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Living Locations 5: Will your players survive the Tower of Barbs?

Living Locations 5: Will your players survive the Tower of Barbs?

This series introduces the concept of living locations: places that possess a primitive sentience, personality, and awareness. These locations are not “alive” in the traditional sense, but manipulate their environment and the creatures and objects within them.

Locations that fit this archetype in games, film, and literature include the house in the movie Monster House (2006), the apartment in 1408 (1999), and the town of Silent Hill in the game Silent Hill (1999). More examples might come to you if you think a bit.

A living location need not be a haunted house or a supernatural manifestation. It can include locations such as a workshop granted a semblance of life by clockwork magic or a mysterious tower of plants animated by the will of an elemental or fey lord.

Catch up on all the Living Locations articles! Previous articles looked at how to design and run a living location, including the powers for a living location and the types that can exist. The final two articles in this series introduce two living locations that GMs can run straight out of the box.

The Tower of Barbs

A massive tower grown from living wood and covered in vicious thorns; the Tower of Barbs is a mysterious edifice that moves about the forest by obscure magical means.

Those who have seen the tower move say that it unravels into thousands of vines that flow away into the forest, leaving nothing behind. Those inside the tower don’t feel it moving, and when they leave they can find themselves in a completely different part of the forest.

The Tower of Barbs doesn’t seem to have a ruler, but creatures such as green hags, children of the briar (see Tome of Beasts 1), and shambling mounds have all been seen lurking in its natural-looking chambers, using the protective magic of the tower to their advantage.


The Tower of Barbs began as the home of a hierophant druid who protected the wilds. At the end of his life, the druid melded his essence with that of the tower, transforming it into a living location.

Since then, the tower has seen fit to protect the forest in its own way. It generally refrains from acting against a creature unless it despoils nature on a grand scale (such as unleashing a blight or raising an army of undead within the forest’s borders).

Where in Midgard?
The Tower of Barbs is suitable for any setting containing a large, ancient, partially supernatural or sentient forest. Forests in Midgard that meet this requirement include the Margreve Forest east of Zobeck, the Arbonesse Forest west of the Grand Duchy of Dornig, and the Gardens of Carnessa south of Trenorra.


Size Gargantuan+ (120-foot-tall tower with over a dozen chambers scattered throughout its interior)
Senses Blindsight 120 ft., tremorsense 60 ft.
Number of Cores 4


Each of the tower’s cores resembles a clump of thick, green, thorn-covered vines with the following statistics.


Armor Class 14
Hit Points 80
Speed 45 ft.
Perception 6 Stealth 8
Senses blindsight 60 ft. (blind beyond this radius)


Antimagic Susceptibility. The animated clump of vines is incapacitated while in the area of an antimagic field. If targeted by dispel magic, the animated clump of vines must succeed on a CON save against the caster’s spell save DC or fall unconscious for 1 minute.

Core Bonus. The vines gain 3 additional attacks, a 15 ft. bonus to its movement speed, and and +4 to AC and saves. All these bonuses except for the saves are already calculated into the vines’ stats.

False Appearance. While the animated clump of vines remains motionless, it is indistinguishable from a normal clump of thorny vines.


Multiattack. The vines make four Thorny Vine Lash attacks.

Thorny Vine Lash. Melee Weapon Attack: +8 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 17 (2d12 + 4) slashing damage. If the target is a Large or smaller creature, it is grappled (escape DC 16). Until this grapple ends, the target takes 6 (1d12) piercing damage at the start of each of its turns. The animated clump of vines can grapple up to one Large target or up to two Medium or smaller targets at a time.   


The tower uses its Minor Abilities sporadically (once every 1d6 hours). On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the Tower of Barbs can use one of the following Minor Abilities as an action:

  • The tower alters its interior layout, sealing off passages or chambers with wood. It cannot seal off a passage or chamber containing a living creature.

  • The tower quenches all nonmagical fires within its interior, including lanterns, torches, and campfires.

  • A pale yellow sap oozes from the tower walls, floor, or ceiling. The sap completely coats any Tiny object in its proximity and lasts for up to 10 minutes before drying and vanishing.

  • The tower accelerates the growth of all plant life inside its many chambers, as if using the plant growth spell.

  • The tower causes all nonmagical, nonliving objects within it to rapidly decay and spoil. Food or water spoils or goes bad within 1 hour. Nonmagical objects not made of stone or metal become useless within 24 hours. This decay destroys any corpse not protected by the gentle repose spell. All effects cease when an object leaves the tower.


The tower typically only uses its Major Abilities when it or one of its cores is threatened. On initiative count 20 (losing initiative ties), the Tower of Barbs can use one of the following Major Abilities:

  •  Vine Travel. The tower splits into thousands of vines that slither to another location within its home forest as if using the teleport spell. Creatures inside the tower get no save to resist the effect and do not realize the tower has moved. The tower can use this ability once until the next dawn.

  • Ground Spikes (Recharge 5–6). Thick, wooden spikes shoot up from the ground. Each enemy in a 20-foot area must make a D 19 DEX save, taking 33 (6d10) piercing damage on a failure or no damage on a success.

  • Caustic Spray (Recharge 5–6). Caustic sap sprays out from a nearby wall. Each enemy in a 15-foot cone must make a DC 19 DEX save, taking 28 (8d6) acid damage on a failure or half the amount of damage on a success.

  • Summon Protectors. The tower magically summons 1d4 + 1 shambling mounds to attack its enemies. It can use this ability once until the next dawn.

about Phillip Larwood

Phillip has been writing for Kobold Press and other companies for many years. From multiple articles in the early days of Kobold Quarterly magazine to recent books like Tome of Beasts 2 and Vault of Magic, Phillip is never more satisfied than when he sees his name in print. Something that he points out to his family and friends over and over and over again.

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