At last I have identified the current location of a rare plant species! It is a burrowing plant, topped by pale green leaves. I believe that it lives mostly underground, but with a need to surface periodically to partake of the nourishing sunlight. I may have only a short time to study it before it relocates. Several shadows seem to accompany it.
* * * * *
After much wearisome research, I have found considerable folklore and little fact about this mysterious plant. Several legends speak of a plant known as "the root of all evil." Some accounts relate the seemingly impossible; all contradict one another. One farfetched tale tells of a powerful druid who became a lich and created the root of all evil. Scholars of the undead scoff at the notion of a lich druid and assert that he must have been a cleric with dominion over plants. Another version of the myth says that a root or tuberous plant (variously: a carrot, a parsnip, a dahlia) that sprouted on the grave of an evil dead god grew into the warped plant called the root of all evil.
The most popular tale (at least the most often recounted story) tells of a dryad's tree that was cut down to a stump. Dying, the dryad retreated into the root system and prayed to all the gods for a chance at revenge. One dark god heard her plea, and as the dryad died, the god let the dryad's tree root come alive as a vengeful, evil entity that despises all living creatures.
Regardless of the origins the so-called root of all evil, I have here an ideal opportunity to investigate the reality of the creature.
* * * * *
After consulting a local cleric and availing myself of divinations, I've determined that the plant does exhibit some undead traits, though it cannot be turned. I had naively thought that an invisibility to undead spell might enable me to study my subject creature more closely. Indeed, it did protect me from the shadows, but not from the root. I will be some days healing from my foolishness. Its bite is most vicious. I still do not know why undead creatures seem to seek out its company. I have much yet to learn. Perhaps I can impose upon the druid, Sinensis, to see if she can communicate with the plant.
* * * * *
Alas, my poor friend! How brave and foolish we both were! I have never seen a plant less impressed by a druid. The desire to talk to it drew Sinensis too close. The plant swallowed her whole and burrowed deep into the earth, beyond the reach of my talents. . . .
-- Sativa the Inquisitive, fey sorcerer and scholar of animate plants
Roots of all evil hate life and seek to kill all living, blood-bearing beings that they encounter. Odd in appearance, a root of all evil resembles a large parsnip with a vicious maw surrounded by green, ferny foliage like the top. A root of all evil feeds primarily on blood, but also needs at least two hours of sunlight per week.
Roots of all evil are never found with others of their kind. However, undead often form a happenstance symbiotic partnership with the plant by inhabiting areas frequented by a root of all evil. They benefit from the root's magic circle against good and the root benefits from the undead's occasional flanking and additional attacks, especially when attacking a group of living creatures.
Combat Roots of all evil generally rest underground, waiting for the vibrations that indicate a creature passing nearby. If their blood scent perceives a likely foe, roots burrow to the surface, seeking to surprise their prey, grabbing it and swallowing it whole.
Improved Grab (Ex): If the root of all evil hits an opponent that is at least one size category smaller than itself with a bite attack, it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity (grapple bonus +26). If it gets a hold, it can attempt to swallow on the next round (see below). Alternatively, the root has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its jaws to hold the opponent (-20 penalty on the grapple check, but the root is not considered grappled). In either case, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals bite damage.
Smite Good (Su): Once per day, a root of all evil can make a normal attack to deal +13 points of damage to a good foe.
Swallow Whole (Ex): A root of all evil can swallow a grabbed creature that is at least one size category smaller than itself by making a successful grapple check (grapple bonus +26), provided it already has that opponent in its maw (see Improved Grab, above). Once inside the root, the opponent takes 2d6+13 points of bludgeoning damage and 1d4 points of Constitution damage from blood drain per round from hundreds of tiny, biting and sucking mouths inside the root of all evil. A successful grapple check allows the swallowed creature to climb out of the interior and return to the root's maw, where another successful grapple check is needed to get free. Alternatively, a swallowed creature can try to cut its way out with either claws or a light piercing or slashing weapon. Dealing at least 25 points of damage to the interior (AC 20) in this way creates an opening large enough to permit escape. Once a single swallowed creature exits, the hole seals; thus, another swallowed opponent must cut its own way out. The root's interior can hold 1 Large, 2 Small, 4 Tiny, 8 Diminutive, or 16 Fine opponents.
Blood Scent (Su): A root of all evil can sense the presence of all animals, beasts, dragons, fey, giants, humanoids, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, outsiders, and shapechangers within 60 feet. (Constructs, elementals, oozes, plants, undead, and vermin are not noticed by this supernatural ability.)
Magic Circle against Good (Su): This ability continuously duplicates the effects of the spell of the same name. The root of all evil cannot suppress this ability.
Plant Traits: A root of all evil is immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, and polymorphing. It is not subject to critical hits or mind-affecting effects.
Tremorsense (Ex): Roots of all evil can automatically sense the location of anything within 60 feet that is in contact with the ground.
Unholy Bite (Ex): A root of all evil's bite attack functions as an unholy weapon and deals +2d6 points of bonus unholy (evil) damage against all of good alignment.
Feats: A root of all evil gains feats as though it were an undead.
Skills: A root of all evil receives skill as though it were undead. *It has a +20 racial bonus on Hide checks in areas with other vegetation.
Vile Water Roots An aquatic plant counterpart to the root of all evil, the vile water root inhabits sizeable bodies of salt water. It usually chooses to dwell near sunken ships, especially those inhabited by undead. Apart from their habitat, they differ from the land species by having no land speed and a swim speed of 30 ft.
About the Author
Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrelis an editor for Wizards of the Coast's Roleplaying Games R&D department. Recent credits include editing Faiths and Pantheons, Oriental Adventures, Magic of Faer˙n, and Defenders of the Faith. Addicted to education, she's also currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program. Check out the website she created for her husband, Andy Collins, at www.andycollins.net.
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