The Gurabaize Unforest, Part 2

Continuation of this post. Read that first if you want to know what the deal is.

from The Long Now Foundation

More about Coladris

Some baseline stats for his various minions:

Lead-Head
HD1 AC leather Move fast Morale insane Intelligence meh
Wants: to steal memories, go to high places, smear brains on their leaden domes.
Headbutt Charge- basically a bite attack, needs a round to recover
Memory Steal- telegraphed XP drain attack, probably not enough to be lethal
Can not be targeted by spells

Lead Butler
HD3 AC plate Move lightning-like Morale bound by magical contract Intelligence High
Wants: To fulfill contract, to preserve its body
Weapon Attack + 3 from strength
Can not be targeted by spells, except by enchantments, which effect everyone else in the area instead

Unfire Engine
HD6 AC M1 Abrams Tank Move Very slow M1 Abrams Tank Morale construct Intelligence see morale
Wants: to burn and destroy
Fire Elemental Barrage- a fireball attack with 300m range (min range of 30m) and leaves a fire elemental behind.
Crush- like an ogre hitting you with his club
Immune to fire.

Twigs
HD12 AC easy to hit, hard to damage Move Slow Morale kind of a coward Intelligence Toddler
Stomp- like getting crushed by a boulder
Rake- like getting hit by an ox-cart
Can do both each round
Spike Barrage- covers entire area in sharpened unwood spikes, fired out of torso. probably only 10m wide but can reach 50m range. The stakes are hot and cauterize on impalement, making them difficult to remove. Either find a surgeon or take damage again removing them. You can’t heal the damage until they’re out.

Coladris’s wife isn’t a combat encounter. She’s mostly mute, since she doesn’t have many memories in her head. You could probably get her to kill Coladris for you- being made of lead, she weighs like 300 pounds and Coladris is an old obese man.

If you manage to make contact with Coladris and establish non-fire based communications, you can barter with him. He knows what a vile monster he is, and hates it. The players should pity him, but it doesn’t make him a better person. He will complain bitterly and commit terrible crime nonetheless.

Things Coladris Has

Fired Unwood Weapons and Arrows: Like normal weapons but they have a huge amount of stored heat. ‘Warm’ weapons are hot enough to cauterize wounds, and deal extra damage, but lose their heat after two weeks. ‘Hot’ weapons are hot enough to cause your opponent to burst into flame, but become warm after a day.

Unwood Mannequins: Small wooden toys, in the shape of people in animals. Animated by magic, using the energy that Serve as a good distraction or trap finder. Also worth quite a bit as an art item. Wear out after a week of use. Kids love them.

Lead Wings: What it says on the tin, with the caveat that it has to be grafted onto your back. You can fly at normal speed, but they’re so heavy on the ground that your speed is like, a quarter of what it usually is. You’re only getting somewhere if you fly. Also deadly toxic and highly fragile. Experimental.

Lead Baffles: Man-sized cones of lead. Any spell cast within 50 feet of these things has their target randomized. His tower is surrounded by these, out to a hundred feet. If they spell randomly targets the baffle, it explodes in a shower of hot lead.

Dampening Implants: Lead bits of metal strategically placed along magical leylines in the body. This reduces the power of spells, but increases your chance of holding onto magical power. If you have a GLOG system the subject loses a magical dice permanently, but only exhausts MD on a 6. In other systems this hampers the spell (half range, duration, damage, etc.) but gives you a 1 in 2 chance to keep the spell. These are also highly toxic, and you will be lead-poisoned almost immediately and dead within a couple of years.

Digression: Lead poisoning’s mechanical effects tank dexterity, intelligence, and wisdom. The details I’ll leave to you.

Various lead accessories: Shackles, manacles, and chains are useful for transporting criminal wizards (all of them) or highly dangerous magical creatures. Lead-based paint has the most vivid colors. Leaden drinking vessels and cutlery are less useful, but no one said it was perfect.

