• Kenny Webb

Monster: Spinal Cap


An adorable troop of three mushrooms with faces smile with cute little uwu faces, the leftmost mushroom being especially excited. The mushrooms have spotted caps and smaller mushrooms sprouting from them. Their roots trail below them.
Art by John MarkS.


 

Available for free on our Itch.io page!



 

Title: Spinal Cap

Short description: A patch of anthropomorphic, bioluminescent, smiling fungi that fuses with the nervous system of a willing sentient vertebrate, forming a symbiotic bond.

Flavor text: I have to admit, it’s growing on me.

Tags: tiny plant, neutral


Traits: Glows faintly, symbiotically bonds with another creature


Actions: Communicate telepathically with host or other symbiotes, heal host, burst a cloud of hallucinogenic spores, propagate the colony


5e Statblock


Armor Class: 10 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 7 (2d6)

Speed: 10 ft. (when unattached)

  • STR: 8 (-1)

  • DEX: 10 (+0)

  • CON: 10 (+0)

  • INT: 8 (-1)

  • WIS: 11 (+0)

  • CHA: 5 (-3)

Damage Immunities: poison

Senses: darkvision 120 ft.

Languages: known languages of host, telepathy (touch)

Challenge: 0 (10 XP)

 

Designer notes: Kenny Webb


The Spinal Cap, like the Collapsing Morningstar, started with a pun (“spinal tap” becoming “spinal cap”). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I enjoy arbitrary restraints as a way to drive inspiration. Let me walk you through some of my thoughts with the name as a starting point.


Hmm. Ok so we have a mushroom monster here, “cap” as in “death cap.” And it’s going to interact with the spine somehow. It kinda reminds me of the MtG card Skullclamp, something that plugs into a person’s nervous system and exerts some kind of control.


So the natural direction to go with that would be something like cordyceps, a parasitic fungus that takes control of another creature. But…there are problems with that.

  1. A monster controlling the minds of players has been done to death.

  2. It’s not always fun for a player to lose control of their character.

  3. That’s kind of an obvious direction to take it.

Ok, we need a twist on the concept. Soooo what if we switch it up? Instead of a parasite, the monster is a symbiote. A happy little symbiote! You have to agree to bond with this little dude. It gives you something, but you also give it something, which has some latent creepy potential which I really like.


Ok, so maybe my thoughts aren’t that ordered during the actual process. But that is roughly the path I took to get to this adorable, vaguely terrifying critter.


The Colony Spreads (GM Tip)


When the PCs first encounter the Spinal Cap, they should only encounter a few of them at most, perhaps just one or two, or perhaps one for each of the PCs so that they all get the fun of deciding whether to accept the symbiotic bond. The point is, however, that at first the PCs only see a few of them.


If one or more PCs accept the symbiotic bond, start subtly planting the idea that these things are spreading. When the PCs trudge through a swamp, they encounter patches of Spinal Caps that cheerfully greet their bonded brethren. When the PCs roll into a new town, a handful of locals also have happy little mushmen grafted to their nervous systems. At this point, things might seem a bit sinister. The Spinal Cap colony is spreading fast, and as the PCs travel further the mushrooms appear in greater concentrations, attached both to sentient creatures and the landscape. At this point the PCs might well be nervously wondering, what, exactly, is the goal of the colony?


What, Exactly, Is the Goal of the Colony? (GM Tip)


As with everything, the ultimate goal of the colony is up to you, the GM, and what will be the most fun for you and your players. The goal of this uncontrollably-spreading fungus can range from the mundane/adorable to existentially dreadful.


Consider the following options that span this range:


Mundane/Adorable Colony Goals

  • The colony started as a lonely witch’s magical attempt at making their own friends. Now they want to spread their spirit of friendship across the world.

  • The colony is merely an organism spreading and multiplying, but perhaps too quickly for the good of the world.

  • The colony is an extension of a god from the old world, seeking to reconnect with humanity, literally.

  • The colony wants to spread joy and suppress sadness, to the point where grief and sorrow are literally impossible regardless of circumstance.

  • The colony is an engineered plague designed to convert all biomass into Spinal Caps.

Existentially Dreadful Colony Goals


5e Statblock


Spinal Cap

Tiny plant, neutral


Armor Class: 10 (natural armor)

Hit Points: 7 (2d6)

Speed: 10 ft. (when unattached)

  • STR: 8 (-1)

  • DEX: 10 (+0)

  • CON: 10 (+0)

  • INT: 8 (-1)

  • WIS: 11 (+0)

  • CHA: 5 (-3)

Damage Immunities: poison

Senses: darkvision 120 ft.

Languages: known languages of host, telepathy (touch)

Challenge: 0 (10 XP)


Bioluminescent. Whether attached to a host or unattached, the Spinal Cap emits bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. When attached to a host, the Spinal Cap can suppress this light as the host chooses.


Consumer of Nightmare. When the Spinal Cap is attached, its host cannot have bad dreams, evil visions, or grim prophecies. Attempts to plant such imagery into the host’s mind fail automatically. When such an attempt is thwarted, the Spinal Cap gains a spore which it may later use with spread spore within 1 day.


Actions

Attach to Host. The Spinal Cap attaches itself to the nervous system of a willing, sentient host. The Spinal Cap and the host may share thoughts at will, as well as communicate telepathically with any other Spinal Caps within 100 feet.


Heal Host (3/day). If attached to a host, the Spinal Cap’s host regains 2d4 + 2 Hit Points and feels a crashing wave of euphoria. When the Spinal Cap uses this ability to heal its host, it gains a spore which it may later use with spread spore within 1 day.


Hallucinogenic Exsporsion. Hallucinogenic spores burst from the Spinal Cap in a 10-ft. radius around it. All non-host, non-plant creatures within the burst must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw (host creatures must make a DC 10 saving throw). On a failed save, the creature begins having colorful, charming hallucinations of a world inhabited by happy mushroom people. The creature takes 2d6 poison damage and may not take any violent action until the end of its next turn.


Spread Spore. If attached to a host taking a long rest, the Spinal Cap may expend all of its stored spores to create a new Spinal Cap attached to an object within 20 feet.

 

A quick note on how we approach 5e: Occasionally you might see statistics and other choices we make in our publications that make you say, “Huh. I wonder why they did it that way?”You can check out this page dedicated to explaining how we approach 5e.

35 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All