Ettin (Dungeons & Dragons)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
First appearanceMonster Manual (1977)
AlignmentUsually Chaotic evil

In the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game, the Ettin is a giant-like creature. The creatures' name derives from Old English eoten 'giant', a word cognate with the Jötunn giants of Norse mythology.

Publication history[edit]

The ettin was introduced to the D&D game in the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition (1977–1988)[edit]

The ettin appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977), where it is described as a nocturnal, two-headed giant that dwells in remote places and lairs underground. An ettin wears tattered animal skins, and is filthy. Typical ettin weapons are spiked clubs. Their two heads make them hard to surprise, and let them control their left and right arms separately. Although they are described as "giant-like", the initial text notes their similar appearance and likely relation to orcs.[1] In G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King a group of four ettins guards the Hall of Dead Kings.[2] The giant two-headed troll in the first edition Fiend Folio (1981) is an ettin/troll crossbreed.[3] An ettin serves as guard and beastkeeper in dungeon level three of T1-4: Temple of Elemental Evil, and on level four, there is another ettin with one head suffering from paranoid delusions and poor sleeping habits.[4]

The ettin was detailed in Dragon #92 (December 1984), in Ed Greenwood's article "Duh 'Cology of Duh Ettin". Ettins are described as largely solitary, with mated pairs coming together only until their offspring are self-sufficient. Occasionally, they will band together under a strong-willed or slightly more intelligent leader. Ettins are stupid, but sometimes cunning; they are slow to trust strangers. The article confirms the ettin's right-body dominance, and it is noted that ettins do not argue with themselves, but having two brains does give an ettin special resistance to some mind-affecting spells. Although an ettin cannot regrow a lost head, an ettin who survives the loss of one head is able to continue a normal life with just one, but other ettins view it as deformed. Ettins have pink to brown flesh, usually darkened by layers of dirt. The combat tactics of ettins are to crush and batter opponents, but they will resort to throwing things if necessary. An ettin might bargain with opponents if it thinks that will get it more food, but won't necessarily stick to the bargain. They are described as worshipping the hill giant god Grolantor, but under variant names such as "Grolettinor" or "Grelinor". Cultural and societal connections with hills giants are mentioned, as are the facial similarities with orcs.[5]

An article in Dragon #141, titled "Orcs Throw Spells, Too!" notes that ettins don't so much worship Grolantor as their god, but simply pay him homage as an extremely powerful ettin. Grolantor rewards this lack of proper faith by not granting any spells to ettin shamans. The biclops in "The Dragon's Bestiary" in Dragon #172 is a cross between a cyclopskin and an ettin.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition (1989–1999)[edit]

The ettin appears first in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989), and is one of the three creatures depicted on the cover. They are described as having long, stringy unkempt hair, large yellowing teeth and a very bad smell. Their lairs are also a haven for parasites and vermin, and it isn't unusual for ettins themselves to be infected with various parasitic diseases. As well as being filthy, an ettin's skin is very thick.[6] The ettin is reprinted in the Monstrous Manual (1993).[7]

This ettin appeared in the Dungeons & Dragons Adventure Game set (1999).[8]

Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (2000–2007)[edit]

Statistics for the ettin first appears in 3rd edition in The Ettin's Riddle, the first of a series of original adventures published on the Wizards of the Coast web site. Now officially a type of giant, these ettins still have orclike facial features, and a generally vile appearance.[9] The ettin appears in the 3rd edition Monster Manual (2000).[10] Rules for player character ettins are contained in Savage Species, which notes that an ettin can use two magical necklaces. There is also an umbral ettin made of living darkness in Savage Species, as the sample creature for the "umbral" template.[11] "Monster Mayhem: Tricks for Tackling Ettins" on the Wizards website gives some first-person advice on dealing with one (or more) ettins.[12] "D&D Fight Club" presents a smart ettin named Gorg, who is both a barbarian and a sorcerer. One head controls a barbarian's weapon attack, while the other head uses an arm to cast spells.[13] "NPC Closeup" presents a few different versions of an ettin bard named Durj.[14]

The ettin appears in the revised 3.5 Monster Manual (2003); the expanded entry for skeletons includes an ettin skeleton as a sample large skeleton. The fire-souled ettin appeared in Dragon #314 (December 2003) in the article "Brotherhood of the Burning Heart". In "Elite Opponents: Ettins" on the Wizards website, the threat level ratchets up slightly, starting with Grush, a run-of-the-mill ettin barbarian, progressing on to Broggen, an ettin dire wereboar, and finally reaching Therrik, a Tauric Ettin-Elephant based on a variation of the rules from Savage Species.[15] The Monster Manual III includes the boar-facted spellwarped ettin.[16] The hooded pupil ettin appeared in Libris Mortis (2004).[17]

Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition (2008–2014)[edit]

The ettin appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2008), including the ettin marauder and the ettin spirit-talker. The text describes ettins as ravenous two-headed giants found in wild borderlands, forested mountains, and dark caves. The ettin marauder gets a double set of actions, and its dual brains also mean that it automatically resists mental incapacitation. The ettin spirit-talker has a connection to demons, and one of the creature's abilities enables it to summon demonic spirits to harass its opponents.[18] One of the first encounters in H3: Pyramid of Shadows, is with an Ettin Headtaker named Gurrak, who carefully preserves and collects the heads of his opponents.

