D&D 5e: Go With Your Gut In Our Vigor Of The Hill Giant Guide
D&D 5e: Go With Your Gut In Our Vigor Of The Hill Giant Guide
Rating the Benefits of Vigor of the Hill Giant
(Break down each benefit offered and a 1 – 2 sentence description of why it’s a good or bad benefit)
Benefit #1 –
Increase your Strength, Constitution, or Wisdom by +1, to a maximum of 20
Half an ASI. Useful for evening out odd ability scores across a good spread of stat choices. This also means the rest of the features here are worth half a feat, instead of a full one
Benefit #2 –
If an effect would move your character at least 5ft, or knock them prone, they can spend a reaction to prevent this
Many enemy spells and abilities move their target or knock them prone. This ability utterly prevents that from happening, making sure you’re not spending unnecessary movement or having defensive formations broken open
Benefit #3 –
When taking a short rest, if the character spends a hit die and eats food, they heal additional hp equal to their Con bonus and Prof. bonus
Extra healing, especially essentially free healing like this, can help maintain party resources and saves spellcasting or potions for other characters
Mechanics and Requirements
Understanding How It Functions
Unlike almost all other feats in 5e, Vigor of the Hill Giant has a prerequisite feat:
Hill Strike – After hitting with a melee or thrown weapon attack, the target takes an extra 1d6 weapon damage and has to take a Strength save or be knocked prone. This ability can be activated once per turn and used a number of times per day equal to the character’s proficiency bonus.
Of the six Strike of the Giant options available, Hill Strike is above average. Adding damage typed to the weapon used isn’t the best, especially considering the variant abilities all deal elemental or force damage, but it’s also not a deal breaker.
But the effect, prone, is surprisingly strong, especially tied to a Strength save, which makes this a great ability to use on mages and other targets who might have low physical stats.
The ability also triggers on a successful hit, meaning that there’s no waste or failed activations. You hit, then you declare you use it.
This means saving uses for critical hits, which double that d6 damage dice, or for times when your party has lined up all of their big hits and really wants the advantage from prone, or both perfectly viable options.
When affected by something that would move them 5ft or more, or knock them prone, a character with this feat can spend their reaction to ignore that effect. They aren’t moved and aren’t knocked prone.
Let’s address both of these effects separately:
From experience, forced movement doesn’t tend to be an issue unless your GM is specifically building an encounter around it. Moving the party is a gimmick. Perhaps this enemy wants to capture someone and tries to drag them off. Maybe the environment is dangerous, and the enemies want to shove you into it.
These sorts of things come up occasionally, but not with enough regularity to make them into an issue, and even when the party does face forced movement, it’s generally always less of a threat than outright taking damage and dying.
The one time ignoring forced movement might genuinely be useful for defender characters who want to stand directly between their party and the enemy, providing a physical barrier to get around with their own body. Still, most enemies are likely to try and kill the interposition, rather than shove them aside.
Prone is a much harsher condition to have applied to a character.
A creature that has been knocked prone has disadvantage on all of its own attack rolls, and all melee attacks against them have disadvantage. They can also only crawl to move, slowing their movement by half.
Many enemies will try to apply prone to a character from as early as level 1. For example, the basic Wolf has a prone effect attached to their bite attack, with a DC11 Strength save.
Falling prone amidst a pack of hungry wolves, each of which gains advantage on their attacks against you, is a death sentence. This never stops being true, even as you gain levels and the wildlife becomes less of a threat. Falling prone amidst a group of enemies is bad news.
But what happens if there’s a single large enemy that applies prone? Or you’re fighting a single enemy out of a pack, so no one else is there to take advantage when you fall? Nothing, is what.
Here’s another thing to consider. The effects that knock characters prone are almost always tied to a Strength save or Athletics check.
This means that characters who are most likely to want to use this feat, gain the least benefit from it. The fragile wizard with a Strength of 8 would love the ability to outright ignore prone because his physical stats and skills are awful.
