Putting the Fur in Firbolg: The Evolution of a Character Race – Posts

I like firbolgs in fifth version Dungeons & Dragons. Their racial traits are bizarre and mystical and really feel like they’re taken proper from the pages of a fairy story. The D&D race straddles the strains of mundane and monstrous, and candy and savage, making a dynamic unseen in most D&D tales. Gamers who need to play an enormous character however need one thing apart from a half-orc or goliath barbarian would do properly roll up a firbolg.

However for many of D&D’s 40-plus yr historical past, firbolgs have been nothing just like the red-nosed, gray-furred creatures we acknowledge from Volo’s Information to Monsters. They date again to first version Superior Dungeons & Dragons, the place they debuted within the Monster Handbook II (1983) as a kind of large. This is a have a look at this distinctive race and what they seem like at the moment, from first version to their newest touchup in Crucial Function.

An outline of firbolgs via the ages

All through their existence as a creature of D&D lore, firbolgs have all the time appeared to come back in second place. They reappeared as a monster in second version AD&D within the Monstrous Compendium Quantity Two (1989), the third version Monster Handbook II (2002) as each a monster and a playable character race, and as soon as extra within the fourth version Monster Handbook 2 (2009). Even in fifth version, they debuted as a playable race in Volo’s Information to Monsters, the version’s second guide of monsters.

Firbolgs through the yearsArtwork is copyright Wizards of the Coast (1983–2009)

Firbolgs have been giantkin since their inception. However the place firbolgs in fifth version are fuzzy, druidic protectors of nature, firbolgs in first version have been mighty, Viking-like warriors. They have been explicitly described as essentially the most highly effective of the minor giants—presumably referring to giants exterior of the ordning, akin to fomorians. Even again then, nevertheless, firbolgs had the ability to shrink in measurement to seem akin to a standard human.

Basic firbolgs have been cautious, artful, and solitary giants with a predilection for phantasm magic, and their shamans possessed a fair larger mastery of illusions. Whereas they favored huge, giant-sized greatswords and halberds to defend themselves, basic firbolgs took nice pleasure in assuming humanoid measurement and utilizing trickery to steal from adventurers that trusted them.

This conception of the firbolg remained roughly unchanged all through early editions of D&D. Some info was added over time. For example, the second version Monstrous Compendium revealed that firbolgs’ affinity for nature and wild forests and hills arose from their mistrust of different mortal races. Since they’d no need to mingle with different individuals, they merely discovered to reside amidst nature. By third version, nevertheless, firbolgs had misplaced a lot of their phantasm magic. The one remnant of their authentic skill to shrink to human measurement was a spell-like skill that allowed them to forged alter self as soon as per day. The illusionist firbolgs of yore have been fading away as early as 2002.

This dissolution of outdated skills and lore was made full in fourth version, wherein firbolgs underwent a significant overhaul. The brand new firbolgs of fourth version have been now not crafty and reserved giantkin however shamans and barbarians from the Feywild who commanded the Wild Hunt. These brokers of neutrality, future, and loss of life have been mighty warriors and shamans who worshiped three goddesses that collectively bore some similarity to the Morrígan, a triple goddess of Irish mythology. These three goddesses have been the Maiden (Sehanine), the Mom (Melora), and the Crone (the Raven Queen). As soon as extra, in fourth version, firbolgs have been consigned to a guide of monsters with out being elevated to a playable race, as they’d in third version. 

Firbolgs in fifth version D&D

Firbolg artworkThe fuzzy-faced firbolgs of fifth version are, in some methods, a return to type for these proud giantkin. Although the pseudo-Celtic aesthetic of early D&D firbolgs has been scrubbed away and the tie to the Feywild launched in fourth version stays, fashionable firbolgs are as soon as once more innate illusionists and reclusive guardians of the forest. They’re neither humorless nor aggressive, however their judgment upon those that would defile the woodland is swift and cruel.

