Affliction Mechanics

“Affliction” is the general term for a curse, disease, form of insanity, or poison; they all generally function the same way, the main difference being that diseases are contagious while the other kinds of affliction are not.

Becoming Afflicted
When first exposed to an affliction, a character must make a saving throw of the appropriate type, Fortitude for diseases and poisons or Will for curses or forms of insanity. The first line of an affliction’s description will give the DC for this saving throw, which is the same DC used for all saving throws against the affliction, as well as the means by which a character can become afflicted; possibilities for a disease or poison are Contact, Ingestion, Inhalation, Injury, or Magic, while possibilities for a curse or form of insanity are Condition or Magic and curses are always delivered by Magic. If a creature is exposed to the same affliction often in a short period of time (such as by taking multiple hits with a poisoned weapon, spending several hours near a diseased creature, or the like), they do not contract it again, instead the save DC increases by +1 each time they fail a save against exposure.

After making his save the character does not know if he is afflicted until after the onset; most natural diseases have an onset time of 1 day, while most poisons and curses have a much shorter onset time and magical diseases and forms of insanity fall somewhere in the middle. After the onset of the affliction, the character or those around him begin to notice symptoms, and the character must begin making additional saves every so often to determine how the affliction progresses, according to the interval of the affliction; again, most diseases have long intervals, on the order of days, while poisons have short intervals on the order of rounds or minutes and other afflictions are somewhere in the middle. The number of saving throws required after the initial save against exposure is its severity; many afflictions continue until cured, having Severity —, while others only require a few saves before they run their course.

Most diseases, poisons, and forms of insanity are natural; magical ones are noted with an M after their names. Curses are always magical and noted as such. Magical afflictions have +2 DC compared to natural afflictions, as all of them have some form of mitigating factor or circumstance that lowers the DC.

Affliction Effects
Each affliction has a track of sorts to determine the effects of the affliction at certain stages, similar to a character’s wounds. When first afflicted, the character experiences the effects under the “0” stage of the track. Each time a character fails a save against the affliction he moves one step in the negative direction, to “-1” then “-2” and so on, while each time a character succeeds on a save by more than 5 points or critically succeeds he moves one step in the positive direction, back to “0” and then to “+1” and “+2” and so on; all effects are cumulative with those of less intense stages to the left of that stage, and apply for as long as the character is in the stage unless indicated otherwise. Succeeding by less than 5 means the character remains at his current stage, suffering any effects inflicted upon reaching that stage, and failure by more than 5 or critical failure means the character moves two steps in the negative direction.

If a character fails a save while at the most negative end of the track, he no longer has a chance to recover from the affliction naturally and stops making saves, suffering the affliction’s end state if it has one; if he succeeds on a save while at the most positive end of the track, he is cured of the affliction unless the description states that treatment is required to be cured or if the character does not meet the requirement for being cured; if he receives treatment and/or meets the affliction’s requirements before another interval passes, he is cured without needing to make an additional save.

In addition to the track effect, each affliction has a consequence, an effect that takes place each time the character fails a save regardless of his position on the track. This usually takes the form of ability damage, but a consequence can also inflict hit point damage, a different condition, or other effects.

Common terms found in affliction stages are as follows:

  • Bedridden: The character is Disabled, Exhausted, and Prone, unable to safely do more than lie awake and perform very light physical activity.
  • Carrier (Diseases only): The character does not have any symptoms, but can still infect others with the disease.
  • Impaired: The character is Sickened and Fatigued, and reduces certain ability scores to 8, which cannot be healed or raised above 8 while in the current stage; the ability scores affected are noted in the description. Each time the character takes a standard action, they must save against the affliction’s DC or become Nauseated for 1d6+1 rounds.
  • Latent (Diseases only): The character does not have any symptoms and is not contagious, but is not free of the disease.

Treating Afflictions
The nature of an affliction can be identified with a Heal check against the affliction’s DC. A success gives the healer details based on his rank in Nature (for natural diseases and poisons), an appropriate world proficiency (for magical diseases and poisons), or Runes or Traditions (for curses and forms of insanity): having no proficiency tells the healer the affliction’s exact DC and its severity; Basic proficiency tells the healer the affliction’s consequence and the likely general effects of failing the next save; Expert proficiency tells the healer the number of stages it has, the effects of each stage, and any special effects or special requirements needed to cure the affliction.

Afflicted characters may be treated with the Heal skill for the duration of an affliction’s interval to allow the character to use the healer’s Heal check result in place of their saving throw for that interval; this is considered a downtime action, and so may be shortened by Working Smarter to allow the healer to treat multiple patients in a given timeframe. An affliction may also be treated by other uses of the Heal skill to reduce conditions, heal ability damage, and so forth, but this does not affect the affliction’s progress, only ameliorates its symptoms.

Getting full bed rest for a full interval, whether or not he is being tended by a healer, grants a character a +2 bonus on saves against diseases and poisons, and spending that time in a quiet and peaceful area grants a +2 bonus on saves against forms of insanity, while strenuous activity for most of an interval (including combat) imposes a -2 penalty on such saves. Spending a full interval in an area consecrated to a character’s gods grants him a +2 bonus on saves against curses, while spending an interval in an area consecrated to an opposing pantheon or containing opposing spirits imposes a -2 penalty. Afflictions can always be treated by nonmagical means unless their description notes otherwise.

