The cult’s members and magic are undoubtedly dangerous, but the Void that compels them makes contact with the Harbingers especially insidious. Their magic, their very presence, can often leave behind a taint that adversely affects those exposed (see “Touch of the Void” in Deep Magic). While this exposure is dangerous enough as an incidental side effect, the Harbingers have weaponized it. Powerful spellcasters among them—both satarre and humanoid alike—have learned to coalesce this taint into an insidious curse that slowly breaks down and dissipates living things and objects afflicted with it.
Curse of Dissipation
To enact this curse, the Harbingers will conduct a ritual to affect a thing or place already tainted by the Void—the lair of a creature associated with the Void, a battleground where Void spells were cast, or a spellbook containing Void magic—to direct the taint in a specific fashion. The curse afflicts any creature that spends time either in the cursed place or handling the cursed object. Presumably a creature already tainted by the Void could be the focus of the ritual, placing the curse directly on the creature, but there have been no reported cases of the Harbingers doing so.
A creature exposed to a cursed place or object must succeed on a Charisma saving throw. The base DC for this save is 15, but it can be adjusted higher or lower at the GM’s discretion. A creature already infected with Void taint takes a penalty of −1 on the saving throw for every point of Void taint it currently possesses. A creature that fails the save is inflicted with the curse and gains 1 point of Void taint. Once afflicted, the way in which Void taint affects the creature changes. When a creature attains an amount of Void taint exceeding its Charisma bonus (minimum 0) + its proficiency bonus, then it starts to discorporate in body, mind, or soul, losing 2 points of a random attribute. (Optionally, to lessen the effects of the curse, you can make a creature’s, especially a PC’s, primary attribute immune to the effects of the curse. This attribute is their primary anchor to existence and thus the curse wears away the weaker, less developed essences of the creature first.) Noticeable effects can vary:
- Losing Strength may give a wasted look, as if from starvation
- Constitution loss may leave a creature looking pale and aged with darkening veins on the hands or face
- Dexterity loss may show as uncontrollable tremors
- Intelligence may show as a decrease in vocabulary
- Wisdom loss might result in memory loss
- A drop in Charisma could result in a more withdrawn or timid personality
If the effects of the curse bring any attribute to 0, the cursed creature dies. Loss of a physical attribute causes the body to wither and crumble. Loss of a mental attribute is worse—the body remains but the creature’s withered spirit is destroyed, leaving an empty husk that cannot be returned to life.
The curse can be lifted (both from victims as well as the area on which it is placed) with a remove curse spell, but the damage done by it remains. A greater restoration spell restores any lost attribute points. Alternatively, you can insert specific means of countering the curse of dissipation, providing the impetus for undertaking one or more adventures in order to obtain the cure. For example, one might rid themselves of the curse by drinking an elixir brewed from one or more rare ingredients, such as the feather of a firebird (see Tome of Beasts) or sap taken from a World Tree.
Bringing the Curse of Dissipation into the Campaign
The curse of dissipation can be introduced early, as part of an ongoing campaign against the Harbingers of the Yawning Void, or later as the cult develops ever more insidious means of destruction. As stated before, this curse is ritually laid down in areas tainted by the Void. The following are examples on how and where the curse of dissipation could be implemented by the Harbingers:
- The Harbingers have murdered an important and inspirational leader to disrupt politics and lower morale in the region. The target was struck down with Void magic. Worse, the cultists enacted the ritual of the curse of dissipation. Now the murdered victim’s body carries its taint, ready to pass it on to anyone who discovers and handles the body, such as intrepid investigators brought in to solve the murder.
- Aware of foes planning to invade one of their lairs, the Harbingers perform the ritual to afflict any interlopers. Perhaps they abandon the lair now that it is compromised, leaving the curse behind for eventual intruders. Or they might lure adventurers in by letting knowledge of a “secret entrance” slip, placing the curse in that entry for intruders to stumble into when they arrive.
- A site of slaughter where the Harbingers have slain victims with Void magic—perhaps a battlefield or an unsuspecting village—is cursed with the ritual. The loss of innocent civilians or brave soldiers is already a blow. However, with the curse in place, more people stand to be harmed. Those that attempt to retrieve the fallen from the battlefield or bury the dead in the village and repopulate the area stand to fall victim to the curse, creating more misery and destruction.