Friday, October 26, 2012

Sporkchop's Real-World Adventures: Italy Part 2

In this second installment about my adventures in Italy, we'll start to get into some of the specific escapades in which the Fiancee and I were involved. In the posts to come, I will recount a real world adventure and then offer up some ways it could act as inspiration for a game or fantasy story plot.

"Siate molto tranquilla, siamo funghi caccia."

(be very quiet, we're hunting mushrooms)

I had gone on mushroom hunts in my home state of Washington, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. Boy, was I mistaken. Mushroom hunting is serious business in the Italian countryside. One does not simply walk into mushrooms. No, in Italy, a mushroom hunt is a serious expedition, which involves clambering your way through underbrush clinging to steep wooded hillsides, usually far from any noticeable trail.

When mushroom hunting in Italy, it is best to go with a guide, and the best guides may be Italian doctors. Bit of trivia: All Italian doctors are trained to recognize edible funghi. They can tell you the difference between an edible bolete and "Satan's bolete". Fortunately, for us, our guide was Dr. Gaggi.

The Dottore was a compact pain in the butt who looked a bit like a cross between Elmer Fudd and Dr. Werner Klopek from the Burbs. Oh, and the only English he knew, he learned from watching Clint Eastwood and Chuck Norris movies.

The doctor just said something awkward,
though my brain has blocked it out.

Anyway, aside from learning that Italian mushroom hunting feels more like traveling in country than taking a vacation-time stroll, I found out that Italian mushroom hunters are EXTREMELY TERRITORIAL. When you go, you do not speak above a whisper and you sure as hell don't say things like, "Hey! look what I found!" All communication within the group is done by whistles and hand signals...unless, of course, your guide takes off on his own leaving a bunch of tourists stranded in the middle of woodsy nowhere. 

If you see or hear another group of hunters, you steer clear of them. You also make sure that all of your finds quickly make it into the basket held by the person with the foraging permit.

So, why is mushroom hunting in Italy such an adventure? Well, there's a really awesome selection to be found if you know where to look. I also think there are a lot more mushroom hunters, which bumps up the competition for the best hunting spots. Despite these challenges, the rewards are well worth the effort.

Now, how do I apply this to my nerd world?

For a creative, storytelling sort like myself, my Italian mushroom hunting experience has spawned several ideas for ways to translate and extrapolate it into a fantasy setting. Imagine a remote location known for its supply of some finite resource. It could be mushrooms, crystals, a fuzzy and delicious breed of hamster. Whatever it is, the competition over this resource is key to unlocking adventure. Perhaps there are rituals or regulations around how this resource can be gathered. The presence of an ambitious diviner or druid magically pointing out where things can be found might cause some tension among those who favor more traditional... and less effective methods. Perhaps one local is known for closely guarding the secret to his/her success in the foraging field. How far would that local go to keep the secret? Maybe an outside force, be it monster, weather or plague is depleting the supply. How would that reduced access affect the locals' behavior and well-being?

The potential plots arise like porcini poking through the loam.

Happy hunting.

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