Giff are a race of pistol-wielding space hippos which were exclusive to Spelljammer until 5th edition, when they were introduced as a monster long before we learned that Spelljammer was making an official return. Historically, we’ve known a few things about the Giff: They love guns and explosions, they get around on spelljammer ships, and they are utterly incapable of using magic, and must therefore enlist spellcasters of other races to fly their ships. Well, giff player characters can use magic, but otherwise WotC has stuck very close to everyone’s favorite space hippos.

Giff have two iconic traits which make them naturally good at firearms and which grant them Advantage on Strength checks. In some ways, this puts the Giff at odds with itself because a single build generally can’t be good at both fighting using firearms and at using Strength checks to grapple. Unless you’re giving up on the idea of feats, you’ll likely need to pick between the two to focus upon.

In some circumstances, you may find that your pistol hippo ranged build is engaged in melee. In those cases, doff your monocle, exclaim “how dare you,” and Shove the adjacent enemy away. Many monsters lack proficiency in either Acrobatics or Athletics so even moderate Strength and proficiency in Athletics is sufficient to successfully Shove many enemies, allowing you to get out of melee without resorting to Disengage.

Regarding the pronunciation of the name: The RPGBOT team’s official stance is that it is pronounced “giff”.

Table of Contents


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.



Artificers get proficiency in firearms automatically and have very little reason to use Strength checks, so the Giff’s entire contribution to the Artificer is the ability to ignore Loading with firearms, which can be replaced with an infusion.


Advantage on Strength checks can be replaced by Rage, and barbarians are locked into melee too heavily for firearms to be helpful.


Martial bards (swords and valor) may find firearms a helpful addition to the Bard’s weapon options, and Advantage on Strength checks can make Strength (Athletics) very effective when combined with Expertise even if your Strength is poor.


Weapons are a poor choice for clerics and without Extra attack there is rarely a good reason to use Strength (Athletics), so advantage on Strength checks is rarely useful.


Weapons are a poor choice for most druid, and the ones that use weapons don’t use firearms. Without Extra attack there is rarely a good reason to use Strength (Athletics), so advantage on Strength checks is rarely useful.


The obvious and easy choice for a race so martially-inclined.

Melee builds should absolutely lean into Hippo Build’s Advantage on Strength checks to Grapple/Shove your enemies. Advantage isn’t as good as Expertise mathematically, but it’s close enough for most of your career. Put enemies on the ground. You can also combine it with Expertise via Skill Expert for the most assurance possible short of reliable talent.

Ranged builds will enjoy the Giff’s Firearm’s Mastery, which gives you a big chunk of the Gunner feat, which means that you can play a gun user right from level 1 without playing yet another variant human. Grab Fighting Style (Archery) and Sharpshooter and you’re ready to deal some damage.

Ranged builds should strongly consider proficiency in Athletics and a splash of Strength to support it. With Advantage on Strength checks and Extra Attack that gives you more attacks than anyone else, it’s easy to Shove an enemy out of reach then get right back to shooting.


An easy source of Advantage is a massive boon for monks, but with typically poor Strength most monks can’t effectively Shove enemies prone. With a splash of Strength, proficiency in Athletics, and Hippo Build, Shove suddenly becomes a viable option for the monk. Knock your enemy prone then hit them with Flurry of Blows.


Paladins struggle to fight at range, so Firearms Mastery is largely wasted, but Hippo Build’s advantage on Strength checks is a great way to make Grapple/Shove as useful for the Paladin as it is for the Barbarian and the Fighter. Put your enemies on the ground and fish for critical smites.


Much like the Fighter, rangers built for ranged combat will benefit from Firearm Mastery, getting a bit more damage from muskets than you would from crossbows and longbows.

Rangers built around Strength may find Hippo Build useful if you want to get into grappling/shoving, but two-handed melee weapons are a difficult choice for rangers and you need a free hand to do either.


Despite their absolute lack of subtlety, you can sneak attack with muskets. At low levels, the Musket’s d12 damage die is much better than the d6 you’ll get from the Rogue’s other ranged weapon options. Unfortunately, that’s really the only thing that the Giff adds to the Rogue.

Combining the Rogue’s easy access to Expertise with Hippo Build to get really good at Athletics is very tempting, but save this for characters taking a class dip into rogue. Without Extra Attack, you don’t want to dedicate an entire turn to a single grapple or shove.


You don’t need guns and you certainly shouldn’t be making Strength checks.

If you want a gun-wielding sorcerer and you’re open to 3rd-party content, check out our Black Powder Sorcery Handbook. Then you can be a space hippo magically weilding a brace of pistols fueled by your ancestral attachment to black powder firearms. Somehow that’s the most giff thing I can think of, and giff canonically can’t use magic (player characters get to be special, of course).


Tragically, Pact of the Blade doesn’t function with firearms, so there’s nothing here for the Giff.


You don’t need guns and you certainly shouldn’t be making Strength checks.