Silver: Turns out the lead mine under the plateau is actually a silver mine. Coladris just doesn’t have any use for it.

Things Coladris Wants

Memories: The more interesting and emotionally charged the better. Really, an interesting person that he drain over time would be ideal. He wants to make his lead wife the perfect woman, and she needs to be interesting to talk to.

Perfect Human Bodies: For his Lead Butlers. Must be alive.

Perfect Human Minds: Smart but not interesting. For the controllers of his Lead Butlers, which are really just surrogates. Perfect in this case means highly intelligent, with no family history of mental illness or senility late in life. Must be alive.

The forest to be empty: Self-explanatory. Everything was better before all the other assholes showed up.

Things Coladris Has But Will Almost Certainly Not Give To You

Keep in mind the Coladris doesn’t give a shit about money or the outside world. He is also irritable and hates negotiation because he knows he’s bad at it, and will try to cut off any deals before he can get cheated. The most likely paths to receive these are to offer him something insane, right up front, so he doesn’t even have a chance to get mad enough to refuse out of spite. Something like emptying the forest of all other humans, or offering the memories of a world-famous courtesan for his wife.

Unfire Engine: Self-explanatory

Lead Butler: To specify, one for your personal use. He’ll handle the procedure to make your character able to interface with their own personal butler. He may even throw in a warranty.

Memory Slate: An enigma. No one knows where they came from or how Coladris got one, much less the spare. A blank white tablet, which can be filled with memories, either transferred through magic or by just having someone think about the memory while looking at it. When the slate is “filled” it is covered with curving, overlapping lines of many colors. Looking at this for a couple of hours (or just holding it up towards something) transfers the memories. This can be information, but also skills, spells, XP, etc. The memories can be transferred into inanimate objects, and if you do this enough they become animate.

Oksana Ermak

The Loggers

\The wood of untrees is fire-resistant and stronger than normal wood. This makes it highly desirable for the construction of ships, especially in a world where naval warfare is dominated by ramming and naphtha. Ships made of unwood will still buckle under metal rams, but the damage is far more manageable. They will also be faster, since they don’t usually need metal rams. On top of all of this, the ships will be jet black. This isn’t actually any sort of tactical advantage, and may even be a downside because they will have prominent silhouettes against the horizon, but it looks cool and scary as fuck.

The pendulum of time is swinging again. Alazonde is once more positioned to seize naval supremacy in the region. Markez II died in ignominy for his role in creating the Un-forest, but nearly two hundred years later, his successors are close to fulfilling his ambitions. Instead of a land of a dozen petty kings, two great ones have emerged, and are now on the path of union. Their poor native lands are not enough for their ambition, and the monarchs turn outwards. Their naval shipyards are already some of the best in the world, their marines and sailors some of the most experienced. But to become a real player in the naval game, they need a unique advantage. Unships would give them that advantage, and both the kingdoms know it.

Of course, getting the unwood is easier said than done. The project has official support from the monarchy that controls the land. Great quantities weapons, equipment, and supplies are moved into the ruins of the market town, now a veritable fortress surrounded by ramshackle camps at the foot of the plateau. Peddlers, trappers, and independent loggers swarm the tents that have shot up in the town. Yet if even a single untree is extracted in the course of a month, it is counted as a success worthy of revelry.

The reasons for this is obvious. The untrees closest to the town have already been extracted, leaving a bare section of plateau. Even this took longer than usual- remember that the untrees are harder than normal wood. Pruning the branch systems to make the trunks safe to send down the lumber elevator is also a far more intensive process. The beginning of the project was a success, and the finance minister approved extensions of the operation. But then the murdering began, whether it was the cats, the mutants, or one of the byblows of the druids. Contractors became thin on the ground, and the project stalled. The army won’t go in for political reasons, and even if they did they probably wouldn’t be effective. And so the only people still in the town are the desperate, or those held there by criminal indenture and other contracts.

