Posts Tagged ‘disease’

I had the honor to be on a recent episode of the DM’s Block Podcast.

The hosts of this podcast, Chris and Mitch, really know their stuff. If you like our discussion about the horrors of the underdark, you should go back and listen to their other podcasts and subscribe to their feed. If you REALLY like them, go leave them a killer review on iTunes.

Also, we reference two World Builder Blog posts during the podcast and they’re linked below!

The Underdark

Down with the Sickness

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

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Hey everyone! I’m taking a quick break from the Prisons for Dragons series to give you a timely article about diseases which is a companion piece for an article I wrote which was just published by the amazing team over at EN World EN5ider.

I know you’ve been thinking, “James, what about diseases? The fifth edition Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide has only three sample diseases for my game and almost no information about how to craft my own. Will you please help me?” Of course, my friend. Of course.

“Get Sick!” Published

Recently I was fortunate enough to have another article published in EN World EN5ideran online magazine which publishes content for the fifth edition of the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game. Included in my article is a lot of advice from me about creating your own diseases and six more sample diseases to add to your game (bottle fever, demonic plague, itching insides, ooze decay, touch of aberrations, and walking rot). This post is a companion piece of my article, “Get Sick.” If you like the rest of this post, go check out the article on EN5ider.

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I have to say, if you’re playing fifth edition and craving more content, EN5ider is a great place to get it. I’m not just saying that because I’ve now written for them twice. You get one short adventure a month plus another three articles with advice on running chases, new druid circles, creating puzzles, and so much more. You get all that for $2 a month. If you don’t want the adventure, you can still score the articles for $1 a month. That’s less than a bottle of water in most places. The articles are of a great quality and EN World creator, Russ Morrissey, writes several of the best articles. You can grab some sample articles and an adventure for free so check it out.

Okay, plug over. Onto some more sample diseases!

Updating the Illnesses

Last year I wrote a post about The Underdark in Exploration Age. Amongst the many hazards Canus’s underground caverns have to offer, one of the most dangerous is diseases. The diseases I created were based on the rules presented in the final D&D Next Playtest packet. Now that we have all the core rule books for fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, it’s time to update these little infectious wonders and add to what’s already in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

New Diseases

The diseases below are meant to be used in The Underdark of an Exploration Age game, but can be added to any Dungeons and Dragons game at the DM’s discretion.

Mushroom Mind

The mushrooms of The Underdark are mostly harmless, but there are those that should be avoided. None more so than the green-spotted murder mushrooms. Humanoids breathing in the spores this fungi risk having them attach to their brains. From there the mushrooms grow within a victim’s skull, slowly reducing mental and physical faculties.

If a humanoid creature breathes in the spores it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or contract mushroom mind. In 1d4 days the first symptoms appear. An infected creature begins to bald and green spots start appearing on their scalp similar to those on the murder mushrooms. Roll 1d6 on the Mushroom Mind Ability Score Damage table to see how much of which ability score is reduced for the creature. The ability score damage cannot be recovered in any way until the creature recovers from the disease.

At the end of each extended rest roll another 1d6 to determine more ability score loss. If one of the infected creature’s ability scores is reduced to 0, the creature dies.

Mushroom mind can be cured with the rare, purple-spotted relba mushroom which grows only on the graves of illithids. A character with proficiency in an herbalism kit who has the kit and 3 ounces of relba mushrooms can spend 1 hour to create one dose of a special elixir. An infected creature who drinks the elixir has the disease is cured at the end of its next long rest. Its ability score damage remains, but can be healed with a restoration spell once the disease is cured.

Mushroom Mind Ability Score Damage
d6 Effect
1 Reduce infected creature’s Strength score by 1d4.
2 Reduce infected creature’s Dexterity score by 1d4.
3 Reduce infected creature’s Constitution score by 1d4.
4 Reduce infected creature’s Intelligence score by 1d4.
5 Reduce infected creature’s Wisdom score by 1d4.
6 Reduce infected creature’s Charisma score by 1d4.
Slug Snot

When adventurers sleep in the open Underdark at night, they would be wise to plug their noses. Brown slugs called drunkbugs are known to crawl into sleeping victims’ noses and travel down their throats into their stomachs. These slugs attach themselves to the lining of the stomach and secret alcohol, thus intoxicating the victim. The victim also produces an excess of mucus which is colored brown, hence the name of the disease.

If a drunkbug crawls into a creature’s stomach, it must succeed on a DC 13 Constitution saving throw or contract slug snot. In 1d4 hours the first symptoms appear. For the duration of the disease the infected creature is poisoned. After 3d4 days of infection the disease the creature dies from alcohol poisoning and the drunkbug lays its eggs in the stomach of the corpse.

