D&D Monster Monday: Girallon

Bowling was a frequent choice for birthday parties when I was growing up. However, it wasn’t the bowling that I was excited for. It was the chance to play Rampage and destroy cities as an overgrown gorilla that really got me going. And thanks to the existence of the girallon, we have a perfect creature to do just this in D&D 5e.

Before we begin though I need to come clean. I didn’t ever play as George. Lizzie was my main.

At first glance, you may think that a girallon is a fairly uninspired creature. I mean, they’re basically just large white gorillas with an extra set of arms. However, they have some interesting lore and boast a unique playstyle for a mid-low CR brawler type creature. I like them a lot despite their simplistic appearance.

It’s also been a while since we looked at something out of Volo’s Guide To Monsters and I needed a good excuse to dive back into it. So for today’s Monster Monday let’s take a look at the masters of the forest, the girallon!

girallon 5e artwork from volo's guide to monsters
This doesn’t look like a creature with +5 to Stealth, but well, here we are! Credit: WotC.

Girallon Lore

Girallons are similar to gorillas in a few ways. Chiefly, their appearance is clearly based off of a gorilla. Both creatures also prefer to live and hunt in forest environments and due to their size prefer to roam the forest floors rather than climb trees.

Both species have a sense of community and will typically form small bands live with. Though, in the case of the girallon, they tend to hunt separately due to their love of hunting. They basically live together as a way of protecting each other, though a band will sometimes work together to bring down a large beast.

However, the girallon has a few key factors that differentiate themselves from a typical gorilla. For starters, they have a mysterious draw towards man-made structures. If given the chance, a girallon will gladly make an old humanoid ruin their home.

As I said before, girallons aren’t keen on climbing trees. Not because they hate climbing; in fact, they’re exemplary climbers! They don’t climb trees typically because trees won’t support their weight.

However, if they are in a city, town, or anything like it, they’ll actually prefer to move around the city by climbing and barreling about the rooftops of the abandoned buildings.

This draw toward man-made structures is extremely strange for animals. For this reason, many believe that the girallon were originally created via magic as pets of a long-lost civilization. There’s some truth to this claim as girallon are fairly easy to domesticate (compared to most apes) and many yuan-ti kingdoms will enslave girallons to use as guards.

Girallon Stats and Abilities

You can find the girallon’s statblock on page 152 of Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

Stats

Size: Large monstrosity
AC: 13
HP:
59 (7d10 + 21)
Speed: 40 ft., climb 40 ft.
STR: 18 (+4)
DEX: 16 (+3)
CON: 16 (+3)
INT: 5 (-3)
WIS: 12 (+1)
CHA: 7 (-2)

All in all, the girallon has a solid ability score array. All of their physical scores are fantastic. They boast a +3 or +4 in Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution which are all regularly utilized for a physical brawler like the girallon.

Their mental ability scores are much to be desired outside of Wisdom, but this is the norm for beast or beast-like creatures so I can’t hold this against them. Besides, I’ll gladly sacrifice a creature’s Intelligence score if it means their damage-dealing ability score is an 18!

Their AC isn’t great, which as I said before isn’t surprising for a beast-like creature. Their HP sort of makes up for it though. They can take a few good-sized hits which is really all you can ask of them.

The girallon’s speed is the true highlight of this portion of their statblock. 40 ft. of base movement speed is already fantastic. That’s essentially 10 ft. per turn quicker than an average medium size adventurer. You can’t outrun them.

Now let’s consider the fact that you’re probably going to bump into a girallon in their man-made forest home full of buildings and climbable rocks. Their 40 ft. of climb speed will be more than enough to ensure that you can’t outmaneuver them either as they rush into melee range.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Skills: Perception +3, Stealth +5
Senses: darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 13
Languages: None
CR: 4 (1,100 XP)

The bonus to Perception is always welcomed, and thematically it makes sense. They’re commonly used as guard creatures by those that are able to tame them so they must be decent at looking out for potential threats. Girallons are also excellent hunters in bustling forests so yeah, obviously they very perceptive.

It’s the +5 to Stealth checks that really surprised me. These are roughly 8 ft. tall, half-ton creatures. They’re not exactly the textbook example of light-footed!