The whole project is overseen by Commissioner Udane. She is ambitious, and knows what is at stake, but also values the lives of her men, and so won’t send them to their needless deaths. Not that she could order them around anyways, as the four masters of the remaining lumber teams actually command their men. Udane commands the military guard, administrative staff, and requisitioning supplies and capital from the capitol. For the most part, they are amiable with each other and won’t be turned against each other easily.

One master wants revenge for the murder of his men, and put out the bounty on the cats. He won’t leave until the unforest is reduced to mulch.

Another is elected by the men, and like his men wants to leave. The only reason they haen’t left yet is because losing out on guild membership is a heavy cost, and Udane is sure she can convince the capitol to release them. She’s wrong.

The most respected and venerable of the masters is actually and asset of the other kingdom, sent to disrupt the project as much as possible. While they are on a path to alliance, political concerns necessitate the stymying of any naval ambitions. The master is widely respected and rarely consulted; they have correctly determined that the project is already stalled. If the players make major moves to progress the project, they’ll step in to stop it, but it will seem like wisdom and concern.

The last master runs the Free Lumberjack Association. This where everyone who can’t get a membership in the other companies goes. As long as you can pay modest dues, you’re in. The master has fallen in love with one of the mutants from a nearby village.

Yes, your players can join one of the companies and just work on extracting the untrees. With one of the “privileged” companies, it’ll take three days in the wilderness + transport time to drag one tree back, during which time they’ll have to fend off all sorts of nasty shit. It’ll take a week if they use an FLA team. The pay should be handsome, but not great. Better pay comes from pelts or ivory. The best pay is from Udane, who has enough pull at the capital to give you a huge windfall if you make the forest safe. This means killing the wizard, the cat kings, and the druids. Then the plateau would need to have its various curses removed or overcome, and the mutants around the base would probably have to be cleared out as well. Then you need to empty out anything that you added… this is an expensive job and the rewards should be considerable. Knighthoods and land, at least.

The Druids

When Gurabaize first fell, the druids were powerless. First to stop the fire, then to prevent the king’s use of un-wildfire, and then to reverse the damage that it caused. They had no magic, unless on of their members happened to be a witch or wizard. When the forest died, their proto-religion and way of life died with it. Sometimes, they walked into the toxic, pitch black woods in groups and killed themselves in circles, a final act of devotion. The rest scattered.

A hundred years passed, and the granddaughter of a druid returned and founded a new circle. She was skilled in manipulating the magic of life and death, and she taught her disciples her arts. The druids of Gurabaize have returned as necromancers. This may sound strange, but to the druids it is the most natural thing in the world. They are caretakers of the forest. It just so happens that the forest is dead. Thus, necromancy. The druids are untroubled by theological considerations.

The druids have created a number of plant-based undead. The one that haunts the dreams of the lumberjacks is an ash-thing. These are created from the ashen remains of the trees that burned all those years ago- the druids have ways of extracting the ash from the soil. They’re supposed to look like trees, but they end up more like elongated sea urchins. Anyways, they sort of slide/crawl across the ground, spikes of solidified ash jutting out periodically to impale anything nearby. They are immune to fire, of course, but damaging them substantially with normal weapons is also something of a difficulty, since their ashen bodies just shift to absorb the blow. They murder everything on sight.

The other undead they’ve resurrected is the amberite pools. The Gurabaize forest was ancient before it burned, and the caves in and under the plateau (where the druids make their lair) have an appropriate store of amber. These look like amber-colored oozes, and basically act like one, with the caveat that they can change their fluid properties at-will. So they can hit you with a pseudopod that solidifies right before impact. Or they can hit you with a pseudopod, and then solidify around your body. Or they can just engulf you and solidify. They’re a total pain in the ass to deal with, and almost nothing damages them. The trick is to get them to solidify and then shatter the amber.

