Previews06/01/2006


Previews for June and Beyond



WIZENED ELDER

Wizened Elder

What at first you took for a twisted shrub unfurls to become an ancient-looking creature the size of a dwarf. Lichen-covered bark hangs in shreds from its body, and clumps of stunted leaves sprout from its limbs. Suspicious eyes glare at you from deep crevices.

Wizened Elder CR 2
Usually CN Medium plant
Init +0; Senses low-light vision; Listen +3, Spot +3
Language speak with plants, Sylvan
AC 14, touch 10, flat-footed 14
(+4 natural)
hp 30 (4 HD); DR 5/slashing
Immune plant immunities
Resist cold 5
Fort +7, Ref +1, Will +2
Weakness vulnerability to fire
Speed 20 ft. (4 squares); improved woodland stride
Melee 2 slams +5 each (1d8+1)
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Base Atk +3; Grp +4
Special Actions entangle
Abilities Str 13, Dex 10, Con 17, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 13
SQ plant traits
Feats Alertness, Weapon Focus (slam)
Skills Hide +0*, Knowledge (nature) +4, Listen +3, Spot +3, Survival +3 (+5 in aboveground natural environments)
*Wizened elders gain a +8 racial bonus on Hide checks in forested areas.
Advancement by character class; Favored Class druid; see text
Speak with Plants (Su) As the speak with plants spell; at will; caster level 4th.

Improved Woodland Stride (Ex) A wizened elder can move through any sort of undergrowth (such as natural thorns, briars, overgrown areas, and similar terrain) at its normal speed and without taking damage or suffering any other impairment. In addition, thorns, briars, and overgrown areas that have been magically manipulated do not impede its motion or otherwise affect it.

Entangle (Su) As the entangle spell; at will; DC 15; caster level 4th. This ability affects a 60-foot-radius area around the wizened elder and lasts for 1 minute. The save DC is Constitution-based.

A wizened elder is a stunted, ancient-looking plant creature related to treants but inhabiting forbidding lands at the very edge of the tree line. Although not evil, wizened elders are bitter, cruel creatures that blend perfectly with their harsh environment. They creep across the desolate landscape, watching for and driving off intruders.

Strategies and Tactics

Wizened elders patrol singly or in small groups (copses). They have excellent camouflage, being virtually indistinguishable from other stunted trees and shrubs, even to the point of having one side mossier than the rest, just like a real, ancient tree. They prefer to wait, standing still and observing the situation, then catch enemies off guard.

If a foe does not appear too dangerous, a wizened elder uses its entangle ability to ensnare it, then flails at the immobilized enemy with its limbs. Even if the foe is not held, its reduced speed means it can't easily outrun the slow plant creature.

Obviously, such tactics don't work against enemies with ranged attacks. The elder's thick bark protects it from most arrow damage, though, and slings are almost ineffective against it. When necessary, it simply retreats. If confronted by enemies wielding fire, a wizened elder immobilizes them if possible, then seeks others to overwhelm the threat.

Copses of wizened elders work together to defeat more powerful enemies. They use intelligent tactics, granting flanking bonuses and assisting one another with attacks or defense as the situation merits. They attack one enemy at a time, starting with those who use slashing weapons or anyone wielding fire. If outmatched, they retreat, leaving the enemy stuck in the impeding terrain, and hide among other shrubs once they are out of the enemy's sight.

SAMPLE ENCOUNTER

Wizened elders are not especially cooperative and rarely initiate combat. A solitary specimen is the most common encounter, but groups do gather.

Pair (EL 4): Two wizened elders keep watch over a warm spring that flows year-round despite the arctic cold. Travelers often stop here, making it an ideal spot for an ambush. The elders use entangle to slow their foes. They gang up on a single opponent, attempting to grapple it, drag it into the water, and drown it.

ECOLOGY

Wizened elders are found at high elevations or at the edge of tundra, where trees grow small and bonsailike at the very edge of habitability. They live a very long time but never get larger than shrubs. Immature specimens are rarely seen, since they are virtually indistinguishable from the ground cover and berry bushes of their surroundings. This puts them in danger from browsing herbivores, but they remain alert to possible threats by listening to the nearby plants. They can drive off most animals easily -- it's not often that a bit of greenery slaps back! The mature plants also protect any area that harbors younglings, for not many exist.

After a century or so, a wizened elder is able to live independently and finds its own patch of licheny rock or bogland to inhabit. At this age, it can reproduce. However, so few exist that finding a mate is a protracted and often unsuccessful quest. Both sexes seek potential mates by querying the local plant life. Should two elders meet and find each other compatible, they form a lifelong relationship. Reproduction is a complex process, filled with ritual. The result is a single seed, which the parents plant nearby. The offspring roots there as it grows (unless forced to move by a threat) and remains in the area for the next century or two.

