XIV: Oldskull Workshop: Riddle of the Giant’s Bag

Has anyone seen a Master David A. Trampier?
I wish so to speak with him …

Fee, fie, foe, fum! Hello everyone, happy Friday and welcome from castleoldskull.com. Today, we’re taking a brief jaunt away from the Lost Temple of Elemental Evil history series to focus on another episode of Oldskull Workshop. Today’s Game Mastering topic is Gygaxian giant’s bags, and how you can make one of Gary’s best random tables even better with a wider selection of curious items. Enjoy!

So what is the allure of a giant’s bag? It’s not only a pile of treasure. It also includes some gross, amusing, and fascinating stuff that provides the players with a glimpse into the disturbed / disturbing minds of the evil giantfolk. It also gives the Game Master a chance to laugh at greedy players.

If you’ve never read the amusing 1975 tale The Giant’s Bag, when Rob Kuntz was GM’ing for Gary Gygax and his son Ernie (“Nestre”), be sure to check it out here (below) for more inspiration.

Most of you are probably familiar with the 1978 giant’s bag D100 table, which you can find in the classic Gygaxian dungeon modules G1, G2, and G3. But when you’re rolling on the table 5 to 20 times for each giant, it can get a little repetitive. It’s fascinating at first and then it’s merely a chore.

So how do we liven things up? We create more intriguing D100 table entries that give the players new riddles to puzzle over. Here’s a table that I use in my own campaign, which is specifically geared toward hill giants. (Yes, I create different tables for each major type of giant and some types of monsters when they star in my game, but that’s a topic that’s too far ranging to go over here.)

Bags of the Hill Giants

Every hill giant male carries with him at all times a great sack, bin, satchel, wicker chest, strapped trundle-barrel “backpack”, or some other curious and rather portable contraption. It is said that the straighter a hill giant stands, the poorer he is; and a crafty old hill giant of means can be identified by his crooked hunchback.

Hill giantesses, by the way, do not possess bags. They either submit their treasures to their husband if they are young wives; or, as they grow older and more powerful, they hide their treasures amongst their own possessions … often daring their husbands to try and steal it for themselves. Such dares are almost never acted upon.

So what is in the bag that the hill giants find to be so precious? Mostly, each bag is an encapsulated personality that offers insights into what that giant feels is important. There will be treasure of course, but there will also be grisly trophies, hobby items, tools, knickknacks, creature comforts, and strange things that must be either nostalgic or crafted to fulfill some unguessable purpose.

You can roll 3D4 for a normal giant’s bag or chest, 4D4 for a special giant (a wolf keeper, matron, etc.), or 5D4 for a superior giant (chieftain, chieftess, great shamaness, etc.). Then roll that number of times on the D100 table below, allowing for duplicates.

If you’re pressed for time, just roll the number of entries and roll D100 once, reading items in sequence. For example, if your rolling determines there will be 7 item types and your D100 roll is a 64, you would then include item entries 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, and 70 in the giant’s bag. If you have the preparation time, you might want to create some pre-generated bags in advance so that you’re not rolling randomly at the play table. To facilitate that I’ve also created 8 sample giants’ bags which you utilize by rolling D8 (or simply using them in sequence as they are discovered).

Welcome to the wonderful world of a hill giant’s mind. Happy strangeness!

[01] 1 Backscratcher (sizeable antler fragment, perhaps elk)

[02] 1 Pouch of 2D4 Browpeckers (dead swatted birds of various sizes)

[03-04] 1D8 Beast Trophies (miscellaneous claws, fangs, and talons)

[05] 1 Bellyplate (shield with improvised leather straps)

[06-07] 1 Bloodscraper (giant-sized skinning knife)

[08] 1D8 Blot Sundries (crunchy and patched linens, heavily stained)

[09] 1 Bony Locker (coffin, not entirely empty)

[10] 1D2 Bronze Dire Wolf Collars

[11-12] 4D10 Caledonian Greater Electrum Pieces (worth 2 gp each)

[13] 1 Cage-a-Boo (live chicken, goat, lamb, or piglet inside)

[14] 1 Catch-Loop (hangman’s noose)

[15-16] 1D6 x 10 Cheapguilders (electrum pieces)

[17] 1 Choppychop (battle axe head)

[18] 1 Chugger (small sealed cask of bad wine)

[19] 1 Cliff Tangle (quality 120’ length of thick rope, very strong and heavy)

[20] 2D6 Cloud Seeds (dried beans, decidedly non-magical)

[21] 1 Comb-Ribber (comb made of bones)

[22-23] 1D4+1 Demi-Human Heads (cauterized, yet slightly smooshed)

[24] 1 Dire Chew (well-gnawed bone of some kind)

