Black Mold

 We realized quickly enough that something was wrong with the dream house we had just purchased. At first it was just floors that were wet without cause, and we thought there was an insulation problem, or a leaky roof. The mildewy smell that set in after a week didn’t help. We had no clue how terrible the truth was!

One night my wife woke me up with her screams. Seems she had wanted to go to the bathroom, only to step on a thick carpet of black mold. I swear by all that is holy that the mold writhed and shifted in the dim shine of the nightlight. It retreated under the bed, then appeared on the other side. It looked more like a colony of tiny creatures, mobile as an ant colony, but it was a layer of thick, black rot.

We made a run for it, got in the car and drove off to stay at our neighbors. We avoided thee specifics when we called for help the next day. The cleaner found our home empty but with that distinct mildewy smell. He said it might be covered by wallpapers, and that it might be quite a project to check and clean the building. Still scared, we agreed. I think none of us will ever forgeet what happened next. He never had a chance, and my wife and I barely escaped with our lives. The authorities took over, and I saw CDC vans and several men in dark suits at our house. We aren’t allowed back. Nor would we want to. My wife’s developed severe rashes on her feet and I am having a hard time breathing. We should have moved to California, after all.

Black mold infests houses in humid, warmer areas; usually after a flood brought moisture into the house. The mold is of a dark, blue-black color but otherwise looks like regular mold.

Once the infestation begins, it rapidly spreads, hiding behind wall panels and wallpaper, or under the floor. The mold doesn’t require any light, merely some heat, and any human house has plenty of that for the mold. The spread of the mold can be detected by some slight discolorations in places, especially when only a wallpaper covers the mold, but someone who does not know the tell-tale signs will assume it is merely a normal water discoloration.

After some time, however, the black mold will break out in the open; it will eat through the wooden panels of the wall, the floor, and the wallpaper. It can also be exposed by accident, for example when the house owners open up the wall or floor.

The mold has a rudimentary intelligence that grows as the colony increases in size. At first the mold may only be smart enough to avoid growing in places that would make detection obvious; later it may try to actively infect humans, for example by growing in places where it is likely to be exposed to people, or even by trying to over-grow a person in its sleep.

The mold is corrosive and highly poisonous. Touching the mold will lead to rashes. If the mold enters a person’s bloodstream, the person will suffer severe poisoning and will likely die.

Breathing in the mold’s spores is even more dangerous, as the lungs are a warm, wet place of the mold’s liking and it will infest the lungs of a human and grow there. If this happens, the mold will be able to spread all through the host’s body. When it reaches the brain, the host will go insane from intense headaches. Once the mold has thoroughly infested the host’s brain, it will be able to control the mad host on a rudimentary level. The host will not be smarted than the colony of the mold controlling it; but it will attempt to expose nearby humans to the mold culture. It may also attempt to kill those who threaten the mold. Eventually, the host is killed as the black mold slowly eats up its host from the inside.

The mold is resistant against most commonly used fungicides and because of its throughout spread in the smallest corners it is basically impossible to remove it from a house once infected. Burning the house could release spores, which are then carried to neighboring houses. The safest way to get rid of a black mold colony is to tear down the house, making sure the workers wear protective suits, and then burn the parts in sealed high temperature ovens. Black mold will also wither and die if its environment becomes too dry.

Statistics

Strength: N/A
Agility: N/A
Endurance: N/A
Intelligence: Varies (Low – Medium)
Weapons: Poison (death), lesser mind control
Armor: Immune to physical damage; vulnerable to fire

Moon Ghosts

I was seventeen when I first saw them. I had spent a late evening at a friend’s place – Fridays were D&D nights – and was on my way home. The streets were dark, the full moon blanketed out by dark, thick clouds. The city I lived in was peaceful and quiet, almost no crime rate, and so the darkness was rather cozy than threatening. There was not another living soul out in the streets.

I crossed a small park and came upon the suburb’s market place, a wide, open space bordered by the tiny, newly-reconstructed town hall to my right and the library to my left. As I neared the middle of the square the clouds opened and silver moonlight shone down through the gaps, in wide, silvery beams. I halted, taking in the pale, otherworldly beauty and thought how different a familiar, busy place looked under the circumstances.

It took me a while to notice that I was not, after all, alone. A man stood next to the library, a tall man in light clothes. He was watching me, which felt a bit weird, but I didn’t think too much of it. I averted my eyes and resumed my walk, when I thought I saw a streak of light to my right. Again I halted and looked. There, in front of the townhall, stood another man, white clothes, shiny in the moonlight. There was something very peculiar about these two, I thought, and again resumed my walk.

I saw the next two men as I reached the main road. They stood on the other side, and again they looked in my direction. They were perfectly still, but I kept looking at them as I walked, and I thought that their heads turned to follow me. It was then that I realized what had bothered me about the men – not their white suits or their pale skin, no, it was that none of them seemed to have any hair on their heads whatsoever.

