Beginner's Guide to Goliaths
Goliaths: towering hulks of bravery and brawn that look down on all the other DND races…literally! While Dungeons and Dragons can be a power fantasy for many people, few character races physically embody it more than the goliaths.
Goliaths are a race of humanoids that make their home in harsh mountain environments. They are what remains of a bloodline mottled with giants and humans alike. While nowhere near the size of their enormous ancestors, goliaths tend to tower over other races. Their enormous physiques make them intimidating athletes. You average goliath is a powerhouse compared to most creatures of other races.
Only the hardiest of creatures can survive in the snow-covered climes a goliath calls home. Their bodies have acclimated to be resistant to the cold, and they are unaffected by the various adversities presented by living at high altitudes. That applies to both the goliaths themselves, as well as their prey. A clan of goliaths may compete with remorhazes, yetis, mammoths, or white dragons for the few resources their mountainous homes provide. In lean times, goliaths may be forced to confront such deadly creatures directly in hopes of feeding themselves.
Their chosen homeland and lifestyle demands strength from every goliath in the clan, and goliaths have little patience or pity for those that cannot pull their weight. While injured or ill goliaths are tended to and given an opportunity to recover to their former function, the old or crippled are expelled from the clan without much ceremony. The clan must always be strong if it is to survive, and it is only as strong as its weakest member. Expulsion from the clan is a death sentence. It takes teamwork to survive in the frigid peaks, and a lone goliath, even in its prime, will not last long. Rather than wither into old age to meet such a fate, a true goliath would rather die in its prime seeking glory in battle!
In an effort to cultivate a culture of strength, goliaths praise and value self-sufficiency and heroic deeds. Each goliath will “keep score” of their kills and accomplishments so that they can accurately compare their victories with those of their peers. They often remind those beneath them of their status to prod them to achieve similar heights. These boasts might beem braggadocious to outsiders, but they are taken as encouragement by others in the clan. If they can, then so can I…
Goliaths are intensely practical people, which extends to how they run their clans. The strongest and wisest are chosen to lead, regardless of heritage, wealth, or gender. Why would they allow someone less suitable for the duty to fill the role? They approach other roles in their society with similar attitudes, and often are confused by or vocally mock cultures that base such decisions on other parameters.
Given the importance that a goliath places on deeds and their place in the clan, it should come as little surprise that they name themselves in a way that reflects those values. A goliath is given a name when they are born: their birth name. Birth names are typically short, as not much value is placed upon them. They are also known by the name of their clan, not by the names of the parents. One’s duty to the clan overrules any family ties, after all. Clan names are at least five syllables long, traditionally ending in a vowel. Finally, as a goliath serves the tribe with their deeds, they will be given a nickname by the other members of the tribe to honor them. Nicknames include Axerender, Shieldbreaker, Whalecatcher, Stoneheart, Bearbrother, and the like. When introducing themselves, goliaths offer their full name: birth name, nickname, clan name. When amongst friends, they typically only use their nicknames.
Goliaths care little for magic, as a rule. They will happily use any spells they can cast, or eagerly wield magic items as weapons if they confer an advantage, but they are wary not to become reliant on them. Casters run out of spells, items run out of charges, and magical weapons can be lost or broken. A Goliath must always be ready, and a complacent goliath is a dead goliath.
Because of their emphasis on martial might and physical prowess, Goliaths make exceptional melee combatants. Few can match the unstoppable onslaught of a goliath barbarian, a goliath fighter, or goliath paladin in DND 5e. There is also a lot of flavor to love in a goliath ranger whose favored terrain is the mountains!
As per the Volo's Guide to Monsters, if you make a goliath player character in D&D 5e, you benefit from the following…
Ability Score Increase
Your Strength score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.
Goliaths have lifespans comparable to humans. They enter adulthood in their late teens and usually live less than a century.
Goliaths are between 7 and 8 feet tall and weigh between 280 and 340 pounds. Your size is Medium.
Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
You have proficiency in the Athletics skill.
You can focus yourself to occasionally shrug off injury. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to roll a d12. Add your Constitution modifier to the number rolled and reduce the damage by that total. After you use this trait, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.
You count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.
You have resistance to cold damage. You’re also acclimated to high altitude, including elevations above 20,000 feet.
You can speak, read, and write Common and Giant.
The more I learn about goliaths, the more I want to play them! Not all goliaths are dumb (but lovable) brutes like Grog from Critical Role! They are a proud, harsh but fair, and meritorious people! I can imagine a young, hungry goliath adventurer ready to make a name for herself, or a wounded old goliath exiled from his clan in search of a challenge worthy of claiming his life! But what sort of D&D 5e goliath are you excited to make? Be sure to let us know on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or in our Discord!
Rob Franklin (thedndwannabe) has been a Dungeon Master for many years, and has a deep passion for roleplaying games. He runs the MistyMountainStreaming channel on Twitch, our Misty Mountain Gaming YouTube channel, and is cohost of the Bardic Twinspiration D&D podcast. He also enjoys bourbon, From Software games, and his dog Bigby.