The Great Rot stinks more than you can believe. This is because it's literally 24,000 square miles of constantly decaying biomass.
First time visitors usually spend their first couple of days throwing up. Use Con checks to see how fast the PCs acclimate, and how fast their penalties recede. Eventually they'll get used to it, but if they've got two weeks to cross the Great Rot, how many days do they really want to spend in the fort, nursing their stomachs?
Yeasts and other fungi cause a lot of respiratory and skin diseases, but they'll be fine as long as they don't remove their mouth protectors, expose any skin, or submerge themselves in water.
|hahaha I could have posted much grosser pictures|
Instead of dividing when hit by a slashing weapon, this slime is instead capable of throwing half of itself up to 50'. Since it's aiming by scent and vibrations, it gets -4 to this attack roll. On a miss, it lands near its target. On a hit, the target is engulfed.
This sedentary slime preys on animals. It smells supernaturally delicious. It tastes supernaturally delicious. And eating it is invariably fatal, much like swallowing green slime. It looks like molten caramel, and anyone who smells it must make a save to avoid walking over to it and eating it (with some hesitation). Anyone who is hungry (hasn't eaten today) automatically fails this save. This is why Rotsmen never skip meals.
It's also an intermittent-but-significant source of income for the Rotsmen, since it is also a delicacy that often graces the tables of the rich. The trick is to gently boil it, which gently disintegrates the slime but preserves the aroma and flavor. It tastes fucking delicious. Anyone who has eaten faffernacky pudding and survived must make a save or become obsessed with tasting it again. They'll do whatever it takes to get more faffernacky pudding in their lives, and only get another save after a week has passed or they've eaten more faffernacky.
And of course, people have died by eating what they thought was boiled faffernacky pudding, either through incompetence or assassination. But that's only served to make the stuff more popular.
It is rumored that the mischief people, the babarukhs, are immune to acid and slimes, and so serve live faffernacky pudding at their clandestine parties to ensure that everyone present is one of them. (As a race of shapeshifters, they are understandably paranoid at times.)
|this is slime mold|
it can solve mazes
Everyone hates a fyrinx.
They look like small lobsters, except that they have long legs that allow them to scuttle and jump and climb and latch onto faces. They have scorpion tails that contain a poison (save vs. paralysis for 2d6 rounds). Both genders are bone white. They are omnivores, but prefer rotted meat. They usually avoid hunting live game unless they are starving, or they stumble across easy prey.
They're about as intelligent as nine-year-old children, except without any of the playfulness. They can speak to each other in a language of chitters, but cannot make themselves understood to humans. Combined with a penchant for eavesdropping, their linguistic abilities allow them to understand--but not speak--the common human tongue. No mere vermin, this one!
Fyrinxes are always found in mated pairs. They form these pairs even before they are sexually mature, so the lovebirds usually grow up together. They are loyal, and would each sacrifice itself for the sake of the other. Poets would compare their love to the love of fyrinxes, if the latter weren't abominable little spider-lobster-scorpion monsters.
So unless adventurers mess with their cozy, mailbox-sized lairs, fyrinxes are content to avoid adventurers altogether. This changes when the loving couple decides to have babies.
The male fyrinx will sting a large animal (halfling-sized or larger), and while it is paralyzed, the female will crawl down its throat. The pregnant mother will settle down in the stomach, and begin the feng shui required to turn it into a nursery. She will birth one baby a day for the next 2d20 days. Each live-born baby will exit via the anus and scuttle to safety, all while making "safety peeps" to let mama know that everything is alright.
Because here is the trick of the fyrinx mother: she puts her ear right up to the bellybutton, so that she can hear everything that is going on outside (and remember that she can understand words just fine). Then she wraps her barbed tail around a tender organ (liver, heart). Whenever something happens that she doesn't like, she stabs the offender's organ. Organ stabbing deals between 1 and 3d6 Con damage (the lady picks) and she is fast enough to do it as a reaction (since she is just sitting there with her hand on the trigger). The pain is enough to incapacitate a grown barbarian, although they can do simple things (pull a lever, drink a potion) if they make a Cha check.
