Being a person who lives for a good debate, how could I back down from the hastily concocted opinion in the article here? “Proving it would be a little too dangerous for me today,” I said, laughing at the idea of bringing a shambling mound into a tavern to prove a point. It was obvious, he had drank so much that just the very smell was starting to make him sick. The only thing keeping him from heaving was probably the taste of the freshly poured beer. I had him now. “We can agree that those smelly lizard-dudes aren’t the best to deal with, but every time I suspect there’s a mound nearby, the question that makes me panic is…”
1) Where Is It?
Look, shambling mounds don’t smell like a bouquet of roses, even if they did just devour one five minutes ago. Trogs may stink but at least you know where they are (generally) because of it. Shambling mounds only exist in places that would easily suit them, like jungles and marshes, so the smell only becomes a problem when it’s too late! Finding them before that happens is the real issue. A smelly lizard guy sounds like a walk in the park compared to a huge, ever-hungry, and ever-patient pile of sentient plant matter that is impossible to spot in its own environment. Just thinking about it turning me into compost over the course of who knows how long gives me the chills. What makes it even worse is...
2) They’re From Every Place… Almost
I can’t disagree; the Underdark is some scary business. However, when it comes to what I’m scared of down there, troglodytes probably fall low on the list. In the habitats of the shambling mound, one could argue the same, but consider the fact that they’re made of plant life. They’re supposedly created by lightning, or magic, or lightning magic; nobody really agrees what it is. I think I recall someone saying that it was fey magic lightning or something… but I digress. The point is this: say some of that lightning magic decides to take a crack at your garden. What’ll you do then? Probably be consumed because these guys are...
3) Eternal Devourers
Troglodytes are motivated by gold, which means that there’s at least a shot of working with them. Well, maybe not, but some charismatic bastard around here might. Shambling mounds don’t really have a motive; they just feed, and feed, and wait until something comes by to feed some more! It’s ceaseless, and it’s just like dandelions in the lawn. If you don’t completely destroy the central root system (the location of which is unknown, presumably at the center of its rotting mass. Thanks, weird anatomy), the shambling mound will just sit. It’ll literally play dead, let you walk away, and start feeding again so as to haunt your grandkids. At least a gold coin tossed into a load of trogs will give you enough time to get out of there. What makes it even worse is...
4) They’re Not Picky
I’m sorry about your run in with the cannibals, but I have a quick question. Does eating yourself count as cannibalism, in a sense? Because that’s what shambling mounds do. They feed on everything around them, including itself. Trying to figure out how consuming its own mass only helps replenish it makes my head spin, but it’s made from magic lightning and some moss, remember? It was scary enough when we found out it would eat literally any organic material, but the discovery of its resiliency, shall we say, was the true horror.
Not entirely sure that my entire argument landed, I eyed my competitor. The blank expression seemed like an indicator that I had failed. However, it wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as it gave me a moment to reflect on everything I had just presented. “You know what,” I said after a moment, “If you really think about it, they’re both awful. At the end of the day, I’d rather be here than fighting either of those anyhow. Cheers?” I raised my mug inquisitively. He smiled and raised his to mine with a satisfying clink before we emptied the contents in unison.
Sean is the Heavy Metal GM. He’s a writer and blogger that loves the hobby more than life itself. Always up for a good discussion, his blog covers general gaming advice as well as specialized advice/homebrew rules for 13th Age RPG. You can find his website at www.heavymetalgm.com, join the conversation.
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I am become death, destroyer of worlds.