Monday, April 10, 2017

Lotus Tree


Sometimes, you go looking for enlightenment.  Sometimes, enlightenment goes looking for you.

And then enlightenment punches you in the face with a tree branch and steals your hope for all time.

Lotus trees are one of the odder monsters in Bestiary 5…not because they are particularly outlandish, but because they exist as monsters at all.  In folklore, we tend to think of lotuses in connection with the lotus-eaters of the Odyssey, the navel of Vishnu, or the flowers that would spring up in the path of the Buddha.  In other words, themes of dreams, peace, calm, reflection, etc.

We don’t think of a CR 20(!) plant monster that can dish out up to 176 points of slam damage in a round, not to mention permanently charm a victim (with a mindwipe chaser), trap them in a microcosm, or choose from any number of other nasty mental effects.

In most high-level adventures, the lotus tree will probably be a role-playing encounter (“I respectfully seek an audience with the tree”) or a hazard (“We have to dig for the treasure in the Dream Lotus Grove without getting snared”).  It might even be a decent guard or penultimate bad guy, standing in as a kind of dreamy Cerberus for the right nature deity or fey power.

But at CR 20…with a neutral alignment, off-the-charts (23–30) mental ability scores, and a number of ways to bend minds and communicate with minions…why not make a lotus tree the Big Bad of your campaign?  Forget dragons and neothelids—there’s no reason the great mastermind behind it all can’t be a suspiciously lovely tree.

Adventurers must rescue a long-last war hero from the clutches of a lotus tree.  The famous tactician was fleeing the sacking of Tarkus when his trireme ran aground and the lotus tree, who does not approve of war, stole his mind.  The adventurers must first win over the tree, then convince the tactician, who has become a pacifist monk in the intervening years.

A lotus tree grove intends to resurrect the Queen of Thorns, an unnamed and long-deceased nature deity.  Certain adventurers have been encountering the trees’ minions since their first adventure, when they drove a mad druid out of their hamlet.  Now, years, later, they know the truth…but not in time to stop the lotus trees from unearthing the dead nature goddess (now a zombie-like plant kaiju).

Sailors who dare to sail the Far Western Ocean sometimes come across the Blessed Islands.  Each one is a strange and unique place, such as Jackdawlun, home to the jackdawmen (short-beaked tengus with the Claw Attack racial trait and the Scavenger’s Eye feat; see the Advanced Race Guide) or the Isle of Derig, populated by hopping fachen.  While these and a handful of others are well known and even charted, there are other Blessed Islands that exist only as rumors—an island populated by tigers and singing mists, a chain of islands that echo the parable of the 12 Carpenter Saints, a hungry island that eats travelers with its fanged caldera, and more.  These more elusive islands are actually the psychic creations of the native lotus trees.  They probe men’s minds for the paradises and purgatories of their dreams and then provide them…allowing just enough of their thralls to escape with stories that will draw new and more interesting minds on the next year’s tides.

Pathfinder Bestiary 5 160

I’m not as familiar with the Occult Bestiary as I’d like to be—I like the classes, the themes, and the esoteric planes, but I’m shakier on the powers and phrenic pools and everything else mechanical.  I have realized one thing, though: I have absolutely zero ability to guess how powerful psychic spells are. 

When it comes to arcane magic, I get it—charm monster is going to be beefier than charm person.  Ray of frost grows up to be cone of cold grows up to polar ray. 

But I can't read psychic spells at all.  I quail in fear at id insinuation or oneiric horror…and then discover they're 2nd-level spells.  Meanwhile the harmless sounding microcosm…is a 9th-level spell that “Trap[s] creatures in a veiled mindscape permanently, causing their bodies to waste away in the real world.”  WHOOPS.  Pardon me while I hide all my character sheets forever.

Crap!  It’s already Monday, and I didn’t post last week’s radio show!  This installment was a total seat-of-the-pants affair—I had to spend my usual prep time doing my taxes—and it…um, shows.  So if you like a college radio show that definitely sounds like college radio, with indie and hip hop and country and whatever all crammed together uncomfortably like strangers in a cab, this is for you!  Stream/download it now, because you’ve got a little under an hour (till midnight tonight, Monday, 04/10/17) to grab it.  Enjoy!

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