From 1d4chan
The original playable giant viking from 1e's Monster Manual 2.

Firbolgs are a race of giant-kin -- 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.

Original Mythology[edit]

The Firbolg (also spelled Fir Bolg or even Fir Bholg) are a race of humanoids from the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann, also known as the 'Book of the Conquest of Ireland' or the 'Book of Invasions'. This was a psuedo-historical account written in the 12th century by Irish clergy, explaining what they viewed as the history of Ireland. Unfortunately, we don't have the original Celtic mythology that this was likely based on, since the Druids refused to write anything down for religious reasons, instead keeping everything as an oral tradition. Since by the time of this writing, the druids had died out, we only have what the clergy had chosen to record. To make a long story short, there is not much written about the Fir Bolg, and what is written should be taken with a grain of salt. In the Book of Invasions, the Fir Bolg are described as the fourth people to inhabit Ireland. The first people to inhabit Ireland are wiped out by the Biblical flood (as you can see the Christians added some stuff to make it suit their own world-view), the second people was led by Partholàn, who battled against the Fomhoire (aka the Fomorians), and were eventually wiped out by a plague. Next came the children of Nemedh, who after doing a bunch of stuff were enslaved by the Fomhoire, tried to rebel, got almost wiped out, fled Ireland, before eventually returning and re-settling Ireland and becoming known as the Fir Bolg (there is more to this story, but listing all the other stuff going on in the story would take forever, so go read the Book of Invasions for yourself if you are curious). Then the Tuatha Dé Danann (these are almost certainly the original Irish gods, but since the story was written by Christians that part is never explicitly stated, and instead they are depicted as just regular humans who know magic) invade and after a number of battles, culminating in the First Battle of Magh Tuiredh, the Fir Bolg are conquered by the Tuatha Dé Danann. After this, the Fir Bolg pretty much drop out of the picture for the rest of the story. Note that the original Fir Bolgs are not giants, nor do they have any great magical powers; they are pretty much just regular humans, albeit badass ones. Goddess only knows why D&D decided to make them giants, it's not like D&D doesn't have enough of those already.

2e Firbolgs[edit]

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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]

Firbolg MCV2 2e.jpg

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]

Our first full-body picture, from the 2e Monstrous Manual.

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]

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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 Reflex 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]

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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?!

5e produced the watered-down, hippified, kinda-hobbit-like-but-less-cool, furry giants that the firbolg are supposed to be. It stands up there along with Corellon (remember that cool elf god who had two brides in Sehanine and Lolth?) as some of the most forget-the-cool-lore-and-lets-milk-some-groups-for-their-money-pretending-that-we-care-about-them acts made by WotC.

These firbolgs look like happy-go-lucky furry giants who live in the forest, eating "magical mushrooms" and apparently demonstrating formidable skills with weapons and druidic magic, even though they spend most of their time being hippies. Up yours and your vaunted logic, Mr. Spock.

These guys are PEHTA in SPA..!! I mean...IN THE FOREST! sharing with every animal in winter to ensure that they survive, cuz apparently they love the animals of wood like a lot. Like seriously love them. Maybe even marry them, but you didn't hear that from me. It doesn't say that in the book, but neither it says in Mordenkainen's Tome of WotC that 5e's Gruumsh is a stand-in for homophobics. So there is that.

Obviously, Firbolgs are innate druids. They are so in tune with nature -whatever the hell that means- that all firbolgs learn at least a couple of nature magic -whatever the hell that means- spells. The druids are usually the leaders among them, and as such being the case, Firbolgs would rather go hungry than strain the land during a famine. I guess they are so in tune with nature that straining the land for food its like cutting yourself for food or something like that. These guys would give Radaghast (the addict from the awful Hobbit movies, not the cool guy from the books) (bruh they weren’t that bad, watch the directors cut and realize that the higher ups want a trilogy, Jackson was kinda fucked.) a run for his money when it comes to living with nature and rabbits.

When they encounter a settlement near their forest, Firbols tend to be reasonable and cool, unless they perceive the guys like evil, in which case they strike and apparently win, even though they spend most of their time just being in the forest and eating mushrooms. I SAY GET OUT OF HERE, MR. SPOCK!

By the way Firbolgs are super-druidic-guardians of the wood with strong family bonds, meaning the few adventuring firbolgs there are, are surely special snowflakes whose clan was destroyed or they committed some foul deed, like killing a deer and eating it...and maybe, even, found it tasty (GASPH!) and like all snowflakes, they are loners and stuff. Otherwise, they might become nature crusaders, like the Avengers but with more salad. And then there is the even more special snowflake firbolg who is entrusted by their clan with some important mission. They must adventure into civilization where they become claustrophobic when inside any building with a roof...NO MATTER THE SIZE, NO SIR!

These are their traits. It is recommended, if you decide to play a Firbolg, to talk with your DM, keep the traits, forget all this crap and make the firbolgs like 4e's firbolgs. If you don't play Firbolg, but you encounter them in your adventures, and they are like 5e's firbolgs, kill them for good measure and send WoTC a letter detailing your good deeds. Have a nice day.

And remember, when it comes to 5e's lore, Mr. Spock has no place.

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.

For some reason, the player base interprets these guys as being cow people, a change many people attribute to Caduceus Clay's appearance in Critical Role. This mostly has to do with the fact that the canon 5e art of firbolgs gives them furry-adjacent ears and big, pink, triangular noses, which the character designer no doubt took to mean "these people are cows," and now everyone and their mother is running with it. You know, despite the fact that before this edition, firbolgs were literally just big guys, and have never been cow people.