I am constructing a world where a small number of giants coexist rather well with humans to the point where any distinction between the two is rather moot. Government, armed forces, and, for the most part, culture, all are shared.

This shared culture, however, extends as far does in our world; there will always be that other nation, that other people, to be at odds with.

War eventually breaks out between two nations and men are rallied to the front lines to fight. For story purposes, I'm sending giants to the battlefield in tandem with a human rider. This is necessary because they are forced to work together in order to be an effective unit. Unfortunately, I can't figure out any reason a giant might realistically need a human to be an effective unit. They're basically just over-sized soldiers. It appears to me that there is no reason for them to be there, but I don't want them just sitting around during the fights. Hence...

For what reason(s) would it be necessary or prudent for a human to ride with a giant into battle?


  • giants are ~16m tall
  • giants are equivalent to humans in most regards except size
  • giant weapons are essentially large caliber naval guns modified to be fired by a giant (single shot)
  • giants are armored about as well as a battleship
  • giants biology can comfortably handle its weapons and armor to the degree a human soldier can with modern body armor
  • giants are treated first a giant destroyers, then used for other tasks (like crushing tanks and other equipment, or troop transport)
  • world's tech level is late WW1 (though some tech from very early WW2 may be possible)
  • if any of the above need to be amended for answer, feel free to do so within reason
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    $\begingroup$ "(10x as tall as humans) giants coexist rather well with humans". As in "live in the same cities"? $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 5:52
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Its quite fun for everyone, as you can imagine. $\endgroup$
    – TKOW
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 6:02
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    $\begingroup$ Is there aviation? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ Just to check. You really do intend your 16m giants to be as armored as a 250m Iowa class battleship? The critical parts of an Iowa class were protected by nearly a half meter of steel! $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 6:16
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    $\begingroup$ This is a bit off your topic, but your 16m giants would look upon humans somewhat in the same way we humans would look upon rabbits, and that's being generous. They would have as much trouble seeing us as we would anything 5"-6" tall. That's not much more than the thickness of a person's leg, which I'm embarrased to say I've tripped over at beaches. To live in a city full of humans, your giants would be forced to look down all the time. Perhaps your giants need a chunk of city all their own so they can socialize without the risk of squishing people like a bottle of ketchup? $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 7:32

11 Answers 11


Short version :

Your giants are essentially (oversized) tanks. Use them like tanks. Kill them like tanks.

giants are ~16m tall

Let's start with size and armor.

At 16m tall and roughly human shaped you'd expect their width to be something like 2m. Battleship armor was typically around 2m thick. So the would be completely unable to move.

Human armor (for a knight) would typically weight of the order of 45 lbs ( so about 20 kg ) and between 1mm and 3mm thick (varying over the body), so let's use 2mm on average.

The giant should be able to manage thicker armor, but only really in proportion to it's height, so maybe 8mm-24mm thick.

For reference a an early WW2 Panzer III tank would have had a max of 30mm armor, and many tanks had less at the start of WW2. So your giant is in pretty good shape with e.g. 10mm plate armor.

giant weapons are essentially large caliber naval guns modified to be fired by a giant (single shot)

A human might carry e.g. a gun weighing, say, 4 kg and that's for a man weighing something like 80 kg (and these are really rough figures). So gun weighs about 1/20 th of the human's weight.

So scaling that up, your giant might be 16mm tall, but the mass will be something like 512 times that of a human. So the gun can be about 2000 kg.

That sounds like a lot, but two problems arise.

Firstly recoil. A big gun will have a huge recoil. Ever see what happens when a tank or battleship fires it's main armament ?

Which is why human guns fire small bullets ! A 0.45 caliber bullet would be roughly 16 grammes. So your giant, even with a 512 multiplier, is only going to fire slugs that are at most 8 kg each.

A more realistic type of weapon (if you insist on a large caliber artillery type piece) would be e.g. the British 15 pounder which had a barrel and breach weight less than 2,000 kg and fired 6.4 kg shells. This was a WW1 weapon.

