OSR: Myconids, Part 1

First, a biology lesson.

Fungi aren't plants. You probably knew that.

Most fungi are microscopic, distributed, and vital. Like algae, viruses, and bacteria, they don't exist in a medieval-ish game for all intents and purposes. Medieval science vaguely recognized fungi, mold, and yeast, but not their effects or purpose.

Mushrooms seem to violate the laws of nature. They resemble plants but they spring up, almost supernaturally, overnight. They appear on decaying wood, living trees, manure, or bare grass. Some are deadly. Some are delicious. Mushrooms were widely gathered and eaten even if their cultivation and origin remained a mystery. Hildegard von Bingen listed dozens of medicinal mushrooms, calling them "the foam and sweat of the earth."

But mushrooms are not the whole story. A mushroom is an ephemeral outcrop, a single-purpose tool built by a fungal network. We can see it and pick it up so we think it's the entire fungus, but it's not. A mushroom is not a tree with thin mysterious roots. The roots, the mycelium, is the organism. The fungus itself is buried in the rot, a nervous system and digestive system and circulatory system all mashed into one and spread microscopically thin for maximum efficiency. A thousand needle-thin tendrils growing silently, efficiently, cracking open anything they can find and spewing digestive enzymes onto it.

And occasionally, if it's well fed and conditions are right, the fungus grows a macroscopic tool to spread its spores.
Yes, just like this.
Mushroom art by Odin Valvekens
Source on the walking penis is unknown.
Maybe it started like this. Food is scarce. Casting spores into the air and hoping works, but what if there was a better way? The mushroom detaches, rolls, tries to get away from the original fungus before spreading its spores. Better. But then it starts to develop chemoreceptors and tiny grasping tendrils. It can smell other food, rot, other fungi. It can roll in the right direction.

And sometimes that's enough. The mushmice, fat mushroom caps with tiny legs, only needed to get this far before finding a successful niche. The famous gas spore is another example. But the pressure is still on for other species. They get better and better at sending mobile mushrooms. They discover that a mobile mushroom can not only sabotage other fungi, but that it can actively seek new food sources before sporulating. Competition begets improvement.
Tamas Gyerman
Imagine you are a fungus. You are vast, blind, immobile, alien, and eternally hungry.You create a sort of war-engine sex-machine explorer robot. It's 1,000 times larger than your tendrils (but less than 10% of your mass, because you are very successful fungus). You send it off into the great unknown to fulfill some deeply rooted drive.

Now imagine you are an explorer in the Veins. You find a strange wobbly mushroom-man bumbling along a cave, eyes bright and sharp, flesh soft and spongy. You might imagine that the Myconid, being a person, was in charge. After all, it can speak and make decisions and use tools. You would be mistaken. The original fungus, the paper-thin all-enfolding alien mind in the rot, is running the show. The mushroom-people it creates are just tools, means to an end. They've been at it for billions of years.

(Sure, maybe a humanoids aren't the most efficient shape or design, but they say you are what you eat. In the Veins, that's mostly people.)
Russell Jones
A new-born Myconid is single-minded, strong, and intelligent. It burns through its energy reserves furiously, trying to find food and avoid threats. Some species need water and coal. Some need corpses. Myconids at this stage build tools, learn languages, and explore. Once they find a suitable site they sporulate, wither, then guard the growing fungus until they run out of energy and rot. Myconids cannot eat. They have a finite lifespan. Some live for months. Some live for just a single day.

Now imagine you are a newborn Myconid. You have a foggy set of instincts and memories, but your mind sparkles and fizzes. You stumble, then start running. You smell soil and decay ahead and begin to wander. After a time, you reach a good site. Your instinct trigger. You sporulate and slowly wither. Your mind slows and your limbs creak.

Someone hands you a shovel and leads you away.

Myconid Slaves

Food is scarce in the Veins. Myconids represent a labour pool and a food source. They don't  have souls, as far as anyone can tell. They are easily taught and relatively obedient.

