Monday, January 7, 2013

Giants in the Earth

Sometimes ideas flow more easily than at other times. In this case, I was reading the Skull & Bones book's entry for island giants and it started me thinking. With a little bit of research online, I found the makings for some interesting ways of incorporating giants in a piratical campaign. The net result of this is the following article.


The Giants of Patagonia

This article is inspired by the entry for the island giant from Chapter 13 of the Skull & Bones rulebook. It is intended to build on the information presented there, including details from world mythology and specific historical references to encounters with them. In this way, the giants can be more intricately woven into the tapestry of a campaign setting.

The Origins of the Giants
Depending on the region in which they are told, stories vary widely about how the first giants came to exist. For example, the Greek record presented in the Theogony claims that the gigantes were the offspring of the Earth mother, Gaea, when she was impregnated by the blood of Ouranos following his castration at the hands of his son Cronus. They fought against the gods on behalf of the titans, hoping to overthrow Zeus and the other Olympians. In a variation on this theme, two of the giants—Otus and Ephialtes—tried to stack mountains on top of each other so that they could reach the dwelling of the gods atop Mount Olympus. Another example of giants from Greek mythology include the Laestrygonians, cannibals who killed most of the fellow crew members of Odysseus.

The Judeo-Christian tradition is perhaps the best known, however. According to the Old Testament (Genesis 6:1-4):

When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them,
The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." The nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

These giants, then, were the cause of God's wrath and thus the flood. Some of them managed to survive it, however, and (like Goliath, Gog and Magog) went on to do battle with Jewish heroes for centuries thereafter.

There are still many other examples. In the Norse tradition the giants are known as the Jotun, and were enemies of the gods, just like among the Greeks. Indeed, the Norse giants were such formidable foes that, it was believed, they and the gods who destroy each other in an epic battle at the end of this world. Finnish folklore tells of a giant shaman, Antero Vipunen, from whom the hero Vainamoinen learned ancient magic. British legends tell of another giant, Gogmagog, whom the early settlers of Britain had to conquer in order to have peace in the realm.

Although there is considerable variation in all of these tales, a few common details stand out amongst them. The giants, not surprisingly, are quite powerful—and not just because of their size and strength. Some of them possess magical abilities, and most have some kind of supernatural origin connected to ancient powers in the world. Many were considered to be a danger to humans, and a few even threatened the gods themselves.

Disappearance and Rediscovery
It is because of this unending conflict with humankind that the giants tried to leave the settled parts of the world behind them. For that reason they set out across the Atlantic Ocean, seeking places where there was little human occupation. Some of them tried different territories that were remote at the time, such as Albion. Others ended up in various parts of North and South America; this is doubtless what gave rise to various native stories of encounters with giants. The largest group by far, however, eventually settled on the southernmost point of this new continent, in the region that would come to be known as Patagonia.

This seclusion finally started to unravel when the Portuguese captain Ferdinand Magellan made his famous voyage of circumnavigation. While passing between the mainland and Tierra del Fuego, he and his crew witnessed a curious sight: "One day we suddenly saw a naked man of giant stature on the shore... He was so tall that we reached only to his waist, and he was well proportioned..." These reports led to the giants being given the name Patagon, a reference to the large footprints they left behind. When those who'd survived the voyage (not including Magellan, who was killed by natives in the Philippines) reported the discovery, it caused a sensation. Due to the remote nature of where it happened, however, others could only speculate but not investigate what had been seen.

There's a curious side note to this tale. As Magellan and his crew were passing through the Strait, some of his captains attempted mutiny. Although reports differ, it is known that at least one captain was executed, while another, along with a priest, were marooned in the area. Most people assume this insubordination occurred because these men had wearied of the dangerous voyage, but others suspect that their might have been other reasons.

Years later another band of explorers encountered the Patagon when Sir Francis Drake led a similar voyage. It was his chaplain, Francis Fletcher, who reported on the encounter. Similarly, sailors aboard two later vessels (both in the 1590s) reported related encounters; one saw graves for bodies some twelve feet tall, while the other reported actually being attacked by the giants.

