by Joe G. Kushner
Lords of the Peaks: The Essential Guide to Giants
Written by James Maliszewski and Steve Kenson
Published by Paradigm Concepts
96 b & w pages
Lords of the Peaks provides details and role playing information for those
most impressive of humanoids, Giants and their kin. The book introduces new
feats, spells, prestige classes, and magic items. It also discusses the options
that take up the Gamemaster's time, like adding Templates. In short, it's a
giants handbook. What the book isn't, however, is a player's sourcebook on
giants. There are no racial stats with equivalent player levels. There's no
talk about using a giant in a standard adventuring party, nor are there numerous
details about what types of steeds such creatures would ride.
So what is in the sourcebook? Let's have a look.
Guide to the Big Guys
The core giant races covered here are arranged in power level: Hill, Stone,
Frost, Fire, Cloud, Storm, and Celestial. Each section provides meaty details
under headings like Physical Description, Combat and Warfare, Weapons, Strategy,
Society, Relations with Others, and Environment. These role-playing tools help a
GM set up encounters with giants and augment his understanding of how giants
think. What do they value? How do they fight? In addition, there are notes on
using them in Arcanis. At first I was worried. Was this a racial sourcebook or
an Arcanis sourcebook? Fortunately, it's a racial sourcebook, as the material for Arcanis
takes up very little room but does give examples of how each race fits into the official Paradigm
setting. Lastly, for those GMs who don't have millions of hours to build
characters with each giant race, each section includes a standard member of the
race and three class examples.
You may have noticed that in addition to the traditional giants, Paradigm introduces the Celestial Giant.
These beings have history with the gods themselves and are masters of molding
reality itself to suit their needs. Unfortunately, like the Cloud and Stone
Giants, there are both evil and good members in the Celestial Family. They have
the ability to Fabricate, which allows them to craft material like arms and armor
from nothing. In a race renown for strength, the Celestials are masters of magic
and surprisingly, psionics. Unlike the other races' entries where the example giants were
generalized, the two classed giants here are given names and background
information. You do not deal with a 10th level Celestial Giant Psion, but rather,
with Convonol, a shaper who forges "psionic artifacts of legendary beauty and power." You don't just fear a 12th level Sorcerer/4th
level Fighter Celestial, you pray that The Iron Warlord doesn't destroy you with
Neatherfall, a great sword with vast power.
The section on Giant Kin doesn't go into as much detail, but does provide two
things that GMs will like. The first is a stat block for the "typical" Cyclops,
and the next is a Half-Giant Race. Now for me, the latter is great because I
have a lot of Confrontation miniatures and this race, despite being a ECL of +4
for its massive Strength bonuses, is something I'm interested in adding.
GMs more interested in how giants survive in a day-to-day manner will look
through the material on Friends and Foes and note that two of the biggest thorns
in any giants side are dwarves and dragons. These two often inhabit the same
lands as giants and have racial crimes that stretch long into forgotten history
against one another. Naturally, the idea is that one would turn to Green Ronin's corresponding OGL Interlink
title, Hammer & Helm, for more on the dwarves.
One of my favorite sections was the examples of applied Templates. I'm a very
lazy GM so having someone do the work of statting out a Cloud Giant Ghost, a
Half-Red Dragon/Half-Fire Giant, and a Frost Giant Werewolf is great. I hope
that we see a web enhancement with more templates applied. Storm Giant Vampire, anyone?
The book does exaggerate a little when it boasts of having "So many Feats and
Skills that it would take a giant to shake a stick at them." There are only two
new skills, Astrogeography, a specialized skill dealing with travel via magical
and psionic means, and Giant Lore, secrets of, yes, giants.
I say the
exaggeration is little because while the Skill section is low, there are a ton of
Feats. GMs must exercise some care though, as some of the Feats may be a little
overpowering. For example, Giant Blood, not an overpowered Feat in and of
itself, provides the character with the ability to use any item that a giant
could use by race, as well as increasing his size by one category. Not too bad. However, when you look
at Giant Hide and Giant's Resilience (both of which use Giant Blood as a
prerequisite), you may pause. Giant Hide provides damage reduction
5/+1, a rather powerful Feat to be taken at first level by a human.