  • The Olm don't take Myconid slaves. They can't risk contaminating their water supply, and their biology makes eating fungids almost as efficient as monitoring them.
  • The Drow don't use them either.
  • Any Myconids that blunder into Cholerid territory are safe but rarely last long.
  • Antlings actively cultivate delicious Myconids, but don't use them for labour.
  • Dracospawn sometimes use Myconids for menial tasks or dangerous environments.
  • The Ghouls of Illiam have bred Myconids to feed on bones and the barest scraps of flesh.
  • The Dvergr will use Myconid slaves in dire circumstances, but rarely need to.
  • The Illithids sometimes use Myconid slaves, but only where food supplies or disorganization prevent the use of delicious brain-bearing vertebrates.

Farming Myconids is simple. Grow a fungus and feed it well. Grab each myconid as it buds off and lead it to a separate, isolated room. Convince it that it has fulfilled its biological imperative by showing it a fresh food source. Then, after it has sporulated, lead the docile creature away and train it. Sterilize the bait food source and repeat. Alternatively, kill and eat the Myconid just after it spawns.

Rampaging mushrooms, loose spores, or improperly sterilized bait can result in massive fungal overgrowth. Be cautious. Properly managed, myconids can construct cities, manage farms, march in formation, and fearlessly charge the most vicious and dangerous creatures in the Veins. If they are taught rebellion, independence, and their own imminent mortality, they become much less easy to manage.

Nutritional Value

Time for some fuzzy math. 25 calories per 100g seems normal for mushrooms. Steak, in comparison, has 250 calories per 100g. We can therefore estimate that a mushroom person would have 1/10th the nutritional value of a meat person.

Creature Accessible Calories Sale Value Rations
Cave Louse 10 1cp 0.005
Cave Crab 200 2sp 0.1
Blind Rat 750 7sp 0.3
Medieval Chicken 2,000 2gp 1
Myconid 10,000 10gp 5
Small Person 60,000 60gp 30
Normal Person 100,000 100gp 50
Large Person 140,000 140gp 70
Medieval Cow 600,000 600gp 300
Wurm 3,000,000 3,000gp 1,500

An aged myconid, or one that died of exhaustion, probably has no caloric value whatsoever. It's best to eat them fresh.

Cory Trego-Erdner

Mushroom Poisoning

My ancient field guide to mushrooms identifies 6 major classes of poisonous mushroom effects. According to the guide, the only way to be absolutely certain whether or not a mushroom is poisonous is to eat it and see if you die. Ideally, have someone else eat it. Even more ideally, don't eat any mushrooms you haven't identified and previously eaten.

1. Deadly
Immediate. 1d6 hours of severe abdominal pain, cold sweats, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive thirst. Symptoms fade for 1d6 hours, then then return with greater severity. In 2 hours, delerium, coma, death. Treatment: enormous doses of pure sugar, ingested or ideally injected, or cave centipede stomachs. Unlikely to work.

2. Dangerous
1d6 hours after eating. 1d6 hours of nervous excitement, hallucinations, drunken behavior. Save. If passed, full recovery. If failed, coma and death. Treatment: induce vomiting.

3. Inconvenient
1d6 hours after eating. 1d6 hours of profuse sweating, distorted vision, vomiting, and acute pain. Recovery afterwards. Treatment: none.

4. Troubling
Immediate. 6+2d6 hours of stomach pain, vomiting, sweating, and weakness. If a 6 is rolled, add an additional 1d6. Take 1 Constitution damage per hour after the first 6 hours.

5. Acrid
Immediate. 1d6 hours of vomiting and profuse sweating. Sharp pain. Permanent sensitivity to smells (may require Saves to avoid nausea).

6. Variable

Immediate. 50% chance of minor nausea, 50% chance of 1d6 hours of nausea, jaundice, hallucinations. Save. If passed, full recovery. If failed, instant bloody death. Treatment: no treatment. Seems to affect every person differently.

Part 2 will contain the fungal ecology of the Veins.

If you want to play a Fungus Fellow, check out Lungfungus' class here.


  1. Fun stuff here (but yes, that illustration is almost certainly NSFW).

  2. The fungal fellow class can now be found here: