D&D Monster Monday: Hill Giant

The ground shakes as you ascend the hill. The harsh sunlight ceases to roast your skin for a mere moment. You turn around to see an enormous boulder blotting out the sun and quickly soaring toward your position. It seems your path has crossed with one of the hill giant locals.

The hill giant is the lower CR pick of the 5e giant litter. They’re basic creatures and easy to pilot from a DM standpoint, but that’s not a knock on these towering, terrifying, giants. If anything, it makes them a perfect introductory creature for their more terrifying cloud, fire, and frost cousins!

Hill giants have to be one of the most terrifying creatures to see as a commoner in a D&D setting. Sure, dragons are scarier, but I’d imagine the likelihood of a dragon raiding your town or village is slim.

However, a hill giant or three is a very real threat for any given settlement nearby various hills, valleys, mountains, or similar biome. Having a few of these towering human-like creatures lumber up to your town and steal a few of your friends and livestock must be a terrifying sight.

With that, let’s take our chances and climb through Monster Manual in search of hill giants!

A large beerbellied hill giant wielding a tree trunk as a club
If you want to make fun of his missing neck be my guest. I’m going to run the other way. Credit: WotC.

Hill Giant Lore

Hill giants are big oafs. They’re dumb as bricks, but their scary size and muscles make up for their lack of brains and cunning.

Hill giants are described as primitive in the Monster Manual. They live in rough wood and mud structures in small settlements scattered throughout the world’s hills and valleys. In these societal structures, the biggest and strongest hill giant works as the leader.

Due to their size and their lack of hobbies hill giants tend to do one of two things: eating and raiding. The raiding is generally done because they are hungry and need to gather food.

Most hill giants prefer to eat livestock and large animals, but they aren’t picky eaters by any means. If it’s not poisonous they’ll eat it. If they’re scarfing down a farmer’s vegetable garden they’ll eat the farmer too if they’re within reach.

They’re big, hungry bullies.

Hill Giant Stats and Abilities

You can find the hill giant’s statblock on page 155 of the Monster Manual.

Stats

Size: Huge giant
AC: 13 (natural armor)
HP: 105 (10d12 + 40)
Speed: 40 ft.
STR: 21 (+5)
DEX: 8 (-1)
CON: 19 (+4)
INT: 5 (-3)
WIS: 9 (-1)
CHA: 6 (-2)

You wouldn’t think that a big, lumbering creature would be all that quick, but when you’re as big as a hill giant I guess it does make sense that you can easily outpace a medium-sized adventurer. That 40 ft. of speed is a huge boon.

Although, that size is a double-edged sword. At 13 AC hill giants are super easy to hit. Sure, their high Constitution helps to beef up their HP so they can take those hits like a champ, but eventually, they’re bound to be worn down.

Their ability score array is god awful. The +5 STR modifier and +4 CON modifier are very nice and necessary for a heavy-hitting bruiser like the hill giant. Yet that’s where the fun stops.

Both their WIS and DEX modifiers weigh in at a whopping -1. This is a major issue since both of these are common saving throw abilities.

Their low INT and CHA modifiers are to be expected, given their background info. Plus, these two specific weak points aren’t all that impactful in combat.

Resistances, Immunities, Saves, and Skills

Skills: Perception +2
Senses: passive Perception 12
Languages: Giant
CR: 5 (1,800 XP)

Proficiency in Perception is a great addition to their statblock. Without it, the hill giant would be quite susceptible to sneak attacks and ambushes. They’re accomplished hunters and raiders so it makes sense for them to be perceptive.

CR 5 is a solid rating for the hill giant. It’s got a few glaring weaknesses, but they have just as many strengths to balance them out. They’re an offensive creature first and foremost with just enough defenses to keep them in the fight for a few rounds so they can cause some damage.

Actions

Multiattack. The giant makes two greatclub attacks.

Greatclub. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 18 (3d8 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

Rock. Ranged Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, range 60/240 ft., one target. Hit: 21 (3d10 + 5) bludgeoning damage.

A two-attack Multiattack is a standard song and dance for 5e creatures and the hill giant is no exception. It’s a decent chunk of action economy, especially when the two attacks are as deadly as the hill giant’s Greatclub.

Greatclub is a real heavy-hitting move. +8 to attack with a 10 ft. reach gives it a fantastic range of attack and chance to hit. Couple this with 18 bludgeoning damage a swing (36 per Multiattack) and you’ve got a real slamdunk of a move.

However, should its target be out of reach, the hill giant has a ranged option. Rock is a mid-range attack that can dunk a respectable 21 bludgeoning damage per round on an unsuspecting enemy. It’s by no means your best option, but it’s an option nonetheless.

Hill Giant Strengths

Big Club? Big Rock? Big Problem.

36 average damage per turn is a real wallop of a hit for a CR 5 creature. Tack on the fact that this melee Multiattack includes a +8 to hit modifier and 10 ft. reach and you have a true offensive powerhouse at your disposal.

