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View Full Version : How dangerous are diseases in a D&D world?



Scalenex
2007-02-18, 09:35 PM
How willing would most churches be to dispense magical healing? Also assuming most of the churches were fully altruistic, how well could they keep diseases under control during "normal" times and how well could they keep diseases under control during times of plagues.

Then there are of course, magical plagues, but a magical plague is apt to be the center of a conflict or story with a grand quest involved whereas a normal plague (even a severe one) would be more background story than a full plot.

Finally under what conditions would evil clerics (or neutral, why not) decide that casting Contagion is a good idea given that in most worlds evil clerics are the minority and liberal use of Contagion could expose them to their enemies.

Falkus
2007-02-18, 09:47 PM
Also assuming most of the churches were fully altruistic, how well could they keep diseases under control during "normal" times and how well could they keep diseases under control during times of plagues.


Not particularly well. Remove disease is a third level spell, so the number of clerics who can cast it is not overly high in most areas. And even then, a cleric could only cure a handful of people each day. They could keep the government and other important people safe, but any plague would still take its usual toll on the population, and would require regular methods to be controlled.

That Lanky Bugger
2007-02-18, 09:47 PM
Diseases are probably not common. Most Clerics would be willing to use their ability to remove diseases freely, especially altruistic churches. Even non-altruistic churches would probably be pressed into service by the government in the case of a plague of some sort.

Likewise, Contagion is probably used, but not commonly. As a spell it has no application in combat, and even a relatively industrious evil priest could only infect something like a few dozen people a day.

TheOOB
2007-02-18, 09:58 PM
Remember one key point, unlike modern medicine, while the Remove Disease spell may heal disease, it does nothing to prevent you from getting it again. In an epidemic situation a cure is worthless in comparison to a method of prevention, and in that respect disease is still deadly in the D&D world.

Sure your local church of Pelor may be able to cure 50 people of filth feaver a day, but when you have an ever growing colony of dire rats biting an ever growing number of people each day, the cure starts becoming irrelevent except for people in large, important positions.

In fact, the existance of a spell to cure diseases may acually make diseases worse because people rely on magic to help them. When you think magic can cure any ill you come up with, you don't put as much effort into developing vaccines and promoting clean, disease safe living conditions. The most dire threats are those not reconized as threats.

Dhavaer
2007-02-18, 10:03 PM
Even a low level cleric could heal someone with the Heal skill. Given the low DCs for most diseases, with Skill Focus and a decent Wisdom any Cleric could be an effective doctor.

oriong
2007-02-18, 10:32 PM
Even a low level cleric could heal someone with the Heal skill. Given the low DCs for most diseases, with Skill Focus and a decent Wisdom any Cleric could be an effective doctor.

This is actually a really good point. A Heal check is probably much more commonly used than a Cure Disease spell.

However, I'd say this still won't stop the spread of real disease in a major city area. First and foremost some will be unwilling or unable to seek treatment until it is too late, allowing the disease to spread further, and even given how little effort a Heal check takes there are only so many people who can reliably make it (if we assume a real 'plague' is something like Cackle Fever at DC 16) are those with a +6 bonus, your average first level, wisdom 10, cross-class healer will have only a +2 to +4 bonus, while a first level cleric could get a +8 to +10 easily enough even that will leave a large population of infected who can continue to spread the disease (since 1/4 checks will fail).

TheOOB
2007-02-18, 10:40 PM
Besides, magical diseases that themselves cannot be healed by normal magic (wow not a dozen words into a post and allready an oxymoron). Several D&D adventures and models have used such as a disease as a major plot point (Neverwinter Nights comes to mind), and in a world of artifacts and dragons is not too unreasonable.

You build a better cure, we'll build a better disease.

NullAshton
2007-02-18, 10:42 PM
Very dangerous. If the DM doesn't want a disease to be cured for a plot and the PC cleric is trying to go around healing everyone... all the DM has to do is slap the player and say it doesn't work.

Dhavaer
2007-02-18, 10:46 PM
(since 1/4 checks will fail).

I can't access the SRD right now, but I'm fairly sure you can take 10 on a Heal check.

Scalenex
2007-02-18, 11:50 PM
Remember one key point, unlike modern medicine, while the Remove Disease spell may heal disease, it does nothing to prevent you from getting it again. In an epidemic situation a cure is worthless in comparison to a method of prevention, and in that respect disease is still deadly in the D&D world.

Sure your local church of Pelor may be able to cure 50 people of filth feaver a day, but when you have an ever growing colony of dire rats biting an ever growing number of people each day, the cure starts becoming irrelevent except for people in large, important positions.

In fact, the existance of a spell to cure diseases may acually make diseases worse because people rely on magic to help them. When you think magic can cure any ill you come up with, you don't put as much effort into developing vaccines and promoting clean, disease safe living conditions. The most dire threats are those not reconized as threats.

Excellent point there, I didn't think about Remove Disease only being a temporary fix.

As for the second point, it took a long time for people in the real world to find a causal link between unsanitary conditions and disease. It may be even harder to find such a link in a D&D world because people could just assume it's vengeful gods or magic. Or the world could have different natural laws. Since you can have a D&D world that's flat instead of a globe I suppose you can have a world where diseases come from something other than bacteria, viruses, and other germs but then the line between magical and non-magical diseases becomes blurred.

Dhavaer
2007-02-18, 11:52 PM
Since you can have a D&D world that's flat instead of a globe I suppose you can have a world where diseases come from something other than bacteria, viruses, and other germs but then the line between magical and non-magical diseases becomes blurred.

I generally assume that diseases are caused by an altered form of Negative energy.

Tor the Fallen
2007-02-18, 11:58 PM
I'm playing in evil half-fiend in a campaign right now, and as characters go, he's not very optimized. Semi-impressive ability scores, but his LA puts him 3 under the party average, and getting to cast contagion 1/day and cause disease 2/week isn't doing much for me, in combat.

However, as the dominator type, the character's looking to conquer all in his path. How difficult do you think it would be to start an epidemic? My plan was to capture some poor bastard, hit him with a poison to drop his constitution, and wait to see if he dies from the con damage. If he doesn't die, I'd infect him with slimy doom.
He begins to turn into contagious slime, and dies.
I throw his contagious corpse down the town well.

Collin152
2007-02-19, 12:02 AM
I would surmise that a cleric would attemptto treat people with Heal checks best they can, using remove disease to kept themselves healthy as well as anybody not reacting well to the treatment (ie, people that theu failed a lot of checks with). You should probably read Tamora Pierce's novels, particularly Briar's book, as that one in particular deals a lot with how they all strive to develpo a cure for a disease that turns out to have magical elements. Really quite... answering.

