Sunday, January 27, 2019

Bestiary -- Errantwort

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
-- Thomas Jefferson 
My vegetable love should grow 
Vaster than empires, and more slow;
-- Andrew Marvell, “To His Coy Mistress" 
Gaea's Avenger -- Pete Venters
This one came to me in a dream, so apologies if it's excessively weird.

You start with a plant. It can be any species of plant, but the important thing is that someone cares for it, specifically and individually. So you probably won't get one from a single plant within a field of wheat, because while the farmer may work hard to keep the field healthy, he doesn't tend to give individual plants special thought -- however, his wife's favorite rosebush, which grows by the door of their cottage and gives them joy every time they smell its flowers, is a prime candidate for errantwort.

Multani, Maro-Sorcerer -- Daren Bader
The transformation happens when the person who cared for the plant dies. A small part of their elan vital transfers to the plant they loved in life, and gives it an animating spark. The plant reshapes itself into a Small humanoid form1, and marches purposefully into the distance. This is the errantwort. An errantwort's appearance varies widely based on the plant from which it came, but there are a few commonalities. It always produces a few bark-like plates over its “head" and “torso", which vaguely resemble a breastplate and a mask -- the latter because it doesn't otherwise have a face. It also produces thorn-like growths throughout its body as a defensive measure.

Illusionary Mask -- Amy Weber
A new errantwort has a rudimentary intelligence, and a basic understanding of tool use. If it gets the chance, it will acquire actual armor and a proper weapon. It prefers full plate and a sword, but will settle for any armor and any melee weapon. If it cannot find a weapon, it will fight by producing a stick of tough, thorny wood from itself, which it will use as a club. As time passes, if the errantwort survives and grows sufficiently, it will also develop the necessary skills for horsemanship, and will seek to acquire a steed.

Wormwood Treefolk -- Jesper Myrfors
An errantwort has no ultimate goal, but does possess a sort of overriding purpose. Whatever the moral ideals of the person who used to care for the plant from which the errantwort sprung were, the errantwort will now defend them with all the stubbornness, pomp, and chivalry of a knight stepped straight out of Malory. If questioned on its motivation, the errantwort will declaim something about wanting to “honor the soul of its lady/lord", in terms as flowery as possible. It has no concept of moral gray areas, and addresses any perceived insult, disrespect, or violation of its black-and-white moral code by challenging the “knave" who has committed this injustice to a duel. Usually, these are not duels to the death, unless the offense is particularly egregious, and the errantwort will specify the conditions of the duel2 when challenging. However, accidents happen, especially when the party being challenged is particularly irritable.

Heartwood Treefolk -- Daren Bader
An errantwort is perfectly willing to accompany a party of adventurers it considers “just" and “honorable", and it might seem like a viable ally initially, but it soon becomes clear that it is difficult to guide in convenient directions. A young errantwort -- and, given their propensity for duels, few errantworts survive to maturity -- talks like a Markov chain trained on Le Morte Darthur, and thinks like two children in a trenchcoat pretending to be Don Quixote. Inevitably, if it is inducted into a party of adventurers, it will eventually either become the de facto leader on the grounds that nobody can successfully tell it what to do, or end up parting ways with the party after one duel too many. And, of course, there's a slight additional problem that the errantwort never mentions and adventurers often take a long time to figure out.

Ancestral Mask -- Massimilano Frezzato
An errantwort primarily, like any plant, feeds on soil, water, and sunlight. It habitually roots itself for brief periods in order to extract its needed nutrients. Someone who spends a lot of time around an errantwort will note that it often insists on rooting itself -- or at least resting -- after a combat encounter, including its honor-duels. If asked, it says that it needs to replenish itself after the effort expended in the fight. This is not strictly true. An errantwort, in order to properly grow and mature, needs to feed on the flesh and/or blood of foes that have not yet been slain. When it rests after a duel, it chooses a spot where the blood of its foe was spilled, and absorbs that blood through its roots.3 It is ashamed of this habit, and will never admit it to outsiders, but it is a necessary action for the errantwort to reach maturity.

