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Flora
Plains
4.14
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Comments: 16
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Rating: 4.1429
Condition: Normal
ID: 4958

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April 1, 2008, 8:19 pm

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Cheka Man

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Whisperweed

By:

The susurrating death-bringer of the Northern Moors.

Directly north of Locastus, City of Mirrors, lies a vast, open country of highlands, peat-bogs and moors, an undulating sea of grass, bracken and weathered, moss-blanketed boulder fields, dotted with rock outcroppings, dense juniper thickets and struggling copses of wind-gnarled trees.

The area itself, riven through by deep, narrow gulleys, arroyos, bogs and sink holes, can - by its very geography - be hazardous to the unwary, inexperienced traveller, but it is also the habitat for a vast vareity of unfriendly species, such as the Ochre Bees, the giant, man-eating Greycats and, although rare, the slate-grey, nondescript snake called the Emerald Mouth, whose bite can kill in less than an hour.
In addition, the maze-like nature of the moors and the many caves, nooks and crannies that riddle its fabric also makes it ideal country for bandits, highwaymen and bands of outlaws.

All factors considered, the Northern Moors are an exceedingly dangerous place, one it is not advisable to attempt to cross without an experienced guide (and heavy weaponry).

However, no entity on the moors, human or animal, is more feared then the Whisperweed, the Devil Reed, the stealer of souls and the bringer of death and madness to all who hear the sighing of the breeze through its bristly fields.

Description

The Whisperweed, in itself, is quite nondescript - an innocent-looking, reed-like plant growing in small clusters in protected hollows and depressions throughout the moors. It seems to prefer proximity to water and never grow more than 1000 ft above sea level, leaving the higher plateaus free of the plant.
The stem - seldom taller than 5 ft - is segmented and quite stiff, almost like a bamboo or a regular reed stem, and of a uniform, ash-grey colour. The reed is crowned by a soft-looking, feather-like tuft, similar to a grey-brown feather duster, which moves at the sightest breeze.

The reed is deeply rooted and is quite hard to pull out of the ground. Any attempt to do so without wearing gloves will result in cuts and lacerations from the sharp, ragged edges that line the stem.

Whisperweed grows in small clusters, each between a few square feet up to a good-sized field. Each cluster is formed around one single original seed, slowly spreading outwards as the root system expands underground.

If one would observe a Whisperweed field, one would notice that the wind causes complex, languid wave-interference patterns among the individual reeds, persisting long after any gust of wind has abated. If a mammal of any type were to walk among the Whisperweed, one would see the gently undulating ripples start to converge around the intruder, like the ripples of a stone thrown into a pond, but in reverse.

The danger of the Whisperweed lies in the gentle, susurrating sound produced as its tufted crowns move with the ever-present wind. The sound has a powerful subliminal or hypnotic effect on all mammals, causing them to grow drowsy, disoriented or unconscious, the effect varying in proportion to the strength of the wind.

To go near a Whisperweed field on a windy day without any type of ear protection is to instantaneously drop to the ground, reduced to a catatonic state.

Although the plant-collective is totally mindless, it uses its soporific whisper as a stratagem for hunting. The victim, once incapacitated, will be kept in hibernation until it dies from starvation or exposure, whereupon it will decompose in the natural order of things and the freed nutrients soak through the earth to feed the roots of the Whisperweed field.

Oddly enough, only mammals seem to be affected by the Whisperweed´s susurrus - insects, reptiles and birds are completely unaffected by it and, indeed, some seems to be attracted by it. The Speckled Moorloom, a tiny, almost flightless bird common to these lands, always builds its nest on the ground among the Whisperweed stalks, safe from rodents and foxes, but, sadly, not from snakes.

Although some people has been rescued in time after being stunned by the Whisperweed chorus, they almost always suffer psychological trauma, forever after hearing the whispering of the wind like an incessant ringing in their ear. Suicide and madness are common in those who have once fallen under the spell of the Whisperweed.

Some notes

1. The villages and mining communities of the Northern Moors are of course aware of the danger of the Whisperweed and go out of their way to exterminate any Whisperweed population near their homesteads and pastures. The preferred method is to stand well back and throw incendiary grenades and shoot fire-arrows at the field. (This could be an easy, if realistic, mission for a group of fledgeling adventurers)

2. The Grassdancer tribes, the original inhabitants of these badlands, revere the Whisperweed as sacred, a manifestation of the spirits of the earth and the air.

Their schamans are, through intense mental training and the infusion of weird, mind-altering herbal brews, able to withstand the susurrus of the Whisperweed for short periods of time, both as a test of their supernatural powers, a certificate of their status and a means of recieving visions from the spirits.

An apprentice Grassdancer schaman must endure an entire night standing in a Whisperweed field before he is considered a fully trained schaman. During this baptism of fire, the chorus of the Whisperweed in conjunction with the psychotropic infusion will produce intense, often terrifying hallucinations which is seen as his first contact with the spirit world.

When the Locastrian forces were consolidating their claim on this land some fifty years ago, the Grassdancer guerilla often escaped the better equipped Locastrians by leading them into a Whisperweed field.

