Category Archives: Supplemental Rules

Illness on the Table-top

Illness in role-playing games isn’t something that is typically portrayed. There is a good reason for this, of course. For most people, rpgs are power/escapist fantasies, they don’t want to be mired down in the reality of disease and illness.

When things like that are covered in a game, it’s typically through the use of status effects, conditions or other things that can be easily tracked. Usually, however, there is only one effect or condition active at a time.

Whilst this is understandable, sometimes (as evidenced by my additional rules for magic usage available on the DM’s Guild), I enjoy adding extra rules to increase the thematic feel of a game aspect. With that in mind, here are some additional rules to enhance the role of diseases and illness in your games.

Before getting started, I should state that if you are ill in real life, tell your group. They will understand and make allowances for slowed thought processes, lack of attention etc. It’s inconvenient, yes, but at the end of the day there is little you can do.

I should also say that the collection of symptoms and game effects below are merely a starting point. I may return to this topic in a later post, but GMs should feel free to mix, match and reskin as necessary.

Any randomised effects are also left to the GM’s discretion to modify as they see fit.

Symptoms encountered without being part of an illness expire when the GM deems an appropriate amount of time has passed.

Symptoms

Headache: The target suffers a minor penalty to mental rolls, abilities and skills related to mental attributes and any roll required to maintain concentration or focus. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Migraine: The target suffers a major penalty to mental rolls, abilities and skills related to mental attributes and any roll required to maintain concentration or focus. Additionally, being confronted with bright light triggers a nausea effect (see below). Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Brain fog: The target suffers a minor penalty to any rolls to recall information, process their surroundings, utilise their self-control (to resist external pressures or for more mundane reasons) or react quickly to a situation. Taking the appropriate medicine, or a stimulant, removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Delirium: The target suffers a major penalty to any rolls to recall information, process their surroundings, utilise their self-control (to resist external pressures or for more mundane reasons) or react quickly to a situation. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Nausea: The target suffers a minor penalty to physical rolls, abilities and skills related to physical attributes and any roll required to maintain their grip on something or similar physical activity. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours. Failing a physical task spectacularly increases this symptom to sickness.

Sickness: The target suffers a major penalty to physical rolls, abilities and skills related to physical attributes and any roll required to maintain their grip on something or similar physical activity. The character also suffers from fatigue easier and must rest at least once a day, around midday, in addition to sleeping 8 hours or suffer any associated effects for being exhausted/fatigued/tired etc. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Shivering: The target suffers a minor penalty to physical tasks, anything requiring them to concentrate on mental or physical tasks and social rolls. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Fever: The target suffers a major penalty to physical tasks, anything requiring them to concentrate on mental or physical tasks and social rolls. The character also suffers from fatigue easier and must rest at least once a day, around midday, in addition to sleeping 8 hours or suffer any associated effects for being exhausted/fatigued/tired etc. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours. Failing any of these tasks spectacularly adds nausea to the symptoms suffered by this character.

Sneezing: The target suffers a minor penalty to rolls requiring a sense of smell, stealth rolls and social rolls. In addition, characters within 10 feet of the coughing character receive a bonus to hear them and a penalty to hear anything else equal to the penalty suffered by the coughing character.  Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Coughing: The target suffers a major penalty to rolls requiring a sense of hearing, stealth rolls and social rolls. In addition, characters within 10 feet of the coughing character receive a bonus to hear them and a penalty to hear anything else equal to the penalty suffered by the coughing character. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d4 hours.

Rash: The target suffers a minor penalty to social rolls upon which appearance might have a bearing. Taking the appropriate medicine removes this penalty for 1d10 hours.

Boils/Sores: The target suffers a major penalty to social rolls upon which appearance might have a bearing. Taking the appropriate medicine reduces this symptom to a rash for 1d4 hours, when this duration expires, the boils/sores return over 1d3 hours.

 

Illnesses

When creating an illness, it is advised that each illness has 1d3 symptoms, with a higher number of symptoms relating to more severe illnesses. In addition, it should be clear that each symptom has a major and a minor form (represented by a minor and a major penalty). The only symptoms that may occur together (where the symptoms have penalties affecting the same thing) are sneezing and coughing.

Illnesses should last for either 1d3 days or 1d3 weeks depending on its severity, with each day of appropriate treatment reducing the duration for 2 days.  When appropriate medicine isn’t available, 12 hours of rest can substitute for a day’s worth of medicine.

Thus a character with an illness lasting 2 weeks who takes 2 days’ worth of medicine and completes 2 days’ worth of rest  reduces the overall duration of the illness to 6 days (14 – 8) and has already completed 4 days of the treatment. Another day of bed rest or medicine would cure the illness completely.

Illnesses can be contagious or not. Contagious illnesses require some sort of resistance roll (with appropriate penalties and bonuses) and can be passed on via physical contact, through infected materials or any other normal transmission vector.

Once caught the newly infected character suffers from the illness for a random amount of time, using the same method to determine its duration as the method used to determine the duration of the illness for the infecting character.

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