Friday, August 12, 2022

Giants, the Wandering People

A giant's life has always been a lonely one, even before the Starving Time.  They wander the land alone, checking their traps, watching the stars, and telling tales of old to those they meet along the way.  What other peoples have forgotten, the lonely giants remember.


Giants are a large primate, something like a gorilla or sasquatch.  They are the tallest of the four peoples by only a little, hunched over as they walk, but they are the strongest by far.  Their thick fur comes in colors from charcoal black to russet brown to pale grey.


Giants (ogolon O-go-lone, as they call themselves) are incredibly strong, able to carry heavier loads and break through tougher obstacles than anyone else.  Their slow speed works against them in a fight, but this is offset by the protection afforded by their thick hide.  While giants have traditionally not used many ranged weapons, they eagerly make use of elven firearms as much as they can, even carrying smaller sorts of cannons on occasion.

When playing a giant, here are some tips to make them feel even more giantish:

  • Appeal to history for justification.  Invoke ancient alliances in a call to war, bring goods to trade that were sung about in the olden days, recite a poem from your grandmother's grandmother when making peace.
  • Look and listen, then ponder your words before you speak.

Giants have deep memories, remembering details from ancient tales that others have forgotten.  Some are skilled enough in memory to recite hours-long epic poems or to recall the words of conversations they had many years before.  (The elves think some of the giants can read elven holy scriptures, but in fact the giants simply listened and memorized the entire book.)


Giants wander the land alone most of the year, favoring colder, higher, and drier places than other people.  They make elaborate traps to catch birds, fish, and land creatures alike, and they don't mind if the meat has gotten a bit old before they eat it.  Some giants do more fishing instead, or gathering wild plants, while others tend to herds of livestock: llamas, alpacas, and yaks, mostly.

While giants mostly wander alone, they do belong to an ancestral house that governs the vast territory where they roam.  Should a giant be killed, the vengeance of their house will be slow, but it will be remembered for generations.

A giantish ancestral house is a physical structure, but it's thought of as something like a person, the embodiment of their kinship group, capable of owning property and bestowing honors and titles.  A few people stay at the house all the time, generally elders who are too old to roam the land, members of the first rank, and perhaps some warriors for defense.

The members of a house are divided into ranks (typically four per house), showing their prestige and role in governance of the house.  Giants inherit a place in the house one rank lower than their most prestigious parent.  The members of a rank may invite someone from the rank below to join them, in recognition of their skills or service to the house.

Each spring the house hosts a gathering.  Everyone returns home from their lonely wandering for a few days of trade, mating, gossip, and making plans for the year ahead.

Like the other indigenous peoples of the North, giants mostly used stone and copper tools until the strangers came from across the sea.  Elven trader introduced the giants to firearms and kettles, but they also destroyed many trade networks, either by outcompeting them with industrialized products or by brute conquest.  Many of the giantish houses fell into debt, trading away everything to the elves just to survive.  As a result, giants can now be found as laborers around most elven settlements, working for mere pennies, if they're paid at all.

The houses that still stand tend to follow the old ways, telling tales and doing dances for the star gods.  Some have been converted to the elven ancestor-worship religion instead.

Other People

To the giants:

  • Humans are rowdy and sometimes troublesome neighbors, but they make many good products for trade, and in the end they usually remember to treat giants with respect.
  • Goblins have an irritating tendency to break into giantish traps for the meat inside, but where they're not competing for food, giants and goblins can get along well enough for trade.
  • Elves are wealthy traders and skillful teachers of religion and science, but they're also the cruel tyrants everyone seems to owe money to, or the capricious conquerors who kill people and take their land.

Because they get along with the other peoples well enough, giants tend to be the best traders and diplomats.


Giants in this setting are inspired mostly by the North American fur trade.  They're the lonely mountain men who wandered the west trapping for furs, coming together for an annual rendezvous.  They're also the indigenous tribes who pushed across the frontier to follow the trade companies, sometimes benefiting from access to trade goods, sometimes suffering from the destruction of the old trade networks and the new indebtedness to the companies.

Their aesthetics are a mix of Siberian and Pueblo, with architecture particularly inspired by the Japanese shinmei-zukuri style.  The sounds of the giantish language are inspired mostly by Hopi and Inuktitut.

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