View Full Version : [ORG]{Item} The One-With-Trees

2006-08-15, 05:30 AM
The Ones-With-Trees

Aalmek shivered as he walked through the forest, the raucous hum of cicadas harmonizing with the wet slops of his feet against the moist grass. The sun warmed his goose bumped skin, and he wondered why they had to make this trek without any clothes on. The group of stark-naked initiates trailed along with Brother Reghaln, all of them awkwardly clutching their loins in embarrassment. The austere man, dressed only in simple flax robes, seemed to flow through the trees with grace. Aalmek remembered how Brother Reghaln rescued him from his gambling debts, and from then on he had been a devout follower of the Ones-With-Trees, but secretly he still prayed to his old Gods. Now more than ever, he was afraid of what he had gotten himself into.
“We are here”, said Brother Reghaln as he parted a large, obscuring shrub. The group entered a clearing and a collective gasp from the naked initiates could be heard.
There, stretched out lying in the grass, bathing in the sun, were dozens of naked men and women. But something was wrong…their skin was crisscrossed with millions of green veins, so much so that their very flesh seemed a shade of brilliant emerald green. Their hair was stark white, between strands there seemed to grow a fine moss, and their pupils were a striking shade of red.
“Welcome to Paradise”, said Brother Reghaln, and suddenly, these same green men appeared behind the backs of each initiate, quickly grappling and pinning them down. The initiates screamed, writhing and wriggling against the inhumanly strong grip of these strange plant men. The plant men each produced a little pod, with tiny, sharp barbs. Aalmek suddenly felt a burst of pain from his back, spreading like knives through his veins. The plant man behind him had torn open a bit of his flesh with his razor sharp claws, and shoved the little pod deep into his back. With horror, Aalmek suddenly realized he was going to become one of those plant men.
“Congratulations, Initiates. You have successfully completed the Path-of-Trees, and now you will become one… with the trees.”

General Description:
The Ones-With-Trees are a secret coven of renegade druids, who claim they are an order that seeks the next step in the merging between all life forms and nature. But in truth, they are far more sinister. They were exiled by the druidic order after using unspeakable corruption magic to create an aberrant life form- a symbiotic moss-like plant which infects the bodies of already living creatures, which absorb sunlight energy through photosynthesis and use it to nourish their hosts. But in return, this symbiote slowly takes over the host’s mind, and as it is only half-sentient, it gives control of the host over to the prime symbiote- the original life form which is bonded to the head druid, together named “The Patriarch”. When recruiting, they state that they believe traditional orders of druidic circles are far too restrictive and archaic, and allow any lost souls in without proper druidic training. But in truth, they simply infect hapless fools with the symbiote, and allow the aberration’s sentience to take over the host’s mind, adding them to their army.
The original druids, “The Copse”, fanatically believe that their master, “The Patriarch”, is the latest incarnation of Mother Nature, and that they are heralding a new stage in evolution. The Patriarch is not all as he seems, however. The rest of the initiates, “The Forest”, are either just as fanatical as the druids or under the grip of their seeds, thus forced into servitude. The Copse is not aware that the infections destroys one’s will and believe that all the initiates are just as fanatical as them.

The purpose of the Ones-With-Trees is to infect every non plant life form on the planet with their aberrant seeds. The Copse believes this will herald a new age of peace on the planet, while The Patriarch has much more sinister reasons. They go about this by converting the destitute and poor into their cult, and then infect them once they have fully abandoned their previous lives. Once they have gathered enough members, they plan on wreaking vengeance on the original druids which exiled them, infecting them by force, and then eventually infecting the entire world through coercion or force.

The Copse is actually True Neutral, because they believe that the coming conflict is just a growing pain in the creation of a new utopia on the planet, where all creatures are at peace and connected together by the infection. The Patriarch is Chaotic Evil, and he is actually manipulating the Copse with his influence using their seeds. He realizes that if he attempts to dominate the druids entirely through sheer force of will, they will eventually break free and destroy him- but by using their fanaticism and making them believe they are in control, they become his puppets. The Copse allows anyone of any alignment to join their cult, because they believe all creatures will come to understand the truth once they are infected. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter, because all those who are infected are enslaved by The Patriarch anyway.

