Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants Review

Project lead James Wyatt is back with another creature-specific D&D book like 2021's Fizban's Treasury of Dragons. In fact, both books follow a similar format, making Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants very much a companion piece to FToD, though they can be used completely independent of each other.

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Who's Bigby?​

Even if you're new to D&D 5E, you've probably noticed the Bigby's Hand spell. It consolidates several of his “hand” spells from prior editions into one spell with several options.

The namesake for the spells and this book was an evil human wizard created by Rob Kuntz in 1973 to be an adversary of Mordenkainen in Greyhawk. The two wizards fought, Mordenkainen won and subdued Bigby, forcing Bigby to serve him. Over time, they became allies, founding the Circle of Eight, but their relationship has always been a bit contentious.

So why is Bigby depicted as a gnome in the art for BPGotG? He's had some adventures since the last time we saw him, some of which are depicted in the chapter art for this book. The first one shows Mordenkainen leaning over a squashed Bigby after a fight with a frost giant. Bigby notes that Mordenkainen claimed only a druid was available afterward so Bigby was reincarnated as a gnome instead of resurrected. He seems skeptical.

As with the other 5E books with a NPC's name as part of the title, Bigby's notes are scattered throughout the pages as are notes from Diancastra, a daughter of Amman who had to use her cleverness to convince the father god of giants to raise her to demigodhood. Since his reincarnation, Bigby gradually forged a relationship with Diancastra, transforming his opinion of giants. The rest of the chapter opening art frequently includes her as she shows Bigby the mysteries of giantkind or as they fight an evil giant together.

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What's In the Book?​

Just as FToD began with Elegy for the First World, an excerpt from Diancastra's Saga opens this book, telling the tale of how she won her demigod powers. That's followed by the story of Amman, primordial father god of the giants, his godly sons, the Ordning, and which other species are related to or descended from giants. The various depictions of giants in folklore follows along with a primer on giants in the worlds of the D&D Multiverse and an explanation of giant runes and how they used in magic.

The rest of the book is laid out very similarly to FToD. Chapter 1 focuses on creating characters with giant themes. Chapter 2 is for DMs and players with information on giant society. The rest of the book has resources for DMs— how to build giant-focused adventures, giant enclaves, magic items, and a bestiary.

The bestiary is actually the largest section of the book at 68 pages. Overall, BPGotG has 71 stat blocks so even if giants aren't your favorite, the amount of giant-related creatures could be appealing.

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Player Options​

While FToD had two new subclasses, BPGotG only has one—Path of the Giant for Barbarians. This allows the player to channel the power of giants, starting at 3rd level to basically “Hulk out.” At 6th level, they can infuse weapons with giant power. At 10th, they can throw creatures, again, like the Hulk. At 14th, your reach, damage, size, etc. expands again.

All of that makes sense and could be fun, especially if a PC is scrawny or a smaller species like a halfling or gnome. Considering how much BPGotG talks about giant magic, though, I really expected some sort of caster that channeled the primordial power of giants.

Instead of, say, a sorcerer subclass dedicated to giants, BPGotG offers the Rune Carver Background, which also provides the Rune Shaper Feat. With that feat, the character knows runes equaling half their proficiency. After a long rest, you can inscribe one of the runes you know on a non-magical weapon, piece of clothing, etc. Invoking the rune later allows you to cast the associated spell. Using a spell slot to cast these spells is optional, but if you don't use a spell slot, you can't invoke that rune again until after a long rest.

Rune Shaper and Rune Carver are pretty neat, but I still want a giant-themed caster subclass.

The other new Background is Giant Foundling. More than just a flavor back story, living with giants since you were young caused you to grow larger than is typical for your species. This also enables the Strike of the Giant Feat.

When selecting the Feat, you choose the type of strike—cloud, fire, frost, hill, stone or storm. The target takes extra damage as per the type of strike. This can be used once per turn. It's an option that could definitely be useful.

