Monster Mayhem
Slaver Fungus
By Eric Cagle

Taken from the recovered journal of Istall Twigbrin, scholar and wiseman of the village of Dinbrim:

5th Day of the Harvest Moon

After gathering rock berries and tungit root in the pine forest near my home, I was surprised to find several local farmers waiting for my return. They were clearly agitated and heavily armed with a variety of weapons and farming tools. A tightly bound figure lay at their feet, wrapped head to toe in rough rope and struggling mightily. The farmers said that he was a family member who had become "possessed" while hunting in the woods. The peasants, who often come to me with questions regarding plants and the woods in which they live, believed I might be able to explain what had happened to their kinsman. I agreed to examine him and do what I could. They brought the struggling figure into my cabin.

6th Day of the Harvest Moon

My hands tremble as I write this. I have been studying Rael, the peasant boy, all night now and can barely believe what I observe. The boy is completely covered in a layer of fungus -- a type that I have never seen before. It has completely consumed his eyes and oozes out of his ears, mouth, and nose. Despite this, Rael remains alive in some way. I have done some research and discovered that a similar incident occurred in this area more than a hundred years ago, but the cause was never determined. Curious. We have continued to keep the boy (if he can be called that anymore) bound in his ropes, as he will lash out and bite at any opportunity. If he recognizes his family, he shows no sign. Believing the boy to be possessed by foul spirits, I asked one of the peasants to fetch a priest from the Shandarin Temple in the next town. Perhaps faith can give answers where I have failed.

9th Day of the Harvest Moon

The peasants and I are barricaded inside my barn, under siege by fungus beings. A few hours ago, they burst into my cabin and tried to kill us. During the struggle, someone knocked over a lantern and my cabin went up in flames. The blaze destroyed the creatures still trapped inside, but more emerged from the woods. They are the corpses of a party of farmers who sought the source of the fungus. Apparently, they found it.

We set the torch to Rael's body after it nearly broke free from the ropes. The Shandarin priest is dead. He stood his ground against the creatures, convinced that they were created by foul magicks, and perished when his faith could not stop them. Some of the other peasants were dragged screaming into the woods. Now the creatures pound incessantly at my barn doors. It's only a matter of time before they get through....

Slaver Fungus
Gargantuan Plant
Hit Dice: 10d8+80 (125 hp)
Initiative: -2
Speed: 0 ft.
AC: 14 (-4 size, -2 Dex, +10 natural), touch 4, flat-footed 14
Attacks: 4 tendrils +11 melee
Damage: Tendril 2d8+8
Face/Reach: 30 ft. by 30 ft./40 ft.
Special Attacks: Fungus minions, improved grab, transforming fungus
Special Qualities: Fire vulnerability, plant traits, tendril regeneration
Saves: Fort +15, Ref +1, Will +3
Abilities: Str 26, Dex 7, Con 26, Int 3, Wis 10, Cha 3
Climate/Terrain: Any forest
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 10*
Treasure: 1/10 coins; 50% goods; 50% items
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 11-17 HD (Gargantuan); 18-28 HD (Colossal)

*This number can be adjusted up or down depending on how many fungus minions the slaver fungus controls.

The main body of a slaver fungus looks like an enormous purplish-white mushroom with a very broad cap. The outer layer of the fungus is extremely tough, like the bark of a tree. Immediately beneath the cap are four large nodules that form the base of long, thin, tough tendrils. These tendrils extend into the underbrush, where they seek out and grapple prey.

The most insidious aspect of the slaver fungus is its ability to infect living creatures and transform them into walking plants that protect the main body. A fully-grown fungus constantly releases spores that blanket the area around it. These spores infect any creature that breathes them in, creating fungus minions: zombies animated not by negative energy, but the fungus that pervades their bodies.

Externally, fungus minions look as they did in life, but a dense, sickly, purplish-green fungus covers their skin and fills their eye sockets. They wear the tattered remains of any armor and clothing on their person at the time of death; it, too, is densely covered with fungus (and offers no additional protection). Internally, the fungus quickly moves through the victim's body, consuming tissue at a rapid rate until only an animated shell remains.

Animals of the forest are also commonly infected, shambling around alongside humanoid fungus minions.

Combat

A slaver fungus relies heavily on its minions (see below) to protect it from harm. It also uses its tendrils to drag victims within 30 feet of its main body, where they may become infected by the spores. If victims do not attack the main body of the fungus, it releases them and lets the infection slowly finish the kill.

Improved Grab (Ex): If a slaver fungus 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 +27). If it gets a hold, it can transfer drag the opponent to within 15 feet of its main body on its next turn. Alternatively, the slaver fungus has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its tendrils to hold the opponent (-20 penalty on grapple check, but the fungus is not considered grappled).

Transforming Fungus (Ex): A slaver fungus can release a cloud of spores that, if inhaled, turns living creatures into animated fungus. Any creature within 30 feet of a slaver fungus must make a Fortitude save (DC 23) each round or become infected with the fungus. Incubation takes 1 day; damage 1d6 temporary Constitution damage; 2d6 secondary Constitution damage. A remove disease or a successful Heal check (DC 25) stops the infection.

Victims whose Constitution reach 0 due to fungus damage die from their bodies becoming completely permeated with the fungus. Victims essentially become zombies per the Monster Manual. However, the victims' type becomes "plant," not "undead," and they are not affected by any spells or effects that influence undead. Victims gain the plant traits and fire vulnerability listed below.

Should the transformation that creates a fungus zombie reach completion within five miles of the original slaver fungus, the zombie unerringly returns to the main body, stopping only to defend itself if attacked. If the transformation occurs beyond 5 miles, the fungus zombie attacks the closest living creature, then the next, continuing until it is destroyed.

Upon destruction, the zombie breaks into a cloud of spores. Unless destroyed by burning or disintegrate, the zombie may (1% chance) leave behind remains that become a new slaver fungus. It takes five years for the slaver fungus to reach maturity; it is completely harmless until that point.

Fungus Minions:Fungus zombies (see above) who return to the slaver fungus that spawned them become fungus minions who instinctively protect it. At any given time, ten to twelve Medium-size fungus minions guard a slaver fungus and never stray farther than 50 yards from the main body.

Fire Vulnerability (Ex): Slaver fungi take double damage from fire attacks unless the attack allows a save, in which case they take double damage on a failure and no damage on a success.

Plant Traits (Ex): A slaver fungus 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.

Tendril Regeneration (Ex): Foes can attack the tendrils of a slaver fungus, but only when those appendages are actually holding an opponent. A tendril has an AC of 21 (touch 10) and can withstand 18 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 the limb regrows within 1d6 days.

About the Author

Eric Cagle is the administrative assistant to the R&D Department at Wizards of the Coast. Don't let the title fool you: He's also a regular gamer. Eric has edited multiple projects for R&D, co-designed a D&D sourcebook due for release in 2002, playtests several products a month, and contributes articles to the web team and Dragon Magazine. He was inspired to write this article after looking inside the East 1 refrigerator at the Wizards of the Coast main office.


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