Written by: James S.
A Treant is a majestic and ancient creature deeply rooted in nature, often featured in fantasy tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. Prepare for an enchanting encounter with these sentient treefolk using the "Dark Woods Edge" map, and envision the following description:
- An ancient guardian of the forest commands the trees to move and vines to grow.
- Trees all around the players burst into life, intent on engulfing them.
- Difficult terrain and sharp briars hinder players’ movement.
- The Treant can grow vines to entangle players even further.
- Swarms of spiders, wasps, and centipedes move through the thorns with ease.
Use this encounter when players enter a truly ancient forest. But not any old forest, where dappled sunlight falls golden upon soft moss and ferns, where the Fair Folk frolic between silver birches. No. Most people don’t go here, and those who do wear no clothes and speak no human tongue. They sleep amongst the worms. This forest is churning voracious consumption. It is growth and death, rot and absorption—endless recycling. A feast in the dark.
And you can forget anthropomorphic trees with wrinkled, kindly faces. These are primeval beings who have existed since long before that pareidolic arrangement. In medieval Britain, oak trees marked parish boundaries. Here, gnarled and menacing, they loom at the threshold of the forest. They are its guardians, its keepers.
There is only silence as the players pass beneath the shadowed canopy. No birds sing, no wind blows. If players stand still and listen, beneath the dull mush of their feet on the saturated earth, they can hear an unceasing susurration—the sound of countless unseen creatures moving in darkness.
You should pause the players beside a particularly impressive old tree very close to the edge of the forest— the oldest, widest, tallest, most ancient. Give the impression that it has stood since time immemorial to mark the border, the boundary between worlds. It is immense, festooned with lichen, moss, spiderwebs. If the players continue deeper into the forest, the whole scene bursts into motion with terrifying intensity.
The huge tree crawls forward on a mass of leg-like roots that erupt from the ground around it. Its hollow trunk yawns wide. Bleached bones clutter its insides like a gruesome secret laid bare.
The whole forest sways into life, creaking and cracking. All around the players, roots grope and crawl, sifting through the soil like fingers, churning the earth.
The fight could go like this:
- All nearby trees move one tile per turn. They move unimpeded through the undergrowth towards the closest player.
- They do not attack, but if a tree moves onto the same tile as a player, have them make a Strength or Dexterity save. If they fail, it engulfs them.
- If several trees converge on a player’s tile, the player is crushed between them.
- Crushed or engulfed players risk suffocation and must cut their way out. It’s up to you how much damage they must deal to escape or whether they can simply make another successful save.
- Players move at half speed across the forest floor. The difficult terrain moves, twists, and writhes beneath them.
- Scatter the ground with large thickets of razor-sharp thorns. Players wanting to move through these must take damage or cut each tile down with an action.
- Instead of moving, the Treant can cause vines to grow rapidly from the ground, shooting up to entangle players. The effect roots them in place. They may resist with strength or with blades. All the while, the trees move closer.
- If you think this isn’t difficult enough, have swarms of insects wriggle up from the earth and buzz through the air toward the players, too.
- The trees fear fire. The first time a player starts a fire or deals fire damage, all trees will move away from the fire for one turn. However, when they regroup, they are frenzied. Double their movement.
- If players destroy the Treant, the forest subsides. Trees stop moving and bury their roots once again in the soil. Insects disperse. Numb silence descends once more.
Perhaps the only way players may freely enter the forest is to cast away all of their humanity—their weapons, adornments, clothing—and walk, silent and naked, through brambles that prick their skin. They must endure it. Only by letting the feast continue undisturbed will the Treant allow any to cross the boundary. Insects light upon them, sipping at beaded rubies of blood. Worms squirm through their toes. The forest eats them. Their body becomes part of it, carried down into the leafmould.
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