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There could also be something like a vengeful water elemental replacing the former spirit of the well/the aquifer, or a malicious entity with toad-like venomous slime giving off that stuff. 

Leaving a rotting carcass in an aqueduct or its reservoir may be a combination of active microbes, spores, and microbial poison. Numerous molds can act that way, curse-of-the-mummy style aflatoxine dust for instance can be carried by air, or settle into water supply or aqueducts.

 

2 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

So is botulism a disease? And that is more than just a snarky nitpick - in RuneQuest terms, would you use Treat Disease skill or Treat Poison to deal with botulism? Clearly eliminating the underlying pathogen would be Treat Disease, but which should we use to treat the symptoms?

Treat Poison on the patient, and exorcism on whichever ingested resource has the chlostridium botuli infection.

If you are going with real world properties of that microbe, Air powers might render it inactive, whereas Darkness will further the production of the poison (increase its potency). Water powers of purification may cleanse the water batch-wise, but won't necessarily destroy the source (often rotting flesh or other organic matter in enclosed conditions). Fire may burn it off once you separated it from the water, and might even be a radical cure for the poisoning. Earth may starve that organism, or find ones that feed on it and its metabolites (and the latter would be Darkness being helpful, too).

 

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I would not class botulism as a disease - you will not catch botulism from someone suffering from botulism.  You treat the symptoms of the victim with treat poison (because that is what they are suffering from) and then you would need to treat the source of the poison with another skill (which might as well be treat disease - you would be removing the infectious agent from wherever it seems to be sitting).

The skill Treat Disease is interesting in the light of the conversation as, if disease is all about being possessed by a disease spirit, is the treatment simply tending to the symptoms without touching the disease or does the treatment involve doing preparations that allows the person to another chance to evict the possessing spirit, presumably with the spirit in a weakened form??  The presence of the skill looks like it implies a real-world disease paradigm.  I would need to go look again at the skill description to see what that says...

Stephen

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17 hours ago, womble said:

Just because your method of interacting with magic is Sorcery doesn't make all the small spirits go away. The Westerners just use different tools to deal with them. They might also use different terms of reference, but they'll translate into the same entities in game terms.

Spot on. I've had a good look at this for the Prax book

Quote

 

Three categories of disease exist: common, mortal, and plague.

The common diseases are associated with the Darkness Rune and are normally non-fatal, the victim eventually becomes completely debilitated unless treated. They include: Black Boils, Black Tongue, Bleeding Disease, Bloat, Blotches, Boggle Trot, Brittleskin, Creeping Crudd, Convulsions, Fever, Joint Rot, Ringing (tinnitus), Slow Withers, Sneezing/Sniffles, Thunder Lung, White Eye, and Withering Disease.

The mortal diseases are associated with the Death Rune and are normally fatal unless treated. They include: Blood Lung, Brain Fever, Creeping Chills, The Shakes and Wasting Disease which has three types - Body, Spirit and Soul.

The common and mortal diseases were defeated in the God Time by various deities, but one escaped - the Plague, whose spirit is associated with the Chaos Rune. It is still the source of unique diseases capable of depopulating whole nations, if not detected and stopped quickly. Such plagues were common in the Great Darkness, but have been rare since the Dawn. Plague normally only comes back into the world as the result of a great effort and heroquest by one of Mallia’s mad shaman.

 

All are basically spirit based and all but plague can be treated with appropriate magics or skills - all basically remove the spirit and send it on, avoiding it going into someone else. If you method succeeds, it's gone and disposed off, if it fails the disease may jump bodies / get more powerful / split into two / etc.

Disease spirits are attracted to waste, put in places by baddies or actively aimed at someone. The point is they can jump and when they find a home to feed from they stay until the victims dies and they can move on. They can manifest at places holy to Mallia and Thed. The Axis mundi of their shaman attracted them as per the spell.

Other diseases exist and are normally just the ones above renamed. Most are common diseases.

Food poisoning is normally boggle trot. It doesn't work like our world (microbiology degree hat on) there are no bacteria producing toxins that poison you. A broo would plant or shed loads of boggle trot spirits in a kitchen and move on.

I see the common diseases being small looking spirits moving in groups, the mortal spirits being human sized and more singular. Plague is what ever you need in your story.

 

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8 hours ago, David Scott said:

Disease spirits are attracted to waste, put in places by baddies or actively aimed at someone.

I'd make this slightly broader and simply say Disease Spirits are attracted to Disoder.  Waste is Disorder, whether intentional or not.  As Disorder increases, so do opportunities for Disease Spirits to manifest at the spot and enter the mundane world.  This can be particularly problematic in cities (and not just through waste, but disorderly conduct, theft, and other activities).

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14 hours ago, David Scott said:

All are basically spirit based and all but plague can be treated with appropriate magics or skills - all basically remove the spirit and send it on, avoiding it going into someone else. If you method succeeds, it's gone and disposed off, if it fails the disease may jump bodies / get more powerful / split into two / etc.