GP Resource Limit/Economics:
The One-With-Trees have control over the wilderness, and such there is no accurate way to predict just how much money they have. Most members eschew clothing because of the nature of the infection, and they scavenge for food in the forests (but they need very little because the infection feeds them through sunlight). The One-With-Trees does claim all the gold and possessions of their converts, much like many cults, so they have around 10,000 GP to play with when getting contacts from the city, or lifting the destitute or poor out of debt so that they will join, etc.

Membership Requirements:
None. The One-With-Trees welcomes all. Once you join, the Ones-With-Trees slowly take you through a training course called the “Path of Trees” designed specifically only to get you to sever all contact with your previous life and to give all your wealth to the cult, so that when they infect you, no one will miss you. All you need to do is buy into their propaganda and literature about a natural utopia.

Authority Figures:
The Patriarch: Level 15 former elf Druid. Once known as Sarpah, he was the leader of the druids. He was the one who first dealt with the demonic forces of Ra’aghlepikh and he has paid the price- his mind has been completely destroyed by Ra’aghlepikh. If the original seed is removed from his still alive body, his mind shuts down and he becomes a vegetable, who will die soon as the roots inside him wither. If he dies with the seed still in him, then the seed dies as well, killing every single infected host. Furthermore, the seed warps with him when he wild shapes, so whatever he wild shapes into, he retains the bonuses granted by the seed. Since he is infected with the original seed that contains most of Ra’aghlepikh’s power, it is more powerful than the other seeds, granting him a +8 to natural armor, +4 to constitution, +4 to strength and other assorted bonuses (see the very, very bottom at the end of the crunchy bit section for the full stats) to anything he wild shapes into. He is counted as an aberration no matter what he wild shapes into, and same for all infected druids.

Brother Reghaln: level 4 human druid. Brother Reghaln is one of the few druids who has chosen not to infect himself, using his normal appearance to convert members of the city to the Ones-With-Trees.

The Copse Elders: This is a central group of eight formerly elven druids who lead the rest of the druids in the One-With-Trees. They are all infected with the seed, and like The Patriarch, will retain all the bonuses gained by the seed to their form even when they wild shape (+2 natural armor, +1d4 damage to natural weapons, +2 strength, +2 constitution, -2 dexterity, plus assorted abilities… see below in the crunchy bit section for full stats) They are named (from the oldest to the youngest) Cambium (level 12), Ophloem (10), Dicot (9), Zailem ( 8 ), Idyll ( 8 ), Leaf (7), Lianne (6) and Acasia (7). Any attempts on The Patriarch’s life will probably find intervention against The Copse Elders, who fight in a large group.

Other Important Figures:
Vilithia Kas, level 12 aberration scout- Vilithia was a product of experimentation by the One-with-trees, and has managed to break free from the One-with-trees. She conducts a rebellion against the One-with-trees. She is not under control by the Patriarch, and in fact can help those who are infected break free too (see below for how). She is very powerful, with 18 strength, 20 dexterity, 20 constitution, 16 intelligence, 14 wisdom and 14 charisma. Furthermore, she has all the powers of a regular infected, with the addition that her blood is naturally poisonous. She can coat her weapon with her own blood (DC is 20), and the poison deals 1d4 constitution damage initially and 1d4 secondary constitution damage. She is not only immune to poison, but can ingest or inhale or otherwise consume any poison and have the properties of that poison added to her blood temporarily (duration depends on how much she consumed). She can concentrate on the memories of her painful experimentation and produce a single teardrop- it takes three years to collect a vial of these tears, which is enough for one creature. These tears are a frighteningly powerful injury poison. It requires a DC 40 fortitude save, and failure to make that save causes instant death, dropping a creature’s hitpoints directly to -10. Against any infected creature, this poison kills instantly with no save, unless it is used against the Patriarch, in which case it merely incapacitates him permanently, causing him to become unconscious until he is killed or given a greater restoration spell. She is saving this vial for The Patriarch, and refuses to give it to a party unless they promise they will only use it on The Patriarch, and then immediately slay him afterwards- thus giving a way for lower level characters to complete the adventure. She can be excluded from an adventure if the GM wishes so, but she is mainly there to help lower level parties defeat the Patriarch as well as help party members who get infected a way to reverse their curse.