Even given these detailed reports, other voyages failed to find the elusive giants. Given the scientific enlightenment that has arisen during the Renaissance and afterward, many people now view the stories with skepticism. Those who are familiar with the history of the giants, however, know that this skepticism is just what the giants would want to encourage.

Lifestyle and Culture
The Patagon, as they are known, have a nomadic lifestyle—one that fits well with their desire to stay away from human attention. As such, they move between various cave complexes, following the animals that live close to them. Those who live in the islands around Tierra del Fuego hunt the guanaco (an animal resembling a llama) and rhea (a bird rather like an ostrich). To that end they employ large bolas, which they hurl at and thus entangle their prey. Those who live near the sea also use spears for hunting fish, venturing forth in massive dugout canoes.

As far as religion is concerned, the giants practice a form of ancestor worship. Some scholars speculate that this is because the giants have always been the enemies of humans and their gods, and so choose to revere their own fallen progenitors instead of other powers. For this reason the giants maintain small shrines to those who have died, usually in the same place where they bury their dead. Of course, given the long lives that giants have, they do not often lose members of their tribes. As such, these shrines are kept somewhere near the territory in which the giants travel and hunt. Other tales tell of savage, cannibal giants who consume the bodies of their fallen comrades in order to inherit their physical and spiritual strength. Some scholars speculate that, if the giants do possess ancient lore or lost relics, it is these shrines where such items might be found.

In their seclusion the giants have one set of companions, dire wolves. These creatures are the size of horses, but look like normal wolves in comparison to the giants. They are utterly loyal to their large companions, helping with hunting and defense while benefitting from having intelligent fellows. Thus the two groups provide mutual protection and assistance for each other.

Among the giants, two forms of entertainment are most notable. One is rock throwing and catching, a game that helps train younger giants for combat. Another is storytelling. This allows the giants to pass along the history and traditions of their kind; these tales could include any of the ones told by humans, as mentioned above, although the versions told by the giants no doubt vary according to their different point of view.

Giant Characters
Detailed here are several types of giants that vary from the statistics presented in Chapter 13 of the Skull & Bones rulebook. Note that they reflect a fairly primitive lifestyle, as detailed above. It is entirely possible that other giants live a much more civilized existence.

Giant Hunter
Giant Ranger 4; CR 11; Size large; HD 12d8+4d10+64; hp 140; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 40 ft., swim 30 ft.; AC 19 (-1 size, -1 Dex, +9 natural, +2 leather armor); Atk +21/+16/+11 (1d10+12, large longspear) or +12/+7/+2 (2d6+8, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching, favored enemy (humans), Track, wild empathy, combat style, Endurance, animal companion; AL N; SV: Fort +16, Ref +7, Will +5; Str 26, Dex 8, Con 19, Int 6, Wis 10, Cha 17.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +9, Handle Animal +7, Hide +6, Jump +8, Listen +7, Move Silently +6, Spot +11, Survival +7, Swim +16.
Feats: Cleave, Impale, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (greatclub).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.

These giants specialize in tracking and killing animals—and other quarry, should there be need. They specialize in using spears in close combat, and are known to impale enemies and prey. In temperament they are closer to the shamans than other giants, although they can be ruthless when in pursuit of a foe. They generally choose dire wolves as their animal companions.

Giant Shaman
Giant Cleric 4; CR 11; Size large; HD 16d8+48; hp 120; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 40 ft., swim 30 ft.; AC 20 (-1 size, -1 Dex, +9 natural, +3 hide armor); Atk +17/+12/+7 (2d8+7, large greatclub) or +11/+6/+1 (2d6+5, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching, turn or rebuke undead, spells; AL N; SV: Fort +15, Ref +4, Will +12; Str 20, Dex 8, Con 17, Int 6, Wis 18, Cha 17.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +7, Heal +11, Jump +6, Knowledge: religion +7, Spot +8, Swim +14.
Feats: Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (greatclub).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.
Spells per day: 5/4+1/3+1. Domains: Animal and Plant.

