D&D Creature Type: 5e Giants, Photo Sketch of a Knight Standing by a Giant's Feet

D&D 5e Creature Type: Giants

Giants are a staple in many fantasy settings and stories. So, it’s no surprise that Dungeons & Dragons incorporates them into their settins.

But, what are giants in 5th Edition D&D?

In this post, I’m going to cover what giants are in D&D 5e, how to use them in your game, and some common questions about the creature type.

Let’s start off with looking at what 5e giants are.

The D&D 5e Giant Creature Type Explained

DnD 5e Giants, Photo Sketch of an Ogre
The giant creature type in 5e includes true giants & giant-kin like the ogre

Giant is one of the creature types in D&D 5e. It encompasses large, vaguely-humanoid looking creatures some of which have ties to magical energies.

For the most part, creatures of the giant type are:

  • Bigger than average humanoids
  • Physically stronger than many creatures
  • Resemble humanoids in some way

Page 7 of the Monster Manual describes giants as:

"Giants tower over humans and their kind. They are humanlike in shape, though some have multiple heads (ettins) or deformities (fomorians). The six varieties of true giant are hill giants, stone giants, frost giants, fire giants, cloud giants, and storm giants. Besides these, creatures such as ogres and trolls are giants."

DnD Beyond: Basic Rules – Chapter 12: Monsters

The one recurring theme amongst the 5e giant creature type is they’re big. Aside from that, they vary a bit from having elemental ties to having magical abilities to being mostly martial fighters.

Usually though, 5e giants resemble humanoids in some way. This means giants are usually bipedal (walk on two legs) with humanoid faces and proportions.

That said, there’s room for variability. For example, trolls usually have longer arms than a normal humanoid would. And, many 5e giants have skin tones abnormal for most humanoids (like blues, reds, or greys).

Creatures with the giant creature type fall into two categories: true giants and giant-kin. Now, this isn’t an official designation. But, it helps for differentiating giants and the giant creature type. Kind of like how the 5e dragon creature type works.

Let’s break each of these down starting with true giants.

True Giants in D&D 5e

Like the dragon creature type in D&D, there are true giants in 5e. These are what you probably think of whenever someone mentions giants in D&D. These are big, humanoid-like creatures with some magical powers.

True giants are probably what you think of when you think "giant". They’re all vaguely humanoid (more so than many of the giant-kin) and stand tall at size Large or Huge. Also, for some reason, many people (myself included) think giants like hurling big rocks at things…which the true giants actually have in their stat block.

Now, much like dragons, true giants come in different flavors. But, unlike our scaly friends, there aren’t as many types of true giants.

The six types of true giants in 5e are:

  • Cloud Giant
  • Fire Giant
  • Frost Giant
  • Hill Giant
  • Stone Giant
  • Storm Giant

If you’re using the Forgotten Realms lore, there’s a whole thing about the Ordning and a giants place amongst their kind. But, I’m not going over that. Basically, is a giant caste system.

With that preamble out of the way, let’s go over the true giants in alphabetical order.

Cloud Giants

Cloud Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Cloud Giant

Cloud giants reside in the clouds high above the world. They’re some of the more arrogant of the true giants as they tend to think of themselves as of the highest order of giants.

As their name suggests, Cloud giants live at the highest points of the world. Some even go so far as to reside atop solid clouds high in the sky.

If you’re going off base Cloud giants in the Monster Manual, these giants correlate their status with their amassed wealth. So, the more treasures a Cloud giant has, the higher their place amongst giants.

Cloud giants tend to use other giants to accomplish their goal of amassing their wealth. They might employ Fire giants as smiths, Frost giants as raiders, and Hill giants brutes.

That said, Cloud giants aren’t pushovers. They’re actually the second strongest true giants in the Monster Manual only behind Storm giants.

These giants come with the ability to cast some innate spells. Something most of the other base true giants can’t do.

Cloud giants are usually the second tallest of the true giants.

Fire Giants

Fire Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Fire Giant

Fire giants in D&D 5e are expert smiths, crafters, and artists. They’re also some of the more disciplined warriors amongst giantkind.

These giants tend to claim lands surrounding active volcanoes, sweltering deserts, and even in the Elemental Plane of Fire.