Seriously, if you’re within 50 ft. of a hill giant you’re in for a bad time.

Their ranged attack option is numerically inferior to their Multiattack combo, but at 21 bludgeoning damage per action, Rock is a respectable last resort if your enemies are just outside of reach. Plus, the fact that a hill giant can lob a boulder up to 240 ft. away is intimidating whether it hits you or not.

Surprising Sprinters

You wouldn’t think of hill giants being quick, but I guess when your legs are 10 ft. long you’re gonna have no problem running across the valley.

At 40 ft. of speed, the hill giant has no issue catching up to a group of fleeing commoners or medium-sized adventurers. Unless you can fly, swim, or tunnel your way out of the fight, there’s almost no chance you can outrun one of these lumbering raiders.

Hill Giant Weaknesses

As Easy to Hit as the Broad Side of a Barn

13 AC is just abysmal for a CR 5 creature. The hill giant has almost no protection from direct attacks.

Ranged attackers will have a field day against a hill giant. Sure, they’re still in danger of getting squished by a boulder, but they still avoid the brunt of their damage from the Multiattack.

Sure, their HP can sustain them for a few rounds, but that means that either the hill giant is making it out of the battle alive or the party is.

Susceptible to Magic-Users

Their low AC isn’t the hill giant’s one weakness against ranged attackers.

Their abysmal common saving throw abilities, aside from Constitution, are an enormous weakness when pitted against ranged attackers of the magic-user variety. Couple this with their lack of condition immunities and you have a very easy-to-hit creature that’s also easy to crowd control.

If the party has a few spells in the tank, your hill giants are in for a bad time.

a hill giant scaling a rocky hill with its club in hand
Imagine seeing this brute hoisting itself over the measly wooden walls surrounding your village. Credit: WotC.

How to Play a Hill Giant

GIANT SMASH!

At 40 ft. of movement, the hill giant should have no issues getting into melee range. If they absolutely cannot reach them then they can grab a rock and chuck it 60-240 ft. away, but this should only be used as a last resort.

The Greatclub Multiattack is too great of an offensive combo to pass up and the hill giant has the tools to get in range and make it work in most scenarios.

However, hill giants are decidedly dumb creatures. At 5 Intelligence they shouldn’t be using any kind of grand strategy. They should rush to a target and beat them into submission, then move on to the next one.

The exception, however, is that if a stronger or more dangerous target shows itself (deals a significant amount of damage or uses magic to CC an ally) the hill giant may rush to quell the threat.

Regardless, your goal is to hit someone or something with their greatclub twice per turn.

Disrupt the Enemy Formation

Hill giants could easily be corralled or persuaded by a powerful being to work for them. I’d imagine you could go a long way in building good relations with a group of hill giants if you offered them a hearty meal or ten.

When using a hill giant in a group scenario they should take on a disruptor/tank role. Charge into the enemy frontline and start smashing the nearest enemy with your club.

As a big, bulky, behemoth your hill giant should draw plenty of attention to themselves as soon as they engage the party’s frontline. If they don’t, then a few hefty hits from their Multiattack will surely turn some heads.

Once the hill giant has the party’s attention, your other creature(s) should have an easier time moving about the battlefield and picking off more strategic targets.

5 Hill Giant Plot Hooks

  1. Grind Your Bones to Make My Bread – The village cemetery was trampled after a recent hill giant raid. The disturbed, desecrated graves have given the village a brand new problem to deal with. The living dead!
  2. The Bowling League – A family of hill giants has taken up bowling using boulders and rough stone structures in the middle of the valley. While it’s an amusing game to watch, the local druid circle has asked them to stop disturbing the wildlife countless times and their patience has worn thin.
  3. The Missing Mule – A farmer’s prized mule has gone missing from the farm. Without it, their daily chores are much more strenuous. They’ve offered to pay whatever it takes to see the return of their beloved mule.
  4. A Good Beating Stick – You’ve struck a deal with a hill giant. They promise to stay away from the mountain village, but in return you have to make or find them a new and improved club.
  5. An Unexpected Visitor – Three days ago a hill giant walked up to the city gates, laid down their greatclub, and asked to seek an audiance with the king. They were denied, but since then, they have slept outside the city gates hoping that the king will change his mind.

Conclusions

While they’re the least threatening of the four Monster Manual giants, hill giants are terrifying creatures in their own right. These lumbering beings can pack a real punch with their ginormous greatclubs, and when all else fails they have the physical strength to toss a boulder at a fleeing target.

Their hardy creatures, but defensively are quite weak. That doesn’t matter though because after all, the best defense is a good offense. The devastating damage they deal and the 40 ft. of movement at their disposal make hill giants one of the more terrifying creatures to run into while traversing the countryside.

They’re a great low to mid-level creature to throw in almost any campaign. Their lore is versatile enough to work in almost any setting.

Previous Monster Monday – Magma Mephit

Next Monster Monday –  Balor

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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