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Myconids: The Mystical Mushrooms

 It’s Wednesday night. I’ve finally arrived home from a long day at school, performing complex calculations such as addition, subtraction, and multiplication. My mind is boggled, my brain exhausted, and my fingers ache with mathematical frustration. Yet, as I boot up Neverwinter Nights: Hordes of the Underdark and hear the familiar main menu music, all the confusion and pain fades. It’s time for eight year old me to relax. I load into my favorite world, a place of myriad magic items and god-like characters: Lost Souls. The last time I logged on I was wandering through a mystical forest rife with mushroom-folk and vegepygmies. They were strong-willed and possessed magics unknown to me. The creatures utilized their spores to bring my character to a deep sleep, rattle their mind, and utterly annihilate me. This time, though, I knew they would be conquered; I’d prepared for their psionic barrages, their use of fungi-juju, and the endless swarms of them that were assuredly ready to wail on my character. ‘Twas time to eliminate the fungi, abscond with their treasure, and conquer the forest once and for all...

I’ve never encountered or used myconids or vegepygmies in tabletop Dungeons and Dragons. Thus, when it came time to write this article, I perused my mind for any memory of these foul creatures, and a single capsule from my early childhood popped up. Over the past few weeks, I’ve learned that this is a crime.

Myconids and vegepygmies are incredibly interesting creatures with tons of potential oozing from their very beings, waiting to be scooped up and used. In this and next week’s editions of Musing Over Monsters, we’ll be going over both of these monsters, learning about their history and how to use them in your D&D campaigns and adventures.

Today, we’ll begin with the close-knitted and awesome mushroom people: Myconids.

Let’s roll!

Myconids: Edition History

Myconids first appeared not in a Monster Manual or Bestiary, but an adventure in 1E D&D. They were antagonists in A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, and even appeared on the adventure’s cover fighting a group of intrepid adventurers! The myconids were one of the many enemies in the volcanic tunnel system the adventure took place in, and were quite different than the creatures they are today. After their appearance in this finale to the great series of Slave Lords adventures, they were printed in the Monster Manual II.

Myconids were also found in 2E D&D, albeit sparingly, as fungus men in the Monstrous Compendium Volume Two and the Monstrous Manual.

D&D 3E and 3.5E greatly expanded upon myconids. The name ‘myconid’ became their official name in these editions (as opposed to fungus man) and many new varieties of myconid were created in a lovely issue of Dragon Magazine, such as the myconid worker, guard, circle leader, and king. Subsequently, they made the 3E Monster Manual II and appeared in an adventure that took parties to Halaster’s terrifying dungeon, Undermountain.

4E D&D added a few new types of myconid in the Monster Manual 2, including the myconid rotpriest and sovereign. Besides that Monster Manual, myconids also appear in the Underdark supplement for 4E, introducing a swarm version of the standing mushrooms.

Finally, we arrive at D&D 5E, in which myconids appear in the primary Monster Manual for the first time in D&D’s history. Their lore is expanded upon, their art is updated, the book details their use of spores to resurrect creatures, and even provides an example stat block for one such raised monster. In addition to the Monster Manual, they are also found in the chaotic module Out of the Abyss, where they play an interesting role.

From what I’ve read across all of these books, myconid lore, art, and mechanics in D&D 5E are my preferred version. They’ve definitely evolved from the basic fungus man of 1E D&D - for the better. However, mixing and matching myconid abilities and lore from all of the editions works fantastically! That’s my recommendation: Blend it all together.

Now, let’s quickly boil these mushrooms and delve into them as a monster in D&D.

Myconids: Brief Lore Lesson

Myconids are humanoid mushrooms that reside in the depths of the Underdark, caring for groves of enormous mushrooms and cultivating fungi both magical and mundane. They vary in size, from tiny toadstools to mighty mushrooms that rival trees of the overworld. Their coloring can be dull and brown, vibrant and purple, yellow and rotten, or a mix of many. Their shapes are malleable - think of the ents from the Lord of the Rings films - no two myconids are the same, so go wild with your descriptions and representations of these walking toadstools.

Myconids are inherently good, lawful creatures, living in tight-knit societies called circles in which the largest myconid, called a sovereign, rules. They deplore violence, often share their territory with outsiders, and seek to ascend using their spores and group communion. Circles commonly conduct spore rituals that bless myconids with visions of the past, present, and future that may or may not be true. They use these to avoid confrontations, safeguard their territory, and lead the circle forward. In the same vein, they use their spores to communicate with each other as a group, sort of like a mindflayer colony does with an elder brain. However, myconids can bless (or curse) other beings with these spores - temporarily - to communicate with them.

Their basic lore leaves the mind with a lot to work with. Perhaps the party is seeking out a myconid rotpriest who’s known to help intrepid adventurers witness their future. Maybe a giant myconid sovereign has gone insane from an overload of spores and is rampaging through a svirfneblin outpost. What if a circle of myconids decides peace and unity is not the way to live, and decides to conquer their portion of the Underdark? Where did myconids originate from?

Ponder over these plots and questions, answer them if you wish, and then read below for more ideas on myconids!

