Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild

Rotroot

I stumbled 'cross a flower once,
I thought it young and alone.
Then I realized
She, not it,
Had not been fully grown.
— Young Flower by Per S'quor
    Rotroot is a parasitic plant that grows and lives for a short period of time within other creatures. A host creature that is infested with rotroot will typically die within 9-12 days from starvation, asphyxiation, and/or organ failure; a host's organs are pushed aside and slowly crushed by the rotroot growing within the creature's gut. An infestation causes its host to simultaneously appear emaciated and pregnant.

There is no cure for a rotroot infestation; once the plant has taken root within its host, the creature is certain to die. Barkroot is touted as a 'cure' of sorts, though it's not without its own side-effects.

Basic Information

Anatomy

Rotroot is almost entirely made up of roots, and for most of its life lacks any kind of stem, leaf, or flower. Its roots are so extensive that they form a dense root ball within the host which is what gives the appearance of pregnancy. Once a rotroot plant is fully grown, it sprouts a stem through its host's respiratory system to such a length that it can then flower outside of its host. A rotroot flower (~25-35 cm in diameter) is opaque, white, and does not produce pollen. It's not known what sort of biological function the flower serves.

Genetics and Reproduction

Rotroot uses two main methods to infest new hosts. Firstly, when scavengers feed on its host's corpse, there's a chance that a scavenger might accidentally ingest a piece of the rotroot. Once ingested, the offshoot quickly takes root within its new host, and begins another infestation. Secondly, the rotroot flower, itself, bears seeds. Once ingested, these seeds, too, will take root within a host, and grow anew. Alternatively, when the bloated corpse of its host finally ruptures, the seeds are carried on the wind until they are, hopefully, inhaled by an unsuspecting creature.  
It's a strange thing to walk through Gallowfield in the heat of midsummer and see not a single window ajar, every last one of them shuttered by wary Gallowans; old Katinkan folk tales warn of the winds that carry rotroot seeds. For should they blow through a home, they bring with them the curse of many childless years.
— Vurbos, the Widower's Muse

Growth Rate & Stages

Rotroot either grows from seed or via offshoot. Either way, the plant grows exceptionally fast within its host; it typically takes it 9-12 days to become fully grown. During this time, it leeches nutrients from its host, as parasitic lifeforms do. As it grows, its roots form a dense root ball which only serves to cause its host incredible pain and ensure its demise. Once a rotroot plant is fully grown, it takes just 3-5 days for the plant to sprout a stem that can reach through its host's respiratory system until finally it can flower outside of its host's corpse. Once it's flowered, the plant will die after 11-13 days without a new living host. For the entire length of this period, the plant is capable of infesting a new host. In the event that the plant fails to take root within a new host, the flower will begin to wilt, signalling the final death of the plant.

Ecology and Habitats

Rotroot is a parasite; it lives inside of a host creature. Possible host creatures include mammals, birds, and insects. While rotroot thrives in the sunlight-deprived environment of the Everunder Trail, it is theorized that rotroot is acutely sunlight sensitive and, therefore, cannot flower above ground. This is particularly problematic for the rotroot plant because if it can't flower once it has killed its host, its only possible method for reproduction is through accidental ingestion, the chances of which decrease as its host's corpse decays.

Biological Cycle

Once a rotroot plant's host has died and the host's corpse has decayed, the root structure (and sometimes the flower, if left undisturbed) is all that's left behind. At this point, the plant will have also died, though the root structure's rigid form is maintained, creating a haunting semblance of the creature it once infested.

