Thursday, February 2, 2012

Encyclopedia Magica: Air Spores

Oh, my! (I know you just read in George Takei's voice.) We have an item that is actually useful. And not just useful, but pretty darn interesting.

And it is an excuse to trot out one of my favorite Latin phrases: Dum spiro, spero.


Rumors indicate that the famed wizard Mordom created these odd, pollen spores. Only a few wizards know how to make them today. Air spores that still exist are usually sequestered as specimens of study in the labs of powerful wizards.
When air spores are ingested by a creature, the spores work their way into the creature's lungs. There they grow, reproduce, and die. While living out their lives, they create oxygen that the host body can use to breathe when deprived of oxygen from the environment. The spores can live for 2d4 days.
In a normal environment, the spores hinder the character's normal respiration, causing all Constitution checks to be made with a -4 penalty. Fortunately, 12 hours of breathing in a normal environment for each day the spores were used will clear the lungs of the colony.

(As a note, this entry is followed by "Chandrasakar's Air Spores", which do exactly the same thing, are worth twice as much, and come with a nifty tale about an entire spelljammer crew being saved.)

Let's look at some of the awesome potential we have here. First, being able to effectively hold your breath for 2d4 days is pretty darned awesome. The obvious use is for underwater adventuring. A less obvious use is as part of a suite of protections to enable travel to the Elemental Planes. A really less obvious use is as part of a crazy plan to fake your death by being hanged (hopefully without your neck being broken) and then buried (hopefully not cremated), only to be dug up by your accomplice quite some time later (hopefully before the 2d4 days are up).

Second, it's spores. That you have to breathe in. You are intentionally infecting yourself with lung mold. If you can't turn that into a bit of interesting roleplay, you are probably playing the wrong game. Of course, the life cycle of the spores is odd. They seem to prefer to infect the lungs, but can't actually survive there long-term. That's a definite marker of genetic manipulation (aka, a wizard did it). It also raises the questions of how you can get more air spores. They seem to be hard to harvest from your lungs.

Finally, they come with a nifty drawback. Though, I'm trying to recall how often Con checks were called for in 2e that didn't involve holding your breath. If I was to convert this to d20, I'd definitely go with a -4 to Fortitude saves and the character is fatigued for the duration.

I don't see a lot of plot hooks revolving around the air spores themselves. I mostly see them as a lovely mechanic for navigating an existing block in the plot. The Castle of Undead is filled with a deadly gas? The kindly swamp witch hooks you up with air spores.

If you want to extend the plot around the air spores a bit more, there are a couple easy ways. On the front side, make a quest out of gathering the mold that the wizard needs to enchant into air spores. On the back side, delete that last sentence from the description, and make it so that the characters have to find a cure for the spores.

Do you have any ideas?

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