Myconid Ideas and Concepts

Now that we’ve learned all about the myconids and their history in D&D, we’ve arrived at the interesting part. How can we turn these shrooms into compelling parts of our D&D campaign?

Example NPCs

  1. Shizake knew she was destined to leave her circle. From a young age, she’d always experience visions of the Overworld during group communion. While others witnessed new ways to utilize their spores, threats around their cavern, and other mysteries of the Underdark, she’d see twinkling stars of autumn twilight, trees larger than any mushroom, and animals unlike anything she’d ever seen. Her circle’s elder explained what all of these omens meant, and tried to teach her as much about the Overworld as he could before she left. Mere months ago, Shizake left her circle and emerged from the Underdark. She’s roamed the countryside around the Underdark exit, seeking guidance, friends, and a way to speak without using her spores. She is an extremely learned myconid and would be able to help anyone navigate and learn about the Underdark in exchange for help in the Overworld.
  2. Over decades without count, hundreds of folks have visited the wise and seemingly immortal myconid rotpriest, Agaricuu. Thought to be blessed by the goddess of nature and smiled upon by the god of death, Agaricuu has lived in the Underdark for many years, tending to a prominent grove of glowing, giant mushrooms, leading a plethora of myconid circles, and assisting those from the world above and below who he deems worthy. Agaricuu is able to use spores from his own violet-emerald body and commune with other beings, giving them visions of the future. He accepts most into his grove, allowing them to witness what is to come, but has a single condition: If Agaricuu sees violence to innocent or good creatures in a visitor’s future, he’ll execute them on the spot. Visitors come to the rotpriest at their own risk.
  3. Boletus is a massive myconid sovereign who’s been corrupted by a demon let loose on the world. His spores spread rapidly and cause extremely toxic fungi to grow on all surfaces, his attacks are brutal, and a foul aura follows him everywhere he travels, causing foes to become paralyzed when near his being. His circle follows him at his behest, practically controlled by him and the demon who’s corrupted him.

Plot Hooks

  1. A circle of myconids have taken up the slaughtering of any and all wayward creatures that wander near their mushroom grove in the Underdark. Once slain, the myconids raise the dead monsters using their mystical spores, turning them into relentless and perfect servants. The local lord’s son traveled too close with his adventuring group and was taken by the myconids. The lord fears the worst, and wishes for you to investigate. Wise folk have advised the party that myconids are usually peaceful and well-meaning, so something is amiss with this circle.
  2. Myconids are showing up at a nearby village and attempting to communicate with the locals. They are fleeing a terrible entity from the Underdark and trying to warn the unwelcoming and hostile villagers of the danger.
  3. A powerful myconid sovereign holds an ancient artifact that is key to stopping an extraplanar invasion.

Campaign Ideas

  1. Recently, portals to the Feywild have been sprouting up around the country of Talisia. Nearby the portals, fantastical mushrooms and molds grow, pulsating flamboyant colors and calling out to passersby in strange tongues. A well-known local wizard and mycologist took a sample of the fungi and studied it. The organism was magical, called out in Fey, and plead for help from the Drowning Duchess. The wizard now seeks out a party to answer this call and delve into the Feywild to discover who exactly needs assistance. However, as DMs, we know the basic story: A hyper-intelligent circle of myconids who live on the Feywild - perhaps the first myconids - are under assault by an incredibly powerful hag, the Drowning Duchess. This campaign can span from first level, when the PCs first find entry into the Feywild from one of these portals and encounter the myconids to ninth or tenth level, when the PCs face-off against the Drowned Duchess in her watery and mystical swamp paradise in the Feywild.
  2. A party of adventurers must navigate a massive jungle of mushrooms in the Underdark, facing off against and allying with myconids, all while combating and conversing with other denizens of the Underdark. Somewhere within is an underground spring that can prevent mortals from aging.
  3. Drow arcanists have magically-engineered a tiny myconid toadstool to contain a poison capable of wiping out huge portions of the overworld. If the myconid is killed, it’s released. Luckily, wood elf agents were able to steal the myconid before the drow triggered the weapon, and now it’s up to the party - at all costs - to protect the myconid of mass destruction.

In Summary

Myconids are rarely used in tabletop D&D. However, my recently remembered memories of them in games such as Neverwinter Nights has reinvigorated my love for them. I ask you all: Do as I will soon do and use these monsters in your campaigns and adventures! Remember:
  1. Myconids have evolved over the editions, from lowly fungus men of 1E to the complex and interesting myconids of 5E. However, you can gain inspiration from all of these sources!
  2. The nature of these creatures is simple but fascinating: They are peaceful, walking mushrooms with the ability to commune as a group and bless others with potentially real visions.
  3. These monsters can be utilized in a plethora of ways. They can be colorful NPC allies and enemies, they can be the basis of an adventure or a brief plot, or they can be the foundation for a great, unconventional campaign.
Next week we’re discussing vegepygmies! These creatures are used even less in D&D; do not worry, I’ll spice them up and give you plenty of vegepygmy ideas - in a week’s time.

Until then, fare thee well!

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