Mist rises from the forest floor, obscuring the canopy above and dampening sounds and colors. Here everything is either muted shades of orange and brown, or dense and lush shades of green. Limberlost, the wooden dungeon, the Palace of the Forest of Dreams.
The Woodking was a vast and limitless entity that fell into a deep and endless slumber at the begining of time, and from his fevered dreams sprang the forests of the world, and from the closest held of dreams, those that were a part of his psyche grew the Limberlost. It is both ancient, and exists somwhat outside of the conventional rules of time and space. In many aspects it behaves in a fashion similar to the lands of the Faerie from traditional mythology. A character could stumble into the Limberlost and emerge seemingly a day later to see a century pass, or reappear a single second after entering the wood.
Limberlost was not always a place of wailing agony and torment. Once, the WoodKing was entertained by dreamling creatures and was happy to exist, feeling the waking world through the real world forests. Yet the coming of man changed this, as man devoured forests to feed his hunger for fire and making tools of metal, and houses and implements of war. Where the elves of old were akin to cleaning birds, mankind scoured the Woodking’s dreams like termites in a woodpile. As violation turned to anger, the Dreamling creatures fled, and the Woodking was left with his rage and was entirely alone.
Limberlost is a smothering place that slowly erodes the senses until the visitor is disoriented and off balance. The light is scattered, with a few glinting promises of light piercing the canopy of dense leaves. It is a false promise as the forest lives in a perpetual twilight, with the ground thick with nightshade, verbena, and runners of ivy, poisonous and otherwise. The eye grows weary of the poor light and the constant shading of green and brown. Eventually the trees seem to become the same tree repeated over and over. On rare instances, the PC might even catch a glimpse of a face in the wood, a dissapproving and sneering vision that blinks away quickly.
Sound behaves strangely in the Wood. a speaker might hear his own voice muted to a whisper even if shouting, while at other times, a whisper migt seem loud in the ear when the speaker is dozens of feet away. A constant is that the wood absorbs sound, there are no animal noises, and even human mande noises diminish after a few feet. After a while, sound becomes disjointed from location, a PC could hear someone talk, but if they did not see the speaker, they would only have a 1 in 6 chance of picking out what direction the voice came from.
There is a single smell in Limberlost, and it is the cloying wet smell of rotting leaves and mildew. The forest is continually damp with moisture and this smell permeates everything, eventually even the PCs themselves will attain this scent, if they dawdle too long. This has a major effect of altering the sense of taste, meaning that after a day or so, food looses its taste and begins to taste the way that the forest smells. Textures remain the same but everything takes on the flavor of raw white mushrooms.
The Bestiary of Wooden Dreams
The Wooden Men - The cariacatures of men can be found in secluded places in Limberlost. Each resembles a man but is made of fallen branches and pieces of bark and broken wood. They move with stiff legged gaits and carry tools, or wooden items that look like tools. They have a very primitive society of gathering wood to make more of their kind, and they live in a fear laced relationship with the greater forest. They attack with wooden axes to cut down trees, while the other denizens of the forest hunt them with vigor.
Green Men - Resembling humans made of moss covered wood and stone, the Green Men are rare and dangerous denizens of limberlost. They are its caretakers and its rangers, hunting those who intrude and seek to disrupt the forest. They are drawn to magic use, wanton destruction of trees, such as explosives, forest fires, and the like. They are a head taller than normal humans, have signifigant stealth and tracking skills, and can control water, trees, and strike with bludgeoning fists. They also have a signifigant defence rating from being made primarily of stone and old wood.
Stumplings - These are the wailing and mutilated ghosts of trees that have been chopped down by man, felled by lightning and consumed by fire. They are bitter and vengeful, and filled with a loathing for those who carry axes and who would cut down trees of the Limberlost to make campfires. They are handled like normal ghosts, except that they have improved reach, and should appear as almost alien things.
Forestals - Standing half again as tall as a normal deer, a Forestal is an aggressive defender of Limberlost. Unlike the stony Green Men or frail Wooden Men, these animals are flesh and blood, sporting racks of mohagany antlers and are more than willing to feed on the flesh of unwary adventurers. If slain, the antlers of a Forestal can be used to fashion a bow, or a druid’s wooden scimitar that will last for the duration of the visit to Limberlost.
Burning Branches - The Burning Branches are fire spirits that resemble trees made of flame with hearts of charred wood. Fighting a Branch is difficult since it is made of flame and mundane weapons cannot harm it. Proximity is dangerous from the heat, though this flame does not harm the trees of Limberlost. Burning Branches do leave scorched rootprints in the undergrowth as they pass.
Spider Vine - This disturbingly common creature isa mass of vines and loose foliage that has been animated by a woodland spirit. Most often Poison Ivy is chosen for this animation, and such predators are drawn to anything that moves, namely PCs. Combat isnt difficult, but after a conflict, the PCs should be really itching to not encounter another spider vine. Variations could have thorns, hypnotic pollen, or the like.
