|Untouched nature (source)|
The island is located in a hemiboreal climate. Forest hills and ravines are the dominant scenery, mild summers and harsh winters the norm. It measures ca. 3.000 square kilometers, which is, according to The Measurement of Things, very nearly the size of the Yosemite National Park. It equals 16 ten mile hexes, if I've done the math correctly (using wikipedia for the formula and the 10 miles for "d"...*).
|Elder Elemental? (source)|
Magic is strong on the island, so naturally the fey folk feel at home here and earth elementals are very common and very much like the trolls in the scandinavian legends. Nature not only thrived here, but was very much able to defend itself against humanoid colonisation attempts or ruthless exploitation. Those were the good times.
The Mushroom Wizard
One entity living on the island became famous beyond it's shore and was only known as The Mushroom Wizard**, named so for the mushrooms apparently growing in his enormous beard. He seemed to be able to appear anywhere within the island at will and was rumored to have some weird control over the earth elementals living on Karik Thel. He was a strange fella indeed, irritating behaviour and incoherent blathering being among the more favourable descriptions, weird and crazy are close seconds.
|Scene is from Hannibal, s01 e02 (found here). and|
inspiration for the Mushroom Wizards minions.***
The scariest among the many legends told about him, was the one about the shroom zombies he created. Humanoids, completely covered in mushrooms, were his minions and dangerous foes for those opposing them.
Basis is your normal zombie, but the longer they exist, the more intelligent they get, so for every hd after the initial two, add +3 to INT. They gain their ability to speak with an INT of 7 and memory about their past live with an INT of 10. This process stops at the initial INT the creature possessed. If the creature is slaughtered within the fungus network**** and had 13+ INT, the network stores it's memory. It might spawn an organism copying the slaughtered ShroomZombie within 1d4 weeks, ensuring some sort of immortality, but no more advancement of INT (might advance otherwise, though). They are not dead, which might come as a surprise for a cleric.
They also have no will of their own, but the more intelligent they are, the more complex are the orders they can carry out and as soon as they regain their full personality (INT restored) they're no longer under his controll, but part of the fungus network and forever marked by it.
Resting a ShroomZombie in humid earth within the fungus network regenerates 1d4 hp per day. For advancing the ShroomZombies I'd alter the Zombie Chaotic Advancement Table (C.A.T.) I did some time ago (here) to something like this:
(1d8+1d12, every uneven result adds 1 hd):
2 Masked puppet: No visible mushrooms grow on this ShroomZombie and he might pass as a human. The Mushrrom Wizard uses him as a puppet and is able to see, act, speak and even cast spells through the creature (one spell per hd and +1 every time this comes up).
3 BRAINS!!: This one is trained to go for the brain. Every successful attack starts (in addition to damage dealt) with holding the victim (STR resolves), Two successful and unresolved attacks mean the victim is grappled and the next attack is going for the head (I'm using this rules). A succesful attack now also needs a successful save vs. death (-1, -2, etc.) or the victim looses conciuosness for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6, etc.) rounds.
4 Infectious: Once damage is dealt to the zombie, a character gets a save vs death +4 (+3, +2, +1, etc.). Failure means he'll turn into a ShroomZombie in 1d6 (1d4, 2, etc.) days. CON declines in that time to zero. Alter one aspect every time this comes up again.
5 Groping: One attack more per round, up to three attacks. After that a DEX (additional -1 every time this comes up) check is needed to keep balance because of the wild attacks. Two attacks do each 1d4 damage, three attacks each 1d3. Upgrade either DEX penalty, number of attacks or damage of one attack.
6 Psychedelic spores: When in a fight, mushroom tubes on this ShroomZombies body start pumping spores into the air (1d4 times for one round per day, if this comes up again, alter either by +1). Save versus poison +4 or under the effect of the Feeblemind spell for 1d4 turns.
7 Faster: They don't loose initiative automatically when this comes up the first time. After that they get faster every time.
8 Wailing: They wail a lot and summon 1 (2, 3, 4, etc.) ShroomZombie(s) more every 3 rounds. (Wandering Monster checks, too).
9 Slime spitting: When hit, spits slime at facing enemy. 1 load (+ one more load for every time this is rolled) for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6,, etc.) acid damage.
