Arcane Corruption: The Dark Side of Magic for D&D 5th Edition

Wizards are weird.

In darker settings, distant beings and magical powers are hard to trust… and for good reason.  In older iterations of the game, as well as darker fantasy RPGs like “Dungeon Crawl Classics”, delving into the supernatural had a risk far beyond a price tag and losing a spell slot or gaining the ire of a church.  Exploitation of eldritch powers could leave the victim becoming mad, diseased, or both.  Turning the forces of chaotic energy into an orderly event is by all means a paradox in and of itself, taking its toll on those who craft too much.  Likewise, making bargains with incomprehensible entities too takes its toll.  Those who take either too far risk becoming mad or warped beyond recognition.

And worse than exposing yourself to the unknown in immersing yourself is realms tainted by absolute corruption.  Desecrated lands, alters to dark gods, creatures that are the truest essence of evil and so on.  These sources of the most vile powers in existence are just as likely to twist and decay the soul into something it is not… or was not.  While some struggle with sanity, distortion at the hand of dark powers are far worse.

If you prefer, here are some alternative lists that can work as well.  Mutations – Part 1 (Benefits), Mutations – Part 2 (Drawbacks), Wild Magic Surge (Alternate)

Author’s Note: This is inspired by corrupted magic from Dungeon Crawl Classics, Carcosa, Taint from D&D 3.5 Heroes of Horror and the Insanity option from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.  At its core, this is a variant of the Sanity and Madness rules from the D&D 5E DMG.  Also, this is merely a draft for my concept.  Expect revision at some point!

Made by Doctor Necrotic, for Doctor Necrotic Media.

IMAGE SOURCE: Dungeon Crawl Classics


Like the option for Sanity, this module introduces a Pureness stat as a means of fending off dark influences that risk tainting your body and soul.  While older editions would tie the alignment system directly into this module, this assumes the game treats alignment as a module all its own.  DMs interested in tying both together are encouraged to do so, by playing with starting pureness and adding/subtracting starting points as they see become exposed to corruption.  The less pureness the character has, the higher level of corruption they suffer.  If your purity score drops to 0, you are treated as a NPC until properly restored.  Alternatively, you can be so far gone you are merely a monster.  Unlike sanity, you roll a save versus magical corruption with your spellcasting stat.

However, if you are to use this as a supplement for D&D’s taint system, then this could be used as a new stat to use saves for.  You begin proficiency in Pureness saves.  If you were to intentionally fail a save, you lose proficiency in this saving throw until you redeem yourself via removing the corruption that afflicted you.


Dark essences seek to corrode and control those who come too close into their grasp.  Those who are overly tainted by their powers have their body and soul warped by dread forces.  Corruption in many causes is also caused by rampant misuse of magical powers.  With this module, the “Nahal’s Reckless Dweomer” spell is accessible to all casting classes, allowing you to trade power for absolute risk.  However, instead of a wild surge, you activate a corruption table instead.When casting a spell, you must make an arcana check as a free action equal to 12 + spell level.  In terms of cantrips, this optional rule assumes you’re using the “exploiting resources” module from the “grittier magicks” post.  Every time you use cantrip spells beyond a safe amount, you must roll a DC 12 save + 1 for every successful save you had made prior.  Corruption can be removed by a high level caster capable of removing curses and diseases.

Sample Corruption Effects:

