Friday, December 29, 2017

PLANTS: Monsters, Spells, Items

So I'm writing a plant-themed dungeon.

I've never written something so strongly-themed before.  It just seems cheesy.  Lava dungeon with fire monsters.  Snowy mountain with ice monsters and slippery floors.

I'm having more fun with it than I thought I would.  There's plenty of diversity in plants.

What is This Post?

I'm going to try to invent some content for my forest dungeon.  I'm going to do that by identifying plant themes and then expanding them.

Godzilla vs Biollante
Theme: Growth

Okay, this one is a little stupid.  When you see plant magic in video games and fiction, it's always about growth.  Bellsprout used growth, etc.  The fact is that everything grows.  And I'd argue that a baby whale's growth (gaining 200 lbs every day) is way more impressive than any feats of growth that plants do.

It's anthropocentric.  We can think of all sorts of things that whale's do, but when it comes to plants, we're stumped.  What do plants do?  I guess they just. . . grow.

I don't want to discard Growth, because its so universal though.  Maybe we can make it interesting?

Monster: Evil Tree
HD 10  AC chain  Int 10
Drop Seeds -- An evil tree has 2d6 evil seeds growing from it.  As a standard action, it can drop as many or as few as it wants.  Dropped seeds immediately begin gaining HD (see below).  They can grow 1d4 seeds per day.  It is possible to attack seeds on the tree (HD 0, HP 1), but only with a ranged weapon.

Wants: General evil stuff.  Blood.  Sacrifices.  Cults.  The "performance" of evil.

Evil trees have no attacks besides their seeds.  They are reluctant to drop all of them at once, because they would be defenseless once all of the seeds die.  They are smart enough to use this ability intelligently.

They are capable of speech.  Horrible, groaning speech.

Monster: Evil Seed
HD 0/1/2/3/4  AC chain  Claw 0/d4/d6/d8/d10
Move as human  Int 6
Impossible Growth -- At the beginning of each round, an evil seed gains 1 HD (HP increases as well) and increasing their damage by 1 die size (starting with 1d4), up to a max of 4 HD and 1d10 damage.  If an evil seed reaches HD 4, it gains the ability to shoot a laser from its eye (1d10, 50' range).  They die after they've been alive for 1 hour.

The seeds begin growing immediately into horrible little plant creatures, with shriveled bark, mouthless faces, cyclopean eyes, tentacular hair, and bony claws.

Item/Spell: Oak Elixir
If administered to plant, it immediately grows to be a large adult specimen of the appropriate type (as if 50 years had passed).  If consumed by an animal, immediately grows to be a large adult (1d4 inches taller than average, for a human).

Item/Spell: Acorn Elixir
The opposite of an Oak Elixir. It turns plants into seeds and adult animals into adorable juveniles.
Item/Spell: Potion of Monstrosity
Pour on a plant or object.  That plant or object is now a monster of HD 1d6 that is ready to rampage.  If someone drinks it, they get all monstrous and rage.

Theme: Immobility

Sure, I guess I can't argue with that one. Plants don't move much.

How do we make it interesting in combat?  Gus mentioned a reskinned roper: that's a good one.  A tree that constantly throws lassos (or nooses) and tries to drag people into its toothy maw.

Or we could give it ranged attacks.  Darts, spines, or perhaps EXPLODING FRUIT.

Seriously, bombfruit tree.  Great idea.  Especially if combined with

Monster: Dendroid

This is just a tree with a skinny version of mind-flayer powers.  Telepathy, mind blast, illusion, dominate person.  When it gets damaged, it pulls itself into the ground.  To fully kill it, you have to dig it out.

All of these things are possible because its actually a sessile species of octopus, not a tree.  (Octopi are capable of other feats of amazing mimicry, so this seems entirely plausible to me.)

Item: Arboreal Helm
At will, you can turn into a tree, quadrupling your height but not allowing you to break through ceilings (your branches grow to the side instead).  As a tree, you heal 1 HP per hour in sunlight.

Item: Oaken Sword
A creature stabbed with this magic sword must make a save vs magic.  If they fail, they are immediately turned into a small oak tree.  (Yes, this effectively makes the sword a single use item.)

Inverted Theme: Hypermobile Plants

Zelda's peahats are a good example.  Let's invert it as hard as we can.

Monster: Astronomer Pines

These are ancient pine trees.  When you piss one off, it blasts off like a rocket ship.  Fire shoots from the tip of each of its roots.  It looks messily efficient, with every root tip twisting independently-but-nearly mindlessly.

It can fire lasers straight down, and only straight down.  The lasers come from the central tap root.

Alternatively, it can cast levitate offensively, in order to pull you up to its roots, where it can grab you and crush you.

Monster: Tumblesnatchers
HD AC leather  Snatch 0+grab
Move 12  Int 4

These are monstrous tumbleweeds.  They appear in groups of 1d4+2.  Each tumbleweed attempts to trap someone inside itself.  Once it has a prisoner, the tumblesnatcher immediately heads off in a random direction, exposing the poor prisoner to whatever perils await in that (potentially unexplored) room.  If allowed, they just keep rolling around.

