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D&D General Dragons Versus Giants: A Speculative and Homebrew Explanation For Why They Hate Each Other

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Okay, as some of you may be aware, in D&D, there's been quite a long history of Dragons and Giants hating each other. Depending on the setting, it can range from deep rivalries to outright war between the two, with the most notable Dragon-Giant War probably being the Thousand Year War from the Forgotten Realms. Basically, all you need to know for the basis of this post is that Dragons versus Giants is a thing, and this post is to explain why Dragons and Giants hate each other so much in the worlds/multiverse of D&D. This will be using some of the new/updated lore from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons and also some speculative information and homebrew lore to tie it all together. (Also, if you want to know why people have Dragons and Giants fight in their fiction in the real world, it's almost definitely because it's just plain awesome. It's really hard to get cooler than a Giant wrestling with a Dragon, or a Dragon's wing being cut by a Giant's Sword while it breaths down fire on the Giant.)

Let's start out by analyzing the natures of these types of monsters to see if there's any innate reason why they would hate each other. First, let's do Dragons.

According to the updated draconic lore about the First World from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons, Dragons helped create the Material Plane, and are inherent creatures to the world. Dragons are to the Material Plane as Celestials are to the Upper Planes, Modrons are to Mechanus, Fiends are to the Lower Planes, and so on. Basically, the Material Plane is the Plane of Dragons (evidenced by the name of the hobby, Dungeons and Dragons, as well as several settings, like Eberron's Creation Myth being about 3 God-Like Progenitor Dragons, the Io's Blood Isles of Council of Wyrms, and the main two gods of Dragonlance, Takhisis and Paladine, being draconic gods). Basically, dragons are a big deal in D&D, being more than just flying magic lizards that breath fire (and other elements), they're literally so tied to the Material Plane and its existence that they can warp it and creatures that live on it by their mere presence. This is why they have Lair Regional Effects, Lair Actions, can create Half-Dragons by just being near the birth of a creature, and have blood so magical that it can grant powerful arcane magic to those that carry it (Draconic Bloodline Sorcerers).

Furthermore, Dragons in D&D are Multiversal. They exist on all of the worlds of the Material Plane, having Echoes across the multiverse that they can discover and draw power from if they get old and powerful enough. They have power beyond what almost all Gods in D&D are capable of; calling the aspects of their selves on other worlds to aid them in their times of need. They were present when the First World was shattered, and are deeply rooted in the nature of the Prime Material Realm. They're fairly weak when they're younger, but if they grow old enough, they eventually just inherit godlike powers from their connection with the Material Plane. Many of them grow so powerful that they could actually be considered gods. They live a long time, have access to unfathomable amounts of power, and can break the normal laws of the D&D multiverse because they are so magical in nature.

Giants, however, are different. While Dragons are more like "Gods-in-Waiting", Giants are more akin to Demigods. Giants, in the base lore of D&D, are the children/descendants of Gods. The different subtypes of Giants are literally descended from the 6 main children of Annam the All-Father. Annam is called the "All-Father" for a reason, he is literally the father of Giantkind. And Annam is an ancient deity, he has tremendous power and has a strong grasp over Giantkind with the Ordning, the Divine-mandated caste system of the Giants. Think of Annam as a mixture of Odin and the Judeo-Christian God, because that's basically his identity. Giants desperately want to please the All-Father, by following the Ordning and doing as much Maat as possible. They believe that if they please Annam enough, they will eventually refound Ostoria (the now-fallen ancient giant empire), and . . . the lore isn't actually clear here, but the logical assumption is that if you please your god enough, you'll go to "Heaven" (Ysgard for Giants) or become a God/Demigod. Since both are cool and fit the theme of Giants (which are heavily Norse-inspired, and Norse Giants were typically as powerful as the Aesir and Vanir Gods, if not even more powerful than them in some cases), we'll assume that they're both what Giants are striving for. They want to go to Giant Heaven and become Demigods, similar to Empyreans.

So, based off of this, the Giants want to conquer the world to restore a fallen empire, please their God-Daddy so they get to return home to him after they die, and become Demigods if they please God-Daddy enough, like their ancient ancestors were.

