Out of the Box introduction
The range of plant-based foes in fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons is small. Treants, awakened plants, blights, shambling mounds…and very little else. There should be more. A lot more. [NERDITOR’S NOTE: 33 in official sources. Thanks D&D Beyond!]
Carnivorous plants exist in our own world and come in a wide variety of colours and use many techniques to grab their prey. Ambulatory plants are a staple of fantasy (including those already listed), but are almost always magical or otherworldly in nature. If there existed actual mobile, carnivorous plants of such a size as to be a real threat, then they would be a true terror.
Such would have to be limited in some way. Perhaps they have a special diet, require a long time to grown to an effective size, or have delicious seeds or other parts enticing other predators or stout herbivores who can stand up to these beings.
A further hook would be to create a desire for these plants, if only to give a reason for a Dungeon Master to place such creatures in the path of the heroes. They might be useful for magical components, possess toxins highly desired by assassins and other shady types, or might well be loaded with nutritious or healing properties necessary to end the worst of afflictions. Whatever the case, these plants will certainly defend themselves and their treasures with everything they’ve got.
The following encounter will present a sample giant carnivorous plant, the thorn pod.
All that remains is to place them in the correct setting. This might be a forested area, swamp, or even the private garden of a noble who enjoys such dangerous and twisted pleasures. Hags would love such creations, and may even twist them further. These plants might wander the twilight of the Feywild or the gloom of the Shadowfell. In any case, the plant so situated should fit the setting.
Garden (urban) or Wilderness/Forest
Tall trees form a high canopy, creating a theatre of shadow and dancing streams of light from the sun high above. Smaller trees and brush struggle to grow in this enclosed setting, reaching up from the soft forest floor filled covered in a thick carpet of twigs and dried fallen leaves. Scattered wildflowers have spawned in luckily sunlit areas and dance in gentle breezes. The breeze itself is filled with these floral scents, as well as something else. The thick, sweet smell akin to honey wafts on the breeze.
The terrain is scattered with these large trees, but due to the high canopy and deep root structure, the larger specimens are no closer than 10-15 ft. from each other. There isn’t a straight path through any of the trees for any distance due to their random spread, but travel is not truly prohibited or considered difficult terrain so far.
For those with a passive Perception of 10 or higher, they will notice the sweet honey smell over the typical earthy and floral scents associated with a forested environment. Those choosing to track this scent can do so with either a successful DC 12 Wisdom (Survival) or Wisdom (Perception) check. Following this scent will lead them around and through this forested area for at least 100 ft., where they will find a pile a bones at the base of a thick tree. These bones could be identified with a successful DC 12 Intelligence (Nature) or Wisdom (Survival) check as a young brown bear. The honey smell will be very strong at this point.That’s because a thorn pod will be clinging to the tree high above them, hidden by the lower branches of its canopy. It’s considered to have advantage on Stealth checks versus the player characters’ passive Perception, and will gain surprise unless a PC specifically looks up. Even then, they will see a large flower pod, probably 8 ft. in diameter, flowing with the breeze along with the branches in the breeze above. Long green and thorny roots or vines wrap around the tree above.
Sensing fresh meat 30 ft. below, the thorn pod will descend and attempt to snatch a new victim. If it secures a victim with a swallow, it will retreat up the tree to digest its prey. It will climb up to its original height of 30 ft., unless it is pursued or attacked with ranged weapons. It will then either climb another 30 ft. up, and then if pursued further it will climb over to the next tree over and so on. It can travel arboreally better than it can crawl over the forest floor, making it hard to pursue.
Should the creature be killed, anyone who roots around inside the guts of the creature will discover a gold ring upon a successful DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check. This ring glows with magic if under the influence of a detect magic spell, and is very plain in design, almost like a wedding band. It is a ring of protection +1.
Thorn pod (1) – as per the description below
Ring of protection – as per the Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 191
The singular greatest complication is the possibility of a party member being carried off and consumed. Very few PCs have a climbing speed, but many parties are filled with attacks (either via spells or ranged weapons) that can reach the thorn pod as it tries to escape. Should this plant monster escape, it may yet return to pick off another PC at a later time.
I fell into gaming in the oddest of ways. Coming out of a bad divorce, my mom tried a lot of different things to keep my brother and I busy and out of trouble. It didn’t always work. One thing that I didn’t really want to do, but did because my mom asked, was enroll in Venturers. As an older Scout-type movement, I wasn’t really really for the whole camping-out thing. Canoe trips and clean language were not my forte. Drag racing, BMX and foul language were.
What surprised me though was one change of pace our Scout leader tried. He DMed a game of the original D&D that came out after Chainmail (and even preceedd the Red Box). All the weapons just did 1d6 damage, and the three main demi-humans (Elf, Dwarf and Halfling) were not only races, but classes. There were three alignments (Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic). It was very basic. I played all the way through high school and met a lot of new people through gaming. My expected awkwardness around the opposite sex disappeared when I had one game that was seven girls playing. They, too, never thought that they would do this, and it was a great experiement.
But it got me hooked. I loved gaming, and my passion for it became infectious. Despite hanging with a very rough crowd who typically spent Fridays scoring drugs, getting into fights, and whatnot, I got them all equally hooked on my polyhedral addiction. I DMed guys around my table that had been involved in the fast-living/die young street culture of the 80s, yet they took to D&D like it was second nature. They still talk to me about those days, even when one wore a rival patch on his back to the one I was wearing. We just talked D&D. It was our language.
Dungeons and Dragons opened up a whole new world too. I met lots off oddballs along with some great people. I played games like Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Car Wars, Battletech, lots of GURPS products, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, Twilight 2000, Rolemaster, Champions, Marvel Superheroes, Earth Dawn…the list goes on. There was even a time while I was risiding with a patch on my back and I would show up for Mechwarrior (the clix kind) tournaments. I was the odd man out there.
Gaming lead to me attending a D&D tournament at a local convention, which lead to being introduced to my paintball team, called Black Company (named after the book), which lead to meeting my wife. She was the sister of my 2iC (Second in Command), and I fell in love at first sight.
Gaming lead to me meeting my best friend, who was my best man at my wedding and is the godfather of my youngest daughter.
Life being what it is, there was some drama with my paintball team/D&D group, and we parted ways for a number of years. In that time I tried out two LARP systems, which taught me a lot about public speaking, improvisation, and confidence. There was a silver lining. I didn’t play D&D again for a very long time, though.
Then 5E came out.
I discovered the Adventurer’s League, and made a whole new group of friends. I discovered Acquisitions Incorporated, Dwarven Tavern, and Nerdarchy. I was hooked again.
And now my daughter is playing. I introduced her to 5E and my style of DMing, and we talk in “gamer speak” a lot to each other (much to the shagrin of my wife/her mother…who still doesn’t “get it”). It’s my hope that one day she’ll be behind the screen DMing her kids through an amazing adventure. Time will tell.