The Head Druid and the mayor of the nearby cities should fit into whichever existing head druids or mayors are in the region of the setting in which you wish to place the Ones-with-trees.

Racial Makeup:
35% Human, 15% Half-Elf, 15% Halflings, 10% Half-Orc 10% Gnomes, 5% Elves, 5% Intelligent Monstrous Races like Orcs, Trolls, etc. There are probably one or two of many intelligent races, but other than the ones listed above they are probably unique or rare- like centaurs for example. At any given time 91% of the organization is infected, while 9% have yet to be. The “Path of Trees” takes about a year per recruitment- which means that the organization is growing at a steady pace of 10% a year. For long term campaigns, this will slow down by about 1% a year as the cult drains nearby cities of all its desperate populace, and once that starts happening it becomes imminent that the organization will attack the closest druidic circle.

Class Make-Up:
The One-With-Trees begin training the infected commoners for battle and stealth (so as to hide from the authorities and the druids). The class makeup will be 30% commoners, 20% barbarians, 15% fighters, 10% scouts, 10% adepts, experts and other NPC classes, 10% druids (this consists of the core druids which were originally exiled- “The Copse) and 5% miscellaneous assorted classes- usually adventurers who had skills before joining the One-With-Trees. All paladins who are infected become fallen and all clerics and rangers probably convert to whatever monstrous deity there is on the campaign setting.

