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5E Monster ENCyclopedia: Ettin


Shirokinukatsukami fan
Author's note: This series is back after an extended break. I knew that quite a few of the creatures I was planning to cover were going to be appearing in the 5th Edition Monster Manual, so I wanted to wait for that to be released before continuing. Unfortunately, a four month long postal strike stranded my copy in limbo. That copy of the Monster Manual is still missing in action, but I was able to buy another one during a recent trip to Australia, and finally finish this next instalment. My apologies for the delay!

Monster ENCyclopedia: Ettin
This is a series of posts about specific monsters from D&D's history. Each entry takes a look at the origin of one D&D creature, and tracks its appearances and evolution across different editions.

We're starting the ENCyclopedia with an alphabetical browse through a hypothetical Utterly Complete Monster Manual, picking one monster per letter. We've reached the letter "E", and this time it is the turn of the ettin.

Origins and development
The word ettin comes to us from the Old English word "eoten", which means "giant, monster, enemy", but doesn't seem to have a specific association with a two-headed giant until the AD&D Monster Manual, which is where we first meet the characteristic Dungeons & Dragons ettin.

1. Ettin 1977 - Monster Manual.jpeg
Monster Manual (1977)

There isn't much of a description in the Monster Manual, perhaps because the ettin isn't a terribly complicated creature. They are nocturnal, two-headed giants that dwell in remote places and lair underground. They wear tattered animal skins, and are filthy. Typical ettin weapons are spiked clubs. Their two heads make them hard to surprise, and let them control their left and right arms separately. They seem to be always right-handed, since a blow from the right arm causes 3-18 damage, compared to 2-16 from the left. Although they are described as "giant-like", the initial text stresses their similar appearance and likely relation to orcs.

2. Ettin 1982 - Monster Cards, Set 3.jpeg
Monster Cards, Set 3 (1982)

The first colour picture of an ettin is in Monster Cards, Set 3, where the ettin's orc-like face is apparent. The text on the back of the card gives the ettin a bit more of a role in the D&D ecology, mentioning that they sometimes cooperate with hill, frost and fire giants, and that they have been known to lair with cavebears and ride titanotheres.

There are ettin encounters in several of the early, classic AD&D modules. In G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King a group of four ettins guards the Hall of Dead Kings. One of the two ettins in the barracks in Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits is delightfully carrying a dead two-headed snake among his possessions. An ettin serves as guard and beastkeeper in dungeon level three of T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil, and on level four, there is another ettin with one head suffering from paranoid delusions and poor sleeping habits.

3. Ettin 1985 - Temple of Elemental Evil.jpeg
Temple of Elemental Evil (1985)

Several early Dragon magazine articles mention ettins in passing. Dragon #35 includes errata for the ettin's damage in the first printing of the Monster Manual, and Sage Advice in Dragon #58 notes that unlike most giants, an ettin doesn't get a -4 penalty when attacking dwarves and gnomes (because of its heads). In Realistic Vital Statistics (Dragon #91) we learn that a typical 13 foot tall ettin specimen weighs 1783 lbs.

Then, in a Dragon #92 article titled Duh 'Cology of Duh Ettin, Ed Greenwood greatly expands D&D's ettin lore. We learn more about an ettin's diet (any raw flesh) and food preparation habits (flailing the carcass against rocks before eating). Ettins are described as largely solitary, with mated pairs coming together only until their offspring is self-sufficient. Occasionally, they will band together under a strong-willed or slightly more intelligent leader. Ettins are stupid, but sometimes cunning; they are slow to trust strangers.

Their right-body dominance is confirmed in the article, and it is noted that ettins do not -- despite popular belief -- argue with themselves, but having two brains does give an ettin special resistance to sleep and charm, and some other spells. Although an ettin cannot regrow a lost head, an ettin who survives the loss of one head is able to continue a normal life with just one, but will lose any respect from other ettins, who will view it as deformed. However, the one-headed ettin is unlikely to care what other creatures (including other ettins) think of it.

4. Ettin 1984 - Dragon 92.jpeg
Dragon #92 (1984)

Ettins speak a little of whatever language is used in their vicinity, usually orcish, goblin or common, as well as the chaotic evil alignment "dialect". Some established ettin populations use a dialect of orcish which could be considered as "ettintongue". A female ettin carries a child for seven months, and young grow to maturity in just over a year. Ettins have pink to brown flesh, usually darkened by layers of dirt. Ettins collect treasure to use in bargaining with other creatures, and female ettins sometimes wear jewellery as adornments.