Some of the strikes are simple, such as adding extra fire damage. Others do more, such as requiring a save as well. If the target of a Cloud Strike fails their Wisdom save after the strike attack, the PC will be effectively invisible until the end of their next turn or until after they attack, whichever comes first.

Even better, players can technically take the Strike of the Giant Feat again later when the character's leveling includes choosing a feat, gaining a different type of strike. You should clear that with your DM and come up with a story reason for why you have an additional variation, though.

Either giant feat can be taken without the matching background, However, you have to be a caster to take the Rune Shaper Feat if you don't take the Rune Carver Background. I like the character creation flexibility.

The Giant Foundling Background also provides lots of options for character flavor. Maybe the sword you use is a letter opener that belonged to your surrogate parent. Maybe the old dollhouse from their now-grown giant children is your home within their home.

Big Heroes, Big Stories rounds out this chapter with information on how to work giant lore and flavor into any character class or type. For example, a druid could have a dinosaur companion or could have a connection to primordial or giant-sized creatures.

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Giant-Sized Stories​

Chapter 2 might be my favorite. It has a wealth of information on giant societies, religion, organizations, social structures, and the Ordning, as well as information on how to roleplay giants. This chapter gave me a ton of adventure ideas.

For example, BPGotG can be used to deepen, enrich, and/or expand Storm King's Thunder. Or, you could use it to make your own adventure that takes place after the events of SKT.

The Ordning, which imposed structure on giant society, is still broken. What if Diancastra and her half-sister goddesses band together to end the chaos and strife affecting all of giantkind and present an alternative structure? BPGotG indicates that the giant goddesses tend to be popular across all types of giants because, unlike their brothers, they aren't closely associated with a single type of giant. Or maybe one of them or one of the brothers is fed up with Amman's criticism and abandonment and tries to replace him?

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Giant-Sized Adventure​

If you like random tables, Chapter 3 has you covered; there are plenty of random tables throughout BPGotG. If you're a new DM or just want to hone your skills, this chapter has advice on how to create encounters, adventures, and campaigns.

The encounter section explains how to use the tables to create scenarios as well as information on matching types of giants to various tiers of play. After all, throwing your 1st level players into combat against a large group of fire giants is not a good idea if you like your group!

It also delves into context for the encounter you're building and initial attitudes, with a sample table for determining the latter. Other tables feature encounter options for each of the six main giant types, plus death giants and fomorians.

Additionally, there are encounter tables for “dinosaur world,” elemental encounters by elemental type, giant constructs, giant kin, giant necropolis, “megafauna world,” and “fiendish incursions.” The latter is for giants who might have turned away from worshiping Amman after the Ordning was broken and instead now serve fiends. Additional information that idea appears later, especially in the bestiary.

The adventure section presents five models that can be used to create your own adventure for any play style. The classic adventure Against the Giants is the model for giants-as-adversaries adventures. An exploration adventure could delve into an ancient giant civilization. Prefer intrigue and roleplay? Use the model for giants as schemers. Information on using giants as patrons rounds out that section.

The campaign section presents DMs with ideas to consider for how giants fit into their campaign world. Whether you're doing homebrew or a modified existing D&D world, a lot of material could be mined from decisions like giants created the world or the world came into being as a side effect of clashes between the dragon gods and Amman. Do giants hold up the world in your campaign? Or are they at war with another primordial power?

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Location, Location, Location​

Chapter 4 features enclaves for giants. The locations could be currently controlled by giants or a place from an ancient giant community.

The 18 enclaves feature a wide variety of ideas and topography, from Singing Sands to Howling Icebergs and more, including the Star Forge. These locations can be used countless ways, and even be repurposed for other adventures.

Dyson Logos did the maps for all of them, and his clean yet evocative style works perfectly. Some fantasy RPG cartographers get so caught up in their design elements that actually seeing the grid can be difficult at times. Logos always does a great job of setting the tone and mood for the location while also allowing his maps to be practical for combat and easy to read.

