Not that long at all before I had to choose my second monster to remix, and I chose Frost Giants. Mostly because I had already written a take on my other option, but also because I think that giants and their ilk are ill utilized. Too often they are bags of hit points and don’t present a real challenge or threat beyond “this is gonna take a while”, both in game and in reality.
In Norse mythology, Frost Giants are one interpretation of Jotunn, a people who are often at odds with the Aesir and Vanir. They are often interpreted as trolls as well, and display a myriad of different skills and abilities. Sometimes they’re respected members of the community, and other times they’re clawed monsters with wicked magic who ride wolves. In D&D, they’re just big skyrim viking barbarians.
Game mechanic wise, they’re the same as other giants, but smarter, more cultured, with resistance to frost and weakness to fire. They use some armor and stereotypical macho swedaboo barbarian weapons. Not a lot to work with, but enough. These guys are bricks and bruisers, and meant to soak up damage and dish it out in kind, capable of being villains with personality. By comparison, Hill Giants are the school bully who shoved you into a locker as a stereotype: big, dumber than the rocks he throws, and gross. A giant blob of flesh and farts with brute force and a low intellect meat-mind to vaguely pilot it. Frost giants are not that. They are tacitly abusive brutalists. Melee combatants meant to be equal to our stalwart fighters, capable of tactics.
The obvious Appendix N inspiration for them is clearly “The Frost-Giant’s Daughter”, by Robert E. Howard. A shorter tale of Conan of Cimmeria, where he encounters a slightly more mythical and trollish jotunn in the form of Atali, and two of her brothers which fall much more in-line with the monster-manual default Frost-Giant. Both warrior-kin are quickly dispatched by the Cimmerian, as he falls prey to the magical lure of the winter-maiden.
In basic 5e they’re effectively trailer-pagan wet dreams: giant blue-skinned horned helm lamellar clad axe-wielders with a nasty disposition. They’re cruel, bad-guys in fur cloaks, the Norse as ravaging pillagers and marauders, the heel-turn and villain-arc of all LARPers with side shaves and guyliner and beaded beards and Mjolnir pendants. A goofy chariacture of medieval Norse stereotypes cranked to 11 that would border on offensive if not for its semi-celebratory nature and dated inspiration. And that gives me an idea: we stay in the same genre, but switch sub-genres. We ditch the Amon Amarth and Wardruna for other artists.
Frost-Giants are Black Fucking Metal.
Frost-Giants, Ymir’s Blood, Rimeserkers, Sons of Ice and Darkness, Black-Marked Raiders
Along the shores of the northernmost climes of the world, massive ships land on their beaches. Dragon headed longboats cobbled together from something like ribs and tusks, or fantastically large toenails, beached like invading wyrms. Hallmarks of raiders from across cold strange waters. And in the mountains, where the air grows thin and the hoarfrost clings to beards and armor like a stiffened corpse, tiered halls of blackened wood and knot-work carved stone rise from under snowdrifts under the light of wyrdling auroras like ghosts summoned from graves. Feasting halls and plunder hoards of winter’s warrior-kin.
They rise into the sky, grim and gogmagog-like. Their torsos begin where most men’s heads stop, and their bodies are possessed of a rangey musculature and broad shoulders often seen in those who work oars for hours on end. The titans’ skin is corpse white, with a cyanotic tint. Blackened nails and lips, often with long hair and beards. Their faces are painted in a myriad of monochrome patterns with the ashes and suet of defeated beasts, and their eyes hold a menacing coldness more befitting iceberg crusted seas than living things. Their breath does not fog the air, and they often go shirtless despite the fanged bite of hypothermic winds. Sometimes they wear little but midnight black leather and cobbled armor. What protection they do wear is always adorned with spikes to menace the lesser creatures they’ve come to slay and slave.
Mighty too are their weapons, forged under psychedelic aurora skies no man has lived to tell about. The rainbow sheen on their steel a hallmark of the bifrost pathways they’ve stridden upon at the behest of their darkling shamans and gothi. The axe and sword, hammer and shield are all known to them. Such is their might to crack stone and split skulls asunder like eggshells. The meat and make of men are like husk-dolls to them, as fragile in our forms to them as icicles are to us. Their training in the warrior arts is superlative.
While little is known of their home and ways, a few foolish men have done some form of trade with them. What such titanic heralds of frosted midnight could possibly want is still largely unknown. But in the sale of pelts whiter than starlight and mead flavored with divine apples stolen from gods men don’t have names for, tales were told over gallons of ale and whole-roast horse carcasses. Tales told in voices that clawed like sleet in a graveyard, or broke like thunder from glaciers spilling across primordial skies.
Tales told while the gargantuans drank from skulls.
The giants’ home is sunless, demon and battle filled, and in a state of perpetual winter. This has bred within its people an unending grimness. Half align with old gods and giants of their ancestry, and the other align with the ruinous demons of the pit. It is a place of constant war, and it is the only life they will know till the light takes them.
Whether fodder for endless war, or for greed of gold and glory, or for cruelty birthed of a blackened world, their longships land on northern shores. Their booted feet crush walls and they raid and take what they can, giving nothing in return. Men stumble into blasted halls during blizzards, to find hearts colder than any ice they’ve ever known swearing fealty to behemoth jarls of sub-arctic mood or shadowed devils of hells best left frozen. Wind-scarred and snow-pale hands will eagerly carve out their mortal hearts for sacrifice to either set of pinprick eyes of cold cruelty.
HP: 45, AC as Chain and Shield, Saves on a 12+, Immune to cold, double damage from fire.
Attacks: Giant Weapon +4 to hit, 3d6 if single handed or 4d8 if two handed. Add +1 to AC if using a shield.
Boulder Throw +3 to hit, 3d6 damage and on a crit knocked prone on odd damage or buried under boulder on evens.
Glacial Might: instead of inflicting full damage, a Frost-Giant may instead do half damage but achieve a mighty deed (similar to DCC’s rule), enabling it to knock a target prone or disarm an opponent, or some other martial feat of incredible strength. They have advantage on all other strength based checks.
Permafrost Champions: Every 3 rounds of being in close combat range of a Frost-Giant, combatants must Save vs Breath. A failure either moves their initiative to last or adds a level of exhaustion (DM’s choice) due to radiating cold. After 3 consecutive failed saves, enemies are frozen solid.
Hearts of Blackest Ice: Cold damage heals Frost-Giants