Gaming Stories: The Evil Tree Spirit
Originally published in Knights of the Dinner Table #146
The quest was a simple low-level affair: men in a small lumber town were disappearing into the forest. All the PCs had to do was find out what was going on and put a stop to it.
The culprit was a lonely dryad that had been luring men into the forest and charming them to keep her company. I had planned the session out as a diplomatic session, since I figured the PCs weren’t going to outright slaughter an apparently innocent dryad. This was going to be the session that taught the adventurers that not every problem needs to be solved with swordplay. A nice thought on my part, but not a plan that would endure the night.
The PCs found the dryad’s grove with no trouble. That’s when I got an important lesson on how not to present an NPC in the game. The dryad stepped out of her tree in a move that put the PCs on guard immediately. What kind of witch could merge with plant life like that? More importantly, how dangerous was she if the trees in the forest were hers to command? The adventurers immediately saw the dryad not as a misguided fey creature, but as an evil tree spirit.
Fortunately, the PCs held their blades and gave the dryad a chance to talk – sort of. During the scene, the dryad made the mistake of turning her back to one of the members of the group. Penelope the fighter took this as a grave insult.
“She turns her back on me?!” asked the player, incredulous at the disrespect the leafy-haired tart was giving her. “Well, then I stab her!”
A sigh from me. Okay then, make your attack roll.
Nat 20. Damn.
The dryad went down quickly. All the while, the elf in the party tried explaining to the rest of the group what she was. When it was all over, the elf decided to give the poor creature a proper burial, so her body could return to the earth from which it came. He almost made it through the funeral rights, too, before the rest of the PCs finished cutting down the dryad’s tree, sending it crashing on top of the grave. The elf began a song of mourning. Having slaughtered elves before, the group recognized the sad song and shrugged. Must be an elf thing.
The PCs returned to the town as heroes, since they had freed the townsfolk from the sway of the “evil tree spirit.” And who were simple townsfolk to claim the dryad was anything else? As the campaign moved on, Penelope eventually became the leader of the community, and set up a small kingdom around it, forever hailed as a hero for destroying the evil witch.
No one ever turned their back to Penelope again.