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126 Scythe Tree


Exposition

 “Archibald’s Atypical Aberrations, Abnormalities and Anomalies!” reads a waving banner firmly planted on the heath outside of town. Traveling shows are not exactly common, nor unheard of, along old roads like these. And the depending on what they offer for a ‘show’, a fickle town like this may swarm the makeshift entrance to its ‘grounds’ or shun it entirely.


Suffice it to say, the collective mood of a town like this is hard to predict. A child is likely to be struck with awe at the sight of several balls impossibly rotated in the air by only two hands, but a curmudgeon with little coin will just as likely turn their nose up at the sight if they’d seen it before (even if it was just the once).


The more remote, the harder to impress…and the less reliable the business opportunities will be. Some talented performers think these remote folk are quickly stirred by a simple trick and travellers with scruples even simpler than their tricks think folk here are rubes ripe for the picking. Many others know better. Most would not bother to even set up, let alone rest for the night too close to the town borders. Local customs are seldom clear at first sight or explanation. Almost all of them hinge on a sense of distrust for anyone other than their own.


But this travelling menagerie is not your typical collection of lost souls with nowhere else to turn (though it certainly keeps that in common with others). This little nomadic gathering slowly built itself up from those who could not or would not…or were not permitted to…continue travelling with others of its kind.


An odd collection of collectors and their curious curios, as emphasized in the title upon that waving banner. These stranger-than-the-usual strangers keep dark things for dark purposes. Or so goes the word your small townsfolk might eagerly spread.


But there is a thread of truth in it. For some of these collectors know quite well that the smaller places tucked away in the ass-ends of the wide world harbor dark things of their own. And they pride themselves on knowing where these places are…what to bring them…and most importantly…how to pretend like they aren’t doing exactly those things…at all.


Which is why no one bats an eye or nary a sidelong glance is given when that dark-robed man purchased a piece of dark wood from one of the vendors. Twisted and gnarled, with its growth rings pock marked. Something ordinarily of no use even to a master woodworker. But close inspection or a purposeful eye easily spots the blood-curdling and hair-standing deposits of what can only be leftover teeth and bone held within the grain.


This is the sort of thing Archibald and his social apostates specialize in. And almost no one knows it.



Introduction

James: Play Dead

Freeman: Old Man Willow

Source: Bestiary 2, pg. 235

Reading List: 1e Bestiary 2, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil

Pathfinder Lore

Appearance

·         Deciduous, dead or drying trees, with dark-brown bark that is nearly black at the bottom by their roots.

·         Long twisted branches that carry rusty brown leaves all year round, and end in scythe-like blades.

·         A jagged gash can be found along its trunk…when it’s not actively feeding. Because of course it’s a mouth filled with sharp pointy teeth.


Ecology

·         Scythe Trees are malevolent and cruel that dwell in the deep dark reaches of a forest.

·         Instead of feeding on sunlight and nutrients in the soil, the find nourishment in flesh, blood and bone.

·         One might imagine this is where the rust, dark and almost black, brown tones come in…

·         Screams and whimpers are music to their…ears(?), which they consider to make the meal even more enjoyable.

·         And they especially love devouring something like a kind-hearted gnome, or dryad that thinks it’s a creature not beyond redemption.

·         Should you be lucky enough to hear it speak, it would sound rough, deep and mocking. They are especially scornful of Arboreals, guardians of forests and representatives of trees, whom they find to be insufferable and worthy of little more than being hacked to pieces.

·         Solitary by nature, their size and power pretty much make them impossible for other predators to compete with them.

·         They can stay in an area for months or years, but when food sources dwindle, they move on. Usually leaving some pieces of their bark and roots behind which may spawn into a new Scythe Tree if enough nutritious blood is left behind for them grow.

·         But by the time a new one grows, the progenitor tree is usually long gone to new hunting grounds.


Sidebar

·         Wood harvested from one of these trees is gnarled and twisted, and the growth rings will have random pockets of teeth and bones from previous meals.

·         This wood is sought after by some necromancers for potent necromantic wands or staves.

·         This wood is called scythewood and a given tree usually has about 150gp worth of this material.


