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Basic Information

In Greek Mythology there were three massive giants that had 100 arms and 50 heads each. These Hecatoncheires (literally "hundred-handed ones"), also sometimes known as Centimanes, were the offspring of Uranus and Gaia. They were the brothers of the Titans and Cyclopses.

Despite their titanic origin, in most versions the 3 brothers helped the Olympian Gods defeat the Titans during the Titanomachy. They hurled huge boulders at the titans during the war. After the war, when the titans were locked in Tartarus, the Hecatoncheires were stationed at the bronze gates as prison guards. (That is, if they're not living at the bottom of the sea, or in the underworld, as mentioned below.) Also, in some versions, Zeus had to first rescue the Hecatoncheires and the Cyclops from the Titans, and convince them to help him battle the older generation. In those versions, the hundred-handers were imprisoned in Tartarus, under the guard of the monstrous warden Campe who had been appointed by Cronus)

The three individual hundred-handed-ones are named:

  • Briareus aka Aegaeon aka Obriareus
  • Cottus
  • Gyges aka Gyes

As you can infer from the name variation, the ancient sources weren't always in agreement about the details.

Briareus has the most persona and history of the three, but the details are inconsistent from one ancient author to the next. In some versions he was "the protector of Zeus's Laws. He was rewarded by Poseidon my marriage to the sea god's daughter Cymopolea. In some versions, Briareus is the son of Gaia and Pontus (rather than Uranus), and dwells in the sea. In other versions, he lives on the island of Euboea, and was arbitrator of a dispute between Poseidon and Helios. In yet other versions he was buried under Mount Etna (Sicily) and caused earthquakes. He is also sometimes credited as a smith and the inventor of metal armour, but that's sort of blurring the lines between a centimanes and a cyclops. In other tales the hundred-handed Briareus is a sea monster or anthropomorphic personification of the dangers of the sea, who wrestles whales, and he (or all 3 of the centimanes brothers) live at the bottom of the sea. In yet other versions, he lives in the Underworld. Centuries later, in the works of Dante Alighieri, Briareus is found in both the 9th Circle of Hell, and also in Purgatory.



Game and Story Use

  • Can be dropped in to any game about the titanomachy/tartarus/underworld, either as a monster of the week or as a more personable NPC. There's a lot of contradictory versions in mythology, so you're free to pick the elements you like best and ignore anything you don't.
  • Let's talk body. I have a few questions.
    • Is it actually beneficial/convenient to have so many arms and heads?
      • Does this let you see in every direction, or are you constantly craning your 50 necks to look around the heads of the idiot (yourself) in your line of sight?
      • Can you pick something up without having to bend over or turn towards it, or are all your different arms getting in each other's way?
      • Can we just assume some number of automatic hits, or does the entire table have to sit there waiting while the GM rolls 50 attack dice?
        • Fun Fact: The D&D 5th Ed answer is basically spelled out on Pg 250 of the DMG, under "Mob Attacks". They don't mention this monster specifically, but they do provide a system for handling dozens of attacks at once without rolling a mountain of dice.
      • Basically, every annoyance you'd think of for a comedic two-headed ettin gets multiplied out by more than an order of magnitude.
      • I'm reminded as well of the Jatravartid people of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, who had so many arms they were the only species in the galaxy known to invent the deodorant spray before the wheel.
    • How the heck does 100 arms and 50 heads even fit on a humanoid trunk?
      • Do they just have a very broad and stocky body, with arms all around it? Like a super-wide fantasy dwarf, the size of a giant?
      • Are their arms and/or heads just really small to fit in clusters like grapes?
      • Are they not humanoid at all?
  • For a different twist, you could interpret "100 arms" and "50 heads" more metaphorically. Or rather, literally, but not traditionally/physically.
    • Perhaps they are shapeshifters, capable of changing their face and growing a variety of limbs,
      • If I remember correctly, in the Scion RPG they were sort of big blobby strawberry-jelly monsters that extruded limbs as needed.
    • or illusionists, who merely hide their true appearance,
    • or have multiple lives and regenerate like Dr. Who,
    • or have 50 avatars each, and literally exist in more than one place at a time.


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