- "the power of youth. literally the power!": to start of the list of encounters, i'd start with the closest thing in my concept to the "fight with a giant brute" sort of encounter. i speak of course of the Pebble group. the group of young giants is hired by an adversary of the players, and at some point or another they fight. pretty ordinary, but there are some notable differences.
first- the giants make good use of their spell like powers granted by the Link feats. (make at least one a thunderclap for variety). stoneshape could create pits, block passages, create cover and so on. call lightning can harass spell casters, while fog cloud provide concealment.
second- the Pebble has the Minor Geode for extra support. either make them stronger, or buff up their spell like abilities.
third- living away from their community, these giants are probably better equipped than the usual "giant swing club" stereotype. this is particularly true for thunderclaps.
fourth- more a matter of flavor, but important non the less- the age group. we're talking teenagers and young adults here- they are brash, enthusiastic, making lewd comments and jokes, egging their friends and so on. oh, and they are a few meters tall delivering a really serious punch...
- "real estate brokers": the other chance to meet a fairly small group of these giants is the migration scouting groups. a bit larger than Pebbles, these groups are comprised from the best of the clan/ tribe. an encounter with them is a far more strategic and tactical event.
a settlement in a mountainous area is harassed by stone giants. at first the harassment was merely to inconvenience, but recently things started to get worse. what is weird is that there haven't been any stone giant here for ages! (though there are those peculiar stone statues all over the region). attempts to find a base of operation have failed miserably.
this is actually a scouting group, preceding the main tribe by a few weeks/ months/ years. they are determined to get rid of the "land poachers", in order to start preparing it for the tribe. they use guerrilla tactics, aiming to drive the people away more than outright kill them. but if time gets pressing, they are willing to do what it takes. to make things more complicated this group avoids talking about the reasons for it's actions (fearing to expose the actual tribe), and goes to great lengths to prevent capture.
this is an encounter/ adventure suited more for the thinking kind of players, and offers no clear cut solution. it can go many ways, and have many possibilities for various tactical combat. (ambushing the adventurers, sabotaging supplies, using the spell like abilities to alter the terrain, and more) things might get far more complicated if the party actually kills the scouting group, only to find some time later that a whole tribe of giants, with their elders and weird magic just arrived...
- "a case of mistaken identity": as the party enters an area well known for gentle reclusive stone giants, they are suddenly confronted by angry ones, perhaps with an elemental by them, accusing them of some crime! when the party tries to explain it wasn't them, the giant reply "oh! you said you weren't here! but our watchers saw you, and watchers don't lie!"
an enemy of the party with shape shifting/ illusion abilities entered the mountain range shortly before the party came. it used it's talents to hide it's true nature, before committing some crime (destroying art, killing cattle, attacking a young giant, and such). the villain made sure it was all done in front of a Watcher though, before slinking away. if the party don't explain themselves they might have serious problems on their hands.
some sample classic instances for this- the party chases a villain and s/he does this as a diversion, through them of his/her trail. the party travels in a caravan, either guarding something or someone. as the party is occupied with the allegations, the villain steals/ assassinates the guarded.
- "reinforcements on their way!": the party have just dealt a serious blow to a group of creatures, and is now busy attacking the main lair/ village/ fortress... as they reach a central area, they see one of the creatures leaders pressing a small stone to a big statue (or statues?) in the middle of the place. a few seconds later, the statues come alive! oh well, the party fought constructs before... only this one doesn't really act like on- it fights smart, hits accurately, and where did the buffing spell come from? oh, and we have an earth elemental spring as well?
the statues are of course watchers, and these are allies to giants. (the stone is a Calling Geode). this is a sort of a surprise encounter in many ways- unexpected enemies, fighting in unexpected ways, and if what that leader yells at the characters is right- there are giant's on the way!
the idea is to have an encounter that injects new tension, new urgency into the play. by adding the "giants are coming! giants are coming!" element you also inject that vital thing that keeps a game interesting- time pressure.
- "the fugitive, Stone giant style!": the presence of watchers grants a really unique surveillance power for a community in it's region. a unique challenge for your adventure is creating some situation in which the party is deep within stone giant territory, and is for some reason is suddenly considered a threat. now the entire community mobilizes after them. this means scouting groups, perhaps giant eagles, and the ever present, ever silent numerous watchers... they merge fairly good with their background, and they are usually set at points that promise a great view.
when the group is found many resources are diverted towards them- the giants themselves, but more immediately- the watchers themselves, perhaps with an elemental to accompany. the party should ideally be able to defeat each little threat, but at a cost. escaping the region should require stealth, wilderness tactics, and smarts. the one really fun thing about this for a DM is to utilize the entire community.
some possible situations that lead to this one: the previous encounter, the party stealing eggs of giant eagles or Rocs. the party trying to steal a Central Geode, and more.