By now my nerves were rattled quite considerably. I was faced with something unknown and, at least to my youthful imagination, unknowable. Who were these men, and why were they watching me?

I kept walking, my pace now quickening. No longer did the moonlit city seem beautiful, it was menacing, cold, alien. I expected to be jumped from the shadows at any time. And I passed several more of the men, all just standing there, watching me. They did not follow me and indeed, none of them moved at all. None spoke. I kept to my side of the road and forced myself not to break into a run. Finally – the East street which would lead me home. I glanced around, to see several of the men still watching me.

As I turned into East street I stopped dead in my tracks. There they were again, three of them. Two on the other side of the road, and one on mine. Should I walk around? Should I pass them? So far, none of them had been hostile. And as I realized this, I told myself that I should man up, these were just regular people – And I was being a scared chicken.

I took a deep breath and resumed walking. As I got closer, I was able to see the man’s features in more detail. He had no hair at all, not even a beard, nor eyebrows. His suit looked like any other white suit, but as I came closer I noticed subtle differences. There seemed to be no pockets in his jacket, no buttons, and no seams. Jacket, shirt, pants and shoes each seemed to be made of one piece, more moulded than sewn. His eyes were the worst about him – they were dark, almost inky black, and they stared at me intently.

I had closed in to about ten meters when a shadow fell on me. I looked behind me, then up, and saw that the dark clouds were pushing in front of the full moon again. I quickly looked back, as I realized I had let myself be distracted, fearing that the men had watched to find just such a moment of opportunity. The man was no longer in front of me. I looked to my left – the ones on the other side of the road had vanished as well. I spun around, but I could discern no trace of them anywhere.

I finally broke into that run. I was now too frightened to think. I ran down East street, turned down into my small side street. I fumbled with the lock, ran up the stairs and into my room, making sure that all curtains were closed and all lights turned on. I never did see the men again, but I took no chances – I’m never leaving home again on a night of a full moon.

When you are young and have an active imagination you sometimes dream the weirdest things. I woke up one morning thinking that I had been chased home the previous night by ghostly figures, and only gradually realized that it had all been just a dream.

Moon Ghosts are strange spirits that only show up on nights when the full moon’s rays touch the earth. They descend from Luna and if you are attentive, you can catch them as they fall – it looks a little bit like a glob of moonlight, silvery-sparkling, a shooting star that silently hits the ground. Where it touches, a moon ghost appears – immobile, immaterial and always silent. They watch, and wait, and they will not harm or interfere with the real world. Indeed you could pass right through them if you are brave, though the sensation is exceedingly unpleasant. If you look away when you are too close, they will disappear.

Their true intentions, and indeed if they have any, are unknown. The Tome of Forbidden Knowledge states that they are the disembodied spirits of a people who lived on Earth’s moon eons ago, but as with all information found in the Tome this has to be taken with a great deal of skepticism.

 

 

Things that Go Bump in the Night

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallThe Blog Carnival – this month hosted by Of Dice And Dragons – is dealing with Things That Go Bump In The Night – or in other words, the strange horrors and creepy-crawlies that lurk just outside your field of view in the darkness. What I am trying to say is, it’s Halloween time! And, although I got a late start, I am going to try and catch up. I have some notes on strange creatures on file that I will post about in the next ten days.

Meanwhile, here are three suitable articles from my archives:

 

Links for October 2014

More semi-monthly links:

  • Mysteries of Medieval Graffiti – Really useful and inspiring if you are looking for flavor for your dungeons, towns, ruins etc.
  • What does war sound like? – War features heavily in our fiction, but few people (in the so-called west, but also in many others) are lucky enough not to ever have been in one. So this article by the BBC should be quite helpful to role-players and authors.
  • Old West Slang and Phrases - I don’t know how authentic this is, but it’s surely inspirational. Also works for your Firefly fanfic, I guess.
  • Apollo Image Atlas – Raw images from Apollo missions in huge resolutions. Not maps, just pretty much the entire catalog.
  • The Painted Warships of WW1.
  • If the average income in 1955 was, say, 4200 Dollars, how much would that be in 1988s Dollars? About 18500. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has a handy Inflation Calculator.

 

 

 

Some assorted links, as usual:

 

Some assorted links:

 

The Icy Embrace of Winter: The Roundup

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoSmallFebruary’s Blog Carnival on the Icy Embrace of Winter was the first time I hosted one, and I didn’t die of stage fright – yay! Thanks to everybody who participated!

If you’d like to catch up on posts, here’s the complete list:

Let me know if I missed one, and don’t forget to check out – and participate – in March’s Blog Carnival, hosted by Douglas at Gaming Ballistic. The topic: Virtual Table Tops and Online RPGs!

