D&D 5E Homebrew Cactus People

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I mentioned in the the "What new linages do you want?" thread that I had made some cactus people based on Needlemen (one of my favorite monsters from the best monster book of all time, the 1E Fiend Folio) and the Cactaceae from China Mieville's Bas-Lag books. I call them Cactoi (but am open to another name).

I have not actually put them into play yet, but hope to introduce them (as NPCs) a bit further in my current campaign with the idea of making them an option in a future campaign.

First, I will share the general description/abilities and then some notes on my concerns/questions for those who have feedback:

Cactacae.png
The Cactoi are a species intelligent plant humanoids, sometimes called “Needlemen,” though they do not physically express a gender and are self-pollinating. That said, cactoi sometimes come to express a particular normative gender, particularly if they spend a lot of time around other species with more definitive gender distinctions.

Cactoi do not have normative organs and bones like flesh and blood humanoids do but do have sap-like blood.

Cactoi originated in arid environments but have acclimated to other environments. Their young need something akin to that native environment to grow properly to maturity, leading to cactoi keeping greenhouses for raising young in addition to practicing their general facility with arboreal and horticultural skills. Cactoi begin their lives as buds that emerge from their parent and must be planted. After a year, they begin to gain some mobility, but still spend most of their day motionless (and during their youth it impossible to determine they are not some kind of normal succulent without a DC 15 Nature check).[1] As they mature, they grow more mobile, until upon maturity planting is no longer required (though many cactoi choose to do this in safe places anyway as part of a long rest).
When found among other peoples, cactoi tend to be small in number, having left the isolated groves of their people, who tend to spend their time rooted and sleeping.

Cactoi Traits

Your cactoi character has certain traits deriving from their ancestry:

Ability Score Increase: Typically your Constitution score increases by 2, and your Strength score increases by 1. (Alternatively, you may increase any one ability score by 2 and any other by 1 or three different abilities by +1 each). [2]

Age: Cactoi reach maturity early, becoming adults at around 12 to 14 years, but many choose to delay budding until much later in life. Cactoi can easily reach 200 years of age and rumors say some are even older. However, once “the Rot” comes upon them they usually deteriorate quickly, dying in a year’s time. While they grow slowly, Cactoi grow throughout their lifetimes and become Large creatures at around 100 years of age. Legends exist of huge and even gargantuan Cactoi over 400 years old. [3]

Alignment: Like most beings, cactoi tends towards neutrality in alignment, leaning towards good or evil, law or chaos, as befits their life experiences growing up and idiosyncractic attitude having grown up.

Size: Cactoi never stop growing throughout their lives. Typically, they are somewhat larger and bulkier than humans, and frequently range between seven and eight feet. Your size is Medium but may eventually become Large as you age. [4]

Speed: Cactoi are not fast and tend to lack agility. Your base walking speed is 20 feet. [5]

Spiny Skin: Cactoi have hardy thick skin covered in sharp spines. This grants them a natural armor class of 13.

Nature Walk: Between their thick skin and general knowledge of plant life, Cactoi are not hindered by difficult terrain caused by non-magical thick brush or other plant life.

Plant Body: Cactoi have resistance to both piercing and bludgeoning damage but are vulnerable to fire damage. Cactoi do not typically wear clothing or armor (though may use shields without penalty) and either one interferes with their flurry of spines ability. Any armor or clothing costs twice as much as it must be custom made to fit them. Any non-cactoi unfamiliar with their kind who attempts a medicine check on them does so at disadvantage. Your type is Plant. [6]

Powerful Build. Cactoi count as one size larger when determining carrying capacity and the weight they can push, drag, or lift.

Flurry of Spines: As a bonus action, Cactoi can shoot spines from their body making a ranged weapon attack (range 20/60) doing 1d10 points of damage on a successful hit. This damage increases by an additional 1d10 at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels. However, their natural armor class drops by 1 (and can never drop below 10). You may use this ability three times between short rests and regain your armor class after a short rest. Clothing interferes with this ability, causing the attack roll to be at disadvantage and destroying the clothing in the process. Any kind of armor blocks the ability entirely. [7]

Close to Nature: Cactoi begin with proficiency in the nature skill.

Languages: You can speak Common and the language of cactoi which sounds like burps, gurgles and wooshes, and when written uses elven script.

Notes:

[1] I considered giving cactoi an ability similar to treants (false appearance) but then decided against it. I am open to hearing cases for or reinforcement for my choice.

[2] In my games, I have moved away from lineage-defined starting ASI, instead all races have a "generic version" in case the player wants a thematic guideline, but still have the choice to apply this to different stats or break it up slightly diffrently.

[3] See size concerns below in note #3

[4] I definitely do not want to get rid of the idea that Cactoi grow throughout their lives and eventually reach large size (and the legends of ancient huge or gargantuan ones) but also not sure how to codify this or even if I should. In my mind, it is the kind of thing that a PC of this race would never have deal with it or at least most campaigns don't last long enough or cover enough time for it to be an issue. But knowing players, I am sure there will be someone who will want to float the idea of playing an older example who has reached large size before their adventuring life - so not sure how to handle this. I know in general 5E has moved away from Large-size PCs - to the point that (ridiculously) PC Centaurs are considered medium. In my games there are no goliaths and firbolgs (which is not a PC lineage are Large).

[5] I know even the small races were given 25 feet speed in 5E, but I like the idea that they move kinda slow, but in overgrown areas end up moving faster than typical humanoids. (see Nature Walk)

[6] I want to make sure that making them the Plant type rather than Humanoid does not lead to any usual or game-breaking cases. It does mean that things like Charm Person won't work on them. I like the resistance and vulnerability to emulate not having humanoid organs, but having parts lopped off (slashing) is still as much a danger.

