Thursday, February 11, 2010

Orcish Lowlands - Sword or Blood Grass

Circular patches of strong, tall grass pop up like unexpected tufts of hair from a mole, dotting the landscape here and there with a bright green that stands in vivid contrast to the muted grays and oranges of the thornbushes and lichen.

Known as Sword or Blood Grass, this plant is endemic to the lowlands and only grows in nutrient rich areas that were fertilized by a massacre in the past.  The roots of this grass grow into the decaying bodies, converting them into soil patches in rapid order.  The roots then grow inside the bones that are left behind, secreting resins which bond with the surface of the bone to effectively petrify it.  For all intents and purposes, the skeletons upon which the newly colonized bunch of blood grass alighted will last forever.  Protected inside the bones, special bulbous water storing rhizomes form.  Air trapped between the resin coated outer and inner layers of the bones acts as an effective insulator, keeping the roots safe from the coldest winter weather.

These plants are of note to adventurers for two reasons:

First, if the petrified bones can be cracked open the rhizomes are an excellent source of fresh drinking water.

Secondly, the grass always marks the site of an ancient battlefield, and there is sometimes treasure to be found scattered among the preserved skeletons.

Roll once per turn spent searching (1d12):
1-4: 1d6 rusty spear points and 2d4 rusty arrowheads - still serviceable if fitted to hafts, but until they are sharpened, they do 1 less damage than normal.  At the DM's option, they may also have a small chance of inflicting tetanus (or a similar fantasy disease if such real life diseases do not exist)
5-6: 1d4 badly pitted and rusted longswords (the leather wrapping around the handles has long since disappeared, causing a -1 to hit until replaced due to the poor grip - the blades also do 1 less damage than normal until sanded down and sharpened)
7: 1d4 damaged suits of chainmail (1 less AC protection than normal)
8:  and 1 suit of rusty platemail (unusable until sanded down and re-oiled because the plates and joints are stuck)
9: 2d10 gold coins with a hammer embossed on the front and an anvil on the back (these coins are larger than modern gold coins and worth 2 GP each due to their weight, but may be worth more to a collector of ancient coins)
10: An emerald set into a jade ring sparkles on the finger of a skeletal arm that pokes out from underneath a tuft of grass.  The emerald is worth 65 GP, and the entire ring (which is carved in the form of a serpent with a head instead of tail; both heads have gaping jaws which the emerald rests in) is worth 200 GP for its fine craftsmanship.
11: The blade of a great battle-axe is firmly stuck inside the skull that it cleaved in two (plant resin has since glued it in place).  It is in remarkably good condition, displaying no rust or any other sign of the centuries which rotted away its haft.  The axe head has no decorations but is obviously of superior craftsmanship (it is actually the head of a battle-axe +2)
12:  A horse skeleton with a dainty boned, tall rider protrudes partway out of the ground.  The rider's boots have somehow survived in miraculous condition; the leather is still soft and supple, and the green dye has not faded one whit (these elven boots grant their wearer the ability to move completely silently across any terrain, and they will alter their shape to fit the feet of any wearer up between 3' and 12' tall).

Encounters in the Grass (a 1 on a d6 results in an encounter, check once per turn):  Animated skeletons and ghouls are common denizens of Blood Grass patches.  Ghouls hide in the clumps of grass, leaping out at unsuspecting victims that draw too close.  Skeletons are often animated by the intense magical energies that linger in the aftermath of a large battle, and if the skeleton was first coated in the resinous secretions of the grass, it gains one extra HD and an AC that is two classes better than normal.  More rarely, ghosts, specters and wraiths can be found haunting the sight of their death.


  1. Now this I like. Thanks for the idea. I'm quite keen on making landscape that little bit more interesting and this does the business.

  2. Yes, this is really terrific -- great attention to detail, as usual. As you yourself have said, you do think in "eco-systemic" terms, and the way these grasses interact with the horned lizards and their riders is really captivating. Lizards or no, I plan to hork blood grass (my preferred name since "sword grass" reminds me too much of "sword fern"). Keep this kind of stuff coming!

  3. Thanks for the great feedback guys! These were a lot of fun in play, when the PCs started poking around and realized that the plants were growing out of what looked like shellacked Skeletons they got a little spooked, and when some ghouls jumped them it got quite hairy for a while. They pulled through in the end and made off with the pair of Elven Boots which stood them in excellent stead later on down the road.

    @ Carter - you may have misread me. The plants that the Giant Horned Lizards can ignore are the Ochoka Bushes (detailed in the original "Orcish Lowlands - an introduction" post).


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