Thursday, November 3, 2011

Creatures Medicine 101: Toxins

In my spare time I have been sort of going through the entire norn genome, making notes as I go along, just to understand exactly how these little things tick a little bit better. I figure I'll write a little series of posts based on these findings in hopes that the information will help people out a little.

Today I'm going to detail toxins and general nasty things for our norns, what exactly they do, what you can do about them, and maybe a few more interesting things along the way.

Note that all this information is taken from the CFE Bruin genome, and may differ from breed to breed!

Furthermore, although the chemical reaction information is sourced from the genome, some of the game-related information, such as where the poisons/antidotes can be found in the game, is sourced from my bad memory and may be incomplete, so if you find an inaccuracy, do let me know! Keep in mind, however, that I am only aiming to list the sources of chemicals present natively in C3/DS-- not every agent out there; that would be an impossible task.

Heavy Metals
As far as I know, the only way for a creature to get heavy metal poisoning in vanilla DS is by eating a stinger (and I don't know of any natural sources in C3). Nonetheless, it is a pretty mean little toxin! Heavy Metals damage both the male and female reproductive organs, and raise the mutation rate of poisoned creatures' offspring. They can also damage the immune system. What makes Heavy Metals really scary is that the norn's body has no way of fighting it naturally; it does not decay over time. meaning the poison just sits and does its nasty work until the creature either dies or finds the cure. A creature might live its entire life with heavy metal poisoning!

The cure for heavy metals is EDTA, which can be found in small amounts in tubas. Thankfully, these are rather plentiful in the DS meso. If you are docked with C3, the potion vendor on the bridge holds Heavy Metal Cure, an EDTA drink. The General Cure it dispenses contains small amounts of EDTA as well. You have to be quick though. The immune system is responsible for EDTA's breakdown of heavy metals; that means if the toxin has already shut down the immune system, even the cure won't work. If this happens, the only way to purge the body of Heavy Metals is by resorting to CAOS or using an agent that actually removes the chemical from the body rather than just injecting a cure.

Heavy metals will not outright kill a creature, but it will be quite frail without an immune system and may have difficulty producing viable offspring.

This is pretty severe stuff-- a full dose of it will kill a norn pretty much instantly. Luckily, there are no known natural sources in C3 or DS, meaning it's quite unlikely a creature will just stumble into it. Its quick-killing action is twofold-- first, it slows down the reaction in the Mitochondrial organ which converts oxygen to energy. Secondly, it destroys energy outright in a simple reaction (1 energy + 1 cyanide = 1 cyanide). Both of these are terribly dangerous-- if a creature's energy gets too low, it is instantly killed. Cyanide will decay very slowly over time, but usually nowhere near quickly enough.

The most straight-forward way to fight Cyanide is is with Sodium Thiosulphate, found in tiny (and I mean tiny) amounts in the carrots in the bottom of the DS meso. The C3 potion vendor also holds a Cyanide Cure (Sodium Thiosulphate is found in the General Cure as well).

If the creature's immune system has been destroyed by heavy metals or antigens 4/5, Sodium Thiosulphate won't have any effect. However, oddly enough, the immune system is also responsible for processing cyanide's direct breakdown of energy (the 1 energy + 1 cyanide = 1 cyanide reaction mentioned earlier). If the immune system is dead, cyanide will still slow the conversion of oxygen to energy, but it will not attack energy directly; this buys you a little more time to save your creature.

If you cannot directly counteract the cyanide, you will have to keep your creature's energy levels up while you wait for it to naturally decay. You'll want to make sure your creature is well-fed-- on starch and fat particularly as these break down into pyruvate, a chemical necessary for the oxygen to energy conversion. Stuffing the creature isn't going to heal it faster, but if pyruvate levels drop below normal, your creature will be in quite a bit of trouble, so make sure it isn't starving.

Adrenaline helps in keeping up energy levels as it speeds up the very same conversion cyanide slows down. You can find adrenaline in the C3 potion vendor's General Cure, or, believe it or not, by terrifying it with piranhas. If you place the creature near the piranha pond and drop in a bug or something else for them to eat, the swarming fish will cause any nearby creature to panic, sending its adrenaline through the roof and hopefully giving it enough energy to weather the poison.
This is another nasty one that, similar to cyanide, has no known natural source in the C3/DS world. It also, similar to cyanide, slows down the oxygen to energy conversion. Though it takes longer to take effect than cyanide, a full dose will still kill a creature in seconds. In addition to slowing energy production, Belladonna slows the clock rate of both the Regulation organ (which maintains that hotness and coldness cancel each other our among other things) and the Constitutive Drive Maintenance organ (which ensures that backup drives return to normal after a creature has a horrifying encounter). Generally, though, this secondary effect won't do much more than confuse the creature.
There is no known direct cure for Belladonna, but it will eventually decay. As long as the creature does not receive a high enough dosage to kill it within a few seconds, it should recover if kept safe and well-fed.