You probably want to use some kind of armor piercing round and equip your giant with high explosive rounds (a mix, like a modern tank would).

a world where a small number of giants coexist rather well with humans

So we have a large armored "vehicle" with a modified artillery weapon.

There are a relatively small number of these "vehicles" so the majority of your troops are human, with the giants (i.e. the "tanks") deployed in whatever manner your tank strategy dictates.

Giants can also perform recon (16m tall and a telescope and not much gets hidden easily :-) ).

Humans are ideal for e.g. entering buildings, ambushes, killing other humans (they ought to be good at it by now) and doing those logistics things your giants could be spared from.

Which is where the the problem lies.

At 16mm tall your giant is more or less oversized for the firepower you get back. They'll need a lot of support resources (like food) and "repairs" (medical care) will be a challenge on a battlefield.

But assuming you can work around that, you have large tanks that will also perform useful functions like recon.

Some giants will be dedicated to anti-giant roles (guns designed for killing armored giants, probably less useful for human support roles). Some will be scouts ("run over there have a look") and heavily armored but not armed much. Some will be APCs, some will be a kind of main battle tank.

In their APC role they'll be carrying humans (and 10 humans per giant is a rough estimate).

In other roles they'd probably have support humans (say three or four) doing things like spotting, comms, and other things that a tank crew would do, including manning machine guns to defend against human attacks on the giants.

  • $\begingroup$ This explains how giants would fight and what problems there would be when having fighting giants but doesn't really explain why giants need a human rider. Maybe edit it to focus more on the question which is Why do giants need a human rider. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:33
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon The expression the OP used was "necessary or prudent", not "need". Prudent can mean prudent in the context of a mixed force and effective deployment and use of resources. I'm considering a mixed force with mostly humans and a small proportion of giants. I've indicated some roles humans could play as "crew" for a giant, but I'm not focused on the word "need" as you are (and the OP does not seem to be). $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Got my vote for covering the utter absurdity of my armor requirements and realistic possible alternative equipment for my giants in addition to exploring ways a rider is viable. Thanks. $\endgroup$
    – TKOW
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 13:47
  • $\begingroup$ just to point out not all large caliber guns have large recoil, if you took something like the m20 75mm recoilless rifle and scale that up to giant size you could have a large caliber weapon without as much recoil $\endgroup$
    – BKlassen
    Commented Apr 26, 2018 at 16:39

To clear IEDs and other traps

If giants are so well armoured that small arms wont hurt them from afar and you do not yet have armorpiercing very high velocity weapons or guided missile systems, there pretty much two options to kill a giant:

  • Closing in on the giant really fast and then wounding him at weak points with a spear, a gun or sticky anti tank grenades

  • Placing mines or other explosives in the path of the giant

In those cases the rider would be needed to:

  • Fight approaching riders or vehicles

  • Demine the area by being lighter and more agile. He won't trigger an anti tank mine so he can defuse it or destroy it with explosives. The giant would offer a too good target if he put down his gun to clear mines as he already will have a lot of downtime by reloading such a big gun.

So the riders job is to make sure the giant can just focus on firing his gun and charging as fast as possible to avoid being shot in the open field.

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Note that this answer is basically the same as the answer to the question of why tanks operate with infantry support in the real world. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 8:50
  • $\begingroup$ yes, especially near buildings where there could be an ambush and the tank or in this case giant cannot maneouver fast $\endgroup$
    – Gimli
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 11:43

I'm wondering how you expect a Giant to be as well armored as a battleship. The Giant would barely be able to move around if only because having a meter of armor around their joints would impede them too much. Also Naval Guns tend to be long, the Iowa class guns were 20m in length so they would have to use a shorter version which would limit their projectile velocity and thus effectiveness. Even tank guns are a sizeable portion of the Giant's length, making these guns unwieldly. Even if you assume a Giant can somehow carry all that despite the square-cube law he's going to be rather burdened by that. It's far more likely he's carrying tank armor and tank guns, although I would think they would be more like AFV's than tanks.

