While Dungeons & Dragons is a vaunted tabletop role-playing game that has gone on to inspire countless other digital and analog games, even it has inspirations from older media.
Of all the media that inspired Dungeons & Dragons, J.R.R. Tolkien's writings are arguably the most significant influence on the fantasy trappings of this game. This is especially evident with the halfling, a hobbit, with the serial numbers filed off, and the ent, a sentient tree.
What Is a Treant?
Put simply, a treant (pronounced “tree-ant”) is a sentient tree that can speak and even uproot itself and move about.
The general physical form of a treant tends to have face-like features within its bark, some sort of split within the trunk that serves as its legs, and one pair of branches with a bit more length than the rest to serve as arms.
The wood of a treant may seem solid like a rock, but it is actually saturated with tubes that interact with water the same way a human's vascular system handles blood, moving water stored within the roots to where the treant needs it most. Given its name, a disease like “tube wilt” can be pretty severe to a treant's lifespan.
What Are Treants Like
Adolescent treants tend to be rebellious, idealistic, and bursting with energy.
However, the treants who manage to survive their adolescence tend to chill out a great deal and enjoy the contentment of spending their years in the quiet contemplation of the natural environments they choose to dwell within while rigidly posing as a regular tree.
Any treant who willingly remains rooted within view of a particular species of tree for over a year can slowly change its appearance to match that specific species over the course of a week. Sufficiently aged treants can accelerate this aesthetic transmutation to half that amount of time.
Despite their preference for mostly sitting in one place when possible, treants are keenly aware of what goes on around them. Arguably, the wisdom of these beings comes from a combination of having excellent hearing and a lifespan that can reach into the hundreds, if not thousands, of years. Treants can communicate and understand the Common, Druidic, Elvish, Sylvan, and Druidic languages and their unique language, treant.
Indeed, while individual campaign settings may vary in their handling of when various magical species entered the world, the Forgotten Realms setting notes that Faerun's treants are older than the elves and mind flayers.
These wizened spell-slinging sages, oaks, and pines are likely to use their magic to summon creatures from the wilderness as protectors, informants, or messengers, often because their source tree was already pretty magical. Treants also have a god (in the Forgotten Realms); Emmantiensien is a contraction of this god's Treant name and alludes that he is slow to anger but fearsome when enraged.
Not All Treants Are the Same
Like dealing with humans in real life or even elves in fantasy, treants can come in several varieties. This section covers the notable types of treant found within the Forgotten Realms.
The treants of this forest became infested with rot grubs. Any treant plagued by tube wilt suffered from a secondary ailment where small cracks would appear along their root systems, allowing rot grubs to develop and feast upon the decaying wood.
The grubs would saturate through the treant's root system and devour all of the rotten wood and the fungi responsible for the tube wilt. Because the grubs would take up permanent residence in the affected treants and their presence did not harm the treant, it is not an uncommon experience for elder treants to house hundreds of rot grubs.
As a countermeasure against being eaten by animals like horses and woodchucks, these treants arranged violet fungi around their roots. The fungi tapped into the treant's root system and were able to thrive upon the treat's sap, and the tree would be protected by the fungi's ability to rot any flesh it came into contact with.
When it comes to xylophagous vermin like beetles and ants, these treants made their upper bodies suitable homes for bats. Lastly, black squirrels' preference for the shoots of female treants is a crucial reason why Cormanthor treants' numbers are not as prominent as they could be.
The treants of Faerun's Rimwood forest are mostly birch-like in appearance, with lengthy roots for drawing in water. Their sap smells of lemon and mint and has often been used for flavoring or perfumery.
Many of these treants are known to house rot grubs, black squirrels, bats, and purple fungi, much like the Coranthor species.
The leaves of these treants are often compared to golden willows and black locusts.
This species is known to use violet fungi as a countermeasure to omnivorous brush rats. These treants' bark can be boiled to produce appropriately colored dye.
These treants resemble dark-brown oaks or gray elms. Half of their lot were pacifists, while the others were hostile to trespassers.
Rot grubs, violet fungi, black squirrels, and bats are also common fixtures with these treants. The leaves of a Starwood treant are usable as a reagent in certain medications intended for plague or fever.
Maztican treants are similar to most other treants in Faerun, but they tend to prefer ignorance over hostility regarding foreign trespassers. These beings consider themselves the royalty of their forests and expect others to recognize this self-importance and agree to it.
