Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Inspirational Passages: Putting the “Fun” Back in Fungi

Fungi creeps me out, which is why I find it hard to resist including it in my games. I even dedicated an entire entry to the stuff in The Dungeon Alphabet. If you’re looking for something truly alien here on Earth, fungi is your best bet for high weirdness and general creepiness.

Unfortunately, D&D craps out in the fungi department as far as I’m concerned. It’s got enough monsters built on a fungus base, but most of them fall short of the mark of truly unnerving. With myconoids, violent fungus, russet mold, ascomoids, and phycomids to choose from, you’d figure at least one would be enough to give you the shudders. Don’t get me started on shriekers, who make an appearance on my Top-10 List of Despised Monsters. Even making yellow mold psionic didn’t help. Zygoms get closest to what I picture a crafty referee should be doing with homebrewed fungi creatures.

When it comes down to it, I’m hanging with Lovecraft on the subject. Fungi should get under your skin (literally) and make you shun mushrooms on your pizza for at least a month after running into the stuff in a game. The best example of role-playing game use of fungi in my mind has to be in H.P. Lovecraft’s Dunwich, one of the 1920’s sourcebooks for Call of Cthulhu. The mental picture of a haggard man opening his mouth to revel the pale white gills of a mushroom clogging his mouth and throat is the sort of image that I’m shooting for whenever I decide to play the fungi card in a game.
Here, far underground, the fungi were stranger even than those on the surface. It was if the House saved its most delicate and cherished outgrowths for this hidden realm. And it was obvious that they needed no light, for many of them glowed with an evil light of their own making.

A broad, dark pool, full of floating scum, had formed where the floor had actually sunk or collapsed near the east wall of the great cave. Water trickled steadily over and down a broad area of slimy rock, for this wall was unfinished, indeed hardly even smoothed down by the craftsmen of long ago. An underground spring must have burst forth in ages past and still flowed into the pool, leaving by some hidden outlet.

Around this sinister tarn, which was many yards in extent, there grew a forest of tall, gently tapering spires of soft, living matter. Several men’s height they were, colored with pallid and crepuscular shades, ugly, faded violets, insipid yellows, and debauched, bleached oranges. On top of some of them glowed round areas of foxfire and dim phosphorescence. This was the light, the priest realized, which he had glimpsed far off when they first entered the cavern.

- Hiero’s Journey by Sterling E. Lanier


JB said...

I just love the title of your post.
: )

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Great ideas, especially the "mold men". Ohh yea...

Christopher B said...

I'm sorry, but encountering a patch of mold that can kill everything in a 1,000 cubic foot area in under a minute - just for touching the stuff - would freak me the heck out. (Especially after watching last night's episode of Bite Me with Dr. Mike - it ain't a pretty death that's waiting for your character!)

BigFella said...

Interesting you picked that passage from "Heiro's Journey" which is pretty much Canadian Gamma World. The neat thing about fungi as bad guy is that it works in almost any genre. Space Opera, Post-Apocalypse, Fantasy, Horror, Sports Story (i.e. Athlete's Foot), you name it.

If cephalopods are the fauna of weirdness, then fungi are the flora.