Wondering Monster

Briar Priest

Hit dice
Armor defence
1 spiked briar whip (1d8)
40 feet
Swamp Thing, illustrated by Michael Zulli

The sages have many tales to tell of the Vorhvex, that vast and ancient magical forest marking Riverie’s south border. Once, it is said, people and the creatures of the woods lived in harmony amongst those dark and brooding trees. Roads ran the length of the forest, and a monastery to the forest god Yaqun sat somewhere deep in its groves. But those times are long past. Nobody who enters the forest now ever comes out. The sages whisper that the priests angered the forest in some way. Perhaps they stole something precious from its heart. Perhaps they interfered in some way in the endless war between the creatures of the forest and those evil denizens of the swamp. All they remember nowadays is the strange verse…

The Temple fallen long ago
Is beset with fear and woe.
Swamp things from the water’s murk
Came upon that ancient kirk

To possess the forest’s heart
Stole by men in night-time dark.
But the forest rose and railed
And it made those swamp men quail.

Vines did come and walls did fall.
Never more would ancient halls
Ring with sound of mankind’s calls:
Swamp thing slain and wood priest mauled.

Ever now, for endless age,
As swamp and forest fight and rage,
In that temple’s ruined towers
Wander lonesome men of flowers.

Briar Priests are ever-living plant constructs, fashioned from people by the Forest God Yaqun as punishment for crimes now lost to memory. They look like tall humanoids made entirely out of tightly woven vines and briars, covered in small, blooming, sweet-smelling roses of many colors. They walk with a creaking gait, but can leap into battle when the sacred places they guard are threatened. Although they have no eyes, they possess keen tremorsense, and are not easily surprised (checks for sneaking or hiding from them roll with disadvantage).

Briar priests are endlessly lonesome, and make mournful, creaking, rustling noises to communicate amongst themselves. Sometimes they also communicate by giving each other flowers they pick from their own bodies. One who could learn their language might be able to speak with them, for they are as intelligent as the people from which they were fashioned.

When in combat, Briar Priests are formidable opponents, whipping their enemies with long trails of spiked briars which shoot out of their arms. They are extremely vulnerable to fire damage, taking double damage, but resistant to bludgeoning attacks, which all but bounce off their springy, woody bodies.

They possess impressive healing powers, drawing on the power of the Forest God Yaqun to regenerate 2 Hit Points per melee round.

Design notes: I originally designed this monster for a Dungeon World one-shot set in my setting of Skyspar, whence the spooky poem. After all, what old-school monster is complete without some purple prose to flesh it out?

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