3. Whisperweed fields can be a treasure trove to the person who knows how to enter them safely. The equipment, jewellry and coinage of of dead and/or unconscious victims can only be accessed by those who know the secrets of the Whisperweed. (Do I need to say more?)



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Comments ( 16 )
Commenters gain extra XP from Author votes.

Ouroboros
April 1, 2008, 20:23
0xp
Hi guys and girls! This is my first post in quite a while. Hopefully I will now be able to produce some good stuff again, but you know, sometimes real life just takes up a lot of your time! Anyway, I hope you´ll enjoy this little floratic horror.

/David
Voted Cheka Man
April 2, 2008, 10:22
0xp
Not a plant to approach without earmuffs.
Voted Misanpilgrim
April 2, 2008, 11:07
0xp
"...poppies, poppies, poppies, poppies..."

Non-mammalian sentient species might cultivate the whisperweed around their homes, villages, and lairs as a defense mechanism. Sure, it might annoy the nearby humans, but it's not like the humans will stay awake long enough to attack them.

If the non-mammalians are generally hostile, they might start planting small, hidden patches of the stuff next to roads, then rob and/or eat the victims. If they're sneaky about it, they might encroach on a village with stands of whisperweed, incapacitating the villagers or driving them away...
Voted valadaar
April 2, 2008, 14:21
0xp
Welcome back, Magister of Lochastus! This is an excellent sub that I will have to add to my revision of The Unseen Fortress later this spring...

Remind me to pack earplugs...
Voted Stephie
April 4, 2008, 18:49
0xp
Great one and nice name too!
Voted Mourngrymn
April 16, 2008, 8:43
0xp
I was a bit cautious when beginning to read this but as I continued on I was overcome by a feeling of languid meloncholy... just kidding. I actually enjoyed this one. Theplant description is reasonably real enough as i have seen plants in the south that fit this description, minus the mind numbing whisper of course. I think this is a really nice addition to any game world that likes to throw out dangers were there are none. How many of my gamers would fall victim to these? More than I am happy with but it is indeed a Strolen worthy idea.

Congrats.
Voted MoonHunter
April 16, 2008, 17:54
0xp
I like the general concept of this. See Flute Grass for a related plant.

*Small point of order, Birds have all the same brain functions as Humans and mammals. They too should be effected. Reptiles and Insects have brains with "fewer parts" should be immune. (Though snake charming... somewhat related....)

While I like the general concept, the application seems to be pretty excessive. A quick breeze at the wrong time.. and "you fall down". When do you get to wake up? (Now when the breeze dies down, do you get a change to "awaken"?) The after effects are pretty horrific too. I think if you evened out the effect some, it would be more "playable" and useful.

(Poisonous snakes would frequent patches of this stuff, even watered down version, as they could make easy kills with stunned prey. )

Is there any real ecologically limiting effect to this? Are its growing conditions limited? Why isn't it spreading to everywhere there is water (under 1000 feet). I mean there should be no mammals living under 1000 feet.

Deaf Rats and Mice should of evolved with these plants. It is a quick and common mutation for them.

Bats would be immune to the song, given their sonar processing.

All this said, I could see "evolution" quickly correcting for this effect, minimizing it. After all, it eliminates most mammals in a region. So if there are any mammals in the region, they must either be lucky, evolved lucky (thank you Mr. Niven), deaf, or evolved resistance to the frequencies of the reeds.
MoonHunter
April 16, 2008, 17:58
0xp
I like the general concept of this. See Flute Grass for a related plant.

*Small point of order, Birds have all the same brain functions as Humans and mammals. They too should be effected. Reptiles and Insects have brains with "fewer parts" should be immune. (Though snake charming... somewhat related....)

While I like the general concept, the application seems to be pretty excessive. A quick breeze at the wrong time.. and "you fall down". When do you get to wake up? (Now when the breeze dies down, do you get a change to "awaken"?) The after effects are pretty horrific too. I think if you evened out the effect some, it would be more "playable" and useful.

(Poisonous snakes would frequent patches of this stuff, even watered down version, as they could make easy kills with stunned prey. )

Is there any real ecologically limiting effect to this? Are its growing conditions limited? Why isn't it spreading to everywhere there is water (under 1000 feet). I mean there should be no mammals living under 1000 feet.

Deaf Rats and Mice should of evolved with these plants. It is a quick and common mutation for them.

Bats would be immune to the song, given their sonar processing.

All this said, I could see "evolution" quickly correcting for this effect, minimizing it. After all, it eliminates most mammals in a region. So if there are any mammals in the region, they must either be lucky, evolved lucky (thank you Mr. Niven), deaf, or evolved resistance to the frequencies of the reeds.
Mourngrymn
April 16, 2008, 18:25
0xp
I will add an adendum to my previous comment. Something I left out when commenting prior, I was on the phone at the time and was doing more than one thing at a time. I will not change my vote or any comment I said previously, however after reading it again, and reading what Moon had said he is of course correct in the evolution of the area. I was unaware of the bird thing.