Given their martial background, Fire giants carry a reputation as merciless soldiers and conquerors. They train from a young age and learn the disciplines of war.

Despite their warlike reputation, Fire giants make up the greatest crafters and artists amongst the true giants. They smelt, forge, and craft great metal works in weaponry, armor, and siege weapons.

Fire giants are pretty short compared to other true giants, standing as the second shortest among their kin. They usually stand taller only over Hill giants.

Frost Giants

Frost Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Frost Giant

Frost giants are some of the more savage beings amongst the true giants. They value physical strength and brutality in battle.

Basically, Frost giants are merciless raiders found in the coldest places of the world. Brute strength and savagery in battle are key merits for any Frost giant. So, they have a reputation as barbaric ravagers.

Treasures like jewelry and gems aren’t the goal of Frost giants. Instead, they opt for raiding inns, taverns, smiths, and other more practical buildings are usually victims of Frost giant raids. They steal metals, meads, food stuffs, and other survival supplies.

Frost giants aren’t crafters. Instead, they rely on the skills of other giants for creating their weapons. That said, they do value leatherworking and carving as trade skills.

Standing as the third tallest true giants, Frost giants tend stand a bit shorter than Cloud giants.

Hill Giants

Hill Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Hill Giant

Hill giants are the weakest of the true giants. They’re less intelligent than most other giants and only exist to satiate their hunger.

That’s not to say that Hill giants must always eat. They just have nothing better to do. Which I can relate to. Also, they can apparently digest almost anything. Which is a fun note for any DMs out there.

Hill giants establish their place amongst their kind by being the biggest and strongest. They have little in the way of culture or skills. So, they only rely on absolute brute strength to stand out.

The next defining feature of Hill giants is their lack of intelligence. True giants don’t tend towards high Intelligence scores. But, Hill giants tend to have that as their lowest stat by far.

Hill giants are the shortest of the true giants.

Stone Giants

Stone Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Stone Giant

Stone giants are one of the stranger of the true giants. They’re athletic but graceful and place high value in artistic endeavors.

These giants actually dwell underground for the most part. While other true giants claim lands on the surface (in the mortal realm or someone on one of the Elemental Planes), Stone giants make their homes deep underground. That said, depending on your interpretation, they could reside somewhere on the Elemental Plane of Earth.

Stone giants are natural athletes. They value strength and grace in their athletic endeavors.

While strength and grace is important, Stone giants place the most value in artistry. While Fire giants claim the spot as master crafters, Stone giants practice painting and stone carving.

If you’re using Forgotten Realms’ Stone giant lore, they view the surface world as a dream. Which means they tend to behave strangely when away from their underground homes. Obviously, they’re not in a dream. So, I’d promptly throw that bit of lore out.

Stone giants are the third shortest of the true giants. They usually stand between Fire and Frost giants in terms of height.

Storm Giants

Storm Giant
Source: DnD Beyond – Storm Giant

Storm giants are the strongest of the true giants in the Monster Manual. They’re reclusive giants who rarely interact with their kin let alone the rest of the world.

Much like Cloud giants, Storm giants dwell in tall places around the world. Mountain peaks that rise above the clouds and magical flying castles make great Storm giant homes. That said, they also may create a home deep below the sea.

Storm giants live in isolation, far away from civilization. They rarely interact with other creatures. So, meeting with a Storm giant is a big deal.

These creatures are observers and seers. They watch civilizations rise and fall and look for omens in every detail of history as it happens.

Like Cloud giants, Storm giants have access to a few innate spells. And, they’re the strongest of the true giants in terms of Ability Scores (except in Dexterity, that goes to the Stone giants).

Along with being the strongest of the true giants, Storm giants are the tallest.

Giant-Kin in D&D 5e

Giant-kin in 5e are creatures with the giant monster type that aren’t part of the true giants.

These creatures follow many of the same rules as true giants. They usually resemble humanoids but with some variations like the two-headed ettins or the more monstrous appearing trolls (not to mention the whole regenerating thing). And, they tend to follow the same size guidelines by being size Large or Huge.

The nice thing about giant-kin is they tend to vary a bit more than the true giants.

True giants follow similar paths with differences in culture and maybe statistics. On the other hand, giant-kin vary greatly.