Anyways, reasons to use infantry next to your Giants with the unlikely armor+armaments:

  • Scouts
  • Communication (with radio's and such)
  • Repairing and maintaining gear of the Giant
  • Anti-armor support with missiles and such. Tanks would still be a threat despite battleship armor because of the squishy Giant inside. A HESH shell would do squat to a battleship, but a shockwave going through the brain/lung/bloodvessles is going to wreak havoc on the Giant and probably kill him.
  • Anti-Giant support. Whether using armor-piercing or a superheated jet of a HEAT round or just HESH weapons, the use of infantry-based AT weapons are going to be effective against the joints of the Giant where the material has to move with the joints and can't be as thick. This can incapacitate Giants if not kill them with a shot to the neck for example.
  • Soft terrain traversal/terrain scouts. These Giants even without armor will weigh well over 100 tons, with armor it's likely they'll exceed 500 tons (because that armor is going to weigh more than the Giant). This isn't going to be nice travel when you hit soft ground where they'll likely sag into the ground, get stuck and starve unless some heavy-duty cranes get brought in. Cranes that just like the Giant need to be careful with what ground they stand on even before they lift a 16m Giant in full battleship armor.
  • Building capture. You can't capture buildings with tanks, and you can't capture buildings with Giants.

I think this comes down primarily to the ratio of giants to humans in the world. The fight would looks different if there are many people, or many giants on the battlefield.

Many humans, few giants

In this case, your giants would be working as tanks, mobile fortresses or some version of a land ship. People could be used to service equipment, make repairs if something is damaged. However, since in this case the giants are a valuable, limited unit, the person's best use would be to disable another giant. A few other people have suggested that the giants are similar to tanks... However, they are different in one important way: the giants are tall, tanks are not. Here's what I'm thinking:

The human is equipped with a wing suit, and a grappling hook on a long line of steel cable. The giant throws the human at an enemy giant (slightly to one side - the wing suit could be used for fine adjustments). The human lands the grappling hook so it attaches to the enemy giant, and begins swinging around it. After a few revolutions, the trailing cable might have trapped an arm, bound a leg, or fouled other equipment, thus disabling the giant until it's own human crew removes the restraints. The wing suit should be able to get back just fine, acceleration due to the conservation of angular momentum should boost his speed for the trip back.

The human projectile could be equipped with a suicide explosive on a timer (could be disabled on the trip back) in case they die on the way over to - or at - the target.

Equal giants and humans

On a battlefield of exclusively giants with a human rider, perhaps the humans could be some sort of navigator, effectively directing and co-ordinating the giant's movements, while the giants focus on destroying things. If you are going for WW1 tech level, wireless comms would be limited if they existed at all for individual units (possibly only for unit commanders?). If your world doesn't have that yet, I would suggest some form of semaphore that the humans would operate. The idea of a human sniper mount is attractive, but the movements of the giants would probably make that difficult, at best. Perhaps there is some sort of stabilized platform, or turret system for the human mount to ride in?

Many giants, few humans

In this case, the humans are the commodity. Here, I think their best roll would be as medics, using their smaller size to crawl inside the giant's armor to cauterize wounds and stop blood loss. This would not be terribly pleasant for the giant, but it just might save his life. The human could be passed to wounded giants as needed.


Anti Giant Slayers

From what I can tell the Giants are like a walking tank or fortress. The enemy would use human infantry to scale the giants to place explosives or poison on weak spots to ether cause damage or be lethal. The giants would have a hard time to see anyone let alone countering them, with all that Armour it would be also is hard to move… at all. So having a man (more likely a squad) be placed on crow-nest like spot or a pill box (metal Armour would make a good hiding place for them) or have them grapple around freestyle like for some cool parkour. The human riders would counter Giant Slayers from inside or rush out to meet then (riders could also mount another giant when engaged in close melee to do the same as the Slayers) also to do maintenance on the armour like a tank crew.

