Hoh Rainforest

Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last!

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Hoh Rainforest
Green Cathedral

Sitka spruces and bigleaf maples draped in green and brown mosses overshadow the trail as it stretches into the depths of the Hoh Rainforest in Washington. Rich soil and 14 feet of yearly rainfall produce a vibrant canopy of trees up to 300 feet tall, while mosses and ferns blanket the forest floor, creating one of the few temperate rainforests in the country.

Fog may linger in the early mornings, sticking to your skin as you travel. Growing among century-old cedar, spruce, and fir trees, lush green ferns tickle at your ankles. You may hear the calm rumble of the Hoh River in the distance, the daily hammering of woodpeckers, or the chirping of tree frogs. Beyond that, there is an eerie silence. The large clumps of moss clinging to and draping from the towering trees smother sound. Black bears and elk roam among the dark green curtains of moss, and in the evening, cougars hunt for their dinner while spotted owls fill the forest with their hooting.

In the spring and summer, the enchanting groves of giants cloaked in moss are like green cathedrals. But in the fall and winter, the scenery darkens and the atmosphere becomes almost horrific. Autumn brings an orange hue to the forest floor and leaves only the dark green and brown moss coating the trees. In winter, the cold rain and darkness blackens the moss. It survives, but the soil darkens, and the tree branches resemble shadowy claws. Windstorms throughout the year fell some of the larger trees; with abundant water and nutrients, they never had to grow the deep roots that anchor trees in other forests. In winter, the fallen are laid bare, and the forest floor is revealed as a titan’s graveyard. When spring comes around again, new trees and mosses sprout from the fallen giants, and lushness returns to the land.

As you come to the edges of the rainforest, the enchanting landscape grows mundane. One of the nearby cities is Forks, made famous by the Twilight series. The massive trees fade away to thinner pines, and the moss grows scattered. It is a common temperate forest that thins out the closer you get to the city until you find yourself returned to the seemingly barren plane of civilization. A place where the ferns and sprouts get mowed down into a proper lawn, and the vibrant mosses so admired in the rainforest are treated with chemicals like persistent pests. It truly is a different world.

Hoh Rainforest in Play

In a campaign, the Hoh Rainforest invites exploration. The moss climbing every root and towering tree gives the area an ancient and enchanting atmosphere. Perhaps while they travel the wilds of the rainforest, the party’s enemies hide traps under beds of moss, turning the terrain treacherous. Ambushes are easy here, but so is tracking. Footprints in the fragile moss and damp earth could help the PCs follow the trap-layers. Maybe a wall of moss hides an overgrown tomb filled with forgotten treasures. The area offers natural dangers like cougars and black bears, but the Hoh Rainforest is also the perfect place to find camouflaged faeries, dryads, moss monsters, or agitated awakened trees. Ancient fey may offer tempting bargains to overhasty mortals. Maybe during the darker winter months in the forest, your party finds a group of druids struggling to commune with nature, indicating a disturbance that the party is beseeched to handle. Your party could even stumble upon a tree-dwelling people who have hidden from the modern world for centuries.

Rather get content like this in podcast form? Every two months I appear on the Dicegeeks podcast to talk about three recent posts. Here’s a link to my most recent episode!