Things mother fyrinxes hate:
- Sounds of her mate or children being killed.
- Attempts to remove her from her stomach nursury.
- Insufficient flow of food into the stomach nursury.
- Other stuff, like off-key singing and bad puns.
Food is an important one. The babies that the mother births are huge, ideally about 1/3 of the mother's full length. This requires a constant and intense flow of food. She usually lets her displeasure be known after a meal. A person eats a dinner (which she then eats) and afterwards she throttles their liver to let them know HEY that wasn't enough. Keep feeding me. She's only satisfied once the person has eaten 5x the normal amount of rations. (In case you haven't noticed, the proper food management and preparation is one of themes of this place.) In the middle of this shared pregnancy, the landlord can have a distended belly, which looks almost exactly like a normal pregnancy.
She can express her displeasure via pain, which can range anywhere from a -1 penalty to all actions, to a -4 penalty, to a -whatever because she can just squeeze as hard as she wants, even enough to shred a grown man's heart.
At the end of the pregnancy, she'll paralyze her host with a sting, crawl out of the mouth, and rejoin her husband, who has missed her very much.
The male usually follows his wife around, just to make sure that she's okay. He'll stay out of sight for the most part, trying to be stealthy (and they are quite stealthy). His job is to collect the babies and keep them somewhere safe.
Could a resourceful party capture the father and use him to hostage his wife out of her cozy home? Yeah, probably. Can a baby survive on its own if the father isn't there to gather them? Yeah, probably. Could fyrinxes form a society where they enslave humans? Not normally, since mated pairs don't get along very well with other mated pairs. Could the PCs befriend a mated pair and have some sweet monster hirelings? Yeah, probably.
Fyrinxes are 2 HD monsters with a very good AC (tough shell + small size+ agility). They have 4 special abilities. Leap! Paralyzing Sting! Acid immunity! And the whole crawl-down-the-throat-business!
Fungal Giants and Moss Men
Fungal Demons (Fungal Angels)
These are weird motherfuckers that are, blessedly rare. No one is sure which part of the ecology they fit into, since they don't behave like either wild animals or civilized ones. Most people assume that they're demons or angels or nature spirits, or at least servants of those things.
Digression about the setting: Demons, angels, and spirits only differ in their role, not in their essence. Like a murderer, a policeman, and a baker, respectively. Once you strip away their costume and motivations, they're all the same underneath.
Fungal angels tend to be humanoid-sized and humanoid-shaped, but it's a pretty broad bell curve. Roll 2d6-3 to see how many limbs they have, and roll something similar to figure out their size. They fly magically, without wings. They are mottled, bulbous, suppurating masses, topped with a fungal bloom that doesn't even approximate a head.
They despise symmetry, and seek to destroy it whenever they find it. They leave vast swathes of destruction through the Rot, where they have been "sculpting" giant mushrooms into more pleasing examples of asymmetry. This appears to be their only motivation.
They attack with 20' whip tendrils that can disembowel a man with a single stroke, but have a hell of a time getting through armor. (Two attacks per round for 1d8 damage each. They get +4 to hit with each because they are like ninjas trained by a ninjas trained by a cat. However, the damage is reduced by an amount equal to the armor bonus, so if a paladin is wearing plate that gives +6 AC, the lash damage is 1d8-6.)
They can also breathe out clouds of decay that rot any flesh that they come into contact with. (Treat this as cloudkill, but only if it is inhaled. People who hold their breath will do fine. Rotsmen helmets give a bonus to this. It also does some passive rot damage each turn, as the PC's skin will turn wet, black, and begin to slough off.)
They can cast a few druid spells, too, but really they prefer lashing the limbs off unarmored foes, and rotting their face into something less symmetric.