At the end of each long rest, the drunkbug relaxes its grip on the infected creature’s stomach and the target is allowed a new DC 13 Constitution saving throw. If the creature succeeds it vomits up the drunkbug and the disease is cured.

Wasting Away

There are special patches of phosphorescent, psionic paritutu mold which grow only in the deepest tunnels of The Underdark. Breathing in the paritutu spores causes wasting away which rapidly ages its victims. Elves and dragons are immune to this disease.

A creature who breathes in the spores must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or contract wasting away. In 1d4 days the first symptoms appear. The creature’s veins glow in the dark and it ages one year.

At the end of each long rest an infected creature must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails it ages one year. If the creature fails three of these saving throws it automatically ages 1 year at the end of every long rest and the disease can only be cured with a wish spell. If it succeeds on three of these saving throws the disease is cured, but the creature remains aged.

Wiped Away

This horrifying disease targets intelligent creatures and is caused by breathing in a magical mist created by The Void. Victims of the disease begin to forget who they are as do the people associated with the infected creature. By the end of the disease it is as the infected creature never lived and then it literally phases out of existence. Troglodytes are immune to this disease.

Those who breathe in the mist must succeed on a DC 15 Charisma saving throw or contract wiped away. In 1d4 days the first symptoms begin to appear. The creature suffers level 1 of the wiped away, described on the Wiped Away Effects table.

At the end of each extended rest an infected creature must make a DC 15 Charisma saving throw. Creatures who fail gain one level of the disease. The creature suffers from the effect of its current level of wiped away as well as the effects of all levels below its current level. If the creature succeeds its disease level is reduced by one. If the creature’s disease level is reduced below 1, the disease is cured.

Wiped Away Effects
Level Effect
1 Infected creature forgets all of its childhood. Others who have met the infected creature only once forget anything about the creature.
2 Infected creature forgets all of its adolescence. Others who have met the creature 10 times or less forget anything about the creature.
3 Infected creature forgets any passions and hobbies it has. The creature’s name and deeds disappear from all records.
4 Infected creature forgets all former romantic partners and lovers and vice versa.
5 Creature forgets all friends and family and vice versa. Creature forgets its own name.
6 Creature disappears in a puff of mists from The Void and no one remembers it ever existing.
The Void

Scholars believe there is something beneath The Underdark called The Void. This space is actually no space at all. It is absolute nothingness. It has the absence of being. There are a few places in The Underdark which are open pits into The Void.

Some nihilistic troglodyte clans worship The Void. They sacrifice victims by throwing them into nothingness and seek to end the pointlessness of existence by finding a way to set The Void free and swallow the world. Those who fall into The Void are never heard from again and cannot be raised from the dead by any means. Perhaps their soul is destroyed, they are alive somewhere within The Void, or transported somewhere else.

PDF

If you want to take these diseases with you and put them into your game, use the PDF link below.

Diseases

If you want to grab this PDF at a later date, it will live in the Free Game Resources section of this site along with monstersD&D fifth edition rules modules, backgroundsspells, magic items, and more.

Don’t forget to check out EN World EN5ider!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcasts on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends and share this blog post, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!

I’ve spoken quite a bit about the world beneath the world in Exploration Age. Now, I’m happy to present you with a work in progress map of what the known Underdark looks like.

Known Underdark in Exploration Age

Known Underdark in Exploration Age

And here it is overlayed on the map of the surface of Canus

And here it is overlaid on the map of the surface of Canus

As you can see, most of the world of The Underdark is unexplored. What dangers, wonders, and rewards lie miles below the surface of Canus waiting to be discovered?

Why Explore The Underdark?

Just like Venice.

The unexplored Underdark isn’t solid rock. It is a world beneath a world about which a fraction is known. Here are just a few reasons one might want to delve into the most dangerous place in Canus.

  • Trade Routes There may be some way to get from Parian to Findalay to Verda without using a ship. If these pathways and tunnels could be charted perhaps a railway similar to the Jackrabbit could be built for faster, cheaper transportation of goods.
  • Gem Mining All permanent magic items in Exploration Age require gems to focus their power. Beyond that, gems also have their normal uses as decorations and displays of wealth and beauty. Right now only a few mines are worked on the surface and in the fortified zones of Quatus. The discovery of a mine would spell profit for any who could hold it.
  • Precious Metals While more mines for precious metals like copper, silver, gold, mithral, and adamantine exist on the surface of Canus than gem mines, most of those mines are in Bragonay. The other countries of Canus would love to discover mines of their own to take power from the dwarves, while the dwarves themselves would love to increase their holdings on precious metals.
  • Aberrant Technology Many aberrant ruins dot the surface of Canus, and their exploration has led to the discovery of many wonderful modern technologies. Those ruins are hundreds of thousands of years old, so imagine what the aberrants may have in their Underdark cities now. The danger of a recon mission into an aberrant city is great, but the rewards could be limitless.
  • Threat Removal Under Parian and Findalay the aberrants roam unchecked, while The Sleeping Ones plot their revenge in their dreams beneath Verda. These are threats which could strike the surface of Canus in the future – so isn’t it better to strike now before the incursions begin?
  • Fresh Starts Dwarves in Bragonay seek to escape the caste. Drow do not share the patriotism of their brethren. Shifters are tired of wandering. These are just a few of the folk who might strike out into the unknown Underdark seeking a new life all about basic survival.
  • Discovery for Discovery’s Sake Sometimes a person needs to climb a mountain just because it’s there. The Underdark is rife with the unknown. There are new people to meet, civilizations to be uncovered, creatures to fight, and experiences to be had. The draw of the unknown has a powerful pull on some curious humanoids of Canus. Many academics would also argue that learning for learning’s sake is what separates people from animals.

