The shrumans are a mysterious race of sentient fungi living in the damp hollows and caverns around the Southern Spur of the Grand Triskele. Poorly understood due to their reclusive nature and unorthodox method of intercommunication, the shruman are odd, if ultimately harmless, members of the Farforth sentient community.
A shruman is bipedal and broadly humanoid in layout, with two arms, two legs, and a prominent head featuring two all-black eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Shrumans vary greatly in size, with most adults of the species standing around 4' tall but particularly old specimens rising almost to the height of 10' where food and space permit. The neck, limbs, and torso broaden exponentially with the height of the given individual as a required to support the increased mass (square-cube law it should be noted that shrumans lack a differentiated skeletal structure in the traditional sense, their chitinous cell walls providing ample rigidity wherever required. The head of a shruman is topped with a broad cap which may be concave or convex towards the top depending on ethnicity and regional humidity. Shruman skin color can vary from white to dark tan on the body, while the cap can be tan, red, orange, pink, or aqua in color.
Genetics and Reproduction
Shrumans exhibit a degree of dimorphism, with females of the species being shorter, more gracile, and lighter in color then their male counterparts. Among adults, a veil-like structure grows out from where the cap touches the crown and then downwards when the wet season approaches. Airborne gamete spores are released when the veil reaches its full shoulder length. When the dry season comes again - or when a shruman's cap is struck or damaged - it emits spores that, once landed in a suitably damp place, will grow into baby shrumans. Shrumans found far from their communities may be individuals seeking out 'adventure' in part because they know that, even if they are struck down, their legacy will live on. The nature of shruman reproduction is such that parentage is less determinate than in most humanoid species. However, shrumans do exhibit a strong tendency towards monogamy, each pair remaining in close proximity for the duration of their lives and rearing any new shrumans that sprout in and around their personal home. The death of a mate often causes the remaining mate to strike out as an individual rather than remaining in the settlement, especially among young widows and widowers, in a behavior outsiders often call 'answering the call to adventure' (see above). This behavior is important because it helps to establish new settlements wherever several adventurers meet. The curiously human-like shape of the shruman (other than the cap) may be somewhat supernatural in origin. Convergent evolution is unlikely, but not impossible, and it seems likely that there are deities or fey powers who might force such a form upon their followers for reasons unknown. For their part, the shruman are mute as ever with outsiders on the matter of their true heritage.
Growth Rate & Stages
Shrumans are not known to have a maximum age or to die from any known pathogen. Growth slows around 20 years of age, but does not fully cease, meaning that shruman of more than a few hundred years can grow so large as to become mostly immobile.
Dietary Needs and Habits
Shrumans are believed to be herbivorous and can consume plant matter in any state of freshness or decay, though fresh plants are preferred. The gut of a shruman plays host to a variety of commensal bacteria and is capable of breaking down even woody cellulose via a combination fermentation and the secretion of special digestive enzymes. Shrumans can obtain moisture directly from the atmosphere or contact with wet surfaces, meaning that most settlements are coastal and low-lying to support this need.
Shrumans are sentient, occupying a level well above langostinites but still slightly below humans in terms of general intelligence. Shrumans are social creatures and have developed herbalism, pottery, woodworking, and weaving cultures, but lack metallurgy as of yet. When approached in peace, these people are capable of engaging in fruitful barter with outsiders so long as the lack of a shared language can be overcome. Peaceable and sociable, shruman are typically content to be left alone and will typically retreat from an area and regroup later if danger presents itself. If forced to fight, shrumans can use poison-based arcana to augment their spores, creating clouds of irritating, soporiphic, or hallucinogenic dust that adhere to the eyes and mucous membranes of their opponents. A shruman never fights to kill unless absolutely left with no options.
Perception and Sensory Capabilities
Shruman communicate through a combination of pheremones, visual cues, and a unique bioelectric sense. Shruman are known to have a sense of hearing, but they feel the vibrations created by sound with their entire body - especially in the gills of their cap - rather than having localized auditory structures.