Additional Information

Uses, Products & Exploitation

A rotroot flower can be used as an alternative material component in magical incantations. Specifically, a ground flower (seeds and all) can be used as an alternative material component for the Revivify spell. Despite its life-saving applications, it is rarely available for sale since most governments have criminalized its sale and the possession of it. Besides being criminalized, it's also considered taboo within most cultures to harvest the flower of someone who has died from a rotroot infestation.
They say that the petals of a wilting rotroot flower are used in all sorts of dark arcane rituals. For instance, a single wilting rotroot petal might be used as an alternative material component during a Deny Rest ritual... one would suppose.
— Vurbos, the Widower's Muse
Lifespan
23-30 days
Average Weight
A rotroot plant that has infested a host creature will grow to be 5-10% of its host's bodyweight, at which point it is fully grown and will kill the host.
Geographic Distribution
Barkroot
Species | May 5, 2021
Barkroot is a parasitic plant that grows and lives for a long period of time within other creatures. A host creature that is infested with barkroot can often have difficulty self-diagnosing since the plant is not as invasive compared to rotroot, for example. An infestation, while uncomfortable and obviously undesirable, will not kill its host and is not often considered debilitating.

Barkroot is a known 'cure' for rotroot infestations. If an individual or livestock infested with rotroot ingests a root from a barkroot plant, the barkroot, as it grows, will destroy the infesting root ball. While barkroot will destroy rotroot, it, itself, will grow in in the place of the rotroot (though not to the same size or extent), though its host will not die from the new infestation and can live with it. Barkroot must be ingested within the first five days of a rotroot infestation in order to destroy the infestation before it kills its host. A successul barkroot infestation has several side-effects on its host that last until the barkroot plant dies:

  • If the host is still an adolescent, it'll cease to grow any further, though it will continue to age.
  • If it isn't already, the host becomes vulnerable to slashing damage, and resistant to piercing damage.
  • The host gains +1 Constitution and loses 5 feet of movement.
  • The host has advantage on Constitution saving throws made to resist contracting a disease.

Rotroot_sidebar
Rotroot root ball by Thea Smc

Remove these ads. Join the Worldbuilders Guild


Cover image: by Quino Al

Comments

Please Login in order to comment!
Sage Dylonishere123
R. Dylon Elder
15 Mar, 2021 16:47

Oooof, that's gotta be a bad way to go. What an awesome and creative plant! well done!

Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
28 Mar, 2021 23:00

Thanks! Certainly wouldn't be my way to go. I had a lot of twisted fun writing this one for a dark d&d campaign I'm running (disclaimer: I'm hoping that the players can avoid an infestation, but there are definitely plans for some NPCs to be infested).

29 Mar, 2021 13:28

Yeesh, definitely am glad this isn't a real plant ^^ really great work!

Author of Interarcanum and the Shakiraverse

Feel free to check out my latest work!
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
29 Mar, 2021 14:32

Thanks! Me, too. I'm thinking about commissioning art for rotroot, but I think it'd be too freaky.

29 Mar, 2021 17:08

This is a very cool and creepy plant! I love it XD Great article!   Some notes I took while reading:   I'm a bit confused by that bit: "it's not known how the plant 'decides' when to flower since it cannot survive in sunlight. Once it's flowered, the plant can survive 11-13 days without a new living host." Is it only the roots that cannot survive in sunlight or also the flower? Does the corpse with the flower need to be away from sunlight for 11-13 days?   I'm wondering what's the point for the plant to have a flower since it doesn't need pollinators. Is it vestigial, a leftover from what it was before the new species evolved? – oh I see you mention later that the plant can contaminate insects, so maybe the flower attracts pollinator, only the plant uses them as new hosts?   For the barkroot, you could add a bigger section on it inside this article even if you provide a link for the full article. I think some explanation on how the cure works would be good here. I went to read the barkroot article and I'm still not completely sure why people don't want to use it as a cure. Yes, there are side effects, but the rotroot mean certain death in just a few days, so I would think the choice would be obvious. Is it just some cultural block that prevent people from considering this solution?   Small comments about the layout of your article: 1) Adding some space between your subtitles in the basic information section would make it easier to read. 2) You can use the side bar to put article block of your barkroot and revivify articles to avoid having so much empty space there, it also make it easier for people to continue reading in your world once they're done with the article. 3) For your barkroot and revivify articles, you can add a mouse-hover snippet with a summary of the articles so that readers don't have to click on the link while they are in the middle of reading this article.

