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If you were the Margreve, an antediluvian forest with ancient, expansive power, you would probably have a few underlings working for you, right? The Margreve certainly does. Treants and wolves are common agents, but more tread beneath its storied boughs.
But just what is an agent of the Margreve?
What do they do?
What are these agents responsible for?
Who Becomes an Agent?
The Margreve typically chooses its agents by addressing threats to the natural order or the longevity of its borders. An agent is bound to the forest, connecting with a wellspring of primeval power that provides extraordinary, even unique powers.
The Margreve prefers beasts to sentient folk. Although fey, humanoids, and even dragons have been counted among the Margreve’s agents, these creatures do so of free will or under binding oath. Of course many plants serve the Margreve without fail, especially if they are Margreve-born.
Being an agent of the Margreve is surely a curse. Though potent power comes with the appointment, the down sides are dire.
Agents cannot exit the Margreve without perishing, collapsing into piles of viscera-soaked leaves as soon as they step out of the forest border. Agents also feel what the Margreve feels, suffering its attitude, awareness, and pain (all too often more than a mortal being can handle).
Agents frequently go berserk, overwhelmed when the Margreve bristles with fury or is struck by loggers or wildfire, even miles away. And agents have little control over their own actions when the Margreve commands, throwing away their lives at the forest’s behest.
New Power of the Margreve
To gain an agent, the Margreve uses the following spell-like ability.
Curse Agent. (1/week per square mile). The Margreve targets one Beast or Monstrosity which has previously bled within the forest and compels it into service as an agent of the Margreve for one year and a day. The creature may make a DC 19 Charisma saving throw to resist the compulsion. If the creature fails its saving throw or willingly accepts the compulsion, it gains the following features and gains 1 to its CR.
Senses. The agent gains bloodsense or tremorsense at 60 feet. If it already has one of these senses, the distance is doubled.
Agent of the Forest. While in the Margreve, the agent has advantage on all Perception, Stealth, and Survival checks.
Bark and Bite. The agent’s natural weapons and armor grow shaggier and more deadly. The Agent’s AC can never be lower than 16 and its attacks deal an additional 7 (2d6) damage of the same type as the attack.
Forest’s Fury. Whenever the agent or a part of the Margreve takes at least 10 damage, the agent flies into a rage for 1 minute, gaining resistance to all damage (except for psychic damage) and gaining advantage on the first attack it makes on its turn.
Woodcursed. The agent is immune to charm, compulsion, or enchantment imposed by anything other than the Margreve. The agent is unable to work against the Margreve’s goals or pursue its own goals, including its own instincts or needs. Only an honestly pledged oath can bind an agent of the Margreve.
The agent can attempt to break the compulsion early, making a DC 19 Charisma saving throw once a day until three consecutive successes are made. A remove curse spell or similar magic grants advantage on one saving throw to break the compulsion, but only a wish or miracle can break the curse immediately, removing all benefits.
Because of the curse, powers, and unpredictable tempers, agents are given a deferential berth by others of their kind. Even pack-mentality creatures avoid one of their kind when it is woodcursed, whether by cognition or instinct. Here are a few agents to include in your game, complete with their own history, motive, and adventure hook.
Saoirse was an alseid grovekeeper (see Tome of Beasts 1) undergoing a divine rite when the Margreve drew her into a conflict with intruding woodcutters. Though her actions benefitted both the Margreve and the woodcutters (and earned her favor with a fey queen), Saoirse returned home to calls for exile rather than open arms.
Now Saoirse keeps to the Heart of the Western Margreve, tending to the forest until it calls for action again. Blaming the woodcutters for their exile, Saoirse’s views of outsiders have grown more prejudiced with time.
Adventure Hook. Despite fulfilling her year of service over and again for nearly two decades, the Margreve refuses to release Saoirse. Desperate for freedom, Saoirse sends out a small clockwork creature (a rusty gift from one of the long-ago woodcutters) to find someone powerful enough to break the curse or to take her place.
They say a sphinx lurks in the Fogrolls of the Central Margreve, quizzing prey with cruel jokes rather than riddles before pouncing. Truthfully the Fogrolls Sphinx is a vapor lynx (see Tome of Beasts 1) whom the Margreve cursed to disrupt a hag coven’s disastrous dinner. Now the Fogrolls Sphinx revels in its powers to terrorize the lost and lonely.
Adventure Hook. Jedza Wiara needs a brave group of clever heroes to get a broom, ladle, and garden shears back from the thief who stole them. The thief taunted Jedza as he took her things and then absconded into the morning mist. If brave heroes would go into the Fogrolls to retrieve her belongings, Jedza Wiara promises to make them dinner upon their return.
Along the conifer-thick ridgeline of the Black Hills roams a legion of giant walking sticks (see Tome of Beasts 3), unwavering in service to the Margreve. These massive beasts move as one, swaying and jerking with mesmerizing grace as they patrol the region. Fast and seemingly precognitive, only the fiercest dragons and most cunning witches have eluded ambushes by the Shambling Wood.
Adventure Hook. Minstrels in local coaching inns sing of vast wealth and imperial might thrown at the Margreve in attempts to tame it. One ballad tells of princess Zosia, eager for more than courtly appointments, who stormed the Black Hills to find and chop down the Harktree. As the ballad ends, the princess is never seen again, nor her kingdom’s magic axe or the trio of knights named Sir Baer, Sir Altan, and Sir Körbl who sought to retrieve her.
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