When you combine the lore of these two species, it's not hard to see why they'd butt heads so often. They both like to conquer large regions of different worlds, which will bring them into conflict. They're both long-lived and can hold grudges much longer than us puny mortals can. They're both extremely powerful and have some magical powers. And, most importantly, they're both connected to Godhood in some form. They're both vying for it, and the way that they do that will often bring them into direct conflict with one another. To Giants, nothing is a bigger threat to their hope of restoring Ostoria and achieving demigodhood than the Dragons, and to the Dragons, no other monstrous race is powerful and organized enough to be direct rivals with them. Giants also can take advantage of the extremely magical nature of the Dragons in order to create weapons and armor out of Dragonbones, can destroy Dragon Eggs whenever they find a nest (making the Dragons vulnerable in a way that Giants aren't), and can also use captured dragons as mounts with enough applied torture and cruelty. Giants will do anything to restore Ostoria, and Dragons are a threat to that. Dragons will do anything to keep themselves safe in order to allow them to grow old enough to become Great Wyrms, even if that means killing any and all Giants that they come across. Both see the other species as a threat, and both of them know what can happen when you underestimate the other.

tl;dr - Dragons and Giants both hate each other because they're long-lived, powerful, and have strong ties to Godhood that incentivize them to hate each other.

What are your thoughts? Have you used the conflict between Dragons and Giants in your campaigns/worlds before? Do you have any ideas on how to make implement it in your worlds/games? (Giants in my world use Dragon Scales as currency. Wyrmling Scales are copper pieces, Young Dragon Scales are Silver Pieces, Adult Dragon Scales are Gold Pieces, and Ancient Dragon Scales are Platinum Pieces.)
 
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pnewman

Explorer
In my mind it is much simpler than that. Dragons and giants both eat a lot of food. They can't eat food that the other has already eaten. The more giants there are then the fewer dragons can avoid starving. Similarly the more dragons there are then the fewer giants can avoid starvation. They're both very tough so exterminating the other is probably impossible, but hate is easy.
 

Scribe

Hero
(Giants in my world use Dragon Scales as currency. Wyrmling Scales are copper pieces, Young Dragon Scales are Silver Pieces, Adult Dragon Scales are Gold Pieces, and Ancient Dragon Scales are Platinum Pieces.)

Great post, I may need to steal this part.

Giants in my world share in part of the origin myth, playing off of the First World 'echo' concept.

Dragon Gods begin to impose order upon Chaos (the Elemental Powers).
Outsider Gods then come in, and create their own people (Elf, Orc, Dwarf and Goblin are my 4 original races).
Giant God see's these puny beings, and mocks the other Gods, in his hubris he takes the primordial chaos (elements) and creates the various Giants out of these elements.

With this, order is imposed, the Dragon's and Giants being more powerful individually than the 4 mortal races see themselves as rightful rulers, war, and weaken eachother to the point where the mortals take over.

(Until the thinking Undead come into play, with Lizardmen, and Humans...!)
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
Great post, I may need to steal this part.
Thanks! Feel free to do so! I went more in-depth about my world's Dragon-Giant War in this post if you want to read more about it.
Giants in my world share in part of the origin myth, playing off of the First World 'echo' concept.

Dragon Gods begin to impose order upon Chaos (the Elemental Powers).
Outsider Gods then come in, and create their own people (Elf, Orc, Dwarf and Goblin are my 4 original races).
Giant God see's these puny beings, and mocks the other Gods, in his hubris he takes the primordial chaos (elements) and creates the various Giants out of these elements.

With this, order is imposed, the Dragon's and Giants being more powerful individually than the 4 mortal races see themselves as rightful rulers, war, and weaken eachother to the point where the mortals take over.

(Until the thinking Undead come into play, with Lizardmen, and Humans...!)
Interesting. It kind of reminds me of Exandria's Creation Myth, but with a God of Giants. I do like the idea of Giants and Dragons bickering over who is more worthy/better suited for ruling the humanoid races. In my world, Lizardfolk, Kobolds, and Dragonborn willingly serve the Draconic Empire and can even vote in its elections (though their votes don't count as much as a dragon's does), and the Goliaths and Ogres/Half-Ogres serve the Giant Kingdom. And the idea of the Giant Gods trying to one-up the Outsider Gods by creating basically Humans but 4-times as tall is cool (and funny, in a good way).

Thanks for sharing that!
 
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Aldarc

Legend
Interesting. It kind of reminds me of Exandria's Creation Myth, but with a God of Giants. I do like the idea of Giants and Dragons bickering over who is more worthy/better suited for ruling the humanoid races. In my world, Lizardfolk, Kobolds, and Dragonborn willingly serve the Draconic Empire and can even vote in its elections (though their votes don't count as much as a dragon's does), and the Goliaths and Ogres/Half-Ogres serve the Giant Kingdom. And the idea of the Giant Gods trying to one-up the Outsider Gods by creating basically Humans but 4-times as tall is cool (and funny, in a good way).
...as cribbed by the 4e World Axis setting.
 

