APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 6 July, 2001


Sock Fungus

Janne Kemppi

Sock Fungus is cave fungus that is present throughout Badlands. It is typically encountered in underground caves of large mountain ranges that cross Badlands in North-South axis. Sock Fungus is a brownish lichen-like rust with whitish spores. It is a saprophyte fungus living by obtaining organic matter in solution from dead and decaying tissues of plants and animals. It requires amounts of humidity and humidity is scarcity in Badlands. Therefor Sock Fungus is found in caves which have either open water or water near surface. It grows on fringes of open water and indicates pure water.

Sock Fungus is sensitive to light and chemically to many inorganic impurities. Industrial pollution destroys Sock Fungus before water becomes undrinkable. However, it purifies organic waste by digesting it. Thus making water safe to consume. Sock Fungus prospers in Badlands where flora and fauna do not outcompete it. In Polar regions competing species prosper and Sock Fungus becomes increasingfly scarce.

Sock Fungus gots its name from its distinctive odour which attracts many members of mid-sized fauna. Puff of spores will then get stuck in pelt and to mucuous membranes of mouth and eyes. These spores are slightly hallusinogenic. Chemicals from spores excite vision sporadically so that victim "sees" shapes in shadows which normally scares them. Victim will them stumble out of cave and wander away. After some time sun light will start to irritate membranes of victim forcing it to seek shadow, preferably in cool caves. This way Sock Fungus can propagate and spread from cave to cave.

These effects do not affect as much humans as Terra Novan Fauna because of different evolutionary adaptations. However, some people may have sensitivity to spores and few of them might become allergic. There can be severe irritation, especially in the eyes and other mucuous membranes. There are no known antidotes or countermeasures because except avoidance because this allergy is so scarce that medical companies have not found commercially viable to produce suitable tailored antidote. However, regular antihistamins work reasonably well alleviating some of the symptoms. On more basic level, rinse out membranes with plenty of water is suitable solution along with taking patient away from the Sock Fungus.

Sock Fungus is edible fungus. It can be scraped from cave floor and walls. It can be eaten after mixing it with water and boiling it at least for 20 minutes. This destroys other micro organisms and effects of spores. End result is edible broth. Boiling breaks up hallusiogenic and allergenic high-energy chemicals of spores. Resultant broth can be considered as emergency food. However, the smell does not go away...

Characters might encounter Sock Fungus whenever they enter a cave in Badlands. Caves are most prevalent in all of the mountain ranges that criss-cross Badlands in North to South axis. Sock Fungus is easy to recognice due distinctive heavy cloying smell. Thus characters can almost always find it when necessary.

Since Sock Fungus is close to water, it is usually linked to situations when water is scarce. Heat and thirst kill people fast in desert and thus question of water is often a matter of life and death. Nose of characters can lead them to survival. However, if there is another group present, they might smell something in the air as well.

Allergic reactions should be quite rare. However, it can be a source of adventure, especially if victim has very bad reaction and there is not enough water to go by. This can happen if Sock Fungus lives in area where water is so scarce that characters cannot dig deep enough to get water. There is also a dilemma that someone has to go back into dark cave to find water, possibly alone, exposed to possible Allergic attack again. Spores can be avoided by wearing multiple layers of clothing around head, but that will mean that character would be practically blind in dark cave.

If hallusionegic portion of chemicals is strong, it could cause very strong reactions to some humans. This would normally be source of no big consequences but in a dangerous situation, when everyone is already half frightened, the experience can be quite unsettling. Shadows are moving, creatures and enemies approaching or perhaps cleverly changing their location to trap character...

Another important possibility of Sock Fungus is its presense or lack of presense. Pollution kills Sock Fungus easily and thus lack of it could be taken as a sign of inorganic poisons in water (such as arsenic or pollutants). Thus characters who find a water source might want to determine cause of its absense. This can lead to very paranoid players and thus GM should excise caution with this option. A cultural angle might be played here as well.

This can also be used as a clue. Human activity in general and heavy military machinery in particular are polluting. This can be used as indication of nearby human settlement or industrial or military activity. Dead Sock Fungus would be almost certain sign of it. Then again, the source of death can be within the lake itself. There could be something more than meets the eyes buried under the surface...

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APAGear II Archives Volume 3, Number 6 July, 2001