10 Extra meaty: More flesh to hit! +3 to hit points for every roll. Getting this for a second time is upgrading the zombie by one more hd, Four times equals two extra hd and so forth.
11 Better saves: Save as Fighter one level better (+1 every time this comes up) than hd indicate.
12 Armoured: Thick mushroom growth protects them. +2 to AC every time this comes up
13 Paralysing touch: Save vs. paralysation or paralysed for 1d4 (1d4+2, 2d4, etc.) turns. Elves and anything bigger than an ogre are immune (might change too, if it is rolled again).
14 Hit the head: They can only be killed if you destroy the brain! Using the rules I proposed for aimed hits I'd go for 12 hp damage needed to annihilate a standard zombie ((3 x 2hd) + 6 (AC, because brain is protected by skull)). This comes up again, it needs one more point of damage every time. Damage to the rest of the body may immobilize it, but doesn't kill it.
15 Fear effect: This one looks much more disgusting than other ShroomZombies! Save vs. spells (-1, -2, etc.) or don't fight him for 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6, 1d6+1, 1d8, etc.) rounds.
16 Regeneration: They regenerate 1 (2, 3, etc.) hp per round (without the need to rest in humid earth). Damage from magic sources or from fire can't be regenerated. Finding and destroying the fungus network, destroys the ShroomZombies raised by it, too.
17 Diseased: Taking more than 6 (5, 4, 3, etc.) points of damage from those zombies could result in a disease. Save versus poison (-1, -2, etc.) or random illness (DM's choice).
18 Exploding: Death blow makes this one explode because of the gases inside. Gory damage is 1d4 (1d4+1, 1d6,, etc.) in a 5 (+2 every time it comes up) feet radius. DEX negates.
19 Remembering early: Basic motoric memory (INT +2 up to INT 7). A zombie might remember or possess something dangerous/useful (1d6: (1) level 1 spell (defensive), (2) level 1 spell (offensive), (3) level 2 spell (defensive), (4) level 2 spell (offensive), (5) magic weapon, (6) magic item) and is able to use it.
20 Strange humanoids: Roll 1d6 to determine: (1) kobold, (2) hill giant, (3) dwarf, (4) troglodyte, (5) orcs, (6) elf. Roll one more time for special enhancement (and keep rolling if it comes up again...).
For what purpose the Mushroom Wizard creates those creatures he fondly refers to as shroomies is unknown. Some say he wages war for a strange godling, others believe he punishes those that crossed him somehow. It might as well be some weird initiation rite. But that's just the way of the Mushroom...
Kobolds, dwarves and humans are up next
But for today that's enough. Writing a setting, regardless how small, produces more questions with every paragraph written, I suppose. And a map would be nice, too.
*This raises, for me at least, the question what area really is covered by a 10 mile hex. The way I did it, we're talking 195 sqare kilometers (for those recalculating, I'm using 1 Mile = 1.5 Kilometers), which would be very nearly the area covered by American Samoa and just a little bit bigger than Washington, D.C. (according to this, again)! It covers a lot of ground. Is there any standard? The math already done, maybe? To give this a little bis more perspective: using 5 Mile hexes would mean an area with ca. 48.71 square kilometers (let's say 50) and would amount to 60 hexes covering the 3000 square miles area.
**There will be a follow up post about Magic and Wizards, talking about Mushrooms as familiars, fungus networks and their usage for travel and spell storage and the strange minds that are the result of too much exposure to psychedelic mushrooms, if you are a M-U. Please consider this a primer...
***Really a fan of Hannibal here. If you've seen the episode, you know what I'm aiming for with this. For those interested, but unknowing (spoilers ahead), this episode was about a psychopath that cultivated mushrooms in living but comatose people.
****From Wikipedia: "Though mushroom fruiting bodies are short-lived, the underlying mycelium can itself be long-lived and massive. A colony of Armillaria solidipes (formerly known as Armillaria ostoyae) in Malheur National Forest in the United States is estimated to be 2,400 years old, possibly older, and spans an estimated 2,200 acres (8.9 km2). Most of the fungus is underground and in decaying wood or dying tree roots in the form of white mycelia combined with black shoelace-like rhizomorphs that bridge colonized separated woody substrates." This news about plant communication via fungus networks is also very interesting.