The combat tactics of ettins are to crush and batter opponents, but they will resort to throwing things if necessary. An ettin might bargain with opponents if it thinks that will get it more food, but won't necessarily stick to the bargain. They are described as worshipping the hill giant god Grolantor (detailed in Deities and Demigods), but under variant names such as "Grolettinor" or "Grelinor". Cultural and societal connections with hills giants are mentioned, as are the facial similarities with orcs. The article concludes that the genetic background of the ettin may never be fully known.

The letters page two issues later (Dragon #94) contains an Ettin addenduh, which answer a reader's question of whether an ettin which has survived the loss of a head has impaired combat abilities. The answer is a long-winded "no". Dragon #127 contains a Battlesystem scenario with three ettins with the cringeworthy names of Joebob, Samendave and Puddentane.

An article in Dragon #141, titled Orcs Throw Spells, Too! provides a little more detail on the relationship between ettins and the god Grolanthor. It seems that ettins don't so much worship Grolanthor as their god, but simply pay him homage as an extremely powerful ettin. Grolanthor, for his part, rewards this lack of proper faith by not granting any spells to ettin shamans. (In 1st Edition rules, this means that ettin shamans are limited to casting 1st and 2nd level spells.)

2nd Edition
The 2nd Edition ettin first appears in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two it is one of three creatures depicted on the folder cover. Both this colour picture and the interior illustration more closely resemble other giants than orcs. (The cover picture appears again on the 1991 AD&D Trading Card, below.) Their description suggests that ettins might be mistaken for stone or hill giants at first glance, but also notes the strong resemblance to orcs in an ettin's facial features.

5. Ettin 1989 - Monstrous Compendium Volume Two.jpeg
Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989)

This ettin is consistent with its 1st edition incarnation and the material from Ed Greenwood's Dragon article. The writing places more emphasis on how revolting ettins are. They are described as having long, stringy unkempt hair (although the pictured specimen seems to be bald), large yellowing teeth and a very bad smell. Their lairs are also a haven for parasites and vermin, and it isn't unusual for ettins themselves to be infected with various parasitic diseases. As well as being filthy, an ettin's skin is thick enough to improve its Armor Class.

Throughout 2nd Edition, the ettin seems to have drifted -- at least visually -- away from an orcish appearance and towards a more general humanoid/giant look. By the time the early Monstrous Compendium series was collected into the hardcover Monstrous Manual, not only does the ettin look very similar to a hill giant, but the monster entry (which has the same text as that in Monstrous Compendium Volume Two) is even sorted under "Giant, Ettin".

6. Ettin 1993 - Monstrous Manual.jpeg
Monstrous Manual (1989)

The updated entry for the intermediate god Grolanthor in Monster Mythology incorporates ettins as worshippers, in line with the Dragon magazine lore, but the Deck of Encounters, Set Two is not consistent with previous lore. The Deck contains an encounter with an ettin where one of the suggest resolutions for the encounter is to trick the ettin's heads into arguing with each other, which as we know from Dragon is just a folktale (at least for the next edition or so).

Not all engagements with ettins are simple combats. Labyrinth of Madness includes a mind-switching device, where the adventurers risk switching bodies with an umber hulk, a nightmare, a roper, a xorn, a basilisk and an ettin. Because an ettin has two minds, there is a possibility of two different PCs being mind-swapped into each of the ettin's heads! In Rod of Seven Parts, both of the ettins being held captive by the naga can be negotiated with in return for their freedom, and that's clearly the preferred way of resolving those encounters.

The ettin appears in all three sets of the AD&D Trading Cards. In the 1991 set, card #121 uses the picture from the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two cover. The 1992 set's card #123 is a less impressive ettin picture, and the 1993 card #334 is part of the "Mini-Series: Miniatures" set and is a picture of a painted Ral Partha metal miniature, which we'll see again at the end of this article.

7. Ettin 1991-1992 - Trading Cards.jpeg
1991-1993 Trading Cards

The ettin's last appearance before 3rd Edition was in the 1999 Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game. This was a starter sets released between 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition, and used a simplified version of the 2nd Edition rules; almost a "Basic" version of AD&D 2nd Edition. The ettin's entry is unremarkable except for a note that it is related to the cyclops.

