The Rambling Woods began as a pre-cataclysmic experiment in genetic engineering. The Columba Project hoped to create plants that were tuned into the planet's bioelectric energy patterns and capable of seeking places where soil, air and water provided optimal growing conditions. The plan to accomplish this involved adding cellular structures that artificially duplicated the DNA patterns of simple neurological pathways to existing plant life. In effect, they intended to give their new plants a brain. The heads of the Columbia Project were a pair of distinguished biochemical engineers: Dr. Tetsuo Aragami and Prof. Heinreich Schmidt. The scientists used their own genetic material in the development of their "super plants", despite the criticism that this raised in the scientific community. Aragami and Schmidt were funded by the powerful Agritech Corporation, which had facilities located all over the United States. While they conferred and compared notes frequently, the two scientists each maintained their own research facilities. Aragami's primary lab was located in Angola, Indiana, while Professor Schmidt did most of his research in a facility in Lasalle, Illinois. Unbeknownst to the, Agritech was secretly monitoring their experiments, with the hope that the new strain of plants might someday be utilized as a new kind of biological weapon.
Aragami and Schmidt eventually got wind of the situation. Rather than allow their creation to be perverted by evil men, the scientists chose to destroy their research and prototypes to prevent them from falling into the hands of Agritech. The pair simultaneously detonated powerful explosives in both their facilities, apparently destorying all trace of their life's work. However, some of the genetically altered fibers survived the blast and were hurled into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. When they eventually settled to the earth, the samples ay inert and forgotten for centuries.
When the Cataclysm struck, the combination of atomic, chemical and bacteriological weapons caused a multitude of mutations and created the many exotic species of creature that inhabit Gamma Terra. The fallout from the destruction also interacted with the altered genetic material Aragami and Schmidt had created and which lain dormant for so long. Under the influence of post-cataclysm radioactivity, the samples began to multiply and infest nearby plant life with their altered DNA. Eventually, the strain spread to such a large number of plants that it gained a rudimentary intelligence. The plants also gained the power of locomotion and somehow homed in on the place where they had been created. Aragami and Schmidt's work had to come to fruition, but in a manner that could not have predicted or planned.
At first, the Rambling Woods consisted of little more than simple "brain cores" and a few dozen trees. The inhabitants of Gamma Terra barely noticed the first few migrations of the woods, being more concerned with the wars and struggles for survival that characterized the early post-cataclysmic period. As each year passed, the brain core of the Rambling Woods grew larger, and more trees and lesser plants were drawn into their genetic matrices. Eventually, the Rambling Woods grew so large that they could no longer be ignored. The Wood that roams the area of Miacholin and Psion City is 15 km across, while the Woods that meander through the border area of Bonparr and Huush is over twice that size; it has been estimated to be nearly 35 km in diameter.
Both Rambling Woods follow their genetically implanted migration pattern, regardless of who or what gets in their way. The exact path they follow varies year to year, as the brain cores seek out the most fertile, arable land with their seasonal territories. When the weather starts to grow colder, the Woods leave their territory and move to an unknown location in some southern climate. It is believed that the "Bonparr/Huush" Wood travels to an area somewhere between Memfizz and August, but this has never been verified. Maps show the Rambling Woods' usual course, but they have been known to stray far from these paths. In the sixth year of the rule of General Claudius, the eastern Wood passed through the town of Finday, causing widespread to the streets, public works, and even some of the smaller, flimsier buildings. This incident was partially responible for the decision to construct protective walls around Bonparr's settlements.
During the daytime, the Rambling Woods looks very much like any other moderately-sized decidous wood. Because the plants that make up the Wood move at slightly different speeds, the exact structure of the Wood, even relative to itself, changes daily. Where one day there might be a tight cluster of trees, the next day might find only a single sapling surrounded by a clearing.
