In this series of posts on Strange Ecology, I am introducing various aspects of the ecological nature of particular regions in my campaign setting, Memory Fading. I hope to let you see a little bit about how I make the decisions I do, and how I am trying to bring just a bit more realism into my setting.
In my last post, I talked about a small little creature that will be introduced into Memory Fading in a region called the Chulgeth. Ravyn asked how this creature will relate to the overall ecology, considering that it is likely to be low on the prey-list of predators fearing being poisoned. So, we’ll take a look today at how the ecology works around this strange little creature. First things first, though, this little reptile has been given a name. The Hiths apparently believe these little lizard-like creatures have some sort of relationship to the feared God of Plague, Ezhrin, and have thus named the creatures “ezhrinoles,” or “plague-bearers.”
The ezhrinoles do not synthesize their toxins, but sequester them from their food sources. Ezhrinoles are omnivorous reptiles, and their two favorite foods are what give them their poisonous secretions.
The first is type of fungus, known as “bohrinfel” to the locals, that grows in tiny, five-stalk clusters, and have bulbous, blue heads. The fungus, when ground to a fine paste, can be used to coat darts and blades, and thus bring down large and otherwise deadly game by causing a short-term paralysis. Some amongst the Hiths have been known to use this fungus in various ceremonies for communing with spirits.
The second source of the ezhrinoles toxins come from small beetles called “gardlers,” which have a very painful bite. They are only the size of a human child’s thumb nail, but their bite can cause searing, tear-inducing pain in full-grown adults. The bites leave angry, reddish welts on the skin, before causing the skin to swell and blacken, and then finally return to normal. Sometimes this painful reaction can take up to ten days to run its course, which means that Hiths, and other knowledgeable explorers, will steer far clear from the little beetles’ nests. The Hiths have been known to set traps that involve releasing swarms of these beetles on unsuspecting enemies.
Due to the evolved nature of the ezhrinoles, the little reptiles are able to consume both of these food sources without pain or paralysis, and then the chemical reactions in their bodies secret the toxin they are known for. It is suspected by the Feng Tower that the deformities are caused by these reactions, but other than causing physical abnormalities, the creatures seem to be a strong contender in the local ecology.
The toxins on the skin keep smaller predators away, but any creatures at least as large as a wolf seem to have no significant issues by eating the ezhrinoles. They are a main food source for the much larger reptiles of the Chulgeth, such as the bhing dragons, circoidilles, and horlitors. Humans can even eat the lizards if they are properly washed, and in some Hith tribes, they are considered a delicacy.
In recent years, several groups of sirish scholars from the Feng Tower have begun studying these creatures, curious of the strange evolution that has led to the small reptiles being immune to this certain kind of poison.
It is very common in campaign settings and worlds for there to be these very practical uses for ecology (poisons, spirit-wandering, etc). However, what I really want to do is bring in the non-gaming aspects of these ecosystems. So what kinds of uses could indigenous peoples find for these sorts of things? Do you have different ways you may possibly use them in your campaign? Please let me know your thoughts, it will help me decide which direction to go next.