Firbolgs (pronounced: /ˈfɪərboʊlg/ FEER-bolg listen) were a reclusive race of giant-kin who preferred to avoid contact with other sentient races. They were both the most intelligent and the most powerful of the giant-kin.
Firbolgs resembled humans, and the males would sport great, thick beards. Their thick, tough skin was fleshy pink,[note 1] and their hair, though it came in many colors, was usually either red or blond and worn long. A firbolg's voice was deep and smooth, and they tended to roll their consonants when speaking.
Firbolgs were typically over 10 feet (3 meters) tall, averaging a height of about 10.5 feet (3.2 meters). While firbolgs from other worlds weighed more than 800 pounds (360 kilograms), those of Faerûn were lighter, with males being about 650 pounds (290 kilograms) and females about 500 pounds (230 kilograms).[note 2][note 3]
The average firbolg was stronger than a forest bear. Beyond sheer physical strength, they had innate magical abilities. Firbolgs were said to be resistant to magic. They could sense the presence of magical auras innately. They also had the power to change their physical appearance, including making themselves larger or smaller. They sometimes used this magical power to blend in or interact with smaller races.
They had excellent vision at night and could perhaps see in the dark. Some sages claimed that firbolgs had regenerative abilities. Other sages reported that firbolgs could make themselves turn invisible. They were also said to be able to communicate to a limited effect with both plants and animals of their forest homes.
Firbolgs enjoyed quiet time in the woods, in harmony with nature. The forests were sacred to them and symbolized the heart of the earth and the adaptability of life. They saw themselves as the forests' caretakers.
While firbolgs of other worlds may have had tendencies toward a variety of alignments, those of Faerûn were usually lawful good in alignment,[note 2] although they were seen as maug ("unholy" or "dishonorable") creatures by other giants, because of the sin of the goddess Othea.
Firbolgs considered greed to be one of the worst vices. They believed that one should only ever take what one needs and no more. They saw no value in material wealth such as gems and gold, but sometimes would find prankish ways of taking valuables from strangers, out of a sense of fun.
Firbolgs believed that charity was a virtue but also believed that it was harmful for the recipient to know the identity of the provider; because of this they appeared to be reclusive amongst the other races, although they were very sociable with established friends. They were extremely honest and could not lie without feeling physical discomfort, even if the lie was by omission.
Firbolgs tended to be over-confident and fearless, except for a pervasive phobia of humanoid mobs. They saw the wearing of armor as cowardly, and thus did not usually wear armor. Nor did they carry shields.
Firbolgs were cautious and shrewd in their dealings with outsiders. They distrusted most humans and demihumans. Among non-giants, they were neutral with druids, elves, and fey. They were on good terms with storm giants, whom they looked up to and tried to emulate, but they avoided other giant races, and actively fought against the other giant-kin.
If provoked, firbolgs were formidable opponents, skilled both in physical combat and druidic magics. They preferred massive weapons, such as two-handed swords and halberds. They were strong enough to wield most human-made weapons in a single hand.
In battle, firbolgs fought tactically and relied on teamwork. They were adept at batting away or catching projectiles, and had excellent throwing arms, like any giant did. They could easily toss a large rock weighing around 40 or 50 pounds (18–23 kilograms).
Firbolgs had a family-centered, clan-based society. They lived in settlements in remote hilly or forested areas. Their settlements were strongholds, including wooden structures, built from the trees around them, with defensive towers with catwalks between them. Rarely, they inhabited cavern complexes dug into the hillsides. They used their magic to ensure that their homes remained a secret to outsiders. These clan settlements were small, with between about four and sixteen members, often with a shaman or druid, and lived separate from each other. A few firbolg clans were nomadic.
A typical firbolg home was a huge one-story log building with strong walls. A large fireplace with multiple openings warmed a central common room.
