D&D Ideas — Plants
Welcome once again to the weekly Nerdarchy Newsletter. This week’s topic is plants, which we discussed in our exclusive Patreon live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST with Patreon supporters and talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. The Pledge Manager for Out of the Box: Encounters for Fifth Edition remains open, but not for much longer. Production on the book has been in full swing, with almost all the incredible art from Kim Van Deun and maps from Darryl T. Jones received. We’re giving everything an additional level of quality control to put our best foot forward when we deliver these products. Speaking of plants, in Menagerie a very powerful plant creates an unusual scenario within a deep forest glade that isn’t even close to what it looks like! Check out the Pledge Manager here.
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Nerdarchist Ted chose plants for our newsletter topic this week. He’s been on a tear with crafting and it’s involved a lot of plants lately. The question is how many ways can we use them in D&D?
Mechanically speaking they can be a monster, hazard, spell component or consumable magic item. These are the things that come to me off the top of my head. That can easily cover all three pillars of play in Dungeons & Dragons.
Combat — Monsters like treants, shambling mounds and blights come to mind.
Exploration — Hazards to overcome or avoid.
Roleplaying — In a fantasy world plants can be intelligent. Why fight a treant? It might make more sense to chat with them instead.
In an earlier newsletter I created something called Dragon’s Breath. This is flower that would grow in places where dragons have died. Depending on the type of dragon this flower would have different properties.
Creating unique flora in your campaign will separate it from others. I know on several occasions I’ve used various plants as components for a ritual. Of course these plants can only be found in dangerous places. Or why not use them as a reward of sorts? Bushes that grow goodberries or fruits that act as potions when you take a bite from them. Introduce herbs that grant advantage on Medicine checks or the benefits of a healer’s kit when trying to stabilize a dying character. What about a root called dwarf root that when chewed and sucked on grants resistance to poison damage as well as advantage on saving throws against poison?
If the party is going to be facing foes that use a lot of poison they could go on a side quest to obtain it before going on the main adventure. This could involve going into the forest to harvest it or the market to haggle for it.
I love the idea of creating special properties for different plants. Pick a particular monster. Have a certain plant grow near their lair. Said plant becomes Hag’s Bane or whatever the monster’s name is. When smeared on a weapon it causes the next hit to act as if the monster is vulnerable to the damage.
The possibilities are endless in a roleplaying game about dragons and wizards.
From Ted’s Head
Plants have so much use in games like Dungeons & Dragons. Looking at the obvious we know they are even a monster type: plants. But beyond that they are so much more.They can be scenery that the Dungeon Master can describe to better immerse the players in the environment. They can be quest items. Whether it be a magic plant necessary to cure a disease or curse or whether it is just the thing that needs to be retrieved.
Plants can be food. Plants can be magical reagents used to create magical items. Plants are very versatile in D&D. It is just what you want to get out of them. As I type this I am inspired by the different projects I have been working on. I recently finished painting a giant treant by Reaper Miniatures and I am pretty proud of how it came out. If that is not enough I have several plants being made as craft. I found some weird plants that have been drying out for months. I also have three large sunflower blossoms. I’m basing and making these cool plants for some future sessions in the Feywild.
The sunflower I am adding teeth to make a carnivorous plant based on sunflower. So feel free to use this massive beast or should I say plant in your game.
The carnivorous flower is a massive complex of a plant that takes up a huge area. The network of roots disturb the ground making it difficult terrain within 30 feet of the main stalk.
Gargantuan plant, unaligned
Armor Class 15 (Natural Armor)
Hit Points 162 (12d20 + 36)
Speed 0 ft., burrow 20 ft.
STR: 18 (+4)
DEX: 8 (-1)
CON: 16 (+3)
INT: 5 (-3)
WIS: 10 (+0)
CHA: 5 (-3)
Damage Resistances Cold
Damage Vulnerabilities Fire
Condition Immunities Blinded, Deafened, Exhaustion, Prone
Senses Blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius), passive Perception 10
Challenge 5 (1,800 XP)
Root Structure. The writhing roots of the main plant cause the ground within 30 feet to be difficult terrain.
