Out of the Box D&D Encounters, Series 2, #18 – “Pull!”
Out of the Box introduction
One of the greatest challenges for addressing questions in Dungeons & Dragons is the area of “crunch”. I would like to address this area with regard to one specific segment.
I was inspired by an older broadcast by the truly talented AJ Picket on his channel “The Mighty Gluestick”. In a video wherein he described “what would happen if a giant hit a player character with a tree”, he said that they would, to paraphrase, “go flying”.
So, that inspired me to think one thing. What would happen if a giant, say a hill giant (to get the ball rolling), flung a player character into the air?
Well, that inspired research. Considering that improvised weapons (page 147-148 Player’s Handbook) references ‘a dead goblin’ as a viable possibility, then it’s on the playing field that a body could be used as a weapon.
Then, we need to consider how far such a body-related weapon could be thrown. That truth must somehow lay in lifting and carrying (page 176 Players Handbook). Given that a medium-sized character of (an assumed Strength of 10 as average) can throw an improvised weapon like a dead goblin up to a long range of 60 feet, then we need to apply the lifting and carrying rules as a modifier. And then, I realized all this over thinking was a trap.
Why was it a trap? Because giants throw boulders. If a giant can throw a heavy rock that weighs a lot more than a humanoid, then why is it worried about how much a humanoid weighs?
Sure, we could apply things like missile density, aerodynamics, and the air resistance of a humanoid flailing as its thrown, but we’d spend more time in calculations than actually playing…and that’s not fun. Let’s just assume that less aerodynamic things like flailing humans have a range of 50/200 and move on. Fair? I think it is.
Dungeon Masters often get caught up in this cycle of trying to find out how or why things happen without realizing that there is often a context available in or out of game. Sometimes, a DM just needs to relax and realize an answer is already there – they just need to find it. Until then, a logical or reasonable answer will do. So long as your players buy into your answer, the rest is gravy.
To provide such a possible answer to one of the game’s many questions, hereafter lay the encounter “Pull!”, wherein giants throw targets for fun and spite. There is no guarantee that this answers every DMs questions, but it may answer a few – and I’m okay with that.
Cool, damp air fills the rolling hills, creating low lying blankets of thick fog. Cresting the top of a hillock, you can see what looks like a vast pool of white cotton ahead, truly a deep vale filled with thick fog. Normally a peaceful sight.
Then, well in the distance, the party can see the strangest sight. What looks like a tiny silhouette of a flailing ragdoll-like humanoid flies out from the top of this fog, ascends to a significant height, then plummets back down. In the distance, as it enters the fog again, you can hear what should have been the echoes of screams, perhaps from this figure.
The ground upon which you stand slopes downward into this heavy fog, and the grass is slick with dew. Visibility above the fog is clear, but within it…not so much. Normal vision is limited to 100 feet or less, and darkvision grants no further advantage in the day. Walking at normal speed is safe enough, but any movement fast than that like a Dash will require success on a DC 10 Dexterity check to remain standing at the end of the movement. Failure of this check will result in falling prone.
Meanwhile, once per minute, the party will hear the sound of screaming disappearing quickly into the distance (like a Doppler effect), followed by deep guttural chuckling, followed again by a scream getting rapidly louder and ending suddenly. When the party comes within 300 feet of entering the fog, they will finally see the source of the noises and chaos, if only from a maximum of 100 feet away because of the fog.
Two hill giants (page 155, Monster Manual), “Umuk” and “Gamf”, are taking turns at a new game. Each one will reach onto a tall makeshift cage filled with imprisoned and terrified humanoids from it’s open top, then hurl these poor victims high into the air, chuckling at the panic and fascinated with losing sight of their prey. When the prey comes back, they always seem surprised and delighted, clapping as the poor sod hits the ground with such force as to be crushed to death. They then take this tenderized meal and set it aside and throw another victim into the air.
To date they have killed five victims. Five more await this gruesome fate in the cage.
The cage is a makeshift 20 ft. x 20 ft. unit fabricated from uprooted trees, logs, and wagon wreckage, with an open roof. It stands roughly 10 feet high. Inside are five Commoners (page 345, Monster Manual), trembling in terror. The cage has no door per se, as the giants are tall enough to just reach inside and grab a victim. The genius of not making a door for their prey to escape from is purely coincidental. They were just too lazy to make one, and certainly would not think to do so if they had no use for it.
A player character can attempt to climb the side of this makeshift cage if they like. It’s rough and cobbled-together nature has provided many handholds to allow purchase. A successful DC 10 Strength (Athletics) check should be more than enough to scale the sides should a rescue of the hostages be in mind.
Umuk and Gamf will not take kindly to any attempted rescue of their flailing and flying picnic lunch, and so will attack the player characters in anger. Any character in melee range of either Giant has a 50 percent chance of being grappled. A giant can use either one of its Multiattack actions to grapple a target within 10 feet. If successful, that target will be thrown straight up the next turn. A thrown character will be tossed 100 feet into the air. Unless that target is either a spellcaster with feather fall, a monk with Slow Fall, or has a magic item to help them as a reaction, they will fall an suffer 10d6 bludgeoning damage.
This can be gruesome damage. A DM can elect not to do it, and have the giants fight as normal. Or if the player characters are really ramping up the damage on the giants, this can be a real lesson in adaptation and opportunity. (Many DMs complain about “but my player characters aren’t challenged and giants are just sacks of hit points…”… Well, they’re also massive, strong, and skilled throwers. Use that.)
“Umuk” and “Gamf” – hill giant (2) – As per Monster Manual page 155, with the new tactic shown above.
Using the “Items in a Giant Bag”, the two giants share a large sack that has 900 gp, a mangy and chewed pelt (Success on a DC 12 Nature or Survival check reveals the origin – elk), a dented and mangled metal shield stained with blood, a bronze gong with a dragon motif (150 gp to a collector), and a five foot length of chain which ends in a manacle (that still has a foot in it). It is also possible that any surviving victims might be more than Commoners if the story needs or allows. They could be missing Nobles, Criminals with bounties on them, or long lost loved ones. DM’s choice.
When it comes to complications, there are a few. The massive falling damage, possibility of being prone when a giant grabs you (and gives one a crash course in flying, puns fully intended), collateral damage to Commoners…are all but a few. These complications begin to add up if the DM makes any one of the remaining Commoners something special as noted under Treasure. These are only suggestions, and given how player characters act unpredictably at times, their own actions may well create complications one could not even being to list herein.
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn't always work. One thing that I didn't really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn't really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn...the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn't play D&D again for a very long time, though.
Then 5E came out.
I discovered the Adventurer's League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in "gamer speak" a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother...who still doesn't "get it"). It's my hope that one day she'll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.