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Joxora’s Flora of the Planes – the Pilli Pilli

Content of the article: "Joxora’s Flora of the Planes – the Pilli Pilli"

Pilli Pilli – the Proliferated Pain-Bringer

Native to the meadows and forest edges that border cities and villages across the land, the Pilli Pilli is a simple and attractive, albeit notorious plant. The Pilli Pilli appears as a light bramble with thrice-pronged leaves, orange flowers of five petals, and little red berries in the fall, though its most infamous and defining characteristic is near invisible; save for the petals of its flowers, every surface of this common plant is covered in fine, translucent hairs that break from the plant at the slightest graze, and embed themselves in the flesh of unsuspecting passersby. The pain delivered by the Pilli Pilli is said to roll in like a wave and last for up to weeks, often described as being repeatedly stabbed with bundles of burning needles. The pain experienced is so great that the plant has reportedly been used on rare occasions as an instrument of torture to spies and public enemies. Notably, Pilli Pilli is a favored plant of domestic cats, which, apparently unaffected by the painful invisible needles, can often be found rolling amongst and eating the bramble – much to the chagrin of their owners. The plant appears to induce a hallucinogenic state in these animals when ingested, a state which also occurs to a lesser extent in Tabaxi.

Transcriber’s Note – Oh, the pain of a Pilli Pilli’s sting. Of this experience, I am intimately familiar. As a child, I had quite the penchant for wild berries – the plants grew wild along the fence outside the family farm, and bore fresh, delicious fruit in the hottest months of the year. Troublingly for any ignorant child, the Pilli Pilli bears some similarity to the common berry bramble. And so I found myself on multiple occasions rifling through bushes I should not have, and came away with a seering sting that clung to me for days. For some time I just didn’t learn my lesson however, as the allure of those tasty berries was just too great.*

As Joxora made note, that troublesome plant seems to love living along the cusp of society. Civilization expands like a flood broken free of a dam, rushing across the land with surprising speed and force. And like a flood, it drags along many things one might not have wanted to move – in this case, the dreadful Pilli Pilli. Such a strong relationship this plant has with the pioneer face of society, living on the border of village and wilderness, that the damned plants won’t be shaken even with a dedicated culling. Such a thing was tried in the westerly regions a few years back, only for it to grow back in abundance the following season. Frustratingly, as it is a problem only for the most disjunct and disconnected of towns, the greater kingdom governments have rallied no consistent effort to exterminate the pesky bramble.

A historical record of note, which I stumbled upon in my research on the Pilli Pilli; it seems the Tabaxi are indeed particularly fond of the plant, at least in certain periods of history. I am still uncertain of what relationship the Tabaxi have to true cats, wild and domestic, but one cannot deny the similarities in appearance and, to a lesser extent, behavior, which connects them. Like house cats, Tabaxi are completely unaffected by the stinging bramble, for some reason I do not fully understand. While both animals have an unusual affinity for the plant, the Tabaxi’s relationship is one more ingrained in culture. It seems that at numerous points in history, when Tabaxi went to battle against non-Tabaxi creatures, they ritualistically scrubbed themselves with Pilli Pilli leaves. The act served two functions; firstly, the plant’s stinging fibers became lodged in the Tabaxi’s fur, becoming a sort of defense against anyone foolish enough to grapple them or make skin-to-fur contact. Secondly, the plant’s mild hallucinogenic properties supposedly induced a state of hyper-awareness in the Tabaxi, giving them an edge in battle – although this is merely anecdotal. I can certainly appreciate the potent defense of a Pilli Pilli-infused fur coat, as I do not wish to relive my childhood experiences with that agonizing plant.

