting to fit into human society. An exiled firbolg, or one whose clan has been destroyed, might not have a choice in the matter. Most adventuring firbolgs fall into this latter category. Outcast firbolgs can never return home. They committed some unforgivable deed, usually something that put their homeland at risk, such as starting a forest fire or killing a rare or beautiful wild creature. These firbolgs are loners who wander the world in hope of finding a new place to call home.

Orphaned firbolgs are those whose clans or homelands have been destroyed. They become crusaders for nature, seeking to avenge their loss and prevent the further destruction of the natural world.

A few rare firbolgs are entrusted by their clan with an important mission that takes them beyond their homes. These firbolgs feel like pilgrims in a strange land, and usually they wish only to complete their quests and return home as quickly as possible.

Ability Score Modifier: +2 Wisdom, +1 Strength
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 feet
Vision: Normal
Firbolg Magic: Can cast Detect Magic and Disguise Self once per short rest. Disguise Self can make the firbolg look up to 3 feet shorter.
Hidden Step: Can become invisible as a bonus action once per short rest. Invisibility ends if you attack, make a damage roll or force someone to make a saving throw.
Powerful Build: Treat size as 1 step larger for carrying, pushing, dragging and lifting.
Speech of Beast and Leaf: Can talk to animals and plants.
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