3rd Edition
The ettin was one of the first creatures published for 3rd Edition, appearing even before the Monster Manual. The Ettin's Riddle was the first of a series of original adventures published on the Wizards of the Coast web site, and, of course, included statistics for an ettin. Now officially a type of giant, these ettins still have orclike facial features, and a generally vile appearance. They're also apparently a lot denser than they were in Dragon #91, clocking in at 5,200 lbs. They can live to about 75 years. They speak a pidgin of orc, goblin and giant, and a lone ettin often chats with itself.

8. Ettin 2000 - Monster Manual.jpeg
Monster Manual (2000)

The picture of an ettin the Monster Manual looks more orc-like than most of the 2nd Edition ettins. The Monster Manual v.3.5 keeps the same text and picture for the ettin, but the expanded entry for skeletons now includes a 10 hit dice ettin skeleton as a sample large skeleton.

Rules for player character ettins are contained in Savage Species; one of the fringe benefits of having two heads is an extra magic item space, so that an ettin can use two magical necklaces, for example. There is also an umbral ettin made of living darkness in Savage Species, as the sample creature for the "umbral" template.

9. Umbral Ettin 2003 - Savage Species.jpeg
Savage Species (2003)

As well as debuting in a web site article, the ettin continued to get lots of online support during the early 3rd Edition era. Monster Mayhem: Tricks for Tackling Ettins gives some first-person advice on dealing with one (or more) ettins. D&D Fight Club presents a smart ettin named Gorg, who is both a barbarian and a sorcerer. One head controls a barbarian's weapon attack, while the other head uses an arm to cast spells. NPC Closeup presents a few different versions of an ettin bard named Durj. Finally, in Elite Opponents: Ettins, the threat level ratchets up slightly, starting with Grush, a run-of-the-mill ettin barbarian, progressing on to Broggen, an ettin dire wereboar, and finally reaching Therrik, a Tauric Ettin-Elephant based on a variation of the rules from Savage Species.

10. Spellwarped Ettin 2004 - Monster Manual III.jpeg
Monster Manual III (2004)

As 3rd Edition progressed, so did stranger variations of ettins appear. Dragon #314 presents a Fire-Souled Ettin in the article Brotherhood of the Burning Heart. The Monster Manual III has a boar-faced Spellwarped Ettin. Libris Mortis introduced an ettin with an interest in necromancy -- the Hooded Pupil Ettin.

11. Hooded Pupil Ettin 2004 - Libris Mortis.jpeg
Libris Mortis (2004)

4th Edition
The 4th Edition ettin appears in the Monster Manual, but as with many early monster entries for that edition, there is more crunch than fluff in its entry. The introductory text is a single sentence describing ettins as ravenous two-headed giants found in wild borderlands, forested mountains, and dark caves. Other than a pair of extended fangs in its lower jaw, the illustration of the ettin doesn't appear to have a particularly orc-like face, and more closely resembles the hill-giant style ettin of 2nd Edition.

12. Ettin 2008 - Monster Manual.jpeg
Monster Manual (2008)

The basic ettin (now called an Ettin Marauder) gets two initiative rolls and a double set of actions, and its dual brains also mean that it automatically saves against mental incapacitation (being dazed, stunned or charmed). There is also a more advanced version presented, called an Ettin Spirit-Talker, and this ettin has -- for the first time in D&D lore -- a connection to demons. One of the creature's abilities enables it to summon demonic spirits to harass its opponents.

13. Ettin 2008 - Pyramid of Shadows.jpeg
H3: Pyramid of Shadows (2008)

We also learn that 4th Edition ettins aren't above cannibalism, since they will hunt creatures of every sort, including intelligent creatures and even rival ettin bands. Ettins don't necessarily eat all of their foes though. One of the first encounters in H3: Pyramid of Shadows, is with an Ettin Headtaker named Gurrak, who carefully preserves and collects the heads of his opponents; you can see part of his collection displayed on the wall in the picture below.

14. Ettin 2009 - Monster Manual 2.jpeg
Monster Manual 2 (2009)

The connection to demons hinted at in the Ettin Spirit-Talker's entry is expanded in the Monster Manual 2 entry for Demogorgon, which details Thrarak, a female ettin who serves as the exarch of the demon lord (or more accurately, as the exarch of Aameul, one of Demogorgon's two heads). In 4th Edition lore, Demogorgon once battled a primordial called Storralk. After defeating Storralk, the demon lord called forth ettins from the primordial's spilled blood, and Thrarak was one of the first of these ettins. Now known as the Flayed Maiden, she is often dispatched to visit agony on those who cross the Prince of Demons.

