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.
Originally Posted by Citizen Joe
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.
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.