Firbolgs largely flew beneath the radar after the discharge of Volo’s Information to Monsters. Despite the fact that this was the primary time within the historical past of D&D the place firbolgs appeared as a participant character race however not a monster, their uncommon skills and obscure lore made it troublesome for them to search out an viewers. Whereas they could possibly be performed as characters in third version, their steep degree adjustment and Hit Die penalties made them troublesome to play in something however high-level campaigns. Now with no degree adjustment or different hurdles, firbolgs have been ripe for brand new gamers—however even with all of those obstacles to entry eliminated, firbolg characters lacked visibility. That’s, till Crucial Function received a maintain of them.


Crucial Function’s tackle firbolgs

Warning! Spoilers for Crucial Function marketing campaign two lie forward!

Crucial Function did to firbolgs on the small scale what they did to D&D on the bigger scale: they helped deliver them into the mainstream. In marketing campaign two of Crucial Function, Matthew Mercer kicked off a large outpouring of firbolg love when he created the fan-favorite NPC shopkeeper Pumat Sol, a firbolg enchanter who ran a magic merchandise store within the metropolis of Zadash. He made a long-lasting impression on each the forged and followers of Crucial Function due to his charming accent and his putting simulacra.

Zadash marketLater within the marketing campaign, two new firbolgs joined the social gathering when visitor star Sumalee Montano joined because the firbolg druid Nila, and later, Taliesin Jaffe launched to the principle forged a firbolg Grave Area cleric often called Caduceus Clay. Each of those firbolgs’ appearances departed from the standard firbolg design specified by Volo’s Information to Monsters, a visible distinction heightened by Crucial Function artist Ari Orner. Departing considerably from the enduring grey fur and massive purple nostril, which characterised Tyril Tallguy, Pumat Sol, and the firbolg in Volo’s Information to Monsters, Nila has brown fur, a large, cow-like nostril and floppy ears. Caduceus Clay, then again, has the standard grey fur and purple nostril, however with that very same cow-like visage and a scorching pink, side-shave mohawk.

Within the wake of those three characters’ appearances, followers of D&D had refreshingly totally different interpretations of the firbolg race. And due to how beloved these characters have been, numerous gamers have since flocked to create firbolg characters of their very own.

Firbolgs in Exandria

By the tip of marketing campaign two of Crucial Function, the Explorer’s Information to Wildemount solidified the distinctive take of firbolgs in Exandria. For instance, they’re described as having thick fur “starting from tones of earthen brown and ruddy purple to chill grays and blues, and even to wild hues of pink and inexperienced.” The guide additionally gave gamers and Dungeon Masters lore that helped place these characters on the earth.

Firbolgs sometimes hail from the icy Greying Wildlands and the corrupted Savalirwood and are a rarity elsewhere in Wildemount. However, firbolg adventurers will discover their reputations proceed them. Those that journey to the Dwendalian Empire will uncover individuals who consider them to be ruthless killers, owed to ridiculous folktales. That mentioned, residents of Zadash usually tend to be welcoming of firbolgs, because of Pumat Sol. In the lethal wastes of Xhorhas, they’re prone to be extra welcome. The Kryn Dynasty has introduced collectively all method of individuals beneath their rule, and firbolg communities have cropped up in Xhorhas in consequence.

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A firbolg of your individual

This selection simply goes to point out that, it doesn’t matter what type of character race you’re taking part in in D&D, you must by no means really feel restricted by the data put forth within the rulebooks. Whether or not it’s artwork, lore, or (along with your DM’s permission) statistics, you must all the time really feel empowered to create a personality that speaks to your fashion of play.

So should you love the outdated fashion of firbolgs, don’t despair! There’s room inside the fifth version guidelines so that you can have your greatsword-wielding, vaguely Celtic giantkin. Simply do some little bit of reskinning; there’s loads of pictures of suitably Irish fantasy warriors with pinkish pores and skin and flowing blond or purple hair on the market to supply inspiration. And should you love the fuzzy-faced forest guardians of contemporary D&D, exit and create a firbolg of your individual and inform your individual distinctive story with that character! 

James Haeck (@jamesjhaeck) is the previous lead author for D&D Past, the co-author of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and the Crucial Function Tal’Dorei Marketing campaign Setting, and can also be a contract author for Wizards of the Coast, the D&D Adventurers League, and Kobold Press. He lives in Seattle, Washington along with his associate Hannah and two wilderness defenders, Mei and Marzipan. 

Michael Galvis contributed to the reporting for this text.

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