Roads and Stones
There is a single road in Limberlost and it is barely wide enough for two horses side by side. It runs in a great circle around the enchanted wood and is a sort of boundary. Exiting the road into the woods always leads into Limberlost and never away from it. The Road is as close to a safe place as there is in the forest as few of the denizens are willing to come that close to the edge of the realm.
1. Remains of human campsite, ring of stones
2. Human remains, 10% chance of loot
3. Human, deranged, attacks PCs thinking them illusions
4. Standing Stone marked with spirals
5. Ruins of woodland house, 25% chance of #3 also
6. Gallows tree with dead bodies
The Heart of the Wood
Winding through the Palace of the Forest of Dreams are numerous trails, some trodden by the Green Men, others brush paths left by forestals and other animals. These slowly reveal themselves to be a labyrinth that eventually leads to the heart of the Wood. There, in a clearing is an ancient and mighty tree now bent by the great mass of age that weighs upon it. Closer inspection reveals the wood to be cracking and dry, rotten in places with creeping vines and boring insects crewing into it.
Most macabre is the face and hints of a body in the tree. The eyes are closed, but the figure is in pain by the curl of his lips. This is the soul of the WoodKing, trapped within his own dreams and nightmares, slowly being chewed apart by them until perhaps one day, he dissolves back into primal essence.
Perchance to Escape
The rare standing stones marked with runic spirals are gateways back to the waking world outside of the woodland dream. To escape this way, the PCs must camp around the stone with a 10% cumulative chance of awaking in the real world. After 10 days, this will automatically happen. A more difficult way is to attempt to manipulate the stone to allow a portal to be opened, but this would require knowledge of Oneiromancy, or dream magic, as well as the ability to manipulate dream material with magic.
The Woodking can grant release to any who seek it, though by far and large, most who approach the woodking for this single purpose find themselves ignored and placed elsewhere within the green dungeon, and the unlucky ones are turned into Wooden Men. The rest gather near the edges of the Limberlost and try to make some sort of life for themselves, and go mad in the process.
The WoodKing is the living soul of forests and trees, and should he perish, it will be the end of the forests. Such things are alluded to in Elven lore and the musings of the Dreamlings, but isn’t common knowledge. A campaign can arise around the central theme of repairing the damage done to the Woodking and saving the forests of the realm. A lesser version that is not quite save the world would be saving a single particular forest rather than all of them. In this venue, each major forest could have it’s own Woodking, and associated heart of the wood.
Saving the Wood can take several avenues. The most current method would be a modern turn to forestry with efforts of conservation, replanting, and limiting the use of wood from the forest. Except that isn’t very exciting, unless it turns into a war between the forest dwellers and the others who are exploiting the forest! A more introspective version would be voyaging through Limberlost and making allies of the Green Men, and finding the Heart of the Wood and tending the sick old tree until it starts to heal itself. This would cause a revitalization of the physical aspect of the forest, and would make the above conservation efforts much more effective.
The Crooked Path - Quite by accident, the PCs stumble into Limberlost while trekking through a deep forest. this can be a short interlude into the dreaming/nightmare aspect of Limberlost which the PCs are pressed to escape from, usually by surviving the labyrinth until finding some method of escape.
For What? - The PCs have been tasked with finding Limberlost and exploring it for a half mad wizard who wishes to gain some of the WoodKing’s power for himself. The Pcs must find the central tree and pluck seven leaves from it and return with them to gain their reward from the wizard.
Should the PCs successfully restore the WoodKing and associate woods to health, there can be a number of unexpected returns.
* The Wood Elves, long since thought to have vanished, return from their long hiding. They have many valuable allies among the dryads, ents, and treelords. This can be a great boon to PCs who are facing greater outside powers such as fighting off the Barbarian Horde (tm) or similar threats to the game world.
* The Gates to Faerie and the long neglected faerie roads open, allowing the true fae to enter into the world again. This can be a good or a bad thing, as the true fae are neither good nor evil, but more primal and certainly more chaotic. Geasa and oaths take on binding powers and the creatures of night take on solid forms.
* Similar to the first option, though the wood elves and allies are outnumbered by more potent and vicious woodland denizens. Timberwolves become substancially larger, insects grow to larger size, and the forest itself becomes richer and more hoary with eldritch force.
* The WoodKing awakens, and is displeased with the state of affairs. With a great and terrible groan the forests begin to rouse themselves, lashing out against the human civilization that has punished them with fire and ax. The Woodking and his lieutenants rise like green demons to scourge the Earth, leaving the PCs as the architects of the unexpected calamity. Facing the powers could be a life or death battle against the trees that leaves men huddled on the plains, of the forests writhing in manmade flames.