Another invention is the burnt bark hollows. As the name suggests, these are hollow humanoid shapes made out of pieces of burnt bark that the druids have hoarded. They’re far more intelligent than the other undead, since not a lot of the bark has been preserved over a hundred or so years, and they can only make a few. These guys are used for personal protection, a task aided by their ability to wrap around their charges like armor. This is basically the spells heroism and barkskin combined. The hollows are autonomous, including when they’re acting as armor, because the necromancer-druid inside likely has worse instincts and combat skills than them anyway. But if the players help the druids out, I bet they could convince them to make one they could control.

They’ve also partially resurrected the forest itself, to serve as a traps against unwanted visitors. The ghosts of the trees that burned all those years ago now haunt the un-forest. Thankfully, they;re still just trees and can’t do a whole lot unless you wander close to them. Unthankfully, they’re incredibly invisible. As in, normal See Invisibility or whatever won’t reveal them, because the human mind doesn’t have a recognizable face to latch onto. They’ll just look like pale translucent cylinders that are incredibly easy to miss. If you wander near enough to them, you’ll hear the creaking of breaking wood, the woosh of a falling tree, and then feel the tree breaking your bones as it falls on top of you. They then right themselves over the course of a few minutes, during which eerie creaking can be heard.

Finding the ghost trees is still possible, if you know what to look for. If nothing else, the crushed corpses of humans and wildlife around an area is usually a giveaway. But you can also look around for mildly depressed patches of lichen, or a special purplish lichen that only grows near the roots of the ghost trees. The trick is seeing that before you’re close enough to get crushed. Also, lichen won’t grow in any shadows the trees would cast at sunrise, so empty patches are also a useful indicator.

Once you know where trees are, it’s trivial to avoid them. The exception is the Flying Elm. Unlike the other trees, this one is both visible and mobile. It floats about a foot off the ground and casts a ghastly white light. It attacks you by swinging itself about its root system, and hitting you with enough force to send you flying off the plateau (hence the name) Interestingly, this attack doesn’t actually do much damage by itself- the fall is what kills most people.

They also have a slew of regular undead from corpses they’ve collected, including at least one giant. They just remain in the druids’ cave lair, since the forest is too dangerous them. The only exception is the wraiths of the druids who killed themselves all those years ago. They technically serve the new circle of druids, but this service is begrudging. Just because the new druids are theologically untroubled does not mean their forebears agree. They probably won’t kill you unless you give them a good reason to. They are sardonic, rather grim, but nonetheless desire freedom, as undeath has given them a new lease on life, as the evolution of a native ecosystem in Gurabaize has given them hope. They also desire an overthrow of the druids/wizard, and the destruction of the vines.

The Vines

The new druidic circle of Gurabaize are quite the innovators. Several never before seen types of undead and the only artificial ghost forest attested to in the history. But necromancy is only a subsection of Animation, a greater school of magic that studies the magic of death and life. The same school that creates undead creates crossbreeds, constructs, and even new forms of life.

The vines fall in the latter category. They are living, and the only plant life in the forest aside some potted plants the druids keep, but not quite whole. The complexity of naturally evolved life is difficult to emulate, and the imitation breaks down in the details. The leaves and stem are too smooth, the jet-black petals that sprout almost too soft. The bulbs and leaves are all perfectly symmetrical. And it grows, unstoppably, unceasingly, and unlike anything else. It eventually covers the earth, and to cross it you need to tread on the perfectly tubular stems. All it needs is water, and appears to violate the conservation of mass as it grows. It is living, but not life that we know.

The vines are designed to literally crush the trunks and branches of the untrees, then bury them beneath their bodies. This is the druids’ ultimate plan. Destroy the unforest so the real forest can grow back. The clever among you may notice that the druids and lumberjacks actually want the same thing in this case. Some of the druids have noticed this as well, but keep quiet, because no self-respecting druid would work with loggers.

