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Author Topic: Will'o'wisp: Adapted Glow worms in the 21st century.  (Read 4223 times)
rowanthepreacher
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« on: March 31, 2011, 02:39:52 AM »

 We've all heard tales of Will'o'wisps: balls of light that lead wanderers to an untimely demise. Well, having read up a bit on glow worms, I thought I should put this modest proposal before you.

Modern day Lampyris noctiluca glow worms live all over Europe and can survive extremely low temperatures, even daring to venture near the arctic circle. They create light to find mates and whatnot, but I have in mind an entirely different use for them.

Nuclear bombardment has just begun. Ice closes over the northern hemisphere, killing 99% of insects, depriving the noble glow worm of food. The cold begins to kill them off in droves. For once, only the least efficient glow worms survive. Instead of turning all of their energy into light, these few survive primarily by emitting a little more heat. But what benefit does this bring, you might ask? Well, one glow worm is wasting energy, but if all of the glow worms in a colony produce excess heat, they can heat up their locale, providing the entire group with a bubble of hot air, like wetsuits do in water. This colony mentality is not restricted to one aspect of survival, however.

With the destruction of their natural habitats, glow worms have found the perfect alternative: abandoned housing. A lonely hunter sees the light of fire inside a nearby home. Thinking of paying the owner in return for shelter for the night, he enters the lonely cabin. The sight that greets him is an usual one. There's no fire in the hearth, rather, the entire place is lit up by a horde of little fluorescent bugs. His curiosity gets the better of him, and soon he is standing beneath a ceiling of grubs. Too late he realises his mistake. The larvae descend upon him, crawling, biting, burning. The toxin in the little grubs isn't enough to kill him, but the feeling of being digested from the inside, while simultaneously being covered in fire is enough to send the hunter into spasms of suffering. Blinded, the huntsman grabs for his knife, his gun. He has no means of fending off the frenzied larvae and soon he has been eaten alive.

The bright light of the glowworms dims as their hunger is sated, keeping them from the eyes of humans until they are ready to feed once again.

So. A believable Will'o'Wisp based phenomenon with it's own dangers and rewards. It'd make for an interesting bit of "real" folklore and generally, just be another little feature. PCs can see these little cabins and investigate (as any player would), or encounter one via quest. The bugs aren't mutated, they've just adapted a little bit (all of the non-social stuff is true), so I think they should fit happily within our borders.
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Gaspard
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« Reply #1 on: March 31, 2011, 09:13:10 AM »

Even if it is not a death-trap-like situation, it sound awesome, and I would be delighted in any game by such an encounter
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zenbitz
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« Reply #2 on: April 01, 2011, 10:57:08 PM »

Eh, not bad.  It's a little farfetched...   they would have to eat something other than people.  I guess insects are also drawn to light, but most other animals aren't.
I would assume that -- in order to actually HURT a person there would have to be enough mass in glow worms of like 1/2 or maybe 1/4 person.    So 25kg of larvae eat 100kg dude... how often?  Also, if any colony falls below man-eating size... how do they survive?

Cute though.

Hard to work it into a plot line... seems like of like "random death trap"
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rowanthepreacher
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« Reply #3 on: April 01, 2011, 11:45:47 PM »

Birds and mammals would happily enter a sheltered area in case of blizzard, so they probably get to feast on smaller mammals fairly regularly. given that the buildings they inhabit would also end up particularly warm, it's not hard to see animals straying in purely for the heat during daytime.

Also, you're going by mass, not surface area, which is the major point. "Burns of 10% in children or 15% in adults (or greater) are potentially life threatening injuries (because of the risk of hypovolaemic shock) and should have formal fluid resuscitation and monitoring in a burns unit." (wikipedia), so a fairly small colony of burning, biting, digesting glow worm larvae could easily kill someone. Even if they failed to shut down their target, searing pain and being covered in glow worms would severely hinder potential prey. Given that Lampyris noctiluca larvae hibernate when food is scarce, it's not unreasonable to assume that a gigantic colony could only have a portion of their population active at any time, so the larvae eat their fill and hibernate, just as new larvae wake up and eat some more of the body.

I'm sure I could come up with a plot, but yeah, it can also be a deathtrap. Really depends on what you want to do with it.
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Gaspard
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« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2011, 10:43:59 AM »

It would be a rather interesting Wilderness encounter, if it does not get included in a side-plot. It would add some very specific "color" to the world.
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rowanthepreacher
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« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2011, 05:56:54 PM »

Gaspard, oh kind and wise Gaspard, oh majestic and benevolent Gaspard, oh virile and skillful Gaspard...

Would you mind plying your considerable artistic talent to make a little scene of a crumbling log cabin, glowing brightly in the dark, perhaps with a silhouetted stranger in the foreground?

If there's art of it, it's practically bound to get in Cheesy Plus, I reckon it would look awesome for concept/loading art.
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zenbitz
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« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2011, 10:44:43 PM »

No, I mean mass of food consumed to support mass of glow worms.    Or to say - 1 human corpse can allow X worms to subsist for how long?  And how many worms to kill one human?  I don't see how animals can be attracted by "warmth"...  They can't generally see infrared... they would have to be very close to it to feel warm.  I guess I am just quibbling though.
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rowanthepreacher
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« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2011, 11:44:42 PM »

I honestly can't find anything that tells me how much glow worm larvae eat. You're also right about the animal-heat thing. I'd like to ignore these small and fairly unimportant details though Cheesy
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