<Design Note>This is a good example of a monster integrating into the dungeoncrawl.  Party cohesion is a very important thing for surviving a dungeon.  Having a monster that attacks that is rare, but potentially effective.  A more extreme example would be a trap/monster that teleports you to a different part of the dungeon.</Design Note>

Theme: Poison

This is potentially a very broad theme.  You've got the pokemon trio of effects (HP poison, paralysis, sleep) plus hallucinations and a bunch of boring debuffs.

HP poison should be horrible (given that it has more chances to be stopped, compared to regular HP damage).  For very poisonous creatures (save or die), the deadly poison should be telegraphed beforehand.  (Similar to how players should never be surprised when they get level drained.)

Nightshade Boy
HD 1  AC leather  Touch 0+poison (1d6)
Elites -- Nightshade boys with maximum HP carry a fruit, which functions as an antidote to their poison.

Glass cannons.  They can potentially do 3d6 damage  on a hit (if the Con check is also failed).  That alone, should give the players pause.  They're a bit like spiders in that regard (lil guys with horrible poisons).

Nightshade boys are also intelligent enough to spread their attacks around, in order to poison the greatest number of people possible.

Poppy Boy

Like a nightshade boy, except their touch does 1d6+sleep.

Glory Boy

Big blue flowers.  Cause hallucinations even before they walk into the room.

Hemlock Boys

Hemlock causes ascending paralysis before death.  It's pretty cool.  Instead of damaging HP, they just paralyze your legs, then your arms, then your heart.  You have to find the antidote before you die.  Fun!

Could be a part of a puzzle, or a dungeon-specific challenge.

Poison Tree

Everyone in this room of takes 1 HP damage per round until the tree is dead.  A very videogamey mechanic, but still a fun one, I think.  Must be paired with other things in the room that are trying to kill you (in order to give players an interesting choice).

I wouldn't try to disguise the fact that the tree is causing the deadly room effect.  That seems too much like pixel bitching.

Theme: Fire Vulnerability

This is pretty anthropocentric.  We think of things that plants do and we're like "I guess you can use them as firewood, too" even though trees are way less vulnerable to fire than humans are.  I'd like to see a human survive a forest fire.

If you wanted to gameify it, you could just say that all plants take half damage from bludgeoning and double +50% damage from fire.  That seems mechanically satisfying, I guess.

Treants could make morale checks when confronted with large amounts of fire (more than just a few torches).

Inverted Theme: Fire Power

Monster: Dragon Tree

Stats as dragon, except immobile.  Looks cool as fuck.  Arrows combust before they strike it, and slingstones can't hurt it.  More of a puzzle than a monster.  How to get past it is one puzzle.  How to kill it is another.

Theme: Fruit

This one also seems pretty anthropocentric, but alright.

Well, I already mentioned bombfruit, didn't I?

Tumble melons were one of my first blog posts ever.

Item: Dancing Mango

Look sorta like a starfish.  When it falls off the tree (or is plucked) it starts dancing.  If you eat it, you start dancing (and cannot stop until you collapse of exhaustion).  Everyone who you start dancing with is affected by the same thing (as irresistible dance) except you are the only "contagious" one.

Item: Potion Fruit

Fruits make great replacement potions.  That's what you get when the wizard waters a strawberry plant with displacer beast droppings and wizard jism.

Theme: Parasitic Plants

Monster: Slavedriver Orchid

This is an orchid that grows on your head and it drives you like a chariot.  It yells (squeaks?) and pulls on your ears to direct you where to go.

Theme: Sun Power

This one's a little bit silly, because sunlight isn't as energy dense as we depict it in fiction.  Superman would get more energy by eating a hamburger than he would by laying in the sun all day.

But like Growth and Fire Weakness, Sun Power is difficult to shake.

Item: Black Phantom Bushes

So there is a huge arms race among plants for sunlight.  Trees win it by being taller than their neighbors, and by spreading their arms wider.  Vines win it by climbing trees.  Smaller plants win it by requiring less sunlight altogether.

The black phantom bush has solved this problem by making things invisible.  You see, if its neighboring trees are invisible, then sunlight goes right through them, allowing the black phantom bush to bask in all of the sunlight that is wishes.

They are sometimes surrounded by invisible trees, or by invisible logs (from invisible trees that died due to lack of sunlight).

If you kick a black phantom bush, you will piss it off, and it will turn you invisible.  This also causes you to go blind (because how would you see, if light is going straight through your eyeballs

Theme: Mimicry

Item: The Orchid Wife

It's an enormous skin-colored orchid.  It changes colors to match the skin tones of its prey.

From a distance, it looks like a woman, opening her arms invitingly.  Players will feel compelled to embrace her.  This is not like a suggestion spell, just. . . it seems like the thing to do.

Anyone who embraces the orchid will lose 1d6 Con as the lotus drinks their blood through their skin.  During this feeding, the orchid will fill their head with peaceful dreams and botanical wisdom, causing them to gain 10 XP for every point of Con lost.