Sardia
2007-02-19, 12:38 AM
Assuming they figure out where the diseases are coming from, a lot depends on preventing the diseases rather than curing them-- some notions:

Decanters of Endless Water instead of wells (which were generally putridly contaminated).
Repel Vermin to get rid of lice, ticks, fleas, etc.

Or Awaken a few rats, buff 'em up and send them to kill other rats.

oriong
2007-02-19, 12:41 AM
Or Awaken a few rats, buff 'em up and send them to kill other rats.

Wow...this just inspired one of the weirdest ideas for an adventure ever. PC rats struggling to battle their own plague-tainted kind, epic battles against swarms of giant rats, the occasional dog, perhaps the deadly advanced house-cat.

TheOOB
2007-02-19, 12:51 AM
Wow...this just inspired one of the weirdest ideas for an adventure ever. PC rats struggling to battle their own plague-tainted kind, epic battles against swarms of giant rats, the occasional dog, perhaps the deadly advanced house-cat.

That reminds me, I need to return redwall to the friend I borrowed it from...

In the long run however, disease is as dangerous as the DMs want it to be. The diseases in the core rulesbooks, barring the supernatural ones, are pretty weak and easy to deal with, but it would be easy to make a disease that is more dangerous. Increases the stat damage and DC and/or decreasing the incubation period can be quite potent, though I find the easiest way to make a dangerous disease to to give it a very long incubation period, and make it really really easy to transfer so by the time the pandemic is reconized it is far beyond even the most powerful clerics ability to control barring artifacts or divine intervention.

Sardia
2007-02-19, 12:54 AM
Wow...this just inspired one of the weirdest ideas for an adventure ever. PC rats struggling to battle their own plague-tainted kind, epic battles against swarms of giant rats, the occasional dog, perhaps the deadly advanced house-cat.

To a point. If you put the advanced rats in tiny suits of armor of invulnerability, that damage reduction will make them immune to whatever gnaws on them at that size. Slaughter ensues.

Olethros
2007-02-19, 01:10 AM
As for the second point, it took a long time for people in the real world to find a causal link between unsanitary conditions and disease.

Actually, this is a common historical misconception. Modern western medicin took a staggering backslide in the middle ages after the fall of Rome, but the concept of a connection between cleanliness and health existed within the earliest known civilizations. The City States of mesopotamia had laws regulating the disposal of wastes, pacement of wells and handling off foodstuffs (not exactly handwwashing or anything) all related to public health. Even earlier, many of the traditions and taboos of tribal society are best explained by a basic understanding of the need for rudamentary sanitation.

I have always thought of the D&D church as loath to perform its magics on the populace at large, even those spells that have no "cost" associated with them. If they were willing to constantly heal, anyone who stepped through the doors of the temple, you would have whole villages that, barring sudden lethal accident, would all live to there maximum age. The cost of which in terms of food, space, and other resources could be staggering.

oriong
2007-02-19, 01:10 AM
Ah, but then they have to face Kaggoth! The Half-Dragon rat! The son of the red dragon with the oddest fetish ever!

Rabiesbunny
2007-02-19, 01:30 AM
Considering that leprosy exists in the D&D world, on top of a staggering amount of other, nasty diseases...

...well, they can be devastating. I'm waiting 'til my character hits high levels. She'll be able to walk into town, sneeze on someone, waltz out, and a week later the town will have horribly imploded. The amount of clerics to commoners in any given D&D setting is so small...

Thomas
2007-02-19, 07:04 AM
It may be even harder to find such a link in a D&D world because people could just assume it's vengeful gods or magic.

What are you talking it about? It is vengeful gods or magic, half the time... :smallamused:

Anyway, diseases are obviously less dangerous in most D&D worlds than in the real world. How much less so depends on the world, the area, and the amount of clerics available.


I actually like the way diseases work in Glorantha, though applying it to a D&D world would be tricky indeed.

Diseases are caused by spirits sent by Mallia, the goddess of disease; each disease spirit carries a different sort of disease, and when it enters a victim, it infects them. So long as the spirit remains in the victim, the disease cannot be overcome or cured - the spirit has to be exorcised (which usually requires a shaman, since priests don't know how to deal with spirits; shamans are very rare outside of primitive hunter-gatherer and nomad societies). A single disease spirit could easily infect an entire village in a week (especially as the disease begins to spread normally from the infected victims) - but the disease spirits are rarely found alone!

Mallia's worshippers also spread disease "manually" - brewing foul potions and using them to poison wells or food.

The most common cure for disease is to sacrifice to a healing deity, which may or may not help. Another "cure" is to propitiate Mallia so that she'll not send her spirits, or withdraw them (which may work temporarily, but always makes the disease goddess stronger).

I like the model, because it allows for deadly epidemics in a magical world where an individual adventurer can easily be healed of disease by magic. Replicating it in D&D would be difficult indeed, though. I suppose using some sort of disease-spreading ghosts (or other incorporeal, even ethereal creatures) might do the trick...

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-02-19, 08:55 AM
Not particularly well. Remove disease is a third level spell, so the number of clerics who can cast it is not overly high in most areas. And even then, a cleric could only cure a handful of people each day. They could keep the government and other important people safe, but any plague would still take its usual toll on the population, and would require regular methods to be controlled.
Of course, in a particularly wealthy and forward-thinking kingdom, you might have programs set up to stockpile wands and potions of remove disease. An especially wealthy and forward-thinking kingdom might even manage to get some of that stockpile spread out amongst the little hamlets and thorps along the fronteir. These stockpiles would help reduce the reliance on a limited number of spells per day from a limited number of clerics capable of casting 3rd-level spells.

But that's a pretty idealized situation, I think.

hewhosaysfish
2007-02-19, 09:49 AM
Of course, in a particularly wealthy and forward-thinking kingdom, you might have programs set up to stockpile wands and potions of remove disease. An especially wealthy and forward-thinking kingdom might even manage to get some of that stockpile spread out amongst the little hamlets and thorps along the fronteir. These stockpiles would help reduce the reliance on a limited number of spells per day from a limited number of clerics capable of casting 3rd-level spells.

But that's a pretty idealized situation, I think.

But it does over the possibility that the evil servants of the evil plague god(dess) might steal/destroy your stockpiles (or swap them with wands of contagion, bwahahaha!) forcing you to hire a band of travelling adventurers to return/replace you healing supplies... and catch the evil cultist/spy/traitor responsible.
It doesn't matter how wealthy and forward-thinking your kingdom is, something will always go to smash just to generate plot hook. Hm... a really clever kingdom might ban adventures entirely, just so that all the campaigns take place on the other side of the campaign setting. :smalltongue:

MrNexx
2007-02-19, 10:10 AM
Of course, I wouldn't be surprised if there were other spells, not detailed, that specifically add to the disease save of large numbers of people.