A wizened elder roots itself shallowly in its chosen spot and feeds as a plant does, extracting water and what nutrients it can from the thin, sour soil. Decomposing flesh provides additional nutrients, so a wizened elder is not above slaying an incautious creature to supplement its diet. Intruders' corpses always go to feed the soil.

The elders themselves are not appetizing to plant-eaters, although in a harsh winter even such bitter browse might attract animals. The plants are quite capable of driving off ordinary beasts, but savage monsters sometimes devour them. They are especially vulnerable to brantas (Frostburn 113), which are adapted to such tough fare.

Environment: Wizened elders are most often found in cold plains, but the chilly subalpine zones of mountains also host them. They move slowly about their region and occasionally drift into other kinds of terrain, although they do not remain there long.

Typical Physical Characteristics: A wizened elder rarely exceeds a dwarf in height, usually standing 4 to 5 feet tall and weighing around 150 pounds.

Males and females are about the same size, and both produce growths resembling pine cones every other year. The male cones have broadly flaring fins and grow at joints just below the creature's "face"; female cones are quite small and ring the elder's trunk. The two have differing patterns of leaf growth as well, with males sprouting clumps mostly along their backs while females' leaves are distributed more evenly about their bodies. Leaves are tough and waxy, and they stay green year round.

Alignment: Wizened elders are usually chaotic neutral, an attitude born of solitary watching. Those who become druids are more likely to be neutral, neutral good, or neutral evil. Particularly bitter individuals drift toward neutral evil or even chaotic evil behavior, especially in extreme old age.

SOCIETY

Wizened elders consider themselves the last, lonely defenders against the creep of "civilization" into their wastes. They consider treants to be distant and overly soft cousins who abandoned them to inhospitable lands. They are indifferent to hostile toward most other races, although they are more likely to be communicative with druids. Uldras (Frostburn 38) share their environment, and wizened elders consider these arctic fey to be kindred spirits (though the gentle uldras might not agree).

In general, religion isn't important in their lives. Those who are spiritually inclined usually follow druidic or shamanistic paths, though a few might offer prayers to grim winter deities. Wizened elder druids are more adventuresome than most of their kin and are the most likely to form partnerships with uldras or other druids.

Life is hard. Life is cold. These basic tenets of wizened elders' existence influence their outlook and values system. They have no patience with any (including their own kind) who cannot survive a harsh environment. Their scions quickly learn to defend themselves against predation.

Each wizened elder is a nation unto itself. Central government is unknown to these grim folk, and it isn't necessary when they are so few and widely scattered. Within a copse, authority naturally goes to the eldest. Wizened elders who become druids often assume leadership roles; they are usually the oldest as well.

TYPICAL TREASURE

Wizened elders have standard treasure for their Challenge Rating, about 600 gp, usually consisting of equipment and coins dropped by creatures they have overcome. Such items might be partly grown over by an elder's bark.

WIZENED ELDERS WITH CLASS LEVELS

Druid levels stack with a wizened elder's Hit Dice for the purpose of its entangle and speak with plants abilities. Racial Hit Dice do not stack with druid levels for spellcasting.

Wizened elder clerics usually worship Telchur (Frostburn 43). His domains are Air, Chaos, Cold*, Strength, and Winter*. His favored weapon is the shortspear or shortbow.

*Domain described on page 85 of Frostburn.

Level Adjustment: +3.

WIZENED ELDERS IN FAERÛN

Wizened elders inhabit cold, forbidding wastes, such as Narfell and Icewind Dale, or sometimes the high slopes of mountain ranges. Occasionally a Harper travels to speak to these lonely sentinels about the activities of evil beings in their lands. Some Uthgardt barbarians share the same region and pay respect to the ancient treefolk. A small offshoot of the Grandfather Tree tribe is dedicated to protecting the elders.

WIZENED ELDER LORE

Characters with ranks in Knowledge (nature) can learn more about wizened elders. When a character makes a successful skill check, the following lore is revealed, including the information from lower DCs.

Knowledge (Nature)

DC Result
12 This creature is a wizened elder, an arctic relative of treants. This result reveals all plant traits.
17 A wizened elder's tough hide is difficult to penetrate with piercing or bludgeoning weapons.
22 Wizened elders can cause nearby plants to animate and entangle their enemies.
27 While the animated plants entangle the elders' foes, the elders can walk through such areas without hindrance.

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