Logos also puts a lot of thought into what such a location would really be like and how it would function on a practical level. No silliness like putting a rope bridge between the wings of an elegant mansion (yes, I have run into that in other RPGs).

Each of the 18 locations gets a description, a map, a list of features, magical properties for the locations, and adventure seeds. Further, some of the locations in the digital version of BPGotG provide both a DM version of the map, with rooms labeled and a player version that is not.

BPGotG comes with so many adventure hooks that Appendix B is actually a list of them. This way you can select randomly by rolling a d100 or you can browse through the list and go to the indicated page for more information. It's a small but thoughtful detail that makes a DM's busy life easier.

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What About the Loot?​

While the Dungeon Masters Guide has plenty of giant-related magic items, Chapter 5 has more options. It starts by answering “what's in a roaming giant's bag?” Tables provide mundane and magical answers, broken down by type of giant.

Relics of the Giant Realms provides items from an ancient past, but I found this section a little disappointing as it only focuses on art objects, coins and gemstones. New magic items fill out this chapter.

That last section goes into detail about giant-sized magic items. In 5E, most magic items resize to fit the wearer. BPGotG plays with the idea that maybe giant magic items don't resize, forcing you to use them differently. So a dagger for a giant would be a longsword or greatsword for a humanoid, a ring would be worn as a crown, etc. Or, alternately, maybe you can find a craftsman skilled enough in magic items to resize the item, but that takes extra time and cost.

Magic items range from unique artifacts to more common ones. Every giant rune in the book has a magic item, and the wielder of a magic item can invoke the rune on the item for an extra effect.

If you think Bigby's Beneficent Bracelet design is reminiscent of the Infinity Gauntlet, or at least fan jewelry versions of the Infinity Gauntlet, you aren't imagining it. Considering Bigby's obsession with “hand” magic, it at least makes sense.

BBB is designed to be customized, which is nice. Select one minor beneficial, one major beneficial, and one detrimental property from the DMG. Additionally, it grants Mage Hand, Helpful Hand (casting at 9th level), and Force Sculpture. The latter allows the wearer to create a spectral copy of a large or smaller non-magical item that can't be dispelled and is immune to damage. Up to three can be made at a time and each lasts up to eight hours or until dismissed.

Prehistoric Figurines of Wondrous Power include a Carnelian Triceretos, Jasper Turannosaurus Rex, Kyanite Pteranoon, and Pyrate Plesiosaurus. Zephyr Armor is a magical option for light armor, which tends to be ignored in 5E.

Personally, I dislike magical firearms in a D&D campaign. If you love them, you'll like the options here. What the Thunderbuss does is pretty easy to guess—thunder damage. If the storm rune on it is invoked you can launch a ball of energy as a bonus action, The rune can only be invoked once until the next dawn.

The Lucent Destroyer is a three-barreled musket that shoots beams of radiant damage instead of piercing, and you can cast Dancing Lights at will while holding it. If the inscribed light rune is invoked, it casts the Sunbeam spell.

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Creature Feature​

The bestiary contains everything from a 1/2 CR giant lynx to a CR 27 Scion of Stronmaus, and all sorts of things in between. That includes variants for the giants of the Ordning such as the cloud giant destiny gambler and the hill giant avalancher.

Elemental hulks are also included, as are dinosaurs. Giant cultists exist, like the frost giant of Evil Water, a call back to Elemental Evil. If you like undead, you get creatures like fireguants and barrowghasts.

And if you ever wondered what happened to food left far, far too long in a giant's bag, BPGotG has an answer. It goes beyond moldy to become a Bag Jelly. It's only a CR 1, but it's gross and could be a genuine surprise for your players.

But the creature that's nightmare inducing in my opinion is the ettin ceremorph. What's worse than an evil giant? One possessed by a mind flayer tadpole. Shudder.

Creature lists, breaking them down by CR rating, type, etc. and concept art round out BPGotG. I always like seeing the latter.