PMDM
2007-02-19, 10:18 AM
This is a setting question. Do you think t should be big deal??

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-02-19, 11:52 AM
It doesn't matter how wealthy and forward-thinking your kingdom is, something will always go to smash just to generate plot hook. Hm... a really clever kingdom might ban adventures entirely, just so that all the campaigns take place on the other side of the campaign setting. :smalltongue:
Ah, indeed. That would probably be the most effective public health program one could come up with. :smallcool:

Collin152
2007-02-19, 02:05 PM
But if there are no adventures, they will cease to exist! Rule number 1 about being in a campain setting: YOu exist to suit the needs of the plot. If the plot does not involve you, you do not exist.

rob
2007-02-20, 03:14 AM
I had a big problem with this personally, in trying to GM a DnD setting in darklands (old early 90s video game)-style medieval europe; though mine was set on the Cote d' Azure in between Marseilles and Rome. Trying to come up with a sufficient scenario in which the black plague would be a major threat.

First, I had to make sure that the vast majority of religious were adepts or non-magical religious. Clerics were mostly a staple of the orders military of the church (the crusaders, templars, hospitallers), at least in the context of christians.

Second, I added a bit of 'terror' by linking it, as a plot point, with the appearance of Haley's comet in the 14th century as a harbinger of the end times, and the sudden appearance of abberations across europe. This explained the general impotence of the religious community to do much about it.

(Also made a great Shadow Over Innsmouth / Horror at Red Hook (both HP Lovecraft short stories) segue adventure, where the party got trounced by an Aboleth and its oppressed worshippers...)

Beleriphon
2007-02-20, 03:44 AM
Keep in mind that the DMG only explains the fictional diseases that exist for D&D. Nothing is preventing you from coming up with your own version of the black plague. Something of that nature is deadly to a highly populated, dense, urban environment. Of course the thing could have been avoid with soap, but that just reinforces the point.

If you take a look at the major settings for D&D most wouldn't have a terribly hard time dealing with a disease. Forgotten Realms has enough high level casters of all sorts that it shouldn't be a problem, add to that most cities having real, functional sewers, and you remove a fairly significant problem of waste disposal. I don't see Waterdeep having London's problem with plagues.

In Eberron the society is advanced enough to understand plagues, and with House Jorasco providing expert healing services a plague is unlikely to take hold except in situations where it spreads faster than the treatment, usually slums.

Planescape is interesting in that plagues could both exist in a terrible way, and not in another. Most of the creatures of the planes are immune to disease, or can cleanse themselves. I can see a plague breaking out in Sigil, in certain parts of the city at any rate, but I don't see it being a massive problem overall.

With Greyhawk I see the most likely setting to end up with some kind of plague. Not for lack of magical abilities, but rather for lack of people to actually make use of the magic. That and of all of the D&D settings its the one that is most similar to medival Europe.



It doesn't matter how wealthy and forward-thinking your kingdom is, something will always go to smash just to generate plot hook. Hm... a really clever kingdom might ban adventures entirely, just so that all the campaigns take place on the other side of the campaign setting. :smalltongue:

That sounds like a Discworld response. Everything was terrific in the kingdom until some adventurer showed up and things promptly went to pot. A plague started, the king is assassinated, demons invaded and a dragon kidnaped the princess.

Thomas
2007-02-20, 06:38 AM
I had a big problem with this personally, in trying to GM a DnD setting in darklands (old early 90s video game)-style medieval europe; though mine was set on the Cote d' Azure in between Marseilles and Rome. Trying to come up with a sufficient scenario in which the black plague would be a major threat.

Darklands! Total classic. I've got it on my computer at this very moment.

InaVegt
2007-02-20, 06:47 AM
Disease is as deadly as the DM makes it, my version of the black plague par example.

Black plague: fort DC: 26*, incubation period: 1d3 weeks. Damage: 3d4 con, inhaled

*The black plague needs to be overcome by 4 continious successes, not 2



This is a highly dangerous disease and the fact it is inhaled (even though the original black plague wasn't, that was injury (Flee bites) IIRC) makes it highly lethal. I don't know about you, but I generally rule every minute within 10 feet of someone with an inhaled disease you don't have forces you to make a safe vs. contracting that disease. Now, combine this with busy crowds consisting of lots of low level commoners and you can see how quickly this decimates a village.

Quietus
2007-02-20, 08:55 AM
Wow, that version of the black plague is just silly. DC 26, 3d4 con and four successes? There isn't a single commoner that could make ONE success! I'd tone it down, that's just... overpowering. That's a good way to say goodbye to your entire setting.

InaVegt
2007-02-20, 09:00 AM
Wow, that version of the black plague is just silly. DC 26, 3d4 con and four successes? There isn't a single commoner that could make ONE success! I'd tone it down, that's just... overpowering. That's a good way to say goodbye to your entire setting.
The historical way of surviving the black plague was not getting it (unless you were one of the rare people who were immune, IIRC 1% of britain is immune to it), if a village became infected by the plague they locked themselves up, as well as locking up any person who was know to have it.

Thomas
2007-02-20, 09:07 AM
The Black Plague was the name of the pandemic, not the disease. If we assume it was bubonic plague (or pneumonic plague), the mortality rate for that (untreated) is only some 50%.

So about 50% of commoners should survive it (by succeeding at enough saves before they lose all Con). Who wants to calculate the DC from that? :smalltongue: I'd guess between 10 and 15, depending on the amount of Con damage.

spotmarkedx
2007-02-20, 09:23 AM
Wow, that version of the black plague is just silly. DC 26, 3d4 con and four successes? There isn't a single commoner that could make ONE success! I'd tone it down, that's just... overpowering. That's a good way to say goodbye to your entire setting.
Actually, they can still roll 20's. So an extremely lucky commoner is golden. Of course, this still results in a 99.997% death rate, assuming that the average commoner can survive a single failure and still live. Population of, say 100,000? Its now 3.

Even dropping the # of successes to 2 is population destroying. Still assuming that you only pass on 20's, but you can fail once (*runs calculations*) "only" a 99.275% fatality rate. Same population of 100,000 is now 725.

And with the incubation times, and only needing to breath the air of an infected person? You can pretty much guarantee that the large majority of your population is going to catch this plague.

