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Pathfinder 2E Help me Design a Tree-Spirit Hazard

What about this thought. (I'm assuming that the PC's will have at least 1 guard on watch.. otherwise, I could have perception rolls to have someone(s) wake up).

2 Hazards. hazard 1 is the "awake" hazard. it is the PC or PC's who are awake working frantically to prevent their companions from getting dragged into and merged with the tree spirit, and avoiding the same fate as other branches are moving around trying to grab the players that are awake.

hazard 2 is the "dream" hazard, for those that are already caught. here, they are fighting the drain of their lore. successfully fighting this will slow the tree's ability to merge in hazard 1. and failing to try and slow hazard 1 will make the knowledge extraction harder in hazard 2?

Complicated! :)

cheers,

J.
I did something similar in my game with a puzzle that required at least one of the characters to voluntarily go unconscious. The character’s spirit had to accomplish a task while the other characters protected the body. It worked pretty well.

To get back to your tree spirit issue, what is the tree spirit’s normal operation when it isn’t attacking the characters? If the spirit was tricked into attacking the characters, maybe something like Diplomacy or Deception skills using the influence subsystem would work. If it was corrupted, maybe something like Nature (even if it isn’t corrupted, Nature should be a useful skill to use). You can throw in some Acrobatics checks to avoid branches.

Finally, what if you cannot talk to its “limbs”? To effectively interact with it, you need to reach its “face” which requires Athletics and Acrobatics checks.

Also, check out the Research subsystem example in the GMG. It can be made similar to what you are describing with only a few tweaks.
 

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JmanTheDM

Explorer
Mechanics wise the major problem I see is that dealing damage with skill checks is a little — odd. It looks workable but you might change it to a straight disarm with multiple success required to nonviolently put the tree spirit back to rest - you could also work in skills like diplomacy, performance, society (elven tree rituals), and deception (no tasty brains here) into this strategy.
This is true, and I like the expanded skill lists better. I think it is here where a first revision can be made and incorporate a sort of VP system. instead of skills causing "damage", successful skill use can help advance the counter. same too would a physical attack. successfully "attack" the tree to advance the VP counter

This gives your players a solution that doesn’t harm the elves’ tree.
this is key in my mind and really glad you called this out!

This creates interesting choices on each PCs round: do I try to free other PCs, attack the tree (potentially angering the elves), or attempt to disarm the hazard? And one of the hallmarks of a good death trap is, IMHO, that it creates situations with no obvious right answer.
I like the rock-paper-scissors aspect of 3 different choices. so, turning this around, the 3 "hard" choices could be
  • rescue your friends
  • delay the hazard
  • create an exit from the hazard (end the threat)

just need to ponder if this is an actual set of choices or just illusion - where the PC's will obviously optimize one over the other. specifically, the creation of an "exit" <- this here is likely not going to matter over much unless there is some kind of timer that if it reaches zero its game over.

This leads me to think the choices are:
  • rescue your friends = more help to defeat this hazard. also, if everyone is captured by the tree spirit, its game over, timer running out or not
  • delay the hazard = using the various skills, prevent the tree from merging your friends into itself. this has the effect of pausing the countdown timer. buying yourself more time will help with rescue and exits
  • Creating an exit = truly the only way to get away from this hazard. once outside of range, the threat is gone. exit before the counter runs out? [here is where I'm struggling a bit to make it dramatic and make some of the other choices also matter]
Without having run it, I am also worried about the trees action economy. If three PCs are grabbed and two free and on the first turn they free two more and the tree only grabs one... then the hazard will quickly degenerate into one character frees the person who got grabbed while the others wail on it.
great feedback, thank you.

will work on revision #2
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
To get back to your tree spirit issue, what is the tree spirit’s normal operation when it isn’t attacking the characters?
Good question! I was intending to foreshadow this threat by the following in-game methods:
1) show the Elvish Xenophobia and that some elements within the tribe are not happy that outsiders are present
2) show that spirit tree's are pervasive in the village. show the "melding" capabilities. show that the spirits are able to be interacted with - hopefully this'll be enough in-game information to allow for the pay-off during the hazard to prompt the PC's to try different skills than simply hacking the branches.
3) show that there are several people in the tribe that can manipulate the tree spirits.

this is 100% the tree spirits being manipulated to "get rid of the outsiders" by abnormal means.

Cheers,

J.
 

JmanTheDM

Explorer
OK. here's version 2 of the Hazard. I simplified it somewhat by reducing it from 2 hazards down to 1.

would love some feedback (flavour, difficulty, per other's comments a sense of any gaps or holes in its construction)? typing these 2 out, there certainly is an art to designing succinct hazards. I failed at this, but like, for reasons ok? :)

Spirit Tree Hazard 8
Complex Environmental Hazard

Stealth +22 (Expert)

Description: This is a complex environmental hazard designed to challenge the party physically and mentally. The Spirit Tree is attempting to “steal” the knowledge from the players through the commands of the Village elder (Druid). Unbeknownst to the spirit tree, who normally accepts the knowledge of a willing participant it believes the same situation applies here. The spirit tree itself first tries to establish a physical connection with a creature it is attempting to merge with. Once connected, the spirit tree next attempts to “consume” the accumulated knowledge and Lore the PC possesses. As this knowledge draws closer, the creature is closer to being merged with the tree. Once the knowledge has been fully integrated, the creature has been entirely melded into the body of the spirit tree and with the creatures essence forming part of the Spirit Tree’s living knowledge of the Ekujae tribe.