  1. Acid Blood.  At the start of the day, make a constitution saving throw (DC 12).  Failure results in being poisoned for 1d8 hours.  In addition, you may strike back at enemies that hit you within melee once per short rest.  When hit with a melee attack, you can use a reaction to force the enemy to make a dexterity saving throw.  They take 2d10 acid damage, save for half damage.
  2. Arcane Seizing.  Whenever you confront something magical or cast a spell of your own, your body begins to quake and convulse a bit.  You must roll a dexterity saving throw when trying to cast spells with a somatic component.  The save is DC 14, failure results in the spell fizzling out (without spell slot being wasted though).  You also have disadvantage on ranged attacks.
  3. Bad Back.  Your back becomes stuck in a painful hunched position.  The posture causes even more pain after hours of travel.  Sleep’s almost impossible  If you’re carrying a medium or heavy load, you must make a DC 15 Constitution saving throw.  Failure results in not gaining any benefits from a rest due to being in too much pain.
  4. Beast’s Breath.  You gain a wyrmling dragon’s breath weapon.
  5. Bestial Head.  The next time you take a long rest, your head painfully turns into that of an animal.  You gain qualities of that animal in addition to a level of exhaustion.  You do not gain the benefits of a long rest.
  6. Bizarre Skin Texture.  Instead of normal skin textures common to various creatures, yours is closer to various materials.  Your skin can be crystal, glass, plant material, fabric, metallic, or another unusual texture of choice.
  7. Bloodlust.  If you do not kill a creature and perform some ritual involved with it (eat raw flesh, drink blood, etc) within a 24 hour period, you have disadvantage on all skill checks, saving throws, and other abilities.  However, you do not have disadvantage on attack rolls.  You cannot knock a creature out or deal non-lethal damage while in this state.  Killing a creature and performing the ritual ends this effect.  If the ritual does not require murder (like drinking blood) and are not in a bloodlust state, you can receive help from a willing ally.
  8. Bloody Explosion.  You explode and die, everything around you within a 15 ft. radius must make a dexterity saving throw (DC = your spell DC) or take 3d8 bludgeoning damage.  This counts as magical.
  9. Bloody Horror.  Once every couple of hours, you bleed from your eyes, nose, mouth, ears, or lips.
  10. Brittle Body.  You are weak against bludgeoning, piercing and slashing damage.
  11. Cannibal.  Can only digest meat from the same species as your own.
  12. Changing Gender.  You change biological sex or become intersexed.
  13. Chills.  Your body gets the chills whenever magic is present, whether or now you are responsible.  Whenever you cast a spell, are exposed to a magical effect or area or are near someone using magic, you have disadvantage on concentration checks.
  14. Cold-Blooded.  You need some warmth to stay active, long exposure to the cold leaves you in a comatose state.
  15. Collapsed Form.  You become semi-gelatinous in shape, you look misshapen and barely humanoid.  Your movement is halved and you look terrifying to most people.
  16. Constant Energy.  You crackle with the energy you most associate with/use; flames, cold wind, poisonous vapor, etc.  You also have resistance to a related damage type.
  17. Consumption.  You lose 4d10 pounds in 6 hour, you gain 1 level of exhaustion and suffer disadvantage on Constitution checks and saving throws.
  18. Corpulent.  You gain 6d12 pounds in 6 hour, your speed is reduced by 5 feet and you have disadvantage on Dexterity checks and saving throws.
  19. Corrupting Immortality.  The next time you die, you are revived back to your previous state 1 minute later.  However, you look more like an undead creature and it counts as gaining another corruption effect.  If using the Purity stat, you lose purity upon being revived.  This effect is continuous.  If you have already died and have been revived by this effect, removing this taint will result in death.
  20. Corruptive Aura.  Anyone who spends at least 1 day next to you have a cumulative 1% chance of arcane corruption.
  21. Decay.  Your body begins to decay like a corpse.  At the start of each day, you lose 1d6 maximum hit points.
  22. Decaying Touch.  Your touch causes plants to wither and die.
  23. Deep One Eyes.  Your eyes become unblinking and bulging, making you look very uncanny.
  24. Demonic Taint.  You become infused with underworld energies, tainting your very being.  1.Your fingers/toes elongate into large claws/talons.  2. Your tongue forks, allowing to smell with the tongue like a snake.  3.  Your feet become cloven hooves.  4.  Your lower torso through legs become satyroid/faun-like.  5.  You grow large, twisted horns.
