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They Grow on You
Wandering Monsters
By James Wyatt

T his is my 47th column in this series, and it's getting a little hard to keep track of which monsters I've written about and which ones I haven't. I'm nowhere near the bottom of the barrel (it's a surprisingly large barrel), but I did have to go through a long monster list this morning to find a topic for this week's column. Fortunately for us all, I found a good group of monsters I haven't talked about yet: plants.


Small–Large Plant
Alignment: Lawful neutral
Level: Low
Environment: Any underground

Myconids are mushroom-people of the Underdark. It's a little hard to get past that first statement (maybe the bottom of the barrel isn't quite as far away as I thought . . . but no, we're not talking about the campestri here), but there's more to them than that.

Well, sort of. There are three features of mushrooms that have mutated into the defining features of the myconid: their growth into circular patterns ("fairy rings"), the fact that they reproduce by dispersing spores, and the hallucinogenic properties of certain varieties. I think these features make them more interesting than if they had just been "mushroom-people."

Circles: Myconid society is based on circles, which are tight-knit social groups of 20 members that work together and live together, spending eight hours of every day in an activity called "melding." They gather in a close circle and the elders release two different kinds of spores: rapport spores that bind them into a group consciousness, and hallucinogenic spores that induce them into a shared dream that serves as entertainment, social interaction, and worship of a sort. It's an incredible bonding experience, and myconids consider it the purpose of their existence—to seek some higher consciousness or union with some divine force.

In 2nd Edition, this divine force was identified as Psilofyr, creator deity of the myconids. He's described as a benevolent "meditator-deity" and "teacher-god," sort of a "fungal world-tree" whose "only concerns are the protection of the myconid race and the pursuit of perfection through meditation." He's almost more of a Buddha-figure than a deity, particularly given that he dwells in the plane of Nirvana (which has been called Mechanus since 3rd Edition). I think that's actually more interesting than making him a traditional D&D deity, particularly given the unusual form of myconid "worship." (In the 4th Edition Underdark book, Psilofyr was described as an archfey who was slumbering or dead.)

Spores: Myconids reproduce through spores, like other mushrooms, though the release of these spores is carefully controlled to avoid overpopulation. Reproductive spores are not the only ones available to myconids. Others include distress spores used to call for help, the rapport spores they use to communicate with each other as well as other creatures, pacifier spores that put enemies into a nearly catatonic state, the hallucinator spores used in melding, and animator spores that can turn dead bodies into useful, zombie-like laborers. As myconids grow, they gain access to more of these kinds of spores.

Hallucinogenic: The hallucinator spores used in the melding ritual have unpredictable effects on nonmyconids. The result of inhaling these spores is something like a confusion spell. If a creature is already under the effect of a myconid's rapport spores, the hallucinatory effect of these spores produces a shared hallucination that is a pale reflection of the melding experience. People affected by these spores report that they think of myconids in an entirely new way afterward, and they find it much more difficult to fight them.

Myconids aren't inherently hostile, though they have an uneasy relationship with any kind of humanoids. They view humanoids as a violent, insane species out to conquer anything in their path (which, ironically, is how myconids were described in the 4th Edition Monster Manual2), while humanoids tend to view them as hideous and dangerous monsters. If approached peacefully, however, myconids can be a valuable resource in the dangerous Underdark, providing shelter, information about the surrounding area, or even a limited taste of enlightenment.

Shambling Mound

Large Plant
Alignment: Neutral
Level: Medium
Environment: Swamp and jungle

A shambling mound, or shambler, appears to be a heap of rotting vegetation, but it is actually an intelligent, carnivorous plant. At the heart of its vaguely humanoid mass is a sort of brain (with an Intelligence score of around 7) connected to a knot of sensory organs. It stands about 9 feet tall, with a girth tapering from about 6 feet to about 2 feet at the top (which resembles a head but contains no vital organs). Weird tendrils throughout their bodies enable them to feed on any organic material, which they consume by enfolding their prey within their slimy mass and extending roots into the hapless victim.

It's possible that shamblers are just ugly, inanimate plants until hit by a freak lightning strike. The lightning is a trigger that gives it animation—and insatiable hunger. A lightning storm in a swampy area can create a significant population of shamblers. Any swamp infested with these creatures is creepily quiet, lacking the calls of birds or frogs that make many swamps such noisy places.

A shambler attacks with huge, arm-like appendages that batter opponents. It can grab an enemy if it hits the same creature with both arms, and it can pull the creature into its body where its tendrils hold it trapped. Trapped victims either take constriction damage or suffocate within the shambler's body. While the shambler has a creature entangled, the shambler's arms are free to attack other creatures, but the creature can entangle only one at a time. Its high Strength score supports its entangling attack.