[7] Again, I like the novelty of this ability - which I adapted from needlemen, but I want to make sure it is neither too strong, but also scales appropriately.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Concerns?
 

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Slit518

Adventurer
Why do folks that do melee attacks to them using hand to hand attacks suffer Piercing damage equal to 1/2 of their Proficiency Bonus rounded up?
 




el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Giving this a bump since I posted it on the weekend and maybe not many saw it - anyway, I haven't gotten any detailed feedback, so I thought I'd try again.
 




Shadowdweller00

Adventurer
Being plants, do they eat and drink like more traditional humanoids? Speak normally? One presumes the answer is yes to all of these by default, but you might want to clarify in the descriptive text. It's the sort of thing I might wonder about anyway.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I was just thinking about the eating and drinking thing. Good catch. I think I will have it that they can eat but really only need water, sunlight, and soil (which maybe that's what they eat).

They do speak understandably, but I did put in a note about their language.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
I was just thinking about the eating and drinking thing. Good catch. I think I will have it that they can eat but really only need water, sunlight, and soil (which maybe that's what they eat).

They do speak understandably, but I did put in a note about their language.
That makes big cities interestingly problematic. At the benefit of not needing to pack rations. Seems fair.
 


Kobold Stew

Last Guy in the Airlock
Supporter
Three thoughts:

1. I like the idea that as they age they grow Large, but (as things are now) that doesn't make it a viable PC race. Perhaps suggest that as characters retire, they set down roots (heh), their movement becomes zero, and they grow Large and are very content with where they are.

2. For the natural AC, are you suggesting a flat AC 13, or 13+dex? Other races allow the dex bonus, but that obviously makes this more powerful. Giving a flat 14, with no dex bonus (they are slow and ponderous) but they can use a shield, would also work.

3. Flurry of spines is too powerful. I'd suggest: when the cactoi is not wearing armor, with a bonus action can release spines so that everyone within a radius of 10' makes a dex save doing 1d10 piercing (2d10 at level 11). Once per long rest.
 


The growth thing sounds like it's best implemented by a racial feat, with prerequisites of the PC reaching a certain age (and perhaps spending X amount of time rooted in the ground, sort of a hibernating or nearly chrysalis stage they have to go through to undergo a major growth spurt?)

As far as the actual benefits of growth, that's a thorny (heh) question. Just eyeballing it, I'd give them the permanent benefits of an Enlarge spell (which is veeery roughly equivalent to a +2 Strength ASI) - the 10x10 footprint i see as a bit of a double-edged sword. Then, to make it a bit more interesting, I'd probably add +1 Con and a speed penalty. My instinct is a 10ft penalty, though that'd probably be too harsh if they have a base 25ft movement, so 5 might be the way to go. I just like the idea of the cactus-people becoming ponderous as they grow.

Not sure I'd allow PC cactuspeople to grow above Large. If nothing else, how many campaigns would last the many in-world years that'd be required for that to happen?
 

My suggestion is to use this racial traits by the spikers (PC race from 3.5 Planar Handbook).

  • Natural Spikes (Ex): A spiker's skin is replete with sharp, jagged spikes. A spiker can deal extra piercing damage on a successful grapple check, or deal piercing damage with a melee attack, as if she wore armor spikes. Because of their spiked skin, spikers have a difficult time wearing armor. The maximum Dexterity bonus of the armor is reduced by 1, and the armor check penalty is worsened by 2. For instance, a chain shirt worn by a spiker has a maximum Dexterity bonus of +3 (instead of +4) and an armor check penalty of -4 (rather than -2). These changes don't affect the armor's arcane spell failure chance, nor do they apply to shields used by the spiker.
 

Bolares

Hero
I was just thinking about the eating and drinking thing. Good catch. I think I will have it that they can eat but really only need water, sunlight, and soil (which maybe that's what they eat).

They do speak understandably, but I did put in a note about their language.
"During a long rest you can set your roots X feet under fertile soil. If you do you receive all nutrients and water necessary for the next 24 hours" something like that, but wrutten better.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Three thoughts:

1. I like the idea that as they age they grow Large, but (as things are now) that doesn't make it a viable PC race. Perhaps suggest that as characters retire, they set down roots (heh), their movement becomes zero, and they grow Large and are very content with where they are.

2. For the natural AC, are you suggesting a flat AC 13, or 13+dex? Other races allow the dex bonus, but that obviously makes this more powerful. Giving a flat 14, with no dex bonus (they are slow and ponderous) but they can use a shield, would also work.

3. Flurry of spines is too powerful. I'd suggest: when the cactoi is not wearing armor, with a bonus action can release spines so that everyone within a radius of 10' makes a dex save doing 1d10 piercing (2d10 at level 11). Once per long rest.

1. That is along the lines of what I was thinking, that the growth is part of the lore but not about playing them. That said, I personally have no issue with the occasional PC being Large sized. I was thinking more that DMs may want to write an adventure/encounter perhaps tied into PC backstory involving running into Large or bigger versions of Cactoi.

2. Oh, + Dex definitely. Remember, they can't wear armor without losing their spine ability and a higher AC would overwrite the AC (as works in 5E) - no different from a lizardfolk PC. Each use of the Flurry of Spines however lowers this AC by 1, which I though was a good balance.

3. My two issues with doing it this way are A) I really wanted to emulate Needlemen with this power and B) it would hardly be used because if it works like that allies would also be endangered. As for too powerful, it hardly seems more powerful than many scalable cantrips.

Thanks for the feedback. I'll think on it though.
 

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