Most DMs don’t have many encounters with plant monsters, slimes, molds, and puddings. They’re oftentimes relegated to things that players stumble into like traps, side quests, and areas of heavy overgrowth. With a few simple solutions, they can easily take the spotlight…
Complaint 1: They’re Immobile
Just because in real life these types of things are immobile doesn’t mean that the plants in your game need to be, like how Pokémon combines plants and animals, but the resulting creature is counted as a plant. It could also be that they’re *normally* un-moving, but like the Venus flytrap with the slightest brush up against them, they attack. This can happen in a variety of ways. For instance:
- Vines could suddenly reach out and attempt to entangle, strangle or lash out at victims or strike like a snake, entering their victim, causing problems.
- Flowers could produce controlling spores/ pheromones which cause other monsters to protect it.
- Plants could have the ability to sense nearby prey and launch razor sharp poisonous leaves or volleys of thons at passers-by, the effect of which are paralytic.
Slimes, Molds, etc.
- Combine them with creatures that complements their strengths, while helping to eliminate their weaknesses.
- Give them additional, unique locomotive abilities such as flight, digging, swimming, or climbing.
- Allow them to take over and control other creatures: Example… Veggie Pygmies.
Complaint 2: They’re Uninteresting
“Normal” plants may seem uninteresting because you’re not thinking about everything that they can be used for. Consider the following:
- Provide shelter, food, clothing, or armor.
- Provide transportation (vines for swinging, wood for making boats, carts and wagons)
- Provide medicines/ poisons
- Provide means of defense (weapons) or traps.
Take one of these ideas and turn it into a major plot point by twisting it some way. Maybe a monster or animal is able to take advantage of the plant’s abilities such as a troll wearing dangerous vines as armor with little detriment to themselves.
Another reason why plants might seem uninteresting to DMs is because of the fact that they’re not all that familiar with what’s out there. In the natural world, there are many, many of species of plants, and (with some adaptation) could be used for your campaign. Check these out…
- Six of the World’s Strangest Plants
- 22 Insanely Cool Conversation-Piece Plants For Your Garden
- 10 Most Wacky Plants of the World
- 12 bizarre real-life plants that look like sci-fi aliens
- 15 Rare, Exotic & Amazing Plant Species
Slimes, Molds, etc.
Perhaps instead of using these types of hazards ‘as is,’ change them up. Maybe they could be quasi-elemental in nature, having the vulnerabilities of the opposite element.
Capture them to use as a tool such as a garbage disposal for the sewers, etching metal, or as an explosive substitute. If rendered inert, it could be a food source, grease/ lubricant, or fertilizer.
Both plants and slimes, molds, etc. could possibly be weaponized for a time of war. Special catapults would be needed to fling things like slimes at the enemy.
Complaint 3) They don’t have much variety of things to do with them
This complaint is really a few wrapped up in one, among which are:
They’re too easily defeated.
Change the circumstances that the players encounter. Plants may release caustic fluids that damage the characters, make the ground slippery, super- sticky, or highly flammable. In the case of slimes, molds, etc., make some of them have a built in immunity to their normal weakness, and now it’s up to the players to find how to defeat this new challenge.
Their tactics are too simple.
Change up their tactics. Give the plants a rudimentary intelligence, a goal (other than food), and the ability to perform it. For instance you might give the plant monsters the goal of keeping the characters out of a more vulnerable location. In the case of slimes, molds, etc., if they form a symbiosis, they have the strengths of both types while having the weaknesses of neither.
They can’t be used as the main boss.
Give the plant monster excellent senses and average/ above average intelligence so it can plan strategies, see the character’s actions and adapt, as well as more health so that it’s tougher to kill. In the case of a boss, you need to give them a goal that the players will want to defeat. For instance, a plant monster may have the goal of wiping out civilization in an area, and uses its allies as convenient pawns in order to do so, and to ensure that its wishes are being carried out, it controls them with a tendril that it puts in its allies. The ally gets additional abilities, while the plant monster gets needed intelligence, can be in multiple places at once, and knows when his ally is defeated. In the case of slimes, mold, etc. a giant one may not be immune to its normal weaknesses, but may take significantly less damage from it.
Roleplaying Plant Monsters
Vines: In a tropical environment that is vine-covered they would be invisible. The characters can’t tell vines that are attacking them from the unanimated kind. Attacking vines can also easily purposely trip characters.
