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Giant Ape 5e

Giant Ape 5e

The Giant Ape is a creature that has, over the long and steady evolution of Dungeons & Dragons, come and gone from the canon, appearing in some editions and not in others and also conforming to a large group of creatures that they could be considered less a specific creature and more of a family of beasts.

The information in this article builds on the 5e notion of the Giant Ape, incorporates some of the past ideas and off-shoots from previous editions of the game, and then explores some different notions and concepts. The result should be a 5e-friendly expansion of the beast as a whole.

Giant Ape 5e

The idea of just taking the standard, real-world Ape and merely making it bigger is hardly the stuff that legendary realms are made of; once you flesh out the beast, they become a more exciting concept than the rules, as they stand, suggest.

Also, even though the Giant Ape itself was introduced to the DnD world in the 5th and current edition of the rules, plenty of groundwork has already been laid in earlier versions of the game.

  • Name: Giant Ape
  • Size: Huge
  • Type: beast
  • Alignment: Giant Ape

A Brief History of Apes

Dire Apes have been in the game for a while now, having been written into the third edition revision, and are larger and more powerful than regular apes. They are typically found in wild areas such as forests or mountains and are known for their ferocity in combat.

Interestingly, they are classified as magical beasts in D&D and are often portrayed as having some level of Intelligence. However, they cannot speak languages, although if you want to set up a Planet of the Apes region for your world, you could bolt that ability on. They use sharp claws and teeth to attack their enemies and are known for their great strength and resilience.

The game’s third edition gave us Girallons, creatures similar to Giant Apes but with four arms instead of two. They are also classified as magical beasts known for their incredible strength and ferocity in battle. Girallons are often found in wild areas such as jungles or forests, where they live in small tribes or family groups.

They are highly territorial and will fiercely defend their territory against intruders. They use four powerful arms to attack their enemies, and they are known for their ability to climb and easily swing through trees. They are also incredibly tough and resilient, making them difficult opponents to defeat in combat.

By the 4th edition, Great Apes were added, though ironically, these were closest to the apes of our world. Great Apes include gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees, and other similar primates. They are often found in wild areas such as jungles, forests, or mountains and can be either neutral or aggressive, depending on the circumstances. These are not epic fantasy stuff; more mundane creatures populate even such worlds.

In many ways, 5e’s Giant Ape is a new interpretation of 3e’s Dire Ape.

The two are similar in size, have similar habitats, and share multiple combat behaviors. The main difference between the two is the Giant Ape’s much higher Challenge Rating of seven compared to the Dire Ape’s meager three.

Giant Ape Lore

There is a little written about the lore of the Giant Ape, but while this means that your DM and yourselves will have to evolve and event their background and natural history yourselves, this can only be a good thing. Only once you take a few detours away from the existing canon will your campaign truly become unique.

As with any real-world animal, the best way to understand where they fit into your world is to look at how they do into the existing, real one. Rather than trying to build complex templates to guide their every aspect, it is easier to see how they work in our world and, to a degree, mirror that.

The first thing to consider is the size of Giant Apes. Remember, these are not King Kong-like super-beasts; they stand around ten feet tall and weigh 1400 pounds. But what will define their actions more than anything else is that they are incredibly territorial.

This means that they will attack anything they consider a threat…and that might just be that you exist and are on their patch. It doesn’t matter if the threat is a blind, one-legged Kobold or a mature Red Dragon, a treat is a treat, and they will attack without thought for their safety.

Giant Apes are either solitary or live in small family groups, perhaps no more than eight to ten in number. The groups will be led by the strongest male and will consist of mainly females and young and other males will be adolescent offspring of the leader who has yet to head out to find a mate and lead their own group.

They usually make their home in woodland and jungle, especially if the terrain is also mountainous, as that tends to deter plain-dwelling predators and two-legged hunters. It should also be noted that Giant Apes are vegetarians and attack only in defense of their group, not to obtain food.

However, such details don’t need to bother you when a 1400-pound Alpha male Ape is barrelling through the undergrowth towards you with that “fight first, ask questions later” look in his eyes. The result will be the same whether you are regarded as a threat or aperitif.

Giant Ape 5e Stats

As their physical appearance and feisty demeanor might suggest, Giant Apes are all about their inherent Strength and generally robust nature. They follow their base impulses when they feel threatened or presented with new situations, which would limit their Intelligence, as they act first and think later.

Armor Class 12
Hit Points 157
Hit Dice 15d12
Hit Points Roll 15d12 + 60
Speed Walk & Climb 40ft
Strength 23
Dexterity 14
Constitution 18
Intelligence 7
Wisdom 12
Charisma 7

However, you could play the more thoughtful and calm orangutan slightly differently. And whilst amongst their own kind, especially within their family group, they would exhibit a high charisma, due to their social and tactile nature, in non-Ape society, their generally isolated existence would act to lower that statistic.