Most youthful treants from this region have an appearance close to duskwoods, while most of the adolescent ones tend to go for more of a blue wood look.
Okay, But How Does a Tree Become a Treant?
When a tree becomes a treant, it has been around for decades or even centuries of “meditation.”
Only treants or advanced druids can sense the “spark” of life within a tree; these beings can then serve as wardens until the tree's imminent metamorphosis occurs.
The change from tree to treant also entails some physical alteration, with the tree's appearance gradually shifting to reflect the overall appearance of neighboring treants.
Once a treant awakens, it enjoys the same lifespan and potential for growth as if it had never gained sentience and sapience.
How Do I Turn a Tree Into a Treant?
Anyone looking to create a treant will need access to the 5th level druid spell, awaken, and cast it upon a Huge-size tree.
How Does My Druid Turn Into a Treant?
Druids can't become treants without the DM arranging it or using third-party books.
In a world where the very trees can be given self-awareness, mobility and the ability to speak, it should not be surprising that some slain treants can be brought back to life through necromancy.
Many treants know when their final years are coming, but they accept their impending demise and are content to meditate in peace, while those who choose to fight against it will either rampage across the land like a death-seeking berserker or look into magic.
If a treant chooses to become undead, its appearance is one of the most obvious tells. Undead treants resemble any other deciduous tree found during the winter, barren of leaves and possessing a bark that seems especially brittle.
Unlike regular trees and treants, which feed upon sunlight and water, undead treants feed upon the blood of living creatures, and the grip that their roots exert is so strong that only a third party can free a victim from its exsanguination.
While an undead treant's intellect is just as sharp as it was in life, they can't bring other trees to life as treants like their living counterparts. These creatures will lair in small copses of dead trees and usually cohabitate with no more than three other undead treants.
While player characters may come across a treant, there is no guarantee that that treant will want to deal with the PCs. Maybe the surrounding flora, fauna, and biota will be more actively invested in interacting with them.
As previously mentioned, several creatures tend to show up around a treant, including squirrels, woodchucks, violet fungus, bats, and even whole villages of sprites, whom the treant has permitted to establish within its boughs.
It is also possible that the PCs will first deal with any local creature that is friendly toward the treant and serves as either a guardian or scout.
If you haven't dealt with a territorial treant, the only reason the PCs might initially be hostile is if they've been careless with fire, poisoned trees, or helped destroy a great tree. This ire would be even greater if the poisoned or killed tree was on the cusp of awakening as a treant.
An angry treant has the natural reach of a Huge creature and is capable of slam attacks, throwing rocks, and animating 1-2 trees once a day. They are also siege monsters, meaning their damage is even greater when interacting with structures and objects.
As treants are trees, they naturally resist bludgeoning and piercing weapons but are susceptible to slashing attacks and vulnerable to fire. Fire is the best way to deal with Treants, since they're fuel.
The biggest question regarding fighting treants is, “what is there to gain?” Your players have killed or routed an entity that is content to sit around.
As a result, any treasure gleaned would likely be merely what the treant found. There might be something to be gained if that treant was also the foundation for an entire sprite village, but that scenario also means that the treant would likely have a sizeable amount of backup in the encounter. Of course, your players might monstrously decide to harvest the treant's wood and bark as raw materials to be sold.
What Class Should a Treant Be?
This is a common question that DMs for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons may ponder, and the short answer is “Don't.” 5th Edition is a system with a clear line between what the players are supposed to do and what everyone else is supposed to do-giving monsters some of the powers and abilities that players enjoy is just going to be a nightmare.
Now, if you were playing an older edition of D&D, like 3rd or 3.5th Edition, where it encourages anyone to play as anything, then a treant character would be made even more powerful by giving it levels in a druid, barbarian, wizard, or sorcerer.
Famous and Notable Treants in D&D
- Sequaxion, the gardener of Ravens Bluff's For-Rest Inn.
- The Seven Seedlings of the Verdant Sages, are the immature offspring of the North's most ancient esteemed treants from mid–14th century Dale Reckoning.
- Turlang, guarded the northwestern High Forest, to the point the grove is called “Turlang's Wood.”
What Source Book Is the Treant From in D&D?
Treants have been part of Dungeons & Dragons from the start, appearing on page 96 of the first “Monster Manual.”