The Monster Manual 2 entry for Demogorgon, which details Thrarak, a female ettin who serves as the exarch of Aameul, one of Demogorgon's two heads. Demogorgon once battled a primordial called Storralk. After defeating Storralk, the demon lord called forth ettins from the primordial's spilled blood, and Thrarak was one of the first of these ettins. Now known as the Flayed Maiden, she is often dispatched to visit agony on those who cross the Prince of Demons.

The Dungeon Master's Guide 2 uses an ettin as an example of using the Demogorgon Cultist theme. The Monster Vault posits that ettins have quarrelsome heads which achieve a tenuous cooperation only because the ettin cannot survive without both of them. It also presents stat blocks for an Ettin Thug, an Ettin Wrath Chanter, and an Ettin Hunter added to an updated Ettin Marauder. Dungeon #199 has an Ettin Berserker in the revised Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl adventure. Harrigus and Skaltath in Hall of the Fire Giant King in Dungeon #200 is a two-headed fire giant and the result of crossbreeding between ettins and fire giants.

There is an ettin guarding the doors to the ruined keep of Gardmore Abbey in Madness at Gardmore Abbey. His heads (Spike and Bruse) pose the adventurers a riddle. If they can get the answer (or just confuse the ettin), they can gain entry to the keep without fighting him.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition (2014–)[edit]

In Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, a D&D Next preview adventure released at GenCon in 2013, the playtest stat block is accompanied by some descriptive text which suggests that an ettin's heads constantly argue with each other.

The ettin appears in the Monster Manual for this edition (2014). It describes the ettin as two individuals trapped in the same body. An origin story explains that legend has it that orcs once stumbled upon a temple to Demogorgon, and the magic of this temple transformed the orcs into giant mockeries of the twin-headed Prince of Demons. These creatures scattered into the wilderness to become the first ettins. The book also notes that the word "ettin" means "ugly giant" in an ancient dialect of common.


An ettin has two heads, each of which is capable of independent thought, and each controls one arm for attacking. The left head directs the left arm and right head directs the right arm during combat. The two heads disagree constantly, but will work together when there is a common threat.

The first edition of the Monster Manual states that the left arm of an ettin inflicts 2 hp of damage less than the right and one of the ettin's heads is always on alert, thereby reducing its chance of surprise.

An ettin is usually chaotic evil in alignment.

Use in campaign settings[edit]


Highlord Verminaard has an ettin serving him as an officer when he shows up for the final battle at the end of DL4: Dragons of Desolation, and there is also an ettin living in the Ruins near Kendermore in DL12: Dragons of Faith.

In the short story "Catch of the Day" in the Rebels and Tyrants anthology, an ettin is one of a series of creatures that picks up a seemingly cursed fishing rod which once belonged to one of Krynn's greatest sorcerers. Like all of the creatures who try to use the rod, this ettin eventually comes to an unfortunate end.

The Bestiary (an accessory for the SAGA Game) describes ettins as simply two-headed giants, and notes that there are rare ettins with three or more heads who are even more brutal and aggressive than the two-headed sort. On Krynn, other giants view ettins as freaks that should be destroyed.

Forgotten Realms[edit]

In Undermountain: The Lost Level three hungry ettins appear from nowhere, apparently called forth by new summoning magics created by Halaster. In the 4th Edition era of the Realms, the Iron Keep on Oman island in the Moonshaes is ruled over by an ettin named Hathfell ("Backdrop: Moonshae" in Dungeon #196).

"New Rogues Gallery" in Polyhedron #60 introduces an ettin named Nicknack Two-Heads. An accident involving a helm of opposite alignment and a gem of insight caused one of his heads to become good while the other remained evil. Only the help of an old druid helped Nicknack remain sane, eventually balancing the conflicting heads, and becoming neutral in alignment. Nicknack travels the Realms, often astride a white elephant figurine of wondrous power.

In FOR7: Giantcraft, a Realms-specific origin story for the ettin is given. The greater giant god Annam All-Father married a lesser demigoddess who manifested as a great mountain on the edge of the Cold Lands. Their sons founded the dynasties of the giant races, including the twisted brood of Annam's two-headed son, Arno/Julian. "Ettin" means "runt" in the ancient form of the giant tongue.


In Ivid the Undying, the site of an ancient battle called Ettin's Mound is described. Here, a tribe of roughly fifteen ettins is led by Iron Grandfather, their unusually powerful chieftain.

In the Statuary on level four of Maure Castle (detailed in Dungeon #112) there is a two-headed giant stored in suspended animation. Although it behaves in a similar manner to an ettin if the storage vessel is shattered, this creature is not actually an ettin, but a fire giant who has had a frost giant's head and blood added to its body by the necromancer Afelbain.

WG7: Castle Greyhawk has an encounter with a cretin, which is "sort of like an ettin but not as smart". The two-heads are named Burt and Jimmy. They speak with a cockney accent.


The article "Domains of Dread: Sunderheart, the Funeral City" in Dragon #368 mentions that two rival ettin bands occupy the lower city and engage in on-again-off-again warfare.


External links[edit]