15. Ettin 2009 - Dungeon Master's Guide 2.jpeg
Dungeon Master's Guide 2 (2009)

The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 uses an ettin as an example of using the Demogorgon Cultist theme. The Ettin Spirit-Talker of Demogorgon has the Lashing Tentacles aura added to the Spirit-Talker from the Monster Manual. The Monster Vault published towards the end of 4th Edition, contradicts earlier lore by establishing that ettins have quarrelsome heads which achieve a tenuous cooperation only because the ettin cannot survive without both of them. It also presents stat blocks for an Ettin Thug, an Ettin Wrath Chanter, and an Ettin Hunter added to an updated Ettin Marauder. Dungeon #199 has an Ettin Berserker in the revised Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl adventure.

16. Ettin 2010 - Monster Vault.jpeg
Monster Vault (2010)

The ettins of 4th Edtion sometimes form into small tribes who go rampaging through borderlands. They enjoy power, and victimizing the weak. This makes them susceptible to ambushes baited with potential victims, preferably screaming. The Monster Vault repeats the Storralk's blood origin myth, and notes that while few ettins of the world know this story, an ettin of the Elemental Chaos might, and would then consider Demogorgon as the father of its race. Tribes of demon-worshipping ettins have many member possessed or maddened by demons.

There is an ettin guarding the doors to the ruined keep of Gardmore Abbey in Madness at Gardmore Abbey. His heads (Spike and Bruse) pose the adventurers a riddle. If they can get the answer (or just confuse the errin), they can gain entry to the keep without fighting him.

5th Edition
One of the earliest glimpses of the 5th Edition ettin appears in James Wyatt's Wandering Monsters column. This description remains true to the lore from previous editions, painting ettins as degenerate offshoots of the giant races, with orcish facial features and thick filthy hides. Ettins remain difficult to surprise, and their heads can still control each arm independently.

The ettin is also featured in most of the D&D Next Playtest Bestiaries, but without any descriptive information being included. Mechanically, the D&D Next ettin gains some sensory advantages to perception and surprise, and when making saves against any effects which target the head or mind (charmed, deafened, stunned, etc.). It makes two greatclub attacks, and is a type of giant with chaotic evil alignment.

In Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, a D&D Next preview adventure released at GenCon in 2013, the playtest stat block is accompanied by some interesting descriptive text. Here, the idea that an ettin's heads constantly argue with each other is carried over from the 4th Edition ettin. The text also pegs the weight of an ettin in excess of 5,000 pounds, which is consistent with 3rd Edition.

The 5th Edition Monster Manual expands on the theme of dual personalities, describing the ettin as two individuals trapped in the same body, and confirming that the heads are constantly bickering. For the first time, a convention for naming ettins is detailed -- each head has its own name (Hargle and Vargle, for example) and when the whole ettin is referred to, the two names are just combined into one (Harglevargle).

17. Ettin 2014 - Monster Manual.jpeg
Monster Manual (2014)

At long last, we also get an origin story which explains the ettin's orcish appearance. Like the ettin's 4th Edition origin story, this one also involves Demogorgon, but in a different way. Legend has it that orcs once stumbled upon a temple to Demogorgon, and the magic of this temple transformed the orcs into giant mockeries of the twin-headed Prince of Demons. These creatures scattered into the wilderness to become the first ettins. We are also told that the word "ettin" means "ugly giant" in an ancient dialect of common.

The ettin reproductive cycle is also covered, with female ettins noted as the dominant gender. The would-be mother conquers a mate, who then cares for and feeds her during a six month pregnancy (one month less than in 1st Edition). The male is released from this servitude once the child is born, and when the child is able to hunt for itself, its mother sends it away. Other than this brief marriage, the ettins of 5th Edition are almost exclusively solitary creatures, with the heads of an ettin being even less tolerant of other ettins than they are of each other.

Ettins and other monsters
From early in the history of D&D, it was clear that ettins were not at all fussy about who or what they would mate with. The giant two-headed troll in the 1st Edition Fiend Folio is an ettin/troll crossbreed. Similarly, the biclops in the The Dragon's Bestiary in Dragon #172 is a cross between a cyclopskin and an ettin.

18. Giant Two-Headed Troll 1984 - Fiend Folio.jpeg
Fiend Folio (1981)

In "The Tribes of Thar" in Dragon #362 there is a two-headed ogre named Zar-Umak. To be fair, this article suggests that ettin ancestry is just one possible explanation for his twin heads, but given what we know about the apparent willingness of ettins to mate with other creatures, it doesn't seem unlikely. There is less doubt about Harrigus and Skaltath in Hall of the Fire Giant King in Dungeon #200. This two-headed fire giant is definitely the result of crossbreeding between ettins and fire giants.