  25. Despair.  You suffer from the effects of Shadowfell Despair (DMG P. 52)
  26. Destroyed Insides.  Your innards are eaten away, resulted in painful existence.  You have disadvantage in all physical stat saving throws as well as skill checks.
  27. Disoriented.  Casting spells leaves you light-headed and in a dazed state.  Whenever you cast a spell, you must make a Constitution saving throw or become stunned for upwards to 1 minute, with a new attempt at saving at the end of every round in combat.
  28. Dread Gate.  Your spell accidentally conjures an outsider appropriate for your encounter level.  They will likely become hostile towards you, due to taking them from their home plane.
  29. Expanded Mind.  Your mind can reach out and communicate with others around you.  You gain telepathy out 120 feet.
  30. Extra digits.  You gain 1d6 extra toes or fingers.
  31. Extra Mouths.  You gain 1d4 mouths somewhere on your body.  You speak with multiple voices
  32. Extreme Body Temperature. Your base temperature is either extremely high or extremely low.
  33. Eye Stalk.  You sprout an eye stalk from somewhere on your body (or replacing one of your eyes).  It grants you an expanded field of vision.  You cannot be surprised and you have advantage on perception checks using sight.
  34. Eyeballs Everywhere.  1d8 eyeballs open on random places on your body.
  35. Facial Tendrils.  Many tendrils sprout all around the lower part of your face, similar to a mind flayer.  You may grapple targets using these tendrils
  36. Fearful, Very Fearful.  The DC is now 18 and the consequence of failure is paralyzed.
  37. Fearful.  When exposed to a potential fear, you must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or be incapacitated for 1 minute.
  38. Feeble Mind.  Your curse has made you more simplistic.  You have disadvantage on all mental stat saving throws as well as skill checks.
  39. Festering Sores.  When struck by an attack, must make a Constitution saving throw (DC 12) or experience a bloody rupture; this causes 1d6 damage plus 1d6 another element.  The damage element manifests in a disgusting manner.
  40. Fiendish Sight.  Your eyes and mind alike are attuned to seeing beyond the veil of reality.  You can see in magical darkness up to 120 feet.  You also have blindsight out 10 feet.
  41. Flexible Jaws.  Your jaw can stretch much like a snake’s.
  42. Frailness.  You have disadvantage on death saving throws.
  43. Fused Hand.  Fingers on one of your hand fuse into a pseudo-claw shape akin to a sideshow “lobster boy” act.  You have disadvantage to use weapons and you cannot use weaponry with a trigger on it, like a crossbow or firearm.
  44. Garbled Speech.  You have trouble speaking with others; sometimes you’ll speak backwards and sometimes you’ll speak absolute gibberish.  You must roll a Charisma saving throw when you try to speak equal to DC 15.  If you fail, your speech will sound like garbled nonsense.  You must make this save before doing Charisma skill checks involving speech.
  45. Gross Growth.  A massive tumor, growth, goiter or the like hangs off of your face.  You have disadvantage on Charisma checks.
  46. Hair Loss.  Your hair begins to fall out in clumps.
  47. Hated by Animals.  Natural animals are disturbed by your presence, sometimes acting outwardly hostile toward you.
  48. Healing Defiance.  Healing magic of any kind doesn’t work on you.  Effects that restore you hit points in other magical ways don’t work either.  Only natural healing works.
  49. Healing Resistance.  Healing magic has no effect on you, including potions.  This lasts for 1 day.
  50. Horrible Smell.  You have a nasty odor of something (ex: decay, brimstone, unnatural scents), others can detect it whenever they get close to you.
  51. Impulsiveness.  You have the need to act on a whim.  Whenever you gain an impulsive thought, you must make a DC 12 Charisma saving throw or act upon it immediately.
  52. Injured.  You gain an injury as detailed on the DMG (P. 272) for 1 day or until cured through proper magical healing.
  53. Insanity.  You suffer a short-term madness effect every time you fail a corruption save for 1d10x10 minutes.  If you had already suffered short-term effects, you also gain a long-term madness effect instead for 1d10x10 hours.  Rules for Madness are in the DMG (P. 258).  If you had already suffered long-term effects, you gain indefinite madness instead.
  54. Limp Leg.  Your speed is decreased by 10 feet (5 foot minimum).
  55. Long Neck.  Your neck stretches outward, giving a giraffe like look.
  56. Loss of Energy.  You cannot move a round after 2 consecutive rounds of movement in combat.