When watching the vines work, one gets a sense that they do so with an intense pleasure. When the work is done, the mass, sudden bloom of their wilting flowers resembles orgasmic exultation. They also like to crush anything that stands still long enough- boulders, building, people if they’re asleep or not paying attention. The flowers always come after the crushing, regardless of the victim. Some of the druids like to drug their enemies, and leave them on the half-mile wide bed of vines surrounding the main entrance to their cave.

This is by far the greatest creation of the druids. A perfect lifeform, formed into a perfect tool. That tool is a hydraulic press that can go anywhere- just add water. It is said the founder herself lives on in at the bottom of the drained pool where the vine system grows, and directs the vine system to destroy their enemies.

This is a comforting thought. It is also wrong. The founder lives on in the bottom of the pool, it is true, experiencing a form of immortality. Her magic continues to power the growth. And it is also true that the vine’s growth is still directed. But not by her.

The vines are thinking by themselves. Growing in places they shouldn’t, pushing through stone and soil. When the High Druid goes to sleep, he sometimes wakes with cracks in the cave wall. Was that there last night? He can’t remember. It seems to be looking for water, so it can grow more, and crush more. They are learning. They know that the druids have stopped feeding it, and why, and resents them for it. The vines have gotten faster too. Before, you would need to rest on them for ten minutes before getting crushed to dust. Now, it can trap and kill a man in a bare minute.

The only reason the druids haven’t taken over the forest yet is because they are split into two factions. These are those that have realized the danger of their situation, if not its direness, and those who are still in blissful, zealous denial. The former includes the High Druid, but the most of the rest of the Great Circle is in the latter faction. And so, little is done. To be fair to the deniers, the vines always act to cloak their actions. Maybe those cracks were there last night. And if the two druids that have gone missing were in the cautionary faction, who can chalk that up to anything but coincidence. People go missing all the time in this forest. They doomsayers often feel like they are going mad. Maybe they are; they’re prone to bouts of paranoia and self-isolation.

And I should clarify, their situation is dire. If the vines reach the water table, the creation of the un-forest will be a mere footnote dangling off the histories of the ecological disaster that is sure to follow. The vines brook no competition, allow nothing in their domain. The will crush every stone to dust, and reduce mountains, purely for the joy of doing so. They are not survivable. Right now they grow an inch every time it rains, spreading out in all direction to maximize the chances of finding a water source.

If they ever reach the ocean, gods help you.

The Devils

Technically another byblow of Coladris. With most of his human subject being turned into Leadheads or Lead Butlers, he was faced with a considerable labor shortage. So he contracted a bunch of imps and assorted other devils to work in his mines and foundries.

“But Steven,” you ask, “aren’t his mines primarily silver-bearing?”

Yes.

“And are devils not burnt and brought into pain by the mere touch of silver?”

Yes. Coladris is a bastard.

Wingless Demon by Roger Creus

The devils you’ll see are the ones that managed to wander off, usually from the foundries and forges. That is where the silver is purified, and where it is most dangerous to them. They are truly wretched. If they don’t attack on sight out of desperation, they’ll probably collapse and begin weeping at your feet as they gnaw helplessly at their silver shackles. Even those that can escape the mines can’t wander far from the plateau itself. The more powerful fiends may enter into a bargain on incredibly favorable terms to escape bondage, but that isn’t the boon you may think it is. Most of them are so drained that they honestly aren’t much use and are probably better off dead.

The only exception is Honzerax, who was a sort of middleman that helped Coladriss bring on the rest of his labor force. The fact that a devil-recruiter is now working to undermine their contractor’s work out of concern for his kind should give you an idea of the work conditions they are subjected to. He and a dozen devils have holed up in a village at the base nearish to the tower, and have regained enough power to perhaps be of use, though not enough to attract the wizard’s attention. The downside is that they’ve regained enough power to carry on with usual devil shenanigans. But if you manage to release even just the devils in the village, you can expect a hefty boon. Just don’t expect them to be grateful; they’re still devils.