In any given arrangement, the centre of the Wood is always the location of the Brain Core. It resembles a large oak in all ways, unless it is examined mircoscopically. Each of its cells is identical to a norma lplant cell, except the nucleus, which has been genetically altered to duplicate the neurons of the long dead Dr.Aragami's brain. It may be that the Rambling Woods that roams in the vicinity of Miacholin is based on Prof.Schmidt's brain patterns. The brain core is not sentient in the normal sense of that word, but it does possess a rudimentary, almost instinctive intelligence. Because it is so different from all other animate plant or animal life on Gamma Terra, the brain core and other plants that make up the Rambling Woods are immune to all attempts at plant control or animal control.
The brain core directs the Rambling Woods in a manner that is partly physical and partly mental. Every plant in the Wood, from the largest tree to the smallest blade of grass, has had part of its cell structure altered to match that of the brain core: a plant membrane and endoplasm with a neurological nucleus. Through these cells, the brain core is able to give rudimentary mental commands and control the Woods movement from its central location.
Although it is not self-aware, the brain core does possess an instinct for self-preservation. At all times, the brain core is surrounded by a ring of evergreen trees whose needles are tipped with Intensity 8 debilatative poison. A variety of thorny vines are intertwined among the protective trees. Some of these thorns (5d6) grow to be nearly a meter in length and are razor-sharp. When wielded in defence of the brain core, each thorn has a THAC of +10 and does 1d6+4 points of damage. The thorns have 4d6 HPs apiece and an AC of 3. The vines themselves have as AC of 5 and 10d6 HPs.
Among the brain core's other defences are a number of smaller plants and shrubbery with a variety of offensive mutations including razor edged leaves, gas generation, contact poison sap, carniverous jaws and squeeze vines. Each of these plants can move and attack independently, or in a concerted effort organized by the brain core.
The one thing that the brain core knows it cannot effectively defend itself from is fire. However, it takes quite a large blaze to force the Rambling Woods to change course or move from a place where it has taken root. It can easily tramp out small fires, such as campfires or torches, so attempts to use these weapons against the Wood have little effect. The core even knows that submerging burning members in water will extinguish flames. In the past, farmers who live along the Wood's migratory paths have attempted to divert the Rambling Woods from their fields by setting large grass fires in its path. Due to the vast size of Rambling Woods, however, this has rarely been successful.
Outside of the vicinity of the brain core (roughly 0.5 to .075 kilometre, depending on conditions), the Rambling Woods becomes less immediately lethal to encroachers. There is a wide variety of trees, bushes, foliage, grasses, and undergrowth, just as in any other forest. The shifting patterns of the plants make it difficult for even the most experienced of scouts to make their way through the Woods. Any Navigate or Tracking skill check made in the Rambling Woods adds an extra +3 to the die roll, in addition to whatever Difficulty Rating the GM assigns.
The Rambling Woods travel mostly at night, taking root wherever they happen to be at dawn. They travel 3 to 7 km in a 24 hr period, with the speed depending on the weather, the surface condition, and the nutrient content of the ground over which the Wood passes. The Woods never rest in even the most ideal place for more than one day.
During the fall and spring migrations, the Wood travels night and day, stopping only for a few hours 'rest', absorbing needed nutrients from the soil. While migrating, the Rambling Woods cover 8to 12 km per day, depending on weather conditions and terrain. Precipitation tends to make the Rambling Woods sluggish and slow. Thus, the journey from its summer territory north of Bonparr to its winter habitat lasts between a month and a month and half. The Wood is usually slightly approaching its northern territory approximately a month to five weeks after the vernal equinox, reaching its final wandering zone within a week. It wanders the area for the next four and a half months, then departs around the autumnal equinox.
The brain core leads the Woods wherever its wants, and is seemingly oblivious to the distinction between natural and man-made obstacles., The Wood will cross open prarie or a well tilled field with equal impunity.
