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bigby_presents_glory_of_giants_book_review

Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants Review

Table of Contents:

Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants

Review

Titanic Epic or Troll Scribbles?

Giants are striding into 5e Dungeons and Dragons in this newest addition from Wizards of the Coast. In a similar vein to Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons from a couple years back, Glory of the Giants is primarily a lore book centered around the giant folk and their Ordning but with quite a bit more mechanical oomph than we got last time around. Does all this add up to something worth buying? Find your place in the Ordning and get climbing that beanstalk as we go through everything you need to know.

bigby_presents_glory_of_giants_book_review

 

What’s in the Book?

WotC has not only shrunk this offering once again, but they’ve also raised the price, making Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants both the smallest and most expensive official D&D content on offer (not a great start). Early on in 5e’s history books commonly clocked in at about 256 pages and sold for $49.99. Bigby is a whopping 64 pages shorter at 192 pages, and the MSRP is officially all the way up to $69.95. Granted, you can still find digital versions of the book for $29.99, but that physical copy price just seems ridiculous to me considering previously offered slim volumes still only ran about 30 bucks for a physical copy. 

Getting off my soapbox about the price for a moment, the actual content is mostly aimed towards Dungeon Masters, with a little bit of player content sprinkled in. It’s a bit more mechanical content heavy than Fizban’s, but lore still occupies most of the pages.

All told you can find the following within Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants:

  • Lore! Bigby offers us about 100 pages of lore littered with useful tables and plot hooks. 
  • 1 New Barbarian Subclass. The new path of the giant allows you to rage in big mode.
  • 2 New Backgrounds. Giant Foundling and Rune Carver join the fray, tied to 2 new feats.
  • 8 New Feats. 1 isolated new feat, and 6 that branch off the last one as a mini feat tree. 
  • 39 Assorted Tables. Bigby loves tables apparently and you’ll be able to randomly come up with entire adventures.
  • 18 “Giant Enclaves”. These are half map and half adventure hook collections designed as convenient DM tools.
  • 30 New Magic Items. Some incredibly fun stuff in here, from rune paint to dinosaur figurines of power.
  • 71 New Monsters. A surprisingly deep bestiary here with monsters stretching across every tier, most of which are at least giant adjacent.

  • Lore!

    Giants in the forgotten realms have a deep and detailed history filled with gods and divine dramas that spill into the lives of their titanic descendants. If you played Storm King’s Thunder you’ll already know quite a bit of this, from the grand hierarchy of giants called The Ordning, to the giant offshoots like trolls and ogres. Here we frame the lore as the titular Bigby’s conversations and musings with the giant goddess Diancastra. We also get a few snippets of giant lore outside of the Forgotten Realms, but the lion’s share goes towards our established canon. I appreciate how much of the lore is oriented towards how it relates towards potential adventurers rather than just lists of facts and dates. I think it beats out Fizban’s in that regard, as each chunk of lore serves a purpose, and I can see most of it coming up in a game.  


    Path of the Giant

    Probably the biggest piece of player facing content, this first and foremost lets you become big while you rage, an effect that feels even more impactful if you start with a small race. Beyond that gimmick, it focuses surprisingly hard on thrown weapons and turning the tiny people around you into thrown weapons which is just (chefs kiss) perfect flavor.


    New Backgrounds

    The new backgrounds Giant Foundling and Rune Carver are interesting to me not in the theming (which is fine) but because they’re bound to two new feats of similar names. The backgrounds each provide much of what I’d expect from a background, but also specifically grant a bonus feat (at first level mind you). We also get a little rules snippet saying that essentially if using these backgrounds, everybody else should also get a bonus feat at 1st level even if they don’t take the new stuff. I think what we’re seeing here are ripples coming off the new 5.5 or “D&D Next” content, where starting off the game with a bonus feat will be the norm.


    8 New Feats

    This is a bit misleading, really what we get here is two new feats, namely Rune Shaper and Strike of the Giants, and 6 half-feats you can only take if you already have Strike of the Giants. Each of these half-feats has a different mostly elemental twist, taking you down the routes of the 6 main giant families. I think these will be much more relevant in the upcoming 5.5 reality where everybody starts with feats, but right now requiring 2 feats to make something happen isn’t going to be seen often at many game tables.


    39 Assorted Tables

    Part of my inner DM smiles whenever I see well-made encounter and loot tables and I was grinning ear-to-ear on these. The book is absolutely brimming with useful tables for all occasions, many of them even giant related. I wasn’t expecting a dinosaur encounter table, but I’m happy to have one. I think this is one of the big ways that Bigby presents itself as a DM tool book first, and a lore book second, as opposed to Fizban’s which went on for chapters without dealing with anything game related.


    18 “Giant Enclaves”

    This is the book’s biggest and best innovation and I’m very glad they pushed it and gave it a solid chunk of the book. Each “enclave” is a map, either a small dungeon or a whole region, with accompanying fluff and giant-flavored lore. Each one is given to you with the special rules concerning the area’s strange and magical properties (love the endless rockslide cave), and 4 to 5 potential hooks to use in your adventures. More than just idea prompts, these hooks go on to tell you how to populate the map with encounters (using those handy encounter tables and monsters), and even how you could string some of them together to create greater story narratives. I LOVE this technique. It holds the DM’s hand loosely, giving them all the tools they need to make what they want without just driving them down a pre-written adventure path. Kudos WotC! I hope they do this more in the future.


