Reality beats imagination

That’s right: reality beats imagination.

At least, that’s happened at the dentist last Friday, while I was browsing an old issue of National Geographic magazine.

I have been struggling to come up with a very expensive trade good that could be found in marshes in the western part of Warzone Icecrest. I came up with the pretty amorphous concept of magic mushrooms. Yes, it’s not exactly a feat of the imagination… they do have magic mushrooms in Amsterdam.

So this expensive trade good will be taken by big convoys along random trade routes, which the players can attack, rob, destroy, etc. Another non-original concept straight from German U-boats during WWII.

So back to the dentist’s waiting room. I’m reading an article about the Tea Horse Road, a trade route connecting China and Tibet for over a thousand years. Chinese tea was traded for Tibetan horses. Horses aren’t that hot anymore, so guess what the Tibetan nomads are exporting nowadays.

..The head of the household pulls out a blue metal box, unlocks it, pries open the lid, and motions for us to have a look.

Inside are hundreds of dead caterpillars.

“Yartsa gompo,” our host says proudly. Each dried caterpillar, he explains, will sell for between four and ten dollars. There’s probably ten grand in dead caterpillars in his padlocked blue box. Yartsa gompo is a parasite-infected caterpillar that lives only in grasslands above 10,000 feet. The parasite, a kind of fungus, kills the caterpillar, then feeds on its body.

Who would have thought that a parasite fungus killing a catterpillar is worth $80 a gram. Even at today’s record gold price, that’s TWICE the price of gold.

Have you seen an online RPG, where heavily-laden war mammoths transport “gompos” in massive convoys? Well, now will!

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