To clarify a big thing real quick I am not doing Plants the monster type but actual plants. This does not include plant humanoids like Myconids, Treants or Wood Woads as those would be well under Humanoid Plants. I’ll also be saving Blights and Spore Servants for later posts for us to drill down into their tactics and RP elements. My focus for this Monster of the Month post is purely actual plant-like things that can attack you.
With that out of the way we still have alot to talk about. Like some of our other topics this year plants are a monster that quickly get counted out of encounters with veteran players or at higher tiers of play. This is mostly just a bit of a PR issue as they can still be just as terrifying no matter the tier of play. The main problem comes in the fact that every DM uses them the same way, making players spotting the encounter a mile off kind of the expected. So to help out I’ll not only provide a few new plant monsters, cause lets be real there are so many crazy IRL plants we can drag into D&D, but I’ll also really be hitting on the encounter set up for these leafy guys.
But first lets get our typical housekeeping out of the way, the part everyone knows at this point – what plants already exist!
- Violet Fungus
- Shambling Mound
- Gas Spore
- Corpse Flower
- Awakened Zurkhwood
- Awakened Tree
- Awakened Shrub
- Assassin Vine
- Yellow Musk Creeper
- Tri-flower Frond
- Thorn Slinger
Now I know what you are thinking. These are plants DM Dalliance of course they are going to show up in the same places, meaning that my players will know when to be wary. But putting them in a strange location they shouldn’t be in is even more of a red flag! This is the lamentation of a thousand DMs when it comes to plants which is why their use is quickly tossed out. It makes sense completely. However it is also our job as DMs to get into the brainpans of our players and find ways around that over vigilance they develop.
All of that is well and fine to state but what can we really do with it with something as location based as a plant encounter? Well the easiest thing to thing about is cultivated landscaping or a potted plant. This lets you put a dangerous plant someone urban and enclosed on purpose that also has a purpose. Maybe its flowers are pretty enough to fool most guests but the owner also knows it likes to eat those who get too close, so hides their valuables behind it. A Rogue attempting to break into a chest might ignore that budding plant on the desk, that is until it tries to eat them.
Okay so house plants are a thing, so is landscaping, but that still leaves us with the problem of creating realistically acceptable encounters outside of a very limited number of scenarios. For more help with that we look to nature itself! Plants adapt and change their appearance to be able to survive in different environments. It stands to reason then that an Assassin Vine in the jungle will look different then one in the forest. Now before you get all up in arms about how certain plants are tied to environments take a breath. What I’m suggesting is that behind the screen it is the Assassin Vine stat block but that to the players what they see is something that fits the space. Heck as a DM unless their passive perception meets a certain threshold or they are actively examining all of the plants around them I wouldn’t even let them see anything is going on till its too late. Changing its appearance and adding a DC for spotting it allows you to lay down plant encounters where ever you want to.
Plants and their tactics seem like a strange thing to discuss but we are doing it anyways. We kind of have two main approaches for tactics from our group of plants above. The dividing factor is normal vs awakened, as being a woke plant brings some complexity to thought and understanding that the normal plant does not. Lets build up by starting with the base plant. The main tactics are survival based of some sort – protection, procreation, food. Plants don’t go about maintaining these in the same way that creature monsters would for obvious reasons but their design and interactions are still based on them.
What I mean to say is its important to see how each plant takes into account those three things into its design when deciding just how the plant approaches conflict with a player or NPC. Take the Shambling Mound for instance – multiple attacks mean they are fast and aggressive, high HP means they are beefy, resistance to cold and fire damage means they are well suited to those types of environments or seasons, and blindsight means they aren’t actually seeing but sensing. For our big three that means that they are use to protecting themselves and possibly what they consider their territory, and they are mobile so they actively hunt for food that they engulf and absorb because sunlight alone isn’t enough to fuel them. Procreation is a little harder since most of the plants in the D&D books don’t have alot of lore laid out for them but given its a plant its safe to assume a few things. Every biology classes teaches about pollen and spores so its safe to go with seasonal and visible. Maybe a Shambling Mound with bright wide open flowers is more aggressive because of trying to pollinate, its not crazy to say that maybe being extra aggressive means that Shambling Mounds often fight or grapple helping along the process. Even more terrifying maybe they instead all gather into a grove and hibernate close to each other to attract the animals and insects needed to do it for them. So a party coming into a clearing with mounds of flowers everywhere who happens to cause a ruckus suddenly has 6 or more Shambling Mounds to deal with.