In game terms, this all seems great, in system terms, what is going on with the skilled/magic free healer treating a disease?  If it was to be gamed, what is happening?  Are there herbs and substances that are inimical to disease spirits and, if so, could similar skills not be applied to other aspects of spirit combat? 

I ask because I know my players and they will, quite understandably, look for those little edges they might gain.

I am also surprised that the common diseases are associated simply with Darkness.  To me that makes some sense but I would have thought they were also associated with Fire (especially those that have a fever element or even rashes).

 

stephen

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6 hours ago, jajagappa said:

I'd make this slightly broader and simply say Disease Spirits are attracted to Disoder. 

So, if you fail to properly maintain your water system, it falls into slight disorder which increases the chance that there will be one or more disease spirits hanging around at any one time?

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2 hours ago, StephenMcG said:

In game terms, this all seems great, in system terms, what is going on with the skilled/magic free healer treating a disease?  If it was to be gamed, what is happening?  Are there herbs and substances that are inimical to disease spirits and, if so, could similar skills not be applied to other aspects of spirit combat?

I ask because I know my players and they will, quite understandably, look for those little edges they might gain.

The system already allows for this. You are allowed one augment of any kind for a roll. So your find herbs skill could be used with treat disease. Likewise with spirit combat, however spirit compares levels of successes, so resistance isn't really covered, except in absorbing damage. There may well be herbs and other substances that protect against the damage of spirit combat but likely being unmagical I would suggest a Maximum of two or three points. Magical protection is much more effective.

2 hours ago, StephenMcG said:

I am also surprised that the common diseases are associated simply with Darkness.  To me that makes some sense but I would have thought they were also associated with Fire (especially those that have a fever element or even rashes).

Darkness comes from Mallia's source, she is associated with Death, Darkness and with the broos, chaos.

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Per "Wyrms Footnotes," the sewers of Furthest are an appropriate venue for Gloranthan dungeon-bashing, as seen in Chris Gidlow's "Young Thrax" freeform and the Unspoken Word's "Tarsh in Flames" fanzine. Here are some background notes I cobbled together.

THE SEWERS OF FURTHEST

History

The City of Furthest’s sewer network began as a canal which drained the marshlands of the Oslir on which the planned Lunar city was built; as the city grew, this filled with waste from the growing population making the city increasingly unwholesome. Eventually, in the reign of King Phargentes, the canal was dug deeper and bricked over to prevent foul Air from rendering the city uninhabitable, and the modern sewers of Furthest were born: a grandiose civil engineering feat which serves to drain the marsh, tame storm-water surges, and keep the city and its streets clean and fresh.

Construction

The main construction material is the ubiquitous red bricks, sun-baked or fire-hardened, formed from the clays of Tarsh; building techniques are modelled on those of Dara Happan cities, benefiting from Carmanian and Sylilan innovations and the planned nature of Lunar Furthest.

The principal channel of the Furthest sewer system is the Cloaca Maxima, a barrel-vaulted (ie: semi-cylindrical) storm sewer about ten feet across, fed by smaller branching side channels. It runs beneath the central east-west street of the city, and empties into the Oslir River; when Rockwood Mountains’ snowcaps melt each Sea Season and the river rises, a backwash of fresh river water flows into the Cloaca (this is celebrated as the Holy Day of the Cleansing Oslira cult).

The most obvious “official” entrances to the sewer system are the Temple of Cleansing Oslira in the centre of Furthest, and the outflow into the reinforced Oslir embankment. There are, of course, others: private, secret and accidental. Side channels can be accessed from streets or basements, and occasionally interconnect with other underground features such as the catacombs, sangueducts, basements of the Royal Palace, etc.

The Cloaca Maxima has a walkway either side of the main channel high enough for a man to walk upright. To traverse any of the side channels, you would have to wade in foul water: this can be knee-high in Fire or Earth Season, but is usually waist-high from Dark Season through Sea Season, with dangerous surges when Orlanth rages overhead in Storm Season or the mighty Oslir floods each Sea Season. (The Cult of the Seven Mothers asserts that both storms and floods have abated since the construction of the Reaching Moon Temple, now that Lunar Tarsh benefits from the stability and balance of the Glowline; pre-Lunar records are patchy, but give some credence to these tales).

[INSERT NIFTY CROSS-SECTION DIAGRAM]

Function

The sewer system is fed by streams (both above-ground and underground, some of them diverted), by waste-water from the public bath-houses, and by storm-water drains in the city streets: Lunar Tarsh has few of the aqueducts seen in the Empire’s heartlands, and there are no Mostali hydraulic pumps or other such anachronisms. Sewage enters via steeply sloping or vertical terracotta pipes (mass-produced locally), which connect the latrines found in the more luxurious private homes and public insula blocks to the system. These pipes are flushed by emptying water into them from rooftop rainwater tanks or pails filled from street fountains. Solid waste falls into cesspools, usually ten feet deep, where several pipes debouch: these are periodically excavated by the Earth cults for use as a rich fertiliser (usually in early Earth Season, when the water level is lowest), and reinforced lest they collapse. Liquid waste is washed away through the channels of the sewer system, eventually flowing (untreated, obviously) into the Cloaca Maxima and thence, the Oslir.

