An interesting and deadly form of symbiosis.
The Tangle Vine, (also known as snag claw vine) is an arboreal plant that has formed a symbiotic relationship with a deadly fungus. Distantly related to the arboreal orchid family of plants, the vine still retains certain familiar characteristics. It grows in trees, hanging its roots from branches and produces a magnificent flower, the resulting seedpods of which bear a vanilla like aroma. The similarities end here however. It is thought that changing climate conditions forced the vine to adapt or die. Where once it may have thrived in a moist, jungle environment, it is now encountered in far harsher, dry climate climes.
The lack of nutrient laden jungle air is thought to have forced its adaptation. The air in arid climes is dry and bereft of any nutrients. To gain the nutrients necessary for its survival, the vine forged a mutualistic relationship with a deadly fungus, the Death Tendril. The fungus body resides inside hat of the vine, laying in wait for the vine to catch its prey.
Elongated roots covered in sharp hook thorns hand from the vines perch, waiting for an unsuspecting animal to brush against them. When this occurs, the hooks snag and easily pierce sin. Creatures snagged usually panic and try to break away. Although this is sometimes successful, it mostly casts them against other roots and soon they are well and truly stuck. While many thorns may break off, they are numerous enough to ensure that some remain embedded in skin.
The thorns contain a tiny opening just below their tip. Within this opening resides the Death Tendrils offensive weapon, an anaesthetic acid secreted in preparation for the trap to be tripped. Blood from the stricken creature carries the anaesthetic to its muscles where it swiftly goes to work. As the acid is secreted in every thorn, even ones that have broken off are still effective in paralysing the prey.
Once the prey has been sufficiently incapacitated, the fungus grows rapidly. The anaesthetic also acts as an anti coagulant, ensuring that the openings made by the thorns are not closed.
Thin fungal tendrils issue forth from the same holes where the anaesthetic was stored. They enter the prey and begin secreting digestive enzymes. As tissue is dissolved, it is absorbed by the tendrils, which then grow into the gap left, anchoring them further into the preys living flesh.
The tendrils are sensitive to the anaesthetic acid levels within the prey, any drop in which cause them to secrete more, maintaining the status of paralysis. Thus the prey is slowly digested alive until loss of blood and/or vital organs cause it to die. As the aesthetic is only local, incapacitating voluntary muscles, the prey is not even spared pain as it is slowly digested.
Being a fungus, the Death Tendril cannot use all of the nutrients it absorbs and excretes them from its main body, where they are absorbed by the vine, providing it with sustenance to sustain its growth. The Death Tendril is also interesting in that it can occur/live without the Tangle Vine. This is rare however as their mutualistic relationship is so beneficial, but when it occurs, the tendril can be spotted at night due to the phosphorescent glow emanating from it. This is due to the unused nutrients it has excreted being burned up by bacteria, a by-product of which is the luminescence.
The deadly twosome has one more trick up to play. In order to assure mutual propagation, the tendril releases its sticky spores into the vines seedpod ensuring a high likelihood of spores being carried with seeds when they are distributed. Anyone mistaking a Tangle vine seedpod for that of a vanilla orchid will be truly surprised to find the spore infested seeds somewhat disastrous to their digestive tract, causing searing abdominal pains accompanied by cold sweats and a general sense of delirium. While not poisonous as such, the effects of digesting the spores could be disastrous to anyone facing imminent battle or attempting some dangerous task.
This article was first published on XXXI July MMIII
|CON||2D6||8||Hit Points 10|
|Hit Location||Melee (D20)||Missile (D20)||Points|
|Thorn||Special||Special||Entangle – See Notes|
|CON||1D3||2||Hit Points 2|
|Hit Location||Melee (D20)||Missile (D20)||Points|
|Tendril||n/a||n/a||Must destroy host|
|Tendril||Special||Special||Special – See notes|
Tangle Vines: Depends on the prey’s reaction. Classically, someone brushing a vine will be pierced by a number of thorns. Thorn damage is negligible, any sort of armour will stop them piercing skin. If skin is pierced, the preys reaction will determine how entangled it gets. If it thrashes around in panic, it will become more entangled, if it freezes and takes stock of the situation before slowly removing thorns, it will likely escape.
Anaesthetic: The anaesthetic has a POT of 1 point per thorn. E.G. If 5 thorns pierce, its POT is 5. It will start acting two turns after the thorn first pierces flesh. Match POT vs. CON on the resistance table. The anaesthetic lasts 10 turns; so further piercing will increase POT. E.G. Prey is pierced with 5 thorns and resists vs. POT 5. It is pierced by 7 more thorns and then has to match vs. POT 12 etc. Failing to resist will result in local paralysis of areas pierced. (Use logic here. If 20 thorns pierce the prey’s arm and 1 its leg, clearly the leg will not go lame. Perform resistance vs. POT I two separate checks).
Death Tendrils: These will start growing 5 turns after first piercing. Digestion will commence in a further 3 turns (8 turns after first piercing). Digestion does 1 point of damage to affected body area (as well as global HP) per 5 tendrils or part thereof per turn. E.G. 7 tendrils are growing into an arm. 7/5 rounded up = 2 points damage per turn. Remember the tendrils can secrete more anaesthetic. Treat this like the thorns, 1 point POT per tendril.
Pod Spores: Best to role-play this, but if you have to resist, treat them as having a POT of 10 (if full pod is consumed).
Post Script: Needless to say, the Tangle Vine flower is of enormous value within botanical circles. The danger in gathering such a flower is enormous. Tangle vines, which sprout without their mutualistic partner never, reach maturity.