There is a giant opportunity for TTRPG players with Dungeons and Dragons latest compendium of 2023, entitled “Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants.”
There are some great writers on this project including Makenzie De Armas (lead writer for “The Islands of Sina Una” and worked on Matt Colville’s “Kingdoms and Warfare” and Critical Role), Dan Dillon (Kobold Press), Ben Petrisor (board game designer for Temple of Elemental Evil) and Jason Tondro (writer of “The Show Must Go On” for Paizo).
The format of this book follows what Dungeons and Dragons has done since Ed Greenwood’s “Volo’s Guide to Waterdeep”(1993). Greenwood took Jeff Grubb’s NPC Volo Geddarm and made him into an unreliable narrator who used snarky asides. In this year’s Dungeons and Dragons movie “Honor Among Thieves,” Volo’s image makes an appearance in a painting.
Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition has made use of the wizards Mordenkainen and Tasha, from Gary Gygax’s Greyhawk campaign, as narrators for the books “Tome of Foes” (2018), “Tasha’s Caldron of Everything” (2020) and “Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse” (2022). This book goes back to the same well and uses another wizard from Greyhawk, this time Bigby, famous for the well-used and well-loved spell, Bigby’s Hand. In Critical Role’s first campaign Sam Reigel’s character, a gnome bard called Scanlan Shorthalt, made lots of use of this spell.
In this incarnation Bigby, like Scanlan, is a gnome. Bigby has many encounters with a giant demigod called Diancastra. This demigod also gives insights with quotes inside text boxes that resemble scrolls.
The first chapter of “Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants” includes a barbarian subclass option with giant abilities. It also gives information about backgrounds, foes, birthplaces and primeval animals (dinosaurs) as pets or companions.
The second chapter of the compendium shows why the character of Diancastra was created. She’s a demigod of mortal giant and divine origins, like many possible origins for player characters or NPCs presented in the compendium, but also happens to be a demigod because her father is the god Annam. It also gives advice on how to play a giant at the RPG table and gives statistics on different sizes and social structures to help players with characters that have giant origins.
Chapter Three helps the Dungeon Master run giant adventures in campaigns, with random tables for encounters and five categories for adventures. It also points at giant flavored campaigns. A very good part of the chapter shows giants acting as patrons for players.
Chapter Four is entitled Giant Enclaves. These lairs are well constructed with maps that a Dungeon Master can use right away. The Singing Sands is my favorite, with the Star Forge and the Thundering Observatory as close seconds. They can act as mini adventures or parts of a larger campaign.
Chapter Five is all about giant treasures. The treasure is broken down by giant type. Cloud Giants have wealth, while Hill Giants have smoked meat and wheels of cheese. The Storm Giants have epic pieces of treasure while Stone Giants have artful carvings.
Chapter Six finishes with the meat of the book, a bestiary with monsters to fight. This chapter provides information about numerous giants and other related creatures that can be used in campaigns. They are big bags of hit points, many over 200. They have multiple attacks along with individual quirks. Trolls that turn to stone (as in The Hobbit), Firbolgs that act as wilderness wardens, Gargantuan Constructs and twisted Fomorians all appear. They sit alongside Giant Ticks and Grinning Cats (a la Alice in Wonderland).
Much of this book is a mashup of different mythologies, beloved tropes and flashes of humor. If you want a resource that provides both the player and the Dungeon Master with everything they need to have giants in their campaign, this is it.
This book recently got some controversial attention over the issue of AI generated art. On August 5 D7D Beyond tweeted, “Today we became aware that an artist used AI to create artwork for the upcoming book, Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants. We have worked with this artist since 2014 and he’s put years of work into books we all love. While we weren’t aware of the artist’s choice to use AI in the creation process for these commissioned pieces, we have discussed with him, and he will not use AI for Wizards’ work moving forward. We are revising our process and updating our artist guidelines to make clear that artists must refrain from using AI art generation as part of their art creation process for developing D&D art.”
It should be noted that many TTRPG companies like Call of Cthulhu’s Chaosium have made a commitment to not using AI art. It is good to see this is now the case at Wizards of the Coast.