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser

The Anarctic Snow Cruiser
The Anarctic Snow Cruiser

The Antarctic Snow Cruiser was a massive vehicle designed by Thomas Pulter in the late 1930s. Intended to facilitate transport in Antarctica, it was a failure: its smooth wheels were unsuitable for gaining traction in the snow and the vehicle’s weight caused it to sink 90cm into the snow. Ironically, the wheels produced more traction when the vehicle drove backwards. The snow cruiser was then used as shelter for the expedition before being abandoned. The start of World War II prevented further funding.

The snow cruiser was rediscovered twice; once in the 1940s – when it only needed air in its tires to become operational – and once in 1958. The fate of the snow cruiser is unknown; it is likely buried deep in the ice or sunk to the bottom of the ocean when the ice shelf it was left on split.

Use of the Snow Cruiser

The snow cruiser is an excellent gimmick for any type of campaign or story:

  • Discovering the Snow Cruiser could be an event/encounter in an Antarctic hex crawl. Wild animals or monsters could make their home in it, and perhaps some useful items were left in the vehicle.
  • Like the original, it could make the core of a makeshift base; it could even be used to hide the entrance to an underground base.
  • A working model may be used by secret agents in a Bond style adventure
  • Vehicles similar to the Snow Cruiser could be used on other planets in a Traveller science fiction campaign, presumably it would especially work on smaller, low gravity worlds.
  • In a steampunk or weird science setting, the snow cruiser may be even bigger than it actually was.
  • According to rumor the original Snow Cruiser was taken by the Soviets. This is almost certainly not true, but in your adventure or story this could very well be the case – Especially if some sort of classified information was left on board, or a secret technology used in the construction of the vehicle (perhaps a new type of nuclear battery or miniature fusion power plant in a Sci Fi context).

Have any Snow, Winter, Arctic themes or ideas to share? Take part in February’s Blog Carnival on The Icy Embrace of Winter!

The Dangers of Winter

Iced Trees. Image by Jake N.
Iced Trees. Image by Jake N.

One of the great things about the Icy Embrace of Winter is that it introduces environmental dangers to an otherwise perfectly hospitable and safe region. The complications caused by these dangers add difficulty to an otherwise normal situation and create a sense of urgency since prolonged exposure to the elements can cause injury or death. Most of the dangers can be mitigated with preparation and technology, but even a modern society can buckle or break down under severe weather conditions.

Here’s a checklist of environmental conditions to consider in a winter scenario:

Snow: The most obvious one. Snow can make travel difficult and even block access to some locations entirely. Even in a modern setting, roads could be uncleared, making access to – or escape from – your adventure locale difficult or impossible. Buildings can be damaged or even collapse under the weight of accumulated snow. Snowfall reduces visibility and can covert tracks, making wilderness orienteering harder.

Ice: Lakes and even rivers can freeze over completely; this allows people on foot, or maybe even horse or car, access to locations they couldn’t go before, but it blocks travel by boat. Ice can be a hazard to shipping even if it’s not a continuous ice cover – famously illustrated by the fate of the Titanic. On land, ice can make roads or other terrain impassable (because it’s slippery) and it can damage or destroy infrastructure.

Wind: Storms and snow can combine to create blizzards. Without protective goggles, this can further reduce visibility – to the point of being essentially blinding. Wind also causes snow drifts and can shift snow into otherwise sheltered places. Wind chill will enhance the effects of low temperature on animals and humans by increasing the rate at which their bodies cool down. And of course, high winds can cause further damage to infrastructure by themselves.

Cold: Prolonged exposure to extreme cold can cause hypothermia and frostbite. Elderly people and infants are more susceptible than adults. Temperature below freezing can damage vegetation, and thus destroy harvests if it’s unseasonal. It can cause pipes to burst. If a city depends on an external source of fresh water – for example brought in by Aqueduct – this can complicate life, though the citizens can always melt ice and snow for drinking water. Remember that cold is relative; a society in a Mediterranean or tropical climate is less prepared to deal with cold than people who live in subarctic regions.

Frostbite: Damage to body tissue caused by cold. A wind chill of -30C will cause frostbite in 30 minutes. Frostbite causes loss of feeling in and a white or pale appearance of fingers, toes, ear lobes or the nose. Extreme frostbite can cause these to essentially die, requiring amputation. It’s not pretty and presumably not something you wish to inflict on your protagonists; but there are always side characters/NPCs.

Hypothermia: If a person’s body temperature drops below 35°C, it can eventually kill. Survivors may still experience lasting damage to internal organs. Warning signs include shivering, memory loss and disorientation, and incoherence. Victims will also appear drowsy and exhausted. This is probably more suitable for a protagonist or player character, and, as it increases the difficulty of regular tasks, much more likely to add drama and tension to a situation than frostbite.

Creatures: In a more fantastic or science fiction setting, winter may bring creatures to inhabited lands that do not normally venture there – The Wendigo, Yetis, ice elementals, or even white dragons. Such creatures may actually also be beneficial, since sources for food are scarce in winter, and their fur or scales may be a valuable commodity.