Dangers and Traps

There are few vents from the sewer system, so pockets of foul air and gases can build up over time as solid waste ferments in the cesspools, with occasionally nauseating or dangerous consequences. Sometimes pockets of stinking, unbreathable air belch upwards into buildings connected to the sewer system – a noble palace, perhaps, or a poorly-constructed apartment block. Those who travel the sewers of Furthest can recognise the foul stench of Orlanth’s Evil.

From time to time, poorly maintained cesspools collapse, sucking in unwary citizens as the ground below their feet gives way and drags them down to a vile death. Thus do the treacherous Dark Earth Goddesses of the Oslir Marshes claim their hideous revenge on civilisation.

Treasures

It’s a sewer system, not a Royal Vault (in all fairness, it’s a sewer system connected to a Royal Vault), but nevertheless… from time to time, valuable items are dropped into the cesspools, or flushed down the storm-drains from the city streets above: this can happen inadvertently, or through the richness of noble cuisine (banquets may contain exotic spice-seeds, gold leaf, pearls, or other indigestible rarities which in due course are ejected into the cesspits), but sometimes the sewers are seen as an easy way to hide or dispose of unwanted items (cursed treasures, inconvenient corpses, or things too recognisable to be sold). Also, underworld figures can move freely through the sewers avoiding patrols in the streets above, and these thieves and fences of Furthest may well carry valuables with them.

Inhabitants

The sewers have few permanent inhabitants other than vermin (eg: marsh-snakes, swamp-rats and rubble-runners), criminals and renegades, and the albino sewer monsters of urban legend (cannibal pigs, crocodiles, and the rumoured Block Cess Monster). Occasional unhappy Native Furthese militia patrols can be encountered, on punishment detail or special assignment, guided by representatives of the Union of Sanitation Engineers, a specialist guild of professional civil dungeoneers. Elite Royal Palace Guards clad in their crimson and gold panoply bar the entrance to the palace cellars; ghosts and the undead preserve the dubious sanctity of their catacombs, shrines and sangueducts; fugitives and other desperadoes generally prefer not to be disturbed as they go about their furtive business.

Holy Places

The only prominent cult associated with the sewers of Furthest is the Cult of Cleansing Oslira, an offshoot of the River Goddess’s Cult, whose gleaming, porcelain-tiled shrine in the city centre is built atop the main entrance to the Cloaca Maxima. Side channels connect the sewer system to at least one basement shrine maintained by White Moonie heretics, and a rumoured Blue Moon assassins’ death-cult temple (no such facility is officially supported by the Empire or the Royal House).

Some sources consulted:

http://www.sewerhistory.org/chronos/early_roots.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_water_supply_and_sanitation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation_of_the_Indus_Valley_Civilisation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanitation_in_ancient_Rome

Peter Connolly, “The Ancient City”

NB: this is mostly based on descriptions of Mesopotamian, Indus Valley and Roman sewer systems. Historically interesting: the reason for covering over drainage ditches running down the middle of the streets to create closed sewers was to hold back the stench of the malodorous waste-water: that is, defeating evil Air. You can see why Tarsh King Phargentes would be keen on taming this, after his victory over Palashee Longaxe and the Orlanthi rebels (whose descendents are today’s Tarsh Exiles).

ADDED: my frequent collaborator Chris Gidlow suggested adding more chrome from Minoan Knossos: the palace complex sewers are also a monster-infested maze under the city, where the King keeps ferocious creatures imprisoned? He also noted that we are in a Foucault's Pendulum world of Lunar paranoia: "who knows for what sinister reason the Lunars have ordered every single house in Furthest to be connected to a vast subterranean labyrinth?" (And if anyone ever says, "Calm down, it’s just a sewer system" - well, that's exactly what They want you to think...)

Cheers, Nick

Edited by Nick Brooke
Added unactioned feedback from Chris Gidlow to the end of the post.
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16 hours ago, StephenMcG said:

So, if you fail to properly maintain your water system, it falls into slight disorder which increases the chance that there will be one or more disease spirits hanging around at any one time?

Yes!  Even works at the clan level in Orlanthi villages.  That's why you have to keep the Rotroot family in line in Apple Lane when you become thane.  If you don't their disorderly ways attract disease spirits.  Also a good incentive to avoid having too many Storm Bulls in one place.

13 hours ago, Nick Brooke said:

Those who travel the sewers of Furthest can recognise the foul stench of Orlanth’s Evil.

Yes, have to keep that in check!

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