  57. Lumps. Burning hot lumps impede your ability to travel far without being an exhausting burden.  When you use the dash action, you must make a DC 18 Constitution saving throw or take 1 level of exhaustion.
  58. Magic Scarred.  Your look is completely altered by the spell you tried to cast.  A fire spell would cause you to be covered in burns, while a cold spell causes you to look pale and frost bitten.  An entire school like necromancy may drain life from your features.  You gain resistance towards a specific type of spell related to your scar
  59. Magnetic Cling.  Metal is more drawn to you now.  You gain advantage on athletics checks to climb on metal, as well as checks to keep metal objects from leaving your hand.  However, there is a 50% chance melee attacks using metal will strike you if they’re within strike range.  The same goes for ranged attacks that move within 10 ft. of you.
  60. Marked.  Your spell has marked you in a very visible manner.  The effect depends on the nature of the magic.  An elemental spell would mark you with said element, like radiant damage would cause the area to glow.  A specific school like illusion could cause the area to look blurred or smudged.
  61. Memory Theft.  You accidentally take memories from each area you travel to.  These memories can be recent or old, pleasant or nightmarish.  You must roll an Intelligence saving throw (DC 15) or experience the memory in a vivid hallucination.  This hallucination can appear completely real or visual as ghost images surrounding you.
  62. Mental Trauma. Attempting to cast the same spell again results in your anguish getting in the way.  You immediately take d8 psychic damage (with the amount of dice equal to the spell slot level, with 1d8 being the minimum damage.)  In addition, you must roll a Constitution saving throw (DC 15).  Failure results in not being able to cast for that spell.
  63. Mossy Hair.  Hair becomes plant-like, perhaps literally plants.
  64. Non-Breathing.  You no longer need to breath.  Those to take notice of this will likely be scared, assuming you’re an undead.
  65. Not Hungry/Thirsty.  You no longer need to eat or drink to survive.  Those who catch onto this might become disturbed by this.
  66. Painful Transmogrification.  Over the course of 1d10 hours, you slowly take the form of another creature.  During this time, you are incapacitated and restrained.  This otherwise works like the Shapechange spell.  If you die before the process is complete, the body continues to morph regardless.
  67. Panicky.  You’re easy to startle and slow to calm down.  You gain the frightened condition whenever you are surprised.
  68. Paper Skin.  Sloughs of skin peel off, to reveal red, raw flesh underneath.
  69. Petrification. You become petrified.  You are immune to all magical damage and immune to all other damage.  You are incapacitated and cannot move.  You do not eat, drink or breath in this state.  Restoring stone to flesh will get rid of this taint, but you still have a stone-coloring to your skin due to corruption.
  70. Resilient.  You are more careful in your abilities to avoid negative effects in the future.  You gain the Resilient feat.
  71. Savagery.  When feeling excited, stressed or threatened, you have disadvantage on mental stat check to not act in a primitive or bestial manner.
  72. Serpentine.  Your legs fuse together to form a powerful snake-like body/tail.
  73. Sickened.  You suffer the effects of the Poisoned condition and your speed is halved until you take a long rest.
  74. Slave to Desire.  You fall under the influence (charm) of an outsider from another plane.  This is up to the DM as what is most appropriate.  The outsider can influence you in subtle ways or outright try to manipulate you.
  75. Statistical Weakness.  One of your stats drops by 2 points, either selected by DM or chosen at random.
  76. Strange Colour.  You turn a strange color, it’s a lot easier to pick you out now.
  77. Strange Ears.  Your ears are changed. 1. They elongate and/or stretch out like an elephant’s or a donkey’s.  3. They become pointy, like an elf’s (ignore if elf).  3. They shrivel up and disappear 4. They become frilled and flap-like.  5. They become similar to a mammalian animal’s ears.
  78. Strange Eyes.  Your eyes are changed.  1.  They look wild and beastly.  2. look demonic and scary  3. melt away and are replaced with blue flames (gain +60 Darkvision and the Sunlight Sensitivity traits, P. 24 PHB).  4. They become glowing bright orbs, shedding bright light within 30 ft. and dim light within more 30 ft. with the direction the target faces while eyes are open.
  79. Strange Mouth.  Your mouth is changed.  1. Lips grow in size.  2. Lips dissolve away.  3. It gains a frog-like tongue 4. Both your Nose and Mouth become a bird’s beak.  5.  Your mouth extends into a sharp toothy maw/snake-like jaw
