Goliaths are massive creatures unafraid of throwing their weight around in a fight. Highly competitive, these strong nomads can prove to be powerful allies and welcome additions to any adventuring party.
Goliaths are known for their almost foolhardy daring. In their mountain homes, they leap from precipice to precipice, heedless of the fatal consequences of a misstep. They place great stock in clan and family; life in the mountains teaches even the youngest goliath to rely completely on his fellows for a hand across a crevasse. Because most goliaths are hunter-gatherers, they tend to be inquisitive, always curious about whether better hunting lies over the next ridge or a good water source can be found in the next canyon.
Goliaths are completely unsympathetic toward tribe members who can't contribute to the well-being of the tribe anymore -- an attitude reinforced by social structures. Old, sick, and otherwise infirm goliaths are exiled from their clans, never to return.
A typical goliath is larger than the largest half-orc. Most stand between 7 and 8 feet tall, and weigh between 280 and 340 pounds. Unlike most other races, there is no appreciable difference in height or weight between male and female goliaths.
Goliaths have gray skin, mottled with dark and light patches that goliath shamans say hint at a particular goliath's fate. Lithoderms -- coin-sized bone-and-skin growths hard as pebbles -- speckle their arms, shoulders, and torso. Their skulls have a jutting eyebrow ridge, wide jaw, and occasional lithoderms as well. Female goliaths have dark hair on their heads, which grows to great lengths and is always kept braided. Male goliaths generally have hair only on their limbs. Goliaths' eyes are a brilliant blue or green, and they often seem to glow a little from underneath their furrowed brows.
Because their skin mottling has cultural significance, goliaths generally dress as lightly as possible, displaying their skin patterns for all to see. For the same reason, few goliaths would willingly get a tattoo -- to draw on one's skin is tantamount to trying to rewrite one's fate. Goliaths instead decorate themselves with piercing jewelry, often sporting ear, nose, or brow rings. A goliath's lithoderms are also common places to embed a gem or two, since they have few nerve endings and stand out on the goliath's body anyway.
When encountered in the mountains, goliaths are outwardly friendly to anyone who doesn't threaten the tribe and can keep up with them as they climb from peak to peak. Humans who brave the mountains -- rangers and druids, most often -- can often earn a tasty meal by helping a team of goliath hunters.
Goliaths hold dwarves in particularly high regard, wishing their tribes had the dwarven aptitude for weapon crafting. Some of the bravest goliaths climb down into the tunnels and natural caverns under a mountain, seeking a dwarf community to trade with.
The Small races are regarded as curiosities, but many a nimble-climbing gnome or halfling has earned respect by beating a goliath in a race up a cliff. Goliaths find the extended life span of an elf vaguely frightening, finding it hard to imagine a person who could have known one's great-great grandfather.
A goliath tribe's attitude toward any nearby giants varies widely. Some tribes eagerly trade with the giants; their weapons aren't up to dwarven standards, but they make them in Large sizes. However, giants have a bad habit of trying to turn goliaths into their slaves, using them for menial tasks they're too big or lazy to do themselves. Conflict inevitably ensues, and soon either the giants are dead, the goliaths have fled, or the goliaths are chained up as slaves to a giant-lord.
Goliaths tend to hold goblinoids and orcs (including half-orcs) at arm's length, noting that the "downlanders" they trade with regard such races as troublemakers. But because goblinoids rarely stray into the high mountains, they are usually someone else's trouble, so goliaths don't bear them any actual malice.
Because they don't support large-scale agriculture or extensive settlements, the mountain ranges where goliaths live are home to few other intelligent races. Most tribes of goliaths wander from peak to peak, tending their goat flocks and foraging for alpine roots and tubers. Typically, a tribe sets up a temporary village in an alpine meadow and remains there for a month or two, then moves on when the season changes or better hunting can be found elsewhere. Larger tribes tend to follow a similar trail from year to year, retreating to lower elevations in midwinter and when they need to trade, then ascending to the highest peaks once the snow melts.
Some goliaths live at lower altitudes among humans or other races, most often because their tribe exiled them after a crime, dispute, or injury. Many a folk tale includes a forlorn goliath working as a farmhand after a failed courtship in the mountains.
Kavaki the Ram-Lord is the primary deity of the goliaths (see the Religion section later in this chapter). As the "Chief of All Chiefs," he watches over the goliaths and their mountain homes. His clerics say that Kavaki created the goliaths when he found a bush with gems for fruit growing atop the highest mountain peak in the world. When Kavaki began plucking gems from the bush, the gems became the first tribe of goliaths. Kavaki instructs his followers to seek out the hidden bounty of the mountains and keep the tribe safe from harm.
For millennia, the goliaths have had only a spoken tongue, Gol-Kaa, which has only thirteen phonetic letters: a, e, g, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, u, th, and v. Recently, the goliaths have picked up the alphabet of the Dwarven language, though the concept of a written language hasn't spread to all the goliath tribes yet. Those tribes that have learned the Dwarven alphabet are busily transcribing the goliath's vast oral tradition into carvings, cave paintings, and even books.
