Monster Mayhem
The Flesh-Mulcher Tree
By Robert Wiese

From the druid Miala's journal:

I discovered a new carnivorous plant today, a very interesting one. A brigand chased me through the woods, and just when he'd started to gain ground, he stopped as a bunch of pods hit him. I kept running, but when I saw that he was no longer chasing me I crouched behind some brush to watch. He continued toward me, but then stopped, stared blankly, and began approaching a nearby tree. It was old and gnarled, about 12 feet in diameter. He walked slowly toward it, and then I saw vines shoot out from its base, wrap him up, and pull him toward the trunk of the tree, where he disappeared. I crept closer but could not see him anywhere. I did hear him pounding against the trunk, for a while. Eventually the pounding stopped. At that point, I crept away.

A dryad I ran into an hour later told me this tree feeds on animals, humanoids, beasts, and such, but as it leaves the fey creatures alone, she really does not pay it much attention. It never moves, but it can cast some kind of spell with its bark and throw pods. I will have to study this closer, once I figure out how to resist or ignore the effect of the bark….

Flesh-Mulcher Tree
Huge Plant
Hit Dice: 10d8+50 (95 hp)
Initiative: +0
Speed: 0 ft.
AC: 21 (–2 size, +13 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 21
Attacks: 4 tendrils +10 melee, or 6 pods +5 ranged
Damage: Tendril 1d8+5, or pod 1d6+5
Face/Reach: 10 ft. by 10 ft./15 ft.
Special Attacks: Captivating bark, improved grab, pods (acid, explosive, poison, seed), swallow whole
Special Qualities: Plant traits, precise targeting, tentacle regeneration, tremorsense
Saves: Fort +12, Ref +3, Will +3
Abilities: Str 20, Dex 10, Con 20, Int 2, Wis 10, Cha 4
Climate/Terrain: Any forest
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 8
Treasure: Standard
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 11–16 HD (Huge); 17–30 (Gargantuan)

Tall and majestic, flesh-mulcher trees are hidden menaces in the forest. Varieties of this barely sentient killer exist in most climates where trees grow, seeking to feed on humanoids and animals that approach.

Most flesh-mulcher trees reach between 20 and 25 feet in height, but taller varieties have been reported. The canopy is formed from dense growth of three-pronged, swordlike leaves, and species of shade-loving ground plants thrive at the tree's base. The tree's gnarled and dense trunk grows to be about 12 feet thick in 10 years. (The flesh-mulcher does not become fully mature for 10 to 12 years.) This tree's distinguishing feature, however, is the clusters of pods that grow in the branches. The greenish-black pods are very hard and about 4 inches long. In colder climates, the leaves take on a silvery color, and in tropical climates they become bright green. The tree looks harmless from a distance, but up close one can see that a part of the trunk at its base opens like a large mouth (with no teeth). Inside this maw grow four vinelike tendrils, which the tree uses to snag prey. The tendrils are 18 feet long and can effectively grab targets up to 15 feet from the base.

The (barely) sentient flesh-mulcher trees feed on humanoids, animals, beasts, magical beasts, and even corporeal undead. They do not feed on fey creatures of any type, so the fey sometimes use them as guardian trees around their most private places. The tree attracts prey to it with its hypnotic special ability, then snags the prey and crushes it. It then mulches or composts the remains, and feeds on that. Immature trees catch smaller animals only; a flesh-mulcher cannot catch a Medium-size humanoid until it is at least eight years old.

Flesh-mulcher trees do not speak any language, but one can communicate with them via a speak with plants spell.

COMBAT

Flesh-mulcher trees live on the decomposing remains of organic creatures. When hunting, they begin by throwing clusters of pods at targets, and continue to do so until the creatures approach the trunk. Then the tree attempts to draw the prey into its maw and crush it. Flesh-mulcher trees attack only to feed; they are not self-aware enough to defend themselves.

Captivating Bark(Su): The bark of the flesh-mulcher tree boasts swirling color patterns that can bewitch a viewer. Anyone within 20 feet of the tree who sees the trunk must make a successful Will save (DC 12) or become utterly captivated by the bark (as though by a harpy's song). This is a mind-affecting charm. If the save is successful, that creature cannot be affected again by that harpy's song for one day. A captivated victim walks toward the flesh-mulcher tree on its next action, taking the most direct route available. Captivated creatures can take no actions other than to defend themselves. A victim within 5 feet of the tree's maw area stands there and offers no resistance to the tree's tendril attacks. However, the creature gets a second Will save (same DC) against the effect once it has sustained some damage from the tree.