False Appearance. Until the plant attacks it just looks like a massive flower.
Multiattack. The carnivorous flower makes two slam attacks. If both attacks hit a Medium or smaller target, the target is grappled (escape DC 14).
Slam. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 10 ft., one target. Hit: 13 (2d8 +4) bludgeoning damage.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Nerdarchists Dave and Ted touched on plants in a variety of ways. Ted focused mostly on plants as creature types along with creating a new plant creature while Dave’s ideas mostly lean towards the exploration part of fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons.
At least that’s how I’m interpreting things to help come up with my own perspective on plants and this is how plants intersect with the social interaction part of the game. There’s quite a few ways to engage with plants in 5E D&D!
The easiest of these is Speech of Beast and Leaf, a firbolg trait giving limited communication with plants. This is a one way conversation though, because while the plants you speak with understand you, you don’t necessarily understand them. But you do get advantage on Charisma checks to influence them so there’s great roleplaying scenarios waiting to happen.
Spells offer several avenues to interact with plants. Speak with plants, locate animals or plants, plant growth, commune with nature and transport via plants all involve a degree of plant interaction. Fans of Critical Role might recall Sun Tree fondly, a Whitestone resident Keyleth developed a friendship with via speak with plants. It can be an unexpected challenge for a Dungeon Master to roleplay a plant, but that’s the kind of situations you find yourself in behind the screen. Other spells related to plants generally put the caster in good company, and considering our D&D games take place in fantastical realms it’s not hard to imagine plants having their own points of view and perspectives on the world around them. Word would get around through the grapevine about a caster who uses their magic to communicate with and aid plant life, and likewise those who throw blight around with abandon probably get plant sneers when they walk by.
Taking the idea of social interaction with plants to another level, consider places like the Crawl Wood from our Lost Lore Vol. 1 book, or the Old Margreve Forest from Kobold Press. These ancient forests developed a kind of sentience of their own, and creatures traveling within them engage in a sort of social interaction without even realizing it’s taking place.
In terms of plant creatures like Dave mentions it might be more beneficial to try and talk with them before going straight to drawn sword. In the Monster Manual there’s basically three kinds of plant creatures you might attempt to chat up.
The first group includes awakened plants, myconids and treants. These all have a modicum of Intelligence and possess a means of communicating. I particularly like these types of plants because any of them might live near and interact with humanoids in peace. One of our Out of the Box encounters illustrates such a scenario. Fantasy elements like talking trees and mushroom people can really make a setting stand out. An otherwise standard medieval fantasy village with a tavern, blacksmith, temple and so on might also be home to a myconid herbalist who lives in a cool, dark cave beneath the central park.
The next group also possess a certain degree of Intelligence but they’re evil or naturally hostile. Blights and shambling mounds flourish here, and I struggled to find anything in the lore or description to suggest interacting with them socially could go somewhere. Although I must say, the firbolg’s Speech of Beast and Leaf could be clutch here. They are all plant creatures, so firbolg’s would have advantage to influence them. The DC would be really high though, since these creatures exist mainly to consume. But hey, it’s D&D and I’m sure you wouldn’t be the first adventurers to make friends with a shambling mound. Go for it.
Last up are mindless plant creatures. Gas spores, shriekers and violet fungus are little more than inline text given stat block form, and incidentally make great starting points to homebrew your own unusual plant creatures. But since they too are plants, your plant communication powers do have an outlet. A gas spore in particular might have quite a few interesting things to say, given they might possess memories of the beholder whose corpse it sprang from. In a similar way violet fungus might hold onto lingering information about the creature it sprang from. And a conversation with a shrieker just straight up seems like it would be quite memorable.
Maybe your idea of D&D adventuring doesn’t encompass deep roleplaying scenarios between the party and the plants, but it’s worth considering. Just keep in mind if your firbolg companion starts telling you the plants are talking back, they might be due for a long rest or greater restoration.