Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Nettle Coral

As I was doing development work on my aquatic 4e campaign Sea of Tears, I started watching the anime series Eureka Seven.  I'm not a fan of giant robot anime, but this series had amazing characters, flying surf boards, great music, a green haired emo girl, and scub coral.  I highly recommend it.

The scub coral in Eureka Seven is part of the big mystery that the series unravels slowly throughout it's 50-odd episodes.  I won't spoil it for you, but my initial ideas of what scub coral was turned out to be dead wrong.  However, I used those initial guesses to fuel a major feature of the Sea of Tears campaign - Nettle Coral.

Nettle coral appears to be a regular form of coral, although a bit more straight and spiky and thorny in appearance - more like bleached brambles.  Its biological niche includes where normal coral lives, but it exists in deeper waters as it does not need sunlight to live.

When the sharp tips of nettle coral come in contact with skin, they delivers a sharp blast of pain and damage similar to a nettle, or other corals, for that matter.  However, nettle coral does something that other corals do not do - they reach out to and touch someone.

"Explosive growth" was how I described it to the wide eyed players.  A foot long nettle coral spike could suddenly grow ten feet long to stab its victim.  The coral commonly grows in large enough batches to take out entire pods of sperm whales.  The stuff was a major shipping hazard, and if a port became infested, it had to be abandoned.

Given the right circumstances, nettle coral grows in huge enough clumps to exit the water and form bone white, thorny islands.  Above water, the nettle coral thorns do not explosively grow, they simply explode, sending showers of randomly sized stinging needles in the direction of any movement or noise.  Pirates and other sea-farers used such island to their advantage.

Eventually the characters discovered that the nettle coral was undead - formed by swarms of zombie coral polyps and the nettle stings were actually the polyps sucking life from them like microscopic vampires.  Had the party a cleric, they could have even turned the stuff, but they didn't have one.  Silly party.

I did a search on Google for the term nettle coral, since I figured that the name was already in use somewhere - perhaps even a real type of coral.  I could only find one reference.  Strangely enough, it was mentioned once in the book Blue Lagoon.  I could not have invented such a bizarre non-sequitur if I tried.

So I offer unto you the humble nettle coral - vampiric and evil zombie polyp swarms.  It's Strahd von Zarovich under a microscope.  Do with it what you will.

- Ark

 (Check out the rest of the Sea of Os'r Project over at the Lands of Ara.)

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