An example Brian gave was how anticlimactic it would be if the real dangers of the world turned out to be what actually kills your adventurer.

John: Yea…too bad after all that you drank the castles well water, caught dysentery and died after several days of severe diarrhea….

My question to you is this – would you like to see a threat of disease?  Would there be any fun to it?

My initial reaction is, unless it’s linked to a specific plot device – no, there’s not really any fun to it.  On some level, we will always have the conceit that we’re playing a heroic fantasy game – even if it is a gritty one.  You don’t see half of Westeros dying of parasites or polio or something.  Heck, in Game of Thrones, if someone does contract a “disease” it almost certainly poison (there are some exceptions, but even the exceptions are plot devices – but I’ll keep this spoiler free).

I think it’s worth writing some rules for disease – let some threats (Mummies) or known areas (The Plague Bog) carry a threat of disease – but even then, if you decide to brave the plague-infested town to save some lives, and you come down with the plague and die, are you going to enjoy that session?  While realistic, it seems unfulfilling.

4 thoughts on “Disease

  1. Andy

    Agree that life threatening diseases should be limited to plot devices, but I do think “random encounter” diseases (see random encounter post) that give you minor penalties for the next day or so add a lot to the game. Part of the fun is not being 100% when you face every challenge. If your thief is traveling through the swamp and got diarrhea on his way to the dungeon I think that would help immerse me in the idea that we were really traveling through a swamp vs. just a collection of hexes. It would definitely entertain everyone too! A random disease like that shouldn’t totally nerf his character in an important dungeon but having a random minor penalty depending on the location is entertaining imo. Certainly makes you think about where you are traveling and not take moving around for granted.

    1. JackOfHearts Post author

      I’m on board with that. I’d like them to do something a little bit different than a stat penalty to give them a more unique flavor. 3e and PF basically reduced poison and disease to stat penalties that have no flavor or uniqueness to them at all.

  2. Brian

    I think realism needs to step aside for fun factor here. Going back to periods before the advent of antibiotics/sanitation you would see massive casualties from infection and diseases in the aftermaths of combats. The average player having to worry about infection every time they were injured will cut down on enjoyment I believe.

    Plot points or maybe perhaps disease centers could serve as ways to introduce added dangers. Swamps and jungles could come with an added threat of infection or disease, making the lost temple in the middle of the jungle more dangerous than one elsewhere.

    The thief who contracts something leading to bouts of vomiting or diarrhea could add some immersion and “flavor” to the story and force the party to really think about their approach to problems. In the middle of scouting – perhaps there is a 5% chance of an immediate need to empty the bowels or stomach for said thief? How loud was the “release”…are there any Buicks around to heed the call? Or maybe the thief steps aside and lets somebody else step in for a while – knowing he won’t be as effective.

    Diseases have their place I think – just not as a stat penalty.

    D10 Table of disease consequences…this could be fleshed out for different diseases I’d think…

    1: Massive Diarrhea – loud and explosive
    2: Massive Vomiting – loud and explosive
    3: Nothing
    4: Extreme lethargy
    5: Persistent cough
    6: Extreme weakness
    7 – 10: etc….

    1. JackOfHearts Post author

      Yeah, I think I’ll include something on diseases. Is it completely de-fanged though if diseases just aren’t lethal? Would they turn into a nuisance at some point? The game might just simply be more fun without them.

      For now, I think throwing in some diseases, especially if you could come up with a list (including some fantastic and weird diseases, I think) that had enough possibilities that it wouldn’t get old in the game, is the way I’ll go.


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