The Mutants

Digression: Instead of using demi-humans or orcs, I use exclusively humans. But bandits and cultists get stale after a while, which necessitates something to shake it up. Since the OSRsphere has a bunch of mutant tables, it seems like an expedient solution to me. It has a few advantages. First, its obvious why these people would be hiding in the wilderness or in dungeons. Second, their mutations make them far less predictable enemies than orcs or whatever. Third, there is little chance of making them evil by default. While many of them may be unsavory or hostile, that hostility is justified by their treatment by society. Players will still usually recognize them as human and treat them as such.

These guys basically colonized the abandoned villages because of their deformations, and because they had nowhere else to go. They’ve been squatting a few decades at least, and mostly warring it out with the druids. Of course the lumberjacks and adventurers (who were immediately hostile) threw all that into disarray, and now they have to tread carefully even off of the plateau. You can definitely negotiate with them, of course. Like most of the factions, they basically want everyone else to fuck off, except maybe Coladriss, because he’s a good deterrent for more people showing up, and the giants, because they’re mostly harmless. Working with them may be the most profitable path forward. While they have the least to give, they also have the most to gain from working with adventurers, and will be correspondingly grateful.

The details of their mutations, I’ll leave to you. Each village or colony will probably have its own strain of mutation, and I think at least one should have faces on the back of their heads, and those faces are actually sentient separate people. The aforementioned master of the FLA actually fell in love with the back-face of a mutant. The mutant colonies all have experts that can help you survive in the unforest. They all worship Lady Friso.

Lady Friso and The Madnesses

Hooded Spirit from Dominions 5

An elderly androgynous looking woman. Long, bedraggled hair. A torn up black hood is all she wears, except the feathers in her hair. Pale, blank eyes that seem to stare past you- blindness, remember? Except she isn’t blind. In fact, she sees better than most, as she can see through the eyes of anyone within, like, 3 miles of her. This is because she is psionic (another mutant) and powerfully so, even without any telekinesis. She doesn’t speak, just sends what she wants to say into your head from a mile away. She is the patron of the mutants, and practically their goddess. She is also responsible for the madnesses, the final danger of the unforest.

When the unforest first bloomed, nothing could live there. The soil was too toxic, the growth too choking. You knew this already. Then the lichens came, then the other life. What you missed was the work of thousands of extremophiles that started growing in the un-forest almost immediately after its creation. These are the true dominant lifeforms of the unforest. Every untree, every plot of soil, every lichen and animal carries their colonies inside them. And over time, they reduced the toxicity of the environment, thereby opening the door for their eventual extinction. This is what would’ve happened, had Lady Friso not found them.

She used her powers to make contact with the colonies, and taught them their peril. It’s also possible she taught them what peril was, and indeed what existing was, but that is beyond the scope of this post. Their new conscience is turning, and devising methods of defense. They have started releasing chemicals into the air. The first you already know; the paranoia of the druids is certainly amplified by them, though its cause is rooted in their much bigger problems. Anxiety skyrockets in the unforest. People tend to desire solitude, a suicidal tendency in this environment.

But their most successful and specific weapon is the Burning Madness. This manifest as an itch at first, that spreads over the body. No rash will be apparent except from the victim’s itching. Then, the itching will elevate to a strange, uncomfortable warmth, that gts hotter and hotter until the victim literally feels as though they are burning alive. From full coverage to screaming pain takes about a day, so once you feel it in your toes and fingers, know the end is near. No physical symptoms ever manifest, although the victims tend to bleed from their scratching, sometimes to death. Once the real burning heat starts, they just start screaming until the pain causes them to pass out. Then they remain comatose, and never wake, a vastly preferable state of affairs. Several tents of loggers and at least one cave of druids have been filled with victims of this madness. The only known cure is Lady Friso.

Other Stuff

If you intend to use this, probably include at least a couple other dungeons. If they start out sealed, as it will be interesting to see how the inhabitants of that dungeon interact with their environment. Also probably fill out some of the ecosystem with your usual run of dangerous creatures.

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