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:
SpoilerGiants, 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...
Why do I care?
SpoilerThe 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 (Better at rock throwing, tougher natural armor then it's power level might indicate, far longer life spans, and the bit about "Elders with powers", which non of the other giants get). I was intrigued at what possibilities this little "stone in the rough" might posses, if only I would 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? Forgot to google it), and it gave me some ideas. The more O worked on this, the more excited I became, as suddenly this forgotten giant race bloomed to be an intriguing, challenging and fun monster to run.
And now, presenting to you- the new and improved stone giant!
Role and Concept
SpoilerGiants at large are used as heavy melee combatants by the DM, usually 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), in order to make them not just melee brutes, but intelligent beings with a specific unique culture.
Though the party may fight but a few giants, they are not alone, and the support from their community should be felt.For this I developed some powers, practices, relations and tools for the culture (Some of which unique to these stone giants).
So, the role changed from that of "A bigger ogre, with earth themes" to that of a deeper community, with it's own practices, and special features. Yes, they can be brutes, but they can be more... much more.
SpoilerThe 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. They are very traditional and slow to change, and their elders are learn secrets they use to protect their community, their land, and care for it. Most stone giant communities dwell in a mountainous region, though they can be found in most fairly wild, and open locations.
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.
The center of their mystical power comes from the Central Geode (A massive formation of intricate rock, at the center of their community. This is a name given in common, the giant's own name is complex, with deep spiritual meaning). The elder of the group (A spiritual adviser/ tribe shaman type of personality, but not necessarily) uses it to channel powers to serve the community. The powers are varied- 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.
As par of the new design, there is also a sub group of the giants deserves a special reference- the Thunder Claps. The legend said that giants 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. 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, (the common tongue translation) composed mostly (but not entirely) of individuals with similar powers. These groups move between small communities, and perform certain religious rights, and also serve to trade and correlate distant communities. The religious 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:
Their place in the world:
SpoilerThe giants form very tight knit little communities, and most focus on animal husbandry, a bit of agriculture and elaborate stone craft. The community shape and transform their territory in ways, some more subtle, some less:
- The Watchers: Giants who are close to death (Either through natural causes, or through physical means) 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, and the giant... some transforms/ falls asleep/ lays in waiting...
These monuments could be seen anywhere where stone giants reside. As time goes by more and more of the Watcher seem to become ingrained in it's natural surroundings, becoming more of the stone. Yet the face is always clear. Stone giantslearn 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. (A sort of divination effect, enabled only through the watchers in the region).
Yet there is more- if the situation grows dire, the elder can even use the Geode to animate a watcher, to protect their 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 are most times nomadic, and as such find it difficult to benefit the protection of the Geode or the watchers. (Yet, if they are in the territory of a community, it is custom to alert the elder, who then watches them and offers protection while they stay there). 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 Thunder Claps, in a similar way that the Central Geode do with the common stone giants. 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, and focus on their families, close communities, and the care for the earth. Though naturally cautious, they do however display the full range of behaviors and responses common to other races, such as curiosity, anger, aggressiveness, welcoming and more. Each community usually develops long standing views about the surrounding people, opinions forged overlong centuries, with memories of stone.
Stone giant, despite their focus on a specific local, actually migrate every several decades or so (Druids have often pondered about this, as the giants themselves reluctantly refer to some "Tides of the earth", "Balance of stone", "The shifting rock" and other obscure terms). The Elders decide upon this a few years in advance, and then the leader of the tribe picks a few talented giants, to scout the way. The road is usually fairly long, taking several years. This is largely due to the Central Geode, which cannot be recharged while traveling, and so periodic stays are scheduled. The migrations of different communities usually happens almost in sync, where one tribe arrive at the territory of another, just as that one is about to leave.
But migrations are not the only cases where stone giants are found outside their territories- a more common case is The Pebble. A small group of young giants just reaching maturity is sent away from the community for several years, to learn more about the world. They could offer their services, wander on their own, and more... For this period of time, they must not enter any known stone giant community. Through experience, the young pebble grows into a rock.
Such small detached groups are often granted a "Minor Geode" which enables the small group to gain some benefits similar to the Central Geode, (Though lessened) but not the elder's powers, and they cannot recharge it. Tending to the minor Geode teaches them conservation, and also offers some back up, and a connection to their home.