Dangers Below

Was ever a creature more appropriately named than the roper?

The Underdark is teeming with dangers unlike any on Canus’ known surface.

  • Aberrants The Underdark beneath Findalay teems with all manner of aberrant creatures looking to take the lives of the folk of Quatus. These aberrants abhor most humanoids and fight with a belief that their home was taken from them unjustly. Any adventurers who cross paths with aberrants would be wise to strike first or run with all haste.
  • The Sleeping Ones Beneath Verda lie the ancient aberrant-devil hybrids known as morchia. Though these creatures are supposedly slumbering thanks to The Reckoning Spell, there are those who claim to have seen morchia moving about in excursions into Verda’s underground. Other rare expeditions into Verda’s Underdark have been lost only to turn up somewhere else deep underground later, killed in a ritualistic fashion.
  • Beasts There are plenty of creatures in The Underdark who have always lived there. These beasts are as natural to Underdark tunnels as a camel is to a desert. Beware them when adventuring below ground. That’s their turf.
  • Other Humanoids Orcs, kobolds, goblinoids, troglodytes, and more have been known to call an Underdark cavern home. They’ve also been known to call other humanoids dinner.
  • Collapses The tunnels of The Underdark are not always stable and as such have a way of collapsing. If certain weak tunnels suffer trauma such as mining, battle, or even heavy travel the reverberations from these activities could cause a collapse.
  • Traps In several places, the aberrants, the morchia, the folk of Quatus, or other humanoids may have erected traps for battles imminent or long forgotten. Adventurers would be wise to examine where they step.
  • Diseases The Underdark isn’t the kind of place in which one wants to catch a cold. Strange diseases could ruin an individual’s health and mind in ways unlike any other. Here are a few examples of Underdark diseases:
    • Mushroom Mind The mushrooms of The Underdark are generally harmless, but there are those that should be avoided. None more so than the green-spotted murder mushrooms. Breathing in the spores this fungi produces gives them a chance to attach to one’s brain. From there the mushrooms grow within a person’s skull, slowly reducing their mental and physical faculties. Victims of this disease eventually get green spots on their scalp similar to those on the murder mushrooms. If a creature breathes in the spores he or she should make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails, he or she contracts Mushroom Mind. During each extended rest roll 1d6 on the table below to determine what happens. The disease may be cure by a restoration spell. A second casting of the spell also restores any ability score damage.
      • d6 Effect
        1 Reduce victim’s strength score by 1d4
        2 Reduce victim’s dexterity score by 1d4
        3 Reduce victim’s constitution score by 1d4
        4 Reduce victim’s intelligence score by 1d4
        5 Reduce victim’s wisdom score by 1d4
        6 Reduce victim’s charisma score by 1d4
    • Slug Snot When adventurers sleep in the open Underdark at night, they would be wise to plug their noses. Brown slugs called drunkbugs are known to crawl into a sleeping victim’s nose and travel down their throat into their stomachs. These slugs attach themselves to the lining of the stomach and secret alcohol, thus intoxicating the victim. The victim also produces an excess of mucus which is colored brown, hence the name of the disease. If a drunkbug crawls into a person’s stomach, he or she must make a DC 11 Constitution saving throw or contract the disease. For the duration of the disease the target is intoxicated. Each extended rest, the target is allowed a new Constitution saving throw to try to vomit up the bug and cure the disease. A lesser restoration spell can also cure the disease.
    • Wasting Away This is the most horrifying disease The Underdark has to offer. There are special patches of phosphorescent, psionic mold which grow only in the deepest tunnels of The Underdark. Breathing in the spores of the mold can cause Wasting Away which causes its victims to age one year per day. A victim may not realize he or she is infected until several days go by, thus they have aged several years. When breathing in the psionic spores, a creature must make a DC 14 Wisdom saving throw or contract the disease. Once wasting away is contracted it can only be removed by a restoration spell and the aging process can only be reversed by a wish spell. Ageless creatures, such as elves, shardmind, drow, and warforged are immune to this disease.
    • Wiped Away This disease is caused by breathing in a magical mist which is created by The Void. Those who breathe in the mist must make a DC 13 Wisdom saving throw or contract Wiped Away. Wiped Away is a special disease which magically influences any person who has met or heard of the victim. Over the course of ten days, the victim begins to forget who he or she is – as do the people around the victim. By the end of the disease it is as if the person never lived and he or she literally phases out of existence. This disease may only be cured by a wish spell.
  • The Void Scholars believe that there is something beneath The Underdark called The Void. This space is actually no space at all. It is absolute nothingness. It has the absence of being. There are a few places in The Underdark which are open pits into The Void. Spending too much time near one of these pits can make a person’s outlook become nihilistic to the point of insanity. This can be seen in the troglodyte clans who worship The Void. They sacrifice victims by throwing them into the Void Pits. Many of the troglodytes seek to end the pointlessness of existence by finding a way to set The Void free and destroy Canus. Those who fall into The Void are never heard from again and cannot be raised from the dead… Suggesting perhaps that either their soul is destroyed or they are alive somewhere within The Void or somewhere else.