Technically BPGotG doesn't contain an adventure. Instead, anyone with a D&D Beyond account (free or paid) can claim Giants of Starforge, a free 16-level adventure.

In it, designer Patrick Renie walks DMs through how to create adventures using the random tables in BPGotG. A video describing the process also gives a great example as to how a DM can improvise based on what the players focus on and turn it into a win/win.

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How Does It Look?​

As you probably heard, artist Ilya Shkipkin, who has been a freelancer for Wizards since 2014, used an “AI tool” for some work submitted for BPGotG despite Wizards' no-AI policy. Wizards explains what happened in more detail here, and will be replacing the artwork in the digital versions of the book as soon as it's available and in future print runs.

Shkipkin's pieces notwithstanding, I like the art in the book overall. The magic items match the style for the same in the DMG. The giant-sized normal animals look great, and almost lifelike at times. The chapter opening art sets the mood. Other creatures look appropriately scary.

The covers for both the regular version and the limited-edition game store version are good—but you can't necessarily tell that from photographs. Cynthia Sheppard's mainstream cover evokes classic fairy tales as Bigby steals a golden egg from cloud giants. It's good, but some images of the cover online have come across as blurry.

Olena Richards' golden game store cover is just stunning in person, but it photographs poorly. The actual cover is Bigby playing chess with a stone giant, depicted in all shades of gold and bronze metallics with the soft-touch finish Wizards uses. Only two places with silvery blue ink differ from the color palette. When viewed in-person, the cover makes the book look like something out of a fairy tale, but the lack of contrast makes photographs of it a poor imitation.

What I hate is how hard Wizards makes it for me to praise individual artists for their specific contributions, and this issue has existed long before the Shkipin incident.

In the physical books, artist credits for individual images are printed far too close to the binding in a small font that's usually gray or brown, not true black. Even a fraction further away from the seam and in one font size larger would help in being able to credit the artist without disrupting the overall design.

For the digital version of Mythic Odysseys of Theros, the artist credit was easy to find. For Keys from the Golden Vault, I could find them on one version of my D&D Beyond account but not the other. It shouldn't matter if I'm using a tablet or computer browser to find out who drew what.

And while I'm fussing with Wizards on technical matters, it would also be wonderful if the tablet version of D&D Beyond allowed readers more font size options. Currently, it only allows three font display options. D&D Beyond also doesn't work with any screen reader I tried. Come on, Wizards, offer more accessibility options! Studies show it helps grow the buyer base for products.

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Summary​

When Wizards announced its 2023 releases, BPGotG left me feeling “meh.” Giants have never been my thing, even though I liked Storm King's Thunder a lot. I blame my apathy, at least in part, in boring hill giant encounters early in my D&D experiences.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the wealth of ideas and adventure hooks in BPGotG. I like books that allow me to mix together different material to create original adventures for my players. BPGotG gives me a lot to work with and for a class of creatures that have typically bored me. Now I'm going to remix the history of my version of Forgotten Realms to and tie it to a new subplot for my overall campaign, inspired by the ideas in BPGotG.

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Should You Buy It?​

BPGotG is not a must-buy book like Xanathar's Guide to Everything is. It might be a useful addition to your game library, though.
  • If you love giants, buy it.
  • If you hate giants, skip it.
  • If you're going to run Storm King's Thunder, buy it. It'll be very helpful.
  • If you can't get enough monsters or magic items, buy it, but there's no rush.
  • If you like having adventure hooks, maps, etc. to remix in your own game, it might be handy.
And in case you're wondering, the designers explicitly said that everything in BPGotG is fully compatible with the 2024 rule books. Technically, that should be true for everything coming out this year because Wizards swears the new core books will be fully backward compatible but hearing it again doesn't hurt.

I give Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants a solid B+. If you love giants, boost that by a half grade.