As caretakers of the woods, they carefully and resourcefully lived off the land, making sure to ensure balance. During summer, they stored excess nuts, fruits, and berries, so that they could provide food to the forest animals during winter. Although they did farm, it was only to supplement their diets; they preferred a more hunter-gatherer lifestyle, rather than the brigand/raider lifestyle of many other giants. Their hunting grounds were usually spread out in a 20-mile (32-kilometer) radius from their clan homes. They ate small portions of meat with most meals, and reserved large roasts of meat for special celebrations.
Most firbolg tribes preferred isolation from other races, avoiding their politics and struggles. If intruders entered their territory, they would usually try an indirect approach at causing the "invaders" to leave—driving game away to discourage hunters or redirecting streams or forest trails to confuse parties. If these methods failed, the firbolgs would at last confront the outsiders. If the outsiders seemed peaceful, the firbolgs would peacefully ask them to leave; if the outsiders seemed evil or seemed to have no concern for the forest lands, the firbolgs might mount a devastating attack. On occasion, they would trade with peaceful folk living nearby in exchange for providing services utilizing their great strength.
Firbolgs seemed to have a natural tendency toward druidic magics, and many of their chieftains were thus druids. Others became rangers or fighters. Other adventuring vocations were rare; firbolg monks were completely unknown. About five percent of firbolgs encountered were shamans.
Firbolg communities were known to rally around individuals who contracted lycanthropy, rather than shun them, using all resources at their disposal to help the afflicted find a cure.
The firbolgs had rejected the ordning, the customary social order amongst giants and giant-kin, and preferred to exercise free will by using a system called "the code". This was conceived in ancient times, although its exact origins had been lost, and a written copy was usually required to be carried by all firbolgs, but the exact implementation varied from one community to the next. It promoted the idea that the society was the most important aspect and superseded the individual. Actions were more important than relatives or heritage. If "the code" was breached, a firbolg might be enslaved within his or her own tribe or banished completely, although transgressions were uncommon. The implications of "the code" meant that the firbolgs would treat all intelligent creatures as equals, and thus they did not exhibit the same superior attitude that other giants and giant-kin displayed. For every decision made, they considered the effects on the forest and the rest of the natural world. During a famine, they would rather go hungry themselves than strain the land.
Firbolgs had a rough form of democracy known as "the cast". This involved summoning all the firbolgs in a tribe who then would cast their vote on an issue by using a rune-engraved stone. The actual "casting" of votes varied from clan to clan. In some cases, it involved literally tossing the stones. At one firbolg settlement in the Cold Mountains, they had built an enormous scale, and set their votes in the appropriate weighing pan.
Exile was often used as a form of punishment for an unforgivable act, such as killing a rare or beautiful animal or starting a forest fire. An outcast firbolg was never permitted to return home.
Nearby clans would gather once a year at the fall solstice at an enclave to settle any disputes among the clans. Shamans would preside over such events, which often simply were a time of celebration.
In general, firbolgs admired the goddess Iallanis. However, the firbolgs of the Moonshae Isles were an exception to this. They worshiped the demigod Grond Peaksmasher, thought by religious scholars to be the son of Hiatea. While in truth, the firbolgs were descendants of Othea and Ulutiu, the firbolgs of the Moonshaes believed that Grond carved them from stone and that the dwarves were the result of the "leftovers" of this process. Before Grond was reawakened, many of the firbolgs of the Isles were ruled by Kazgaroth, an aspect of Malar.
Firbolgs had their own tongue, but also spoke Common, Giant, and Elven. Sometimes, firbolgs who interacted with outsiders took elven names. The traveler Volothamp Geddarm reported that firbolgs had no names for themselves or their homes, but there were many named firbolgs and tribes in the region of Hartsvale in the North.
Firbolg pregnancies were typically about two years long. This was much longer than other giant-kin, who had pregnancies roughly equivalent to humans. Firbolgs reached adulthood at about 30 years, and could live as many as 500 years. Some scholars postulated that this long life was because firbolgs had fey blood, but most giant races had long lifespans.
Firbolgs consumed about twice as much as a human to survive.
The firbolg race was created when Othea, wife of the giant deity Annam All-Father, had an affair with Ulutiu. While, as noted above, the firbolgs of the Moonshae Isles believed themselves created from the rock of the islands, the other races of those islands held to legends that the firbolgs crawled out of the sea, called forth by the Beast.