I've a proto-setting idea that skips the analogy and basically goes straight to "dragons are either gods or angels," making them Apollonian, celestial/Olympic beings, bringers of order, skill, and pristine structure. Giants then take on the role of the Dionysian, earthly/Chthonic beings, ones of chaos, abandon, and torrid emotion. As a general rule, this makes giants beings you at best want to propitiate and at worst you want absolutely nothing to do with, because they're really scary, while (non-Chromatic) dragons are known to be overall positive (even if they're also scary and don't always stop to explain themselves; consider how most angels introduce themselves by saying, "Fear not!") Chromatic dragons have fallen because their parent, Tiamat, fell due to Mythic Backstory things. Originally Tiamat was meant to lead the pantheon, with Bahamut as their consort and advisor; their fall is literally part of why things suck (reality itself is out of alignment as a result of it).
 

Bitbrain

Location: Arrakis
In my games, the animosity between dragons and giants stems from the fact they fought on opposite sides of the Dawn War. Dragons fought for the celestials, giants for the elementals.

More accurately, dragons were created to usurp the power of the primordials (the lords and masters of the elementals), while giants were created to usurp the power of the gods. This is why older the dragon, the more imbued with elemental energy it becomes (and the older the giant, the more godlike they seem to become).

EDIT - in case I didn’t make it clear, both dragons and giants have age categories in my settings.

Dragons: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Catastrophic
Giants: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Titan
 

aco175

Legend
I also see a connection with giants needing to prove their worth and go trophy hunting. A giant that brings back an orc head is not as admired as one that brings back a dragon head. Like humans needing to go on safari years ago and shoot one of Africa's 'big 3'. If you are known as Bob, the Giant-Slayer over Bob the Orc-Crusher- you get more fame, wealth, power, girls, etc...

The dragons are less concerned with needing to kill giants other than to keep themselves safer and cut down on future threats.
 

payn

Legend
I never knew there was a Dragon vs Giant thing until Eberon in DDO. Some good stuff here. I'd love to use more giants and Dragons in my games since I hardly ever use either.
 

Aldarc

Legend
I never knew there was a Dragon vs Giant thing until Eberon in DDO. Some good stuff here. I'd love to use more giants and Dragons in my games since I hardly ever use either.
It’s also a big thing in Monte Cook’s Diamond Throne setting for Arcana Evolved.
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
I've a proto-setting idea that skips the analogy and basically goes straight to "dragons are either gods or angels," making them Apollonian, celestial/Olympic beings, bringers of order, skill, and pristine structure. Giants then take on the role of the Dionysian, earthly/Chthonic beings, ones of chaos, abandon, and torrid emotion. As a general rule, this makes giants beings you at best want to propitiate and at worst you want absolutely nothing to do with, because they're really scary, while (non-Chromatic) dragons are known to be overall positive (even if they're also scary and don't always stop to explain themselves; consider how most angels introduce themselves by saying, "Fear not!") Chromatic dragons have fallen because their parent, Tiamat, fell due to Mythic Backstory things. Originally Tiamat was meant to lead the pantheon, with Bahamut as their consort and advisor; their fall is literally part of why things suck (reality itself is out of alignment as a result of it).
Thats good stuff.

If I didn't have an established world history already....
 

SkidAce

Legend
Supporter
In my games, the animosity between dragons and giants stems from the fact they fought on opposite sides of the Dawn War. Dragons fought for the celestials, giants for the elementals.

More accurately, dragons were created to usurp the power of the primordials (the lords and masters of the elementals), while giants were created to usurp the power of the gods. This is why older the dragon, the more imbued with elemental energy it becomes (and the older the giant, the more godlike they seem to become).

EDIT - in case I didn’t make it clear, both dragons and giants have age categories in my settings.

Dragons: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Catastrophic
Giants: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Titan
Cool, I also have age category (ish) giants.

However, my prehistory is :

Chaos/Limbo > Tiamat (sumerian mother of monsters style) > primordials
Astral/Law > Ptah (demiurge) > Empyreans (titans) > giants > humans/dwarves

The two camps actually fought together in the Dawn War, cause nobody wants a return to the Void (far realm), but really disagree about how to run the comsos.
 