For me, as pleasantly surprised I was by BPGotG it just doesn't quite match Fizban's Treasury of Dragons. That might be my bias in favor of dragons or maybe it's just that even with ideas and hooks for making giants rulers of the world, I just don't find them as intrinsic to D&D. Your mileage may vary. BPGotG also isn't as inspired as The Wild Beyond the Witchlight or Journey Through the Radiant Citadel, but it's a book I suspect will get a lot of use from many DMs and a good number of players.
 

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels

Marandahir

Crown-Forester (he/him)
Though I should note the pieces are going to be replaced.
They are? That's good to hear.

The D&D Beyond version feels extremely barren of artwork.

Which is weird because this is one of the most flavourfully brilliant works of 5e.

And they found a way to bring back 4e's Titans (as Elemental Cradles of the Scions who are Titans) and Eldritch Giants were re-imagined as Noble Fomorians, and even TOROG of all 4e lore gets an allusion when they call Karolantor "The King Who Crawls" and say he was locked away by his father entombed in the underdark. SERIOUSLY, wow. Torog was one of the most interesting bits of the 4e Pantheon, especially what they did for him in the Underdark book. This is great.

I always found giants a snooze fest in D&D (which is weird because I love them in real world folklore and other fiction) but this book does them great justice.
 

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dave2008

Legend
There's quite a few creatures that are missing art in the Roll20 version, and most of those I think were the removed pieces. Going through them quickly I compiled the following entries without art:
  • Fire giant forgecaller
  • Frost giant ice shaper
  • Frostmourn
  • Rime hulk
  • Hill giant avalancher
  • Maw of Yeenoghu
  • Stalker of Baphomet
  • Fomorian deep crawler
  • Firbolg primeval warden
  • Ceratops
  • Aerosaur
  • Regisaur
  • Altisaur
Frost giant ice shaper was that infamous piece with the axe and the wolves. Maw of Yeenoghu was the hill giant with the big mouth, which they showed off in the promotional videos.
Ilya also did the dinosaurs so that is 7 from your list so I imagine that they did them all, and that is why they are missing
 


I'm very impressed by the Enclaves chapter. 18 different locations, each nicely mapped and described, with several adventure ideas for each for varying levels. They look to be very simple to plug-and-play into any ongoing campaign. Basically, there are several dozen mini-adventures just waiting to be used here.

Also, LOL at Bigby commenting on fensirs, which are trolls brought to Ysgard during a frost giant invasion: "Bringing trolls to a place where nothing ever truly dies seems like a transparently bad idea. What were those giants thinking?"

Also, there's at least one creature in the bestiary for each CR from 1/2 all the way up to 27, with most CRs having multiple creatures, and with a balanced mixture, favoring neither low nor high CRs. Very nice mix of levels there.
 
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Yeah, I'm pretty impressed by the bestiary. Unlike VGtM (and later MotM), which had just one new variant for each giant type, most of which were pretty esoteric, I can definitely see using many of the variants here in campaigns.

I'm still a bit puzzled by the lack of a clear-cut "leader" variants for each giant subtype (frost giant jarl, fire giant duke, etc.), but I'm thinking that those might appear in the revised MM next year, since they did say they are adding a good number of higher level CR creatures. (If not, well, the MME versions are always there to be used!)
 


There's quite a few creatures that are missing art in the Roll20 version, and most of those I think were the removed pieces. Going through them quickly I compiled the following entries without art:
  • Fire giant forgecaller
  • Frost giant ice shaper
  • Frostmourn
  • Rime hulk
  • Hill giant avalancher
  • Maw of Yeenoghu
  • Stalker of Baphomet
  • Fomorian deep crawler
  • Firbolg primeval warden
  • Ceratops
  • Aerosaur
  • Regisaur
  • Altisaur
Frost giant ice shaper was that infamous piece with the axe and the wolves. Maw of Yeenoghu was the hill giant with the big mouth, which they showed off in the promotional videos.
The Maw of Yeenoghu has art in the digital version.
 


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