Feel free to check my costume challenge article :D
29 Mar, 2021 17:17

I just checked and I don't think you've entered an article for the plant challenge yet? Do you want to maybe enter this one?

Feel free to check my costume challenge article :D
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
3 Apr, 2021 13:52

Thanks Amélie! You're right, I hadn't. I'm not sure if I'll submit this one, though... I have to think on that.

Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
3 Apr, 2021 14:16

First of all, wow! Thanks for all the feedback! Life got busy on me for a few days, so it was really nice to come back to WA and see so much feedback. I really appreciate that Amélie.   Yeah, I knew that was awkward phrasing when I posted it, haha. Basically, I wanted to convey the message that if the plant (roots, flower, and all) can't survive in sunlight, it's not known how the plant 'decides' when to flower (i.e. how does it know to flower once it's outside of the host, what's the trigger?). I hope that's more clear. Anyways, I totally agree--the phrasing is really weird, and I'll have to fix it up.   That's a great point about expanding upon the flower, itself. To be honest, I haven't totally thought through what kind of biological function it serves, or whether it's vestigial. I just quite liked the image of this beautiful thing both crowning an otherwise horrifying image and signalling the final days of such a cruel life form. I'll have to get back to you on this one!   Your point about the barkroot mini-explainer is well-made, and I agree. It does feel too important to not expand upon within the rotroot article. As for the refusal to consider barkroot as a cure, I surely could have explained it better: there is a kind of social stigma against people who are infested with barkroot (I don't think I explained that in the barkroot article), but this is another case of awkward phrasing. What I meant to convey is that most people refuse to consider the idea of deliberately ingesting barkroot, but that's, of course, an opinion held by people who aren't infested with rotroot. Anyways, thanks for mentioning this! I'll have to go back and clarify that.   Of all your comments and suggestions (which I am grateful for), I really appreciate the formatting feedback--I need to push myself to learn more about formatting. I'm excited to implement all your points about formatting, I think it'll look much better!   Thanks again Amélie for all your thoughtful feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to write it all out for me.

4 Apr, 2021 15:11

I'm really glad you found my comments useful :D I've just read the new additions and I like them. They really help complete the article. (I just saw a small typo in the use section "have criminalized its sale and the possession of" has a "it" missing at the end)

Feel free to check my costume challenge article :D
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
5 Apr, 2021 19:09

I really did. And that's great to hear, thanks again for all your feedback!   P.S. I fixed the typo, thanks for spotting that.

4 Apr, 2021 15:37

What a creepy plant and painful way to go! I liked how the only cure to this parasite is a less harming parasite :p It really does bring the sense of a dark world across. To break up the text a bit more I would suggest perhaps to use a quote or aloud section. That often makes an article more visually pleasing.   I see indeed that you did not submit this article yet. It would be great way to get some more views and feedback :) It is a nice article so would be nice addition for the challenge!

Feel free to check outmy costume entry.
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
5 Apr, 2021 19:11

Hi Kefkejaco,   Thanks for the feedback! I took your advice and added in some quotes to break it up. I also submitted the article to the Peculiar Plants challenge. Thanks for your support!

5 Apr, 2021 22:13

Those quotes are some nice addition! I like it :)

Feel free to check outmy costume entry.
4 Apr, 2021 17:08

Wow, this one is outright scary! And the fact that the roots remain in the shape of the victim's corpse does not make it any less disturbing. I can see why it is taboo to harvest the flower from the corpse, and the criminalization makes a lot of sense. No-one in their right mind would want to spread the seeds by accident... Great work!

Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
5 Apr, 2021 19:14

Hi Kathrin,   Thanks for your feedback! I really appreciate it. It's certainly one of my darker articles. I don't think my players have read any of this yet, so I'm hoping to show it to them in-game (but not use it on them!).