Disable: This hazard can be disabled as follows:

Once no creature is Grasped by the Spirit Tree and none are within range of the grasping branches the hazard instantly ends with the Tree Spirit going quiescent. Alternatively, the PC’s can disable the Hazard by either soothing the Spirit within, damaging the tree sufficiently or a combination of the 2 to prevent it from continuing to merge.

To sooth the Spirit Tree, use the following skills and DC’s as a guide: DC 31 Nature roll, DC 23 Survival DC 28 Occultism, DC 24 performance, DC 26 Religion,

Critical Success: +2 successes

Success: +1 success

Failure: -1 success

Critical Failure: -2 success

To harm parts of the tree or branches, AC 24 Hardness 8, HP 16. If achieved in a single attack, count as 1 success.

A total of 6 successes must be accumulated to disable this hazard. If the Spirit Tree was disabled through mostly physical attacks, the Ekujae will consider this a hostile act, regardless of how the attack happened. Ekujae reputation is decreased by 2.


Grasping Branch: [reaction] Trigger: A creature is asleep and dreaming within 60' of a Tree Spirit who hungers for knowledge. Effect: The tree lowers a branch on each sleeping creature within range. each creature must make a DC 28 Reflex Save to avoid contact:
Critical Success: The PC avoids the branch and wakes immediately
Success: the PC avoids the branch but remains asleep
Failure: The PC is grasped by a branch entering Stage 1
Critical Failure: The PC is grasped by a branch and enters Stage 2 as they are dragged closer to the Spirit Tree.

Routine (3 Actions)
Action 1:
The Tree attempts to Grasp all PC’s within range who are not already grasped by a branch. Each creature must make a DC 28 Reflex Save to avoid contact with the Tree’s branches:
Critical Success: The PC avoids the branch and hardened their mental resolve by gaining a +2 circumstance bonus to their next Reflex Save to avoid contact with a Spirit Tree branch.
Success: the PC avoids a branch
Failure: The PC is grasped by a branch and enters Stage 1 of the Spirit Tree’s engulfment.
Critical Failure: The PC is grasped by a branch and immediately advances to Stage 2


Action 2:
Each PC grasped by a branch is inside a living dream pertaining to their specific Lore Skill. This dream is the subconscious transference of the PCs particular knowledge and/or skill. Each PC must attempt to resist the Spirit Tree's knowledge theft as they sense this draw will result in the PC and Tree becoming one.

For each PC that is Grasped by the Spirit Tree, each will have vivid dreams pertaining to their individual Lore skill as follows: (Note: Names below are of my Player Characters)
Rathanus: Lore Alcohol
Firetail: Lore Port Peril
Ushii: Lore Fortune-telling
Andrus: Lore Warfare
Enki: Lore Cult

The Spirit Tree is using the dream state to more fully extract their knowledge and to keep each creature docile as the merge takes place. Each PC must attempt a DC 23 Will save to resist the images from the individual scene, else they will continue having knowledge taken from them.
Critical Success: The Dreamscape wavers. The PC can temporarily perceive their condition and circumstances by seeing through the veil. the PC automatically recovers 2 Stages. If a PC ever drops below Stage 1, that PC is no longer grasped by a branch.
Success: The PC resists the draining of their knowledge and recovers 1 Stages. If a PC ever drops below Stage 1, that PC is no longer grasped by a branch.
Failure: the PC is slipping deeper into the Spirit Tree's mental control. the Tree has an easier time manipulating the PC's physical form and deepening its mental links. the PC advances by 1 stage

Critical Failure: the PC advances 2 stages as the torrent of knowledge flows out of them.

Track each PC individually as each will be at different stages of their knowledge transfer and in being engulfed by the Spirit Tree.

Stage 1: The Spirit Tree has made physical contact with a creature through one of its branches or limbs.

Stage 2: The Spirit Tree has moved the creature ½ the distance closer to the Spirit Tree’s trunk

Stage 3: The Creature has been brought alongside the Spirit Tree’s trunk and full physical contact has been made.

Stage 4: The Creature has begun to merge with the Spirit Tree with much of its physical form being subsumed into the Tree.

Stage 5: The Spirit tree is attempting to complete the merge and thereby absorbing all the PC’s knowledge in itself.


Action 3: Merge! For each PC who is at Stage 5, a final desperate attempt to stop a merge from happening occurs subconsciously. Each PC Grasped must make a DC 22 Fortitude Saving Throw to prevent the final merging of their body into the Spirit Tree.

Critical Success: prevent the merge from happening and recover 1 Stage.

Success: Prevents a merge from happening but remain at Stage 5.

Failure: the merge occurs.



Actions on Players Turns:

In the Physical world:
Attempt to free a PC from a branch. AC 24, Hardness 8, HP 16. If successful in a single attack, the PC is disconnected from a branch, is no longer in any stage of progression and can act in the physical world on their turn. Additionally, PC’s may also attempt to disable the hazard through damaging the tree or soothing the spirit. Finally, the PC’s may attempt to escape their room and thus disabling the hazard as well.

In the Dreamscape: PC’s can attempt to use their own skills to delay and confuse the spirit and thus delaying advancement along the Merge stages. Once a PC goes below Stage 1, they are no longer in the dreamscape and are returned to the physical world. The tree resists with a DC 22 against a knowledge-based skill check.

Critical Success: decrease stage by 2

Success: decrease stage by 1

Failure: no change

Critical Failure: Increase stage by 1
 

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