Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Fun with Microbiology: Brewer's Bane

So, I've previously noted a love for microbiology, as well as modules in which it is a plot point.


Well, in addition to my own proclivities, microbiology has driven the world.  Just as early humans had to follow the herds and plants to survive, so were they vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the microscopic world.  There are more bacterial cells in and on you than cells of you.  (Your cells are just bigger.)  If you could scour your system of every microbe, you'd die, either from bacterial infection (the flora on your skin typically out-competes any interlopers), starvation (the flora in your gut helps you digest your food), or some thing I haven't thought of yet.

Apart from that, agriculture created a whole host of challenges.  Since you're not following the plants, you have to avoid leaching too much nitrogen from the soil in your planting cycles (which is easily-remedied by planting legumes, whose symbiotic root nodules help enrich the soil again).  Also, now you have to store food, which gets into the problem of storage and spoilage.  You have to figure out what to do with your corpses and your sick people so they don't infect the whole village.

And so on.

Anyway, forgive my rambling.  Hereticwerks posted a write-up about the myxogastrids, also known as Brewer's Bane.  These are slime molds that like to eat yeasts, thereby ruining bread and beer production.  Since this stuff is important to any fantasy medieval society (scholars tend to think that bread and beer, along with animal husbandry, were among the first examples of biotechnology harnessed by humans — and your typical agricultural society thrives on all three of these things), it's just the sort of thing a group of adventurers might have to worry about.  Maybe your traveling band has the knowledge necessary to stop the infestation, or maybe the Ancients knew how to do it, and the device/spell/aseptic technique lies in a dungeon somewhere.

For a truly unfortunate story hook, what if something your band of murderhobos is carrying has become infested with the slime mold, meaning that you bring it to every town you visit?

Anyway, go read the post, would you?

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