Every goliath has three names: a birth name assigned by the newborn's mother and father, a nickname or honorific assigned by the tribal chief, and a family or clan name. The birth name tends to be short -- often only a syllable or two -- but the clan names often have five syllables or more and always end in a vowel.
The honorific isn't a traditional name so much as it is a descriptive nickname, often a two-part sobriquet. The honorific can change at the whim of the tribal chief, whether because a particular goliath did something useful for the tribe (earning an honorific such as "Highclimber" or "Nighthunter") or as punishment for failure (a middle name such as "Latesleeper" or "Wanderslost"). Goliaths who have been exiled from their tribe generally carry a middle name that reflects their status, such as "Solitary" or "Kinless." Some specific roles within the tribe, such as lorekeeper or shaman (described in the Society and Culture section later in this chapter), have honorifics attached to them as well.
When introducing themselves for the first time, goliaths always use the first name/honorific/family name construction, translating the honorific into the listener's language if possible. Thereafter, they refer to themselves and each other by the honorific alone. Goliaths traveling among other races sometimes assign honorifics to their comrades rather than use their given names.
Male Names: Aukan, Eglath, Gauthak, Ilikan, Keothi, Lo-Kag, Maveith, Meavoi, Thotham, Vimak.
Female Names: Gae-Al, Kuori, Manneo, Nalla, Orilo, Paavu, Pethani, Thalai, Uthal, Vaunea.
Honorifics: Bearkiller, Dawncaller (see Chapter 5 for details on this prestige class), Fearless, Flintfinder, Horncarver, Keeneye, Lonehunter, Longleaper, Rootsmasher, Skywatcher, Steadyhand, Threadtwister, Twice-Orphaned, Twistedlimb, Wordpainter.
Family Names: Anakalathai, Elanithino, Gathakanathi, Kalagiano, Katho-Olavi, Kolae-Gileana, Ogolakanu, Thuliaga, Thunukalathi, Vaimei-Laga.
Traditionally, the only goliaths to become adventurers are those exiled (voluntarily or otherwise) from the goliath tribes high in the mountains. However, as some goliath tribes spend more time with "downlanders," especially the dwarves, it's becoming more common for a tribe to send a particularly competent goliath on a mission that aids the tribe or goliaths in general. Once they descend from their mountain homes, most goliaths find the lowlands fascinating, although they are generally on their guard against "downland tricksters." The same wanderlust that keeps goliath tribes moving often keeps a lone goliath among the humans for far longer than he originally intended.
Goliaths' love of competition shapes a significant part of their worldview. A goliath instinctively keeps score about anything that's a challenge, and casually mentions how he's doing compared to his comrades and rivals. "That's the third time I've fed you a potion when you were about to die," a goliath might say, or, "It's frustrating -- my enemies have drawn first blood four times in a row today." Those unfamiliar with goliath culture often find the need to keep score annoying, arrogant, or self-centered, but they're placing more weight on such utterances than the goliaths themselves are. To a goliath, scorekeeping is as natural as breathing, and it isn't meant to belittle or demean anyone.
While goliaths obviously love competing with and against each other, they face a more implacable foe. It's invisible to even a close friend, but a goliath is always competing against himself. If a goliath slays a dragon, he won't be satisfied with another dragon battle unless it's against a larger, older dragon. When a goliath doesn't measure up to his former achievements, he frequently becomes morose and withdrawn. Goliaths rarely speak of this inner struggle, and in fact many couldn't articulate why they feel the way they do. But to a greater or lesser degree, all older goliaths are haunted by their need to compete against their younger selves.
Because tribes rely on the utmost effort of each member to survive in the forbidding mountains, goliaths are almost incapable of holding a grudge if they lose a fair competition. Goliaths compete as teams more often than they do as individuals, and an oft-repeated goliath maxim is that "today's rival is tomorrow's teammate." Cheating in a competition -- which for goliath covers most life activities -- is such a taboo that few goliaths will risk the social consequences of being caught. Many can't conceive of cheating, instead redoubling their efforts or finding another game or sport to try.
Competition drives another mindset common among goliaths: the notion that "everyone gets a turn." Just as most goliath competitions are open to all, goliaths expect that everyone should have the chance to compete for power, prestige, and other goals. Goliaths who visit lower elevations are often puzzled by the plight of serfs. "Why does the lord not give them the chance to become knights?" a goliath traveler might ask. Anyone in a situation that affords no hope of advancement will earn pity -- and possibly more tangible assistance -- from a goliath.
Competition among goliaths has a darker side as well. The convivial attitude among goliaths extends only to the able-bodied and the very young, who are nurtured for their potential. A goliath who can't keep up with the rest of the tribe, either literally or in terms of production, is carried for only a few days before the tribe begins to shun the weak goliath. Sometimes the tribe will deny the weak goliath food and shelter, but it's far more likely that the weak goliath will refuse food and shelter until he has proven his worth to the tribe or until he walks away in shame.
Another noteworthy aspect of goliath culture is that while tribes do a thorough job teaching the principles of friendly competition and fair play to their youngsters, not every tribe has the same notion of fair play. A goliath who leaves one tribe and joins another is often torn between his upbringing and the unspoken precepts of his new tribe. This struggle often drives a goliath into exile if he is unable to reconcile the new rules of fair play with the ones he grew up with.