016 The Overgrowth
The third layer of Darkbriar, the realm of Zagralath, strongly resembles a typical chunk of the mortal realm. There are small forests, rolling hills, a meandering river or two, lakes, and plains… all covered with twisting brambles, briars, and thorns, choking the realm completely. Here, the hedges are a single writhing entity, constantly in motion, constantly overgrowing and consuming. There is no rest or respite — the hedge grows and surrounds anyone or anything which enters here, imprisoning it and drawing strength from its pain.
The layer is a disk two hundred miles across, vanishing into the surrounding maelstrom. Night and day occur without stars, moon, or sun, a gradual fading and brightening of the sky. The plane is filled with one sound, the sound of constant creaking growth and rustling motion, of tangled vines and blood-seeking needles continuously turning in on themselves. It is discomfitting, at best, and the continual chaotic noise makes hearing difficult; Perception checks for sound are at -5 for sounds within 10 squares, -10 for sounds within 20, and are impossible outside of that distance.
The Overgrowth serves two functions. Firstly, it is a barrier to Zagralath’s home plane — there is no other way to the heart of the Darkbriar. He has sealed all portals, blocked all channels. Only by passing through the Overgrowth, or by his special invitation, can one enter his home. (He would seal the Overgrowth if he could, but the nature of his realm does not permit it; the layers are "touching" according to the strange laws of the Abyss, and he cannot block all passages.) As such, Zagralath’s agents and servants constantly patrol the Overgrowth, looking for those who can survive the nature of the realm itself. He has appointed Clemeren, a transformed Eladrin soul, to oversee this gateway.
Second, the Overgrowth serves to imprison those beings Zagralath wishes to keep close… but not too close. The great palace at the center of the Darkbriar is where he keeps his current projects, his active concerns. The Overgrowth is, in a sense, his storeroom, the place where can toss things he doesn’t need now but might need later. To be honest, he is only vaguely aware of what creatures he has imprisoned here and why he might want them, and his various aides charged with record-keeping are not the most accurate — demons never are.
Those who guide the powerful through the Abyss avoid the Overgrowth; the best you might get is pointed to a gate which will lead you here. There are no trading posts or rest areas or meeting places here; this is a layer directly adjacent to the home of a Demon Lord, albeit a minor one, and such places do not generally serve as gatherings for the riff-raff of the planes.
The land which underlies the Overgrowth is known to shift and change over time. Mountains are worn down; rivers change their path; forests grow and shrink, become tropical jungle or northern pine. At times, the Overgrowth will suddenly sprout a village, a fortress, or a lonely waystation; these are consumed and enclosed as quickly as anything else, and their inhabitants drained. It is generally believed that in areas where the Feywild and the Mortal Realm are linked, and where there has likewise been dark corruption and powerful abyssal magic, that things can shift, that pieces of the world can move to the Overgrowth. What happens to that portion of the Overgrowth which is replaced? See below…
Clemeren has a small dwelling place here, known as the sphere of thorns, for such it is — a hollow globe a few hundred feet across, attached to the plane-wide hedge network, which moves constantly across the twisting surface. He is ever alert for intrusion, not so much out of loyalty to Zagralath, but because the slaying of invaders is one of his few pleasures. There are whispers that Clemeren desires Zagraleth’s throne, and will be willing to let those who have the power to slay him, and the will to do so, through to Zagraleth’s inner sanctum… but it may also be those whispers serve only to lure new playmates for the Overgrowth’s master.
The Overgrowth constantly attacks. Unless a group has magical protection, long-term flight, or other means of avoiding any contact with the surface, they will be continuously subject to the following:
Attack Of The Overgrowth: +27 vs. AC, 4d6+6 damage and target is slowed (save ends). First Failed Save: Target is immobilized (save ends). Second Failed Save: Target is imprisoned.
Imprisoned: An imprisoned target is trapped in the dense thicket of thorns, which pierce his flesh completely, growing into and throughout his body. He is unconscious. Each round, he loses a healing surge; when he has been reduced to zero surges, he is trapped in a state between life and death, and his mind is infiltrated by the Overgrowth. Clemeren, and Zagraleth, can acess the Overgrowth as a minor action to dominate any imprisoned target. This is usually done for interrogation purposes. An imprisoned character can be freed by doing 60 points of damage to the Overgrowth, which has Regeneration 10 (Radiant), and Resistance 15 to Maces, Flails, and Hammers. An imprisoned target has concealment.
A quick note to DMs: Obviously, just dumping the characters in the Overgrowth and waiting until they’ve all been imprisoned is No Fun. Unless the character’s stupidly charge in unprepared (in which case, give them what they’ve asked for), it’s usually best to make sure they know what the place is like and allow them to take precautions. A rare ritual might stave off the plane’s voracious assault for a few hours. A bargain for safe passage might be reached with Clemeren before entry. (They may imitate/impersonate invited guests, somehow…). It is also possible to let them enter, learn, and then quickly retreat through a portal which remains open for a few key rounds.
Obviously, if the characters can be attacked, it is not possible to take a short or extended rest.
The tendrils of the Overgrowth reach upwards for 6 squares.
Where the Overgrowth shifts and momentarily merges with the Mortal Realm, a fragment of the demonic plane is left behind. Cut off, it will quickly dissolve into grey ash, unless it can find a host. If it comes into contact with an animal or humanoid, it will merge with it, creating a twisted new entity.
"Thorn Tainted" is a template which can be applied to any Humanoid, Beast, or Magical Beast. It represents a monster infected by the power of the Overgrowth. Such a creature’s appearance transforms; it is covered with sharp thorns and spikes, each twisted and jagged. Blood, or a viler fluid, leaks from where the thorns grow out of the flesh, and the creature’s bones and form become twisted.
Thorn-Tainted Elite Brute
Piercing Aura: aura 1; each enemy that starts its turn adjacent to the thorn-tainted takes 1d6 points of damage per tier.
Hit Points: +10 per level+Constitution score.
Resist: 5 poison
11th level: 10 poison
21st level: 15 poison
Saving Throws: +2
Action Points: 1
Impaling Attacks: All melee attacks which do not have the weapon keyword made by the thorn-tainted creature do 5 ongoing damage (save ends).
11th level: 10 ongoing
21st level: 15 ongoing
Cage Of Pain: (Standard Action; Encounter; Close Blast 5) Level+3 vs. AC, and the target takes Medium/Limited damage, plus immobilized and ongoing 5 per tier (save ends both).
Grappling Thorns: (Minor Action; Recharge 5,6; Range 3): Level +1 vs. Reflex, and target is pulled three squares.
Thorn-tainted creatures will use their grappling thorns and cage of pain powers to bring foes close to them, and will then attack whoever seems weakest until they die.
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