InaVegt
2007-02-20, 09:24 AM
I'm talking about what we call the ‘zwarte pest’ in my country which if you're infected by it almost certainly kills you (I've heard 1% chance of surviving). And since ‘pest’ is usually translated with plague and and ‘zwart(e)’ is just the dutch word for black I assumed it was the same plague

Jimp
2007-02-20, 09:26 AM
A variant I've seen used is that Remove Disease and similar spells only affect special and magical diseases, such as the Filth Fever and co. described in the core books. For other 'normal' diseases, maybe a nasty strain of flu or something, only Heal checks would work.

spotmarkedx
2007-02-20, 09:34 AM
The black plague was horrific, no denial. The Black Death is estimated to have killed between a third and two-thirds of Europe's population. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death ) I think that your example is a bit more horrific than even the Black Death was, especially since it is air-transmitted, which makes it pretty much impossible to quarantine through mundane means.

As noted above, even magical means of dealing with disease have pretty much little to no chance of affecting a real pandemic. It can bump your percentage points by a few, make sure that the leadership remains intact, but your cities are going to be devoid of anyone except your priests, nobility, and a few adventurers.

InaVegt
2007-02-20, 09:39 AM
It's only airtasnmitted because there are no rules for vermin (traditional not D&D sense of the word) transmitted diseases. Air transmitted was the closest I could get (those flees can easily jump long distances). The reason why europe wasn't wiped out by it is in fact because they realised it spread between people, and as such quarantined entire cities if they were infected by it, these cities had almost nobody living in it left afterwards. It wasn't perfect and that's why it killed so much, but it helped.

spotmarkedx
2007-02-20, 09:53 AM
I still think your numbers are off.


The bubonic plague was the most commonly seen form during the Black Death, with a mortality rate of thirty to seventy-five percent and symptoms including fever of 38 - 41 C (101-105 F), headaches, aching joints, nausea and vomiting, and a general feeling of malaise. The pneumonic plague was the second most commonly seen form during the Black Death, with a mortality rate of ninety to ninety-five percent
So of the two diseases that were rampant during the Black Death, one killed about half those infected, and the more virulent but less common killed about 18-19 of 20.

This is not to say that you can't have a nastier version of these plagues in your game, but the Black Plague was not a guaranteed death sentence. You just had really low odds if you did get it. But even assuming the worst case scenario (pneumonic plague), your population of 100,000 still has 5,000-10,000 survivors without magic assistance. Horrific and society maiming? Yes, but still a viable population.

Beleriphon
2007-02-20, 10:39 AM
The the bubonic plague was a nasty business, but its easy to avoid if you have sanitary conditions. These weren't exactly something that medival Europe was renowned for.

If you want the super deadly disease you need to start looking towards Ebola viruses. Those have an absurdly high mortality rate, and can be come airborne.

barawn
2007-02-20, 01:25 PM
This is not to say that you can't have a nastier version of these plagues in your game, but the Black Plague was not a guaranteed death sentence.

The modern version of bubonic plague's survival rate isn't the historical rate, though - considering it affected virtually all of Europe, there was likely a very rapid selection effect for it.

A realistic D&D plague would likely add something like a big negative modifier on a Heal check (no knowledge of how to treat it) - maybe as much as -20. I think the "4 successes needed" is a bit much, although I'd do it this way. (Incubation period was too long, anyway)

Black plague: fort DC: 15, incubation period: 1d6+1 days. Damage: 3d4 con, inhaled. DC -20 to all Heal checks unless prior knowledge of how to treat the Black Plague. -20 modifier applies for each healer involved. After the second saving throw, a DC 20 Fortitude save confers a permanent +10 save resistance to the disease.

Much weaker, but the rapid incubation time means that in the same time as the previous example, someone could be infected 3 or 4 times, so it's functionally equivalent. The permanent +10 means you're going to depopulate the area to the resistant folks very, very fast. The fact that the +10 is random means that you're going to depopulate small villages a whole lot of the time.

Gamebird
2007-02-20, 01:33 PM
How willing would most churches be to dispense magical healing?

Setting and DM specific. If you go by the 3.X assumption that a cleric can use 100% of his spells every day without a problem, then I'd assume that most Good aligned clerics would be using their powers every day. That's not to say they wouldn't do things like preferentially heal followers of their deity, or require a donation equal to what they think the petitioner can afford.

In 2nd edition, it was assumed that gods didn't want clerics to "waste" their spells frivilously and casting it on some non-believer beggar was frivilous, regardless of stupid altruistic arguments like the beggar's infection spreading to believers.

There's also the fact that gods shouldn't care too much about people dying. In D&D, people who die go on to their alignment- and faith-appropriate afterlife. What really matters is whether their living serves the god's portfolio and maintains a sufficient number of worshippers. So if a few believers get martyred, that's not really a bad thing from a god's point of view, even if it's a Good aligned god. They've gone on to a better place. The god is certain of this.

An independently confirmable afterlife turns a lot of modern morality on its head.


Also assuming most of the churches were fully altruistic, how well could they keep diseases under control during "normal" times and how well could they keep diseases under control during times of plagues.

Setting and DM specific. Assuming the DM follows the DMG-suggested breakdown for class and level, then there aren't a lot of guys out there with Remove Disease, though there are plenty of folks with the Heal skill.

So the next question is how common are diseases in the campaign world and how contagious are they? If it was a situation like our real world, then you can assume there'd be a lot of cases of the common cold despite Remove Disease, but the most severe illnesses would likely be cured. Oddly, you'd have less disease in dense cities, where there are more casters of higher level, who can more easily get to the diseased. Outside of cities, there'd be the occasional hamlet that was disease free, but most of them wouldn't have a high level enough caster and would be overrun.

You also have to decide how diseases are propagated and transmitted. Is it magic? Is it caused by poor sanitation? If sanitation plays a role, then the DM has to decide how knowledgeable the average person is about it. Do they know rats carry fleas that carry diseases? Do they know that coughing on someone is a bad idea? Do they know not to mix their sewer lines with well water? How bad is the current sanitation situation? Also, how will the DM approach PCs attempting to use real world information to solve the problems?


Then there are of course, magical plagues, but a magical plague is apt to be the center of a conflict or story with a grand quest involved whereas a normal plague (even a severe one) would be more background story than a full plot.

Maybe. Maybe not. How would a PC feel to find that while they were out "saving the world" or even just kicking in dungeon doors, that Aunt Matilda died of Cackle Fever and the messenger just couldn't find the PC in time because he didn't leave a forwarding address (or was too far away)?


Finally under what conditions would evil clerics (or neutral, why not) decide that casting Contagion is a good idea given that in most worlds evil clerics are the minority and liberal use of Contagion could expose them to their enemies.

