Wall: St James of the Mold and His Singing Animals

St James of the Mold is a familiar presence in the caves under Wall. There are animals that sing his praises in the Harmony House, the under-church of the dungeon. He has a lab nearby guarded by vegepygmies. He stalks the deeper levels, checking on the fungus people and the vegetable deity who guards the gate to Hell.

James is a thin man of average height who looks like he’s been living in a series of tunnels for 60 years. His left half sprouts fungi of every color and shape. His right side remains human and looks younger than it should.

 WALLillo_02
St James of the Mold by Kevin Budnik

Originally, St James of the Mold was known as Spry James. He was a member of the King’s Men, the group of adventurers that sealed the gate to Hell. He was an apprentice to Lady Hawthorne, the elvish wizard who served as liaison of the elflands in the Demon Wars.

James was thought killed by raging myconids, but his body was never found. In truth, he managed to use his magic to keep the creeping fungus from taking over his body. By the time he was able to move again, the war was over, and the caves were sealed. All James had was his familiar, an albino rat named August.

The Church of St James

While exploring the dungeon, James often used the awaken spell to turn the natural animals of the caves into a spy network. Educated by August, the animals began to meet to discuss James’s plans and their future. They used colored stones, mats of moss, and colored stones to turn the floor of the Harmony House into a mosaic of James and August. They sing his praises, thanking him for their enlightenment, or they sing of his journeys, such as in “St James’s Delight”:
When I can walk in shadow and not look upon the skies,
I’ll bid farewell to demons’ war and clear my moldy eyes.

CHORUS: I feel like, I feel like I’m in my kindly cave.
I feel like, I feel like I’m in my kindly cave.

Should devils seek my fungus soul and fiery darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Geryon’s rage and face th’ underground world.

CHORUS

Let moldy spores like cave-ins come, let rocks of sorrow fall,
So I can safely reach my home, My lab, my cave, my all.

CHORUS

There I shall bathe my weary soul in sightless rivulets,
And not a wave of trouble roll across my mushroomed breast.

CHORUS[DMs, sing this as though it’s a Sacred Harp song; let it echo through the cave.]

[Edit: one of my players actually got his singing group to record this! It made my day, so please check it out.]

James’s Lab

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Click to enlarge.

 

The Books of St James

James has recorded his studies into a series of five large, hardcover books. These are usually kept in his lab, although they may be spread throughout the dungeon. These books are lushly illustrated and masterfully bound, and they could be worth up to 75 gold each to a wizard, naturalist, scholar, or collector (or to someone who seeks to control the myconids and molds). Reading these books can give characters a number of advantages.

First of all, James learned to treat mold as people. One of the books counts as a spellbook that includes the spells charm person, hold person, and speak with plants. A wizard who reads this book is able to affect mold and fungi (including myconids and vegepygmies) with these spells (as opposed to having to wait for the charm monster/hold monster variations).

Secondly, these books contain treatises on the helpful qualities of cave mold. On discovering this knowledge, wizards can use this cave mold in lieu any material components that cost 10 gold or less. This mold is easily gathered throughout the dungeon and elsewhere.

Third, James discovered the secrets to delaying mold and fungal infections. After reading the book, a character with knowledge of medicine, nature, or survival can create tinctures that double the amount of time before any mold or fungus spores take effect, and if the infected person gets a saving throw to resist the effects, that saving throw has advantage. It takes about an hour to find and refine the materials required into this tincture.

Lastly, if one reads between the lines of the books (perhaps requiring an Intelligence check), a smart character can discovery how James learned many of these secrets: via the alien mold god at the bottom of the dungeon.

The God of Mold

As the Demon Wars raged, things looked bleak. The forces of Hell had convinced a small god, a culture of holy mold spores from the infinite plane of decay, to take their side. It created an army of myconids and sent itself creeping forward.

The reasons for the mold gold’s betrayal of the demons are undocumented, but its defection turned the tide of the war. After the King’s Men sealed the gates, the mold god settled into a sedentary mass, a pond of spores, in front of the gate, waiting for any who might try to open it.

Be the Mold

With all these spores around, a character is bound to encounter them, and it’s possible that they’ll be turned into a vegepygmy. Most versions of D&D dictate that characters turned into moldmen would pass to DM control. However, between James, his books, and the mold god, there are forces beneath Wall that would allow such a character to continue working with their party. To do so, though, one must go through a number of changes.

First, if the character’s Intelligence is 6 or higher, it’s reduced to 5. They lose all racial abilities (although racial ability adjustments remain) and gain an advantage on resisting poison and spores.

Moldmen can only be fighters, rogues, or multiclass fighter/rogues. Characters of those classes who become moldmen retain their levels. Characters of other classes may choose either fighter or rogue and have levels in that class equal to one less than their level in the class they pursued in meat-life. No vegepygmy can choose a class path, prestige class, or kit that grants them the ability to use magic. Moldman rogues can’t pick locks or disarm traps (though they can still detect them). Moldman fighters can’t use the warlord-style maneuvers in 5th Edition, and they don’t attract followers.

They can’t speak, although they have a 50% chance of retaining the ability to write. However, a speak with plants spell allows a caster to communicate with a moldman. Moldmen can speak with others of their kind, along with molds and fungi, via spores. Spores are speech, but they’re also chemicals. Thus, the way moldmen talk is affected by how they feel, what they eat, how they move, and everything else that changes a body’s make-up.

As moldmen level up, they gain spore powers in the order they’re listed below. They are gained in lieu of martial/roguish archetypes.

 moldman
art by Tony DiTerlizzi from AD&D’s Monstrous Manual

In 5th Edition, the saving throw to resist spores is Constitution with a DC equal to 8 + proficiency modifier + Constitution modifer. Each spore power can be activated as an action, and the character must take a short rest before using it again. On activation, the spores explode in a 5′ radius around the character, affecting all creatures who breathe.

just choking or blinding: Characters who fail their saves have disadvantage on their attack and ability rolls for the next 1d6 rounds. Can be circumvented by holding breath and covering eyes.

open-minded love: Those who fail their saves are considered charmed by everyone they can see. Lasts 1d10 minutes or until they are attacked.

savage berserking: For 1d10 turns, an affected character moves toward the nearest character and, if possible, attacks them with a melee weapon (or, lacking one, with their fists). If there are multiple equidistant characters, decide randomly which will be attacked.

hallucination: On a failed save, all Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence are at a disadvantage for 1d4 hours as the character suffers hallucinations from the table below. Roll 1d6 to get the sense affected by the hallucinations and 1d8 for the “flavor.”

Sense Flavor
1 sounds 1 dead or dying
2 hands and feet 2 delight
3 smells 3 enlargment
4 sight 4 shrinking
5 premonition 5 childhood
6 roll twice, ignoring further 6s 6 holy
7 demonic/terrifying
8 roll twice, ignoring further 8s

slow death: On failing a save, the character loses 1d4 Constitution points and has a disadvantage on all Constitution-related rolls. The character continues to lose 1d4 Constitution daily as mushrooms sprout from their skin. This effect can be cured by a cure disease or restoration spell or by a concoction made from the ground-up horns of a hoofed fae beast (such as a satyr, minotaur, etc.). Alternately, they can use horns from a hoofed demon. This will cure the spores, but instead of the mushrooms wilting and falling, they burst into flames, causing 2d8 points of damage and forever marking the person as the killer of that demon. On reaching 0 Constitution from the spores, the character dies, leading to…

zombies: Characters killed by spores come back as mindless vegepygmies. These spores can also be used on the recently dead (less than 12 hours) to animate them. Any creatures reanimated by a PC’s spores remain under their control.

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