Alternately, the affliction may be cured instantly with magic, using neutralize poison (poisons), remove disease (diseases), remove curse (curses), or break enchantment (insanity). Most afflictions can be treated normally with magic, but some resist such magical healing and have certain other requirements (such as caster level checks or special material components) to be magically healed, as noted in an individual affliction’s entry.

Spreading Diseases
A character exposed to a source of disease such as another infected character must make a save against contracting the disease. Only experiencing momentary exposure grants a +4 bonus on the saving throw, while exposure to a substance particularly good at carrying disease such as a dead body or fouled water imposes a -4 penalty.

Breaking Curses
See the description of placing curses for details.

Known Afflictions

Earthblood Venom (Poison) M
Spread by a goblin’s claws or exposure to a hill troll’s blood, Earthblood Venom slow turns a victim’s blood to sand and gravel, sapping them of strength and vitality.
Afflicted: Injury; Saving Throw: By creature (usually 14 for goblins)
Onset: Immediate; Interval: 1 minute (darkness), 10 minutes (indirect sunlight), 1 hour (direct sunlight)
Severity: 1 (goblin claws) or 3 (hill troll blood); Consequence: 1d4+1 Str, 1d6 Con
Cure: Requires a piece of silver to be held to the wound.
Special: -2 (goblin) or -1 (hill troll) to save DC while in indirect sunlight, -4 (goblin) or -2 (hill troll) to save DC and does not deal Str damage while in direct sunlight.

Muspel Fever (Disease) M
Spread by a nuckelavee’s breath, Muspel Fever raises a victim’s temperature to lethal levels until they are boiled alive.
Afflicted: Inhalation; Saving Throw: By nuckelavee (usually 26); Onset: 1 day; Interval: 1 day
Severity: —; Consequence (-1 and lower only): 1d6 fire damage and 1 Int damage
Cure: Requires a caster level check against the save DC (+1 per prior attempt) to heal magically.
Special: -1 to save DC if victim is treated with pure freshwater and given large quantities of it to drink, -2 to save DC if the water is consecrated.

Stage +2 +1 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
Effect While In Stage Latent Carrier -4 to saves against fire and gaseous effects Vulnerability to fire and acid damage, Impaired (Dex), can’t run or charge Impaired (Int, Wis) and cannot sleep Blinded and Mindfire (see below)
Effect Upon Reaching Stage 1d6 fire damage, 1d4+1 Int damage 1d6 acid and 1d6 fire damage, 1d6+1 Int drain
Symptoms The victim develops a slight headache and feels uncomfortable at room temperature. The victim’s body temperature increases by a noticeable but painless amount and their mouth becomes unpleasantly dry. The victim has a moderate fever and his skin turns a blotchy gray and pale. The victim has a high fever and is bright red and tender to the touch all over his body, making rapid movements painful. Acrid smoke leaks slowly and painfully from the victim’s nostrils and ears, and he seems to require a great deal of effort to speak or focus on anything. The character’s veins visibly glow a dull orange and his eyes constantly leak smoke.

Mindfire: The character’s mind is slowly burning away. Once per watch, the victim must make a Will save or lose a memory relevant to the character’s current activities; failure indicates a minor loss (forgets favorite foods, can’t remember how to get back home, or the like), failure by 5 or more indicates a major loss (loses a proficiency rank, 1d6 skill points, or a known runic spell, or forgets all about something or someone important). Additionally, during stressful situations such as combat the victim is Confused, though he is entitled to a Will save each round to act normally that round, and if an “attack” option is rolled on the d% check for Confused the victim must use a fire-, smoke-, or disease-related ability if possible as his attack or in conjunction with his attack.

End Stage: With a scream of anguish, the character dies, exploding in a messy shower of flaming blood. Creatures within a radius of 5 feet per size category above Tiny (5 feet for goats, 10 feet for humans, 15 feet for horses, etc.) are covered in the victim’s blood, taking 1d6 acid and 1d6 fire damage and becoming exposed to the disease.

Trollskin Shivers (Disease) M
Spread by a goblin’s bite, the Trollskin Shivers breaks down a victim’s mind and body until they are transformed into a goblin themselves.
Afflicted: Injury; Saving Throw: By goblin (usually 13); Onset: 3 watches; Interval: 2 watches (darkness), 1 day (indirect sunlight), 3 days (direct sunlight);
Severity: —; Consequence: 1d3+1 Wis, 1d3+1 Cha
Cure: Requires a piece of silver to be held to the wound.
Special: -2 (goblin) or -1 (hill troll) to save DC while in indirect sunlight, -4 (goblin) or -2 (hill troll) to save DC and does not deal Wis damage while in direct sunlight.

Stage 0 -1 -2 -3 -4
Effect While In Stage Distracted and all speeds are halved. Frightened while in stressful situations, Distracted otherwise Bedridden
Effect Upon Reaching Stage Mental scores fall to 0
Symptoms The victim has bizarre dreams involving dark caves and indecipherable whispers, and his skin grows slightly ashen and constantly twitchy. The victim develops moles, pimples, rashes, and other unpleasant blemishes, and becomes clumsy and uncoordinated as his skin warps slightly. The victim begins experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations, and his features become twisted and ugly. The victim’s skin turns dark gray and continually writhes and twists. The victim falls into a coma, muttering in the Troll tongue all the while.

End State: Upon the next night’s moonrise, the victim awakens as a goblin, retaining no trace of his former self.


Saga of the Northlands PsychicTheurge