Throught their long and chequered history the Half-Giants of Trandlar have remained an imposing and mysterious force in the northern reaches of the world. The largest and strongest of races (with the exception of the Dragons) they have often been feared- and rightly so. But these brusque humanoids are not all brawn and no brain- in fact they are surprisingly shrewd thinkers.
Half-Giants were once the heirs of a proud and mighty empire spanning their native home of Trandlar, however their kind has since fallen upon harder times. Now removed from their homelands, they scrape a living in the frigid wastes of northern Aradoth. Their participation in the war against the Withered Aegis is hesitant; mutual distrust carries over well into the modern age.
Half-Giants are large and powerfully-framed humanoids well suited to colder climates. Standing on average 2.3-2.9 meters tall, they are usually of a heavy build and slightly portly. In general body shape they are very similar to Humans, and it is a generally accepted belief that the two races emerged from similar stock. Interbreeding is possible, and the hybrids appear to be reproductively viable, indicating a close relationship with humans and human derived races (such as the fiends). Compatability with other human-compatable races has not been demonstrated, but is probably possible.
Half-Giants are well adapted to colder environments; they build and retain fat stores easily, and comparatively have a higher percentage of fat in their bodies than comparable humanoids; in particular the kidneys, blood vessels of the extremities and chest cavity are well insulated. Their higher surface area – volume ration slows the dissipation of heat into the air, and they are possessed of large noses and sinuses to warm air en route to the lungs.
They are also naturally well suited to combat; their skin is thick and leathery, and their musculature is roughly 30% again as powerful as a Human’s when compared in a power-weight ratio. Their bones are denser and thicker, and major organs are buried beneath thick fat layers. Half-Giants are a very resiliant breed.
They also display a surprising amount of conscious control over their metabolic rates; a Half-Giant can choose to boost their metabolisim temporarily to aid in physical feats, or to slow it down to conserve energy. This trait is not seen in other humanoids.
Half-Giant culture is often said to be brutish and uncivilised by those who know little of it. In reality however, Half-Giants are subject to complex and ancient system of taboos, tribal traditions and religeous worship.
The latter perhaps more than anything has goverened their relationship with other races; Half-giant veneration of Daggarth requires them at all times to show strength, and their interperatation of this is to seek out combat, only in the aftermath of which can their devotions be preformed. As such, warfare and ritualised combat are integral to their culture; when not raiding, contests of strength, bravery, wrestling and hunting are the norm.
Half-Giants mark their ascent to maturity with periodic rituals; though specifics vary between tribes these often involve hunting dangerous game and ritual tattooing and scarification, as well as ‘trials by fire’ in which a prospective youth must demonstrate strength, endurance and cunning. Tribes practice mock warfare against each other, conducting practice raids and skirmishes against their rivals. This is carried in the Half-Giant wedding tradition, where a suitor must ritually (and sometimes not so ritually) kidnap his bride. Or her husband.
Outside of feats of strength, Half-Giant culture centres around the plow and craft; cultivating what little can be coaxed from the frigid landscape. Living is mostly communal in nature; though each Half-Giant has a place of residence these are little more than sleeping quaters; most of village life occours in a central longhall. Half-Giants award special praise to two professions; the Smith, who according to their mythology is granted mastery over fire and creation, and the Skald (bard) who is responsible for the keeping of histories in the form of epics and poetry.
Shamans are also accorded respect, and magic is given what respect is due. the healer profession is accepted if somewhat derided.
Half Giants make use of runes and carving, though most of their population is illiterate. Construction from stone is exceedingly rare thank to the climate. However, they are masters of building using wood and daub. Their structures are almost always adorned with fantastic carvings, tapestries and fretworking.
Any single leader elected by the Half-Giants has fought and won for the right to bear that position. Traditionally, each clan has independant rulership consisting of the most senior and knowlegable members of the tribe. Chieftains are nominally elected by these elders. Where greater representation is called for, elders from many clans may gather at a pre-ordained location (usually one of significance) for the Moot, where hearings and exchanges of arguments are heard.