19. Biclops 1991 - Dragon 172.jpeg
Dragon #172 (1991)

It seems that as the different editions of D&D progressed, so did the ettin's willingness to mate with, well, just about anything. Bastion of Broken Souls features Krushar, a half-dragon ettin and there is another half-dragon ettin in the 5th Edition adventure DDEX1-10: Tyranny in Phlan. There are fiendish ettins in Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land, and the Epic Level Handbook details Ignition/Inferno, who is half-fire elemental, half-ettin. Best not to think too hard about the mechanics of producing that particular offspring!

20. Hiveblood Ettin 2005 - Dungeon 127.jpeg
Dragon #127 (2005)

Dungeon #127 reveals a hiveblood ettin which has been half-transformed into a formian, and an ettin dire werebat named Sina and Mesrak features in Dungeon #137.

21. Ettin Dire Werebat 2006 - Dungeon 137.jpeg
Dragon #137 (2006)

Ettins seem to be just as voracious when it comes to the types of creatures they will lair with or co-operate with. As mentioned above, the Monster Cards, Set 3 has ettins sharing their homes with cavebears and using titanotheres as mounts. The Ecology of the Gulguthra in Dragon #96, notes that otyughs sometimes exists in symbiosis with ettins, and in the 4th Edition Monster Manual, ettins may be encountered with creatures as diverse as banshrae, basilisks, barlgura demons and wyverns. An ettin in Dungeon #169 has a pet owlbear.

WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins has a group of spriggans telling bad jokes about their "stupid ettin friends", as well as a group of ettins which act far more civilized than usual, but only because a nearby aboleth is in control of their minds.

Ettins also occasionally have a business relationship with smaller humanoids, including their distant relatives, the orcs, but it isn't clear who is the employer and who is the employee. The 3rd Edition Monster Manual tells us that ettins sometimes use treasure to buy the services of goblins or orcs, but the 5th Edition Monster Manual reverses this relationship, and we learn that orcs treat ettins as distant cousins, and entice them to serve as guards or scouts with the promise of food and loot.

Ettins and magic
Ettins aren't particularly magical beings, but there are still a few items scattered through D&D lore which involve ettins. One of the cards in the deck of illusions in EX1: Dungeonland pictures an ettin, and in FRA1: Storm Riders, there is a crystal of answers which has an obese ettin imprisoned inside. This crystal functions rather like a magic 8-ball. When asked a yes/no question, the ettins nods both its heads for "yes", shakes them for "no", or nods one and shakes the other to indicate "maybe".

Weapons of Legacy details a powerful weapon called the Fiendkiller's Flail, but other than the fact that it has recently fallen into the possession of an ettin named Kardun and Mordek, it doesn't have a specific connection to our featured creature.

22. Ettin Axe of Uruth 2005 - City of Splendors Waterdeep.jpeg
City of Splendors: Waterdeep (2005)

Of more interest is the Ettin Axe of Uruth from City of Splendors: Waterdeep. This unique orcish double axe is imbued with two different personalities, the lawful evil Ur and the chaotic evil Krypt. Intelligent magic items frequently do their best to persuade their hosts to either ignore or destroy nearby rival items, but in this case the two sentiences are constantly denigrating each other. It seems doubtful if the benefits of wielding this argumentative blade would outweigh the disadvantages.

Two ettins featured in the original Dragonlance adventure series. Highlord Verminaard has one serving him as an officer when he shows up for the final battle at the end of DL4: Dragons of Desolation, and there is also one living in the Ruins near Kendermore in DL12: Dragons of Faith.

In the short story Catch of the Day in the Rebels and Tyrants anthology, an ettin is one of a series of creatures that picks up a seemingly cursed fishing rod which once belonged to one of Krynn's greatest sorcerers. Like all of the creatures who try to use the rod, this ettin eventually comes to an unfortunate end.

23. Ettin 1998 - The Bestiary.jpeg
The Bestiary (1998)

The Bestiary (an accessory produced during the period that Dragonlance was supported by the SAGA Game instead of the AD&D rules) describes ettins as simply two-headed giants, and notes that there are rare ettins with three or more heads who are even more brutal and aggressive than the two-headed sort. On Krynn, other giants view ettins as freaks that should be destroyed.