  80. Strange Nose.  Your nose is changed.  1. They shrink to two reptilian slits.  2. They become like a mammalian beast’s.  3. They rot off into skull-like openings.  4. They disappear completely. 5. Both your Nose and Mouth become a bird’s beak.
  81. Strange Skin.  Your skin is changed.  1. Your skin is covered in hard scales, a thick hide or a dense fur coat; granting natural armor of 1 when not wearing armor.  2. Your skin becomes putrid and looks as though it displays several stages of decay, gaining disadvantage on charisma checks.  3.  Your skin is slimy and messy, you have advantage to escape from grabs but disadvantage on grabbing others.  Furthermore, you must make a dexterity saving throw (DC 15) while you are taking a dash action, otherwise you continue to slide an extra 15 feet at full speed.  You take maximum damage if you collide with an object.  4.  A full plume of feathers, with wing-like extensions on arms.  You may glide down to the ground without taking falling damage when you would otherwise fall.
  82. Strange Wounds.  Lesions and gashes appear all over the body, they don’t heal.
  83. Stretched legs.  You’re more able to run at a brisk speed, whether your arms are modified to run on all fours or your legs are more capable of fast speeds.  You gain a +10 feet bonus to your speed.
  84. Swollen Brain.  Your brain looks huge, but it’s really creepy.  You have advantage on Intelligence and Wisdom checks, as well as checks to Concentrate on spells.  However, your appearance frightens many.
  85. Taboo Apathy.  You begin to disregard personal hygiene as well as cultural customs.
  86. Tail.  You grow a tail.  1. A long furry tail.  2. A scaled lizard like tail.  3.  A tendril like arm or prehensile monkey-like tail.  4. A stubby, short tail. 5. Scorpion-like tail with stinger
  87. Tauric Spider.  The next time you take a long rest, the lower part of your body is replaced with a spider’s body and legs.  You gain a level of exhaustion and do not gain the benefits of a long rest.
  88. Tendril Arm.  You sprout a tentacle arm somewhere on your body (or one of your arms can become one.)  This arm grants advantage on grappling.  It is extremely challenge to disguise this.
  89. Third Eye.  A third eye awakens upon you, giving you visions you wished you hadn’t seen.  Once per day, at random, your third eye receives random images related to the area you’re in.  However, the information can be overloading and confusing.  The DM can give you an assortment of random facts and historical anecdotes surrounding your current location.  However, you must make an intelligence saving throw (DC 15) or become stunned for 1 minute.
  90. Uncanny.  Something about you is off putting to a lot of people, but they can’t quite gather what it is.  People feel less obliged to deal with you, let alone in a positive light.  You’re quite simply, a bit unnerving.
  91. Unnatural Weapons.  Part of your body shifts into a something you can use in combat; claws, fangs, stinger, etc.  You gain an Unarmed Strike that deals 1d4 Bl/Pr/Sl (choose one) damage.  Your damages increases, as per the Monk’s martial arts.
  92. Useless Ear.  One of your ears doesn’t work or has been destroyed.  You have disadvantage on perception checks involving hearing.
  93. Useless Eye.  One of your eyes no longer works or has been destroyed.  You have disadvantage on perception checks with sight.
  94. Useless Limb.  One of your limbs is either unusable or non-existent.
  95. Venom.  You can channel venom into a bite/claw/contact with your skin.  No matter what the determined source of contact, the afflicted must make a saving throw equal to your spell DC or become poisoned for 1 minute and take 2d6 poison damage.  They may continue to make saving throws until they fight it off or are cured.
  96. Vulnerable Mind.  You have weakness to psychic damage.
  97. Weary.  Your body aches and it takes more effort to get moving.  Your speed is reduced by 5 feet, you suffer disadvantage on initiative rolls.
  98. Weird Happenings.  Strange things happen around you, if you spend too much time in a single area.  People become sick more often, food and drink go bad, newborns more likely to suffer deformity/disability/stillbirth
  99. Wicked Cough.  You throat becomes horribly congested, producing a phlegmy and nasty cough.  People will want to avoid you, out of fear of disease.
  100. Wings.  You grow wings, either from your back or your arms turn into wings.  You gain a flight speed equal to your land speed.  It is nearly impossible to hide these wings.

One thought on “Arcane Corruption: The Dark Side of Magic for D&D 5th Edition

  1. Pingback: Purity & Corruption – Struggles against Tainting Evil in D&D 5th Edition | Daemons & Deathrays

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