However, with that being said, +5 to Stealth is a fun perk to have for a creature that can literally get the drop on your party thanks to their 40 ft. of climb speed.

Outside of their skills, though, there’s not much of note in this section of the statblock. Oh, sorry. Yes, they have darkvision, we can check that box and move on.

Abilities and Traits

Aggressive. As a bonus action, the girallon can move up to its speed toward a hostile creature that it can see.

Keen Smell. The girallon has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on smell.

Aggressive is a trait that is a staple for orcs (like the tannarukk) in D&D 5e and it’s one of my favorite creature traits in 5e. It’s simple, but giving a melee-focused creature what amounts to a free Dash action is an enormous boon for their positioning woes.

Aggressive also gives the girallon a boost to their action economy which is already admittedly fantastic, but we’ll take whatever perks we can get.

Keen Smell is a nice out of combat trait for the girallon, especially since they’re used as either guards or hunters. Both of these jobs require perceptive individuals so this is a perfect addition to their statblock.

Actions

Multiattack. The girallon makes five attacks: one with its bite and four with its claws.

Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) piercing damage.

Claw. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d6 + 4) slashing damage.

Yes, you read that right. The girallon’s Multiattack consists of FIVE attacks. That is a mind-blowing amount of action economy value in just a single action.

And this isn’t even a situation where we can attribute this to “death by 1000 cuts”. Sure, Claw and Bite don’t hit particularly hard, but each deals 7 damage on average per hit which is still nothing to scoff at.

So all in all a girallon will deal an average of 35 piercing/slashing damage in the course of one turn of combat. That’s a hefty amount of damage and certainly a bit above a typical amount for a CR 4 creature.

Plus we have to keep in mind that their Claw has a reach of 10 ft. so they have an extended range to make opportunity attacks. You may end up dealing an additional 7 damage per round thanks to these additional attacks some rounds!

Girallon Strengths

Heavy-Hitter

I feel like I covered this well already. This girallon is an offensive machine dealing an average of 35 piercing/slashing damage per turn with the additional benefit of 10 ft. reach to provoke opportunity attacks for some added damage as well.

The fact that this 35 damage per turn is dealt over the course of five separate attacks is both a boon and a bane to the girallon’s offenses. They have more chances to hit if they’re up against a heavily armored target, but of course, this can work against them and mean that they have more chances to miss an easy target.

The girallon’s five attacks give them plenty of opportunities, and generally, this means they’ll deal quite a bit of damage. Especially since they have a +6 to each attack.

girallon 3e artwork
Honestly, the 3e artwork does a better job of depicting the size of the girallon. Credit: WotC.

Lighting-Fast Speed

Clocking in at 40 ft. of speed per turn the girallon can run-down most of the prey it decides to chase after. Throw in 40 ft. of climb speed for some variety and you have a creature that can out-run and outmaneuver most creatures in their forest domain.

If that’s not enough for you, then let’s also add Aggressive into the mix. You effectively get a free Dash action for the cost of a Bonus action (that you have no other use for) provided that you’re moving toward a hostile creature that the girallon can see.

Keep in mind that it Aggressive doesn’t specify that you need to make a beeline toward the hostile creature of your choice. You just need to move toward them.

Girallon Weaknesses

Abysmal Defenses

While the girallon’s low AC and lack of damage resistances and immunities is the norm for most beast or beast-like creatures, it’s still a heavy hit to the effectiveness of the creature in combat.

They’re easy to hit and they have nothing that lessens the impact any attack has on their HP.

In addition this, the girallon is susceptible to any Wisdom or Charisma-based crowd control spell or effect. If you somehow have a spell or effect that would force them to roll an Intelligence saving throw then you will absolutely wipe the floor with them.

59 HP is decent, but it’s not going to do them much good if they’re crowd controlled from afar and able to be picked off by the party’s ranged combatants. Girallons can take a few hits, but they can’t handle being crowd controlled.

Lack of Variety

The girallon has another glaring weakness and that’s the fact that their only combat tactic is to hit things really, really hard in melee range. They have no ranged options, no spells, and of course, no defenses that can negate the effects of spells cast on them.