Their highest stat, as expected, is Strength, with a respectable level of 23 and a modifier of +6. Their Constitution level of 18, with a modifier of +4, and they are surprisingly quick and agile, as reflected in a Dexterity of 14. Their Wisdom is also surprisingly high for such a beast, reflecting their ability to find prey in often dense or difficult terrain. This hunting skill would also give them reasonable powers of logic and deduction.

Finally, their Intelligence and Charisma are low, with levels of only seven, with modifiers of -2. This limited Intelligence means they need help understanding the concept of armor, which makes them purely about aggression rather than defensive skills, as reflected in an Armor Class of only 12.

These failings are balanced by a rather impressive Hit Point count of 157. When all this is taken together, landing blows on the beast will be relatively easy, but staying in combat long enough to land enough to take it out of action is the tricky part.

The Giant Ape has two listed speeds. It has a base movement speed of 40 feet when moving along the ground, which can help it navigate the battlefield much quicker than most player characters at the level at which they will be encountering it. But, of course, Giant Apes are as dexterous when traveling vertically as they are horizontally. This is reflected in their climbing speed of 40 feet.

This makes them dynamic and unique from most enemies that players will be used to fighting at this point in the campaign. Unless you are a Rogish climbing expert, can fly, or have some magic item or access to spells that can speed you up or allow you to shrug off gravity, then the Giant Ape will be a challenge for you and your party.

Giant Ape 5e Traits & Abilities

  • Skills Athletics +9, Perception +4
  • Senses Passive Perception 14
  • Challenge 7 (2900 XP)

Giant Apes are unusual in that most of the exciting components of their stat block are derived from their essential traits and statistics rather than their combat actions, which are, let’s face it, pretty mundane.

But, this does not mean that they are boring to play for the Dungeon Master or to encounter as a player, all of which rely on how well they are played. Remember, this is called a Roleplaying Game and not a Combat Simulation game for a reason.

Giant Ape 5e Actions

Multiattack: The ape makes two fist attacks.

Fist: Melee Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 22 (3d10 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

  • Attack Bonus: 9
  • Damage: Bludgeoning
  • Damage Dice: 3d10+6

Play them strictly by their combat actions, and you will find them easily slain by even an underprepared party, resulting in some reasonably boring play but a lot of meat for that evening’s meal. This is because they only have two combat actions, Fist and Rock and a Multiattack action, allowing them to make two Fist attacks per turn.

 The Fist attack is made with a +9 attack modifier and a reach of 10 feet, and if it successfully hits the target, it deals bludgeoning damage equal to 3d10 + 6, which is a pretty formidable blow for a creature rated CR 7.

Rock: Ranged Weapon Attack: +9 to hit, range 50/100 ft., one target. Hit: 30 (7d6 + 6) bludgeoning damage.

  • Attack Bonus: 9
  • Damage: Bludgeoning
  • Damage Dice: 7d6+6

This attack only applies at close range, but the Giant Ape also has a Rock attack, literally the ability to lob a rock or similar at you. This ranged attack is also made with a +9 to hit and has a minimum range of 50 feet and a maximum of 100 feet.

It deals a whopping 7d6 + 6 bludgeoning damage if it successfully hits its one target. This maximizes the attack’s damage at 48 hit points, easily enough to bring down a weaker player character like a Sorcerer or Wizard with a single hit. Ouch!

Types of Giant Ape

As there is little variation to be found in the 5e Giant Ape description, nor any actual lore or natural history to use as background material, again, this should be seen as an opportunity to custom-build them into your campaign setting. Just a few minor alterations here and there, and you can put them in almost any environment or setting that you like. Tweak, and ye shall find!

Easy customization comes from simple cosmetic changes such as having Mountain Apes’ coats change from dark brown to white when the snows come, all the better to blend into the landscape. 

If you want your Giant Ape to be more intelligent, you can base them on Orangutans, enhance any puzzle-solving skills and give their Intelligence a bonus. If you want to add a hint of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, then Orangutans might be smart enough to live in a normal society in a few specialist roles. Not just as magically altered Librarians, but they are strong, solid, and reasonably dexterous so that they would make good guards and artisans in certain situations.

And, if you want to break away from the purely vegetarian option for your Apes, making them Yeti-like is the way forward. They could be omnivores happy to hunt down meat when food is scarce or when the opportunity arises.

A neat campaign idea is to have a group or region of Giant Apes that are obedient or enslaved by another outside group, such as a cult of rogue Druids who use them to protect their base or use them as a small private army.

You could even go as far as to have spells or magical items which send out a summoning call which, when heard, brings a whole gang of subservient Apes to their master’s side. Apes assemble!

Broadening the Ape Horizon

Irrespective of what rules system you use or whether you are sticking firmly to the official rules or “off-roading” the rulebook to create your unique world (always advisable), there are a few different creatures that could be considered Giant Apes.

