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3.5 Selling Poo... (Bat Guano Price help.)

   
Hmmm. Bat/bird guano as a fertilizer really is an artifact of the industrial age. Human nightsoil, manure from livestock, seaweed, composted plant material are all much cheaper and easier to obtain for the average peasant, who doesn't have the cash to spend on something mined underground.

Plus, if you have to hire adventurers to gather the stuff (as opposed to hiring commoner laborers), it's got to be too expensive a commodity to be useful as a fertilizer. I'd go with the magical/alchemical side--it is a spell component (fireball, I think?) after all. Pay them 100-200 gp a sack, or thereabouts--figuring that 1st level characters are going to be able to carry one sackful on each trip to the caves. They'll have to face some encounters each time, and you can gear the earnings from the enterprise to wealth by level requirements, factoring in any other treasure you hand out as "monster possessions."

In short, you should not let them dig more than a few sackfuls of the stuff per trip to the caves (unless their job is to protect laborers, in which case you can pay them a fixed wage and let some merchant handle the business end of things), and you should figure the sale price of the commodity based on what's needed to support your wealth-by-level progression, rather than relying on a random figure determined by its theoretical value in relation to other commodities. As DM, you can fudge the background economics to set the price where it needs to be to serve as adventure hook and treasure. You can even change the price on short notice. The king wants to keep wizards from casting fireball or a wealthy merchant is sponsoring some alchemical project, so he buys up all the bat guano on the market, driving the price up. Or someone sells off his stocks of his stuff, or the wizard-war in the neighboring realm ends, increasing supply relative to demand, driving the price down.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Citizen Joe View Post
No, actually, bat guano is mined and it is dry like a salt and it doesn't stink either. Given that you'll find it in caves with massive swarms of bats, only plants would be growing on it, and those won't grow due to lack of sunlight.
Yeah, I never said ANYTHING about the smell I said it'd be full of impurities. Those don't go away just because it dried out. Corpses of dead bats, dirt, afformentioned insects... and you STILL don't want to be using it in food treatment, which is rock salt's core purpose.

And since bat guano consists of ammonia (some household cleaners have this smell), potassium nitrate (which, incidentally, smells horrible), phosphates (burnt match smell), urea (the part of urine that stinks- but not nearly as bad as the first two chemicals)... I have a feeling guano has quite an impressive odor.

Potassium Nitrate

Chilean guano

And the term "mining" is VERY loosely used here. It really is just digging. In the same way they "mine" white sand for use in glass production. There's shovels, and carts. And that's about it.


As to the price... at fair market, for D&D... I'd say the market value would actually be quite high. Poundage wise, proabably up to 1gp per pound. But understand a pound of guano takes a decent amount of time to gather. It's a relatively light substance. Lighter than black dirt. And since it's only valuable when bone dry, the weight is somewhere between fine sand and sawdust. And THAT is assuming you got a nice, very high quality, supply.

More importantly than that- the danger to breathing. Those chilean miners... a lot of them died from mining this stuff... the potassium nitrate dust alone can be fatal. Ammonia takes time to build up in the system, but once it does, it will kill you. Sulphates and phosphates are not good for the lungs at all. Especially in powdered solid form. Plus there's some nasty bacteria, airborn mold spores, and toxic gasses (ammonia based, mostly).... you just CAN NOT harvest this stuff fresh. Plus it takes a while for the guano to decompose into the potassium nitrate that's the most valuable part.

Granted, that only takes a few months and can be done pretty easily back home...

But back home, they have another alternative to guano... they can pee in cow manure... mix those two things together and give it some time, and you will produce plenty of potassium nitrate. The mixture probably smells better than fresh guano, too.


I can't imagine our adventurers could safely collect more than a couple pounds of this stuff, each, per hour.


I *DO* like that goblin plot hook, though. Especially if you let the goblins be immune to the poison aspects of the guano. That would make fighting them in the bat caves an extremely dangerous proposition (eye iritation, difficulty breathing, and no one would DARE light a fire around all those chemicals... seriously... bat guano is one step away from being gunpowder).

It also opens a very real possibility for a diplomatic solution... convince the goblins that this guano is worth selling to the human settlement... and everyone is happy (except the human miners, perhaps, but they're probably better off finding jobs that don't kill them slowly and painfully). The goblins may not even be using the caves as mines, they may just be looking for a place to live.

Using the guidelines on page 41 of the A&EG, a "rare arcane material" would cost 1-5 gp per three pounds under normal market conditions. Page 39 of the same book suggests increasing the price by 50% based on its status as a "needed" commodity. You'd end up with 25 sp per pound, if the normal price was 5 gp per three pounds.

Looks like your RL buddy was probably using the same book.

He threw it out on the fly, but yeah he is a useful contact for this kind of information.

As for the goblins... Many of them would actually live in the city. If it can speak common, earn a wage, and obey the law, it is permitted to live in the city. Though admitedly 95% of the population is human. Could be a tribe though... That would be a good follow-up quest.

That would be a great low level start for the adventurers. Goblins tend to fear power, so I suggest that the goblins have been organized by something evil that has influenced them to take the mines for themselves. A Goblin Shaman, renegade human (warrior, mage, or even a merchant), kidnapped miner(extracting information and may also be asking for ransom), To what purpose the goblins have been harvesting the dung is up to you but could be for the same reasons any other community would.

Wizards often have bats as familiars. Obtaining bat guano is unlikely to be a problem if there are more than a handful of wizards present.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Solo View Post
Wizards often have bats as familiars. Obtaining bat guano is unlikely to be a problem if there are more than a handful of wizards present.
I'd disagree with that. How much guano does a bat produce per day? Enough for a single fireball, perhaps?





 

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