Over time, the firbolgs of the Moonshae Isles had degenerated into a barbaric culture little better than that of hill giants, engaging in violent raids against the humans of the islands. When their patron god Grond Peaksmasher was reawakened in 1365 DR, he sought to elevate them back to their full potential and culture. At this time, many of the firbolgs of the Isles began migrating to Oman's Isle to live in isolation from the other races.
- Tavis Burdun
- Orvis Torval, a member of the City Watch of Waterdeep.
Notable Firbolg Clans
- The 5th-edition artwork for firbolgs does not correspond with the descriptions given in all previous editions, nor does Volo's Guide to Monsters describe the appearance of firbolgs beyond their size. Until another Realms-specific 5th-edition source describes the skincolor of firbolgs as blue, we assume that the artist was in error.
- Giantcraft, p. 6, implies that the giants of other worlds differ in "customs and details" from those of the Forgotten Realms.
- Volo's Guide to Monsters strangely lists a firbolg's height as between 7 and 8 feet and gives them a weight of between 240 and 300 pounds. Perhaps Volo only encountered firbolgs who had taken a shorter stature with their innate magic.
- Wizards RPG Team (2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 106–107. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- Rob Heinsoo, Stephen Schubert (May 19, 2009). Monster Manual 2 4th edition. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 108–111. ISBN 0786995101.
- Ed Bonny, Jeff Grubb, Rich Redman, Skip Williams, and Steve Winter (September 2002). Monster Manual II 3rd edition. (TSR, Inc), pp. 101–102. ISBN 07-8692-873-5.
- Doug Stewart (June 1993). Monstrous Manual. (TSR, Inc), p. 136. ISBN 1-5607-6619-0.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), pp. 33–34. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Gary Gygax (August 1983). Monster Manual II 1st edition. (TSR, Inc), pp. 68–69. ISBN 0-88038-031-4.
- Eric L. Boyd (September 1995). “Forgotten Deities: Grond Peaksmasher”. In Duane Maxwell ed. Polyhedron #111 (TSR, Inc.), p. 4.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 33. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Bill Slavicsek (1993). The Complete Book of Humanoids. (TSR, Inc), pp. 27–29. ISBN 1-5607-6611-5.
- Troy Denning (September 1995). The Titan of Twilight. (TSR, Inc.), p. 41. ISBN 0-7869-3798-X.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 19. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Frank Mentzer (January 1985). “Ay pronunseeAYshun gyd”. In Kim Mohan ed. Dragon #93 (TSR, Inc.), p. 26.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 31. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 14. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Douglas Niles (1987). Moonshae. (TSR, Inc), p. 9. ISBN 0-88038-494-8.
- Troy Denning (September 1995). The Titan of Twilight. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 15. ISBN 0-7869-3798-X.
- Wizards RPG Team (2016). Volo's Guide to Monsters. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 20. ISBN 978-0786966011.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 15. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Brian P. Hudson (December 1999). “The Dragon's Bestiary: Giant Lycanthropes”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #266 (TSR, Inc.), pp. 76–80.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 32. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 52. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 9. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Douglas Niles (1987). Moonshae. (TSR, Inc), p. 29. ISBN 0-88038-494-8.
- Troy Denning (September 1995). The Titan of Twilight. (TSR, Inc.), chap. 3. ISBN 0-7869-3798-X.
- Troy Denning (September 1995). The Titan of Twilight. (TSR, Inc.), p. 16. ISBN 0-7869-3798-X.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 25. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 18. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Ray Winninger (September 1995). Giantcraft. Edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. (TSR, Inc.), p. 16. ISBN 0-7869-0163-2.
- Douglas Niles (1987). Moonshae. (TSR, Inc), p. 4. ISBN 0-88038-494-8.
- Jerry Holkins, Elyssa Grant, Scott Fitzgerald Gray (June 18, 2019). Acquisitions Incorporated. Edited by Scott Fitzgerald Gray. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 86. ISBN 978-0786966905.
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