With the formation of the Empire, the half-Giants have been forced to convene a less chaotic and more stable form of government. Modelled loosely on the human system, each tribe now has a Jarl (earl) to represent them who is responsible for the upkeep of the land and raising forces as required. Jarls are usually great warriors and heroes of their tribe, though it is not unheard of for master craftsmen and great bards to rise to the position too. Jarls are subject to their King, who resides in Mahagra and serves as a direct liason with the Empire. Unlike in Human politics however, the position of leadership is not strictly hereditary and may be inherited by a named successor, champion, or assassin.
Half-Giants are subject to an extensive and well defined justice system. Called the Weregeld, it places a value upon every piece of property and person which must be paid if that person or property is violated. Half-Giants have no truck with prisons or courts; guilt is decided by trial by ordeal. A person found wanting must pay the Weregeld or pay in blood.
The precise values of the Weregeld are somewhat debatable, and also poses a philosophical conundrum. The practice of slavery is still maintained by some Half-Giant clans; by their thinking if a price is placed on a person, it is possibly to buy them. Value for a strong cow is held at 50 gold, a Human male is 40 gold, and a virgin Saris maiden can sell for well over 2000. Though explicitelly outlawed by the Empire slave raids can and do still occour, though most slaves will be convicts who ‘paid off’ outstanding debts or Weregelds by selling themselves into bondage.
Half-Giants deal mostly between themselves, offering little in the way of trade. Infrastructure is limited, and so reaching the northernmost tribes and city of Mahagra is a dangerous trek at best. The city relies heavily on sea routes, and its ports can become frozen closed in winter. Most of their farming is subsistence oriented, and many tribes are communistic in nature; trade in its traditional form is a reletively new introduction.
Trade is governed by the Weregild, with each item having a set price in coins. Currency in its traditional form is not as common as elsewhere in the world; most goods are either traded directly or paid for with favours and labour.
Metals are rare in northern Aradoth, leaving them with little of value to export. However, an extensive lumber industry does exist, mostly aimed at providing the Half-Giants with homes and ships. In previous years this was explioted by raiders, who would ransack cities for plunder and slaves, but in recent years it has proved important to the growing ship building industry, as large sections of the lowlands are heavily diseased and blighted or at the very least lacking in manpower. Primary exports include: Timber, raw stone, fish, mercenaries and craftsmen.
Half-Giants until recently had no formal army as such; most adult males would be versed in combat of some description thanks simply to the rigours of growing up in their culture. As such, Half-Giants had little need for large professional armies such as the Humans, or a highly disciplined citizen-soldiery such as the Lunus.
Half-Giants have always been hampered by their lack of servicable equipment. Metal is rare in their lands, and the expertise to work it even moreso- a simple mail shirt can cost as much as an entire farm, and swords were so valued they almost always became family heirlooms. Even to the present day, the Mahagran Home-Defence force is rarely seen with equipment in excess of a shield, chainmaille armour and spears, interspersed with the occasional axe or hammer which might double as a craft tool. However this is not such a hinderance as might be thought; when push comes to shove they could often rely on their sheer brawn to carry the day.
Half-Giants are however restricted significantly by their lack of discipline and organisation. They are a culture of warriors, not soldiers. Each strives for individual glory, reknown and veneration of Daggarth. It takes a mighty warlord to persuade an army of them to do much besides simply charge or line up in a wall of shields at the top of a hill.
Whilst poor soldiers, individuals are known for their cunning and bloodymindedness. Half-Giants can be relied upon to formulate simple, yet effective and visceral plans. Assassins and Rogues of Half-Giant stock are surprisingly common.
In war, Half-Giants make extensive use of combat magic. This takes two primary forms; the Skalds, who can embolden with their chants and songs as any Bard, and their Shaman who are well versed in the ways of runic magic and destruction. Necromancy was also practices by some tribes, who would call dead ancestors, ghouls and geists to fight alongside them (a practice now expressly forbidden for obvious reasons). It is also rumored that tribes in the deepest Ice Wastes practice the veneration of Wolves and will use them as war animals… some even going so far as to deliberately infect themselves with the lycanthropy virus, though due to the diesease’s lost communicability this has fallen out of practice.
Half-Giants have no formal Navy; each coastal tribe maintains a number of ships, but these are raiding vessels not intended for direct combat. In naval battles, Half-Giants specialise in boarding actions. They also make for fine amphibious assault troops.
They are natural allies to the Fiends, who venerate mental strength.