Master Pett’s Your Whispering Homunculus presents only the finest in British gaming. Indeed, you are not likely to find a more comprehensive assortment of miscellany anywhere. (So much more than just another bloke in a dress.)
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“Again, tape-wormlet, can’t you see I’m busy with this flan? What now?”
“Apologies, oh copious one, but my ongoing research into hedge-witches has brought up a list of curious illnesses and afflictions you may wish to be appraised of. Some of them are quite—hmm, unpleasant—and others defy logic or sense.”
“If I must, ordinarily I’d seriously punish a menial that interrupted my cooking. Seriously punish. I bear you only because you are new. But first, help me get out of this corset, it pinches abominably.”
As a companion piece to 10 Guaranteed Cure-Alls [link https://koboldpress.com/archives/20553], we thought you might like a list of extremely obscure illnesses to hurl at your PCs—either as fact or fiction. These wicked strains may not only raise eyebrows and strike terror into peasants with their merest mention, but could literally be illnesses instead of just rumor. This is fantasy after all, so having diseases that cause people’s arms to fall off or their heads to explode is only stretching reality slightly more than a good timestop spell.
If, however, you prefer your adventures a little grittier, as I do, consider these ludicrous diversions as nothing more than imagined sicknesses, or rumors told over ale by passing strangers of maladies coming over the hill from the next village. They could also, of course, be cover stories, designed by someone to cover up naughtiness as they wander the streets covered in fake boils.
To add further to the tenuous feasibility of such sicknesses and maladies, they are presented with full Pathfinder RPG disease statistic blocks to enable them to be played in full.
1. Bale’s Dreadful Whippery and Ghastly Internal Howling Choir Disease
Discovered by Physician Artemis Bale, those infected with this sickness suffer two-fold effects; first their body echoes to the cacophonous internal roar of what seems to be some sort of intestinal choir, and, as the disease spreads, it infests the arms of the carrier. When the infected character reaches 3 Dexterity or less, her arms spin in a wild, flailing motion that prevents any action involving them. The whippery ends with paralysis at 0 Dex. This wild motion prevents sleep, and even in those who do not die of the sickness, often leads to madness.
Type disease, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 18
Onset 1d3 days; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d6 Dex and1d3 Con damage; Cure 2 saves
2. Balloon Disease or Bloater’s Fluke
The terrible and little-known Balloon Sickness, also known as Bloat, Nature’s Terrible Inflation, or Muldrew’s Flabby Abomination, causes all the victim’s body to swell to painful and occasionally surreal girth. The swelling is put down to a curious fluke that allegedly gorges itself upon the victim and produces the massive body-encompassing swelling. With each 5 points of Dexterity loss, the character effectively doubles in girth across her whole body. If the infected character loses 10 Dexterity and has not exploded (see below), her size increases one factor.
Upon reaching 0 Dexterity or less, the afflicted character messily and painfully bursts over an agonizing minute, killing the unfortunate victim.
Type disease, ingested; Save Fortitude DC 20
Onset 1 day; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d3 Dex; Cure 2 consecutive saves
3. Blarn’s Ear-Invading Quicklice
Weaker but more common kin of the feared ear-seeker, Blarn’s Ear-Invading Quicklice are notorious for finding a nice warm ear to hibernate in—ideally permanently. They do, however, have an unfortunate habit of leaving their home and going for an incredibly fast dash on the face of their host, usually as a result of being near a warm place such as before a nice fire in a tavern, or as everyone is getting ready to eat a warm dinner in a comfy kitchen. At these times an errant louse (often locally called the dancing invader) springs to find another host, making a curious squealing noise as it flies across. At this time, the louse jumps up to 8 ft. to find a new host, making a melee attack at –2. If it hits, the victim must make an immediate save; if the louse fails, it dies in the attempt. In the meantime, the other lice resolve their journey in a single round at Initiative 30, and if prevented from returning to their host’s ears, they expire.
Type disease, contact, special; Save Fortitude DC 14
Onset immediate; Frequency 1/day
Effect deafness; Cure 1 save
4. Headpox, a.k.a., Dreadful Headpox, Terror of a Boiling Head and Noggin-Burst
Fearful headpox bloats the face of those who are infected, making it appear a single huge mass of puss, boils, and lesions that grow while the disease incubates and spreads.
The unfortunate end of this illness is typically an explosion of the victim’s head, which occurs when she reaches 0 Constitution.
Type disease, contact; Save Fortitude DC 18
Onset 1d3 days; Frequency 1/12 hours
Effect 1d3 Con, blindness, death by explosion of head at 0 Con; Cure 2 saves
5. Loosenarms Disease
Said by some to be almost as bad as Headpox, Loosenarms Disease is spread by fleas. It begins with an unpleasant and all-encompassing desire to scratch at and around the armpits and shoulders. As the illness grows, the itchy area swells, slowly splitting the skin and eventually causing the loss of both arms when 0 Dexterity is reached. The limbs usually just fall away at this point, often at the same moment, prompting some to say the illness is a judgment of the gods on naughty people.
Type disease, contact; Save Fortitude DC 14
Onset 1d3 days; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d4 Dex; Cure 2 saves
6. Pomfrey’s Baleful Unwanted Partner Boil
This malady is most unpleasant—but rarely fatal. Certain religious experts have conjectured that it is their god or goddesses or devil-lord’s punishment for wrongdoings manifested in an unwanted second. The boil develops after injury, usually at the hands of a demonic or devilish assailant, and grows quickly. The boil that grows (often, although not always, at the shoulder) quickly forms into a revolting face, alike—and yet horribly unlike—the host. It has been said that this boil comes to resemble—as it does most certainly in personality—a caricature of the victim.