But why would that character take the Vigor of the Hill Giant feat, instead of options more suited for their abilities? They wouldn’t.
It’s the characters who have the highest Strength, the Fighters, the Barbarians, the Clerics, who are most likely to take those saves. And also who have the most chance of passing them.
Meaning that they also don’t need the benefits of this feat.
Worst of all is this. Removing the prone condition; getting up from the floor, only costs half of your movement for that turn. There’s no check to pass. No dice roll necessary. Zero chance of failure. If your opponents haven’t layered another condition on top of prone to keep you down, you just … stand up again.
Finally, you also need to consider that this ability costs your reaction. What happens if multiple enemies try and drop you prone in the same turn? You have no defense past the first one. What other reactions could take the place of this one, contributing damage or other meaningful effects to the encounter?
In short, Bulwark is an ability that protects against situations that come up very infrequently and most of the time, don’t tend to be dangerous enough to need protecting against.
So, unless your GM keeps staging fights on top of towers and next to cliff edges or conveniently placed balconies, this ability will remain on your character sheet, sadly unused.
When taking a short rest, if a character with this feat spends any hit dice and eats food, they heal extra HP equal to their Constitution Bonus plus Proficiency Bonus.
That’s … not a lot of healing. At level 5, one level after a character gains this feat, it’s going to be an extra 5 or 6 HP per short rest. Maxed out, at level 17, it’s 11HP.
There’s no way to sugarcoat this. That’s not strong. It’s not even close to strong. That’s a tiny amount of healing, less than the average HP healed from a standard healing potion. It’s the same average HP healed as Healing Word, a 1st level spell!
This is also ignoring the fact that there are conditions to this ability. What if you have no available food? What if you don’t get a short rest that day? What if you’ve run out of hit die?
Well, then this ability does literally nothing.
On top of this, there’s a feat that does something very similar, except it provides that benefit to your whole party.
The Chef feat.
We’ve written an entire guide on the Chef feat, but in short, if you prepare food during a short rest (looking similar so far…) then a number of creatures up to 4 + your prof. bonus heal an extra 1d8 HP.
That’s an average of 4.5 HP per target. In a 4 man party, that’s 18 HP. So one of the effects of Chef is literally twice as good as this feat, literally from level 1.
To clarify, then, Iron Stomach is a terribly written, disappointing ability, with a name that doesn’t even make sense.
Vigor of the Hill Giant offers half an Ability Score Improvement, adding +1 to either Strength, Constitution, or Wisdom.
The healing granted by this feat scales with Constitution bonus, meaning it’s a good choice to increase, especially once your main combat stat is maxed out.
Ideal Characters for Vigor of the Hill Giant
Barbarian – If there’s a class that wants to be on the front lines, it’s this one. A Barbarian with Bulwark literally cannot be moved, allowing them to place themselves in the most inconvenient position possible.
The Path of the Giant and Path of the Ancestral Guardian are both great subclass choices that build upon the defensive nature and space control aspects of this feat.
Fighter – A Fighter can be built to specialize in almost any aspect of direct combat, so takes full advantage of what’s on offer, especially when stacked with fighting styles and subclasses.
Defensive builds will appreciate the stability of Bulwark. Grapplers like staying on their feet. We lean Battlemaster for a subclass, adding utility and conditional attacks with Maneuvers to keep enemies frightened and allies attacking.
Bard – A melee Bard often gets close enough to make use of Bulwark, and can want to try and grapple enemies with all their skill bonuses, so might actually get some use out of the ability.
The healing also stacks with the Bard’s Song of Rest ability, keeping them topped up on HP across longer adventuring days for less resources.
Race or Subrace Choices
Half-Orc – An enemy that can’t move you is likely to try and kill you instead. Half-Orcs can ignore death once per day, meaning even that last resort will fail to work.
Goliath – Cold resistance, Athletics proficiency, and a damage reduction ability on a reaction for the turns when enemies hit you instead of trying to push you over. Nice.
