Life In Plastic: Hill Giants (Dungeons & Dragons)


Giants have been a part of Dungeons & Dragons since the very beginning. This isn’t anything special, any fantasy mishmash needs Big People(tm). D&D has, however, thrown in multiple varieties of giant from the beginning. Although the number of variants is different in each edition (the longer an edition lasts, the more random stuff gets piled on), the core six types are Hill Giants (classic big cavemen giants), Fire Giants (ash-dark skin, fire-orange hair, proportioned like Dwarves, do a lot of forging), Frost Giants (gigantic blue Vikings), Stone Giants (skinny, but made of rock), Cloud Giants (extremely large, pale skin, live in the clouds), and Storm Giants (basically Zeus).

Hill Giants are basically cavemen.  Big, clumsy, gluttonous, and stupid, they traditionally are a little taller than Ogres, and make up the lowest tier of true Giants. They rarely get to play a major role in storylines aside from brutish flunkies, though Storm King’s Thunder gave them a bit of recent spotlight.  Their generic nature serves to their benefit – other Giants are certainly specialized to various degrees, but Hill Giants have always been able to fit into pretty much any big, brutish role.

Until 5th Edition.  5th Edition reformatted Giants into the Ordning – you know, making their general theme into their sole reason for being.  So Fire Giants, who often worked the forge, became Giants who WORK THE FORGE.  Cloud Giants liked money, so now RICHES ARE EVERYTHING.  And, as for Hill Giants?  Well, they eat a lot, so now EATING IS EVERYTHING TO THEM.  Hill Giants are no longer big cave men – they’re just obese.  Seriously, their entry in the Monster Manual should read Giant, Cholesterol.  And just wait’ll you get a load of Chief Guh.  In fact, I’m going to go a little out of order, and save Guh for last.  The figure originally came out as the special case incentive for Storm King’s Thunder, but we’ll look at it after all the rest.  Anyway, let’s take a look at how Hill Giants have changed through the editions, and then get into the figures!

In 1st Edition, Hill Giants were just big cave men. This guy has a receding hairline, too.

2nd Edition added 30% more Neanderthal! Not much more to say here.

3rd Edition added 30% more Danny DeVito. Ha ha, but Hill Giants were basically unchanged.

4th Edition Hill Giants also look identical to previous editions, only now they are considered “earth elemental” for some reason – and look at that Earth Titan! He has absolutely no thematic relation to Hill Giants. The Titans idea kind of got stretched a little far here.

You know, 5th Edition doesn’t look too bad. Oh, just wait until you see the minis. Just wait.

The first Hill Giant mini, in 2004’s Archfiends set, is a muscled neanderthal. Not too much to say here, except that he is a little smaller than other Hill Giant minis, and just generally looks different than the rest.

War Drums in 2006 gave us the Hill Giant Barbarian, who aside from being obscenely muscular, tends to show up the most on generic gaming tables. It’s just a really good figure.

The same set also gave us the Hill Giant Chieftain, a fellow with a muppetesque face. He’s a little more cartoonish than his Barbarian friend, which makes him look kind of goofy. Anyway, this was it for 3rd Edition.

2008 gave us an Earth Titan in War of the Dragon Queen. And I must apologize, this is an old picture with poor lighting. I couldn’t find my Earth Titan, and did not want to shell out for a new one. It’s a fantastic figure, though, with great paint on the stone and some moss detailing, as well. It just ain’t a Hill Giant. Well, from here we’ve got Pathfinder!

Shattered Star in 2013 gave us our first Pathfinder Hill Giant, and he’s not in shape! Hes fat, hairy, and bald, unlike those buff D&D dudes.

The Lost Coast in 2014 gave us a Hill Giant Chief. He looks more like a Muppet than the other Chieftain – is it a thing with them? Along with looking like an Ogre, he’s also dressed in a fairly more sophisticated fashion than his brethren. One could almost see this guy as somewhat friendly. Dim, but friendly. Well, that’s it for Pathfinder. Now it’s time for… 4th Edition D&D!

Storm King’s Thunder in 2016 gave us a new Hill Giant! Aside from his decidedly non-neanderthal clothes (he’s also got a GIANT backpack), the most noticeable thing is that he is… well, kinda fat. Enough to make him funnier-looking than either chief. This version carries a spear.

And this variant has a club which is basically a boulder strapped to a tree. Okay, technically Chief Guh is next, but like I said, we’re saving her for last.

Mama June here showed up in 2018’s Monster Menagerie 3. Did I mention that Hill Giants are fat now? Because that’s basically their entire characterization these days.

The variant does not have a weapon. She just grabs. And from this angle, she looks a lot like Ms. Trunchbull from Mathilda.

The set also gave us the Mouth of Grolantor. You see, Hill Giants eat everything, but they almost never get food poisoning. When one vomits his tribesmen usually interpret that as being touched by the god Grolantor, so they isolate and starve that Hill Giant until he goes insane (because Hill Giants EAT EVERYTHING). So, this guy goes into berserker rage, but he’s also willing to stop and eat pumpkins by the handful. Anyway, there’s no more putting it off, it’s time for Chief Guh.

Chief Guh, a Gargantuan-sized figure, is an entire size category larger than even other 5th Edition Hill Giants. She is the “Case Incentive” figure for Storm King’s Thunder – supplied at 1 per case of minis boosters, and retails for about $50. Yes, that’s right. Fifty dollars. I’ve shown off a few D&D and Pathfinder case incentives – look up Bahamut, the Shemhazian, the Kraken, or even the Tomb of Annihilation traps set. Those are awesome. This is, uh… let’s just say that the gaming stores near me can’t sell her even on a discount. When I bought this one, the store’s owner sarcastically applauded, and thanked me for freeing shelf space. He then made several yo mama jokes.

After the disappearance of Storm King Hekaton, Chief Guh has put her Master Plan into motion: To eat until she becomes the Biggest Thing In The World, and thus rule everything. Of the various evil Giant Lords in this adventure path, she is not the smartest. Her plan was not well-thought out. Her throne has wheels, and is like a primitive Rascal. When you defeat her, a goblin crawls out from her fat folds. The humor does not get more sophisticated. She also wear a well as a hat, although it’s honestly too small in relation to human-sized figures.

Chief Guh isn’t even all that bigger than the other Hill Giants. The figure is hollow, though – moreso than the others, which makes it feel pretty cheap.

This hero has quit the adventuring business. No more.

And here we are with biggest and smallest!

The early D&D Hill Giants were all basically in scale with one another, which is a damn sight better than those Stone Giants.

The Pathfinder Giants are a little out of scale, sorta. But it’s not that bad.

Required “5th Edition made all giants extra-big” picture.

Well, there you go! They, uh, have changed Hill Giants. A lot. I dunno. But the thing is, we have now covered all six “Core” Giant types. There’s only one thing left to do to close out this subject – all the one-off unique and rare Giant types in both lines! And we’ll see them next time!

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