The boil grows lips and eyes as the victim’s strength wanes, and when and if the statistic reaches zero, the birth occurs. The birth manifests with the sudden coming of awareness to the boil, as well as the ability to see and speak. The birthed boil is as intelligent as its host, but has no class or special abilities. The infestation is the polar opposite of its host, and quick to point out any flaws, unpleasant desires, or mannerisms of the host, which it knows intimately. Beyond this, it is powerless. Some have tried to cut the boil away at this stage, fearing madness; however, at this stage it is too late, and even physically cutting out the offensive growth results in 24 hours of peace and a temporary loss of 1d4 Con. As soon as 24 hours have passed, the boil reemerges, crosser than ever.
Some religious orders, particularly the Sisterhood of Spoken Flaws, and the Monks of Self-Flagellation and Loudly-Voiced Doubts, deliberately infect themselves with the Unwanted Partner (as they call the boils), in an effort to cleanse themselves of their sins. Visitors to the nunneries and monasteries of these orders offer conflicting reports as to the success and desirability of such approaches.
Type disease, injury; Save Will DC 21
Onset 1d2 days; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d4 Str; Cure 2 consecutive saves
7. Scathwell’s Singing Sickness
This dreadful illness can strike down whole villages, leading to cacophony, or in rare cases a very fine choir. The sickness manifests itself in a slowly growing inability to speak, but only sing. The singing increases as the victim’s Charisma lowers, and becomes permanent if it reaches 0. This does not affect the victim in any tangible way—spellcasters can still cast spells, skills requiring communication still take place at the normal ability levels, but the singing only ends with the host shaking off the illness or a cure.
Type disease, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 14
Onset 1d6 days; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d2 Cha; Cure 1 save
Feared Swarmpox comes in a variety of strains, and cases have been reported across the known world. The disease is carried by a rare strain of mosquito that lives within a swarm of the type of animal or monster the sickness spreads. Generally, the victim is attacked by the swarm and, even if overcome, the swarm is still deadly. During the initial encounter, if the character is injured, he is at risk of infection. Once infected, the character comes out in unpleasantly lumpy pox, not unlike dreaded smallpox; however, after losing 4 Constitution, the pox begin to develop an alarming movement within, which grows until the infected character loses 8 Constitution (if he has 8 Constitution or less he dies before the final effects of the disease), which is when the pox burst, birthing a swarm of the same type the character was initially infected by, but with the advanced simple template. The swarm then attacks the host.
Type disease, injury; Save Fortitude DC 14+1/HD of swarm type
Onset 1d4 hours; Frequency 1/hour
Effect 1d3 Con, swarm birth; Cure 2 consecutive saves
9. Tamrey’s Several Mouths Malady
Unpleasant and noxious, this sickness is occasionally inflicted by thieves’ guilds upon errant or wrong-doing members to mark them for life, as well as being found in rare corners of obscure lands. In its early stages, the sickness is indicated by a number of raised, roughly half-moon shaped scabs that appear angry and sore. As the illness worsens (after the victim has lost half her Strength), these scars open up, revealing sickly crooked teeth and the occasional lolling tongue. When the final stage is reached (at 0 Strength), these mouths open and flex, idiotically. Although they usually make no noise, they can occasionally be heard to lick or snap shut or infrequently, groan.
The extra mouths can occur anywhere on the body, but usually on fleshy parts such as the stomach. In all, 1d2 mouths appear for every point of Strength lost. Although they have no function, revealing such a sickness grants an immediate +2 bonus to all Intimidate checks made by the victim.
Once the illness has reached this zenith, the victim slowly recovers her strength but is never free of the mouths.
Type disease, contact; Save Fortitude DC 15
Onset 1d4 days; Frequency 1/day
Effect 1d3 Str; Cure 2 saves
10. Vampire-Spawning Boils
This illness is said to very occasionally occur in those who have slain vampires, although some scholars claim the spilt blood of vargouilles also passes the sickness on. In truth, the disease actually lurks in funeral shrouds, and infection is risked when such garments are touched.
The boils begin life as wan, raised mounds of flesh of insignificant size; however, they quickly develop an unpleasant funerary odor and begin to fester. As the victim loses Constitution, the stench becomes more unbearable, and akin in effects to ghast stench (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary, page 145) when 5 Constitution has been lost. However, there is much, much worse to come; at the loss of 8 Constitution, the victim’s body begins to fragment, seeming to peel away as though dividing in two. This second self is actually flaccid skin, but removing it at this stage kills the host outright, leaving her to rise the following night as a vampire.
Sadly for the victim, the sickness worsens as the split becomes more and more acute, with a revolting head and second pair of limbs forming until finally, when the host reaches 0 Constitution, the flaccid second skin pulls away entirely, its eyes opening as it draws away, slaying its host. If this birth occurs in full daylight, the flaccid second is immediately destroyed; if not, it seeks to escape gaseously, attempting to find a lair beneath ground in which to fester. This underground lair becomes the vampire’s coffin for the purposes of destroying the vampire. This new vampire takes on all the abilities of the host, as though she were a character slain by a vampire. Sadly there is one final terrible twist, as the host herself rises 24 hours later at midnight as a new vampire, considered to be the spawn of the one she has birthed.
Type disease, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 18
Onset 1 day; Frequency 1/day at midnight
Effect 1d4 Con; Cure 2 consecutive saves