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D&D 3E
Physical-izing evil 
23rd-Mar-2006 09:31 am
I guess this is part of the continued adventures of the Munchkin, but I think it's a cool idea anyway.

Have any of you ever made evil have physical consequences in your campaign (ie, roughly following the taint rules in Unearthed Arcana)? I mean, I know it'd be kind of hard to do based on actions, but there are a bunch of spells (ie, Animate Dead) that have "Evil" as a spell descriptor. I think it'd be fairly easy to say that every time someone casts a spell with that descriptor, they gain a point of taint. I wouldn't have any consistency issues, since the only evil spellcaster they have met was a lich who was wholly insane anyways. Recovery from taint would be as described in UA.

I couldn't follow the UA rules exactly, because by the time your taint level reaches your Con score, you die (and then rise as undead). If I'm basing it on spell-casting then people would die off pretty quickly before much havoc is wreaked. I'm thinking somewhere between Con*5 and Con*10. I'm also not sure what to do about the rule that every point (or 5, or 10) of taint takes away a point of Con and Wis. I mean, I want evil spell-casting to have real, physical consequences, but on the other hand I don't want my players to cry ZOMG UNFAIR! I'd be introducing the descriptors along the way (hacking cough, paranoia, icky yellow sweat, etc.) but I don't think mere descriptors will have the same impact (on the Munchkin, at least) that ability score penalties will.

What do you all think of the concept in general and the ability score penalties in specific?
23rd-Mar-2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
I think the idea of taint is that it's supposed to come from stuff that's really evil. "A weapon used to slaughter thousands of innocents, a forest grown on land soaked in the blood of an evil deity, a book bound in the flesh of an archfiend for his own horrible purposes, and the presence of an evil deity are all sources of taint" (from the SRD). For some reason Protection from Good doesn't strike me as quite on the same level. Hell, even Animate Dead doesn't strike me as on the same level.

I guess part of the question is, what do you want to do with taint? Do you want to use it as a mechanic to 'punish' PCs for acting evil? Because that's kind of what it sounds like. If so, then I guess it would work, but it's not what the mechanic was intended for, so you'd obviously need to work on the mechanics (which I will leave up to other people). Of course, introducing a mechanic to punish your PCs is kinda lame, even if they are bastard munchkins.

If you want it to simply flavor the PCs evil enemies, then you don't even need the mechanic. Just give them whatever traits of being tainted you want, no problem.

I think taint is supposed to be seen as an obstacle. It's the struggle Frodo has with himself while charactering the Ring. The idea would be that players would have to confront this really evil thing, but have to try and stay sane while doing so (resisting the taint). Having the PCs be their own source of taint totally changes that effect (though I could see some very powerful or very particular spells giving taint, but that becomes the challenge. "We have to use this really nasty spell, but it'll curse us").

This is a good place to separate mechanics from roleplaying. If you just have roleplaying effects of taint (coughing, paranoia, etc), then you can use them to your heart's desire. The players perform evil acts, then they have evil consequences. But if you set it up as a mechanic, then it just looks like a punishment for using certain abilities. If you're playing with munchkins who would respond to the roleplaying stuff anyway, why use the idea at all? They're not going to appreciate it.

In short, I think it's a bad idea.
23rd-Mar-2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
I guess the idea really came from the Warcraft universe, where fel magic is so evil and corrupting, even if you are using it for good, and even if it's just a little bit. And it was the Wis/Con damage that I was kind of eeked about, because you're right, it does feel like punishment. And that's why I was thinking about greatly magnifying the scale, because you're right, a single casting of Animate Dead isn't that big a deal, but you gotta figure that by the time you've cast it a hundred times, it's got to start to get to you, you know?
23rd-Mar-2006 10:28 pm (UTC)
You seriously should check out the Taint rules from Heroes of Horror, it addresses this problem immediately. Rather than con/wis damage, it's divided into Corruption and Depravity and you have certain threshholds for each dependant on your Con or wis score. When you pass a threshhold of taint accumulation, then you take on certain drawbacks like "Nose rots off" or "OCD", all of which have some minor game rules, but most of them are penalties to skills rolls and ability checks, the actual ability damage doesn't come until heavy taint is accumulated. There is an optional rule mentioned in the book that allows for taint to accumulate each time you cast a spell with the evil descriptior, as you mention.
23rd-Mar-2006 11:25 pm (UTC)
The other corrupting mechanic I've seen is a chance of stuff going wrong. Maybe there is a 10% chance per spell level (or the character has to make a Will save based on the spell level) for taint to appear. That way if you cast Animate Dead once, you probably won't get tainted, but if you cast it 100 times, you're going to be.

If you want magic to be evil and corrupting, you should probably apply it to all magic, rather than just the limited scope that is Evil magic. Or maybe that becomes part of the separation between arcane and divine magic.
23rd-Mar-2006 05:42 pm (UTC)
It's not a bad idea, but I wouldn't target only spell-casters. It makes sense to a point, but you can be horrendously evil without casting spells with the Evil descriptor.

Have you ever seen what a well-placed fireball can do to the innocent who have average Dex scores and all weak saves? That's pretty damn evil.

Also, non-spellcasters can be plenty evil in their own right. I don't know if they should get any sort of super-natural taint, since their actions will be solely natural (unless they're using some ability).

o.O Dropping points from Con and Wis also seems a little iffy. What happens to evil Clerics who get tainted? Their deities obviously won't care, if they're evil, and if their Wis drops, they can't cast anymore.
23rd-Mar-2006 07:36 pm (UTC)
The idea of using spells with the evil spell descriptor was that the specific magic for doing things like creating undead would be corrupting. I'm afraid if I started doing it for fireballs and other spells, even if done in an evil way like you described, it would start to feel kind of arbitrary. I don't want to argue with my players about that stuff, you know? Ditto for non-magical evil acts.

I'd imagine that for clerics of evil gods, they'd have problems with spells with the Good descriptor. Or maybe their deity gives them some sort of protection from the wisdom damage, but their bodies still are corrupted.
23rd-Mar-2006 05:56 pm (UTC)
If that's the sort of thing you're interested in, I would recommend checking out Heroes of Horror.
23rd-Mar-2006 06:15 pm (UTC)
It sounds like a good idea and you should run with it. Not sure if you've branched out of D&D at any point but I seem to remember the D20 Star Wars rules using something like this with their Dark Side rules. The rules based taint and corruption on the Wisdom score of the character. When someoone did something evil, the DM would note it down and assign a point. Once they equalled half of the PC's Wis score, the character is considered to have fallen to the dark side. Farther on, the character would have to make a Fortitude save with the DC being 10+ the number of "Dark Side Points" they racked up or lose a point from one of their physical attributes. There's some more stuff there but, upon rereading, they seem like a fairly hamhanded attempt to stop the PCs from changing alignments.
23rd-Mar-2006 06:21 pm (UTC)
There's actually a pretty nice chart in the Book of Vile darkness, which I believe is called "the effects of evil" or something like that.
23rd-Mar-2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
An alternate way of checking could be an increasing stronger Con check. It kind of simulates once the change takes place that its easier to spiral downward into evil.
23rd-Mar-2006 07:38 pm (UTC)
When would the Con check be made? Every day/week/month? After the casting of an evil spell?
23rd-Mar-2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
I think it depends on how severe you want the impact to be from using evil spells. Not very much? Once a week/month. Casting a animation spells puts you on the cusp of debauchery? Then every spell.
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