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The 2nd edition Monster Manual says that frost giants can be shamans up to 7th level. How are these levels added to the normal stats of a frost giant? Are there any rules for that, or is it left to the interpretation of the GM?

The question is only interested in rules published in the books for AD&D 2d edition.

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Monster stats like saves, THAC0 and HP are always according to their HD, which are not changed by spellcasting ability. Remember that in AD&D, monsters and (N)PCs follow different construction rules — you don't start using PC level-up rules just because a monster can cast like a wizard or cleric of a certain level.

This is a little less obvious with the frost giant writeup than other monsters. Compare the entry for orcs: the shaman there has explicit notes about how to change its HD per level of spellcasting ability: obviously, it still uses monster HD rules for all its stats. The same is true of frost giants, except the designers didn't give them more HD for their spellcasting levels — a standard frost giant, unlike a standard orc, is plenty formidable already without needing to beef it up to fulfill a shaman's role in a community or fight.

This can also be seen with monster writeups for monsters that always have spellcasting ability (such as nagas): they use their written stats, and the ability to cast X-level spells is just one of their many abilities.

This means that a frost giant shaman has the HD — and therefore the normal HP, saves, and THAC0 — of a regular frost giant. To make a frost giant shaman (or witch doctor), just make a normal frost giant and then select memorised/prepared spells for them as if they were a member of the class and level indicated.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow, we almost posted in the same minute. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Apr 26 '16 at 16:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast That happens more often than you'd think. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 26 '16 at 16:47
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Short Answer: DM judgment, but most of it is covered in the books.

What the spell casting addendum mostly provides is not extra levels, but additional abilities for the opponents, additional challenges to the party, and thus commensurate XP awards for defeat of a shaman/witchdoctor Frost Giant. The XP bonuses for the added spell ability is 1,000 for the first three spell caster levels, and 3,000 for spell caster levels 4 and up. (Your base Frost Giant is worth 7,000).

From the AD&D 2d edition Monstrous Manual and the Dungeon Masters Guide:

Monsters are treated differently from PCs. The shaman Frost Giant can get a benefit on some saving throws(see below) but doesn't explicitly improve HD or AC, nor boost THAC0, with the addition of caster abilities for Shaman/Witch Doctor.

  • THAC0

    The shaman has added ability in spell casting. THAC0 of 7 comes from Table 39 (Creature THAC0) for a 14 HD creature (DMG Ch. 9) No text offers guidance on his combat ability.

    It's a DM decision when to use THAC0 of 7 or 5 (Frost Giant THAC0 in the monster description shows both values). You could confine that boost to the Jarl (the leader, who is typically better at everything).

  • HD: 14 or 15?

    It would be consistent with the THAC0 Table for the leader to have 15 rather than 14 HD if you did that. (While that isn't explicitly mentioned, leader monsters having higher HD than the rest is common).

    Giving the Shaman the one additional HD and/or a better THAC0 isn't a bad call. If you as DM see the Shaman as a significantly better giant than the rest of the clan, nothing prevents you from improving both.

  • Saving Throws

    Saving throws for Monsters are by Monster HD. The discussion before DMG Table 46 (Saving Throws) indicates that a monster (such as your Shaman Frost Giant) would get the most favorable saving throw if it has abilities of other classes. You'd want to check Priest, Warrior, (and if Witch Doctor check Wizard) for the best saving throw versus spell, wand, dragon breath, whatever.

    Most monsters use the Warrior group table to determine their save. However, those that have abilities of other classes use the most favorable saving throw. A creature able to fight and use a large number of spells could use either the Warrior or Wizard groups, whichever was better for a particular saving throw.

  • Armor Class

    Warrior giants are described as having AC 0, based on adding chain, to basic armor class. That makes the base AC of 5 for the Shaman/Witch Doctor.

    A frost giant's natural Armor Class is 5. Warriors usually wear chain mail and metal helmets decorated with horns or feathers (AC 0).

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