Runequest Thursday #91 - Tusk Vine of Thanatar!

Clint Staples

This one came out of fellow author, game designer and contributor to D-Infinity.net, Chris Van Deelen and I comparing notes on each other's work at Comicpalooza 2016. Comicpalooza was a lot of fun, and a lot of work for all of the Skirmisher team, but Chris and I got a chance to chat some about critters and conversions. I have long been a fan of some of the wicked, weird, wacky and wonderful creatures he has statted up for Mutant Future. And apparently, Chris has been enjoying my Runequest Thursday creature write-ups as well.

So we thought we would occasionally poach each others critters for conversion. This week, I want to run a recent post of Chris' through the Runequestifier - The Biting Seeds! As soon as I saw the image I was hooked, but I also like what Chris did with it. And funnily, when I saw it, I thought "plant", just as he did. Of course I went in a different direction in how it works, and I had to tie it to Runequest, which is in its essence a fantasy game, rather than post-apocalyptic like Mutant Future. So here is my take on Biting Seeds, Which I call:

 

Tusk Vine

Sometimes also called the Hydra Plant, Tusk Vine is an unnatural chaotic plant created by certain members of the cult of Thanatar. By grafting the severed and animated heads of victims sacrificed to Thanatar onto the body of a normal swamp plant called the water creeper, a nightmarish hybrid monster is born.  Normally, the water creeper is non-ambulatory, and utterly benign to others. In fact it serves a useful purpose in its normal state, as it filters and stores water in its bulbous central body, which many swamp dwelling creatures, including men and elves, use as a matter of course for pure water.

Because of the environment favored by the water creeper, the Tusk Vine is most commonly found in swampy regions. It consists of a central body as large as a small elephant, which is at least partially buried or submerged. This root body is covered in thick, gnarled bark, and forks into a number of thick trunks. Each trunk attenuates into a ropy vine as thick as a strong man’s arm, which itself ends in the tusked head.

Each head was once part of a living creature, usually humanoid, because that is what Thanatar prefers. In the ritual that creates the Tusk Vine plant, old, worn out, Thanatari heads are repurposed as guardians by attaching them to the corrupted water creeper body. Though extremely dissipated from their state in life, each head retains a portion of its intellect, which it is contributes to the hybrid monster in the form of Countermagic 1, INT 3, and POW. So a four-headed Tusk Vine like the one above has permanent Countermagic 4, INT 12, and POW 20. Truly horrific Tusk Vines have been reported in the marshes of Dorastor with as many as a dozen heads, AND with the power to regenerate them, just like the Hydra for which the plant is sometimes called.  To make such a terror, increase the number of heads and stats accordingly, and adjust the Hit Location tables to include all heads. Regeneration should be something like 1 HP per round for every 2 heads. GMs should feel free to add Regeneration 2 to the Tusk Vine shown here if they wish.

Each head retain tidbits of information about its former life, which it hurls indiscriminately about as it flails and attacks. These can be informative, revelatory, and extremely disturbing, especially to any who knew the unfortunate soul now trapped and damned in this state.  Thanatari cultists find the ravings of the Tusk Vine soothing.  Tusk Vines will never harm any cultist of Thanatar, but will attack anything else that comes to its attention.

Generally, the Tusk Vine is cultivated as a garden-guardian near the entrance to the subterranean temples to Thanatar. Although the abomination cannot move in combat, it can slowly shift its elephantine bulk over land or water, transporting itself a dozen or more yards per day. A rune level of the cult can direct a Tusk Vine to do so. This is a time consuming task, but one that many cultists find worthwhile for the added security it provides. The Tusk Vine is also considered sacred to Thanatari worship, so many cultists find it pleasant to have such horrors around.

Tusk Vine will attack nearly anything that its blind heads notice via Sense Life (which it possesses, along with Sense Movement, equal to the # of Heads x 15%). Heads are capable of stealth and will lie in wait until prey comes within reach. Heads are known to strike at anything that moves however, and canny chaos-hunters may use this to their advantage by drawing attacks to hurled objects, then attacking the Heads when they have struck.

Tusk Vine has no digestive system, and victims are not “eaten”. Instead, the dead are left to corrupt, and their decomposing bodies enrich the plant indirectly. It is also thought that the POW drained from bitten victims aids in sustaining the Hydra Plant. The heads of victims also occasionally serve as a source of heads for Thanatari living nearby. These heads, if they are harvested quickly can be made into Lesser Heads, sacred objects to the twisted members of the cult, and horrible abominations to anyone else.