  1. Gorillas – These are giant primates with powerful arms and sharp teeth. They are often found in jungles or other wild areas and can be fierce opponents in combat. These conform to the Great Apes that were discussed above.
  2. Baboons – While not as large as gorillas, baboons are still formidable creatures. They are known for their agility and cunning and can be difficult to catch or defeat. Baboons also fall into the Great Ape category of the previous rule sets.
  3. Yetis – These are legendary creatures said to dwell in the frozen wilderness. They are similar to gorillas in size and appearance but are covered in thick white fur to protect them from the cold.
  4. Ape Lords – These are powerful magical beings who resemble giant apes. They are often found in ancient ruins or other places of power and can be deadly opponents for adventurers who cross their paths.

Other giant ape-like creatures may also exist, depending on the specific setting and campaign.

The Fine Art of Aping Around

Any good Dungeon Master needs to learn the art of roleplaying the creatures that he sets before the players, at least just enough to stop them from being another set of statistics to be brought down to zero. Giant Apes can’t talk, so any roleplaying will come from how you play them before and in combat.

A neat trick to show how much they are like the player races is to have the players encounter the creature defending its own family group from another creature. Fans of King Kong will obviously opt for a dinosaur at this point, and who would blame them?

If you want the players to fully empathize with the Giant Ape, set up a scene where they can observe it demonstrating love towards its family, teach a younger Ape to hunt or show it how to open some exotic fruit that forms its staple diet. You can always remind the players that the Ape is just an Ape by having it irrationally attack another family member to keep it “in line.”

Apes as Player Characters

There is no official player character race for Giant Apes in Dungeons & Dragons. However, the Dungeon Master can introduce it as a player race by reskinning an existing race or using a homebrew race.

Reskinning involves using the stats and abilities of an existing race but changing the flavor and appearance to fit the desired concept. Maybe, for balance purposes, the player character version of the Giant Ape is smaller, less aggressive, and more thoughtful, dexterous, and wise. The art of making it work would be for the DM to get the balance right.

For example, a reskinned half-orc could be made into an ape-like humanoid with thick fur, powerful arms, and a fierce demeanor. This would not change the character’s mechanics or abilities but would simply change the description and roleplaying aspects. A few tweaks, a few pros added and cons to balance, and you have a whole new player race.

Giant Apes in Combat

But it is combat where the Ape gets to show that it is more than a role of numbers that stands between the party and the fame and fortune that their deluded and greedy minds are picturing.

To fully play the Giant Ape in all its martial glory, you must utilize its impressive speed both along the ground and vertically up through the trees or crumbling walls of the old temple they currently call home. They will use Rock attacks to hit from a distance or even ambush them before they know what is upon them.

Once normal combat is underway, use its speed to run between and attack different party members and have it use the trees and overhead foliage to get above the players and either jump down on them or throw rocks from its safe, defensive position. This is a tactic that they will certainly employ once they start feeling the effect of the damage that the characters have rained down on it.

When your players face the Giant Ape, remember it is a creature with a wild personality and an untamed nature. Giant Apes are driven by instincts and even rage so that you can have them furiously attack the party with complete abandon. They are also likely to attack whichever character most recently hit them or dealt the most damage rather than having anything more tactical in mind.

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09/23/2023 09:00 am GMT

Giant Ape 5e FAQs

Can you use Polymorph to turn into a Giant Ape?

Yes, using this spell, you can immediately use Polymorph to turn a player character into a Giant Ape.

How big is a Giant Ape?

Giant Apes are classified as Huge, meaning they are nine to ten feet tall and are roughly the size of an elephant. And as shown above, size, weight, and even physical shape can vary if you want to get creative.

Can the Giant Ape attack while Grappling a creature?

Since the Giant Ape attacks with a Fist, it is reasonable to rule that it could attack another creature while holding one with a Grapple. This rule shouldn’t go as far as allowing the Giant Ape to use their Rock attack since they would likely throw the rock with both hands.

Final Thoughts on Giant Apes

Okay, Giant Apes are not the most exciting, at least not as they are drawn on the page of the rulebook. But you could say that about many creatures and encounters and argue that these only ever come alive once the DM has breathed some life and imagination into it.

Also, Giant Apes can throw a curveball at the players. Any creature taken largely from the real world will come with a degree of familiarity, and this is where you can get creative. What if the group of Giant Apes encountered live on a magical mountain that still radiates strange magic from the final battle of the ancient Wizard War?

Rather than the usual Apes that we have all seen in wildlife documentaries on TV, maybe these have latent magical powers from the magic they have soaked up. Maybe they talk. If they talk, can they cast spells?

What if they have had their Intelligence heightened by the magical energies that swirl about and have learned how to use weapons and limited armor? That’s going to throw the players a bit. And that is only the tip of the imagination available to a smart Dungeon Master.