    30 New Magic Items

    We get a surprising wealth of fun magic items here ranging across all tiers of play. A good number of these are either directly related to giants, or at least have some form of rune magic going on. I know at least a few of these will be making their way into my future games, particularly the tyrannosaurus rex figurine of power cause just imagine the trouble a party can get up to with a pocket T-Rex.


    71 New Monsters

    This is a LOT of monsters for what was expected to be more of a lore book. For example, the bestiary section of Spelljammer had a total of 72 monster stat blocks, only a single point up on Bigby. I don’t know if this is the result of getting the remains of a scrapped adventure path, the new normal, or something in between, but I’m here for it. I’m particularly interested to see what they do with the new “death giants” which are essentially huge drow. Purple-skinned murder giants who’ve sworn fealty to the Raven Queen.


    The AI Elephant in the Room

    Before I get to the conclusions here, we need to talk about Wizards of the Coast’s most recent case of foot in mouth. For everyone unaware, Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants has shipped with AI generated artworks. If the debate on AI art has escaped you completely somehow, the issue is complex but when boiled down is an argument about an artist’s right to their work, and on replacing artists with machines that use those same artist’s work to replace them.


    Very close to the release of Bigby, we started getting some spoiler artworks and some of our more observant nerds noticed some of that distinct AI weirdness in those artworks. Not all of them, but a few. According to WotC these AI abominations are all from a single artist that used AI without their knowledge and without their permission.


    I’m not entirely sure I buy that. Hasbro has been aggressively trying to milk more money out of everything they own for the last few years, and I highly doubt their ability to resist the allure of free art for their products. This could very well be a single artist trying to sneak it in, but it could also very easily be the management trying to sneak it in to test the waters and they threw the artist to the wolves. I don’t know either way, but at the very least it means their quality control was slacking hard because those wolves definitely had weird mutant human feet.


    To their credit, the AI artwork has been quickly pulled from the digital version, but the first print run has already shipped, weird human/dog wolf paws and all. Take this as just another reason not to pick up Bigby as a physical copy, which we’ll get much more into in a moment.


    What’s Good About the Book? 

    This is Fizban’s 2.0 in the best possible way. At the core, Bigby is still a lore book and should scratch that info itch and provide you with plenty of Forgotten Realms reading goodness. But Fizban’s was almost just a lore book, and that made it hard to recommend for the average player. You only bought Fizban’s if you wanted a bunch of dragon lore, but you should buy Bigby’s if you’re a DM, and if you’re interested in giant lore that only makes it better.


    Monsters and magic items are fantastic, and I’m happy to see so many of them here, but that’s not what impressed me the most here. The “giant enclaves” are a beautiful middle ground between planned encounters and disparate DM tools. The hooks are simple yet compelling, and the locations are interesting and well-designed no matter how you decide to use them as a DM. There’s enough here to craft multiple giant-themed campaigns, and it wouldn’t be hard to assemble either. Bigby’s has set itself up as an actual set of DM tools, and I think any DM will be better equipped to run their games with this in their arsenal.

     

    What’s Bad About the Book?  

    The content we got is good, it’s everything that isn’t there and all the stuff surrounding this book that’s terrible. Let’s put aside the whole AI art issue for a second, because that’s not fair to the book we did get. It still means the book is now missing a few art pieces, but that’s not the biggest issue.


    In the last few years I noticed some worrying trends, and I’m sad to see my own predictions vindicated. The books are getting shorter, and they’re charging more for less content. Charging more than ever for a standard issue of their shortest book release is a ballsy move of a heartless management team. $70 is a hefty price tag for a short collection of DM tools and lore. I honestly think that their inclusion of a few player-facing options is less about including content, and more about trying to trick players into spending $70 for a few pages of content intended for them.


    I wouldn’t be ranting about it if it was one or the other. Shorter volumes? Fine, tighter content with more effort put into it can be a good thing. More expensive? Hate it, but I understand inflation hits us all. But both together? I feel like unless we draw a line in the sand somewhere, by this time in a few years we’ll be spending $100 for a third of the book we used to get for $50!


    Conclusions

    Ultimately, I think Bigby is a step up from Fizban’s, a well-rounded set of lore and DM tools that is elevated above a mere lore book. HOWEVER, I can’t ignore all the surrounding issues. Some great writers and artists obviously worked hard on this book and accomplished something good, but getting squeezed on both price and content is a terrible position for any product. Throw in some god-forsaken AI artworks and it’s just too much for me to overlook.


    Normally, I don’t make that big of a distinction between a physical and digital copy and say to each their own. But in this case the value is just not there for a $70 physical book. Digital copies can still be had for $30 though, and while still smaller than I’d like I still feel $30 is a reasonable price tag for what you’re getting (and with the digital cut, there’s no human/dog wolf feet). If a big set of DM tools and giant lore sounds interesting, pick Bigby up, but do so from a digital provider rather than bothering with actual paper.


    Physical Copy Final Score: 3 out of 10

    Digital Copy Final Score: 7.5 out of 10 

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