Last week I have read an article about anthrax infections in Siberia. No, it was not some weapon test or leaking laboratory (as far as the article told me) and it was NOT the stuff our biological weapon researchers have turned anthrax into. No, it was the natural occurring version that was kind of hibernating in the perma-frost soil of Siberia… which stopped being perma-frost due to… well, folks, believe it or not but it is getting a little warmer on this planet. Anyway, the deer (I cannot remember if it was caribou or not) got infected and the people still herding such got infected, too. So far, so bad in the real world. But this blog is not really about the real world here…
So, the general fact I want to play with is “warm climate releases a plague”. If you happen to run a fantasy or post-apocalypse RPG game in a zone that is usually safely below zero there are several ways how an outbreak during a hot summer could affect your game:
1# Wrong place at the wrong time
Your PC have to move through the area as a part of their adventure. Perhaps they have been told that the area is cursed during summer, but they HAVE to go through there (for plot reasons). When they hunt for game animals there or simply spent more than a day in said area there is a chance that they catch the infection. Setting up a tent for the night should be a great way of getting into contact with an infection that is released from the ground, as is burying your excrements. Ending up with a disease that leads to a painful gripping in the guts and blood in the feces should be enough reason to apply a little damage, some penalties and a decline of moral. It is thereby a nice start for a negahexcrawl (the broad-hipped sister of the negadungeon) or just a fitting overture for whatever dungeon the characters are actually on their way to. If strange things happen, characters and players alike tend to be less cheerful about what they are doing. Especially if the strange things harm their characters and they don´t know how bad it is going to be.
2# Consequences, bloody consequences
Let´s assume the characters are near the area, but really have no reason at all to enter the cursed ground. Perhaps they don´t even know about it as the phenomenon is just happening while they travel the nearby lands, minding their own business. Well… if the characters are in a less populated part of the land, the meat of the deer herds (caribou, elk or similar animals) might make up a substantial part of the local diet. When this meat supply drops because of an illness befalling the herds (and perhaps some of the nomads that deliver it to the outposts to trade it in) the prices for rations might rise dramatically. The plaque is only a backdrop then, but gives the players the feel that they live in a world where bad things happen that have a far reach.