For example, the troll is a classic monster in many fantasy settings. They also usually have the classic abilities of regeneration or weakness to fire (as they do in D&D). But, the oni is a blue-skinned, magic-wielding ogres. Two creatures with the giant monster type but with vastly different stats and lore.

Using Giants in Your D&D Game

Photo Sketch of a Giant Being Struck by Lightning
Like many other intelligent creatures, D&D’s giants make great villains or allies

As with any monster, giants in D&D 5e have a variety of uses.

Using Giants as Antagonists

True giants make great villains and antagonists. Being usually more sentient than the other giant creatures, they can plot and plan and have ambitions that come at the expense of other creatures. That said, certain giant-kin, like the oni or ettin, also make good arc villains or even your game’s endgame antagonist.

Most giants in 5e have greater strength than low-level player characters. So, using giants as antagonists is perfect as it means your party must progress and get stronger before confronting them.

Also, many of D&D’s giants (at least in the Monster Manual) strive for wealth, power, or status. All classic motivations for any villain.

Now, some of the giant-kin won’t really have quite the aspirations as others.

Trolls, ogres, cyclops, and even Hill giants really only follow survival motivations. Usually, they won’t aspire to anything more than maybe tormenting a specific stretch of road, hillside, or town. That makes them fine as low-level or arc-based villains. But, they’re not the scheming or ambitious antagonists for a full-length game.

That said, I always encourage you to break the mold and make these creatures different. Give them ambitions or power beyond the typical creatures of their type.

Examples of using giant creatures as antagonists and villains include:

  • An ambitious Fire giant seeks to conquer a vast desert
  • A Cloud giant claims the tallest mountain in a region and begins raiding the surrounding towns
  • A Frost giant leader amasses more and more giants and sweeps across the northern reaches
  • The ettin bandit leader of a region has a stranglehold on the trade routes
  • An oni terrorizes many surrounding towns with nightmares and kidnappings

Using Giants as Ancillary Enemies

With the exception of Hill giants and the miscellaneous giant-kin, I wouldn’t suggest using true giants as ancillary or random enemy encounters. True giants serve your game better as primary threats or villains. But, giant-kin make for great lackeys and random encounters.

If anyone uses a giant as a henchman or foot soldier, that person, creature, or otherworldly entity must be strong. Giants, even the giant-kin, tend to be stubborn. So, either a cunning or immensely strong creature employs giants.

That said, if you’re putting your players up against a giant villain, using the various giants as foot soldiers makes sense.

Examples of using giants as ancillary enemies or in random encounters:

  • A troll and three satyrs argue over price of a bridge toll
  • A hungry Hill giant bursts out of the forest, chasing down a terrified centaur child
  • An oni employs ogres as a ferocious bandit group who attack travelers along the road
  • An ogre sits on the edge of a ravine, blocking the only bridge that crosses the gap
  • A Cloud giant uses Frost and Hill giants to attack a town

Using Giants as Allies

Like using them as villains, giants in D&D make great allies. Friendly merchants, reluctant allies, and respectable scholars are all wonderfully weird ways to introduce giants as potential allies in your game. The trick is not overshadowing low-level parties with a giant’s capabilities.

Like any other semi-intelligent creature in D&D, you can use giants as more than enemies. Depending on how you present them, you could include giants as either benevolent, willing friends like merchants or as reluctant allies like exiled giants who would rather get revenge than attack the party.

Now, this is when I usually ignore things like alignment. If you follow the stat block of a lot of giant creatures, they’ll have evil alignments. You can follow them if you like and it may still work (as in an exiled giant who’s willing to work with the party). But, it’s more fun to have a friendly or at least neutral Fire or Frost giant who interacts with your player characters.

Also, how cool would it be to have a giant ally?

Maybe offer a giant clan as potential allies to stand against an invading demon invasion. Or, a reclusive giant hires the party to retrieve a specific work of art thought lost to time. As always, get weird with it.

Some examples of using D&D giants as allies include:

  • A Fire giant outcast will forge a magical weapon for the party in exchange for a favor
  • An travelling ettin mage and merchant offers both mystical goods and information
  • An exiled Frost giant is willing to help the party as an act of revenge
  • A troll offers passage through the fey realm
  • A benevolent Storm giant tasks the party with a task in exchange for knowledge

5e Giants by CR

Here’s a list of giants by Challenge Rating in D&D 5e. I’ve only included those involved in the Basic Rules so they’re readily available to you.

