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Hyborean Diseases

I have slightly edited Malaria (“contracting” instead of “contacting”) and reproduced both Derketa’s Kiss and Malaria here for convenience (but those are property of Modiphius). Basically, I was in a mood to create diseases and here they are in all their virulent glory. Feel free to use and reproduce the ones that aren’t from the Core Book.

DERKETA’S KISS (VIRULENCE 2): A spotted rash covers the skin, an obvious sign of disease. The player character feels lethargic and finds it difficult to concentrate. Derketa’s Kiss has been known to kill the enfeebled. Symptoms: While infected, the victim suffers the effects of Despair 2, Fatigue 3, Trauma 1,
and social tests increase in Difficulty by one step.

MALARIA (VIRULENCE 4): Feeling like a horrible cold, the player character’s body is wracked with fevers and convulsions as the stomach empties and joints feel as if they are filled with glass. Malaria is a killer carried by blood-drinking insects. Player characters with Survival Focus of 2 or more can make a Survival test instead of Resistance to avoid contracting this disease. Symptoms: Despair 4, Fatigue 4, Trauma 2, and Wounds 2 while infected.

BRILLIANT FLUX (VIRULENCE 3): So named because the blood in the waste is a particularly brilliant shade of bright red, the Brilliant Flux can work through a small community like wildfire. Player characters with a Healing Focus of 2 or more can make a Healing test to avoid contracting the disease and may (at the GM’s option) also make this test for party members. Symptoms: Despair 3, Fatigue 4, Wound 1 while infected. (Untreated Minion-level characters will die of this disease.)

NERGAL’S FIRE (VIRULENCE 1 [contact]; VIRULENCE 4 [eating]): This disease (fortunately) is difficult to spread person-to-person, but its effects are madness and death. It is spread by consuming fungus-contaminated rye, and those who partake are exceedingly likely to contract it. Player characters with a Survival Focus of 2 or more can make a Survival test to identify contaminated rye and bread. Symptoms: While infected, the victim suffers Despair 4, Fatigue 2, Trauma 1. Commoners [Minions] who contract this disease are likely driven permanently mad without immediate and effective treatment.

LEPROSY (SET’S BLESSING) (VIRULENCE 1): One of the most terrifying diseases in Hyborea, leprosy is fortunately difficult to contract (although it is believed to be highly communicable by those without medical training). This disease cannot be cured, but can be treated on an ongoing basis to keep it from getting worse. Because the victims lose sensation in their extremities (and later their central body), it causes a decided reduction in both Agility and Coordination. Symptoms: Untreated, -1 Agility and Coordination per month, Despair 4, Trauma 1. Treated: Despair 2, and can keep any Agility and Coordination not already lost.

LOCKJAW (VIRULENCE 2): Normally contracted through injury, this disease can also spread person-to-person and leads to paralysis and death. A Healer with Focus 2 can make a Healing test to treat an exposed wound to prevent this disease. Symptoms: While infected, Fatigue 4, Despair 2, and all physical tests increase in Difficulty by one step.

WINTER FEVER (VIRULENCE 3): Another disease that can sweep through a small community, winter fever is characterized by fluid in the lungs and “crackly” sounding breathing. Unlike many other diseases, this is an airborne illness and it is nearly impossible to prevent infection from spreading. Symptoms: While infected, Fatigue 4, Despair 2.

THE PLAGUE (EARLY STAGES) (VIRULENCE 2): In the early stages of this disease, it is spread through blood contact (including flea bites). It is often deadly but also usually contained in a small part of a city. A Healer with Focus 2 can identify the infected and isolate them to prevent it from progressing to the late-stage Pneumonic Plague (see below). Symptoms: While infected, Fatigue 3, Despair 2.

PNEUMONIC PLAGUE (VIRULENCE 4): If the Plague is allowed to fester unchecked in a city, it will eventually transform into Pneumonic Plague, which is airborne, extremely contagious, and far more deadly. Symptoms: While infected, Fatigue 5, Wound 2, Despair 5. This disease is very likely to kill most characters unless an effective means of combatting it is found.

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Do you actually use those diseases in your Conan games?

I wonder, because having your heroes wither and die unheroically of wasting diseases is not what I would consider Sword&Sorcery fantasy.

I my games, I use diseases as a “mcguffin”, as a problem to be solved, as the motivation for big damn heroics by the PCs, but not as a threat to the PCs themselves. It is alright to fight a brutal cult of disease spreading fanatics, but to fight for your life while lying in a fever, being essentially incapacitated and slowly dying, that is more depressing than I imagine this fantasy genre.

I will probably have at least one scene (or short set of connected scenes) where at least some party members are having to fight impaired, but you’re right, they’re mostly what I would think of as backdrop.

I was just reading the disease rules and felt like coming up with more, mostly.

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Nice job ! I thought about doing this myself as the diseases in the game are pretty scarce. Thanks a lot !

I know this won’t work wholesale in a proper Conan setting, but in my table’s home-brew setting diseases are used as a feature of the “outside” environment–these diseases can be completely avoided by having at least 1 Resource of serum or antibiotics, but much like ammo: should you run out, the trouble begins. I could imagine scenarios in Conan with a similar setup operative in some specific geographic area, though perhaps not a permanent feature of the campaign writ large.