The delightful description of an ettin's face in The Bestiary is worth quoting in full: "At first glace, their faces resemble a hill giant's, but once you've dealt with both types, you can easily tell the difference. Ettins have large watery eyes, pug noses, and mouths filled with large, yellowed teeth. Their thick black hair grows long and tangled, and smells like an over-heated horse". The Bestiary also provides a few insights into the Ettin language, which is a distinct one on Krynn. It consists mainly of grunts and howls, has only eight distinct sounds, and no adjectives or adverbs.

[h=3]Forgotten Realms[/h]
Ettins have been a feature of the Realms for a long time. One of the earliest entries in the Roll of Years is the "Year of the Clever Ettin" (-595 DR), and during the Netherese historical era in which How the Mighty Are Fallen is set, there is a possible encounter with one or more ettins in the Trek Through the Eastern Forest portion of the adventure. Judging from the detailed treasure which may be found in their lair, ettins were wealthier in the past.

Both FR5: The Savage Frontier and the expanded The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier set mention that ettins roam the Coldwood in the northern reaches of Faerûn. Presumably they wander far enough south to occasionally be captured and, um... eaten, since Volo's Guide to Cormyr mentions a scroll shop in Espar which sells instructional chapbooks on topics including "how best to cook an ettin's foot".

24. Ettin 1996 - Undermountain The Lost Level.jpeg
Undermountain: The Lost Level (1996)

In Undermountain: The Lost Level three hungry ettins appear from nowhere, apparently called forth by new summoning magics created by Halaster. In the 4th Edition era of the Realms, the Iron Keep on Oman island in the Moonshaes is ruled over by an ettin named Hathfell (Backdrop: Moonshae in Dungeon #196).

In New Rogues Gallery in Polyhedron #60 we are introduced to an unusual ettin named Nicknack Two-Heads. An accident involving a helm of opposite alignment and a gem of insight caused one of his heads to become good while the other remained evil. Only the help of an old druid helped Nicknack remain sane, eventually balancing the conflicting heads, and becoming neutral in alignment. Nicknack travels the Realms, often astride a white elephant figurine of wondrous power.

25. Ettin 1991 - Polyhedron 60.jpeg
Polyhedron #60 (1991)

In FOR7: Giantcraft, a Realms-specific origin story for the ettin is given. The greater giant god Annam All-Father married a lesser demigoddess who manifested as a great mountain on the edge of the Cold Lands. Their sons founded the dynasties of the giant races, including the twisted brood of Annam's two-headed son, Arno/Julian. "Ettin" means "runt" in the ancient form of the giant tongue. The average weight of a Faerûnian ettin is around 1,000 lbs, like the skinny ettins of 1st and 2nd Edition, rather than the 5,000 lb specimens of later editions.

The citizens of Faerûn seem to have a mild obsession with undead ettins, as there are a surprising number in Realmslore. In the Skeletal Mountain in H4: The Throne of Bloodstone, there is a 4,000 foot high pile of bones that manifests as various types of skeletons, including skeletal ettins. More ettin skeletons guard the burial chambers in FA1: Halls of the High King and the north tower in Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave.

As mentioned in Seeing the Sights in Skullport in Dragon #172 a shop in central Skullport belonging to Cryptkey Facilitations is guarded by an impressive skull-headed ettin. A slightly updated description of this creature in Skullport seems to imply that it is actually some kind of monster zombie. Two ettin zombies (mentioned in Volo's Guide to Cormyr) also guard a wharf belonging to Falconstar Wayshipping in Wheloon.

In Ivid the Undying, the site of an ancient battle called Ettin's Mound is described. Here, a tribe of roughly fifteen ettins is lead by Iron Grandfather, their unusually powerful chieftan. Uncharacteristically for an ettin, he uses magical items, including a horn of fog and a brooch of shielding which has the added benefit of hasting its wearer without also aging him. Punctuating their ferocity, this tribe has, as its prized delicacy, spit roast of ogre stuffed with orc.

In the Statuary on level four of Maure Castle (detailed in Dungeon #112) there is a two-headed giant stored in suspended animation. Although it behaves in a similar manner to an ettin if the storage vessel is shattered, this creature isn't actually an ettin, but a fire giant who has had a frost giant's head and blood added to its body by the necromancer Afelbain.

WG7: Castle Greyhawk has an encounter with a cretin, which is "sort of like an ettin but not as smart". The two-heads are named Burt and Jimmy. They speak with a cockney accent. Wait, didn't we decided back in the drider article not to dwell on anything from Castle Greyhawk?

