A note on Myconids

27. sovereign basidia (2015) - out of the abyss

I don’t think I’ve ever used myconids, but that’s something I want to remediate soon enough. However, if I were to stick to D&D canon lore (which I won’t), myconids are supposed to be found exclusively in the underdark, the subterranean world home to the iconic drow. This was set in stone, so to speak, by Gary Gigax’s D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth (1e), which of course, borrowed heavily on established hollow earth fiction. More to the point, Gigax also borrowed the myconids, which were created (as far as I know) in the earlier module  A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords, where there was no need to have the fungus men’s ecology so constrained.

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Leaving the myconids out of most of the more typical (surface) encounters is both sad and needless, in my opinion. Put in any setting, the potential is just mind-blowing…

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Deathbloom Thallid (MtG), perfect for a Chult campaign conversion

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The Fun in Fungus (magic: the gathering)

A few weeks ago I tried MtG for the first time. I’d never played in my youth (it seems like you choose either tabletop gaming or card gaming, rarely both). My good friend, who was nostalgic about his own gaming past, introduced me to this famous money pit (what a friend hey!). He taught me the basics and we had time to play twice The first time, and most interesting from my pov, was with bare-minimum dominaria decks.

I had a black and green deck, with not much going on with the notable exception of FUNGUS!

Here’s some cards I had:

 

That sufficed to make me like the game as I’ve been quite fascinated by anything mycology-related for a while now. In fiction, since I read the Ambergris books from Jeff Vandermeer and before that in gastronomy, when my wife and I became wild mushrooms enthusiasts.

The M:tG Thallids (how the fungus creatures are called) seems to have much more impactful art and concepts than their D&D Myconids counterpart and I will certainly steal a few things for my Ruins of Chult campaign!

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Sadly I don’t own this big guy… Yet!

 

Attack of the Killer Fungi

Amid the Big Baddies of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes, Zuggtmoy, Demon Queen of Fungi, seems a little out of place. It’s obvious that she was put there more to respect previous D&D lore than anything else. What’s her goal? To make subservient slaves out of infected people… Do we need Zuggtmoy at all (as something that embodies a concept)?

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That’s incredible art though!

Check out the real deal:

That’s truly the stuff of nigthmare!

But, as Attenborough explains, cordyceps, despite causing insect hecatombs, have overall a positive effect on the ecosystem. Indeed, fungus is so integral a part of nature that making it “demonic” seems a bit too  much, even for D&D.

Tellingly, neither the vegepygmies and myconids, two fungus-themed creatures, are linked with Zuggtmoy in any way  (compare this with the drow and Lolth say) and are not even evil. The MM tells us that they’re both of neutral alignment: they don’t attack unless they are harassed.

These fungus creatures can easily be used in a silly way (Gygax’s Expedition at the Barrier Peaks) or in a much more creepy mode, as the incomprehensible so often leads to horror (VanderMeer’s books).

Personnally I would use some of Zuggtmoy’s regional effects (MToF), which are suitably creepy, whenever there is a large colony of either vegepygmies or myconids in an area. As for Zuggtmoy herself, I think she would be more interesting as a Lovecraftian Great Old One and as such, she would make more sense as an unfathomable warlock Patron.