Giff 5E Guide | Hippo Race for Spelljammer

While there are several things synonymous with Spelljammer, for most people, the Giff are the first thing that comes to mind. These hippofolk are denizens of Wildspace, and they are known for piloting massive ships, dueling with firearms, and generally thrilling players across the Spelljammer setting. Want to know more? See our Giff 5E Guide for the comprehensive breakdown.

Giff 5E

giff 5e

Although there is plenty of excitement for all of the races in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space, for many people, the addition of the Giff to D&D’s playable races is the highlight of this release. With a mix of firearms and aristocratic naval pageantry, the Giff are a perfect addition to this setting.

What are Giff in D&D?

Giff are hippofolk that have long been a fixture in Spelljammer. Tall and broad-shouldered, these humanoids have wandered the Wildspace for so long that their planet of origin has long been forgotten. the history of the Giff – including the identity of the deities that spawned them – have been lost in time. Giff have a spark of divine energy in them that links them to the long-lost deities that created them. This spark led to a number of innovations by the Giff, including Spelljammer design and the development of firearms.

Building a Giff

After years of developing races for 5th Edition D&D that have pre-determined ability bonuses, Wizards of the Coast has moved toward a homogenized approach recently. This is the case for all of the new races in Spelljammer, including the Astral Elves. You can build your Giff character from the ground up, including selecting languages and ability scores. This departure from the old ways of handling races in D&D opens up new doors for players who want to branch out without giving up an optimal build in the process.

Ability Scores

In Spelljammer, the character creation process is the same for all of the races when it comes to selecting ability bonuses. When building a Giff character, you have two options for selecting your ability scores. Your first option is to give a +2 bonus to one skill and a +1 bonus to another. Your second option is to add one point to three abilities of your choice. This approach gives you the flexibility to build any type of character you want without compromising optimization.


According to the lore, the Giff once had their own guttural language that was difficult for most other races to understand. While the Giff language existed in previous editions of the game, there is no mention of a Giff language in Spelljammer: Adventures in Space. In 5E, your Giff character knows common plus an additional language of your choice.

Giff Traits Breakdown

Giff Traits
  • Creature Type: You are a Humanoid.
  • Lifespan: Your lifespan is roughly 100 years.
  • Size: You are Medium.
  • Speed: Your walking speed is 30 feet, and you have a swimming speed equal to your walking speed.
  • Astral Spark: Your psychic connection to the Astral Plane enables you to mystically access a spark of divine power, which you can channel through your weapons. When you hit a target with a simple or martial weapon, you can cause the target to take extra force damage equal to your proficiency bonus.

    You can use this trait a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, but you can use it no more than once per turn. You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

  • Firearms Mastery: You have a mystical connection to firearms that traces back to the gods of the giff, who delighted in such weapons. You have proficiency with all firearms and ignore the loading property of any firearm. In addition, attacking at long range with a firearm doesn’t impose disadvantage on your attack roll.
  • Hippo Build: You have advantage on Strength-based ability checks and Strength saving throws. In addition, you count as one size larger when determining your carrying capacity and the weight you can push, drag, or lift.

The traits of the Giff aren’t bad, but they lack some of the flavor of the other new races, including the plasmoids. If your game doesn’t allow for the use of firearms, this option is weaker than most of the other Spelljammer race options. However, there are some bright spots. Having a swim speed is always useful, and Hippo Build could come in handy often.

The main highlight for the Giff is Astral Spark. This trait adds a small boost of force damage on a few successful weapon attacks each day, but the bonus is relatively minor. If you are a spellcaster in a game that does not allow firearms, you won’t get much out of the two major traits that come with the Giff race. That said, don’t let that dissuade you from playing a hippo in space!

Best Classes for The Giff

Most of the time with these posts, I focus on how I don’t think players should limit their racial choices based on optimization alone. You should play the race and class combination you want, even if you could potentially squeak out more damage elsewhere. While I stand by that, there are some class choices that are particularly suboptimal. As I mentioned above, spellcasters and campaigns that do not allow for firearms take most of the Giff’s traits off the table. Artificer also seems like a partial waste since you already have proficiency with firearms.

There are plenty of options that make sense, though. Strength or dexterity-based fighters could benefit from Astral Spark and firearm proficiency. The same is true for a number of ranger subclasses.

How to Play a Giff

How you play your Giff character will depend in part on how much old lore you want to borrow. While the Giff are well-developed in previous iterations of the game, the 5E version has little in the way of history. Historically, Giff lived in rigid hierarchies and were largely fearful of magic. Whether or not you lean into those tropes is up to you.

Giff Names

although previous releases have provided a list of suggested names, Spelljammer does not include such a list for the Giff. However, there are some name structures that have been common with the Giff going back to 2E. Giff characters often have some form of naval rank like Admiral, and their names are usually in the style of the British aristocracy.

Want an out of the box solution to coming up with names for your Giff character? I like to skim the Britannica article on the names of cities and towns in the United Kingdom. Personally, I’m going with Admiral Algernon Workington.

Pronouncing Giff

Spelljammer: Adventures in Space leaves a lot of details up to the reader. There is little guidance on where the Giff come from, what their society is like, and how they interact with other races. However, there is energy dedicated to the hotly disputed topic of pronouncing the word Giff. According to the lore, there is a dispute even among the Giff on whether the name of the race is pronounced with a hard g or a soft g. Giff have come to blows over this dispute, although this violence rarely escalates to anyone more than headbutting.

Concluding our Giff 5E Guide

That wraps up our guide on everyone’s favorite space hippos. When it comes to optimization, the Giff do not bring as much to the table as some of the other new races. However, there is a lot to like about them thematically. Have an idea for your first Giff character? We’d love to hear about it!

1 Comment

  1. Currently playing a Giff Oath of the Watchers paladin, keep forgetting to use Astral Spark though.

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