The mass growth of this I had naturally assumed was kept in check by the tribes in the area, as you stated they try to keep them burned down. However after reading that, whcih would make perfect sense, why are they not in areas where their is no humanoid habitats? Why does it not run rampant in those areas as stated by Moon?

I would think that the ecology of the plant would be two fold. It needs the nurishment of the dead that is a given. It nums the mind of its victims, that is also a given. But as Moon said, it is a big drastic. For instance you hear someone whistle and boom you fall down unable to move until you die. Again, not wanting to change anything, somethings I just over looked. It should have some form of symbiosis with another animal, a snake perhaps as Moon suggested. The victim falls under its control and is unable to awaken as long as the wind blows, and the snake or other animal attacks. As soon as the wind stops however, they are aware and able to react. Much to their surprise when they begin wrestling with an animal eating them.

Again, still a wonderful idea. Im not as big a critic as Moon is, well sometimes, but his comments have brought up some interesting natural issues.
valadaar
April 16, 2008, 18:35
0xp
To address some of the issues, the plant should be considered a supernatural threat and as such, be as dangerous and species specific as the author intends. It may not spread at all - only affecting areas 'cursed' by some mad godling. As the others point out, and I overlooked first time out, it cannot exist as a 'natural' plant without some modifications.

I have a similarly, ever more directly lethal plant in the form of the Giant Foxglove. Looking back at that one has made me put that one on my 'next sub to revise list'.

It should be as carefully used by a GM as would other completely lethal obstacles - lava pits etc.
Mourngrymn
April 16, 2008, 19:03
0xp
You misunderstand my meaning in what I said val. Far be it from me to say its wrong as I am a creator myself and have certain ideas that regardless of comments stil lstay the same. However I was just pointing out a flaw in the natural order of things as Moon brought up. Its not wrong, hell its fantasy, it can be as creepy crawly as it wants to be. In no way is it wrong or am I saying the author needs to change it...
MoonHunter
April 17, 2008, 14:59
0xp
The limiting factor here should be something in the soil. If it requires some semi-toxic substance in the soil (found here and in other "cursed" bogs). Dead Dragon, or some other dead thing decomposing. I do like the idea that some stoning creature dinner remains, stone crumbs and dust are actually toxic for the soil. The plants thrive in environment when the stoners.

And the plant can have any reason to exist, but as it is written it is a "regular plant". (It does make a good "rational explanation" why some areas are considered curse. "Do not enter the Thollan Bogs. You will hear the Banshee's cries and never be seen again."

That all said, I do dislike the instant death/ screwed character results implied in the write up. Even in Zork you can avoid the Grue with a torch. If you don't know it exists, it will just "get you". If it does not kill you, it drives you insane and you commit suicide.. eventually. So it is still an enter zone X, and Die (in one to six rounds).

So everyone will need to know about these plants. If you know about these plants and go around with wax in your ears... then you are golden. Of most of the mammals in this area need to be deaf.
Ouroboros
April 20, 2008, 12:09
0xp
Wow. Here i go off for a few days, and look what happened. There´s so many ideas and suggestions here I cant even begin to sort them out.

First of all, Moon´s comments were all thoughtful and constructive. Thank you so much, Moon - You´re just the type of critic one needs to produce better stuff! As far as I can tell, Moon´s issues are :

A) The "inescapable" effect (death or madness) to anyone who hear the whispering. The idea that was in my head was that the susurrus is not lethal (merely causing disorientation, dizziness etc) as long as the breeze is slow. If there is no wind, there´s no effect. In a hard gust, the whisper grows and causes a "mind-blast" effect... Now imagine a band of charachters trying to cross a whisperweed field unprotected while praying fervently that there´s no sudden gust of wind. The GM can roll a few hidden dice, describing a gust rippling the fields on a distant ridge, heading their way...

B) The ecology of the Whisperweed. I would think that the whisperweed is self-limiting in the way of all predators - if it has no prey, it has to move or starve. Plants cant move, so it will die if it consumes all the wildlife in an area. I´d say the Whisperweed are dependant on the juices of its decomposing victims. Perhaps it has no phosphate-fixation system, like all other plants? So, the weed cant grow in totally barren lands, and will be eradicated if it grows too close to habitation or livestock. I imagine it leads a struggling existence on the fringes of the inhabitated lands, not too close, but never too far away from living things...

This is just what I imagined when I was oing this write-up - there might still be many inconsistencies in the text I have to deal with.. But not today, I was at a bachelor party yesterday..:-)

Thank you, friends!

/David
Murometz
April 27, 2008, 12:02
0xp
Interesting and atmospheric weed, and good comment debate. A winner!
come back Ouro! Write more!

favorite paragraph,

"If one would observe a Whisperweed field, one would notice that the wind causes complex, languid wave-interference patterns among the individual reeds, persisting long after any gust of wind has abated. If a mammal of any type were to walk among the Whisperweed, one would see the gently undulating ripples start to converge around the intruder, like the ripples of a stone thrown into a pond, but in reverse."
Michael Jotne Slayer
June 17, 2008, 15:31
0xp
Where did he go?
Voted Murometz
April 27, 2008, 12:02
Only voted

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