Guardian Tree

Chris Van Deelen

No. Enc: 1
Alignment:  Chaotic
Movement: N/A
AC: 1
HD: 40 or more.
Attacks: 2d6 Spearing Roots
Damage: 3d6+6 each root
Save: L20
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: None

With all the toxins and radiation released during the final wars, it is no surprise that so many creatures, plants included, mutated into new and oft terrifying forms. Plants, being far more resistant to the effects of radiation, fared better than most other life-forms, and many even mutated during the war, creating new and deadly species that still haunt the wastelands to this very day.

A particular species of Oak fared better than others, and at the same time mutated to a point that they could think and even communicate. There are those who believe that these trees were infected with the Uplift virus that caused so many drastic changes in the animals and other lower life-forms, granting them the gift of intellect.

When first seen, these creatures appear to be like any other tree, although some are truly ancient, having lived hundreds of years even before the beginning of the final wars. There is no real way to distinguish them from other trees in the forest. The problem is that these trees need flesh and blood to survive, not just sunlight and water. Since it is often difficult to attack prey, these creatures have developed a unique way of bringing food. They use a combination of neural telepathy and fragrance in order to entice possible ‘helpers’ towards them. This will work on any creature, although they much prefer to use those with intelligence. Once the creature has come within range (100’), the plant will attack with the spearing roots. If the target survives, then it will be fully under the control of the creature.

It will then remove the roots and send its new companion out to find and entice others to come to see the tree. This monstrous creature will then attack anything that comes within range, ignoring its companion and using its spears to impale and drag the victim. This requires at least two successful root strikes, and if the target wants to break free, they can attack the roots, which have an AC of 4 and will take 25 points of damage to break (causing no damage to the plant, but it will make it angry). Optionally the victim can attempt to break free using a grapple check, but the tree has 30 strength, making such an option unlikely.

Victims will be dragged to the tree at the rate of 30’ per round, and they will be placed against the trunk. The tree will then exude an enzyme that will penetrate the flesh of the victim, and turn the skin into bark, which the tree will absorb, making it part of itself. The victim is allowed a saving throw versus stun, and if it succeeds, they can break free and are immune to the toxin for the next twenty-four hours.

Failure means the victim is paralyzed, and the flesh turns to bark. The body will then meld with the tree (taking 1d6 turns) and once this happens, the tree will absorb the body slowly, taking nutrients from it until nothing is left but a new patch of bark. The tree will absorb 1d3 points of Constitution per day, and once the victim reaches zero, it is forever dead.

Before this happens, the victim can be removed from the tree after killing it. Once the body has been removed, the victim’s flesh will turn from bark to skin over 1d4 hours, but any Constitution lost is gone permanently.

This tree can have one intelligent companion, and up to half of its hit-dice in animal companions, which it will use to lure or chase prey to be attacked and absorbed into the body.

For every twenty hit-dice or points of Constitution it absorbs, it will produce a single seed. This seed is injected into the body of its current companion and the tree then sends the companion away. The companion will travel for at least one hundred kilometers before it will shuck all its clothing and equipment and bury itself in the earth. The seed will then hatch, turning the flesh into bark and absorb the body. It will start with half of the companion’s original hit dice or Constitution score, and will retain all memories of the companion, but with all the hunger and needs of its new body. The creature grows at the rate of 1 hit-dice per six months, and once it hits twenty hit dice, it will grow at the rate of one per year, and there is no limit to the amount of hit dice a tree can have, sometimes up to hundreds, depending on the age.

With age comes wisdom and with each intelligent victim it fully absorbs, comes knowledge. These creatures have the knowledge of all the victims that it has absorbed, as well as the knowledge from victims its ancestors have absorbed. There are few beings in the wastelands that possess the knowledge these creatures have.

Despite this, the creature is rather chaotic and is far more interested in feeding and absorbing its victims than it is merely speaking, but if someone can establish contact and arrange a trade, the tree is a virtual fountain of information. It has no use for technology, treasure or the like, only for food.

Sacrifices are its main source of trade – flesh for knowledge. Most people balk at the idea, but there are those who are willing to do whatever it requires for what they are looking for.

Mutations: Aberrant form (natural weapons), dietary requirement change (blood and meat), fragrance development (plant, modified), full senses, natural armor (plant), neural telepathy (modified), vegetal parasite (modified).

Source: The Guardian (1990)