Hailing from Dungeons & Dragons setting of Spelljammer, the giff are... well, how do we put this? Take an anthropomorphic hippopotamus, and then make him a parody of "Age of Sail" British army officers, with not a lot of imagination and a childish fixation upon ridiculously ostentatious military garb. Toss in an absolutely insane obsession with gunpowder weaponry, and you more or less have the giff in a nutshell.
The giff are unusual amongst the more combat focused racial-cultures in D&D in that they aren't so much about fighting for its own sake as they are a culture of mercenaries. Giff believe that everything has a purpose, and the giff's purpose is to obey orders. Their society is structured like a giant, somewhat overcomplicated (again, British army sterotypes) military unit system, and the entire race wanders Wildspace selling their services as mercenaries to anyone willing to pay them in the stuff they find useful - preferably food, gear and (above all) gunpowder (no, really, their entry in the Monstrous Manual says you can hire them with dakka. Presumably, more than they'll use in the encounter in question, but maybe not even that ... they are certainly focused, we'll give them that.)
That's not to say they don't also enjoy brawling for its own sake, because they do; giff love to prove their strength, and with their tough hides and sheer sturdiness consider brawling to be a friendly activity. That said, don't ever pull a weapon during a giff brawl; in the giff culture, weapons are drawn only for real fights, so if you draw a knife, you've immediately changed the mood from "friendly dust-up" to "death match" and the giff will respond accordingly. (This is generally good advice in most non-hippo-man brawls, by the by.) Weapons permeate their culture; not only are they status symbols and de facto currency, but also adulthood in Giff culture is defined as when you will be able to survive a misfiring arquebus.
Giff are found throughout Wildspace, going wherever the mercenary work takes them, and rarely if ever forming permanent colonies on any planet. Nobody knows what happened to the giff homeworld, although the most common belief is that they blew it up by accident and were saved by the Arcane. Considering that one of the few giff-made spelljammers is the Great Bombard, which is basically a giant fucking cannon with a ship attached to it (yes you read that right, not a ship with a cannon attached to it, a CANNON with a SHIP attached to it) that is just big enough to fly that cannon around, and that most spelljamming takes place in the Phlogiston, where the atmosphere is highly explosive, you can see why people find this easy to believe.
As comical as they may look, and they certainly aren't the brightest, giff are not something to tangle with. Like real hippos, they're incredibly strong and tough; in AD&D, the Monster Manual version of these guys had the same strength as hill giants, who were nearly twice their height. Even in later editions, they're still quite dangerous to fuck with. In 5e they scoff at your medieval stasis and will quite happily gun you down with muskets, blow you up with grenades (doing almost fire ball levels of damage) or trample you if you get too close.
Giff are not the same thing as Gith. Trust us, we know they sound alike, but they have nothing in common.
According to their expanded 5e lore from Unearthed Arcana, there is a softcore civil war in giff society over whether their race name is pronounced with a "Hard G" ("guh-iff") or a "Soft G" ("jiff"), which mostly just serves as an excuse for brawls.
Stats for the Giff first appeared in the sourcebook "The Complete Spacefarer's Handbook", alongside all of the other iconic Spelljammer races. There, they had the following profile:
- Ability Score Range: Strength 11/18, Dexterity 3/17, Constitution 8/18, Intelligence 3/16, Wisdom 3/17, Charisma 3/18
- Ability Score Modifiers: +2 Strength, -1 Intelligence
- Class & Level Limits: 15th level Fighter or 10th level Thief
- Inherently Nonmagical: Can never become a Priest or a Mage, cannot use Spelljamming Helms, 10% resistance to spells, 10% chance each time use is attempted that a magical item that is not a weapon, shield, armor, gauntlet, girdle or specifically intended for the giff's class will not function.
- Melee & Missile Weapons use the damage from the "L" column when they hit a giff.
- Giff triple the price of armor, as it must be custom made to fit them.
- Natural AC is 6, which a shield can lower to 5; when wearing armor, apply the lower AC.
- Can headbutt as a melee attack, which inflicts 2d6 damage.
3.5 stats for the giff officially appeared in issue #339 of Dragon Magazine, with the following profile:
- Strength +8, Constitution +4, Intelligence -2, Wisdom -4
- Base land speed 30 feet
- Racial Hit Dice: 2d8 Hit Dice, Base Attack Bonus +1, Fortitude Save +0, Reflex Save +3, Will Save +3
- Racial Skills: 5 * (2 + Int modifier) skill points, class skills are Intimidate, Jump, Knowledge (Local), Listen, Spot and Swim.
- Powerful Build: Can be treated as being one size category larger when it is advantageous to be larger.
- Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Firearms
- Level Adjustment: +3
5th edition finally saw them return as an Unearthed Arcana race in October 2021. Being a post-Tasha's race, they have no ability score modifiers, and being a UA race, they also break the mold of racial traits established in more mainstream books.
- Creature Type. You are a Humanoid.
- Size. You are Medium.
- Speed. Your walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a swimming speed equal to your walking speed.
- Damage Dealer. Like a hippopotamus in a crystalware shop, you are naturally adept at damaging things. When you roll a 1 on a damage die for a melee attack, you can reroll the die and use the new roll. You can do so no more than once per turn.
- Hippo Build. You have advantage on Strength-based ability checks and Strength saving throws. In addition, you count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
|Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition Races|
|Core:||Dwarf - Elf - Gnome - Half-Elf - Half-Orc - Halfling - Human|
|Dark Sun:||Aarakocra - Half-Giant - Mul - Pterran - Thri-kreen|
|Dragonlance:||Draconian - Irda - Kender - Minotaur|
|Mystara:||Aranea - Ee'ar - Enduk - Lizardfolk (Cayma - Gurrash - Shazak) |
Lupin - Manscorpion - Phanaton - Rakasta - Tortle - Wallara
|Oriental Adventures:||Korobokuru - Hengeyokai - Spirit Folk|
|Planescape:||Aasimar - Bariaur - Genasi - Githyanki - Githzerai - Modron - Tiefling|
|Spelljammer:||Dracon - Giff - Grommam - Hadozee - Hurwaeti - Rastipede - Scro - Xixchil|
|Ravenloft:||Broken One - Flesh Golem - Half-Vistani - Therianthrope|
Book of X:
|Alaghi - Beastman - Bugbear - Bullywug - Centaur - Duergar |
Fremlin - Firbolg - Flind - Gnoll - Goblin - Half-Ogre - Hobgoblin
Kobold - Mongrelfolk - Ogre - Ogre Mage - Orc - Pixie
Satyr - Saurial - Svirfneblin - Swanmay - Voadkyn - Wemic
|Dragon Magazine:||Half-Dryad - Half-Satyr - Uldra - Xvart|