Girallons need to rush or sneak up to their target and stick to them in melee range. If they cannot accomplish this then they are nothing more than a punching dummy.

Couple the girallon’s abysmal defenses with the fact that their statblock allows them to only be melee fighters and you have a creature that can quickly become a nonissue for your party if the party is able to wrench control of the battlefield from them.

Design your encounters with this lack of variety in mind. Girallons have great speed, but if the party is able to avoid getting into melee range our girallons are going to be useless.

How to Play a Girallon

Operation Smash and Grab

Girallons need to quickly get into range of their target and then use everything in their power to stay within 5-10 ft. of their target.

Thankfully the girallon has 40 ft. of speed to utilize in either a typical running fashion or they can choose to climb structures to advance upon their target. They can also use a bonus action to move up to an additional 40 ft. of movement thanks to Aggressive.

A girallon’s movement in combat should either be used to get closer to their target or it can be used to duck behind full cover to avoid a hail of arrows and spells. Retreating is an option, but it’s one that probably won’t result in your girallon living if their enemy consists of any ranged attackers.

Once they get into range just unleash the torrent that is the girallon’s Multiattack and let the dice do the rest. This is the encounter now. Whichever side can withstand the other’s flurry of blows will be the victor.

undead girallon artwork
Undead girallon is the top-tier pick for spooky ape creatures! Credit: WotC.

Make them a Compact Jungle Gym

Obviously, we’ll want to showcase the girallon’s superior climbing capabilities to the party. Chiefly because we want to strike the fear of gods into them that these are both hulking beasts and light-footed acrobats.

Well, also because having climbable buildings or outcroppings that the girallon and party can fight on makes for a more interesting and dynamic encounter.

Regardless, of this being a fun idea for an encounter it’s also a great way to limit the ways that the party can exploit the girallon’s weaknesses.

By adding in buildings and jungle ruins you give the girallons some cover from ranged attackers. This bolsters their weak AC and limits the effective range of this combat type which girallons are particularly weak to.

The party can try to make use of hiding spots or high ground, but they’ll quickly realize that the girallons will quickly catch-up to them. Will the party make their stand in the high-ground or will they try their damnedest to lure the girallon away from their jungle gym of doom?

5 Girallon Plot Hooks

  1. Legend of the Hidden Temple – Legends say that a valuable treasure lies somewhere in the ruins of a temple deep within a nearby forest. Unfortunately, the legends don’t say what has been preventing everyone from retrieving the treasure!
  2. Liberating the Great Apes! – A nasty tribe of yuan-ti has enslaved a band of girallon. You’ve been asked to assist the rangers with liberating these great beasts.
  3. Studying Civilizations Past – An anthropological study has been approved to study the forest ruins. However, a band of girallons have inhabited this territory for many years. Clear out the area so that the anthropologists can do their work.
  4. The Hags’ Curse – A coven of hags has recently moved into the forest. Unfortunately for the surrounding wildlife they’ve cursed practically every creature in the area. For example, the local gorillas have been found to have grown an additional set of arms.
  5. Apex Predator – The local adventuring guilde will pay a fair sum to whomever can bring them the hide of the girallon that has been picking the local forest fauna clean.

Conclusions

Girallons have a simplistic statblock, but they have plenty of interesting lore and a bit of a unique playstyle that absolutely makes up for their initial appearance. I’ve personally used them with terrifying success on a few occasions.

Unfortunately, they do have a few glaring weaknesses that can completely negate their powerful offensive capabilities. They’re definitely a creature that requires a little bit of planning in order to be used effectively against your party.

However, if you give a band of girallon some man-made stone structures they can quickly make a seemingly dull encounter fairly dynamic. They just need some platforms to climb and rooftops to swing from!

The girallon is a creature that amounts to more than the sum of its parts. They’re mobile, sneaky, perceptive, and terrifyingly strong. If they’re able to get within 5-10 ft. of your adventurers then they’re going to be in for a world of hurt!

Previous Monster Monday – Imp

Next Monster Monday – Roc

If you enjoyed what you read be sure to check out my ongoing review for all of the official D&D 5e books!

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