Giant Venus flytraps & other “attacking” plants: Characters who are unfamiliar can find themselves being a snack for these giant mouths in (mainly) tropical areas. Sometimes these plants will clog the pipes of the city (think piranha plants in the Mario Bros video games) emerging to attack and withdrawing into the pipe’s safety.
Living topiaries: These creatures can transport themselves through shrubbery. A good tactic to use with them would be to appear, attack, teleports somewhere else, and repeats at irregular intervals. Because it can change shape, it could simply replace the innocuous looking groomed shrub that is there until it attacks.
Poisonous plants: Keep in mind that poison doesn’t necessarily always need to damage. Sometimes they can do stat damage, or harm the players in some other ways. Remember the field of poppies that caused the main characters to fall asleep in the “Wizard of Oz.” When facing plants with poisonous abilities, be sure that the players have a chance to stock up on antidotes / cure poison spells.
Omnipresent: Sometimes the entire forest is out to get you. Playing an animated forest that is against the players is easy. In order to deal the most damage, it would shape paths, hinder and harass the characters. Barring that, they will try to start picking off the characters one by one or separating them in the dense undergrowth so that they are less able to combine their tactics in order to attack the plants effectively.
D12 cool plant adventures
- Dangerous Greenhouse: An enemy NPC has escaped into a greenhouse where there are many plant monster lurking amongst the innocuous ones. The NPC’s presence doesn’t incite an attack for whatever reason, but the PC’s would.
- Vine covered temple: The characters are told to go to an evil temple where sacrifices were made that holds an artifact. For many years the temple has remained abandoned. Unfortunately for the characters the evil has seeped into the vines that attack the characters
- Well-groomed garden: The characters are trying to infiltrate an estate of a high society that are trained not to attack anyone who is with the master of the property. Should the characters come in the way of the garden, they will be attacked without provocation. Maybe a living topiary or a shambling mound would be among the other sculpted shrubbery.
- Elven grounds: Despite their love of nature, and their control over it, not all plants like Elves. In fact these trees, originally changed by Elven magic into beautiful and useful structures were warped into evil treants by eons of being mistreated and are now out for blood, but are indistinguishable from the normal trees in the forest.
- Sewers: Moist, dark environments that have plenty of prey are excellent places for slimes, molds, etc. to grow. While chasing someone who stole something in a city, maybe the thief stumbles into one of these nasty substances that are allowed to inhabit the sewers in order to cut down on waste, but it’s important enough that the characters need to risk their lives to retrieve it.
- Temple to the thunder god: High in the mountains, this temple sits, in the center of a maelstrom. It contains the secrets of weather magic, which the PCs need in order to save a village from a drought. The temple, long since abandoned, has shambling mounds as its protectors. They are able to walk on
- Avalanche Pass: the PCs are tasked with obtaining a sample of a rare herb that thrives in cold in order to cure a sickness that the king’s daughter has. The problem is that the pass is encircled by shrieking plants that may cause an avalanche if disturbed.
- Desert Temple: The characters are tasked with finding out about a long-dead cult of desert dwellers. Priests wanting to protect their temple from people who would defile it made these cacti-like plant monsters to protect it, which they do with their needle-covered bodies, grappling their prey and drinking their blood to weaken them so that they cannot escape.
- Lizard-men Monastery: One of the PCs, a monk, wishes to learn the incredible powers of the monastery, but in order to see their leader, they must undergo a series of tests in which the entire environment is out to defeat them. If they can win through to their goal, the PC will be taught.
- Volcano Lair: One of the PCs, a magic user, wishes to create a new fire spell. According to their research, they found that the fire flower that the spell will require to cast grows in volcanic ash, and a fire troll and his petrified-wood treants have claimed the volcano as their home.
- Cliff-side Dangers: the PCs are climbing a cliff, tasked with reaching the Abbey of the ‘Leap of the Clouds.’ Unfortunately for them, the cliff is home to a plant that shrieks loudly causing birds to attack the climbers and produces a cloud of highly irritating pollen that causes choking and sneezing to those who are not immune to its effects.
- Cherry Blossom Princess’ Audience: people have been seeing a beautiful princess in a Japanese style garden wearing traditional garb, but who disappears in a cloud of cherry blossom petals if a visitor gets too close. The PCs are tasked at finding out what is going on. The cherry blossom trees are really a plant monster, and the girl who is seen is a disguised yōkai. The yōkai feeds off the wonderment of those that watch this happening, and the plant monster gets the body after she’s done with it.