Interesting Underdark Sites

When traversing the world beneath the surface, there are many fantastic and awesome sights upon which to look. Here are a few.

  • Dragon Chambers When the dragons were born out of the crust of Canus, legend has it they sprung forth as fully formed adults. There are impressions of scales, horns, wings, and tails in the tunnels and chambers of The Underdark to support these claims. Some chambers even have the shape and appearance of a dragon’s body and those are the Dragon Chambers. Depending on the dragon birthed in the chamber, spells of a certain energy type may be stronger.
  • Softstone In Underdark badlands, one must be particularly careful about where he or she steps. There are patches of ground known as softstone, which can swallow a creature whole. These patches are actually holes in the ground, filled with a stoney liquid that is a colony of carnivorous mold. It is essentially a camouflaged quicksand which devours its victims while suffocating them.
  • Infinite Tunnels Some tunnels in The Underdark seemingly go on forever. Others do go on forever. Canny adventurers may discover they are traveling the same stretch of hallway over and over again. They have entered an infinite tunnel, one which loops a constant mile or less stretch. One end of the tunnel connects to the next. Infinite tunnels share another common feature – all have the remains of at least one dead humanoid. These anomalies are usually caused by the spirit of a person who died in the tunnel with unfinished business. The characters must find a way to speak with the spirit and either agree to help finish its business or destroy it to get out of the tunnel. Those who agree to take care of the spirit’s business have a year to do so. If they do not they will suffer a horrible curse which turns all water and food in their mouths to dust until they starve to death. This will happen whether or not the creature needs to eat and drink.
  • Bloody Grounds These semi-magical patches of stone have absorbed the blood of great battles which happened upon them. While standing on the Bloody Grounds a creature delivers a critical hit on an attack roll of 19 or 20.
  • Ice Slides The fastest way to get from one place to the next in The Underdark are the Ice Slides. Scholars believe these ice-coated tunnels were made when white dragons dug their way to the surface using their breath weapons. The ice has lasted ever since. Travelers can go down these tunnels very quickly by body-sliding, but they will probably want to be sure they know where the tunnel ends. Some are short and will only take a person a few hundred feet down and others go for miles into The Underdark. Traveling up an ice tunnel is a different matter entirely. Travelers can only move at half speed while making their way up an ice tunnel, and are subject to a DC 10 Dexterity (Acrobatics) check every hour. If they fail they make no progress on their journey that hour.
  • Underdark Ocean There is an underground ocean which seems to separate the West Canus Underdark from the East. The full size of this watery expanse has never been explored, for the darkness hides rocky stalagmites rising up from the depths. Not to mention the terrifying Underdark sea creatures waiting with hungry mouths for anything to eat. Dark krakens, deep crocodiles, aberrant merfolk, and more await unfortunate travelers. The dangers have made all attempts at scouting the Dark Ocean fail. There has not been an attempt to map it for nearly 500 years, when a drow explorer named Vasperio Dumasca set out to cross the yawning body of water. He and his crew were never heard from again, though they say if you stand on the coast you can hear their ship, Prime Voyager, ringing its bell. Others claim to have seen its ghostly visage far in the distance. At the bottom of the Dark Ocean’s freezing depths lie centuries old shipwrecks waiting to be discovered.

How’d I Do?

Let me know what you think! Is this Underdark dangerous enough? Is it different enough, but still recognizable? Does an underground ocean terrify you? I want to know what you think!

If you like what you’re reading, please check out my podcast on The Tome Show, follow me on Twitter, tell your friends about the blog, and/or leave me a comment and let me know you think. Thanks!