  • $\begingroup$ Dang. I saw this like, a second after I wrote my answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 17:03

From what I'm seeing, your giants are basically a moving fort with a REALLY big gun. But here's the thing: giants are slow, and so are their weapons. A castle standing wide open is a sitting duck. Your humans can act as saboteurs or defenders, using grappling hooks, wing suits and climbing claws to freerun around the giant, repairing armor, treating wounds and fighting off enemy saboteurs. When on the offensive, they could plant explosives or inject poison into armor chinks. Battle could be accomplished by retractable blades built into their gauntlets, along with their grappling hooks and claws. It would make some pretty epic battle sequences, as human crews slug it out while parkouring around a FUCKING GIANT.


Make the human guard the giant's back.

Maybe the giants have trouble turning around, and take a while to respond to an attack from behind, like really slow elephants (or crocodiles; while on land they're terrible at turning around and can be easily ambushed from behind). Any giant with this limitation could really use a second pair of eyes to literally watch his back.


The giants could use smaller humans as extra eyes. Target over there. Watch out, they're sneaking up on you from behind. The small humans wouldn't add much to the giant's burden, and could provide valuable intel in combat.

This is very similar to tank warfare. One thing that isn't often mentioned is that tanks without supporting infantry are vulnerable to attack by enemy infantry that are too well concealed to see until they're close enough to do real damage (antitank rockets, explosives, flamethrowers, etc...)


Maybe the giants are long-lived arrogant intellectuals who value their lives more than the expendable humans (or "sub-giants", if you will), and so prefer to send the humans into battle as cannon fodder, and only risk themselves when tactically necessary.

And then there's the old square-cube law, which states that the bigger you are, your strength increases by the square of the size increase factor, but your weight increases by the cube of the same factor. This means giants are slower and tyre more easily than those sprightly humans

Also, giants would find it a lot harder to hide in trenches and would be terrible at guerilla warfare, or as sappers / commandos / etc.


Point Defence

A Giant (as a walking artillery piece) is going to need defence from smaller foes that it can't use its cannon on or merely stomp. A couple humans with WW1 era Maxim guns (or the older Gatling Guns) mounted on pintles attached to the giant's harness would be sufficient to repel anything the cannon is unsuited to killing.

Tech Support

A Radio-operator could help coordinate the giant with the rest of the army. Whether calling instructions to the giant, or simply operating the radio itself while the giant wears an earpiece.

Spotters and Snipers

The 16m height of the Giant serves as an impressively capable mobile watch-tower, A couple men armed with long rifles and binoculars could take advantage of that to spot approaching enemies and slay them at a distance.

  • $\begingroup$ precision shooting while sitting on the giant is not going to go great even if they are standing still, your seat will be constantly heaving as the giant breaths. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ I would agree, but I'm not sure the swaying is as big an issue as that. Famously, Nelson was shot by a french sharp-shooter from another ship 50 meters away. if they can do that, I expect a giant's breathing is probably not a huge problem with enough practice. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Commented Feb 4, 2020 at 8:50

For what reason(s) would it be necessary or prudent for a human to ride with a giant into battle?

The Giants would need the Human as loader for their Guns.

As usual for artillery pieces of that time, you´d have a loader (human) and a Gunner (giant). The different varieties of shells could be stored in a magazine on the giants back for better protection from potentially fatal ammo explosions. The human would load the desired shell over the giants shoulder and then crawl down his back to retrieve the next.

This essentially makes the giant into a kind of biological battle-mech with WW1 technology.

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    $\begingroup$ It is stated in the question that the giants can comfortably handle their weapons and armour as well as a human can. That implies they can load their own guns. At the moment this answer is also too short and too low quality to be useful. Please edit it to explain why you think the giants would need humans to load their guns. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 9:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Bellerophon: explained it a little bit further. Humans can´t usually handle artillery pieces alone. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel
    Commented Apr 25, 2018 at 12:54

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