the Stone Giant: it's all about the community. (Thunder Clap variant included)
this entry focuses on making use of community, and making a simple "grunt monster" something more, unique, and memorable. this was also my first attempt at creating variants, in this case- the Thunderclaps.
Stone Giant MMI
Bad street Rep: giants, unlike dragons, devils and other multiple-sub-species creatures in the MMs, don't have much flavor added to their entries, and the distinction between them is often very, very vague. you basically pick a bigger ogre, who can throw rocks, and might have an energy immunity or minor spell-like powers. their societies are basically the same, and there is no actual reference on what it means to be a GIANT at all! (much less on their the inter relations between the subspecies).
out of the given races, the Stone Giant is probably the least used. if you want a weak sort of giant- why not take the Hill Giant? it fills the brute role sufficiently enough. and if you want something more "scenic", then the fire/ frost and other types fill the role. for most DMs, the Stone Giant is the kid picked last in the team...
i care for it because: the entry for the stone giant does hint that there was some attempt at giving it more context. it has a few peculiar differences from the other types (longer rock throwing, tougher Nat armor then it's power level, far longer life spans, the "elders with powers" part). i was early on intrigued at what possibilities this little "stone in the rough" might posses, if i only develop it, breath life into it.
the art work for it often reminded me of the huge elongated head statues seen on some culture's lands (Mauri? aborigines? i know i should have googled, but i haven't. sorry). and it gave me some ideas. the more i worked on this, the more excited i became, as suddenly this "back of the closet" giant race bloomed to be an intriguing, challenging and fun monster to run.
and now presenting to you, the new and improved Stone Giant:
Perceptions and Concept
- perception: giants at large are used as heavy melee combatants by the DM, with only 1-4 giants present. i preferred to focus on the tribe/ family/ small group as a whole (as i do with most intelligent social beings). the party may fight but a few giants, but there is some sort of support from the rest of their little community. also i wanted to make the giants more unique, with a special culture that has in-game ramifications as well... i developed some powers, practices, relations and tools for the culture (some of which unique to these stone giants).
the idea was to make the players not just face "a bigger ogre", but a unique monster, with it's own flavor and strategies. the community aspect, as well as the accompanying powers force the players to deal with added complexity, as well as providing many adventure hooks.
- concept: The Stone Giants are an old, old race... their legends tell of some sort of ancient pact with some force, binding the earth itself to their bodies. whatever this pact was, it has surely benefited the giants- they live longer, require less nutrition then their counterparts, their skin is much hardened, and perhaps most important is their connection with the earth, and the elder secrets they use to protect their community, their land, and care for it. some scholars claim that the stone giants were more numerous in olden days, and that they wielded great secrets and knowledge (as do the druids of these days), but most of these were lost... the remaining secrets however are still quiet potent, some terrifying.
most stone giant communities dwell in a mountainous region, though they can be found in most fairly wild, and open locations. while staying in a region, the Elder of the group (it's the spiritual adviser/ tribe shaman type of personality, but not necessarily) tends to a massive Geode called the Central Geode (in common. the giant name is more complex). this is the center of the Elder's powers, and enables him/her to protect and affect it's members and community in many ways- from strengthening giants from afar, surveying the land through the eyes of long dead petrified giants, use the same sentinels for the protection of the community, and more... the Central Geode recharges it's powers slowly, from the members of the community and the earth upon which it rest.
a sub group of the giants deserves a special reference- the ThunderClaps. Giants conceived or born in the middle of great storms (which the stone giants just love!) sometime display a slightly more reflective skin, as well as special powers. (you could ask your players for a spot check to spot the sheen, and for a knowledge check to realize what it means). these giants show powers connected to thunder, lightning and storm! though revered, many of these giants are encouraged to join special little nomadic groups called In-Thunder's-Step, (again, this is but a literal meaning, the true meaning in giant is obscure) composed mostly (but not entirely) of individuals with similar powers. these groups move between small communities, and perform certain religious rights. the significance of this is unknown, but usually storms can be called. the Thunder elders (who always travel in these groups, never staying at their original community) posses even more secrets, carrying their own center of power- a humming staff.