Depends on how common casters are, how common spell and spell use is that could reveal the disease carrier, how many other disease vectors there are in the game world that could cloud the issue, and what the average or even well learned person knows about how diseases spread and how to tell the difference between a magical one and a mundane one.

spotmarkedx
2007-02-20, 02:25 PM
The modern version of bubonic plague's survival rate isn't the historical rate, though - considering it affected virtually all of Europe, there was likely a very rapid selection effect for it.
Actually the quote I provided is with regards to the historical Black Plague, not the modern survival rates for bubonic or pneumonic plague. I quoted about a 30-75% mortality rate for the bubonic plague. Checking the wiki nets:

in contrast the highest mortality for the modern Bubonic Plague was 3% in Mumbai in 1903. link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubonic_plague)


___________

Black plague: fort DC: 15, incubation period: 1d6+1 days. Damage: 3d4 con, inhaled. DC -20 to all Heal checks unless prior knowledge of how to treat the Black Plague. -20 modifier applies for each healer involved. After the second saving throw, a DC 20 Fortitude save confers a permanent +10 save resistance to the disease.

Much weaker, but the rapid incubation time means that in the same time as the previous example, someone could be infected 3 or 4 times, so it's functionally equivalent. The permanent +10 means you're going to depopulate the area to the resistant folks very, very fast. The fact that the +10 is random means that you're going to depopulate small villages a whole lot of the time.
I like this mechanic better than the one first brought up. The fort saves are makable by a populace, but still pretty lethal. Though one must ask how one determines that one has "prior knowledge of how to treat the Black Plague", and you should determine whether or not you want the diviners to quickly figure out what the healers are supposed to do or not...

Jayabalard
2007-02-20, 03:51 PM
a combination of cure disease and fireball can work wonders for stamping out an epidemic.

Collin152
2007-02-20, 05:34 PM
Or uh.. Purify Food and Drink.

SpiderBrigade
2007-02-20, 05:36 PM
...if it's an epidemic spread by food or drink.

barawn
2007-02-20, 06:12 PM
...if it's an epidemic spread by food or drink.

And if it's small. 20 cubic feet (max level) is... not a lot of water. That's 160 gallons. That wouldn't purify a well. It certainly wouldn't purify a river.

Matthew
2007-02-20, 06:24 PM
So, by the 'D&D world', are you meaning Greyhawk?

Rabiesbunny
2007-02-20, 06:24 PM
Shhh. Noone should EVER mean Greyhawk...>_>

Matthew
2007-02-20, 06:28 PM
Bah. I always mean Greyhawk.

rob
2007-02-20, 06:28 PM
No matter how deadly the 'disease' is in game statistics, an organized response on the part of the game world inhabitants would squash it. I believe it defies the 'pseudo-realistic' feel I try to put in my games to use excuses like stupidity or ignorance too much when scripting responses...

In response to the black plague, it was clearly identified by the population of the time as a fatal disease borne by proximity to the infected; quarantine measures were rapidly put in place, etc. If the people of the time had healing magic, they probably would have used it quite well.

Which leads to the question, how does one arrange the magic system so that it ain't that simple? Less access to spells? 'Karma' costs for constantly asking for divine intercession? One's god 'just says no,' because he doesn't thinking the faithful are doing enough on their lonesome before they whine to him?

My players were pretty cautious - burned bodies on the roadside when they saw them, skirted around cities, hunted their own food; so I never had to make up much game mechanics for the disease. Only time it really screwed them up was when a couple of the cleric's followers caught the plague, and they had to deal with the morale crisis of condemning their own affiliated NPCs to die.

In game mechanic terms, I think one way to arrange it is that the disease is magically curable while dormant, but DCs to cure it increase as it A) infectious and B) symptomatic... Not much cause for routine use of 'diagnose disease' on they asymptomatic population...

barawn
2007-02-20, 06:29 PM
I quoted about a 30-75% mortality rate for the bubonic plague. Checking the wiki nets:

That 3% is total mortality, though. As in, first you need to catch it, then you die from it. That's also only confirmed cases. The whole bubonic plague/black death thing is apparently a touchy thing among anthropologists. The Black Death apparently looks a lot more virulent and fast spreading than bubonic plague could've been.

The Black Death definitely depopulated towns, ships, etc. at the time.


Though one must ask how one determines that one has "prior knowledge of how to treat the Black Plague", and you should determine whether or not you want the diviners to quickly figure out what the healers are supposed to do or not...

That'd be the DM's choice, as to how often the Black Plague has occurred before. First time? Maybe a DC 40 Knowledge (nature) check. Or possibly even higher. Keep in mind the healers will not know about the -20 penalty. After it starts spreading like wildfire, and large numbers die, then they might start getting desparate.

As for diviners, what spells are you thinking of? Most of the simple/straightforward divinations (like, Divination) likely wouldn't do much, thanks to the "multiple divinations on the same topic yield the same result".

I think even in a large D&D city, with high level magic, a disease like I listed there would be pretty bad. I don't think a large city could sustainably cure disease on the entire population every 4-6 days. (And note that cure disease doesn't confer the resistance).

SpiderBrigade
2007-02-20, 06:36 PM
The whole bubonic plague/black death thing is apparently a touchy thing among anthropologists. The Black Death apparently looks a lot more virulent and fast spreading than bubonic plague could've been.

The Black Death definitely depopulated towns, ships, etc. at the time.
Hasn't anybody seen Nosferatu? The Black Death is vampires, man. Vampires.

Thomas
2007-02-20, 06:38 PM
... wait, which Nosferatu is this? The b&w film? So the panther-nosferature vampire in Ravenloft (I forget his name!) who spreads the "white disease" among his people by frequent shallow feeding is based on that film? Wow.

(I just love knowing what the Ravenloft darklords are based on ...)

PnP Fan
2007-02-21, 08:38 AM
Mathematically speaking (without running detailed numbers) disease still has the upper hand in a typical D&D setting.
Normal, uninterupted population growth is usually modeled with an exponential function, so if you model the transmission of disease/death rate using an exponential function you're probably pretty accurate. Conversely, given the typical ages for a low level divine caster, we can assume that the rate of change of your Clerical population is more or less zero, with very few of those being skilled enough to cast Cure Disease, or some of the Restorations required to mitigate some of the attribute damage. In the very early stages of your plague, if your clerics are aware of the plague, they have a fair chance of dealing with the disease. But once the population of diseased individuals outstrips the number of Cure Diseases you have access to in one day, by say a multiple of 2 or 3, the disease pretty much has the upper hand. Of course this is all subject to incubation periods and whatnot. If the disease has an incubation period of months, well, you can probably deal with it fairly quickly, but more reasonable numbers (days to weeks) would be harder.