[25] 1D4 Doorstops (iron spikes)

[26] 1 Draught-Curler (giant-sized drinking horn)

[27] 1 Dreambreather (bag of dried mushrooms)

[28-29] 1 Drinking Cup (dented helmet)

[30-31] 1D4 x 10 Dwarf-Tooths (gold pieces)

[32-33] 2D4 x 10 Elf Shinies (silver pieces)

[34] 1D4+1 Fingerbraces (horseshoes)

[35] 1 Fingernail Cleaner (steel torc, bent)

[36] 1 Fish Wallop (stout wooden mallet)

[37] 1 Flambundo (small cask of oil, equivalent to 2D4 flasks)

[38-39] 1D6 Flip-Salties (dried fish)

[40] 1 Flunky Beater (wooden oar)

[41-42] 1 Foe-Fum Flask (curdled Britannian human blood, tasty)

[43-44] 1 Forefather Orb (ancient stone idol of a giant’s head)

[45-46] 1 Foremother Sounder (stretched-skin drum)

[47] 1D4 Forget Me Knots (knotted pieces of rope used as “thinkum” reminders)

[48-49] 1 Goat Wrap (giant cloak of stitched hides)

[50] 1 Goodsniffer (uprooted bush, fragrant)

[51] 1 Grey Prophet (a mummified and somewhat featherless raven)

[52] 1 Hob-a-Puffer (giant-sized smoking pipe)

[53] 1 Honeybrindle (chewed beehive)

[54-55] 1D3 Hurl-Boulders (deadly weapons)

[56] 1 Iron Cave Bear Collar

[57] 1 Kything Bark (piece of divinatory bark engraved with runes, non-magical)

[58] 1 Lambfisto (haunch of meat)

[59] 1 Listen-Little (dented brass ear trumpet)

[60] Luck-a-Glitter (random gem of 10 gp value)

[61] 1 Lucky Mossrune (tombstone)

[62] 1 Monch-Put (large pewter bowl)

[63] 1D6 Naughty Boys (somewhat broken humanoid skulls)

[64] 1D4 Og Cubits (crusty wooden planks of unknown purpose)

[65] 1 Ogre Bongo (bronze gong)

[66] 1D4 x 100 Orc-Payers (copper pieces)

[67] 1 Orcthumper (5’ length of iron chain)

[68] 1D2 Pelt Scrapers (boar tusks)

[69] 1 Pop Flap (wooden door, partially broken, with twisted hinges)

[70] 1 Pouch of Ground Bone Dust (used in the baking of weevil rocks)

[71] 1 Roly Poly (grindstone, cracked)

[72] 1D4 Salt Licks (salt-encrusted rocks)

[73] 1 Scrapchunk (leather saddle, once fine, with strips sliced off)

[74] 1 Sheep Wrap (giant-sized wool cloak)

[75] 1 Sheepgut Dew (giant-sized waterskin)

[76] 1 Skull-Roguey (rusted iron key to nothing in particular)

[77] 1 Sleepguard (iron cowbell)

[78] 1 Snot Rag (encrusted beaver pelt)

[79] 1 Soup-a-Boil (iron cooking pot)

[80] 1 Spindizzy (wagon wheel, missing several spokes)

[81] 1 Stench-Trundle (moldy wheel of cheese)

[82] 1 Stinkgood (linty ball of earwax)

[83] 1 Stitcher (short sword blade wrapped in leather)

[84] 1 String-o’-Knuckles (necklace, bones on a leather cord)

[85] 1 Sunfinder (somewhat-balanced lodestone corded on twine)

[86] 1 Sunhat (torn-off chunk of a thatched roof)

[87] 1 Swordhand Snipper (hand axe blade, used as a hand chopper)

[88] 3D6 Tasty Bits (human and demi-human ears, salted jerky)

[89] 1D6 Thief-Springers (iron caltrops)

[90] 1 Tie-Off (50’ length of hemp rope)

[91] 1 Tinderbox (chest with roof shingles, flint, and steel)

[92] 2D4 Toothpicks (giant toenails)

[93] 1D2 Tromp-Tromps (giant-sized sandals)

[94] 2D4 Wager Tokens (platinum pieces)

[95] 1 Water-Turner (wooden barrel)

[96] 1 Weevil Rock (a hard and wormy pink bread, made with gravy and foe-fum)

[97] 1 Wheedle Pony (toy rocking horse, broken)

[98] 1D6 Windspeakers (dragon scales, various colors)

[99] 1 Worry Rub (toothless dwarf skull, worn down)

[00] 1 Ygg-Scratch (a non-magical staff or portion thereof)


Happy old school gaming to you all! Enjoy the weekend.

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