Thursday, February 14, 2013

Does Anyone Use Real Life Illnesses / Viruses in Their Campaign?

As I sit here, waiting for my next "call to nature", it occurs to me that the only times I've seen illness / viruses / flus and the like in an RPG campaign, it been as part of a plot hook.

I don't ever recall an adventuring party getting sidelined by dysentery, a flu, the norovirus (love ya dude, but you are more than welcome to take your leave now) or any such run of the mill illness.

All of which leaves me to believe that there must be a series of unpublished spells that take care of such issues. Maybe the magic-user has a "Sterile Cleaning" spell for his workshop or clothes. Perhaps clerics have the "Cure Minor Aliment" spell to get rid of the the of the mill flu or viral infection, and a "Cure Major Aliment" spell for pneumonia and the like. Because really, you need something a bit more flexible than Purify Food and Water.

If there were magical cures and / or preventions, it would all make sense. Maybe I need to put my party up against a group of norovirus infected adversaries and watch the fun that follows...

Things that cross your mind while on a "liquid diet". I can't see myself fighting orcs or slaying dragons in this state ;)


  1. Yup. Well kinda. I've got stuff in there that will make them vomit and poop...does that count?

  2. One time long ago. Had my players run around in bad weather (rained for 3 days). Had them make save so they would not come down sick with the flu. In the end, 4 out of 6 players were sick. Gave out a -1 on saves and -1 to hit and damage. None of the players complained and rollplayed it out. Was very fun time.
    Then it went into a short adventure to fund the magical chicken soup to cure their flu.

  3. In Fantasy Wargaming there is a provision for the Referee to roll 2d6 for each character each game day. On a 12, the character suffers from a minor ailment, such as a headache or diarrhea, that gives a mechanical penalty for the day (though the penalty is the same regardless of the specific ailment, which is picked by the Referee).

    Of course, by the book 1E has its monthly checks for disease and parasites, which I've never seen used, but I would like to.

  4. That was the initial premise for my entry in the Grand Original Map Contest. It warped into a combination of disease and bigger living nasties, but the whole thing was centered on how dirty and gross a ruined tower and underground cavern would probably be . . . without a gelatinous cube around to clean things up, that is.

    Can you imagine what a hemorrhagic fever would do to a party? Save versus ebola. *shudder*

  5. In my own system that is still under development there are four kinds of diseases.

    1) Sick. A very brief physical response to diseased substances. Usually alleviated by vomiting, evacuating as the body rids itself of the toxins.
    2) Dis-ease. This is a simple immune response to infectious material. Nausea, dizziness, sweats. Will go away after a period of bed rest and sustenance.
    3) "Black Plague." The body begins to grow black polyps all over itself. Is either alleviated with Major Healing effects or an extended stay at a Hospital (where a Surgeon will meticulously remove all the polyps by the root and sew you back up).
    4) "White Plague." The body falls into a coma and thick, white mucous is slowly excreted from all the orifices. As with other Plagues, requires Major Healing or extended Surgical attention.
    5) "Red Plague." Permanent blindness -- the eyes become bloody and excrete a stringy, red substance from the tear ducts. Again, requires Major Healing or an extended Hospital stay to remove.

    Each of those 5 have "associated mechanics" for resolving mechanically, so the description functions as both the in-game logic and the meta-game logic (mechanics).

  6. Getting sick because rat bite or swamp slog = adventure
    Getting sick because what the hey, medieval times = not adventure

  7. I distinctly recall giving out several cases of filth fever to PCs via ratbite in a low-level 3.0 game once, and during one wilderness adventure the party's mules, who carried the barrels of clean water, were eaten by gryphons. This led to the party drinking swamp water, and there was dysentery for everyone.

  8. I occasionally drop normal illness in a game. I once had a King in a prominent nation who had AIDS and was dying. Everyone thought it was a plot device, but actually wasn't.

  9. Travel with Paladins... They exude clean. Never did a lot of cold and sniffles things in my game, play more heroic fantasy level stuff versus making it "real".

  10. Yep, I've got a stripped down version of the system in Blackmoar.

    Basically, I like to use diseases as hazards. Swamps and jungles harbor "crud" and malaria, sieges and filth have flux, wintery and crowded areas "grippe", and pox, plague, and consumption get thrown in with occasional encounters.


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