More peaceful than other island giants, shamans carry on their connection to the past. They study the healing arts and thus have more respect for all living things. Even so, they can be very protective of their fellows, especially when it comes to threats to their society. Note: Refer to the article “Clerics in the New World” for suggestions about how to add divine magic to a Skull & Bones campaign.

Adolescent Giant
Giant; CR 4; Size medium; HD 8d8+16; hp 52; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 40 ft., swim 30 ft.; AC 21 (-1 Dex, +9 natural, +3 hide armor); Atk +11 (1d10+7, greatclub) or +5 (2d6+5, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching; AL N; SV: Fort +8, Ref +2, Will +3; Str 21, Dex 8, Con 15, Int 6, Wis 10, Cha 17.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +8, Jump +7, Spot +2, Swim +8.
Feats: Weapon Focus (greatclub).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.

These young giants are approaching the age of majority and thus are starting to learn the ways of their elders. For that reason, they may accompany others on hunting trips or other such educational opportunities. While they won't rush into combat, they do provide a second line of defense should a settlement be attacked.

Juvenile Giant
Giant; CR 2; Size small; HD 4d8; hp 18; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 40 ft., swim 30 ft.; AC 19 (+1 size, -1 Dex, +9 natural); Atk +6 (1d8+4, small greatclub) or +2 (1d6+3, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching; AL N; SV: Fort +3, Ref +1, Will +2; Str 17, Dex 8, Con 11, Int 6, Wis 10, Cha 17.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +4, Jump +4, Spot +1, Swim +4.
Feats: None.
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.

These little giants are generally non-combatant, only entering combat in direct self-defense. Of course, older giants rush to protect them should they be threatened.

Savage Giant
Giant Barbarian 4; CR 11; Size large; HD 12d8+4d12+64; hp 144; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 50 ft., swim 40 ft.; AC 20 (-1 size, -1 Dex, +9 natural, +3 hide armor); Atk +21/+16/+11 (2d8+12, large greatclub) or +13/+8/+3 (2d6+8, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching, fast movement, rage 2/day, uncanny dodge, trap sense +1; AL N; SV: Fort +16, Ref +4, Will +5; Str 26, Dex 8, Con 19, Int 6, Wis 10, Cha 17.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +13, Jump +13, Spot +4, Survival +7, Swim +16.
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Power Attack, Weapon Focus (greatclub).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.

These island giants have adopted a brutal lifestyle. They hate interlopers of any kind and attack them on sight, working themselves into a vicious frenzy as they do so.

Giant Magician
Giant Wizard 4; CR 11; Size medium; HD 12d8+4d4+48; hp 112; Init -1 (-1 Dex); Spd 40 ft., swim 30 ft.; AC 17 (-1 size, -1 Dex, +9 natural); Atk +15/+10 (2d6+7, greatclub) or +10/+5 (2d6+5, rock); SQ Rock throwing and catching; AL N; SV: Fort +11, Ref +4, Will +8; Str 20, Dex 8, Con 16, Int 17, Wis 10, Cha 14.
Background: NA.
Skills: Climb +6, Concentration +9, Jump +5, Knowledge: arcane +10, Spellcraft +10, Spot +4, Swim +13.
Feats: Cleave, Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Power Attack, Spell Focus (Illusion), Weapon Focus (greatclub).
Fortunes: NA.
Equipment: Greatclub, throwing rocks.
Spells per Day: 4+1/4+1/3+1.
Spells known: All 0-level spells except from the evocation and necromancy schools; color spray, comprehend languages, disguise self, identify, mage armor, shield, silent image, ventriloquism; blur, hypnotic pattern, invisibility, minor image.

These giants are reclusive, but still important to the rest of their society. It is they who study the ancient magic, hoping to find the means to prevent humans from rediscovering giantkind. Ironically, it is this knowledge of the arcane arts that makes them intriguing objects of pursuit for some humans.

