So, I’ve been running a 5th edition Curse of Strahd game and got a special request. One of my players wasn’t feeling very engaged with her monster hunting character and wanted to play Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. The idea sounded like a fun challenge so I started working the problem.
I could think of a few obvious options for making a Groot style character:
- Use a standard race with just a Groot-like personality.
- Use a Warforged or other non-standard burly race.
- Build a home brewed “Treekin” race.
A little digging brought up this version of a direct translation along with a home brewed Treant race. While this sounded interesting on the surface the race build was both too strong and too based on Treants instead of Groot.
I put the custom race idea on the back burner. When a one shot adventure opportunity came up. We tested out the concept using a Warforged Barbarian who could only say its name.
Torg turned out to be super fun for the player and didn’t feel the least bit game breaking. While this build proved the value of the concept and engaged everyone at the table in great ways it didn’t really get at Groot as a plant creature who can come back from death over and over again.
I did some more thinking and knuckled down to build a Treekin race to go along with the Barbarian class choice.
Conveniently, session 7 of our Ravenloft campaign had the players traveling to Yester Hill to deal with an evil tree and the source of all Blights. Thematically this was a windfall and the concept essentially mutated into a newly awakened Blight.
Incorporation into Ravenloft
The party had managed to stop the circle of druids from finishing their great ritual and prevented Wintersplinter from being born. This propelled them into their first direct conflict with Strahd. It was terrifying and by the time they got the vampire lord to retreat, upon the back of his Nightmare, the party’s Blood Hunter was in pretty dire straights. She’d been drained by Strahd several times and was very close to death.
The party also had the Gulthias Tree to deal with and decided to let their Blood Hunter rest at the base of a massive wicker Strahd at the top of the hill. They left her alone…leaning against an effigy…an effigy entwined with blighted roots…
I pulled the player aside and asked her if she was okay with her character dying and being replaced with the newest iteration of Torg. She gave me the green light and I was off to the races.
Just as the rest of the party finish burning out the Gulthias Tree they hear a blood curdling scream. They run towards it and reach their abandoned compatriot as roots from the effigy dig into and through her body. She’s gorily torn to shreds as a monstrous blight creeks into being from the body. Horror checks are rolled and madness grips the party. The characters, and the players, are too stunned to act.
The creature doesn’t attack them, it just stands there, working what looks like a mouth. Eventually it manages to move enough air through its new body to say, “I am Torg.”
They’re in shock, the monster doesn’t attack, and the tension extends until they realize the thing isn’t a monster. There was also a little PC Glow to help integrate the new character as all the players bought in on the concept pretty much instantly.
Note: While the party has accepted Torg the rest of Barovia still needs convincing that it’s not just a clever Blight come to eat their children.
Flora Colossus, Awakened Blight, Treekin
- +1 Str, +2 Con
- Size: Medium
- Speed: 30’
- Languages: You can understand and speak Common.
- Woodwise: Your embodiment of nature allows you to cast the cantrip Druidcraft at will using your own body as a source for seeds, flowers, and similar effects.
- Sap for Blood: You are an ambulatory plant and lack a traditional circulatory system. This grants you Resistance to Poison.
- Put Down Roots: Instead of sleeping you may choose to put down roots in fertile soil and enter an inactive state for 4 hours each day. You are fully aware of your surroundings in this state and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal. This counts as a long rest and provides you with a full day’s worth of food and drink.
- Twig to Branch: If you are killed your soul remains attached to your body. If a piece of your body is planted and well cared for you will eventually grow back to full size (Note: How long this takes is purely up to the DM and should be based on how much the rest of the party bands together to care for you as you grow back). Your body is treated as if it is under the effects of Gentle Repose from the moment of your death. Your body is also considered whole for the purposes of resurrection magic so limbs will regenerate even for spells that normally would not have such an effect. If any part of your body is planted, or if resurrection magic is used to bring you back, any remaining body parts wither into dead wood. Complete destruction of your body via things like disintegration or fire prevents Twig to Branch from working. Your body is only suffused by your spirit at the moment of your death. Body parts removed from you while you’re alive immediately wither into dead wood and cannot be used for resurrection magic or Twig to Branch.
The intent of this build is to provide a solid plant theme while being in line with other races. Twig to Branch is the most game breaking element of the build but it’s something that only applies when the character dies and brings with it a lot of narrative “flavor” and party bonding potential. At low levels the party might have to drag the dead character around in a pot while it pretends not to dance when people are looking.
This might not be for everyone and does hinge a bit on DM intervention (how long it takes for a Treekin to respawn) but bonding a party together in this way feels worthwhile.
I also recommend playing fast and loose with the time frames for regrowing the lost PC to make sure they can play with the rest of the party and have a good time. Twig to Branch intentionally does not lower the monetary costs of resurrection magic now how long it takes to cast any resurrection spells.
It DOES make revivify a much more powerful spell when used on a Treekin ally but, again, it would require multiple party members to pull off and encourages team play.
Nowhere in this build is it required that Treekin only speak their name. That was purely the player’s choice.