Fungus drips from this grotesque tree’s ridged bark as its branches wave like boneless arms.
Heartrot Tree CR 13
Str 29, Dex 10, Con 24, Int 2, Wis 11, Cha 3
Base Atk +12; CMB +23; CMD 33 (can’t be tripped)
Feats Improved Critical (slam, tendril), Improved Initiative, Lightning Reflexes, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Perception), Weapon Focus (slam, tendril)
Skills Perception +14, Stealth +3 (+11 in forests); Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in forests
SQ hardy stump, virulent roots
Unlike other diseases, heartrot disease is particularly insidious due to having an immediate effect in addition to a lasting effect.
Heartrot Disease: Slam—contact; save Fort DC 25; onset immediate; frequency 1/round for 5 rounds, then 1/day for 10 days; initial effect 1d2 Wis damage and nauseated; secondary effect 1d3 Con drain; cure 3 consecutive saves.
Hardy Stump (Ex)
A heartrot tree is difficult to kill. After it sustains fatal damage, a heartrot tree begins to regenerate and can grow back to its previous size in 1d4 weeks. Dealing 50 points of fire damage to the heartrot tree’s stump after it has sustained fatal damage prevents this regeneration.
Virulent Roots (Ex)
A heartrot tree’s roots grow deep beneath the surface. If the tree grows above a cave, cavern, or other large underground opening, its roots have the same statistics as the aboveground tree and can menace creatures underground in the same way. In this case, though they grow from the ceiling, treat a heartrot tree’s roots exactly as a normal heartrot tree. A heartrot tree can’t fight with its branches and roots simultaneously.
Environment any forest or underground
Organization solitary, pair, or festering grove (6–12)
Disgusting products of blight or other magical plagues, heartrot trees represent nature warped to its most insidious. Heartrot trees typically lurk in the deepest depths of fouled forests; they are the manifestations of the very forces that poison the land. As a result, evil and disease pulse within heartrot trees, and the behemoths hunger to destroy anything good or natural still left around them.
Heartrot trees are typically 30 feet tall from the base of their trunks to the tips of their tendril-like branches. When the trees grow above a cave or another large underground space, their roots are horrifically similar to their branches and dangle just as far from the ceiling. Heartrot trees’ trunks are typically 15 feet in circumference, and the plant’s entire mass weighs around 15 tons.
To most lovers of nature, the existence of heartrot trees is a tragedy, because these evil plants were not always so. Before transforming into grotesque harbingers of disease, heartrot trees were invariably ancient and majestic specimens growing in the depths of primeval forests. Heartrot trees were typically once maples, oaks, elms, or other types of locally common deciduous trees.
They were often once among forests’ largest or most venerated trees; perhaps they marked a remote druid’s circle, or were a common meeting place for forest dwellers.
However, once blight falls upon a wooded area, it particularly and irrevocably settles within the heartwood of these trees. Either due to proximity to the center of a blight, or because evil forces have perverted once-good magic that protected the plants, these trees become sentient, fungus-dripping horrors. A malevolence awakens in them akin to the same powers that caused the surrounding blight. Newly formed heartrot trees crave violence and undergo drastic changes to their biology.
The differences between a heartrot tree and its previous incarnation are manifold. In the most visually dramatic change, a heartrot tree withers and shrinks to a fraction of its former size. The water and nutrients that once circulated in its woody veins turn to a disease that rots it from the inside out—and the heartrot tree becomes a carrier of a plague that drives its victims mad before draining the life from their bodies. Heartrot trees’ malevolence spreads throughout their systems of roots, trunks, and branches. As a result, they no longer feed on sunlight or water, and are instead sustained by the evil that animated them as well as the suffering they bring to good creatures that cross their paths.
The most heinous change wrought to heartrot trees, though, might be the sheer determination of the evil that lurks within them. Unlike natural trees, heartrot trees can sense creatures that move near their trunks, and even near their roots underground, when they grow above a cavern or another such opening. Heartrot trees can attack victims aboveground or below, though they can’t attack with both their branches and their roots at once. Even when it seems like heartrot trees are destroyed, they can regenerate in a matter of weeks. Heartrot trees attack and destroy any living creatures that wander into their demesnes, though they prefer to lurk in the heart of a blight and wait to destroy wandering creatures the blight hasn’t yet warped.
Habitat and Society
Although heartrot trees typically originate in the center of a blight, they are restless, wandering brutes. Therefore, they can eventually be found nearly anywhere in a blighted area, from the fringes of a warped wood to its very heart.
Heartrot trees found at the edges of a blighted area are typically solitary creatures. They are invariably aggressive, as the abundance of lost wanderers and fleeing forest dwellers naturally provides them with victims. These heartrot trees are often easy for discerning adventurers to spot—a gnarled, rotting tree amid a heap of broken bodies or standing in a pool of blood is almost certainly a heartrot tree. Fortunately for potential prey, heartrot trees gorged on fresh kills are not exactly good at concealing the remnants of their prey or their presence. What’s more, particularly active heartrot trees often leave the torn flesh or bloody garments of their victims hanging from their twisted branches in a grotesque display of just how much the plants crave carnage.
Heartrot trees that dwell deeper in the depths of a blighted area are typically a little harder to spot. They naturally blend in with the rest of the blighted surroundings, and so GMs may wish to grant heartrot trees an additional +8 racial modifier on Stealth checks in such areas. Such heartrot trees are also more likely to lurk in pairs. In the most blighted areas, it’s common for a heartrot tree to stand on one side of an ominous, deep-forest path with another directly across the way. In this manner, the trees can simultaneously snatch multiple creatures that wander by, and they can ensure that their victims don’t escape their grasping tendrils.
Heartrot Tree Groves
Heartrot trees sometimes stand in horrifying groves made up of six to 12 individuals. In this case, the trees tend to arrange themselves circularly, like a twisted parody of a peaceful druid’s grove. The sheer concentrated evil of these groves imbues the heartrot trees with a strange magical ability that can call victims directly to the slaughter. Three times per day, the grove can cast mass suggestion with a range of 220 feet (Will DC 24; CL 12th). The grove uses this spell-like ability to beckon to potential victims in the vicinity, whose broken bodies afterward typically litter the forest floor around the trees. The destruction of just one heartrot tree in a grove temporarily thwarts that grove’s ability to draw creatures toward it. However, if defeated trees in a grove regenerate back to full power, the grove regains its powers of suggestion.
Pathfinder Adventure Path #119: Prisoner of the Blight © 2017, Paizo Inc.; Authors: Amanda Hamon Kunz, with Paris Crenshaw, Crystal Frasier, Jason Keeley, Isabelle Lee, and Larry Wilhelm.