Of course a lot of this goes out the window in certain settings. Forgotten Realms, where EVERYONE seems to be a leveled adventurer, farmers included, you'd be better off, simply because there is a larger segment of the population that can heal. Eberron can rely on general sanitation to slow down the transmission of some diseases, particularly things transmitted via vermin.
Concur with other posters, the Heal skill is the way to go with this. While you still have a limited amount of people with the Heal skill to treat the illness, you can train skills faster than you can train mid level clerics. Though if they know how to prevent the illness, I would suggest a bonus to the Healer's Fort save, because they know how to prevent it. Perhaps a synergy bonus, or even allow them to substitute their Heal ranks for their base save.

Golthur
2007-02-21, 10:02 AM
Not that I'm a history expert or anything, but I'd thought that the Black Death was actually three diseases at the same time? Bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague (this one was airborne and very, very deadly, IIRC).

Couple that with locking up the people, but having the rats free to move as they will, and, well...

Now, I'll sit quietly and wait for the experts to point out my incorrectness :biggrin:

Gamebird
2007-02-21, 10:21 AM
No matter how deadly the 'disease' is in game statistics, an organized response on the part of the game world inhabitants would squash it. I believe it defies the 'pseudo-realistic' feel I try to put in my games to use excuses like stupidity or ignorance too much when scripting responses...

Maybe for you, but really - never, NEVER underestimate the impact of stupidity and/or ignorance. If you need an illustration, I had one in my recent games. Two different groups of players encounter the same monster. The monster is a single BBEG with the ability to first make a check against a target, hoping the target fails their Will save (DC 14, against 5th to 10th level characters). If the target fails their save, then the monster can follow up by cursing the target and causing another low DC Will save. If the target fails that one too, they're dead. This takes two rounds for the monster to enact and requires the curse to be heard. The monster has a one-time affect, non-lethal gaze attack (Fort save or lose 1d8 STR). It also has several blind, but tremorsense-able guards, who are "blinded" in areas of silence.

The obvious and intelligent tactic is to fight it using Silence - it can't curse you and its guards function as if truly blind. Did either group do this? NO. And they had BOTH been given an item with Silence on it, in a lead box, to use at their discretion (so it's not like the DM screwed them). Was it because they were stupid? Not really (though I give honorable mention to the group that tried an obscuring mist, thinking that breaking the witch's line of sight would stop her death effect). Both groups were ignorant of the monster's stats, which was appropriate for the situation.

Knowledge is incredibly powerful. Just knowing the DC of a skill check puts it outside your ability makes a huge difference. Imagine: the party contains 3 people with the Heal skill and they have five days to stop a disease from affecting another party member. Two days away is a largish town that the DM has secretly determined has a traveling high priest in it, who would be willing to cast Heal, Heroe's Feast or some other spell that would cure the disease. However, the DM has also decided that normal Remove Disease won't cure it and the DC to cure it with the Heal skill is 45.

If the DM doesn't tell the players about options outside their knowledge (the high priest, that Remove Disease doesn't work and the Heal DC), then what are they going to do? First day they're going to calmly attempt to use the Heal skill. Let's say the DM rolls the checks behind his screen and just tells them the results. All three fail. Second day they're going to try to combine their attempts, with the other two aiding the third. DM rolls - failure. Third day they think: 'oh well, apparently our rolls suck. Let's just cast Remove Disease on him'. No effect. Now they're well and truly screwed. They have four towns of various sizes, one north, one south, one west and one east of them. They don't know the high priest is in the west one. They have a three in four of heading the wrong way. Even if they do happen to go the right way, they've got to find the priest and get him to the patient in time, and hope like hell he's got the right spell memorized right then.

D&D, the way it's normally played, highly discourages this kind of situation, because the PCs are likely to lose. It's not fun. I don't run my game that way either.

However, when you're trying to decide on the realistic progression of disease, or anything realistic, you have to factor in ignorance and stupidity (on the part of the NPCs if not the PCs). Most likely, ignorance and stupidity are THE MOST IMPORTANT factors in how bad a situation gets.

It doesn't defy a realistic setting to include ignorance and stupidity. It's the opposite - if you don't count in ignorance and stupidity, then you're defying reality.


In response to the black plague, it was clearly identified by the population of the time as a fatal disease borne by proximity to the infected; quarantine measures were rapidly put in place, etc. If the people of the time had healing magic, they probably would have used it quite well.

<sarcasm>Right! That's why that town in Germany burned all the cats alive! That's why other towns burned or killed various people they felt were in league with evil supernatural forces and causing the disease! </sarcasm>

Sadly, your answer isn't the understanding I had of the black plague. The response was chaotic, unorganized, varied. Some places had effective quarentines, others didn't. Diseased folk roamed the roads, trying to outrun their own death or get to a doctor or holy site. Religious folk persisted in carrying out normal activities, feeling the illness was God's will and had nothing to do with transmission vectors.

Part of why the population was so devastated was secondary effects. The mortality rate for the disease itself wasn't too big - 30-50% is accepted by the scholars I've read. But once you've lost 30-50% of your population when you were barely above subsistence level before, then you have a famine, because the able-bodied weren't farming while they were diseased and afterwards there are many families without an able-bodied person left. Because people are starving, then you have a higher rate of banditry and unrest. The banditry and unrest discourages farming and spoils much more food than it "redistributes", so you have a second famine following it. By now, the whole population is exceedingly weakened, with nearly everyone having struggled through the disease. They now get hit with secondary infections, like influenza and the like, and with reduced social network, there's no one to help.

At the end, you'll have a death rate of 60-90% as the effects of the plague, but not necessarily due to the disease itself.

barawn
2007-02-21, 10:33 AM
Not that I'm a history expert or anything, but I'd thought that the Black Death was actually three diseases at the same time? Bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, and septicemic plague (this one was airborne and very, very deadly, IIRC).

Couple that with locking up the people, but having the rats free to move as they will, and, well...

Now, I'll sit quietly and wait for the experts to point out my incorrectness :biggrin:

Bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic plague are different presentations of the same bacterium (Y. pestis). Pneumonic plague is the airborne one. Septicemic plague is actually the most deadly, which hasn't been mentioned here. Its mortality rate is total - everyone who catches it, if untreated, dies. Fast. As in, usually the same day. So spreading isn't too much of a concern then.

"Black Death" actually referred to the septicemic plague presentation.

So I guess if you wanted to be really accurate, you'd do:
Plague
Upon becoming infected generically, roll 1d20 to determine infection type:
1-17: bubonic plague. incubation 1d6+1 days, fort DC 10, damage 3d4 Con. Failing three times in a row progresses the plague to pneumonic plague.
18-19: pneumonic plague. incubation 1d4 days, fort DC 20, damage 3d4 Con. Coming in contact with a person with pneumonic plague infects another person with pneumonic plague directly. Failing four times in a row progresses the disease to septicemic plague.
20: septicemic plague. incubation 3d4 days. Fort DC 25 or die.