Giant's Resilience provides the user with Resist Elements against one type of
energy. Most of the Feats shouldn't be too dangerous as they can only be
taken by a giant with a lot of Strength, but GMs will have to determine what to allow on a
case by case basis.
In addition to general Feats meant for giants, there is a new category of Feat called
Blood Gift Feats. These are like background Feats and provide the user with some
very interesting benefits. Divine Vengeance, for example, turns half of all
damage dealt though the use of spells into sanctified damage. Dangerous. Taste
of Blood allows the user to radiate fear in addition to a +2 racial bonus to
Large and In Charge
Not satisfied with making giants dangerous through the use of Feats and templates
alone, Paradigm introduces five new Prestige Classes. The Blood Disciple is a
giant-only spellcaster who doesn't study for spells but gains them like a
Sorcerer. More dangerous perhaps is the Catapult, a missile specialist who makes
crossbow men look downright puny as he gains bonus to hit with his thrown weapons
in addition to gaining better range increments with his weapons. Of course the
Giant Slayer isn't going to be taken by any but the most sadistic Ranger giants
as it's more a player class that specializes in killing giants. The Reaver of
Wyrms is a class that could be taken by giant or standard race, as long as the
character has survived a fight against a dragon and fulfills other requirements. These
dragon killers have numerous Feats that enable them to find the soft spots on
dragons. The last of the PrCs is the Terramancer, a spellcaster specializing in
earth magics that can traverse quickly using the Elemental Plane of Earth as well
as communicate with it through Stone Tell or shape it with Stone Shape.
For spellcasters, there are several new clerical domains: Cloud, Cavern, Cold,
Giant, and Storm, as well as new spells, and familiars for both Large and Huge
giants. The new spells include a variety of elemental based attack spells like
Lava Burst, Shocking Strike, Thunderbolts, and Ray of Fire, as well as a few
miscellaneous spells like Mist Walk, a spell that enables you to stand on clouds,
or Flesh to Ice (you'll never guess the effect of that one). New items include Bane
Weapons that target player races, as well as giant Thunderstones that giants use
as missiles against their prey.
The book closes up with two lairs, one for a cloud giant, and another for a frost
giant. While each location does have key descriptions, they do not include any
stats. GMs with the Monster Manual won't have any problem there, of course.
The layout of the book is the standard two columns, with good text to white space ratios
while remaining easy on the eyes. The book has some great
illustrations that should inspire the GM while terrifying the player. My
personal favorite is the full page fire giant standing in front of a burning
forest. Another great one is the half-red dragon/half fire giant wielding a
flaming sword. Looks like a centaur with the lower half being dragon.
Lords of the Peaks is not only the first book in the Races of Legend
series, but also the first book by Paradigm to employ the OGL Interlink logo.
This means it directly compliments a supplement from another publisher, avoiding
needless duplication and making both products better for it. The compliment to
this book is Hammer & Helm, the dwarf sourcebook by Green Ronin Publishing. I say compliment
because neither book goes into many details about the other. The big tie-in is
the fact that these races often war with one another. The ties are light and
could probably use a little more cementing by both companies to acheive a better
sum when owning both books.
The book goes a long way toward making giants manageable for a GM, but does
nothing for players who were looking to add some Giant Races into his roster of
characters. About the only part that fails to help GMs is when it covers religion,
at which point it takes the uninspired route and assigns Frost Giants a worship of
elemental Ice, and Fire Giants, Fire. Despite that one failing, GMs looking to add a lot more detail to
their giants can capture some of the feel of a Rune Lords book, and will love
this book for its intelligent ideas on giant relations, background and interaction
with the world. GMs looking to kick the snot out of a group of 25th level
players will use Lords of the Peaks to whip up a half-celestial
giant/half-red dragon with 10 levels of Psion and lots of unique Feats. That
alone is worth the price of admission.