The original life form which the Ones-With-Trees druid sect produced had a fully developed sentience and could spawn child spores- which would develop into full seeds for infection. This life form merged with the head druid of the Ones-With-Trees, and together they became one being who called “The Patriarch”. The rest of the druids willfully allowed themselves to be infected, and became “The Copse”. All the rest of the initiates are then referred to as “The Forest”, while yet-to-be infected initiates are called “The Seeds”. In truth, the original life form was a demon named Ra’aghlepikh that was summoned by the head druid Sarpah, who had gone insane. Sarpah had convinced the rest of his druids that he was simply drawing upon an untapped source of nature energy to accelerate the growth of plants. Ra’aghlepikh instead twisted and corrupted the seeds, and planted a bit of his sentience into the original seed, creating the original aberrant life form. This aberrant life form, being an extension of Ra’aghlepikh’s will, convinced Sarpah to be infected by him. All the child spores are actually further extensions of Ra’aghlepikh’s sentience, and thus all of the One-With-Trees are under Ra’aghlepikh’s control.
Conferring with any druid in the area will let most adventurers know that the Ones-With-Trees did not leave the Druid Circle voluntarily, but were rather exiled. This is somewhat of a secret though, so unless a successful Gather Information check could be made (DC: 10) or unless the party can convince the Ones-With-Trees pose a significant threat and they require the druids help, a normal druid will not impart this information. If there is a druid in the party they should already know this.
The following information require the following knowledge (local) checks: that the One-With-Trees are an innocent order seeking a greater relationship between life and nature (DC: 5), that the One-With-Trees have a large bunch of strange “plant men” within their ranks (DC: 10), that the One-With-Trees involuntarily force seeds into the initiates to infect them (DC:15) and that all the infected plant men seem to be under the sway of their strange leader, “The Patriarch”.
The original druidic circles had known that Sarpah was using demonic power, but it is a well kept secret. They fear that if it is discovered that one of their head druids had gone insane in such a way, it would create dissension amongst the ranks. So the information about Sarpah/Ra’aghlepikh requires a monumental DC: 30 Knowledge (Local) check, or the party must make a DC: 20 Gather Information check with one of the head druids, or otherwise convince the head druids that it is in both the druid’s and the party’s best interests to know exactly what is going on.
As the power of the One-with-trees continued further, they managed to capture a pregnant wild elf. Unwilling to let herself become a mindless slave, she poisoned herself, hoping to kill herself and her child before they both become monsters. But the infection seed kept her alive, forcing her to suffer in incredible pain until she gave birth to her child, at which point the pain was unbearable and she died. The baby wild elf daughter, named Vilithia Kas, was horribly disfigured and retarded as a result of the poisons and the corruption seed ravaging her mother’s womb.
But the seed in the wild elf mother had reproduced, thus birthing a new strain of the seed that was completely free of Ra’aghlepikh’s influence. Furthermore this new species of seed had absorbed the gallons of poisons that Vilithia’s mother had taken, and adapted to produce those same poisons. The One-with-trees, surprised with the outcome, began conducting hundreds of horrific surgical experiments on Vilithia’s infant body- breaking and resetting bone, stretching and tearing muscle tissue and then healing it back with magic. She went from being disfigured and weak to becoming a lethal physical weapon. Furthermore, since her body was surgically engineered to accommodate the plant fibers, she did not suffer from the stiffness brought on by the infection- instead, she actually became more flexible and lean that even the most dexterous elves.
Ra’aghlepikh thought that although he did not have Vilithia under his complete control, she was still retarded and could be easily manipulated to become a powerful tool. Finally having a creature that wasn’t totally dominated by him, he actually saw Vilithia as a sort of sick, twisted pet, and he called her his daughter privately. He enjoyed torturing her, finding a sadistic pleasure in subjecting her to the most painful, cruel and agonizing experiments. Although Vilithia became physically strong and fit, the strains placed upon her body has reduced her lifespan to only seventy or so years, compared to the near infinite lifespan that a normal elf would experience.
The new strain had a sentience as well, but it was undeveloped without the assistance of an external identity (like Ra’aghlepikh) and so instead merged with Vilithia’s retarded consciousness, creating a single mind. This increased Vilithia’s intelligence, until she could comprehend her situation and therefore attempt to escape. Having the seed merge with her mind, she understood that all of the One-with-trees were really being brainwashed by Ra’aghlepikh, and although she didn’t know her “father’s” true identity, she hated him for torturing her all these years, fashioning her into an assassin for the One-with-trees. She managed to fight her way out of the organization and escape into the nearby woods. Ra’aghlepikh was enraged with this and wanted to hunt her down, but he realized that doing so would expend too much of his resources. He figured that as long as he retained control of his minions, Vilithia could do him no harm.
He was wrong. Vilithia, living alone, discovered how to use her own connections with the sentient network between seeds to break the link to Ra’aghlepikh of others, so she slowly began helping those infected that managed to temporarily struggle free from Ra’aghlepikh’s mental grasp to permanently sever their connection to The Patriarch. They formed a ragtag rebellion that struck at the One-With-Trees with guerilla warfare. Ra’aghlepikh found that attempting to hunt her down only meant that more of his forces would be lost, as the guerilla style warfare that Vilithia conducted meant that no precise base could be pinpointed. The fanning search groups would be split up to cover ground, and so Vilithia’s forces could easily ambush them, capturing all survivors and breaking Ra’aghlepikh’s control over them, therefore adding to her forces. Ra’aghlepikh settled on amassing his forces until he could defeat the druids, therefore allowing him to raze the forest with impunity, leaving Vilithia no where to hide, before confronting her. (Design note: I put in Vilithia so that there could be some way for PC’s who foolishly managed to let themselves get infected to get out.) The only people who are aware of Vilithia are the infected One-with-trees, and they will attack on sight if the adventurers are not already infected themselves, so the party has no way of finding out about her unless Vilithia approaches the adventurers themselves. This gives the GM control in adjusting the difficulty if the party wants to kill Ra’aghlepikh.