Yeah, I can see that being pretty nasty.

Hyrael
2007-02-21, 11:43 AM
Excellent point there, I didn't think about Remove Disease only being a temporary fix.

As for the second point, it took a long time for people in the real world to find a causal link between unsanitary conditions and disease. It may be even harder to find such a link in a D&D world because people could just assume it's vengeful gods or magic. Or the world could have different natural laws. Since you can have a D&D world that's flat instead of a globe I suppose you can have a world where diseases come from something other than bacteria, viruses, and other germs but then the line between magical and non-magical diseases becomes blurred.
Actually, I think that people in a world where magic works might be less superstitious. partly because their superstitions happen to be right, but, look at it this way:
For hundreds of years, people bleeived that witches were a dire threat. they could spread disease and kill people by looking at them or poking them with dolls. Peole blevied this imlicityly, without question, despite the fact that no one had every seen a real witch actually doing any of this stuff. In a world where wizards and sorcerors actually exist, they loose their terrifying and aphemeral nature, and people realise that magic users arent as bad as all that, at least not the low-level ones. Horrible monsters stop being so horrible when you can actually see them, because then they can be fought. but it's hard to fight an enemy in your own head. And so, superstition is weakened by the existance of the fantastic.

And, I think that fantasy worlds should have all the normal rules of our world, with magic as a sort of add-on. the flu is still caused by a virus, but there are also viruses created with magic, viruses that use magic as part of their attack, and diseases that are in fact spiritual in nature.

Thomas
2007-02-21, 11:56 AM
Personally, I prefer worlds where burning the witches is an effective prevention for disease.

barawn
2007-02-21, 12:09 PM
Peole blevied this imlicityly, without question, despite the fact that no one had every seen a real witch actually doing any of this stuff.

Be careful there - in most of those cases, they usually had reasons for believing it. The problem was that they weren't good reasons. Charlatans could make money because people aren't very logical naturally. We like to leap to conclusions.

I mean, we're still superstitious now, even though we know it's not true, and we know other things are true (see all of the bad science charlatans out there). I don't see a world with real magic being any different. The magic just becomes technology, and now you get an Adept casting Prestidigitation claiming that he can make their food safe, for just a few gp per meal.

The advent of modern science didn't get rid of superstitions - it in fact created all new sorts of superstition. Superstition is just caused by ignorance, and that doesn't go away. Heck, in D&D, you'd probably have superstitious clerics casting odd spells believing that they fix things they can't fix (like casting 'Purify Food and Drink' on a sick person if 'Remove Disease' failed, or something weird).

spotmarkedx
2007-02-21, 12:29 PM
Also don't foreget the power of personal interest and/or panic. While a kingdom may be able to say "City A is infected with the Plague, so we're going to quarantine it," the residents of City A are probably not all just going to fall in line. Expect many to try to leave either before they show symptoms or as they are starting, in hopes of "escaping" the disease. Some may try for other cities (where they will deny, of course, being from city A), or perhaps some more rural communities, which have a much higher chance of being completely devastated. And what happens when your guard force, on the roads to enforce the quarantine of City A, have to deal with those infected that tried to leave? Unless you are shooting them with arrows from afar, they are likely to become your new carriers. (hopefully, we've a clerical contingient that can deal with this, or just have the paladins involved :D)

Pulling off a quarantine of a large city is not easily enforcable without being evil (block the gates, hire lots of archers to hunt down escapees and then torch the town)

Matthew
2007-02-21, 01:08 PM
The advent of modern science didn't get rid of superstitions - it in fact created all new sorts of superstition. Superstition is just caused by ignorance, and that doesn't go away. Heck, in D&D, you'd probably have superstitious clerics casting odd spells believing that they fix things they can't fix (like casting 'Purify Food and Drink' on a sick person if 'Remove Disease' failed, or something weird).

Plus, there's no reason why the scientific causes of disease and a D&D Demon can't get along just fine. Science explains the whys and wherefores, but the ultimate responsibility might lie with a Demon (who spawned the Disease or caused a person to come into contact with it or whatever).

barawn
2007-02-21, 01:59 PM
Pulling off a quarantine of a large city is not easily enforcable without being evil (block the gates, hire lots of archers to hunt down escapees and then torch the town)

This so sounds like an awesome plot hook. A country on the verge of civil war and disaster, because a tyrannical government orders the absolute quarantine of a city infected with the plague, while a local Paladin order declares independence and vows to protect the citizens of the city, desparately trying (futilely) to cure the disease en masse. They, of course, don't see the problem, as the local churches, unable to find the source of the infection, are blaming the citizen's impure ways for the disease spreading, noting that the (pure) Paladins aren't affected.

Party could be hired by either side to assist. Would be a great evil campaign.

Iituem
2007-02-21, 03:09 PM
Interestingly, the uberplague someone wrote here would actually be a very effective manner of genocide, assuming you weren't of the same species. In fact, it sounds like an immunocompromising disease (one that attacks the immune system), judging by the difficulty of resisting it. Although in a truly immunocomporomising disease, the damage would actually be a penalty to Fortitude saves so that you die from secondary infection.

However, most viruses with that difficulty to resist and damage applied tend to have short incubation times, limiting their spread. The length of incubation allows for the disease to remain dormant whilst infectious, potentially allowing it to spread unseen to great distance by travellers (especially on ships). This disease would have a vast mortality rate with virtually no survivors and go on to kill every related race. (If you infected goblins with this, you could kiss goodbye to hobgoblins and bugbears.)

Of course, if you were a dwarf and wanted to wipe out all orcs, you could use this. It would then pass to humans (which they can breed true with) and thence to elves (which they can breed true with). There is also a chance that somewhere along the line the disease mutates to affect the next most similar species, the dwarves themselves.

Genocide is a risky business.




Also, I recall a spell of the same level to Contagion, "Carrier". It turned the caster or one touched creature into a carrier for a disease. They would become infectious within 1d4 hours, but then be immune to that specific form of the disease. Everyone they came into contact with then contracted the disease. Evil cleric uses the "Carrier" spell to give himself cackle fever then walks through a crowded city. City falls within the week. Evil cleric left standing amidst the bodies, gets his necromancy on.

Gamebird
2007-02-21, 05:09 PM
You bring up a good point that D&D RAW doesn't address, which is immunocompatibility of diseases. Bubonic plague isn't that big a deal for rodents, but it's very dangerous for humans. What diseases would affect dragons? Would a disease lethal to humans have any effect on a lizardman? Or a gnome?

In the absence of rules, it's a DM call.

