The Jötnar

The Jötnar, (singular Jötun, make the plural “Jotuns” if you want – they’re unlikely to call the Plurality Police) are an adversarial race suitable for a dark ages, particularly Viking inspired setting.   

The name is often mistranslated into English as “giant” (via a Norman/French word relating to a Hellenic Greek concept misapplied to a term in Hebrew if you’re interested) but the Norse folk did not see them as particularly being of great size.    The name is more accurately translated as “devourer” or “wrecker” and the Jötnar are seen as forces opposed to good order and human society.   Some may appear larger than normal folk, others smaller, others may have appealing features, others again may be monstrous in many ways.

They dwell outside the edges of the human controlled lands (a famous Jötun dwelled in Utgard, the name literally meaning “beyond the bounds”) and typically provide a force of external menace and opposition.

While they are not some sort of monstrous race like Orcs or Goblins, the GM may decide to give even the less unusual Jötnar some consistent identifiable trait to make them instantly recognisable for what they are.   Skin the grey of the northern seas, eyes of jet black with red irises or a wild and primitive aspect that instantly marks them out.   With the exception of powerful Jötnar they cannot pass as human.  Interestingly enough they are near enough to both human and god (the Norse kind) to interbreed with them – Odin was half Jötun, Thor was three-quarters Jötun!

A Typical Jötun:
+2 to any rolls relating to physical prowess – combat, climbing, digging, leaping etc
A single Heart of hit points
Melee attack with their brutal weapons for Weapon Effort +1
Primal Ferocity – On the turn after they’re wounded a Jötun can make a single attack roll at all targets in close range, doing Weapon Effort +2 to any that are hit

A Lordly Jötun

Each band of Jötnar will have a leader, an individual with greater wits and power.   
They tend to be sly as well as courageous and enjoy outwitting their enemies as well as just pulverising them.

+3 to any rolls for physical prowess – combat, climbing, digging, posing about the place
+2 to any rolls relating to cunning action or resisting manipulation or deception
Two Hearts of hit points
Melee attack with a brutal weapon for Weapon Damage+1

Primal Ferocity – On the turn after they’re wounded a Jötun can make a single attack roll at all targets in close range, doing Weapon Effort +2 to any that are hit 

Each Lordly Jötun should also have at least one unique power – roll 1d8 on the table below or come up with something else that fits – you can tailor the Jötun’s power to make it anything from a slightly more powerful opponent to a campaign’s major bad-guy.

  1. Wind Born – the Jötun can assume the form of a bird in order to flee or spy on enemies
  2. Mountain Born – it grows to double normal size once per day only, heals all damage already taken and gains an extra Heart of hit points.   Weapon damage now rolled on d8 (+adds)
  3. Eart Shaker- A powerful stomp shakes the earth around them – all human sized or smaller foes within Near range must make a Dex check or fall.   Cannot be used again for another 1d6 turns.
  4. Stone Skinned – Reduce any damage taken by 3 points
  5. Baleful Eye – By fixing a distended eye on a foe and challenging them specifically the Jötun makes all its attacks against that Foe as though Easy.  The Jötun will not attack any other foe however until that one is dealt with.
  6. Cunning Guise- the Jötun can assume a pleasing human form in order to pass among humans – though they always have one inhuman feature (and will generally try to conceal it)
  7. Flyting Tongue – The Jötun speaks insults against a specific target so foul and unbearably shameful that the target must make a CHARISMA roll or either flee the scene in disgrace or charge directly and without heed of other danger to attack the Jötun
  8. Swift Stepper – As its only action that round the Jötun can vanish and then reappear anywhere within its original line of sight regardless of obstacles.


Farmathr the Pedlar – an example Lordly Jötun

Farmathr is a cunning and treacherous creature.  In his natural form he is a brutish looking man of notable size, with skin the texture and colour of rough sandstone and eyes like holes worn in the rock.   He can magically disguise himself as a human though and habitually moves among the settlements of mankind posing as a merchant, riding a cart pulled by a sturdy goat.  He does this to learn the strengths and weaknesses of mankind, and where it would be profitable to strike.

+3 to any rolls for physical prowess – combat, climbing, digging, posing about the place
+2 to any rolls relating to cunning action or resisting manipulation or deception
Two Hearts of hit points
Melee attack with a brutal weapon for Weapon Damage+1

Gambler & Oathmaker
He will cheat and swindle anyone he meets, often suggesting a wager that he will then rig in his favour.  If anyone tries to default on their payment (regardless of how unfair the contest proved to be) they must make a HARD Charisma roll or Farmathr’s curse falls upon them and they gain a Bad Name – all Charisma checks from then on are automatically HARD.   The curse will lift only with Farmathr’s death or if he can be tricked into wagering the lifting of the curse… and then loses the wager.

Cunning Guise
Farmathr can change into a human form, his favourite is a weather beaten traveler, at will.  The only thing he can never disguise is that he has a snarling mouth in his belly that he keeps concealed under his shirt.  He can only ingest food and drink through his belly mouth, and though he can pretend to eat and drink normally he has to vomit up food taken in through his face-hole.    The mouth in his belly tends to mutter and curse darkly when hungry or when Farmathr is angry, and anyone within CLOSE distance may be given a hard  perception roll to hear the mumbled obscenities.  Farmathr will try to pass them off as indigestion.

Six Rotten Eggs
Among the goods in his cart, Farmathr carries a wooden box filled with straw and containing six large eggs.  He never displays or tries to sell these, as these eggs are his six brothers transformed by Farmathr’s magic.   When he needs to go to battle he will break the eggs and each will become a fully armed and equipped Jötun.  Use the normal attributes as above, though one of the six will have the ability to use the Mountain Born power once only – being cooped up inside the eggshell has given him a desire to stretch!    If anyone cooks and eats all six eggs they need to make a HARD Constition roll to keep the foul mess down but they will gain +1 Strength permanently and make a fierce enemy of Farmathr.

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