Tuesday, July 20, 2010

After the Flood and Channeling the Plant God

(more material from my defunct 3e campaign, slightly edited to remove specific references to the party I ran through this setup)

This occurred as the party was caught in a farmland below a dam when the dam was broken.  In my campaign world the dam and farmland are on a high plateau with sheer cliffs falling thousands of feet to an uncivilized wild coastline below.

“The surge of flood water sweeps you up and rapidly carries you across the now ruined and flooded farmlands.  With hardly any warning, you realize that the waters have found or created a path over the great cliffs and are spilling out into the savage wilderness thousands of feet below.”

If the characters fail to somehow extricate themselves from the rapidly moving floodwaters (no easy task as they find themselves in a body of water nearly a mile wide and rapidly rising as the waters continue to flood out of the dam through the burst gates):

“Your efforts are useless as the powerful current whisks you over the edge and you find yourself in terrifying free fall,  caught in a monumental waterfall dropping several thousand feet vertically. “

The newly created waterfall falls over the cliff for a total of 3,000 feet of elevation loss.  This is divided into two sections: 

several short falls at the beginning that should tumble and damage the characters with a chance of killing them (perhaps some kind of dexterity check to avoid a save vs. death situation, along with 3d6 damage from tumbling and rocks - a kind DM might allow for a character that dies during the fall to be merely unconscious with water in their lungs, and any attempt to get them to spit the water out and breath would revive them with 1d4 HP);

 and one long 2,500 foot uninterrupted fall into a huge and newly created pool of water.  A natural depression at the base of the cliff formed by the fault line has become a very deep and turbulent pool.  The 2,640’ free fall takes only 14 and half seconds (assuming a terminal velocity of a human body in free fall of 182.414 feet per second) so give the players a chance to try something QUICK or nothing at all.
The water level continues to rise for a half hour after the PCs arrive, raising from 2 to 4 feet deep in most places, then gradually dropping at the rate of 2” per hour after that (in two days, it will have mostly drained, leaving swampy ground and pools wherever there were depressions and a lake over the fault line rift that will persist for decades ).

If a Random Encounter is called for,  roll 1d8

1:  angry dire brown bear, splashing across the landscape, with a raw wound and broken off sapling in it in its flank (-15 HP).  It is angry and confused and likely to attack.  Somehow removing the wound and helping the bear might be worth extra experience for a nature oriented character.  The bear might shadow the party through the flooded zone and assist them in a later encounter if they run into trouble...

2:  5 owlbears with 10 young in tow, searching for a new home.  They are not quiet moving across the flooded landscape.  They are also looking for a meal and the biggest three will attack if they find a sitting target, with two hanging back with the young and the entire group fleeing if the combat turns against them. 

3-5: Multiple splashdowns into unseen pits.  They can just be a nuisance, they can function as an attack against the leading member of the party as if the hidden pit under the water was a 3 HD monster, combining a fall with jagged broken logs to do 2d4 damage, they can swallow the victim in choking mud, they can be the home of a frightened giant sturgeon that was washed out from the dam in the flooding...

6:  Shambling mound ambush.  One pile of uprooted debris left from the flood is not what it seems...

7.  Swarm of biting flies follows the party.  Can be driven off with smoke, certain plant oils or some kind of creative PC tactic that might work with a swarm of thousands of little biting flies.  PCs that do not take special measures to clean and avoid itching the fly bites run the risk of infection in the dirty water.

8.  A displaced and angry dragon is sitting on a patch of high ground near its flooded caverns, looking for answers and someone to pay.  Not necessarily a combat encounter, unless you are feeling mean!

As evening arrives:

 “ The waning light illuminates the undersides of the leaves and casts a red glow on the tree trunks protruding from the muddy brown, sediment filled water. “ 

When the characters start looking for a place to camp, or soon after in any case:

Read the following to a player whose character has high wisdom or is particularly in tune with nature:

“You feel compelled to stop and look at a vine growing up the side of an immense dead stump; the vine has oddly shaped leaves which resemble a 9 pointed star, deep green in color with intense red veins.”  

 If the vine is touched, it communicates with the toucher telepathically:

“I am Haoma.  I am the god of the vine, the lord of green growing things and the Prince of the Dark Realm beneath the Soil.  Drink the milk squeezed from the roots of my vine-body and know the wisdom of Haoma...”

Each Vine of Haoma yields enough juice for 2d6 doses.  A 1' section of the vine yields one dose when squeezed.  The milk must be imbibed within 10 minutes of cutting the section of the vine, and there is no way to preserve the vine or milk for later consumption once the vine has been cut.  Uprooting the plant proves... difficult.  Each Vine of Haoma grows in a place sacred to Haoma and will grow there as long as Haoma is a power in the dark places.  Attempts to uproot the plant or destroy its roots will be met by progressively more severe responses by Haoma’s insect minions.  The roots themselves are incredibly tough and hardy, taking hundreds of HP of damage and dulling many normal swords or axes before they would be cut.  They will die if removed from their sacred location and a new vine will sprout forth.

