Thursday 8 January 2015

A Green World of Lacerations

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hello I am a small tree covered in syringes 

I was replying to a post amount plants and started writing too much and now it is a blog post

PLANTS : one of the most distinctive things about plants is they don't move and if you make them monsters they generally have to move.

And if moves and it's a plant and you stab it , it doesn't have blood and organs to festoon everywhere and then it just doesn't feel like holiday season.

So that's a thing.

I like plants. They have a huge range of weird chemistrys and evolution tricks to them. Name a industrial chemical and there is prob a plant that makes it somewhere (gutta percha , camphor, turpentine , cyanide..) .

But I don't use them much in games, poss because if you have them just like monsters it just feels like a vegetation option.

(There was a whole thread on this on Zak's g+ and I didn't get around to reading it and possibly am going to be redundant here)

So what are distinctive things about plants that can be d&dable?

Joey already mentions the they are everywhere and maybe some of them will try and kill you but which ones??? problem. Which is a ongoing problem that you can't visually describe everything all the time so you will have to be describing the plants alot previously or it's just a blind ambush situation and if you do it too much the players will do the shuffle shuffle poke poke exploration which is tedious for everyone involved (possibly)

SO having tree and weird plants regular showing up as possible sources of magic, curses, healings and strangements will make it possible to mention a weird plant with out the players immediately setting fire to it.

I plan to do this in the on coming Island campaign with "natural" resources being the stand in for puzzley resourcey trappy things.
Let's do the rest of the ideas with bullet points

o> The disgusting pile of garbage that eats you:

Shambling mounds. If you can really sell this and bring up a visceral memory of disgusting compost or putrid fridge vegetables this will work.

Everyone prob has an experience with something rotten and disgusting that was edible and it's not too much of a jump to imagine it trying to kill you. Also will be too wet to burn , lack internal structure to stab and be immune to a lot other things so using it like the classic Minotaur or a shoggoth is best.

Like lots of foreboding, chances to get away and have it find you again etc

o>Worse living through chemistry:

A tree is poisoning everything around with fine seed, hooked airbourne hairs, or will cause horrible rashes or melt skin with its latex.

An okay stand it for a trap , and is auto maintaining unlike a mechanic trap, "pushing through this area causes sap to be sprayed on the party etc"

Might be more interesting if it's delayed or the plant itself starts growing from the infected area. Like most traps it needs careful information management.

Deliver mechanisms could include sap, fumes, thorns, stinging hairs, contact poison, airborne hairs or seed , sticky or hooked seeds, explosive seed pods, pollen

Effects could include (possibly delayed) welts, rashes , lacerations , flesh melting, paralysis, confusion or delirium , apathy , hallucinations, itchiness to the points of self mutilation , swellings, blindness, become a host to the plant, behaviour modification, nausea ; also vomiting , shitting possibly with blood from organ damage, cancer and choking or suffocation

The plant could benefit from this through protection, deterrence, area denial , fertilization of the soil via copses or dripped blood or pus, or transport of seed or pollen

Ways of using a plant or tree that infects an area and having it less of gotcha could be having everyone know about it and there is bodies with treasure there, (either because they were ignorant or they were deliberately sacrificed after ritual bejewelment) or some of the plants parts are medicine/magic/curse relievers

A range of shitty plants encounters than cause minor discomforts , wounds and ailments is a good way of making a wilderness area notorious

Example of something :

This looks like a mild generic green bush with pinnate compound leaves (kinda like a fern but with the tip most leaflets not reducing). Underneath each leaf is the seed pods which when brushed against spoik out in flesh and screw themselves in. Their corkscrew shape means they will work their way into the muscle with movement and if pulled will break off leaving the tip inside. 
While initially in the muscle it numbs the area only hours later later do they cause pain and discomfort and sleeplessness.
They can be dug out but it requires time and care to remove all of it. Field operations often leave the tip , which will be noticed much later when the anesthetic wears off and it starts causing pain, discomfort and agitation 
Because of this it is most often removed at night near a campfire or fire source. Because the seed pod is a fuckhead it will often be thrown in the fire. Unfortunately exposure to heat allows the seedpod to open and germinate faster than it would left alone. The bushes are thus often found around former campsites.
As well as using fire for germination they will germinate in reaction to lower amounts of salty fluid, ie blood , so the seedpods that have been ripped out of a leg and discarded will sprout and grow into a new Screw-Seed-Bushes too. So you also find them along trails.