Improved Grab (Ex): If a flesh-mulcher tree hits an opponent that is at least one size category smaller than itself with three of its four tendril attacks, it attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity (grapple bonus +20). If it gets a hold, it can transfer the opponent to its maw with another successful grapple check, then try to swallow on its next turn. Alternatively, the flesh-mulcher tree has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its tendrils to hold the opponent (–20 penalty on grapple check, but the tree is not considered grappled).

Tentacle Regeneration (Ex): Foes can attack the tentacles of a flesh-mulcher tree, but only when those appendages are actually holding an opponent. A tentacle has an AC of 22 (touch 9) and can withstand 15 points of damage. The loss of a tentacle does not harm the creature (that is, the damage does not apply against its hit point total), and it regrows the limb within a day.

Pods(Ex): The tree grows clusters of small and very hard pods, each one measuring about 4 inches long. The tree can throw clusters of six pods at a time at a given opponent, with a maximum range of 80 feet, minimum range of 10 feet, and no range increment. Each pod inflicts 1d6 points of damage. The tree can attack up to eight opponents this way in a round if surrounded: one opponent at each compass point (N, NE, E, etc.). The tree can throw up to 120 pods in a day and regrows pods at a rate of six per day.

Variant Pods: Pods from some varieties of flesh-mulchers have varying effects. It is not uncommon to find a single tree with several different pod types, but a cluster contains only pods of the same type.

Acid Pod: This very rare variant pod contains a small amount of concentrated acid. The effect works exactly as if the tree had thrown a flask of acid (Player's Handbook, page 114).

Explosive Pod: This pod explodes on contact, inflicting 1d6 points of fire damage (or cold damage in some climates) to all within 10 feet of the target, as if a small fireball had detonated. All creatures within the area may attempt Reflex saves (DC 20) to avoid half the damage. Explosive pods that miss still explode when they hit the ground, causing damage. See the grenadelike weapons sections in Chapters 7 and 8 of the Player's Handbook for pod miss effects.

Poison Pod: This pod breaks on contact, inflicting only 1d2 points of damage. Inside it holds a poison that causes 1d4 points of temporary Wisdom damage (initial and secondary, Fort save DC 20). A given creature can be affected by this poison only twice in a 24-hour period, though all hits by these pods still inflict damage. Creatures with lower Wisdom scores tend to approach the tree to find the source of the attacks. Wisdom returns at a rate of 1 point per day.

Seed Pod: This pod contains a seed for another flesh-mulcher tree. These pods serve as the tree's mode of reproduction. Each deals 1d6 points of damage on impact, then breaks open and releases a small seed.

Swallow Whole (Ex): A flesh-mulcher tree can swallow a single creature that is at least two sizes smaller than itself by making a successful grapple check (grapple bonus +20), provided it already has that opponent in its maw (see Improved Grab, above). Once inside the tree, the opponent takes 5d4 points of crushing damage per round from the plant's stomach. A swallowed creature can try to cut its way out with either claws or a light piercing or slashing weapon. Dealing a total of at least 20 points of damage to the inside of the tree (AC 25) in this way creates an opening large enough to permit escape. Once a single swallowed creature exits, the tree transfers some of its wood mass to close the hole; thus, another swallowed opponent must cut its own way out. A flesh-mulcher tree's stomach can hold 1 Medium-size or 4 Small or smaller opponents.

Plant Traits (Ex): A flesh-mulcher tree is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing. It is not subject to critical hits or mind-affecting effects. The creature also has low-light vision to a range of 30 feet.

Precise Targeting (Ex): Because of its tremorsense and its root network, a flesh-mulcher tree can triangulate the location of a creature within 80 feet of its trunk. This ability gives it a +2 insight bonus on ranged attacks with pods.

Tremorsense (Ex): A flesh-mulcher tree can automatically sense the location of anything within 80 feet that is in contact with the ground.

About the Author

Robert Wiese's love of gaming started in the Boy Scouts, where you'd think there would be enough to keep one busy without roleplaying games. Through college he played in some great home campaigns and discovered the RPGA Network at a small game day in 1991. He worked for RPGA for six and a half years, filling almost every job that exists on the staff at one time or another. Now honorably retired from service as the RPGA Operations Manager, he lives in Nevada and writes gaming goodies (such as the D&D Fight Club) from time to time. He also gardens a lot, and devotes as much time as possible to his beloved fiancée.


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