Adventure Hook:
The Head Druid believes that the One-With-Trees are converting their disillusioned members, and so do not wish to send their own warriors to fight against their brethren lest even more become converted. However, the mayors of nearby cities are concerned about people disappearing into the forest and the sightings of strange “plant men”. The party can be hired by the druids or the city government, whichever seems more likely, or Vilithia may even hire the adventurers to help her destroy The Patriarch. A fellow adventurer may ask the party to help them free his brother who had fallen in with the cult or maybe one of the party members have been infected and the party must somehow reverse the curse. Or the party may want to increase their physical prowess, and so are hunting after this strange seed to plant into their own bodies, once they figure out how to cleanse it off Ra’aghlepikh’s domination. Without Vilithia’s help, this is an extremely high level adventure, but not quite epic yet.

Crunchy Bit:
Ra’aghlepikh’s Corruption Seed (Cursed Minor Artifact)
This strange, dark green pod is about the size of an eyeball. It is produced in great quantities from plants, which can be grown from seeds produced by any creature that is already infected. It has wicked sharp barbs that protrude from every end, but otherwise it is very hard and smooth. To plant the seed, a deep wound must be cut into the body of the host, at least three inches deep. The seed is then shoved into the wound. Immediately after being planted, the seed begins to grow long tendrils from each barb, which spread and dig through the body of the host. For one week, the host undergoes immense pain as the tendrils worm their way through the flesh, and small green veins begin appearing throughout their body. The seed begins draining away all the pigment in the skin, eyes and hair of the host, transforming them into an albino. Their pupils become red, they become deathly pale and their hair becomes an ivory white.
Once all the pigment is drained, the seed begins converting it into chlorophyll, and the flesh of the host creature becomes a deeper and darker shade of green. The fingernails fall off and are replaced by hard, green claws made of plant fibers. These claws can be retracted, and is as solid as dark wood. The host creature gains these claws as natural weapons, which they are automatically proficient with. They deal the host creature’s unarmed damage + 1d4 damage each, with a critical range of 19-20/x2.
Once the transformation is complete, the host gains a +2 natural armor bonus to AC, as their flesh is reinforced with tough plant fibers. The host’s creature type is changed into aberration, and gain 60 feet darkvision. The host gains +2 to strength, +2 to constitution but -2 to dexterity. The fibers reduce the host’s flexibility, but increase their ability to resist damage. They also gain the following abilities:
Photosynthesis (Su): As long as the host is fully immersed in sunlight, they can absorb the energy to heal their wounds. They regenerate two hit points an hour when scantily clad or naked, one hit point an hour when they are partially clothed (i.e. topless), and zero hit points an hour when fully clothed or totally covered.
Detect Plants (Sp): At will, the host may cast the first level druid spell detect animals or plants, except for the fact that they can only detect plants. They cast the spell as an 8th level druid.
Entangle (Sp): By touching plants with the host’s roots, the host may control plants in the area to entangle enemies. The host may cast the first level druid spell entangle twice per day as an 8th level druid.
Warp Wood (Sp): By touching wood, the host may charge dead wood with growth energy and cause it to change shape. The host may cast the second level druid spell warp wood once per day as an 8th level druid.
Furthermore, the seed inside the host’s body develops sentience. It is an extension of Ra’aghlepikh’s will, so although it has its own ego it shares the same identity of Ra’aghlepikh- in effect, making it a proxy of the Ra’aghlepikh. Thus, its alignment is chaotic evil. The seed sentience has 16 intelligence, 14 charisma and 10 wisdom. It has 10 ranks in spot and listen, and it has the constant ability to speak with plants. It knows all the languages of the host, plus druidic and abyssal, and can communicate through telepathy but prefers to communicate through empathy, preferring it’s presence to be unknown. Everyday the host must make a will save against DC: 20 or fall under the control of the seed sentience as if under the dominate spell. The exception is after the spell ends the host has no idea that he was under the control of an outside sentience. Even if they do succeed the will save they will still have to deal with the seed sentience’s ego, which is 18. As long as they are unaware of the seed sentience’s presence, the host takes a -5 penalty to all ego and dominate will saves.