Hobgoblin – A bonus to failed attacks or saves based on the number of allies close by, plus access to a temporary HP shield or on-target disadvantage are great things for a party-focused front-line character to have.
Combos, Tactics, and Synergies
Sentinel – Bulwark prevents enemies from moving you around, and Sentinel lets you swing at them if they try to move away from you, holding them in place on a hit, as well as being a great feat in general. This combination lets you lock an opponent into an eternal staring contest. Immovable, forever.
Chef – Half an ASI, short rest healing for the party, plus freshly baked temporary HP cookies every morning. The Chef feat is surprisingly similar to this one. Only… kind of better.
Tavern Brawler – The benefits this feat offers to grapplers are decent. Tavern Brawler makes it easier to grapple enemies, adding a bonus action grapple to help with action economy, plus boosting unarmed damage.
Spells that Synergize
Shield – +5 to AC turns any character into an impregnable wall for a turn. They can’t move you, and now they can’t hit you either.
Bless – A boost to attack rolls for multiple party members is good. A boost to saves is better, making sure you don’t fail a key save at the worst time.
Shield of Faith – +2 to AC is a significant buff that makes a character much harder to hit, and can be applied to the party tank by the backline supports.
Strategies for Maximizing Vigor of the Hill Giant Effectiveness
Take something else instead.
Okay, fine. You’re looking at the Bulwark ability and thinking of creating a character that’s an absolute brick wall. A Benkei the monk, or the Nameless Viking at the battle of Stamford Bridge, defiantly holding a point against hundreds of foes, alone.
Can’t blame you, that’s a cool image.
You’re going to need as many things out of the list below as possible:
- A truckload of HP. Pick a base class with a d10 or d12 hit die.
- As high an AC as you can muster. Plate armor, the Defense fighting style, Warforged race for +1.
- Damage resistance against weapons to cut damage in half. Barbarian Rage, a Rune Knight Fighter’s Hill Rune (ironic,) or the Samurai Fighter subclass are easy ways.
- As many save proficiencies as you can, plus boosts to saves. Bardic Inspiration, Guidance, Bless, all of these help pass key saving throws.
- Large size. Spellcasters can facilitate this, as can, again, the Rune Knight, or the new Path of the Giant Barbarian subclass.
- The Sentinel feat, to prevent enemies from just walking past you.
- Expertise, and hopefully Advantage, in Athletics, if you want to grapple
This done, you’re ready to step forwards and prevent enemies from being able to move around the battlefield. Be ready to take a lot of hits, and a lot of damage, as enemies realise they can’t move you, and have to cut you down instead.
Luckily, the Vigor of the Hill Giant feat also helps you heal that damage back. A little bit. Hey, it’s something, at least.
There have been extensive guides written on the subject of grappling, on its power, and how surprisingly easy it is to pin down gigantic, flaming aberrations and twist their vulnerable bits until they cry.
The main reason we’re bringing it up here is this:
Breaking a grapple requires an opposed check, between the target’s Athletics or Acrobatics, and your Athletics.
This is difficult because player characters can stack skill bonuses using Expertise, Guidance, Advantage, and a dozen other methods, so it’s almost impossible to fail.
But you can also break a grapple by forcibly moving the two participants of a grapple apart. So an enemy shoving you away automatically breaks the hold.
If you’re going all in on a grapple build, the ability to prevent that movement and hold the grapple as a reaction could actually be a decent use of a spare feat.
Final Thoughts on Vigor of the Hill Giant
Well, they can’t all be winners.
The Vigor of the Hill Giant feat is bad. Both of the effects on offer are niche, and underpowered even for what they do offer.
The bonus healing, in particular, is almost comically terrible when you directly compare it to things like the Chef feat, the Healer feat, or the Bard class’s Song of Rest.
While there are definitely builds that can find a use for this, taking what’s on offer into account, and having to take two feats to get here. No thanks. We’ll pass.