-E. Foxglove

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The Pain of a Pilli Pilli Sting, and Botanical "Armor"

To all but the tabaxi and a few furry animals, the Pilli Pilli is nothing but a painful nuisance. Growing into sprawling thickets that run the length of the fences around the farm, or amongst the foliage at the edge of the creeping forest, the Pilli Pilli sits quietly waiting for a fool to come within arms reach of it. The plant tantalizes strangers with its attractive flowers and tantalizing berries, but in fact the entirety of the plant is inedible and loaded with a powerful dose of pain for anyone ignorant of its potential. That is, again, except for the tabaxi and a handful of other creatures.

There is something about their fur coats and the skin beneath that leaves the tabaxi unaffected by the stinging embrace of the Pilli Pilli. The slivers of microscopic translucent fiber which snap off on contact with the plant cannot seem to penetrate much further than their dense pelts, and even on direct contact with soft tissues like those on the nose, do little more than illicit a mild itch. To this day, the reason for this phenomenon is not known. Cats of all kinds are particularly notorious for their relationship with the plant, a borderline obsession compared to the tabaxi's mild interest. Barn cats are rarely touched on most farms without a thorough brushing nowadays, as they often spend a few hours of the day rolling amongst and eating Pilli Pilli leaves, acquiring a fine layer of painful fibers woven amongst their furs. The cats seem to enter a state of intense hallucination in the process, growing lazy and staring into space with saucer-sized pupils.

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The tabaxi have adopted this practice as well, on occasion – although the plant brings them little enjoyment and substantially less hallucinogenic influence. Before battle, some tabaxi warriors made a practice of anointing themselves with Pilli Pilli leaves, or even binding themselves with the bramble, using it like armor. Against non-tabaxi, mere contact with the plant typically brought searing pain that refused to dissipate. It was an added edge against their combatants, which the tabaxi used regularly for a time. For whatever reason, the application of Pilli Pilli in war fluctuated in history, falling out of favor here and there, but re-emerging as a "novel" strategy occasionally, the plant's potential rediscovered. In any case, any creature facing tabaxi in war are wise to reconsider their stance, as they may be met with pain beyond anything they have felt before.

The Power of the Pilli Pilli Sting

If a creature (excluding tabaxi and cats) makes contact with Pilli Pilli plant material against bare skin, they must make a CON saving throw (DC 17). On a failure, the creature is wracked with pain at the location of contact. The creature suffers 1d6 piercing damage (add up to 3d6 additional damage depending on the degree of contact – e.g. brushing a leaf against one's hand vs. falling into a Pilli Pilli bush), or half as much on a save. On a failure, concentration checks from here until the next long rest are made at disadvantage.

Raging creatures automatically succeed this saving throw.

To be Anointed by the Pilli Pilli

Any creature immune to the Pilli Pilli's sting may infuse their bodies temporarily with some of the pain-inducing powers of the plant. For this process, the creature must have access to Pilli Pilli plants, either living plants or harvested materials. A single Pilli Pilli plant is only good for one use when applied this way.

During a short rest, the creature may spend this time rolling in the Pilli Pilli plant, or vigorously rubbing it all over their body. Some of the plant's fibers become trapped in their fur, which can then be passed on to other creatures through contact.

From that point until after their next long rest, any creature which directly contacts the anointed creature with bare skin suffers 1d4 piercing damage. If contact is dealt by the anointed creature striking a target with an unarmed strike, this damage is added to that attack damage. This effect is repeated each time contact is made. Damage increases to 2d4 if dealt through contact via grappling.

Hey y'all, hope you guys enjoy this species, it was one of the first I made way back when that I ended up re-writing a few times, until it became something I was happy with. It's inspired by one of my favorite real-life plants, the pain-dealing "suicide plant" otherwise known as the gympie gympie (Dendrocnide moroides). It's terrifyingly unassuming, anyone unfamiliar should definitely look it up. If anyone would like to read about these sources of inspiration, or see more species and a lot of art, please check out the Joxora's Flora patreon (link is in my user page bio). I post there consistently every week on Sundays, and sometimes toss additional stuff there throughout the week. Thanks again for your continued support and interest in the project!

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Source: reddit.com

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