Thursday, May 30, 2019

Dark Sun Survival - Water from Cactus

Barrel Cactus
I like making my Dark Sun games realistic, well, at least as realistic as a fantasy roleplaying game can be. With that in mind, I read up on getting water from a cactus. Is it possible? Yes, but it's not necessarily as easy as fiction might show.
First, you have to find the right kind of cactus, because not all cactus provides water. It'll differ on Athas, but here on Earth, there are two cactus that you can extract water from, the barrel cactus and the prickly pear cactus. There is no reason why these two cacti could not exist on Athas.

The barrel cactus is round with raised ribs running vertical along the sides. The spines are very obvious and can range in color from yellow to red. Yellow or orange flowers bloom on top of the cactus and eventually become a greenish fruit. The fruit is edible, but also bitter and is generally only eaten in an emergency.
The first problem a thirsty traveler faces is the tough rind of the barrel cactus. Without a knife or other appropriate tool, the rind and spines would take a long time to carve away. Inside you'll find a pale yellow pulp that is moist. You, or your character, will have to dig out this pulp and squeeze the fluid into an appropriate container. This liquid can be drunk, but it is not advisable. It is very acidic and can make you sick. Athasians are a hardy bunch, however, and a character may avoid getting sick by rolling a successful constitution check. Failure indicates the character is nauseous and has diarrhea, I'd apply a -1 to all checks for 1d4 days. If the characters have time, they could boil the water, which makes it much safer to drink. The characters need not make a constitution check if the liquid is boiled.
Prickly Pear Cactus
The prickly pear, or opuntia, cactus is a segmented cactus with large green pads that are covered in white spines. On the pads grow white, yellow, or red flowers that develop into a pear shaped, spine covered, red or purple fruit. The pads and fruit are edible and contain moisture.
The first obstacle to eating any part of the prickly pear cactus are the spines. It is possible to pick off the spines one by one, but this would be extremely time consuming. A knife, or other appropriate tool, can be used to remove the spines quite easily and quickly.
The skin of the prickly pear is inedible and should be cut away from the fruit. The seeds inside the prickly pear are edible, but quite hard and may not be enjoyable to bit down on. The prickly pear can be eaten raw, right off of the cactus and enough of them can satisfy a characters need for water. Probably twenty-four would be needed to satisfy a character's water requirement for one day.
The pads of the prickly pear cactus take a little more preparation and are better for food, than for liquid refreshment. However, it is possible to juice the pads. The spines must be removed completely and the pads placed inside a bowl of some kind. Then, using a hammer, rock, or other smashing tool, the character smashes the pads into pulp. The act of smashing the pads releases the liquid inside of them and the solid pulp is strained out of the liquid. This juice can be drunk immediately, but may cause sickness if used day after day. It would take approximately fifty pads to get enough water to satisfy a character's daily water requirement.
For every additional day beyond one that a character relies on prickly pear pad juice, I'd have them make a constitution saving throw with a +3 bonus, which decreases every additional day the juice is drank. Eventually, the bonus becomes a penalty and keeps decreasing until the cactus juice is supplemented with another form of water. Failure indicates the character has diarrhea, I'd apply a -1 to all checks for 1d2 days. If the prickly pear pad juice is boiled before drinking, the constitution checks are not necessary.
Barrel and Prickly Pear
Other types of cacti contain water as well, but it is sometimes very toxic and unfit for consumption. This is possible on Athas as well and is a good reason for characters to take the water find non-weapon proficiency. The water find non-weapon proficiency would allow a character to know which cacti contain potable water and which do not. In addition, it should allow characters to know the dangers and benefits of drinking cactus water and eating cactus fruit.
I hope this information proves useful in explaining to your players what kind of work their characters have to go through to get water from these hardy plants.

May you always find water and shade.

No comments:

Post a Comment