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Illustration of a lush swamp lit dramatically by the afternoon sun shining through the leaves of the trees. Arching out from behind a patch of trees is a huge scorpion tail that is the same dappled brown as the tree trunk it is hiding behind.

 

Safety Rating: Extremely dangerous.

Environment: Wetlands where there is plenty of cover, especially swamps.

Details: The fruiting bodies of this predatory fungus grow into enormous green and brown scorpion tails on top of many-legged, crawling bodies the size of large dogs. Called Scorpion Tails, these fruiting bodies are usually eight feet tall, but tails up to twelve feet tall have been documented. They stalk animals, ducking agilely behind trees until they get close enough to strike with their stingers, which are sharp enough to pierce metal and stone. They use these stingers to stabs deep into their victims, injecting spores.

Scorpion Tails attack repeatedly until their target is dead. Then they stand guard over the carcass, protecting it from scavengers so that the spores have had time to grow and produce new Scorpion Tails. Scorpion Tails that are guarding carcasses are relatively docile and only attack things that get close to them. However the presence of a Scorpion Tail guarding a carcass is a clear sign of danger, because there will be other Scorpion Tails in the area.

When hunting for prey, Scorpion Tails are attracted to movement, especially fast movement. They prefer larger prey and, when possible, they go after isolated prey, rather than groups. This means that stealth can be a useful protection against Scorpion Tails. Being small and staying in groups also helps. In addition, because the Scorpion Tails are so tall and top-heavy, once they have been knocked over, it takes them a few minutes to get back up. However knocked over Scorpion Tails are still dangerous, as they can strike with their stingers while on their sides.

Lore: One popular story describes Oriel (or-ee-EL) Dancer, an orcish folk hero and rogue, who defended themself from a Scorpion Tail by getting it to attack an inanimate object and then trapping its stinger inside that object. It is unclear how effective this technique would be outside of a story.

Spotting a Stalking Scorpion Tail: When a Scorpion Tail Fungus is stalking the player characters, they each roll the Perception skill.

  • 0 Successes: A failure means that the character thought that they saw something, but it was just the wind.
  • 1 Success: A partial success means that the character catches a glimpse of something tall ducking behind a tree.
  • 2 Successes: A full success means that the character gets a good look at the Scorpion Tail before it ducks out of sight.
  • 3 Successes: An outstanding success means that the character is doing so well at spotting the Scorpion Tail that they are able to keep track of its location.

Identifying It: Once the characters know that the Scorpion Tail is there, they can use the Nature skill to identify it. If at least one of the characters got a good look at the Scorpion Tail (a full or outstanding success), then this roll happens normally. If the characters have only seen glimpses of the Scorpion Tail (partial successes), then they take a one die penalty to this knowledge roll.

  • 0 Successes: A failure means that the character remembers this from a folk tale. This seems like a recreation of something fictional. Maybe it is an illusion?
  • 1 Success: A partial success means that they know that this is a predatory fungus that attacks animals, kills them, and injects spores into them. They also know that anyone that has had spores injected into them will need medical attention.
  • 2 Successes: A full success means that the character has identified this as Scorpion Tail Fungus. They know everything in the details section above, including that it is attracted to fast movement, large animals, and isolated prey. In addition, the character knows that Scorpion Tails are top-heavy and are slow to get up if knocked over.
  • 3 Successes: An outstanding success means that the character also knows exactly where to hit a Scorpion Tail to knock it over. This means that the character and their allies will be prepared on any rolls made to knock the Scorpion Tail over.

Tail Attack: Unless the characters are able to do something to stop it, the Scorpion Tail will stalk them until it gets close enough to attack. If the characters know where it is, then they each get to take an action before the Scorpion Tail attacks someone. Otherwise the Scorpion Tail attacks before the characters get actions.

The Scorpion Tail attacks one character at a time. This means that only one person will have to defend themselves from the Scorpion Tail for each attack, though failed character actions may trigger additional attacks. If there is a character that is hanging back or separated from the group, the Scorpion Tail will target them. Otherwise the Scorpion Tail will go for the largest character. The attacked character rolls their physical defense.

  • 0 Successes: A failure means that the Scorpion Tail stabs their stinger into the character. They are injured and spores have been injected into their body. The spores don’t have an immediate effect, but will cause harm if not treated within a day. The character’s injury follows the injury system. If this is the character’s first injury, then they are moderately injured. They take a one die penalty to one set of skills. The six options are Knowledge Skills, Social Skills, Perception Skills, Combat Skills, Strength Skills, and Dexterity Skills.
  • 1 Success: A partial success means that the character struggled to defend themselves from the Scorpion Tail and they have gotten into a bad position. For example, the character could have dived to the side and now their way is blocked by large stones. Or they deflected the Scorpion Tail’s stinger with their shield, but it was able to hit their backpack and is now pinning them in place. Or the character used their armor to protect themselves, but the Scorpion Tail pushed them perilously close to another danger, like a cliff.
  • 2 Successes: A full success means that the character successfully defended themselves.
  • 3 Successes: An outstanding success means that the character has successfully defended themselves and was able to get into an advantageous position. For example, they could have maneuvered themselves so that there is a barrier, like a wall of bushes, between themselves and the Scorpion Tail. Or they could do something to slow the Scorpion Tail down, like knock it over. Or the character could force the Scorpion Tail into a nearby hazard, like pushing it down a steep slope.

Growing Spores: Any character that has been infected with spores will need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. While the spores do not have an immediate effect on the character, they do start growing right away. Every day that the character goes without medical attention, their condition gets worse. This follows the injury system, progressing from a moderate injury, to as serious injury, then to a critical injury, and finally to unconsciousness. The Survival skill can be used to render first aid to the character to slow down this progression and reduce its impact on the character’s ability to function.

 

Scorpion Tail Fungus is part of the Crossroads Setting for the tabletop role-playing game, Magic Goes Awry. Click here to go to the list of wild and whimsical magical plants from the Land of Crossroads.

 

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