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Standing Stonesby Giovanni Paniccia
Standing stones are large, shaped stones that rise from the ground to towering heights. In some cases, their presence in a forest, on a bleak moor, or atop a lonely hill automatically qualifies an area as a sacred place, even if it lacks other natural beauty.
Perhaps the standing stones mark a site sacred to prehuman peoples (elves, for instance) or prehistoric tribes.
Though sometimes stones stand alone, they more often join together to form various arrangements. A single standing stone is called a megalith--either a shaped slab or a more natural, tapering obelisk. Two shaped stones placed upright with a third laid across their tops constitutes a trilithon. Several megaliths or trilithons frequently form patterns, usually circles or horseshoe shapes.
Individual stones may weigh 5 to 25 tons each and stand 10 to 30 feet tall. A large circle may take a generation to build, unless powerful earth magic or suitable monsters (treants, earth elementals, or giants) help in the construction.
Standing stones fall into one of two categories: magical and nonmagical.
Nonmagical Standing Stones
Many standing stones have no innate magical properties, although they may have been built by magic.
Boundary Markers. Stones can simply mark the sacred area's borders, a common practice when a circle of trees is inappropriate.
Natural Observatory. The stones might serve as a primitive astronomical calculator (as in the case of Stonehenge), their positions marking eclipses, equinoxes, and other important solar and lunar dates whose exact times remain important for religious reasons and for maintaining the agricultural calendar. Usually one such astronomical circle of stones exists in every major druidic domain. Creating such a circle requires two proficiencies: astrology and engineering. In some cases, these circles are relics left behind to mark the visits (and predict the eventual returns) of spelljamming space druids.
Monuments. The lives of particularly notable historical figures can merit great megalith memorials. Sometimes treasure or a body lies buried under the stone. In rare instances, although the stone has no magic, the body beneath it rests in magical suspended animation--think of King Arthur, waiting for Merlin to awaken him.
Magical Standing Stones
Magical standing stones can serve any of the nonmagical variety's purposes. Standing stones may become magical through association with druidic rites, Immortal intervention, or via the normal process used to create magical items. DMs deciding that a stone has magic either pick its powers from those described below or roll on Table 6. Add a +1 bonus to rolls for standing stones that help form a trilithon.
Table: Powers of Standing Stones
d4 Power 1 Petrified entity 2 Stone guardian 3 Peaceful stones 4 Speaking stones 5 Trilithon gate
Petrified Entity. The magical stone is actually a huge being--often a giant or titan-- that has been so weathered and overgrown with moss or ivy over the years its original humanoid form is no longer discernible. It radiates magic and may return to life if a dispel magic or stone to flesh spell succeeds. Depending on its alignment and the reason it became petrified, the creature may feel either grateful or hostile to its rescuer. A petrified entity usually points to the work of dual-class wizard/druid or of a forester.
Stone Guardian. Once per day, the steward of the stone can order the stone to come to life for one turn per level of the druid. The animated stone fights as a 16 HD earth elemental, but if it leaves the grove it reverts to a normal stone and may not be reanimated until returned to the grove--a Herculean task, since it weighs several tons! If injured, the magical stone heals at a rate of 1 hit point per turn--within the grove only.
Peaceful Stones. The standing stones exert a calming influence on the earth. No earthquake spells may succeed within a radius that measures (in feet from the centre of the stone or cluster) a distance equal to the number of stones in the circle. Since no earthquakes or volcanic eruptions occur in this area, peaceful stones often stand near volcanoes or faults. Removing them could spell disaster for nearby forests and towns!
Speaking Stones. Any druid can cause any standing stones in the grove to speak, per the stone tell spell. Characters can use this power as often as desired, but the stones speak for no more than three rounds per day. Stewards use this power to learn whether intruders have visited the grove while they were away; druids who find a strange grove could use it to become familiar with the grove's history and keepers (if any).
Trilithon Gate. Characters passing under the stones may emerge from any other sacred grove in the world that also has a trilithon gate, no matter how distant. Those who have a particular gate in mind reach it; otherwise, characters come through a random gate. Anyone can travel via trilithon gate only once per day; it is impossible to go through and return again immediately.
Adapted from AD&D2ed "Complete Druid's Handbook".