The Elemental Evil campaign adds a number of new playable races to the world of Faerûn. The elementally touched genasi, the bird-like aarakocra, the powerfully built goliaths and the deep gnomes – a gnome sub-race – all join the fifth edition core rules courtesy of the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion.
Goliaths, who are related to giants, were first introduced as a playable race in the 2004 book Races of Stone, before appearing in the 4th edition Player’s Handbook 2. The goliath race boasts a complex culture rooted in the spirit of competition and fair play, where each member of a clan is responsible for their own success, and ultimately their own survival. They are a tough and athletic folk, where the individual best suited to a task is chosen, regardless of gender. Most interesting, however, are their naming customs.
“Every goliath has three names: a birth name assigned by the newborn’s mother and father, a nickname assigned by the tribal chief, and a family or clan name.”
While their birth and clan names are permanent, a goliath’s nickname is a description that can change on the whim of a chieftain or tribal elder. Additionally, a goliath is known to give nicknames to their friends and allies – regardless of race – changing those names to match their accomplishments. In casual conversation, they use their nickname.
Goliaths present all three names when identifying themselves, in the order of birth name, nickname, and clan name. Birth names are rarely linked to gender, as goliaths see females and males as equal in all things, and they find societies with roles divided by gender to be puzzling or worthy of mockery.
These reclusive beings dwell at the highest mountain peaks, wandering a bleak realm of rock, where the air is thin and the frigid winds howl. Few folk can claim to have seen a goliath, and fewer still can claim friendship with them.
Goliaths have lifespans comparable to humans, entering adulthood in their late teens and usually living less than a century. These Medium creatures are typically between seven and eight feet tall and weigh between 280 and 340 pounds, with a base walking speed of 30 feet.
Their hardy climate and physical prowess provide them with many natural advantages. They are proficient in athletics; count as one size larger when carrying, pushing, dragging, or lifting; are naturally able to deal with cold climates and elevations above 20,000 feet; and can use Stone’s Endurance to occasionally shrug off injury.
Each day brings a fresh challenge to a goliath, as food, water, and shelter are rare in the uppermost mountain reaches. A single mistake can doom an entire tribe, while an individual’s heroic effort can ensure the entire group’s survival.
Goliaths thus place a premium on self-sufficiency and individual skill. They have a compulsion to keep score, counting their deeds and tallying their accomplishments to compare to others. Goliaths love to win and defeat merely pushes them to improve their skills.
However, this dedication to competition has a dark side. Above all else, goliaths are driven to outdo their past efforts. If a goliath slays a dragon, he or she might seek out a larger, more powerful wyrm to battle. Few goliath adventurers reach old age, as most die attempting to surpass their past accomplishments.
For goliaths, competition exists only when it is supported by a level playing field. Competition measures talent, dedication, and effort. It’s those factors which determine survival in their home territory, rather than a reliance on magic items, money, or other elements that can tip the balance one way or the other.
Goliaths will happily rely on such benefits, but they are careful to remember that such an advantage can always be lost. A goliath who relies too much on them can grow complacent, which is a recipe for disaster in the mountains.
This trait manifests itself most strongly when goliaths interact with other societies. The relationship between peasants and nobles, for example, puzzles goliaths. If a king lacks the intelligence or skills to lead, then clearly the most talented person in the kingdom should take his place. Goliaths rarely keep such opinions to themselves, and mock folk who rely on society’s structures or rules to maintain power. Below I’ve created a goliath wizard with the sage background that I plan to advance into the fine arcane tradition encompassed by the school of divination. He is called Aequitas (birth name) Stargazer (nickname) Ana’kalathai (clan name). Aequitas is possessed of a solemn yet adventurous spirit, and has been tasked by his clan with advancing their collective knowledge.
Below I’ve created a goliath wizard with the sage background that I plan to advance into the fine arcane tradition encompassed by the school of divination. He is called Aequitas (birth name) Stargazer (nickname) Ana’kalathai (clan name). Aequitas is possessed of a solemn yet adventurous spirit, and has been tasked by his clan with advancing their collective knowledge.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST
Among goliaths, any adult who can’t contribute to the tribe is expelled. A lone goliath has little chance of survival, especially an older or weaker one. Goliaths have little pity for adults who can’t take care of themselves, though a sick or injured individual is treated, as a result of the goliath concept of fair play. Yet a permanently injured goliath is still expected to pull his or her weight in the tribe. Typically, such a goliath dies attempting to keep up, or the goliath slips away in the night to seek the cold will of fate.
In some ways, a goliath’s drive to outdo itself feeds into the grim inevitability of its decline and death. A goliath would much rather die in battle, at the peak of strength and skill, than endure the slow decay of old age. Few folk have ever met an elderly goliath, and even those goliaths who leave the mountains grapple with the urge to give up their lives as their physical skills decay.
Because of their risk-taking, goliaths can rarely count on a wisdom grown with age and their tribes suffer from a chronic lack of experience offered by long-term leaders.