Iituem
2007-02-21, 05:12 PM
Oh, you want a really good application of disease warfare? Infect the local kobolds with the shakes, then encourage them to go say hi to their local dragon master.

Dragons have a Dex score of 10. The shakes are pretty much the worst possible disease you can hit them with.

Yahzi
2007-02-22, 12:09 AM
It can bump your percentage points by a few, make sure that the leadership remains intact, but your cities are going to be devoid of anyone except your priests, nobility, and a few adventurers.
I think magical healing and information (remember, they can just cast divination to find the source of the infection) would generally keep disease in check, much like a modern city.

However, plagues could still reach epic proportions, and once that happened, then the above becomes true: only the wealthy are safe.

This is a huge social effect. The Black Death struck everyone, rich and poor alike. To have a plague that kills only poor people is like having an army that only drafts minorities.

The D&D world is a relentlessly aristocratic Nietschiean nightmare, even worse than the real Middle Ages.

TheOOB
2007-02-22, 12:24 AM
If you want a deadly plague try this one, tried and testing in one of my campaigns.

Creeping Chills, Contact DC 17, incubation period 1 month, 2d4 cold damage, 1d2 dex damage

The creeping chills slowly freezes the targets body from the inside out. This disease, likely magical in nature, in trasfered by touch or through the exchange of any bodily fluids (even saliva), and can be transmited even while still in the incubation period (thus it can spread widly, even when the disease is unknown). Even after the disease fully manifests it can be some time before it is reconized for what it is. The cold damage form the creeping chills can only be healed if the disease is first removed, or if the target recieves fire damage equal to the total amount of cold damage taken prior to healing.

barawn
2007-02-22, 12:27 AM
(remember, they can just cast divination to find the source of the infection)

Out of curiosity: how?

Keep in mind, they don't know what the disease is. They don't know what the disease is. They might not know the right questions to ask to begin with, and they might not know how to interpret the answer anyway - and to make matters worse, they won't know that they're infected until after the incubation period. At which point the disease might already be in huge portions of the population.

And then, of course, there's the problem - what if the only way to eliminate the infection is one that the priesthood won't accept?

Thomas
2007-02-22, 08:18 AM
Yahzi: Huh, Creeping Chills? Been playing RuneQuest? :smalltongue:

Iituem
2007-02-22, 08:49 AM
Hmm. Let's see if I can dig a few nasty diseases out...

The worst disease I can think of:

Ghost Plague; Sexual Contact DC 16, incubation period 1d10 years (infectious after 3 months), -1 to Fortitude saves.* Magical resistance.**

* Must suceed at 3 successive checks to shake off the disease.
** Attempts to remove this disease magically require a caster check against the DC of the disease.

[You probably know what this is an analogue of. Probably best not to mention it, but figured I'd give some stats for an immunocompromising disease.]


Raving Fever; Injury DC 13, incubation period 1 day, 1d4 Wisdom damage.*

*The subject must make a Will save in addition each day or become confused for the duration of the day. He gains a temporary bite attack dealing 1d3 damage, capable of transmitting the disease.



Bard's Bane; Contact DC 14, incubation period 1d4 weeks (infectious only after sores appear), 1d6 Charisma damage, Magical Resistance.*

*Requires a caster level check against DC 14 to cure.




The Pox; Sexual Contact DC 12. Initial incubation period 2d4 days, 1d2 Strength damage. After initial disease is fought off*, secondary incubation period 4d4 months, DC rises to 13, 1d4 Dex damage. After secondary disease is fought off, latency comes into effect and tertiary incubation period lasts 2d10 years. DC for final stage of disease rises to 18, 1d6 Wisdom damage.**

*If the disease is magically cured at any point before the tertiary disease, the later stages will not happen.
**Each day, the victim must make a Will save against DC 12 or become permanently insane.

Shhalahr Windrider
2007-02-22, 09:16 AM
Dragons have a Dex score of 10. The shakes are pretty much the worst possible disease you can hit them with.
But Dragons have a good Fort Save and generally possess a strong Constitution (the True Dragons you appear to be referencing all have it as their second highest ability score, after Strength). So a DC 13 save is nothing to them.

Now, if you could get yourself a particularly virulent strain that can target dragons unusually well, you might have something... :smallwink:


Hmm. Let's see if I can dig a few nasty diseases out...

Ghost Plague; Sexual Contact DC 16, incubation period 1d10 years (infectious after 3 months), -1 to Fortitude saves.* Magical resistance.**

* Must suceed at 3 successive checks to shake off the disease.
** Attempts to remove this disease magically require a caster check against the DC of the disease.

[You probably know what this is an analogue of. Probably best not to mention it, but figured I'd give some stats for an immunocompromising disease.]
Assuming I know what you're getting at...

Remember that this disease is not just spread through sexual contact. It's also carried through the blood, and through most other bodily fluids to a certain extent. Fighting someone carrying this should be quite dangerous if you aren't watching where your opponent's blood is landing.

Gamebird
2007-02-22, 10:13 AM
Divination:

Similar to augury (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/augury.htm) but more powerful, a divination spell can provide you with a useful piece of advice in reply to a question concerning a specific goal, event, or activity that is to occur within one week. The advice can be as simple as a short phrase, or it might take the form of a cryptic rhyme or omen. If your party doesn’t act on the information, the conditions may change so that the information is no longer useful. The base chance for a correct divination is 70% + 1% per caster level, to a maximum of 90%. If the dice roll fails, you know the spell failed, unless specific magic yielding false information is at work.
As with augury (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/augury.htm), multiple divinations about the same topic by the same caster use the same dice result as the first divination spell and yield the same answer each time.
Material Component

Incense and a sacrificial offering appropriate to your religion, together worth at least 25 gp.

Depends on the DM as to how well this works. Do the gods grant you an answer useful to you?

Cleric to god: Who or what caused this pestilent disease?

Possible unuseful, but legitimate answers:
Magic
Contagion spell
The god of disease, Erthruel
Vanquish evil and no more shall the disease flourish
Seek ye the man with the black opal pendant
Geren Bloodbeard*
Mononegavirales**
Add more bloodwort to your cure

* Who has been going by an assumed name for years now.
** Or some other scientific name for a virus.

barawn
2007-02-22, 01:47 PM
Divination:

Ah, but read Divination - you need to ask for advice about something which will occur. Within a week. Asking "what caused this pestilent disease" isn't really appropriate there.

Asking "how can I stop this town from being decimated from disease in the next week?" might be an appropriate question, but the answer I'd give would be "Have everyone flee."

Iituem
2007-02-22, 04:29 PM
"Slaughter every living thing within a 10 mile radius. Use magic to avoid contaminated soldiers spreading it."

Granted, that's more than a short phrase, but also a valid answer.