Fantasy Apocalypse 5 : The Unstoppable Forest

The invasive introduction of a species to a new habitat rarely ends well.  Should the invader find an abundance of food or no natural threats, their population will rapidly cause damage to the environment. Normally such effects affects humans secondarily, but in a fantasy world the invasive species can be much more dangerous.

Fantasy Apocalypse

The fourth in our series of articles looking at real-world disasters applied to a fantasy tabletop RPG.

Lord Rarder, The 4th Duke of Orindest was a petulant and egotistical young man. He became jealous of the other nobles with their mountainous or coastal estates. In particular Earl Brabant’s extravagant spending on building a new mountain tweaked Lord Rarder’s ego. Seeking to make his flat farmland demesne more interesting but unwilling to pay for it, he hit upon the idea of planting a great forest.  Undeterred by the generational growth rate of trees or the complaints of the peasants, Lord Rarder offered up a small reward to the arborist who could create an adult forest in only a few months. Thus Lord Rarder made a deal with a druid of ill-repute to obtain thousands of seeds.  He was told by the druid that these enchanted seeds would grow into a dense wood in only a few years.

Quest Hook – The party have been contracted by Lord Rarder to escort the druid as they go about gathering the seeds and then planting them. Both the druid and the sapling needs protection from the peasants whose farmland has been taken for the new forest.

Whilst technically true, it was not just trees that grew but also hundreds of treants. Separated from any kind of culture, the woken trees had nothing but their instincts to guide them.  The most paramount of these were to protect and grow their forest.

Three generations later and Orindest is all but overrun by trees. The treants proved to be more powerful and more numerous than any force Lord Rarder could raise. They slowly and steadily expanded their little wood, using their natural magics to fast grow the saplings they planted.  Any sentients they met were killed or driven off, the remaining homes and villages buried beneath sprawling roots. At the centre of the forest are the ruins of Londorwin castle. Once the home of the Rarder family, it was abandoned after Lord Rarder perished when sallying forth against the sieging treants. The trees that now grow atop it are the largest and tallest in the forest.

The forest is unlike any other the characters have encountered.  The trees are set in neat orderly rows, with no regard for the actual shape of the land.  They sit atop what were once clearly plowed fields, with several trees in gaps knocked through walls of ruined buildings. All the trees are of the same species, a broad leafed oak with hard bark and twisting branches. The characters will find at least one tree that has grown around a piece of farm equipment. Despite the long sight lines, there is an eery lack of noise and wildlife.

The treants culture views anything that is not of Orindest forest as either land to be planted on or an abomination to be destroyed. Not knowing what a wild forest looks like, the treants have assumed the plantation they awakened to is normal. All they had to guide them were instincts to protect, that developed into a need to remake the land around the forest into the forest so that it would be familiar.  So they grow the forest in the straight lines they found it and clear out anything that grows in the wrong place. Their society is founded on conformity and agreement, as individuality could jeopardise the way of the forest. As such, they act only in groups and meet frequently to ensure that all plans are agreed on.  The language they use sounds unlike any other, being composed of the clicks, creaks and cracks of moving wood.  These are arranged into complex compound words that are mixtures of a few original nouns.

Quest Hook – Deep in the vaults of Londorwin castle is the Rarder family’s hoard of magical items. According to the Wizard Gagadr, the trees atop the castle have achieved their huge size by feeding off the magic in the hoard. If the items could be retrieved, then perhaps the growth of the forest could be reduced. As the characters travel through the forest they will inevitably encounter the treants, who will likely be having a meeting about the party’s invasion of the forest.

Whilst Orindest forest was only expanding on Lord Rarder’s abandoned demesne, the rest of the nobility were happy to leave them alone.  The problem would soon resolve itself and leave them with a beautiful new hunting ground.  However, the treants of Orindest show no sign of stopping their expansion. Each of the neighbouring lords now search for a way to protect their interests.

Quest Hook – All wood, even living wood, will burn if the fires are hot enough. If enough fire elementals could be found and gathered together they would overwhelm the treants. They party will need to keep careful control lest the elementals become too at home. Maybe a red dragon would be easier to work with.

Quest Hook – If the original forest of the treants could be found, then perhaps one of the spirits living there would be able to teach the treants of Orindest their missing culture. Will the treants be receptive to what they will see as the imposition of an old culture on their own?

Image Credit – Orchard Blossoms by lowtechatmo – CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0