Firbolg (Ffiyrboleg) are a breed of giantkin most often found in the Moonshae Isles. Standing on average 10 ft tall, with muscular appendages, and a long face with long hair, beard, and moustache. The firbolg resemble an oversized northman raider, and their outlook on life is often quite similar.
The firbolg are descended from their ancestor Grond Peaksmasher; an enormous and twisted giant standing over 30 ft tall, with the strength to rip up and hurl gigantic trees.
Myths speak of a curse affecting all giantkin; the Curse of Karontor, which deformed the ogres and trolls, diminished the verbeeg, and would have twisted the firbolg as well had their primogenitor not worked powerful rune magic to take the curse fully within himself. His children were spared the deformities of other giantkin, but Grond himself had his limbs twisted at odd angles, his face was altered beyond recognition, and even his personality became altered through the pain he suffered, making him slow of thought and speech but quick to anger.
The firbolg and their sire are forgotten among the histories of the true giants, but it is believed they wandered with their larger cousins, serving in their empire as cooks, cleaners, farmers, hunters, and other menial jobs. Eventually they departed mainland Faerun looking to establish their own land, coming first to the islands around Ruathym until they were displaced by true giants, and then moving on to the island now known as Norland.
On Norland, the firbolgs established their own nation with Grond as its Thane (although the name of this empire is lost even to the firbolg), made peaceful contact with the dwarves and elves that already lived here, and erected great fortresses that still stand today. Working with the dwarves of Ahrrune, the firbolg rediscovered secrets of rune magic lost to both races since the earliest ages of giants and dwarves.
Something poisoned the relationship between giant and dwarf, mayhaps it was dwarven pride, or giant gluttony. Whatever the cause, the two races went to war and wrought terrible devastation upon their people and the land. This destruction provoked the ire of the children of the Earthmother and marks the first appearance of Darvyr the Bear, whose mighty stomp ruptured the ground and entombed Grond Peaksmasher deep beneath the earth, while simultaneously collapsing the cavern of Ahrrfaernd and destroying the capital of the dwarven empire of Ahrrune.
The remaining firbolgs fought among themselves and with the dwarves, slowly weakening the petty giant realms that sprang up in the aftermath of Grond’s presumed death. Eventually the firbolg empire was little more than isolated holdings of up to a hundred giants, who although skilled in crafting weapons, armour, and ships, were far short of their technology levels a millennia previously.
That all changed when Kazgoroth the Beast emerged. He targeted the leaderless disparate firbolg tribes, promising them a return to greatness, and changing them into twisted, rampaging beasts with his touch. He started a war with his ancient enemies; the LeShay, and it was only through the efforts of elf, dwarf, human, halfling, and giant all coming together that Kazgoroth and his minions were defeated.
From that day forwards the firbolg were forever changed. Most of their number were slain, and those who survived were of two distinct categories; the savage firbolg who had felt the touch of Kazgoroth and lived (passing their deformities onto their descendants), and the noble firbolg who remained true to their nature but who had lost all their former civilization.
The Savage Firbolg are the descendants of those Ffomoreans (the deformed victims of Kazgoroth’s Touch) who survived the War of Raging Waters and who bred with other firbolg (willing partners or not) to sire a breed of firbolg that are somewhat deformed and more bestial in their personality than the noble firbolg.
The level of deformity is far lesser than that of the ffomoreans they are descended from; their face may be bulbous or drooping and marred by malformed features, their limbs may be twisted or stubby, and their backs hunched, but only one or two of these deformities are present in any individual.
The savage firbolg band together in small groups or family units (usually no more than 5 individuals unless food is abundant or a strong willed leader unites them), with the largest and strongest individual ordering the others about (and attacking those who do not obey). They cooperate only to raid nearby settlements or gatherings of humanoids (including noble firbolg) for food or treasure, but otherwise have no social structure at all, merely existing as a band of individuals that obey the most powerful in their group out of fear. The strongest members take what they want, when they want, and attack those who resist. Their technological level is non-existent, they live in caves or shelter beneath trees, they wear animal skins, arm themselves with thick branches to wield as clubs, and otherwise possess only what they can steal from others (and only those items stolen from noble firbolg are of any use to them due to their size).
Savage firbolg are exclusively carnivorous, they prefer to feast upon the flesh of intelligent humanoids (elves, humans, halflings, and dwarves – in that order), and most importantly they prefer their prey to be alive when consumed.
The Noble Firbolg are those few who resisted the call of Kazgoroth during the War of Raging Waters, and who united with the elves and dwarves to fight off their twisted brethren. The survivors returned to their homelands after the war, but their society was almost completely shattered by the loss of so many of their kind.
Noble Firbolg resemble 10 ft tall humanoids of norl heritage (tall, strong limbed, long fair hair, beard, and moustache). They live in large stone houses by the sea and spend their lives fishing, farming, and raiding when necessary. Noble firbolg are still capable of forging swords and crafting armour, although their skill is comparable to the ffolk and nowhere near their former glories.
Noble firbolg settlements defer to an elder who leads out of experience, and decides upon what the firbolg will do to survive; when to move, when to raid, when to fight, etc. Firbolg are not bound to obey the advice of the elder, and settlements frequently split due to disagreements or failure. Each settlement contains 5-10 family units and typically grows no larger than 100 individuals (such large settlements are difficult to feed in the Moonshae Isles, especially where there is competition from humans).
The noble firbolg despise their savage kin and will hunt them down wherever they find them. The feeling is mutual and the larger, stronger savage firbolg are able to drive off or destroy noble firbolg settlements as often as the noble firbolg slaughter their wild brethren.
Noble firbolg are often identified by tree carvings around the borders of the land the firbolg claim. These carvings often take the form of runes that warn or signify death to trespassers.
Noble firbolg do not readily seek interaction with other races. Those who stumble into firbolg territory are given a warning in the form of sporadic ranged attacks, but persistent intruders will be attacked in force unless they can prove their strength.