Since its vital organs are buried deep beneath layers of fibrous plant matter, a shambling mound is highly resistant to weapon damage. (It has always had a very high AC, and 1st Edition and 2nd Edition made weapons deal only half damage.) Its slimy composition makes it resistant to fire, and not only is it immune to lightning damage, lightning actually makes it grow larger and tougher. When faced with an overwhelming foe, a shambling mound will often play dead, collapsing into a stinking heap while its vital organs remain intact, allowing the creature to slowly return to its full strength.

Shambling mounds inhabit regions with heavy moisture and thick vegetation, primarily marshes and jungles but also certain subterranean environments. They are almost totally silent and invisible in their natural surroundings. They often lie partially submerged in shallow water, waiting patiently for some creature to walk onto them. They move easily through water as well, and they have been known to sneak into the camps of unsuspecting travelers at night.


Huge Plant
Alignment: Neutral
Level: Medium
Environment: Forest or woodland

A treant is a Huge humanoid tree-like creature that is somewhere around 30 feet tall. It looks much like a tree, and at rest the creature is easy to mistake for one. In fact, many believe that treants start their lives as inanimate trees indistinguishable from those around them, but awaken when they reach maturity. Therefore, they don't distinguish between fellow treants and ordinary trees: Any tree could be a sibling, growing and watching until it is ready to awaken with its memory intact.

Treants are generally peaceful, but they grow violent when the trees under their charge are threatened with fire or axe. They've been described as chaotic good in the past, but their attitude is more truly neutral—they don't take sides unless their forest is in danger. Druids, elves, and fey creatures tend to look on treants as allies, but it's not clear that the treants share that attitude—these other creatures aren't treants, and thus there's no guarantee that they hold the best interests of the forest in mind.

These tree creatures are mostly solitary, though the treants in a given forest occasionally gather in conference to discuss any matters of importance to them all. They are slow-moving and thoughtful, and they look on the young, impatient humanoid races with a mixture of pity and disdain. It's possible to secure their aid, if you can demonstrate that helping you will also help protect the forest, and they can be powerful allies—especially if stone walls need to be battered down.

Treants consider themselves the protectors of the trees. They can animate trees to behave almost exactly like treants, using this ability to muster small armies in cases where their forests are seriously threatened. A force of treants (and animated trees) is a powerful siege army, capable of laying waste to the most powerful fortifications. In fact, we've been talking about treants as legendary monsters (as Mike described in his Legends & Lore column a couple of weeks ago), able to turn their environment into a powerful ally—calling up entangling roots, making trees batter foes with their branches, and so on.

Though their tough bark-like skin is very resistant to weapon attacks, treants are vulnerable to fire.

What Do You Think?

Previous Poll Resuls

In general, do you feel that having monsters linked together in the story of the multiverse helps you imagine how to use them? (For example, does it help you to use the githyanki if you know that they were once enslaved by mind flayers?)
Yes, I need to know how all these monsters fit together in a coherent whole. 597 35%
Yes, it helps me wrap my brain around new creatures if I can understand their relation to other creatures. 900 53%
Meh—I can see how it might be helpful, but I don’t really need it. 154 9%
No, I ignore that information anyway. 13 1%
No, it actively impedes my ability to use these monsters. 18 1%
Total 1682 100.0%

What do you think about ettercaps snaring pixies in their webs and collecting pixie dust to trade?
That’s a really cool twist on ettercaps that makes me more interested in using them. 1351 80%
It’s a fine idea, but I already know what to do with ettercaps. 202 12%
I still don’t really like ettercaps, even with that addition. 92 5%
It makes me hate ettercaps like I never have before. 28 2%
Total 1673 100.0%

What do you think about araneas as magically advanced versions of ettercaps?
That’s a really cool twist on araneas that makes me more interested in using them. 1026 60%
It’s a fine idea, but I already know what to do with araneas. 380 22%
I still don’t really like araneas, even with that addition. 171 10%
It makes me hate araneas like I never have before. 78 5%
Total 1655 100.0%

What do you think about lamias as decadent servants of Graz’zt devoted to the pursuit of pleasure?
That’s a really cool twist on lamias that makes me more interested in using them. 1065 63%
It’s a fine idea, but I already know what to do with lamias. 393 23%
I still don’t really like lamias, even with that addition. 148 9%
It makes me hate lamias like I never have before. 49 3%
Total 1655 100.0%

And how about jackalweres as monsters created by Graz’zt to serve the lamias?
That’s a really cool twist on jackalweres that makes me more interested in using them. 995 59%
It’s a fine idea, but I already know what to do with jackalweres. 376 22%
I still don’t really like jackalweres, even with that addition. 224 13%
It makes me hate jackalweres like I never have before. 67 4%
Total 1662 100.0%

James Wyatt
James Wyatt is the Creative Manager for Dungeons & Dragons R&D at Wizards of the Coast. He was one of the lead designers for 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons and the primary author of the 4th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. He also contributed to the Eberron Campaign Setting, and is the author of several Dungeons & Dragons novels set in the world of Eberron.
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