Place and Interactions:
- Place in the world: the giants form very tight knit little communities, and most focus on animal husbandry, a bit of agriculture and elaborate stone craft, and tending. a special affect a community has on a place is the presence of the Watchers. giants who are close to death (either naturally, or at negatives hit points and stabilized) are taken to locations of importance in the region (watch points, strategic points, places of reverence, and so on). there, the Elder uses the Central Geode to transform the giant to a watcher- the giant's features partially meld into the stone, as his entire body changes into rock.
these... monuments could be seen anywhere where stone giant were, or are present. as time goes by more and more of the Watcher seem to become "natural", but the face is always clear (you can have the party make spot checks if needed). stone giants always learn the location of all watchers in their region, both out of reverence, and out of practicality- in case of danger, a stone giant can touch a watcher and use one of his/her earth link powers to make the Central Geode emit a rumble, which attracts the Elder to it. the Elder can use the Geode to look and listen through any watchers in the region! if the situation grows dire, he can even use the Geode to animate a watcher, to protect his/her people! (this is rarely done, since it drains the Geode considerably. also, Stone Giant beliefs constitute that awakening a Watcher should be done only in extreme cases, as this disturbs it's sleep)
In Thunder's Step groups carry a Geode, but since it needs to stay half buried into the ground to recharge, they barely use it, conserving it's powers. not having it's protection, as well as the protection of Watchers (the nomadic ways take them away from the proximity of such assistance), they rely instead on their own strength and powers, as well as the staff carried by the Thunder Elder, called Held Storm. the staff amplifies the powers of the ThunderClaps, in a similiar way that the Central Geode do with the common stone giant powers. there are some subtle differences, but the principal is the same. these staffs can only be charged at storms though, and so it's use is also fairly conservative.
Stone giants (regular and thunderclaps) usually avoid complex politics. their utmost care is for their families/ community, and the care for the earth. usually cautious, they do however display all the possible range of behaviors and responses common to other races, such as curiosity, anger, aggressiveness, welcoming and more. the details vary between community to community, depending on the region's history and more.
Though most think of them as "stay in place" giants, the Stoney ones actually make scheduled migrations every several decades or so (druids have often pondered about this, as the giants themselves reluctantly refer to some "inner tides", "balance of stone", "the shifting rock" and other obscure terms). the Elder decides this a few years in advance, and then the leader of the tribe picks a few talented giants, to scout the way in advance, so they could all prepare. the road is usually fairly long, taking several years. the Geode cannot be charged while traveling, and so periodic stays are scheduled, used only if needed. usually, the destination has also been at some point (perhaps still is) a stone giant community (if there are giants in the place, they are probably preparing to migrate as well. no one knows how this is all synchronized).
there is one more common case where a splinter group detaches from the main one (similar to the scouts). when a group of young small giants comes of age, they are sent away from the community for several years, to learn more about the world. they could offer their services, wander on their own, and such. they must stay out of the reach of Watchers. the idea behind this is to grant the youths a bit more experience, and a bit more flexibility. the group is called a Pebble for this few years.
both of the above mentioned groups carry a Minor Geode, specially created by the elder. it enables the small group to gain some benefits similar to the Central Geode, but they can't use the elder powers, or recharge it. this is done both to give the younglings some backup if needed, and to teach them the importance of conservation (if talking about a Pebble).
In Thunder's Step are almost always migrating, but they follow storms rather then specific Stone giant settlement. from time to time they visit other groups of stone giants, to exchange goods, and perhaps join a new ThunderClap to them. the Thunderclap also have a special an emissary role, which will be discussed shortly
- interactions: Stone giants in general aren't very social and tend to avoid outsiders into their territory... many times travelers only see a glimpse of a giant, and from then on only the gazing look of Watchers, from time to time (the giant went to the closest Watcher, alerted the Elder, who then alerted the others, and kept watch on the possible threat). when the giants do deal with others, the whole range of possible interactions is open. there are however some notable special cases, either by behavior, or attitude:
- dwarfs: stone giants have an innate dislike for dwarves and other deep mining races, claiming them to be "wounding the earth". most stone giants tend to be wary towards them, and not hostile, due to an ancient history of bloodshed. many believe it is this feud that drove the dwarves to develop their special tactics against giants.
- Goliaths: are usually welcomed fairly warmly amongst the giants, considering them their smaller kin as a human might consider a halfling. both races have mostly Oral history to rely on, but it seems there was a far greater connection between the races in the past... but, just as with a human and a halfling, things are rarely that simple, and it all depends on the particular case.
- giant kin: the Stone Giants are considered the "neutral" party in any conflict between giants. they usually avoid getting involved, and most other races seem to understand that. there seem to have been some sort of a special decree in ages past, excluding giants from political giant conflicts. perhaps this is due to their secular nature.
In Thunder's Step seem to fit a special role in this- they act as emmiseries and messengers between far and wide communities. some theorize that the ancient storm giants have been instrumental in creating the ThunderClaps, and have placed upon them this duty/ burden/ role... though now there are far, far less giants then in olden days, the In Thunder's Step keep on the tradition most seriously. surprisingly, most giant communities also keep with the hospitality for these nomads, though some giants have broken off their ties...
- trade:in times of need, stone giant can trade with other races. a common commodity are their services- either their strength, their earth link powers, or their martial prowess... small humanoid communities the giants deem valuable and non threatening may gain a seasonally visit from a few of the giants, looking for work or trade.
