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Close-up illustration of gray branches that merge into a bark-covered face with delicate features. This artwork is a modification of a fairy tale image created by Kellepics.

 

Overview: Dryads originated as forest consciousness within the Other Realm. They are now humanoid beings with tree-like traits. Most dryads have a deep, often magical, connection to the natural world, especially their home forest, and feel drawn to protect it.

Physical Description: The appearance of dryads varies a lot, but they are all roughly humanoid, with tree-like traits, such as bark, roots, thorns, leaves, and flowers. Most dryads have androgynous bodies with green or brown skin. Some have more humanoid faces, while others have mask-like faces covered in leaves or bark. Many dryads have symbiotic fungi or epiphytes, such as moss, lichen, ferns, vines, bromeliads, and orchids, incorporated into their bodies. Dryads can also have plant versions of animal trails, such as horns formed by branches, talons made from thorns, fur composed of moss and lichen, hooves formed from roots, and tails made of swishing vines.

Gender: As with many plant-based species, most dryads have nonbinary genders, and use they/them pronouns. However, some dryads do identify as female or male, especially those with strong connections to dioecious tree species, which have separate female or male trees.

Senses: Most dryads have human-like vision, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. At the same time, most are so attuned to their home forests that they are aware of everything happening within it.

Diet: Dryads get their energy either from sunlight or a magical bond to a specific tree. Those with green skin and many leaves frequently prefer to live off sunlight. Doing so does requires them to spend at least half their day in the sun. Less leafy dryads usually prefer bonding to a specific tree. As that tree grows and thrives, it sends energy to the dryad, sustaining them. However, this bond goes both ways. If the tree is harmed, energy flows from the dryad to heal the tree, weakening the dryad.

Common Mental Characteristics: Because dryads originated as the consciousnesses of entire forests, most are strongly oriented toward perceiving and understanding interconnection. Just as trees support and compete with each other, these dryads understand the ways that cooperation and competition entwine and how individuals benefit from helping those in need. They also understand the delicate balance of predator-prey relationships and the way that prey species benefit from predators. Many of these dryads apply this understanding to everything, including their perception of non-fae peoples.

Dryads’ deep connection to nature also leads many to base their morality on what benefits their home forest and the larger web of life within nature. To them, anything that benefits their forest and the web of life is good, and anything that threatens either is bad. Because many non-fae peoples have a different perspective on the natural world, dryads are frequently upset by their actions, resulting in many dryads taking on the role of forest guardians.

Magical Affinities:

  • In Tune with Nature
  • Plant Magic
  • Protection Magic
  • Harm and Affliction Magic, because nature isn’t always kind
  • Summoning Magic, especially summoning magical plants and animals
  • Less Frequent: Healing and Restoration Magic, Sensing Magic, Earth Magic, Weather Magic, Animal Magic, and Shapeshifting Magic

Common Species Traits:

  • Land Bond: Many dryads have a magical bond to the land of a specific area that aids them when they are protecting it
  • Plant Talker: Many dryads can speak directly with plants
  • Permanent Defense: Quite a few have armor-like bark or thorns that provide Physical Defense, or a body that acts like a staff to provide Mental Defense
  • Magical Nature: Some have their magical nature express itself in specific small magical abilities, like always knowing where north is, healing minor damage to plants with a touch, and being nonthreatening to animals

Common Vulnerabilities:

  • Dietary Restriction: Those who live off of sunlight need to be in the sun at least half of each day
  • Location Tether: Dryads with a Land Bond or a bond to a specific tree are often tethered to their land or tree, so that they can only leave for short periods of time
  • Moist Skin: Dryads with leaves that dry out easily need to take special care of them to avoid harm
  • Specific Damage Vulnerability: Some dryads are particularly vulnerable to lightning, fire, or freezing.
  • Heat Sensitivity: Dryads connected to trees from cold areas, like aspens, can be sensitive to heat
  • Limited Body Part: Those Dryads who have had Canker Blight, a fungal disease that affects magical plant people, sometimes end up with stiff, woody scars that limit the range of motion and strength of a body part

Origins: In the Other Realm everything has a consciousness. The Three Rulers took some of these consciousnesses and shaped them into sapient species. They created dryads out of forest consciousnesses.

Home Forests: Dryads inhabit nearly every forested wilderness within Crossroads. Many of these forests have been designed as protected wildernesses, meaning that no hunting, logging, or harvesting is allowed within them, and habitation is limited to their guardians. The wild forests that aren’t protected wilderness are working forests, where regulated hunting, harvesting, and selective logging are allowed. These regulations are set by the Crossroads government and managed by the Crossroads Wilderness Keepers, leading to regular conflicts with dryads.

Crossroads also has many non-wild forests, including farmed forests and inhabited forests. Farmed forests are managed like a garden. Trees are coppiced to produce a continuous supply of wood and effort is put into helping desired plants spread. Inhabited forests are densely populated with people who live in and around the trees without harming them. Many sapient forest animals, fae-descended species, and druids, have large populations in inhabited forests. A few dryads live in farmed or inhabited forests, but most find the intense external control inherent to both of these types of forests to be repellent.

Prominent Cultures: Most dryads live in small communities within their home forests. Because each community is firmly rooted in, and affected by, its local environment, the culture of these communities vary a lot, but they tend to be cooperative and focused on protecting their home forest. Community make up ranges from dryad only, fae-descended only, and druid only, to a diverse mixture of people.

The environmental degradation and rampant poaching happening in some parts of Crossroads have prompted strong responses in many of these dryad communities. Some communities have thrown themselves into activism, joining with others to push for change. These communities have made major contributions to the establishment and expansion of protected wildernesses.

Other dryad communities have become militantly protective of their forests and hostile toward outsiders. Several communities in working forests have gone to the extreme of creating de facto protected wildernesses by surrounding their forests with magical plants that attack anyone who gets close. These rebel communities are in a long-term standoff with the Crossroads government, and anyone caught leaving one of these forests is arrested.

Clothing: Many dryads wear nothing, especially those with bark-skin, leaves over their whole body, or who are covered in epiphytes. Among the rest, clothing made from living plants or minimally-processed plant fibers are both popular.

Partnership Customs: Most dryad communities share the custom of creating entwined Soul Flowers as a symbol of commitment and long-term partnership.

Naming Traditions: Most dryad communities use locations as family surnames, such as “Stonehill,” “Bluelake,” “Willowcreek,” and “Stormcliff.” First names vary a lot from community to community, but they are taken from nature in some way.

Inspiration: The forest-wide network that lets trees communicate with and support each other.

 

Dryads are part of the Crossroads Setting for the tabletop role-playing game, Magic Goes Awry. Click here to go to the list of vibrant and unique magical people from the Land of Crossroads.

 

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