Once a month here on the Molten Sulfur Blog, I run content taken from our book Archive: Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs. This post is one of eighty entries in Archive, each more gameable than the last!
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The Man of Unending Appetite
Charles Domery was a man of average weight. Doctors that observed him found no signs of mental illness, and though he was illiterate, he was considered to have normal intelligence by his shipmates. He showed no outward signs of ill health, unless you include that time in Paris when he ate 174 cats in a year. Or the times he would eat four to five pounds of grass a day if he couldn’t find other food.
He was born in 1778 in Poland, and his appetite grew extreme when he was 13. Apparently, his father and eight brothers had similar eating habits. His family was unable to feed them all. Domery was so desperate for food, he joined the Prussian Army in hopes of getting a free meal. In time, though, the Prussian Army began suffering shortages, so he deserted to the French Navy in return for food. In February of 1799, the French warship Hoche was captured by British forces. The crew, including Domery, were interned in Liverpool.
Domery’s captors were shocked by his voracious appetite. Though they put him on ten times the rations of other prisoners, Domery continued to devour whatever he could find. It’s said he ate the prison cat and at least 20 rats, and he regularly ate the prison candles. His behavior drew the attention of prison doctors who performed an experiment to test his eating capacity. Over the course of one day, Domery inhaled a total of 16 pounds of raw cow’s udder, raw beef, tallow candles, and four bottles of porter. He consumed it all without defecating, urinating, or vomiting at any point. Despite this behavior, doctors said he showed no signs of any sort of illness.
One of the doctors said Domery's eagerness to consume beef resembled the voracity of a hungry wolf, devouring it with canine greed. He preferred raw meat over cooked. His favorite dish was raw bullock’s liver but he would eat any available meat. Once, when a sailor’s leg was shot off in battle, Domery grabbed the severed limb out of desperation. There were no animals or grass to satiate his hunger on the Hoche, so he began to eat the bloodied, raw, human leg. He likely would have eaten every strip of flesh from the limb if a crew member hadn’t wrestled it from him and thrown it into the sea.
The cause of Domery’s voracious appetite is unknown. There are other documented cases of similar behavior from the same period, but none of the sufferers were autopsied. There have been no modern documented cases as extreme as Domery’s.
Charles Domery in Play
At the table, Charles Domery could be something other than human. Maybe he has been cursed or is possessed by a gluttonous demon. Either way, your party could be tasked with finding a cure for him, or maybe he pleads for the PCs to find a meal that will satisfy him. Perhaps the party needs to travel by boat, and one of their shipmates is an NPC like Domery. Or they get tossed into a prison cell, and he is their neighbor. How would the PCs react to a man so hungry he’s willing to eat candles and raw human flesh? Even running into a man like Domery in a tavern could cause quite a stir, as he devours everything edible in the place. Maybe a small village is in dire trouble because a single man has consumed all the food there. If your party does come across an NPC like Domery, hope none of the PCs have a cat as a pet or a familiar; it may become the man’s next meal.