The Woods go around obstacles such as cliffs or large stone walls, but pass right through stationary woods, town streets or even moving objects, such as vehicles or people. An odd observation about the movement of the Rambling Woods is its apparent obliviousness to bodies of water. It easily fords rivers and streams, and even passes through ponds and lakes, the entire Wood being submerged for as long as a day. Because of some odd combination of chemicals in the water, the residue of the Rambling Woods' passage through Lake Katur promotes the growth of the mutant grain quaddro-tri on the lakes' surface.
The greatest danger that the moving Wood presents is the damage caused by its passage. The Rambling Woods generally bypasses large structures, such as reinforced buildings or high stone walls, but it will crush any small or light wooden buildings. Since the territory and migration course of the Wood are now generally known, most Bonparr residents simply stay out of the woods' way. After all, there is planty of space in Gamma Terra to live without asking for more trouble.
The Major exception to this the town ofDefiance, which rests upon the eastern shore of Lake Katur, well within the southern seasonal boundary of the Rambling Woods. Defiance must defend itself against the Rambling Woods every few years when its meanderings bring it close to the town . This involves setting large bonfires at strategic locations along the town wall and along the lakeshore. The fires and walls are usually enough to deter the forest, but on occasion (especially if it approaches from the out of the lake), the Woods circumvents the defences and passes through the streets, causing much confusion and chaos. During a recent episode, part of the docks was broken loose from its supports and dozens of people were injured or drowned.
Oddly enough, the Rambling Woods' erratic movement patterns pose little threat to lone travellers or small groups that pass through it. If a party stays on the alert, the Wood will usually pass by without incident, although individuals who go to sleep on the ground while the Wood is on the move are asking for trouble. Larger groups, such as merchant caravans with a large number of trucks and wagons, are in more danger, because it is easy for such vehicles to be tipped over. Such parties frequently use mounted scouts or ancient technology (eg: radar) to detect the Rambling Woods' current location and then steer clear.
Because of the instability of the environment, few predators make their permanent home in the Rambling Woods. Still, there is a 5% chance at any given time that a traveller in the Wood will encounter a creature that has either wandered into the Woods or has come looking for game. Use the table below to determine what kind of animal is encountered. Note that plant-based monsters are encountered in the Rambling Woods.
The Squeevils is one variety of animal life that is unique to the Rambling Woods, although it can hardly be described as a predator.
d20 Creature(s) Encountered
01 1 Attercop
02 1 Blaash
03 1d4 Blights
04 1d4 Blood Birds
05 1d3 Cal-Thens
06 1d3 Hawkoids
07 2d6 Joarndez
08 1d6 Katkins
09 1d20 Lils
10 1d2 Mantas
11 1d2 Obbs
12 1d4 Parns
13 1d4 Rogs
14 1d4 Soul Beshes
15 2d8 Squeekers
16 1d4 Stagons
17 1d4 Terlens
18 1d2 Wardents
19 1d4 Yexils
20 1d2 Yfiefs
COMMUNITY OF ELDERS Community of Elders is the joke name given to the loose community that lives in relative safety of the Rambling Woods. This name was given to them by Defiance. There is around 200 sentients in the Community, most of which are New Animals and Altered Ones. There is only a small presence of Green Folk that live here.
The Community dwellings are all built within the branches of the trees, with rope ladders to ease the climb to them from the ground. Many of the treehouses house folding lightweight wooden bridges, that can be folded/unfolded to gain egress to another dwelling nearby. Many personal belongings are kept either on a persons body or kept in water tight contianeers, due to the fact that the Wood has a tendency to walk under lakes rather than go round, much to the annoyance of some community members.
The community relies on trade with the various villages and towns that Woods passes on its travels for tools, weapons, food (as the community cannot till fields due to travel commitments), some animals can be kept as livestock as long as they are tied to trees so don't wander off (shepherds stay with their flock in case of lakes).
The community of Rambling Woods is peaceful as they need trade from various villages and towns as they travel the countryside and so have enemies. HOWEVER, due to recent activities on the part some mutated blue, midget elephants and hoops, this has changed.