Medicinally it can harvested and used to make contact anesthetics and stimulants that cause wakefulness 

  o> Killing It With Fire

It's a common thing in rpgs that plant or wood enemies take more damage from fire than they would if they were meat. Which has also bugged me because you hold a lighter underneath a green tree branch and hold one under your arm and see which one gets fucked up quicker. Your arm is delicate layer of skin over a flammable substance (fat) that will needed a decent amount of heat to get going will burn. A tree , even dried , is no more vulnerable to fire than you are. Anyway the main reasons trees get fucked up by fire is they can't run away. Which is a problem with plant encounters. The party , if aware, will try and burn them.

Ways to increase the mayhem of this is a)making it difficult because green plants don't burn easily

b)smoke sucks. Poisonous plants burning often sucks much much worse and can be a delivery agent for the chemical effects cough 420 cough

c)If you start a fire big and hot enough to burn green material it maybe hot enough to keep burning and now you have a forest fire. Which involved disorinating and choking smoke, fire , weird localized weather, stampeding animals and intense heat. So good luck with that

d)If there was something you wanted on that plant you just burned it.

e)Some plants and trees bet on fire to germinate their seeds and will rapidly recover , often spreading further their original disputation. If a plant has evolved to fuck with people , it's evolved to incorporate their retaliation as well.

So if the players cleared a forest to get rid of patch of thorn slinging hate flowers they might find when they next pass through the area the patch now covers the entire former forest.

Conceivably their might be plants that deliberately fuck with people to get them to start fire.

Gum trees in Australia are known to produce large amount of dry branches and shed bark and if it's hot enough might ignite from the volatile materials in the sap. Gum tree seed germinates after fire and all the other trees have burnt leaving clear bush freshly fertilized with ash.
o> Friendship is ants
Ant shenanigans here

Some plants can have symbiotic relationships with other things that hate you. The classic is some acacia trees having special ant homes so messing with the tree means thorns and ants leaping at you.

Another example is a tree having little murder holes for ants to pop out grab limbs and pull things apart.

Image from Bogleech writing about ant

A wasp or bees nest makes a ranged attacker for a plant monster.

Human symbiotic relationships could include the use of the plant as a ritual poison, a barrier defense (Onga Onga pictured at the start was grown in trenches behind fort walls ), or a initiating toxin that leaves all members with a distinctive appearance and possibly increased fearlessness or pain resistance. Destroying the plant maybe the key to defeating a bastard group of bastards.

Other symbiotic relationships that want to murder you might be elephants growing trees from their skulls. The trees grow horrible acid fruit that the elephants will throw at people. In some seasons the tree makes the elephants more aggressive and belligerent to encourage more fruit to be thrown.

-Goats that binge eat a delicious flower. Later in the season this makes some of them swell up and violently explode if stabbed. This deters people from eating the goats so that's fair right?

-Corpse Lobsters feed on bones and transfer pollen from the bone flower that grows upon bodies. The Bone flower releases a toxin that makes people paranoid and violence prone in a invisible vapour over a wide area.

o> Reefer Madness

A plant (especially a newly introduced one) could be responsible for the new behaviour of monster , people or animals. Either because they are eating it and going nuts, or it releases chemical that make them nuts. Why do the cows attack here? Because plants. The plants might be benefiting or causing horrible transformations or it might just be a fucked up side effect.

The party might be subject to a complete false or altered environment because of a common plant that has been drugging them. Either have hallucinations run like real monsters until they suspect gnomes or do that thing where you describe normal things in too much detail or mention hearing detail so the players themselves act paranoid

Okay I meant to live the house hours ago and I haven't shower and I'm in my underwear because it is summer right now fuck you northern hemisphere

IN conclusion the fuck you ness of plants in 4 points:

Vast range of chemical arsenals

Getting other things to do the work for them / Using other creatures behaviour to their benefit include hostile actions

Can keep regrowing or taking up more and more space

Happy to stay in one place being a dick forever

Invulnerability to bunch of stuff that normally makes livings dies

Here are some further readings on bastard plants

Plant used for Ordeal justice

Plant that burns and causes blindness

Look here is the wiki link on poisonous plants


  1. A world of killer plants has a nature god who is pugnacious to all animal life. Who can stop Mother Nature?

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  3. I've been thinking through a pulpy, everything-wants-to-kill-you jungle for a while now, and I think that metal vs skin post settles the problem I've had trying to make the plants scary without running into them being The Encounter. How do you think you would try that with these/would you?

    1. have the plants figure into the maps and storys told about the place. Like "yeah there is good eating frogs there but you have to go through the madness thorn valley" Have plants always being a potential resource or weapon , so making a bait to tampering with unusual specimens. Keep hinting that a poison or a weird smell is causing effects when maybe it isn't. Have corpse of powerful animals weirdly distorted from poison or paratises. Have some plants do weird shit without explanation.