AcererakTriple6

Autistic DM (he/him)
In my games, the animosity between dragons and giants stems from the fact they fought on opposite sides of the Dawn War. Dragons fought for the celestials, giants for the elementals.

More accurately, dragons were created to usurp the power of the primordials (the lords and masters of the elementals), while giants were created to usurp the power of the gods. This is why older the dragon, the more imbued with elemental energy it becomes (and the older the giant, the more godlike they seem to become).

EDIT - in case I didn’t make it clear, both dragons and giants have age categories in my settings.

Dragons: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Catastrophic
Giants: Young -> Adult -> Ancient -> Titan
Nice. I don't use Age Categories for my world's giants, but do have Titans as a creature type that the 6 True Giants can ascend to (Hill, Frost, Fire, Cloud, Stone, Storm), as the "Demigod"-like version of their race. Titans are Gargantuan and tied heavily to the elements that they are born from, so a Hill Titan is the size of a mountain and looks like one, a Fire Titan is about 50% composed of fire, Storm Titans are always surrounded by a thunderstorm, Frost Titans look like living glaciers, and so on.
 

interesting
Cool, I also have age category (ish) giants.

However, my prehistory is :

Chaos/Limbo > Tiamat (sumerian mother of monsters style) > primordials
Astral/Law > Ptah (demiurge) > Empyreans (titans) > giants > humans/dwarves

The two camps actually fought together in the Dawn War, cause nobody wants a return to the Void (far realm), but really disagree about how to run the comsos.
what would the far realm's champions be then?
 



Bitbrain

Location: Arrakis
I’m really enjoying this thread a lot and feel like sharing two examples of giants and age categories work in my games.

CLOUD GIANTS
  1. Young cloud giants are essentially regular D&D cloud giants.
  2. Adult and Ancient cloud giants start the transition to “stellar” pseudo-deity. They develop innate divination magics, their weapons glow with radiant energy, and they can increase or reverse gravity in specified areas around them.
  3. Titan cloud giants are more commonly known as “Star Titans”. They gain the ability to pull shooting stars down from the sky to bomb their enemies à la Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War.

FROST GIANTS
  1. Young frost giants are slightly more magical versions of regular D&D frost giants. They can create localized ice storms, basically.
  2. Adult and Ancient frost giants start the transition to “entropic” pseudo-deity. They develop innate necromancy magics, their touch drains health from a target, and the ice storms they create deal necrotic damage as well as cold.
  3. Titan frost giants are more commonly known as “Death Titans”. They gain a breath weapon of sorts that pulls you towards them. If you fail the saving throw, you get sucked into their mouth and they start biting down on you.
 


Not much consistency in their madness, but I do repurpose yugoloths (humans corrupted by far realm) and some aberrations.
we really need a big type of aberration line just for boss battles,
I’m really enjoying this thread a lot and feel like sharing two examples of giants and age categories work in my games.

CLOUD GIANTS
  1. Young cloud giants are essentially regular D&D cloud giants.
  2. Adult and Ancient cloud giants start the transition to “stellar” pseudo-deity. They develop innate divination magics, their weapons glow with radiant energy, and they can increase or reverse gravity in specified areas around them.
  3. Titan cloud giants are more commonly known as “Star Titans”. They gain the ability to pull shooting stars down from the sky to bomb their enemies à la Thanos from Avengers: Infinity War.

FROST GIANTS
  1. Young frost giants are slightly more magical versions of regular D&D frost giants. They can create localized ice storms, basically.
  2. Adult and Ancient frost giants start the transition to “entropic” pseudo-deity. They develop innate necromancy magics, their touch drains health from a target, and the ice storms they create deal necrotic damage as well as cold.
  3. Titan frost giants are more commonly known as “Death Titans”. They gain a breath weapon of sorts that pulls you towards them. If you fail the saving throw, you get sucked into their mouth and they start biting down on you.
would fire be solar titans?
what would stone and hill even be?
what would storm titans be other than truly terrifying?
 

I do like your take on Dragons and Giants, but I lean more towards the 4e lore and merge it with Greek and Norse mythologies. The Primordial history of Giants in 4e is particularly interesting. It reminds me of Titanomachia, so I used it. The Primordials created the these ancient, powerful beings the Giants and Dragons. Their Primordial nature is why they are the embodiments of aspects of creation. The war between the Gods and Primordials, and each other, is still carried out by their first creations. In my own campaigns I have it where Titans had defeated and enslaved many Dragons, and there are still Titans with Dragon slaves in far away places unknown to mortals.
 

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