The article Domains of Dread: Sunderheart, the Funeral City in Dragon #368 mentions that two rival ettin bands occupy the lower city and engage in on-again-off-again warfare. So far, they have not noticed that members of their bands are being taken by the mists during foggy nights.

Computer games
As with the drider, the ettin is a common opponent in Dungeons & Dragons computer games. These images from the Forgotten Realm Wiki show a few examples of digital ettins.

26. Ettin 1991 - Pools of Darkness.jpeg
Pools of Darkness (1991)

28. Ettin 2000 - Icewind Dale.jpeg
Icewind Dale (2000)

29. Ettin 2002 - Neverwinter Nights.jpeg
Neverwinter Nights (2002)

The ettin has been a popular figure in D&D miniatures lines over the years. There was a metal ettin in the Ral Partha "Monsters" line for AD&D, and in Wizard of the Coast's AD&D 2nd Edition and Chainmail series.

30. Ral Partha 410.jpeg
Ral Partha #11-410 (1987)
Image from DNDLead

31. WotC Ettin.jpeg
Wizards of the Coast #40021 (1999)
Image from Minibase

32. Chainmail Ettin.jpg
Chainmail #88461 (2002)
Image from Wizards of the Coast

Ettins have also been a feature in pre-painted plastic miniatures, with an Ettin Skirmisher in Deathknell (#52/60), an Ettin Jack-of-Irons in Dungeons of Dread (#38/60) and an Ettin Spirit-Talker in Demonweb (#42/60). These images are from the WotC web site.

33. Ettin Skirmisher.jpeg
Deathknell (2005)

34. Ettin Jack-of-Irons.jpeg
Dungeons of Dread (2008)

35. Ettin Spirit-Talker.jpeg
Demonweb (2008)

Ettin names
Arno and Julian, Brekelrak, Broggen, Durj, Gorg, Grush, Gurgnash, Gurrak, Hargle and Vargle, Harrigus and Skaltath, Hathfell, Hrukka, Iron Grandfather, Joebob, Kardun and Mordek, Krushar, Marlgran, Nicknack Two-Heads, Puddentane, Samendave, Sina and Mesrak, Spike and Bruse, Stern Uncle, Strewth, Therrik, Thrarak, Ysl.