Moss Monster -- Jesper Myrfors
The people whose blood the errantwort consumes in this way -- henceforth referred to as its vanquished foes -- do not come to any direct harm as a result of this, and may well not notice any effects for some time. Whenever one of the errantwort's vanquished foes would gain XP, they get only 90% of that XP -- the other 10% is shunted over to the errantwort. This is the only way an errantwort can gain XP. Whenever the errantwort accumulates enough XP to gain a level, it instead advances by one HD. This is the only way an errantwort can advance in HD. As it advances, the errantwort not only becomes physically larger, but also becomes smarter and more skilled by virtually every measurement. It even gradually acquires new talents as it matures, as presented in the table below:

 Hit Dice   Total XP  Size  Bonus 
1
0
Small
Exists?
2
1,000
Small
 +1 to all mental attributes
Proficient with all armor
Bonus combat feat
3
3,000
Small
 +1 to all mental attributes
 Proficient with martial weapons
Fast Healing 5  
4
6,000
Small
 +1 to all mental attributes 
Proficient with all shields
Bonus combat feat
5
10,000
 Medium 
 +1 to all mental attributes 
+5 racial bonus to Ride
6
15,000
Medium
Spell-like abilities
Bonus combat feat
Regeneration 5

Ebony Treefolk -- Matt Cavotta
Beyond 6 HD, the errantwort will continue getting a bonus combat feat every time it reaches an even number of hit dice and +1 to a single mental ability every time it reaches an odd number of hit dice. At 15 hit dice, it grows from Medium to Large.

Note that these changes are in addition to the default effects of gaining hit dice and size categories, which will vary slightly depending on which system you are using.

An errantwort acquires its spell-like abilities as follows: whenever it would gain a hit die, if one of its vanquished foes has access to spellcasting, then the errantwort can gain access to a spell that foe knows as a 1/day spell-like ability. This same effect can apply to supernatural class abilities, or spell-like abilities its foes may have. Generally, an errantwort will not gain offensive abilities. Instead, it acquires utility spells that can aid it in its “quest", such as detect evil or zone of truth; it may also pick up defensive abilities like protection from chaos or mage armor.

Weatherseed Treefolk -- Heather Hudson
In full maturity -- i.e., at least 6 HD -- an errantwort can pass for a human paladin. It will, if it hasn't already, seek out a set of full plate it can wear (including a helmet that covers its lack-of-face), acquire a sword, and purchase a warhorse. It makes no effort to lie about its true nature, but neither will it volunteer the information if not asked. By this point, it will be medium-sized, with enough intelligence to carry on a real conversation. It will carry on the activities of a questing knight, supporting whatever causes it was born believing in for the glory of its deceased lord or lady. It is still difficult to integrate even a fully-mature errantwort into a larger organization, however -- regardless of how its mental faculties have increased, it still has an inborn sense of right and wrong (inherited from its human caretakers when it was inanimate, not reasoned out in any logical fashion) and a starkly black-and-white worldview that it is completely incapable of questioning. Those who have adventured with one too many paladins would probably describe the default state of an errantwort as “Lawful Stupid".

The stats of a newly-created errantwort are as follows.

Scarwood Treefolk-- Stuart Griffin

Errantwort

CR 1, XP 400
Small Plant
Init +0
Senses Low-Light Vision; Perception -2

-----Defense-----

AC 19, touch 11, flat-footed 19 (+1 size, +8 natural)
HP 6 (1d8+1)
Saves Fort +3, Ref +0, Will -2

 -----Offense-----

Savage Thallid -- Luca Zontini
Speed 20 ft.
Melee club +2 (1d4+1)

-----Statistics-----

Attributes Str 12, Dex 10, Con 12, Int 5, Wis 6, Cha 4
Base Atk +0; CMB +0; CMD 10
Feats Improved Natural Armor
Skills Climb +2
Languages Common, Plantspeech
Special Qualities Plant Traits, Camouflage

-----Special Abilities-----

Plant Traits
This type comprises vegetable creatures. Note that regular plants, such as one finds growing in gardens and fields, lack Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores; even though plants are alive, they are objects, not creatures.
-- Low-light vision.
-- Immunity to all mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, patterns, and phantasms).
-- Immunity to paralysis, poison, polymorph, sleep effects, and stunning.
-- Plants breathe and eat, but do not sleep.
Camouflage (Ex)
An Errantwort can use the Stealth skill to hide in any of its native terrains, even if the terrain doesn't grant cover or concealment.
Plantspeech (Ex)
An Errantwort can communicate with plants as through a 'Speak with Plants' spell (of caster level 1) constantly.

-----Ecology-----

Environment Forests, fields, and any place a noble knight may quest
Organization Solitary
Treasure Weapons, armor, and perchance some small trinket of their lady / lord
Lichenthrope -- Bob Eggleton

1 If the plant is not large enough for this, it will rapidly grow until it has sufficient volume. If it is larger than necessary, it will leave the excess matter behind; the remnant may or may not be able to survive the amputation. 

2 Most commonly, the duel is to be fought until one party either yields or is too wounded to continue. Occasionally, if the errantwort is disinclined to cause real harm to a challenged party for whatever reason, the duel will simply be to “first blood". 

3 This process happens automatically, with no need for the errantwort to take any additional action, if blood is ever spilled directly on the errantwort.

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