Welcome to Affliction Week, our weeklong celebration of our new book, Scourge: The Deluxe Guide to Disease and Poison, which is available for purchase at this very moment. If you’re skeptical as to whether or not a book about poison and disease could possibly be all that fun, interesting, or useful, then you’re in pretty much the same place we were before we started writing the book. The fact of the matter is that, by default, poisons and diseases are more of a nuisance than anything else. We wanted to reinvent them in a way that made a poison or a disease feel like an encounter in and of itself, and also create a set of rules that could do a better job of emulating poisons that are used outside of combat, as well.
Our solution was to create something called enhanced diseases (and enhanced poisons, too), which have a much more robust stat-block, and will serve as much more memorable (and somewhat more simulationist) encounters in your game.
But poisons and diseases aren’t really very player-oriented…or are they? When I think of someone doling out poisons and diseases, I think of witches, who just so happen to be a player character class, and who are somewhat lacking (although not entirely so) in hexes to let them do this sort of thing. Naturally, the rest of the article practically wrote itself.
New Witch Hexes
Death Curse (Sp): Once per day, when the witch is reduced to fewer than 0 hit points, she can utter a powerful curse of vengeance. She effectively casts bestow curse as a spell-like ability, but can do so as a free action even if it is not her turn, and doing so does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The range of the effect is increased to 60 feet, and the witch can target any creature within that range, even if that creature is not the one that reduced her to fewer than 0 hit points. The saving throw DC for the effect is equal to 10 + 1/2 the witch’s class level + the witch’s Intelligence modifier.
Gifted Healer (Ex): The witch is naturally gifted at combating poisons and diseases, and gains a bonus equal to 1/2 her witch level on Heal checks made to treat poisons and diseases. This bonus also applies to caster level checks made to remove poisons or diseases with spells like remove disease. Finally, the witch herself is particularly resistant to poisons and diseases: she gains a +4 bonus on saving throws made to resist poisons and diseases, and whenever there is a percentage chance that she is exposed to a disease, she rolls twice and takes the better result.
Poisonous Nails (Su): As a standard action, the witch can cause her nails to become steeped in a virulent poison. Whenever she does so, she chooses a single contact or injury poison. If the poison is an enhanced poison, its CR must be no greater than 1/2 the witch’s class level (rounded down, minimum 1). If the poison is a normal poison, the cost in gold pieces for a single dose must be no more than 100 gp per witch level of the witch. Either way, the first time that the witch deals damage to a creature with the natural attacks granted by the nails hex, the target is exposed to the poison. The poison lasts for one minute, and is wasted if the witch does not damage a creature with her nails before that time. The witch can use this ability a number of times per day equal to her Intelligence modifier. The witch must have the nails hex in order to select this hex.
Purify Body (Su): As a standard action, the witch can touch a creature in order to help purify his body of the influences of disease and poison. If the creature is currently affected by an enhanced disease or enhanced poison, the disease or poison moves to the next-lowest stage (if the disease or poison is currently in stage one, this has no effect; in the case of poisons, the toxicity decreases to an appropriate amount for the new stage). If the creature is currently affected by a normal disease or normal poison, the target automatically succeeds on his next saving throw to resist that disease or poison. If the target is currently affected by more than one disease or poison, only the disease or poison of the witch’s choice is affected. Once a creature has benefited from the purify body hex, it cannot benefit from it again for 24 hours.
Touch of Plague (Su): As a standard action, the witch can touch a creature in order to subject that creature to a disease of her choosing. If the disease is an enhanced disease, its CR must be no greater than 1/2 the witch’s class level (rounded down, minimum 1). If the disease is a normal disease, its saving throw DC must be no greater than 10 + 1/2 the witch’s class level + the witch’s Intelligence modifier. Either way, the affected creature is exposed to the disease, although any incubation period the disease has still applies. A creature cannot be the target of this hex again for 1 day.
Toxify (Su): As a standard action, the witch can dramatically increase the toxicity of a poison that is already within the body of a creature within 60 feet of her. If the target is affected by an enhanced poison, that poison’s toxicity increases by an amount equal to the witch’s Intelligence modifier. If the target is affected by a normal poison, that poison’s DC is increased to be equal to 10 + 1/2 the witch’s class level + the witch’s Intelligence modifier, if that would be higher than the poison’s normal DC. If the target is affected by more than one poison, choose a single poison to be affected by this ability. A creature cannot be the target of this hex again for 1 day.