For a full list of 5e giants by CR, check out DnD Beyond’s Monsters page.

CR 2 Giants in 5e

  • Ogre

CR 4 Giants in 5e

  • Ettin

CR 5 Giants in 5e

  • Hill Giant
  • Troll

CR 6 Giants in 5e

  • Cyclops

CR 7 Giants in 5e

  • Oni
  • Stone Giant

CR 8 Giants in 5e

  • Frost Giant

CR 9 Giants in 5e

  • Cloud Giant
  • Fire Giant

CR 13 Giants in 5e

  • Storm Giant

5e Giants FAQ

Photo Sketch of a Giant Laying Out in a Valley

What is the Strongest Giant in D&D 5e?

Based on Challenge Rating, the strongest giant in D&D 5e is Borborygmos from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica with a CR of 18. But, based on Strength score, the strongest giants in 5e are the Storm Giant (Monster Manual) and the Storm Giant Quintessent (Volo’s Guide to Monsters) with a 29 Strength stat.

Are Giants Mortal in 5e?

Giants are mortal in 5e.

That said, giants live much longer than other mortal races depending on what type of giant they are.

How Big Are Giants in 5e?

Most giants in 5e have a size of Large or Huge. So, they usually range between 15 and maybe 30 feet tall.

There is a medium-sized giant in Storm King’s Thunder though with the Cloud Giant Child. So, there’s that.

What Language Do Giants Speak in 5e?

Giants in 5e speak giant as a language.

Which seems like a joke. But, that’s all there is to it. The language is called "giant".

That said, some of the giant-kin speak Common as well.


Summary of 5e Giants & the Giant Creature Type

That’s about it on giants in D&D 5e.

The giant creature type is one of the 14 monster types in the game. And, they share similar traits in being usually bigger than Medium size and with far greater strength than other natural creatures. Giants also fall into two categories; true giants and giant-kin. The former includes your typical giants with specific theming while the latter includes other giant-like creatures including trolls, cyclops, and ettins.

One final note on 5e’s giants; they’re often ingrained in the history of any given world.

Usually, true giants are ancient beings who warred and shaped the world around them long before many of the humanoid races developed. So, they come with a deep and rich history you can work into your world’s lore.

That said, it’s not unusual to have giants come from other realms of existence. Fire giants might come from the Elemental Plane of Fire or your trolls might originate from the fairy realm.

Like with almost any monster, you’re free to alter D&D’s creatures to fit your game.

I’m gonna do something a little different here; I want to issue you a challenge. Try introducing a friendly (or neutral) giant into your game. However you want to go about that is up to you. But, if you do, come back and let me know how it went in the comments. I’d love to see what you come up with.

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2 thoughts on “D&D 5e Creature Type: Giants”

  1. I used a Stone Giant in a quest where the party had to find a missing dwarven prospector. The Dwarf and his Giant companion had been captured by a Lamia (CR4) along with her Jackalwere henchmen (CR2). The Stone Giant was kept under by being drugged and was locked in a cage. One of the party unlocked the cage and when the rest of the party attacked, the healer neutralized the drugs keeping the giant asleep. He eventually woke up and joined the fight. One point to mention 5e doesn’t seem to have rules on damage caused by unarmed strikes by large, huge and gargantuan creatures. This was an issue because the giant was an unarmed prisoner.

    1. I love using Jackalwere’s against lower-level characters. Just enough to mess with them and prepare them for harder encounters later on.

      Yeah, 5e just uses the same 1 + Strength modifier for damage from unarmed strikes regardless of a creature’s size. I guess the thought process is larger creatures typically have higher Strength scores to begin with? Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but that’s what it is.

      If it were me, I may have ruled the Stone Giant’s unarmed attacks dealt 2d4 + Strength just for the chance of them doing more damage by virtue of being much bigger than Medium-sized creatures. The Enlarge / Reduce spell does something similar for a creature’s weapons when they grow a size, so there’s kind of of a precedent for it.

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