A creature can become poisoned with geddonase if it either eats or is stung by a stinger. While not the worst of toxins, it can have some lasting damage in large amounts. Its primary vice is that it destroys adipose tissue-- a creature's storage of fat that is broken down into triglycerides and subsequently fatty acids which are used in ATP production. However, it also damages the Liver Catabolic organ which is responsible for breaking down tissues into a usable form. If a creature is exposed to a lot of this toxin regularly, it could wind up being unable to properly break down stored energy or even nutrients from food, causing it to weaken and die for lack of a useable energy source.

There is no known direct cure for geddonase, but it decays as it breaks down adipose tissue. If the creature has a lack of adipose tissue, the toxin will remain in the creature and have more time to damage the Liver Catabolic organ. Suffering creatures should thus be fed foods containing fat, which are converted into triglycerides and subsequently more adipose tissue, which serves to both break down with any remaining geddonase and replenish the creature's reserves once the toxin is gone.
Glycotoxin is one of several toxins that that a creature can pick up from the invisible bacteria that floats around the ship; it can also be found in rotting food. It is somewhat similar to Geddonase, but instead of tearing though adipose tissue, it breaks down glycogen (a creature's storage of starch that is broken into glucose which is used in ATP production), and instead of damaging the Liver Catabolic organ, it injures the Liver Anabolic organ, which is responsible for converting useable energy sources into a stored tissue form. Keep an eye out for shivering creatures-- since Glycotoxin breaks glycogen down into a small amount of glucose and coldness, shivering can be a symptom of this poisoning.

The direct cure for Glycotoxin is Arncia, found in Peaking Pie, the purple triangle food that spews forth from the DS empathic vendor. Arnica is also found in the C3 potion vendor's Elixir of Arnica and in small amounts in General Cure. Glycotoxin, similar to geddonase, will break down faster as it goes to work on glycogen, so be sure the creature is well-fed with starchy foods (such as seeds) both to help finish off the toxin so it doesn't do lasting damage to the Liver Anabolic organ and to replenish the creature's store of glycogen when the toxin has passed.

If there is severe damage to the Liver Anabolic organ, don't despair too much! A creature can live a mostly normal life without it-- it just needs to eat much more often since it is unable to store food energy for later.
Sleep Toxin
As far as toxins go, this one is pretty benign on its own. A creature can pick it up from invisible bacteria, which usually carry antigens and other nasties, so be on the lookout for other infections as well. Sleep toxin, as one might expect, makes a creature sleepy-- it will likely be fine after a long nap; just be sure it doesn't sleep so much that it doesn't eat. Again, be sure to check it for other diseases it might have picked up from the bacteria.

Fever toxin
Fever toxin is similar to sleep toxin in that it is  picked up from bacteria and is generally thought to be little more than an annoyance-- however, unlike sleep toxin, in large amounts it can actually be quite deadly. Fever toxin makes a creature hot, meaning it sweats a lot and is at risk for dehydration. If a creature's water levels are too low, it can't convert air into oxygen, can't convert oxygen into energy, and will quickly die.
In small amounts, a creature can usually get through the fever without any lasting effects, however, if the toxin is high, you might consider feeding the creature detritus, such as the apple cores in the C3 norn meso. Risky, yes, but the glycotoxin in the detritus has the side effect of making a creature cold, which may be able to bring down the fever if the creature is well-fed and has enough glycogen for the glycotoxin to feed off. Unfortunately this is only so effective, and if the fever is too high, no amount of glycotoxin can save it.

Histamine A and B
Really, these aren't toxins at all; in fact, by themselves they are practically good things as they trigger a creature to cough and sneeze, involuntary actions that can shake off bacteria that have attached to them. Histamines are usually a clue that another illness is affecting the creature, as they pick them up both from invisible bacteria or as a side-effect from antigens 0 or 1. Check the creature over carefully!

When you are sure no other illnesses are bothering the creature, you may give it antihistamine to stop the sneezing/coughing. Antihistamine is found in DS lemons and in C3 potion vendor's Cough Syrup as well as its general cure.

