So, there it sat -- the biggest, ugliest, nastiest, stankiest humanoid I had ever seen. Its enormous rump had bent and broken a sapling. Thoughtless, that.
A harem of flies danced around it in an orgy of filth. It ate a few of them, just grabbed them out of the air and popped them into its mouths. How convenient to have your snacks circling in the air about your head. The sight turned my stomach, and I, Cuthbert the Curious, sorcerer, hero, explorer extraordinaire, have seen some excruciatingly disgusting things in my life.
Yes, I had stumbled upon an ettin. Ettins stand rather tall and have brawny bodies, unlike my own compact, lean, and toned self. I presume many would classify them as giants. They have two heads and half a brain between them. Not half in each -- one half split between two heads. This ettin scolded and whined to itself in some twisted language of grunts and growls and throat clearings.
Brains vs. Brawn
Well, I had never dealt with an ettin before, and being the curious, cavalier gentleman that I am, I determined I would test this fellow's mettle. I stood from behind my rock, renouncing any chance of sneaking away or taking it by surprise, and bravely shouted, "Hey, you!" When one head looked up at me, I pointed at the other and shouted, "Not you! Him!"
I barely managed to duck the longspear! I dropped back down behind my rock and covered my head. So much for confounding the enemy with my superior wit. In the next moment, my heart seized with complete and utter horror. I heard it running. No. I both heard and felt it running -- running fast with those big, heavy, thunderous, giant footsteps -- toward my hiding place. Can you imagine my terror when faced with those far too quick, far too earth-shaking footfalls? I had to act without hesitation.
I rolled to one side, out into the open, and, by luck alone, avoided the slam of a greatclub over the top of that rock. I breathed the words of command and waved my hands, casting the spell that rose foremost to my mind. A layer of slippery grease spread across the ground at the giant's feet. I suppose I could have chosen a more offensive effect, but I was under pressure.
The ettin roared and fell backward. The earth shuddered under the crash of its weight. And then . . . silence.
I waited and watched. I got to my feet.
A soft tumble of pebbles sounded just moments before the ettin looked over the top of the rock with its four eyes -- its four enraged eyes.
I saw my life pass before me.
Magic and Muscle
The silhouette of a greatclub eclipsed the sun. The weapon came down into my shoulder. I heard bone crack. That hurt. Badly. The ettin wasn't done. It had another greatclub that it slammed into my head. My ears rang.
I struggled to focus, drew a pouch from my belt and clapped it between my hands. I sent my magical energies to attack the ettin. The spell, Melf's acid arrow, caused the ettin to cry out in pain. I had scored a successful attack on him.
The greatclub rose and came down again, this time smack in the middle of my chest. It knocked the breath out of me. I fell back. The ettin's second club missed me, though the disturbed air poofed the hair at my forehead.
Holding my ribs, I scrambled to my feet and ran. I ran because my life depended upon it. Behind me, those ominous footfalls took up a giant's pounding pursuit. I began to think I had taunted my last giant, when ahead I noticed a rock formation. In that rock formation lay a small cave entrance. I wasn't sure whether I could fit through it, but I calculated with certainty that the ettin couldn't. I determined to give it a try, knowing that I had little other choice. I ducked and weaved, and dodged and bobbed.
When the cave entrance came within reach, I threw myself toward it and shimmied inside. The giant snatched at me, but I wriggled out of its grasp just in the nick of time. I barely squeezed through that slash in the rock. I crawled to the rear of the cave and sheltered in an alcove.
The ettin poked a longspear through the cave entrance, but it couldn't reach me.
I sat down to rest, and to wait, until the stupid ettin gave up and went away. I waited three long, unhappy days.
If I were to give you one piece of advice relative to battling an ettin, I'd have to say, "Don't do what I did." I made it through my encounter with little intact, not even my dignity.
I did, however, learn a great deal about ettins. You'll note, in studying my memoir of the event, that the ettin doesn't have a friendly bone in its body. Do not approach the monster thinking you can speak to it. Bad adventurer. It will eat your head.
I also learned that ettins, while they carry on conversations with themselves, do not have any trouble getting both heads to work together when necessary. If anything, two pairs of eyes and ears give it a significant advantage. Don't underestimate them simply because they're stupid. Ettins know how to stay alive and protect their territory, and they have a healthy dose of moral turpitude spicing their methods.
Further, you'll have much better luck coping with an ettin if you stay out of its close range. The ettin I met didn't fight nearly as well at longer ranges. I never again, however, want to find myself up close and personal with an ettin and his greatclubs. I'm still smarting from that pounding. Ettins have long arms, despite their short attention spans. So keep your distance and use your long-range attacks, if you must engage the giant at all. A spell like levitate would have come in handy.
I wish my companions had been present to aid me. I've given some thought to what I would have done, had they been there. First, I would have sent our most agile and swift-footed to keep the ettin busy. While she drew the giant's attention, the rest of us could have bombarded it with long-range attacks that put none of us at unreasonable risk. Those of us who fling magic could have had more of an impact than I had in the thick of things. I found myself fighting for my life. I would have presented the ettin with a more intimidating challenge had I managed to stay away from those double greatclubs.
I should mention that later, during my cavernous incarceration, I discovered that ettins don't always travel alone. This one had a gang. You can't imagine how long that last night stretched, listening to them argue with each other and with their other heads over what I can only presume were their plans for my fate. Be very certain that you're prepared before you take on a group of these giants. If their gestures were any indication, they play for keeps.
My last bit of advice to you applies to all situations. More important even than the abilities to fight, to take your wounds like a warrior, and to cast magic that knocks the proverbial socks off your opponents, is the ability to maneuver better in battle than your foes. By this, I mean, you want to get out of the way of their attacks. Now, I don't recommend fleeing, per se, though sometimes it's better to live to fight another day.
Flying would have worked nicely. I wish I knew that spell. I would have lifted into the sky and shot crossbow bolts at that ettin. I would have deftly dodged his lame longspears! I would have rained a shower of pain upon him!! I would have spit in his four eyes!!! I would have. . . .
Refer to page 89 in the Monster Manual
About the Author
A corn-fed child originally from the Midwest, Angel Leigh McCoy grew up delving into fantasy and horror novels to escape the doldrums of long, hot summers. She won her first essay contest in 6th grade and has been writing ever since. As time passed, she studied French Literature at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and rediscovered the attractions of myth and magic. Evolution happened. She traveled. She learned. Gaming became a part of her life. Over the years, she has designed RPG material for companies such as White Wolf, Wizards of the Coast, FASA, West End Games, Chameleon Eclectic and Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Angel currently haunts Seattle. You can check out her latest projects on her website.
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