Thunderclaps are for some reason far more sociable then the common giants. they try to gain better equipment, better clothes and so forth... a ThunderClap many time acts as the giants spokesman, and can usually be identified by some flashier garb, weapon, or just style...
- giant eagles and rocs:stone giants are fond of giant eagles in their mountains, and go to some lengths protecting them. an even more sacred "birds" are the enormous Rocks. many giant communities (and especially ThunderClaps) revere them, as representations of some ancient power or bond. if a Roc lives nearby a community, the giants will protect it ferociously, and a Watcher or two will most probably be stationed near it, if possible.
- Pebbles"these groups of youngsters trade and lend their services far more frequently then other groups of giants (migration scouting parties as well, if the needs demand). the most commonly fought "brutes giant in the service of someone else" type of encounter usually stems from these little groups. Pebbles are mostly loyal to their own kind first however, and won't necessarily fight to the death for someone else (Pebbles usually hire themselves out as a way to gain experience, and adventure. not out of a special loyalty or cause... those wait at home)
- alliances: Stone giants sometime do enable themselves to form allies and friends. if these happen to live inside the area containing Watchers, the stone giants may give their allies a special gift- a small Calling Geode, which enables it's holder to alert the Elder by touching a watcher and making the Central Geode tremble (most allies no nothing of the process. they are just told "touch this stone to a watcher, and we'll know"). if the allies proved their worth, and one of the stone giants is dying, the allies might get a Watcher right close to home...
- game mechanics: these are not meant to be complete, but the basic outline of the ideas that could be easily fleshed out if you're using these ideas. there are a few sections, first dealing with the stone giants, then the Geode, the thunderclaps, the Held Storm, and a few other stuff...
1) younger stone giants: this mainly refers to the giants who might go on a Pebble (though "adults", meaning "full" giants can go to). there are two younger varieties: juvenile at 10HD, young adult at 12 HD. their statistics change accordingly:
- less strength for the juvenile
- one less natural armor per age category.
- the rocks used cause less damage (didn't try to calculate how much).
- the age mostly impact on the spell like powers the giants can get from their Stone/Earth Link feat (will be described shortly). this is true for thunder claps as well.
2) Stone Giant Feats: these feats represent a different degree of connection to the earth. all of them require being a stone giant. Giants don't "choose" these feats, instead they represent a gift, (or very special training in the case of the Secrets feats).
- Stone/ Earth Link: the giant gains the ability to use spell like abiliites, identical to those of the earth domain, each spell-like ability once per day. instead of an ability score, the giant must have a sufficient amount of HD (both racial and class HD contribute to this). a giant with 10 HD can use the first level spell like ability, and any further tow more HD gives him access to another level (a "normal" 14th level giant gains access to all spell like abilities of the earth domain up to and including the third level).
in addition, the giant gains the Earth domain's special ability, usable once per day only, and he can access the Central Geode Community powers.
(a small note concerning the spell magic stones- the giant version applies to a single small rock, used usually by juveniles. it makes it as damaging as a larger rock (used by adults), besides the other affects...)
- Secrets of the Stone Giants: this feat is held only by Elders of giant communities, and requires the previous feat. it enables the Elder to use all of the Central Geode's powers, as well as create a Minor Geode, a Calling Geode, and to recharge a Central Geode. this is the only way to recharge it, and so the Elder is of an enormous importance to the tribe...
3) Central Geode: this is a massive rock, with strange markings upon it, and an odd hum, similar to the Held Storm... it cannot be easily carried, and on migrations the giants make a special contraption to hold it between 4 of them. when not migrating it is buried half way into the earth, from where it draws it's power (together with the elder).
The Geode holds within it a great potential energy, that can be used either by the community members, or by the Elder/s for greater effect. each use of power drains the Geode, and it recharges but slowly. community members are taught to be careful in it's use, but not to fear in case of real danger. The Geode can exercise it's powers from afar. but the farther away the target, the more it is drained. do notice that members could be far from the Geode to call upon it's powers... the power drainage does limit it's range
(i haven't figured out an exact system to handle this, but it should be easy enough. the DM can alternatively just decide when a use is warranted, and when the Geode cannot be used, or is close to depletion). the powers:
- "Alert the Watcher": this can be done by any stone giant. by touching a watcher, the Geode begins to tremble (could be miles away). if an Elder than touches it, he could sense which Watcher was touched (and then continue on his own. this power takes minor energy from the Geode.
the Community Powers can be accessed by any stone giant with the Earth/Stone link feat:
- "call of stone":the giant's skin becomes grayer, and he takes on a meaner look. it gains a temporary increase to HD, and a toughening of natural skin (i thought 2-3HD, +2 nat per calling, or perhaps a small damage reduction instead? the increase in hit dice does NOT affect the spell like powers. this power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Geode.