Channeling the Plant God:  

If the milk of the vine is drunk, the imbiber is possessed by Haoma.  The possession lasts for 1d6 minutes +1 per point of wisdom above 16.  The character remains under control of its player but some personality changes may be evident.  In some cases special cases the possession can last indefinitely as long as the imbiber is carrying out Haoma’s wishes (in such cases, the Earthswim ability can be used once a day and the imbiber can cast a number of spells from the spell list equal to the number a cleric of the same level could cast – these spells do not in any way effect the number of spells the imbiber could otherwise cast in a day).

During the possession the imbiber will know that he or she is God of the Vine, Lord of Plants, Prince of the Dirt and all the bugs and mushrooms and other creatures and things that inhabit the soil.  Any actions that would be contrary to this god are incredibly difficult to take, requiring a roll of 19 or 20 on a d20 with the roll modified by +1 per point of wisdom above 15 possessed by the imbiber.  Haoma has little concern with  human (or demihuman) squabbles, but anyone possessed by Haoma would have a hard time taking actions that would render any natural habitat unfit for plant and animal life.  Note that in many cases, Haoma would not oppose destroying plant life if it opened up new living spaces for other plants and insects, but paving paradise and putting up a parking lot would be next to impossible to undertake while possessed by Haoma.
Haoma grants many powers during a possession but all are contingent on being barefoot and contacting the earth directly:

+6 to AC, +4 to Constitution (and any related bonus HP, if any), +2 to hit and damage, the ability to speak with and understand replies from plants and insects, and the ability to animate plants and control them in a 30’ radius (1 large (small tree, large cactus), 2 medium (bush, large vine), or 4 small (flowering plant, small vine, mushroom, etc) plants animated per level, e.g. a second level imbiber could animate a tree and two bushes).  These plants will generally have 1-4 HD, with exceptionally large trees counting as two or more trees for the purposes of animating them and having up to 20 HD (a forest giant worth five regular trees).  They can attack as a monster of their HD and do damage appropriate to the type of plant as adjudicated by the DM.  Poisonous plants and mushrooms can include their poison in attacks as appropriate.  Any animated plants return to their normal condition (first returning to their former position if they have uprooted and wandered away during their animation) at the end of the possession.

  The following special ability can also be used (which ends the possession) at any time; 

Earthswim:  You and anyone you are holding hands with sink into the earth and gain the ability to “swim” like a mole through the dirt, at the rate of 300’ per minute (slightly faster than average adult walking speed).  This ability lasts 1 minute per level.

Casting a spell will also end the possession – the imbiber casts spells as a cleric of the same level for purposes of determining access to and effects of the following spells:

Spell List:

1st Level:animate wood (animate a small wooden object and it attacks a foe of your choice), branch to branch (+10 to climb checks in trees and can brachiate hand to hand like a monkey), camouflage (+10 bonus to hide checks), wood wose (summons translucent green nature spirit which will do simple tasks that do not involve knowledge of technology.  It can fly, lift 20 pounds and drag 100 pounds.  It cannot attack.  It cannot move more than 25’ +5’/2 levels away from you.  Duration:1 hour/level)

2nd Level:brambles (wooden weapon grows spikes that deal +1 damage/level), briar web (area slows creatures and thorns deal 1 point of damage/5’ moved, area:40’ spread, duration: 1 minute per level), camouflage, mass (as camouflage but multiple subjects), earthbind (subject creature can’t fly), earthen grace (subject takes only non-lethal damage from stone and earth), easy trail (you make a temporary trail through any kind of undergrowth), embrace the wild (you gain an animal’s senses for 10 minutes/level), mountain stance (subject becomes hard to move), one with the land (link with nature gives a +2 bonus on nature-related skill checks),

3rd Level:crumble ( you erode building or other structure), entangling staff (quarterstaff can grapple and constrict foes, forestfold (gain +10 bonus to hide and move silently checks in one type of terrain), giant’s wrath (pebbles you throw become boulders), nature’s rampart (you mold the terrain to provide fortifications), primal form (you change into earth elemental form, gain damage reduction 5, 25% chance of negating critical hits and sneak attacks on you, duration 1 minute /level), spikes (wooden weapon gains spikes which do +1 dmg/ level, weapon gets +2 bonus to hit, and doubles threat range), thornskin (your unarmed attacks deal +1d6 damage, natural and unarmed attacks against you take 5 damage), vine mine (vines grow rapidly, can use as climbing aid, to bind helpless targets, to hamper movement, or to camouflage/+4 on hide checks, vines grow in a spread, 10’ radius/level, range 100’+10’/level, duration 10 minutes/level

Using Haoma in Play - I leave it up to the DM to determine what if anything Haoma wanted to accomplish by reaching out to contact the PC.  Obviously, Haoma can be removed from the flooded landscape that my PCs encountered the vine in and placed nearly anywhere in the wilderness.  Vines of Haoma can become a strategic resource if an enemy can be lured within range to use the power of the short lasting possession on them.  Alternatively, a druid could protect the section of the wilderness that the PCs are intruding into and uses the power of the milk of the vine against the PCs unless they prove themselves to be friends of Haoma.
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