Looking at another example with the classic Assassin Vine we can see some differences about how they’d interact with a group for an encounter. False appearance means they lay in wait, resistance to cold and fire damage again points to a very hearty plant as does the high HP, and the ability to grapple then constrict or restrain a player means they are thick strong vines. We know they are more opportunistic or ambush hunters since they don’t move to hunt instead they lay in wait patiently. This probably means they have less of a need to consume prey to sustain them but maybe they do it for additional nutrients or to help creatures that benefit them. If the latter is the case that probably means this is going to be an encounter with more then just the plant(s) but also something that is either juvenile and needs the help hunting OR enjoys eating already dead things. This would most likely be a relationship that benefits both monsters one via free food the other most likely for protection from things that like to eat it.
Now lets talk about Awakened plants. We can assume most come to such a state through the spell Awaken, though I can certainly think of some other fun ways we will stick with that assumption for now. What this spell does is up the creature’s Intelligence to 10, making it just as smart as a Commoner, making it charmed by you for 30 days, and for plants it allows them to move all of their parts so say hello to locomotion! This changes alot more then you would expect since a normal Assassin Vine only has an Intelligence of 1 while a Shambling Mound is sitting at a cool 5. Any plant with a mouth (or really any ability to make a mouth like shape because magic) can now speak one language. Wolves have an Int of 12 so now that Awakened plant isn’t too far behind which means they can track, ambush, lay traps, coordinate, and more. Their actions are less instinctual and now actually thought out. Take the types of tactics you would with a group of bandits, a pack of wolves or a tribe an apply them to the awakened plant. Because an important thing to remember is despite their increased Int and new awoke status they are still plants, meaning that their ties to nature are incredibly strong and their care for protecting their own kind even more so. Careless woodsmen beware.
Can you RP a plant? I mean we already know Awakened plants are different so you can with them. They talk, they think and they understand. So a player could negotiate with them for safe passage, apologize and get the group out of a combat encounter, or even convince one to help with information or combat assistance. But what about like an actual plant the ones working purely off of function and what nature gave them. You certainly can you just need to adjust how you think of RPing a little. Most get hung up on the fact of RPing being talking, becoming a Shakespearian actor fully engulfed in their role. But RPing is just about communication so it doesn’t have to be verbal. Its about being able to provide information to the players for them to react and engage with and then providing that same reaction and engagement from your end. How does the plant interact with the players? Sure it attacks but does it go simply to restrain them or does it wrap around the neck to choke them? One shows that it activates to movement or touch and just naturally latches on to the thing, maybe because it has developed a relationship with a creature that will later come along to eat it leaving the soil its planted in full of yummy nutrients. The other points to the plant as a pure aggressor latching and seeking out the life source itself to extinguish it. Those read as two very different things and its important your players know which one it is. All you have to do is describe the interactions with feeling denoters, minor motivation reveals and when in doubt do what I do and talk with your hands.
New Plant Monsters
I’m personally a fan at looking at really weird IRL things for inspiration because reality is often more bizarre than anything you can pull out of thin air. So for the next part, which is the part I know you all come to these posts for, we will be talking about a few new plants to throw at your players.
If you hear crunching in the night while traveling through mountains beware it means that more then weather marks your path. Hidden amongst the stones is a flower that looks like them. But at night its opens to reveal teeth and a propensity to mimic voices to trick you off of the trail. Following its voice will cause you to fall off the trail, twist your ankle or slip right into its tooth grasp.
The float on the air being carried by the wind, whole groups of them moving in mass together. Latching onto living things to pierce and drink their blood until its target is drained before gently releasing its grasp and catching the next breeze. These floating flowers look either like triangles with long whisps or almost like a bat spread wide.
Friend of the Dead
Growing in graveyards or the sites of mass death these flowers bloom along long twisting vines and look like the faces of the dearly departed or of skulls staring from empty sockets. They are drawn to death to protect it. Any invading the space put their own souls at risk as feelings of melancholy, grief, and apathy start to drain away their will to move much less live.
Seeming to buzz these plants gather in locations of frequent storms in high places. They seem to attract large lightning storms, absorbing large amounts of energy from them. Some say that the draw the lightning itself to them drinking it in like water. What is known for sure though is that when disturbed they pack quite the punch.
Keep an eye out for these flowers covered in small tendrils. Brushing up against them you may only feel a quick prick or two but the poison they hold will hit quickly. The true danger lays later as the tendril works its way through your body to plant itself and grow. They can only reproduce in the bodies of living creatures, the seed pod growing by feeding off the host until it dies. A strange coating then covers the body before it pops open and seedlings fly away.
With that little rambling over with, I’m JustKay your regular DM Dalliance on the web and I’ll see you next post.