- "a heavy burden- a dead giant's last wish": the party witness (perhaps even assist) in a battle between two giants and some other monster (which might escape). at the end of the battle one of the giants is dying (negative hp, but stabilized), but the other urges the party not to heal it! the giant explains tat it goes against their beliefs, and that if they heal him he won't be able to become a Watcher later on (equivalent of robbing the giant of their after life). it then says that the emulation ceremony must be done quickly, but for that he must alert the Elder.
the giant goes searching for another watcher, to make contact, but not before asking the party to transport the unconscious giant to one of the places destined for watchers... and hurry, because time is of the essence! the party is left with the trouble of transporting the giant to it's place (which is a problem by itself. these fellows don't come light!), all the while watching for any other threats that might kill it too soon (for example- the escaping monster). they can heal it, but then risk bad reactions from the giants, they can kill it or leave it, and expect worse. or they can try to do what was asked of them..
the task is unique, and requires unconventional thinking. it may also be seem as annoying to some. this encounter is there efor best suited for "goody" groups, or groups who like immersion in the world, it's culture, and details. the actual "becoming a watcher" ceremony is a special experience, and they might also gain favor with the community for time to come?
- "In Thunder's Step, your ears go BOOM!": though ThunderClap giants can appear in all of the above scenes (as well they should, though they are a distinct and small minority), they really come to their own in their nomadic traveling groups. there they have their own stylish ways, more powers granted by the Held Storm and Elders, and perhaps most importantly- they are the norm, not the exceptions.
these nomadic groups enables the characters to see esoteric parts of giant lives. first- they give more depth to the common stone giant- they stand in contrast to them, but are also part of their culture.
second- they shed some light on the world of giants in general. being emmiseries between the different groups they may shed much light on them. in fact, one of the main reason for an adventuring group to join In Thunder's Step is to be able to reach hidden giants, or converse with them in a relatively safe manner.
last- these giants have a special relationship with the storm giants, and any who wishes to learn about this mighty creatures may do well to seek the Thunder Elder.
if the party does join the thunder clap, a small battle may explain why the Thunderclaps never built communities with the stone giants themselves. as battle erupts, they begin using their special powers, and the powers of the Held Storm. the Call of thunder means the party will find itself in the middle of booming sonic thunders! (make sure to have a recording of a thunder storm for this session...). most chances the characters will be deafened in no time which will lead to a lot of "what? attack who? what are you talking about? why are you going there? i told you to go there!" (you might ask your deafened players to just cover their ears till it's their turn. or rely on mature players...) together with call lightning, and perhaps sleet storms the battle will look like a little storm indeed! (oh, make sure it's a sunny lovely day before the encounter...)
this encounter is mostly for flavor, and to show the vast contrast to the common giants. but it could also be amusing, and overwhelming...
- "don't shoot the messenger! but then again, perhaps you should": this last "encounter" is actually a suggestion for a campaign, or part of a campaign. it somewhat enables you to use many of the above mentioned scenes in some way or another. the idea is far from complete, but it is enough to show how giants can become major forces in the campaign.
the main BBEG is a Thunder Elder, who secretly harbors some dark cause, far exceeding the usual "emmiserial" role appointed to his kind long ago. outwardly this Elder is charming, open, and have even gained some fame between humanoid groups as wise and insightful. secretly the Elder uses it's diplomatic skills and special position to sow unrest and concern amongst the various giant groups (not just stone) in the region/s. also, he persuades a small homeless community of stone giants (from "real estate brokers") to locate to a previously uninhabited (or perhaps long deserted) mountainous area, which they slowly turn into his vast fortress.
the various giant groups start attacking or harassing other settlements, and the party is forced to try and help. the BBEG tells the party of a way to cripple a small community of small giants (after finding he can't really subvert them to his cause) by killing their main elder (who knows his secret, and just waits for another Storm Elder to come). as the party does the feat, they are chased by the lot of the tribe (who has another younger Elder to operate the Geode). they might battle Pebbles here and there, meet with giant allies, and of course have their ears go Boom while traveling with the BBEG's own nomadic group. when the BBEG departs the group, the party might escort one of the ThunderClap Secret initiate to the mysterious castle of a storm giant, and help him become the new Thunder Elder.
the full powers of the Held Storm could come into play at the final confrontation, or they might be the threat that the party needs to stop. this will be a battle against a whole stone community, with some adjoined thunderclaps and other monsters, with the forces of both Geode and Staff arrayed against them.
and who knows, perhaps the BBEG uncovered some other of the stone giant secrets? there must be a reason why Stone and Thunder were kept apart after all...