- "gift of earth": the giant's eyes grow even more.. "earthy". the giant gains access to a spell-like power greater by one level than the normal.
this power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Geode.
the Elder powers form the true powers of the Geode, and the core of the community's defense. the Elder must be in physical contact with it in order to use them:
- "eyes, ears, and touch of the Watchers": the Elder can look through the eyes of the Watchers, hear what goes around them, and gains tremor sense for 60 ft. s/he can only "use" one such elder at a time, though most Elders due a weekly "survey" through all the watchers. this power takes a negligible amount of energy from the Geode. (practically free).
- "Watcher turned Guardian": the Elder animates a watcher, (essentially an animated object), and unleashes it upon it's foes. the watcher can either give it brief mental commands and let it act on it's own, (perhaps in order to awaken another Watcher nearby?) or he can control it directly, using his own BAB, feats, and so on (while enjoying the Hardness and immunities of the construct). while "in touch" with a guardian the elder may channel any touch, self, or targeted spell unto the Watcher (ig he has any).
this power takes a large amount of energy from the Geode, and is done only at a real sense of danger.
- "Summon the earth": the elder can summon an earth elemental to assist combatants, or to help reshape the earth and such. the stone giants sees the earth elementals as holy, and thus prefer to avoid using them in combat. the most common uses are for building, or averting natural disasters (and perhaps causing landslides and such over enemies, limiting the exposure to danger). though the elemental can be summoned at range, the Elder does not retain any link to it after the initial orders were given (unlike with the watchers). this power takes a variable amount of energy from the Geode, depending on the size of the elemental, but it is still a fairly large amount.
- Embed Watcher/craft Minor Geode/ Craft calling Geode: all of these uses create tools of the Stone Giant society, and have been/will be explained in the proper place. the first is used to meld a dying giant into the Watcher's form, and requires a little energy. the second requires a medium amount of energy, and is in fact a piece of the Geode which detaches. the last requires a negligible amount, and is also a fist sized shard broken off the Central Geode.
4) Minor Geode: carried by a Pebble or migration scouting group, it enables the Community powers of the Central Geode. however, it's energy is far smaller (1/5-1/8 as the center Geode), and it cannot be recharged.
5) Calling Geode: used by non stone giants to alert stone giants. works like the "Alert the Watcher" power, but requires touching the Geode to the stone sentinel.
6)ThunderClap feats: these can be taken with or without the normal feats (they are not exclusive). however, there is no recorded case of one giant knowing both Secrets feats. all other remarks concerning the stone giant feats are true here as well.
- ThunderClap:taken at birth, the giant is immune to lightning and deafening effects. gains resistance sonic 10, about 1 in 20 giant is a ThunderClap...
- Thunder/Storm Link: this feat requires the previous feat first. works exactly the same like the Earth/Stone Link except that the domain in question is Weather (not Air...), and that it does not allow access to a Center Geode community powers. it does however allows access to the Held Storm Travel Group powers.
- Secrets of the Thunder: requires the previous two feats first. this feat is held only by Thunder Elders, leading In Thunder's Step's nomads. it enables the Elder to use all of the Held Storm's powers. it also enables it's owner to recharge the staff, in appropriate storms.
7) Held Storm: the counterpart for the Center Geode in the nomadic groups, it holds the same function in many ways. it also hold a potential energy, that can be unleashed. it can be recharged only in naturally occurring storms, by someone holding the feat of Secrets of the Thunder. it's range is determined by weather- in calm weather it is short, but the stormier it gets the father the spread. the nomadic group is well aware of it, and tries not to wander too far.
the following power is available to ANY stone giant:
- "sense the wind": sort of a compass for the group, the staff enables a greater range of weather prediction tests. upon succeeding on the appropriate survival test, the holder can predict the weather for the next week for farther than the mere near vicinity. in particular, the holder predicts the location of a rough or stormy weather.
the following powers can be called upon (the same as with community powers regarding the Center Geode) by giants with the Thunder/storm Link feat:
- "Call of the thunder": the Giant skin begins to vibrate slightly, and then he suddenly emits a sharp burst of shattering thunder (sonic damage? deafening effects? perhaps stun?) ThunderClap giants are immune to this special attack. this power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Held Storm.
- "gift of storm": this works exactly like Gift of earth power of the Center Geode, only in regards to the ThunderClap's domain of weather. this power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Held Storm.
the following powers can be used only by a Thunder Elder:
- summon storm elemental: pretty much the same as the Summon earth elemental power of the Center Geode. the power expenditure is lower however, and this is a common uses on defense. again- the exact power usage depends on the elemental. they cannot be used to recharge the staff.