4 Apr, 2021 17:20

Love the usage of dialogues and quotes to emphasize the articles. The plant itself sounds like a horrendous way to go, reminds me of a lot of my darker creations for my world as well. Can't wait to read more!

I'd love to see your own opinions on my main world, Xardia, and it's Free D&D 5e Module!
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
5 Apr, 2021 19:20

Thanks EMBlevins! I don't have plans to use it in-game (just yet), but hopefully it'll demonstrate to my players the darker side of the world they're in.   You caught me mid-edit, haha! The quotes have since changed, but I liked the dialogue between Ludd, the Spud, and Vurbos so much that I want to share the full thing here:   Oi, check it out! I just found these fuckin' squirrels all crowlin' about, looks like they've absolutely stuffed themselves on nuts, haha. Too bad for 'em, must've been the best meal they've ever had, but they were too fat to run away from Ludd 'the Silent Death'! |Ludd, the Spud, as he breaks through the tree line and spots Vurbos reading by the campfire   The last thing I thought would disturb my studies on the Trail was you… *sighs* What are you talking about now, Lu—stop! No, spit that out! |Vurbos, as he looks up from his book to see Ludd bite into an uncooked squirrel   Ya, fuckin’ make me, mate, haha. *gulp* I’m absolutely famished, I don’t know how you can just sit there and re—

Whot?… Why’s your face like that? |Ludd, as Vurbos motions for him to sit down before passing him the book   Whot am I lookin’ for then? I don’t—oh… no, I—oh, shit! |Ludd, just before he shoves his hand to the back of his mouth   Whot?! That’s it?! Whot, I’m gonna be fuckin’ pregnant and then I’m gonna be a fuckin’ flower? Fuck that, where’s the bit about the cure? |Ludd, as he begins flipping through the book in a panic   Here, let me. It’s just over— |Vurbos, as he points to notes scrawled into the margin of a page   Whot?! What kind of fuckin’ cure is that? |Ludd, as he throws the book across the campsite   Cheer up Ludd. I think you’ll make a pretty flower. Kidding! I’m just kidd— |Vurbos, as a very angry Ludd lunges at him

Sage samsaratg
George Sanders
4 Apr, 2021 23:37

This is one of your best layouts yet. The image on the top pops up as the full first page and really hit me when the page loaded. Lots of good sections to break down the info. I've been busy the last two weeks so glad I didn't miss this one.

Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
5 Apr, 2021 19:21

Thanks George! I knew that it would be the cover photo the moment I saw it on Unsplash.

13 Apr, 2021 05:06

I absolutely love the visuals you've added to this article. They're really impactful for an already awesome plant. I can't help but be drawn to such a thing. >:3   The quotes are also a nice touch. I always feel like it makes the article feel like it's more apart of a world. All in all, an awesome read and lovely to look at - the page itself is beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark?
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
13 Apr, 2021 12:12

Haha, thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I consider myself lucky to have found such beautiful artwork that complimented the article so well.

13 Apr, 2021 19:59

The visuals really did add so much to the article, especially reading the Biological Cycle. Leaving behind some root-like skeletal shape is really, really neat. Terrifying << likely for the person who died, but still really neat.   Also:

It's a strange thing to walk through Gallowfield in the heat of midsummer and see not a single window ajar...
  Time to move. I wouldn't want to live anywhere near a place these things could float about on the wind.

What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark?
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
14 Apr, 2021 11:37

Thanks! I think the root ball skeleton thing is one of my favourite aspects of rotroot.   Haha, me neither! Gallowfield's one of the darker corners of the Rippled Sea, that's for sure.   Thanks again for reading and leaving me so much feedback! I really appreciate that.

15 Apr, 2021 22:46

Yikes, definitely want to avoid breathing that in. I imagine facemasks are popular in some regions. Nice article structure.

Too low they build who build beneath the stars - Edward Young
Journeyman N4th
James Slaven
16 Apr, 2021 12:01

Oh yeah, for sure! It'd be less than ideal to have that happen.   Thanks for the read and comment Michael!