If the host becomes aware of the seed sentience, they may attempt to wrest control of the sentience. This requires Vilithia’s assistance, which will use her mental link to Ra’aghlepikh to disable the seed sentience for five minutes. If she is interrupted while doing so that length of time ends prematurely. Within those five minutes, the host must destroy the seed sentience’s ego. The host may deal 1d4 + int modifier damage per minute to the seed sentience’s ego. If the host cannot destroy all 18 ego points within those five rounds, then the seed sentience heals back all lost ego points and regains control, and it can never be disabled by Vilithia again. If the host succeeds though, the seed sentience is destroyed, and the host gains the Speak to Plants power which the seed sentience had.
The host body and the seed are permanently linked. If the host body dies, the seed dies, but if the host body is resurrected, then the seed is resurrected too, unless a Wish or Miracle spell is performed, specifying to only resurrect the host body.
If Ra’aghlepikh is destroyed in the abyss or the original seed is killed then all seeds wither up and die, killing their infected hosts with them, even if the host managed to destroy the seed sentience. The infected host bodies have become so dependent on the seed’s nourishment that they cannot be resurrected by conventional spells- attempts to do so will only resurrect a writhing, bloody body that suffers in incredible pain until dying again only a short while later (it basically has a maximum HP of -1 and cannot be stabilized because it has a -40 fortitude save, so no matter how much healing magic is used it will die again eventually). Only a wish or miracle spell can bring back the host in his or her original form.
The only way to remove the seed is through an extensive and painful process. First a remove curse spell must be cast, and then the seed must be sanctified through the use of holy water within ten minutes (which means surgically cutting through flesh into the seed). This severs Ra’aghlepikh’s presence and is the same as destroying the ego. If a remove curse spell is not cast, or those ten minutes have passed, then the host suffers 1d10 damage for every round that the seed is in contact with holy water (the holy water does not harm him even if it touches the rest of his body). This step can be skipped if the ego of the seed sentience has already been destroyed.
Then the host must undergo a series of length surgical procedures, which requires multiple DC 40 heal checks, with the aid another limit at nine people all working on the host at once. The entire surgical process lasts for approximately two years as each individual part of the body must slowly be removed of the roots. Healing magic does not help as it only heals the host’s body back into its previous form with the seed still implanted. Once the procedure is finished, all changes wrought by the seed are lost permanently, and it still requires an extra year for the host to recuperate, and even then the host suffers a permanent -4 penalty to dexterity, strength and constitution.
The only way for a host to retain the powers given by the corruption seed while destroying Ra’aghlepikh at the same time is an even more difficult task. The Patriarch must be incapacitated, and the original seed must be cut out from his body. The original seed must be kept alive with constant healing magic until it can be sanctified in a large pool of holy water. The evil energies in the original seed will corrupt the entire pool of holy water, turning it into a brackish, black liquid. From this liquid will emerge Ra’aghlepikh himself (standard Balor), as this process will summon him. What’s worse is that the pool of black liquid will heal Ra’aghlepikh and any demon buddies he summons, healing 15 damage every round he remains immersed in it. He must be defeated and banished back to the abyss. This will sever Ra’aghlepikh from his own creation and purify even the original seed, destroying the egos of all the seed sentience. All the infected hosts are then free to live their lives, but fortunately or unfortunately they will forever retain the changes to their bodies brought on by the seed. Furthermore, the original seed (major artifact), now purified, can be planted in a body to give the same effects as the normal seed except it is much greater in power: the natural claws deal the unarmed damage +1d20 damage, with a critical range of 18-20/x3. The natural armor bonus is +8, and it gives a +4 to strength and constitution and has no penalty to dexterity. The regeneration caused by Photosynthesis is tripled and Detect Plants, Warp Wood and Entangle can be cast at will as a level 20 druid. Furthermore they gain the following spell-like abilities, all castable as a level 20 druid: Control Plants 5/day, Plant Growth 5/day, Wall of Thorns 5/day, and Shambler 3/day.
All of this obviously puts a party whose member has been infected at odds with Vilithia. Although Vilithia’s poison can be used to incapacitate The Patriarch permanently, thus allowing the infected party member to continue living (without having to go through an extensive surgery that will leave their body permanent weakened or having to confront a CR 18 Balor in unfavorable conditions) she will only give her poison to the party if they promise to immediately kill The Patriarch and the original seed directly after incapacitating him.