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blog Toxicology in Worldbuilding

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Featured Author, Mar 3, 2019.

  1. Featured Author

    Featured Author Scribe

    Black Dragon submitted a new blog post:

    Toxicology in Worldbuilding
    This article is by M.S. Jenkins, and is presented by Worldbuilding Magazine.


    The world is a dangerous place, especially for Roman politicians, Hellenistic kings, and babies; ironically all for the same reason. It may be hard to believe, but poison and venom use is archaeologically about as old as human society. Research suggests that early humans were on a quest to improve their ability to hunt animals and combat their rivals and this led to the use of both poisons and venoms to that end. Originally, one or two individuals in a tribe would have this secret knowledge which in time directly led to the role of witch doctor or medicine man. As society developed larger and more complex social structures and began consolidating more authority in government, the use of poison and venom to remove leaders and the antidotes fabricated to protect them became an increasingly important element in recorded history.

    Mithridates was a Hellenistic king who lived in the area we now call Turkey, from around 114 to 63 BC, and was obsessed with the fear of being poisoned by his enemies. He used condemned criminals as guinea pigs for his research, and also applied small doses of poison to himself attempting to build an immunity....
    Continue reading the Original Blog Post.
  2. ALB2012

    ALB2012 Maester

    A hundred or so years ago, and more, it was far easier to buy poisons - the average householder had arsenic (for killing vermin), and other such nasties. At one time pretty much anyone could buy it, then the rules changed (fortunately) and the buyer had to be known to the vendor. And for a great many years there were no reliable tests for poisons - the symptoms often mirrored common gastric health problems and doctors were not always as careful or knowledgeable as they might have been. Alarm bells would ring if several people fell ill, or someone was 'followed' by death (husbands, children, employers etc). Some people would dose themselves - arsenic could be a pick me up in the right, small, doses - and cosmetics contained all sorts of nasty ingredients that could cause issues accidentally or otherwise.

    Within storytelling - I think there needs to be justification for the character having that poison - are they making a facewash from fly papers (a defence of Florence Maybrick who was accused and jailed for poisoning her husband who was himself taking lots of quack medicines, including arsenic)? Where do they get it - mushrooms/fungi, rat poison, mercury for treating syphilis etc? Don't make it something really obscure that the character would have no right to hold.

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