Posted by : David Guyll July 16, 2013

I am not sure whether or not I should be surprised that while past Wandering Monsters articles have talked about fey and underdark denizens, there has apparently been no mention of plant-based critters.

I think that I might have used a myconid in 4th Edition, but only as part of a published adventure. I am however certain that I never have in previous editions, published adventure or no, so I had to dig around for a bit to see what they were all about before. What I found kind of painted a pretty interesting creature despite them just looking like
humanoid mushrooms.

For starters you have their spores. They can use one or more types depending on their Hit Dice, which allows them to do things like set out a distress call, allow them to communicate with other creatures, pacify creatures, cause them to hallucinate, and more. Their communities are made up of a number of social groups referred to as circles, which are overseen by a king that is not part of any circles so that he can remain objective in his judgement (which is described as being a pretty crappy job). Their days are evenly divided between periods of rest, work, and recreational "melding" sessions. They abhor violence, so kings use special spores to animate dead creatures to serve as guardians.

I like this because it makes them seem very alien. They cannot communicate with you unless they infect you with spores. If you die, they might cart your corpse back to their king so that he can animate you as a fungus zombie. Their only form of entertainment is telepathic hallucinations, which they "consider to be the reason for their existence". They are peaceful, but because they have a lot of trouble communicating, might be using your friends or family to protect their community, and look so weird that they get a bad rap, which causes them to view other races as psychotic.

Really the only thing I dislike about them is that they look very humanoid: two arms, two legs, two eyes.

Probably. Maybe.
While 3rd Edition did not change them much, 4th Edition made them a bit more "proactive" in the bigger picture, by having them driven a bit crazy by fomorians and constantly expanding their territory. Personally I think that the fomorian-madness was unnecessary, as I could just as easily see them expanding without regard for other creatures because they regard them like we would mushrooms or grass, though it could tie them with other creatures.

I will say that I felt 4th Edition made them so much more interesting mechanically, though if you wanted to play up the sunlight-vulnerability I would have had them all take more damage from radiant attacks. Aside from that unless there is a good reason for them to look humanoid (mutated dwarves, some kind of fungus god copying mankind, experiment gone awry) I would change up their shape quite a bit.

I am pretty sure I threw a shambling mound into an adventure at some point, probably in one of my first campaigns when the characters were wandering around a forest where storm-channeling druids built a pyramid. It made sense given the origins of the monster (animated by lightning!), even if the origin seems kind of strange (animated by lightning?).

I find the resistances out of place. It gains damage resistance because its organs are protected by layers of plant matter? What if you are shoved inside, does that circumvent its resistance? What about a golem, which as no organs at all? What about armor in general? You are protecting yourself with a layer of metal, after all. It has fire resistance because of its slimy composition? Will everything with a slimy composition gain fire resistance?

I am not opposed to these resistances, I am just opposed as to how they seem arbitrarily implemented. If a feature or trait is sufficient to warrant something, then it should apply globally to every creature with said feature and/or trait. If you wanted to go with them as animated plants, then why not make a more basic version of a shambling mound that is a carnivorous plant prior to being zapped.

I would remove lightning from the default shambler, maybe make a variant geared around lightning (stormrage shambler), give it a better origin (guardian spirit, reincarnated druid, biodegradable construct made by druids, etc), and reduce its intelligence to around 2-5 (unless it is a spirit or druid).

Now I have used treants on a variety of occasions, from guardians to guides, and they have not changed much over the editions, including for some reason being really good at demolishing buildings. Do not get me wrong, I would think that most Huge creatures with a sufficiently high Strength would be good at breaking things, it is just that nothing about giant tree-men really screams "inherently superior at smashing buildings".

Actually now that I think of it the same goes for their ability to animate other trees. I think that treants should come in a variety of sizes (potentially with access to nature magic), with massive "legendary" treants being able to animate trees, perhaps even grow new treants. I would also limit their damage resistance to bludgeoning and piercing weapons. Makes a lot more sense than just global resistance.

{ 2 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. I think there was a shambling mound in the Expedition to Castle Ravenloft adventure. I distinctly remember a fight with one, at any rate; whether it was in the adventure or a random encounter, I can't remember.

    Man, I'm really starting to sound like a broken record. People might start to think I've never played anything other than Ravenloft, haha!

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  2. I think you are right, but I have my books packed up right now so cannot double-check.

    I would not blame you; Expedition is pretty good, especially if you take the time to flesh it out based on your group's needs and wants.

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