In Thunder's Step groups are almost always migrating, but they follow the patterns of storms rather then specific stone giant settlements. From time to time they visit other groups of stone giants, to exchange goods, share news and info about more distant communities, and perhaps help a new member of their kind to join their group. The Thunderclap also have a special an emissary role, which will be discussed shortly
SpoilerStone giants in general aren't very social and tend to avoid outsiders. Many times travelers only see the glimpse of a giant, and from then on no giants, just perhaps those odd monuments every now and then... When the giants do deal with others, the whole range of possible interactions is open. There are however some notable special cases:
- Dwarves: 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, but cautious and avoid hostility, 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: These 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... Yet these days, the peculiarities of the specific people matter more, though a general friendly attitude is the default.
- Other 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 stone giants from political giant conflicts. Perhaps this is due to their withdrawn and slow to act nature. In Thunder's Step groups seem to fit a special role in this- They act as emissaries and messengers between far and wide communities. Some theorize that the ancient storm giants have been instrumental in creating the Thunder Claps, and have placed upon them this duty/ burden/ role... Though now there are far, far less giants then in olden days, In Thunder's Step groups keep 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 giants 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 Thunder Clap 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. The enormous rocs however, are considered sacred by most communities. Many giant communities (and especially Thunde rClaps) revere them, as representations of some ancient power or bond. Rocs who live inside a community's territory will benefit from staunch defense, 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. The most commonly encounter of "giant brutes in the service of someone else" type fights and experience 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 rarely trust others to form an alliance, yet if this does happen, the alliance is strong, and can last centuries. The allies are usually given a gift- a small Calling Geode, which enables it's holder to alert the Elder by touching a watcher (Similar to how giants call their elders). Watchers might be placed in the allies homes/ near vicinity, for such an instance, and to keep watch...
As before, the following ideas are rough sketches, to support the above flavor. 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 form a Pebble. there are two younger varieties: Juvenile at 10HD, and young adult at 12 HD. Their statistics change accordingly:
- Lessened strength for the juvenile
- One less natural armor per age category.
- The rocks used cause less damage.
- The age mostly impact on the spell like powers the giants can get from their Stone/ Earth Link feats (This 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 abilities, 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 1st level domain spell as a spell like ability, and any 2 more HD gives him access to another spell level. A regular 14 HD giant gains all domain spells up to the 3rd level as a spell like ability. (A small note about "Magic stones"- the giant's version makes their rocks magical, and deal damage as one size larger). 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.
- 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...Legends say that while regular stone giants are made into watchers, the elders are absorbed to the Geode, and add to it's wisdom and power It cannot be easily carried, so 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. While I haven't wrote down the specifics of this system, I think this could easily be adjusted to the play, or decided by plot needs. The powers are as follows:
powers usable by all stone giants:
- "Alert the watcher": By touching a watcher, the Geode begins to tremble (Could be many miles away). If an Elder then touches it, s/he could sense which watcher was touched, and act accordingly. This power takes minor energy from the Geode.
Community powers, usable only by giants 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'm thinking about 2-3HD, +2 natural armor, 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... earth toned. The giant gains access to a spell-like power greater by one level than the normal for a short time. This power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Geode.
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 watcher at a time, though most elders do 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 elder 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 controlling a guardian directly the elder may channel any touch, self, or targeted spell unto the watcher. 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 through it's powers. The stone giants sees the earth elementals as a holy manifestation of the earth itself, 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 will be explained more fully shortly. 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 calling geode to the watcher.
6)Thunder Clap 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 comments concerning the stone giant feats are true here as well.
- Thunder Clap: By birth. The giant is immune to lightning and deafening effects and gains resistance sonic 10, about 1 in 20 giant is a Thunder Clap...
- Thunder/ Storm Link: This feat can only be taken by Thunder Claps, and is similat to the Earth Link feat, only 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. Held only by Thunder Elders, leaders of 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, culturally. 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 farther the spread. The powers:
Usable by 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.
Community powers, usable by giants with the Thunder/storm Link feat:
- "Call of the thunder": The giant's skin begins to vibrate, and then he suddenly emits a sharp burst of shattering thunder (Sonic damage? Deafening effects? Perhaps stun?) Thunder Clap 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 Thunder Clap's domain of weather. this power takes a small but noticeable amount of energy from the Held Storm.
Thunder elder powers:
- 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.