36. Ettin 2006 - Tome of Battle.jpeg
Tome of Battle (2006)

Monster Manual, p40 (December 1977)
G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King, p8 (July 1979)
Dragon #35, p32, "The Official Errata: Scads of Additions and Revisions for AD&D" (March 1980)
Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits, p23 (June 1980)
Deities and Demigods, p93 (August 1980)
Fiend Folio, p90 (July 1981)
Dragon #58, p28, "Sage Advice" (February 1982)
Monster Cards, Set 3 (May 1982)
EX1: Dungeonland, p30 (April 1983)
DL4: Dragons of Desolation, p20 (September 1984)
Dragon #91, p10, "Realistic Vital Statistics" (November 1984)
Dragon #92, p29, "Duh 'Cology of Duh Ettin" (December 1984)
Dragon #94, p4, "Letters" (February 1985)
DL12: Dragons of Faith, p11 (March 1985)
Dragon #96, p21, "The Ecology of the Gulguthra" (April 1985)
T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil, p76, 100 (August 1985)
Dragon #127, p40, "Fighting for Keeps" (November 1987)
WG7: Castle Greyhawk, p19 (January 1988)
H4: The Throne of Bloodstone, p54 (May 1988)
FR5: The Savage Frontier, p45 (August 1988)
Dragon #141, p27, "Orcs Throw Spells, Too!" (January 1989)
Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (August 1989)
FRA1: Storm Riders, p57 (April 1990)
WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins, p57, 60-61 (July 1990)
FA1: Halls of the High King, p20 (October 1990)
Polyhedron #60, p28, "New Rogues Gallery" (May 1991)
Dragon #172, p12, "Seeing the Sights in Skullport" (August 1991)
Dragon #172, p17, "The Dragon's Bestiary" (August 1991)
1991 Trading Cards Factory Set, card 121/750 (September 1991)
Monster Mythology, p78 (April 1992)
1992 Trading Cards Factory Set, card 123/750 (September 1992)
Monstrous Manual , p135 (June 1993)
1993 Trading Cards Factory Set, card 334/750 (December 1993)
Deck of Encounters, Set Two, "Two Heads Are Better than One" (June 1994)
Ivid the Undying (March 1995)
Labyrinth of Madness, p20 (July 1995)
Volo's Guide to Cormyr, p109, 141 (July 1995)
FOR7: Giantcraft, p7, 19 (August 1995)
The North: Guide to the Savage Frontier, The Wilderness, p58 (April 1996)
Undermountain: The Lost Level, p8-9 (May 1996)
Rod of Seven Parts, Book I: Initiation to Power, p13-15 (August 1996)
How the Mighty Are Fallen, p16 (November 1996)
The Bestiary, p210-211 (September 1998)
Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Game, Rules Book, p24 (April 1999)
Skullport, p42 (June 1999)
Rebels and Tyrants: Tales of a Fifth Age, "Catch of the Day" (April 2000)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "Free Original Adventures: Solve the Ettin's Riddle!" (September 2000)
Monster Manual, p89 (October 2000)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "Monster Mayhem: Tricks for Tackling Ettins" (February 2001)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "Fight Club: Gorg: Ettin Barbarian/Sorcerer" (February 2001)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "NPC Closeup: Durj, Ettin Bard" (February 2002)
Bastion of Broken Souls, p38 (March 2002)
Epic Level Handbook, p280 (July 2002)
Savage Species, p34, 134 (February 2003)
Monster Manual v.3.5, p106, 227 (July 2003)
Dragon #314, p22, "Brotherhood of the Burning Heart" (December 2003)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "Elite Opponents: Ettins" (March 2004)
Dungeon #112, p80, "Maure Castle Level Four: The Statuary" (July 2004)
Monster Manual III, p162 (September 2004)
Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead, p108 (October 2004)
Races of the Wild, p152 (February 2005)
City of Splendors: Waterdeep, p147 (July 2005)
Weapons of Legacy, p85 (July 2005)
Dungeon #127, p31, "The Hive" (October 2005)
Dragon #137, p78 "Man Foever" (August 2006)
Tome of Battle, p29 (August 2006)
Cormyr: The Tearing of the Weave p123 (March 2007)
Shadowdale: The Scouring of the Land, p38 (July 2007)
Dragon #362, "The Tribes of Thar" (December 2007)
Monster Manual, p108 (June 2008)
H3: Pyramid of Shadows, Adventure Book Two, p2 (August 2008)
Dragon #368, p70, "Domains of Dread: Sunderheart, the Funeral City" (October 2008)
Monster Manual 2, p46 (April 2009)
Dungeon #169, p25, "Hall of the Snake God" (August 2009)
Dungeon Master's Guide 2, p107 (September 2009)
Monster Vault, p119-121 (November 2010)
Madness at Gardmore Abbey, Book 3: Encounters Part 1, p5 (September 2011)
Dungeon #196, "Backdrop: Moonshae" (November 2011)
Dungeon #199, "Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl" (February 2012)
Dungeon #200, "Hall of the Fire Giant King" (March 2012)
D&D Next Playtest Bestiary, p44 (December 2012)
Wizards of the Coast web site, "Wandering Monsters: They Might Be Giants" (February 2013)
Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, p234 (August 2013)
D&D Next Playtest Bestiary, p42 (September 2013)
Monster Manual, p132 (September 2014)
DDEX1-10: Tyranny in Phlan, p33 (December 2014)

37. Ettin 2005 - Races of the Wild.jpeg
Races of the Wild (2005)

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Echohawk said:
The word ettin comes to us from the Old English word "eoten", which means "giant, monster, enemy", but doesn't seem to have a specific association with a two-headed giant until the AD&D Monster Manual, which is where we first meet the characteristic Dungeons & Dragons ettin.

I would call this "Old English by way of Tolkien." It is likely that the MM author's awareness of the word "ettin" was due to its presence in Tolkien's books, in the place-names "Ettenmoors" and "Ettendales." http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Ettenmoors

Ettenmoors are where the trolls live. In an earlier draft, the name was Trollfells, and "troll-fells" are also mentioned in the final text. In his translator's guide which JRRT wrote, he defined "eten" as "troll, ogre."

And even though there are two-headed giants in folktales before Tolkien, it is likely that the two-headedness of the D&D Ettin is from something Gandalf says in The Hobbit:

"I am afraid trolls do behave like that, even those with only one head each."


If so, then the D&D Ettin is another direct adaptation from Tolkien, along with halflings, elves, dwarves, treants, ettercaps (in regard to their association with spiders; "attercop" is a name Bilbo calls the giant spiders), (barrow) wights, and others.
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Additionally, the ettin is also featured in Guild Wars.


And Guild Wars 2.


In Guild Wars the Ettin still has two heads (that sometimes have two different personalities, and talk to each other), but the heads are grown together.


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