1e

·         The 1e version of this tree were called Quickwoods.

·         Dark gray bark, with the image of a sinister face. Otherwise looks like an old oak tree.

·         No scythes, fear aura, 360-degree surveillance via Oaksight (clairvoyance/clairaudience), spell absorption and roots to attack and pull its targets to its mouth and bite.

·         Immune to fire and electricity.

·         (I discovered Quickwoods via a variant available of this creature. More below.

Mythology and Folklore

·         There are loads of folklore around trees. A lot about growth and some about danger and curses. I didn’t really wanna dig through it all because none seemed to lean into a malevolent, carnivorous, and sapient creature. Except….

·         Old Man Willow. From our dear Tolkien.

·         Omitted from both the animated and live action films, Old Man Willow was described as a ’maligned tree spirit’. He appeared alongside the same story arc as Tom Bombadil when the hobbits entered the Old Forest.

·         In fact the first appearance was in the 1934 Poem collection called The Adventures of Tom Bombadil.

·         Tom Bombadil is believed to be heavily inspired by a demigod from Finnish Folklore named Väinämöinen.

·         Old Man Willow lulls Frodo, Merry and Pippin to sleep with magic, trapping the latter two within the folds of its bark and trunk.

·         Sam being the suspicious little hobbit that he is, did not fall asleep and managed to save Frodo. But when they started a fire from dry leaves, Merry shouts from within that the tree is threatening to squeeze them to death if they don’t put the fire out.

·         Tom Bombadil saves the day when he arrives and sings to the ancient tree spirit that causes it to eject Merry and Pippin.

·         He then explains to the hobbits that the willow is wholly evil and has managed to spread its influence across the Old Forest.

·         There’s actually some critical controversy over why Tolkien created the character at all, given his strong environmentalist stance. But apparently the spirit and the tree were not always singular, and it’s that the spirit was trapped within the willow, but was still able to spread it’s influence.

·         Which is surely an allegory for many a story about corruption, especially from unsuspecting places. And our influence on the environment. One bad apple ruins the batch at all that.


Comparison

·         While Old Man Willow isn’t exactly “eating” the hobbits in the story, it’s certainly an obvious influence for the Quickwood, which in turn obviously influenced the Scythe Tree.

·         The quickwood is by all accounts not an overly interesting creature. It’s more like a forest version of the classic Roper.

·         By the Scythe Tree feels like a step in a better direction. If not lore-wise then definitely mechanically.

·         Which bring us too….


 



Mechanics


ET! Test Kitchen

·         We fought this thing in a PbP!

·         Shout out to Hobs and Silas who created the Druid and Barbarian we used respectively!

·         I played the Druid and a Fighter and James played the Barbarian and a Cleric.


Cam’s Take

·         Amazing ambush predator style

·         Strong bruiser type with resistance to two types of physical damage

·         Playing dead when knocked prone is a very interesting tactic

·         Reach helps close the gap on movement speed but a more dynamic party could probably outrun the trees and win through hit and run tactics.

·         Size and reach makes them hard to get into good flanks but low reflex and will should make them fairly easy to intimidate and combat maneuver

Freeman’s Take

Freeman’s Turns

  • Took Cover while prone, mistakenly thinking it would give me an AC bonus to melee attacks

  • Cast Grease to trip the Tree, hoping for more chances for it to slip. Didn't factor in its massive reach.

  • At the very least I kinda forced to to stay put and attack 3 times instead of move. To mixed results.

  • Cam could've Stepped in the Grease safely, but they either didn't realize or didn't bother.

  • Heavily debated using Haste, but our attack rolls were bad enough. I'm not sure 3rd and 4th swings would have helped.

  • And Extra movement didn't seem pertinent.

  • I neglected to put my Intimidating Glare to use.

  • Did my best to knock what I could prone with mixed results, but probably could've played with the initiative order a bit better.

  • Turns out I was illegally tripping with the Druid. Fighter had Titan Wrestler, but didn't wanna drop the weapon.

  • Barb had it too…but he was useless :'D

James' Turns:

  • Didn't quite nail the 3-action Heal emanation

  • Used Guidance while Bless was still in effect.

  • Both are status bonuses.

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