Monster Mayhem
The Gray Fungus
By Skip Williams

The protracted scream sent echoes ringing through the caverns until the very stone seemed to shake. The guards from the resident goblin tribe knew that the hellish racket came from one of several patches of shrieking fungus ringing the nearby caves. The chief had been most wise to select this site for the settlement, since these fungi served as an excellent alarm system. Recognizing their defensive value, the tribe kept the fungi well fed with scraps and offal.

The goblin guards quickly took up their weapons and crept toward the source of the sound, hoping to catch the intruder unawares. Halting the patrol at the entrance to the fungi chamber, the sergeant scanned it with practiced eyes. All seemed in order, except for one oddly shaped bit of fungus in one of the colonies. Having heard tales about deadly predatory fungi, he gave his troops a silent command to loose their crossbow bolts at the newcomer. But just as they were taking aim, a mind-numbing screech even more terrible than the shriekers' screams filled their heads. Weapons dropped from deadened fingers as the strange fungus shuffled forward on a mass of rippling tendrils. Before the stunned goblins could recover, their attacker was among them, flailing about with long tentacles that seemed to burn like fire when they struck home.

The sergeant beat a hasty retreat from the chamber as soon as he regained the ability to move. He felt a pang of regret at leaving his troops to die alone, but someone with a level head had to take word back to the chief -- and he was more than happy to assume that duty.

Gray Fungus
Medium Plant
Hit Dice: 4d8+15 (33 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 10 ft. (2 squares)
Armor Class: 15 (+1 Dex, +4 natural), touch 11, flat-footed 14
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/+5
Attack: Tentacle +5 melee (1d4+2 plus poison)
Full Attack: 4 tentacles +5 melee (1d4+2 plus poison)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Control plants, poison, psychic shriek
Special Qualities: Damage reduction 3/--, low-light vision, plant traits, telepathy
Saves: Fort +7, Ref +2, Will +2
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 15, Wis 13, Cha 15
Skills: Hide +8, Listen +8, Move Silently +8, Spot +8
Feats: Improved Initiative, Toughness
Environment: Underground
Organization: Solitary, pair, patch (3-4), or mixed patch (2-4 gray fungi, 2-4 violet fungi and 3-5 shriekers)
Challenge Rating: 5
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 5-8 HD (Medium); 9-12 HD (Large)

The odd-looking, gray mushroom is as tall as a human and has an oval cap that vaguely resembles a brain. Four tendril-like tentacles ring its upper body, and a mass of small, rootlike feelers at its base serves as a means of locomotion.

The gray fungus is a subterranean predator that prefers to hunt living prey, though it eats carrion when no other food is available. Though slow moving, it is quite stealthy and can temporarily disable its prey with a mental shriek.

A gray fungus looks like a 5-foot-tall mushroom with a 3-foot-wide cap and a stem about a foot and half thick. It weighs about 100 pounds and can move via a mass of tiny tentacles at its base.

Although it has no vocal apparatus, a gray fungus understands Undercommon. Via its telepathy ability, it can mentally communicate with any creature that has an Intelligence score.

Combat

Gray fungi often work with shriekers and violet fungi to attract and kill prey. When the shriekers' hellish racket attracts a curious creature, the gray fungus blasts the target with its psychic shriek while the violet fungi move in and try to kill it. Thereafter, all the fungi enjoy the fruits of the hunt.

When in melee combat, a gray fungus attacks with its poisonous tentacles. Its tough, woody hide diverts most blows, making it particularly difficult to destroy.

Control Plants (Su): Three times per day, a gray fungus can use control plants as the spell (caster level 15th).

Poison (Ex): Contact or injury, Fortitude DC 15, initial and secondary damage 1d4 Str and 1d4 Con. The save DC is Constitution-based.

A live gray fungus exudes a toxic slime that covers its whole body. The poison affects any creature that is struck by a tentacle or that hits the gray fungus with a natural weapon or an unarmed strike. If scraped off the fungus's body, the slime remains potent for only 1d4 rounds.

Psychic Shriek (Su): A gray fungus can emit a 60-foot burst of psychic energy centered on itself. Though this "shriek" is silent, any creature with an Intelligence score can "hear" it mentally. Any creature within the burst must succeed on a DC 14 Will save or be stunned for 1d2 rounds. The save DC is Charisma-based. Once the gray fungus uses this power, it cannot do so again for 1d4 rounds.

Telepathy (Su): A gray fungus can communicate telepathically with any creature within 30 feet that has an Intelligence score. The creature can respond to the gray fungus if it wishes -- no common language is needed.

About the Author

Skip Williams keeps busy with freelance projects for several different game companies. Skip is a co-designer of the D&D 3rd Edition game and the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, as well as the chief architect of the Monster Manual. When not devising swift and cruel deaths for player characters, Skip putters in his kitchen or garden (his borscht gets rave reviews).


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