Monday, February 15, 2016

Channeling My Inner Nurgle

I'm about 30 pages into my 64 page campaign book for B/X which means I'm a bit ahead of schedule, considering my personal deadline of March 29th. Of course, I haven't nearly the talent or confidence in my own artwork as some of the participants, so who knows how long it will take me to get illustrations drawn and scanned...this thing might be one ugly, ugly book when all's said and done.

Which is fine, actually. I need something easy-shmeezy, something I'm not too terribly invested in, to try this whole illustration experiment. Waiting on art (whether paid or volunteer) is probably my least favorite part of is, in fact, the main reason Cry Dark Future wasn't published upon completion (though I'm somewhat glad in retrospect...waiting gave me time to see I wasn't tremendously pleased with certain aspects of the book. Don't'll be out there someday).

B/X is very "easy-shmeezy." Especially for doing a knock-off / adaptation fantasy setting, it's incredibly comprehensive in scope. Which is to say: it doesn't need much more than "re-skinning" to make something that feels "new," yet doesn't break the system. The scaling between spell levels is pretty accurate (with the exception of sleep), and pretty easy to follow, for can color hold person into any sort of "non-death-target-elimination" spell, and level it up or down depending on changes in range, save, and number/specificity of creatures affected. That's a real plus, and nice when you're tasked with adding 40-50 setting-specific spells to the game.

Right now, I'm considering how I want to handle a particular magical disease. B/X has four different forms of contagion hardwired into their rules (not counting green slime):

  • "Hideous wasting disease:" Causes -2 penalty to attack rolls, prevents magical curing, and doubles natural healing time. Illness is fatal in 2D12 days. Contracted by cause disease spell and failed saving throw. Treated by cure disease (explicit).
  • Lycanthropy: changes victim into a were-creature after 2D12 days. Contracted via severe HP loss (>half) to wear creature. Treated by "a high-level cleric (11th level or higher...)."
  • Mummy "rot:" prevents magical healing and wounds require 10 times as long to heal. Contracted via damage from mummy. Treated by "magical curing" (though unclear how as rot prevents magical healing).
  • Rats (any size): one-in-four chance of death in D6 days; otherwise, bedridden for one month. Contracted via rat bite (1 in 20 chance per bite) plus failed save versus poison. Treated by cure disease spell or bed rest.

That's not a bad spread, though it's interesting that the spell cure disease is only explicitly useful for half of the system-specified illness. In the campaign setting I'm writing, cure disease should be much more useful (there's more than a few disease spreading monsters and magic items), but I'm wondering if I shouldn't be creating my own form of infection rather than simply "re-skinning" the stuff listed.

Nurgle's Rot is a fairly iconic piece of (dark) fantasy gaming; from the Warhammer universe, you can find its page long description in GW's 1990 book, The Lost and the Damned:
Nurgles Rot, often known simply as the Rot, is a terrible contagious disease which affects the victim's mortal body and his shadow-self or spirit. A person who dies from Nurgles Rot is turned into a Plaguebearer and becomes a servant of Nurgle himself. Nurgles Rot epitomizes the core of Nurgle's ethos: suffering and overcoming suffering by great bravery and resolve. Those who contract the Rot often slay themselves in reckless battle, hoping to die quickly and cleanly and by this means to avoid becoming a Plaguebearer.
A plaguebearer is a lesser, humanoid demon of the Chaos god Nurgle. The text states it takes "several months" for the Rot to kill its victim; mechanically, this is modeled by each battle on the tabletop slightly altering the profile of the victim. After participating in seven battles, the victim dies, birthing a new plaguebearer. Oh, yeah...and the Rot "cannot be cured or its progress halted in any way."

[apologies if the original (1986) WFRPG has a description of Nurgle's Rot; I know there is a sample scenario that includes a champion of Nurgle in the book, as well as a number of descibed illnesses; however, I don't have my copy with me in Paraguay]

Typical plaguebearer. No, I didn't draw this.
Tempting as it is to include an incredibly contagious magical disease that cannot be cured and that gradually transforms its victim into a demon, I don't think that's what I want to do. After all, it's hard to see how such a plague wouldn't wipe out the entirety of the planet's population...imagine a "zombie apocalypse" in which the zombie were immune to non-magical weapons. That's a pretty shitty scenario any way you look at it (and the focus of the campaign is NOT some sort of D&D World War Z).

No, it doesn't really sound fun...though I like the idea of contagion. And I like the idea of gradual decrepitude...of individual's being diminished over time. However, it would have to be pretty fast-acting to have any impact on gameplay, seeing as how PCs have fairly easy access to magical curing (cure disease is available to any cleric beginning at 6th level).

Anyhoo, that's what's on my mind this morning.
: )


  1. Interesting, for the past two weeks I've been working on a "secret project" that is like what you're describing. I'm in the middle of re-skinning spells at the moment, and while the names are all different, and some of the visuals, they're pretty much all D&D (or AD&D) spells. Monsters will be the next part, also a lot of refluffing and renaming.

    1. Ooo-oo! I love secret projects! I'll show you mine if you show me yours.
      ; )

    2. Check your email and be prepared for the sexy!

      Well actually not really, more like silly.