This is an enormous network of mushrooms, connected by a vast network of underground mycelium. It covers the entire central area of the Great Rot. Ten thousand miles of creeping tendrils below and above ground (where they look like black shoestrings, rooted to the mulch). He hear out of little clusters of pale mushrooms, which look quite innocent at first glance. If he wants a better look, he'll grow an eyeball on a stalk, and use that to get a better look.
While the Rotsmen act in the interest of civilization and the October King acts against them, the Dweller-in-Soil is a third, more neutral party. The Dweller-in-Soil is intelligent and has goals of his own. The Rotsmen suspect this, but so far the Dwell-in-Soil has been content to let them remain ignorant of his presence.
It takes a full day for a thought to get from one side of the Dweller to the other. He doesn't have myelinated neurons, after all. His thoughts are conducted along chemical gradients. And so his "mind" is a slurred, fractured thing. Memories come slow and irregularly. Motivations are sometimes obscure, even to the Dweller. The larger he gets, the stronger the tides of dementia are. But it is a peaceful and slow madness. The dweller hesitates when he recognizes irregularities; he doesn't act on them.
The myconoids serve him, although he did not create them. They came to him from underground. With their spore-based method of communication, the Dweller struggles to understand his servants. He has come to the conclusion that they are a divine being, and suspects that they are a hive mind like himself. He has begun to worship the myconoids, and sees secret intentions in all that they do. For their part, his myconoid benefactors work in his interests.
The Dweller believes that humans are a hive mind, too. (And in a way, he's right.) So, he doesn't feel bad when a single human dies. Extinction is the only real death, and death is his only real fear.
And it is a logical fear. Each year the Great Rot shrinks. The frothy pulse of loam slows, and each generation of spores finds live more difficult than their ancestors. In decades or in centuries, the Great Rot will have rotted away.
I'm not even going to give stats for the Dweller-in-Soil, because fighting him would be more like fighting a kudzu infection.
The Rotsmen want to do their job. This means keeping the roads open and the Great Rot contained. Although, in their own way, they'd be sad if the Great Rot disappeared, since this is the first place where most of them have found noble careers, recognition, and a institution where they felt they belonged. However, there are elements within the Rotsmen that hate the Rot, and want to see the whole damn thing burned to the ground. This is certainly the opinion of their patron state, Asria, who has to pay for all this shit.
The Dweller-in-Soil wants life. It wants to continue living. It wants to see the Great Rot continue, or expend, or at least not wither away to nothing. It wants its god, the Myconoids, to be pleased with its service, and thinks that this is what is desired. It is afraid of death, even though it feeds on it.
The October King and the Druids of Decay are the last remnants of Roa Junyo, the gang of druids (and dragons) who tried to destroy all civilization. And although most of these druids aren't even human any more (reincarnation gets messy, sometimes), they haven't given up on their original goal. Their intermediate plan is to reincarnate Aglabendis, probably as a giant mushroom this time. (See also, +Matt Finch's excellent Demonspore). This would have the effect of sucking the magic back out of the surrounding countryside, and destroying the wilderness of the Great Rot.
|these are polypores|
The October King and the Druids of Decay
Y'know, there's already enough stuff swirling around in my head for these guys that I should probably give them their own post. If this ever becomes a hex crawl, they'll be the obvious probably-bad-guys faction.
Every druid is different.
What would a human spore do?
Crown of Rot.
Swarms of dead leaves, hungry and grasping.
Rib cages filled with rot and dead leaves.
Weevils. Borers. Fattened on divinity.
A vast black ocean of ooze, transport.
Wet bark, teeming with insect life, like a subway station.
They live inside the Stump, which is all that remains of the great tree. It's about a quarter mile in height (400 M) and the same in diameter. Water constantly flows from cracks in its wet, black bark, and the surface is studded with gargantuan polypores. Clouds of flies surround it, and you'll hear it before you see it.
|these are also polypores|