As they pull away from the orchid, it will seem to carefully dab the blood from their skin, similar to a human grooming another.  This is just the flower collecting the last of the blood.

Once a player has gained 100 XP from the orchid, they will be compelled (magically, forcefully this time) to protect the orchid.  They will consider it to be their orchid, and will not want to share it.  They will probably want to marry it.  At this point, they can choose to feed or not feed the orchid whenever they wish (it can survive without blood).  They can still gain XP from the orchid once per session.

They'll probably put it next to a window, in their house.  If they don't have a house, the orchid will motivate them to settle down and get one.  You want to protect your orchid, right?  You don't want to take your precious orchid dungeoneering with you, right?

Most "spouses" talk to their orchids while feeding them.  Pillow-talk, really.  The strange wisdom imparted by the orchid sometimes allows the feeder to come to useful, common-sense conclusions.  (DM: Feel free to insert any information here that you think the party should have got, but missed.  Example: The shopkeeper is obviously a vampire.)

Honorable Mention: Little Petshop of Horrors

I guess Audrey II would make a good villain, but she's make a much better ally.  Especially if the players find her when she's all small and cute.

Wizard: Botanimancer 

You can make a botanimancer pretty easily by just pulling ideas from the themes above.


You cannot cast spells unless sunlight (or reasonable facsimile) has shone on you in the last 24 hours.


If you ever lose a limb, you can grow a new botanical one in 2 weeks.  Additionally, if you have speak with plants as one of your memorized spells, you can cast a 1 MP version of it for free.

Spell List

  1. Entangle
  2. Growth (as enlarge, except only on living things, long duration on plants)
  3. Light
  4. Tree Form*
  5. Speak with Plant
  6. Warp Wood
  7. Awaken Treant
  8. Hallucinate (or Confusion)
  9. Heal
  10. Poison Touch
  11. Dessicate (AoE similar to fireball, efficacy varies by target type)
  12. Wall of Wood
  13. Legendary Spell: Seed* 
  14. Legendary Spell: Treant Form

R: touch  T: object  D: permanent
An object gets turned into a seed.  It turns back into the original object only when submerged in a body of water sufficiently large enough to reconstitute the item with water mass.  You can use this spell offensively, but it has no effect on targets with HP greater than [sum] * 3.  The size of the object is also limited by the casting dice invested.

1 MP = handheld object
2 MP = human or chair
3 MP = giant or cottage.
4 MP = dragon or ship.  Alternatively, immaterial things such as happiness.

Tree Form
R: touch  T: creature  D: permanent
Primarily used to turn yourself into a tree.  You can still see and hear.  If you are in a suitable climate, you do not need to eat or drink.  You can remain as a tree for as long as you like (until you choose to dispel it).  You can use this spell offensively, but it has no effect on targets with HP greater than [sum] * 3.  They will remain a tree until you choose to dispel it.  You choose the species.

Yes, this allows you to turn the boss into a tree, and then make him into a nice chair.  It would look great in your house, beside your orchid wife.

Note on Save or Die Spells

I'm considering having all of them have the clause "no effect on targets with HP greater than [sum] * 3."  Or perhaps just including a keyword.


More plant monsters here.


  1. One of the most notable, but often overlooked, aspects of plants is their irresistible strength. They crush & force apart almost anything, simply on such an elongated time scale that we fleeting meat-things only notice very late in the process.

    Similarly, they have an elf-like sense of time.

    On growth, I would emphasize their tendency to envelope (& thus hide) things.

    1. hmm...plants as treasure chests is an interesting thing...

    2. plant treasure chests forcing things apart, or growing sounds like an even more interesting thing.

  2. Unrelated to post (which I'm going to be using in my next dungeon crawl anywhere) but I finally managed to wrangle a GLOG session out of my 5E addicted players. The fact the main point of conversation went from "How much experience did we get from that?" to "If I drink a small amount of blood after I stab them with the poison dagger, will I eventually get some kind of poison resistance?" and "Can we chuck the sarcophagus containing the black pudding down the stairs and have it fight the warrior statue?" should explain exactly how well it went. Mad props. When is version 1 coming out!?!

  3. Always loved the plant themed things.
    *Theme FIRE*
    A blooming flower using green tendrils to move and a small fire burning at the flowers center.
    If the fire dies out the creature dies with it. The fire is what keeps it alive as well as acting as the brain for its thought process. The creature needs to move around continuously in order to find things it can feed to the fire.

    *Theme: Parasitic Plants*
    Moss Venom.
    If you coat a blade in this venom and make a cut, moss will start growing slowly covering the wound and inflicting 1hp damage per turn. Can be cured by applying fire or negating it air.
    Not very powerful but quite beautiful. Often used by people that like to toy with their food.

  4. I feel like it would be really cool to have this dungeon appear from the PCs planting a seed. Like some of the loot they fot once was a seed, and they plant it maybe, and then 6 months later, BAM! Dungeon.