Using the Giants in a Campaign
Island giants can be used in a Skull & Bones campaign in a variety of ways; a few of the possibilities are presented here.
  • Sailors aboard an English whaling ship, while plying the waters near Tierra del Fuego, spy what they believe to be a giant; when word reaches a prominent naturalist (such as Dr. Mordechai Smith, from a previous Interlude), he recruits the PC's to help investigate the matter.
  • Alternately, the PC's could just be passing through the area, perhaps bound for the Pacific Ocean, when they spy a towering figure in the distance; it's up to them to decide whether or not they want to pursue contact.
  • Another possibility is that a young Spanish nobleman decides to go looking for the remains of an ancestor who sailed with Magellan and was marooned or executed. Just how this person comes into contact with the PC's, however, could require some finagling on the part of the GM.
  • Alternately, someone who suspects that the giants possess ancient lore or lost relics might arrange an expedition to visit Patagonia. This could be an out-and-out raid, or these intentions might be concealed behind one of the aforementioned scenarios.
  • As humans continue to explore the world and thus make more and more voyages through the giants' territory, they could become hostile and begin attacking passing ships.

New Rule and Feat
Detailed here are a new optional game rule and feat, especially useful for large characters.

New Rule: Long Stride
According to the core rules for the D20 System, characters and creatures can take a five-foot step as a free action without being exposed to attacks of opportunity. While this makes sense for humans and others of medium stature, it seems less appropriate for large (and even bigger) creatures that have longer strides. For that reason, this optional rule allows characters and creatures can take a free step of a distance based on their size: medium = 5 feet; large = 10 feet; huge = 15 feet; gargantuan = 20 feet; colossal = 25 feet.

New Feat: Impale
When using spears and similar weapons, you can drive them through the flesh of your opponents and thus hold them in one position.
Prerequisites: Base attack bonus +6, Power Attack feat, proficiency with appropriate weapon.
Benefit: If you hit with an attack and do damage to an opponent, you can make a grapple attempt. This is resolved as normal. If it succeeds, the opponent is considered grappled, but can choose to suffer base damage from the weapon (without a Strength bonus), as a free action, in order to escape.
Normal: You cannot impale opponents with your weapon.
Special: This feat can only be used with the following weapons: longspear, halberd, ranseur, boarding pike. Feats that provide benefits for other grapple checks do not apply to the grapple check made to resolve impaling an opponent.

Related Relics
Detailed here are a number of magical items inspired by the legends of giants from around the world. They could be useful tools for the PC's to wield against such foes, or items that the giants themselves seek to acquire.

Bronze Armor of Goliath
This breast-and-back armor, forged from bronze, is sized to fit a huge creature. The style of craftmanship is clearly very old, harking back to Biblical times. It is enchanted with a +2 enhancement bonus, and possesses invulnerability—that it, it grants damage reduction of 5/magic to its wearer. Note that, while some giants view it as a relic of the ancient race that should be prized and used by giant warriors in battle, others regard it as a reminder of the aggression that has led to the downfall of the race.

Bronze Spear of Goliath
This spear, with a metal head on a wooden shaft, closely resembles the armor mentioned above. It, too, is sized for a huge creature. The weapon is imbued with a +2 enhancement bonus, along with the wounding quality. As such, it causes one point of Constitution damage to targets of a successful attack. Although a potent weapon, some giants regard it with the same sense of disapproval that they have for Goliath's armor.

Four Stones of David
According to the story in the Bible, the shepherd David, after deciding to face Goliath, collected five stones from a nearby stream. In the end he only needed one with which to defeat his opponent. What few know, however, is that the other stones still retain their divinely magical properties, having +2 enhancement bonuses along with the greater slaying property (DC 23 save) versus giants. They are of such a size that they can be used with slings, or if fired from a special wide-bore firearm, essentially a portable swivel gun. It is believed that agents of the Vatican may have gathered these weapons in order to use them against giants.

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