Friday, 10 May 2013

"I Loot the Bodies!" I: Itchy Fleas

The first of a few observations about the classic victory cry of the adventurer.

Looting the bleeding, crushed, burned and hacked bodies of dead foes is, for many adventure gamers, just a boring, routine conclusion to a scary fight, usually rewarded with a few coppers or a single low-value trinket. You know the real important loot is probably back in the lair, sitting on a trap or locked up tight. Where's the moral horror that this act should raise in sensitive minds?

Well, if there's no horror in robbing the imaginary dead, there may be disgust  if corpse-searching exposes yourself to their fleas and lice. And if the vermin bring a play disadvantage, you're sure to see more wariness and a little more respect for the poor old stiffs.

Per verminous body looted, there is a 1/3 chance of contracting the body's insects. An infestation makes it 1/3 probable each night that sleep is disturbed, meaning you recover 1 less hit point or can't memorize your highest level of spell. A good bath in town with proper scrubbing and hair-picking (cost: 1$) will remove the infestation. If you've got a boyfriend or girlfriend, they'll do it for free. Usually.

So, here's how the commonly-seen thief/rogue ability of picking pockets can finally come in useful without getting into trouble with the law or worse, robbing fellow party members. Simply put, the pickpocket can use the skill to loot a body without the risk of contracting vermin.

Pedicular pests can also be a risk of low-quality inns, and make certain gross and hairy monsters even scarier after death. "Y'ever see what happens to a feller gets bit by some a' dem bugbear lice? 'Taint a purty sight..." says the old one-armed man at the tavern.


  1. In one of the low-level TSR A/D&D adventures - I think it is in U1, Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh - one of the things a party is likely to find, right at the start of their adventuring career, is a body ripe for looting. And filled with Rot Grubs!

  2. Before the Red Cross, in real-world battles the victorious side and/or the locals would happily loot the dead... and if they weren't dead, help them along to death with a quick throat-slash.

    I don't see why adventurers should be squeamish about this stuff.

    1. This makes me think. You're right about history, of course, but how far do people want modern morality to penetrate into their roleplaying? I might write on this in the coming week.

    2. I don't think it's morality so much as poverty. Soldiers got a shilling a day in Britain in 1800, though there were deductions for uniform, etc, and they were considered well-paid by European standards, many conscripts got nothing.

      As well, the local artisanal tradesmen would not have been out cutting throats, but the local peasants certainly were. This was a kind of revenge, since an army of 10,000 men marching through would ruin fields, steal corn, slaughter the cattle, quarter themselves in houses, and generally ruin generations of hard work.