Alcohol doesn't seem to be an actual toxin. Found as a side-effect of bacteria as well as in the Shee Wine and Albian Ale in the C3 potion vendor, this stuff makes creatures walk funny, and not much else! The "cure" is Dehydrogenase, which has no known natural sources, and while it removes alcohol from the system, it also causes pain. Since alcohol doesn't seem to do any damage to start with, there seems to be little reason for a cure that causes pain. Further research may be in order, but until some negative effect is found, norns are free to party all they like!
ATP Decoupler
Sadly, this is very much an instant-death toxin. The toxin turns ATP into ADP without using itself up, meaning even a tiny bit of the stuff can eat through a creature's entire ATP supply in seconds, killing it instantly. It is silent, quick, and has no side effects or symptoms, and is thus practically impossible to detect. Creatures become poisoned by the toxin via bacteria.
If you somehow manage to notice the poison in time, the cure, Medicine One, is found in the Yarn fruit (the green and yellow fruit from the DS empathic vendor) as well as in an C3 ATP Decoupler Cure potion and of course, in General Cure.

Carbon Monoxide
Yet another bacteria-borne toxin, this one deprives your creature of oxygen by canceling it out. It can be very deadly in large amounts, but most of the time a creature, with bit of panting and wheezing, can survive until the gas decays.

Usually, if the toxin is in high enough levels to kill a creature, it will do so before you have time to get the creature to eat the cure, but Antioxidant will degrade the toxin quickly. It is found in the star seeds from the DS empathic vendor, in a C3 vendor potion of the same name, and in General Cure.

Fear Toxin
Bacteria sure are scary things, with all they can transmit to our creatures. However, this toxin actually does almost nothing-- it converts into fear at a strangely low rate: 14 Fear toxin to 1 fear, in the genome I'm browsing. You can practically ignore it.
Muscle Toxin
Not surprisingly, another bacteria transmitted toxin. This one, however, requires more research. What is does is pretty straight-forward; it attacks the muscles while slowly breaking down into lactate. The thing is, lactate also attacks the muscles, does seemingly nothing else, and doesn't seem to decay or break down at all. I'm still trying to comb through the genome for more information on this, but right now it looks like muscle toxin results in continuous muscle damage with no cure in sight. Scary stuff.

That's all for this part; next I'll tackle antigens and antibodies. If you have any further information or corrections, do mention it; I'm not by any means an authority on nornish biology!


  1. The volcano in C3 gives off heavy metals or the boulders or something in the desert.

  2. Very insightful post! I'm still processing everything, since I'm used to the relatively "safe" world of toxins in Creatures 1. The cures you've listed are very helpful: I never would have thought to cure fever toxin with glycotxin, although it makes sense! I was also unaware that the C3/DS toxins could be so deadly: I'll be sure to keep this in mind the next time I play. Thanks for this!

  3. Are there any negative side effects to over-consumption of water, like "water intoxication" in humans?

    1. Norns are born with the maximum concentration of water in their systems - water intoxication doesn't seem to be a problem.

  4. Very interesting! Many of the toxins in C3/DS seem to be rather hard to defend against, I can't imagine you'd have a lot of time to diagnose and then make your Norn eat the cure.
    I also don't really like the DS foods being loaded with medicine, it's not a reliable way for Norns to learn how to cure themselves.

    Would it be possible to compare this to how Toxic Norns handle toxins?

    1. As far as I can tell, there is no way norns can learn to cure themselves anyway. Although they say they're ill, I think that's preprogrammed, and they don't seem to actually know they're ill. Plus they'd have no way of distinguishing different potions from each other.

      However, if you feed Hardman norns Calm Balm, they could theoretically learn that potions cure anger. Which could result in them drinking other potions expecting them to cure anger.

    2. That is a sad but true point-- since norns don't really have an 'illness drive', they don't even know to look for ways to fix it, poor things.

  5. Wow, after reading this, I'm getting the urge to start up or continue a breeding experiment. To see how many of these toxins I can breed a resistance to in a line of norns. I already had a start on it with a group of norns resistant to the ATP Decoupler, but your post helps with understanding the rest of the toxins a lot better. Thank You!

  6. Very interesting and informative, thank you for writing this :]

  7. There's a bit of text in the DS manual which states that alcohol "can cause long term damage to the liver". Is this correct, or just flavour text?

    1. I ran an experiment here and it looks like alcohol has barely any effect on norns at all.

    2. Thanks for the experiment!

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    5. Also, besides making them walk funny, it also reduces boredom and pain a little bit.

  8. I know this is a late reply but I wish to express my gratitude for this post as well. Knowing what's out there, what it does and how to cure it is fantastic. Now I can better take care of my Creatures and help others to take care of theirs. Thanks! I'm saving this page on my favourites list. Lol.

  9. I experimented with muscle toxin a bit and at a half dose, the creature's muscles were dead after seven minutes. Nasty stuff! Giving lactate a proper half-life (I tested it with 30 seconds) seems to limit the damage by a lot- the norn went from 99% to just under 50% in five minutes after the same dose, instead of 99% to 20%.

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  11. A source of heavy metals in C3 are the hot rocks from the volcano... touching them will give a dose of heavy metals.