Purity & Corruption – Struggles against Tainting Evil in D&D 5th Edition

Don’t worry, he’s completely fine.

Darkness preys upon countless innocents, dragging them into their clutches as it sees fit.  It awaits for us to falter and turn to it in search of aid, courage, control.  It happily responds, in hopes of enthralling those who get too close.  This wickedness is no one being, but the very nature of evil itself.  It seeks to take everything that is true goodness, and destroy it any way it can.  For true evil, the failure of hope and prosperity is its ultimate goal.  And in the end, it has plans to make us all pawns in its twisted games. 

However, heroes rise up to combat the darkness and help bring light to the world.  But in the end, they risk falling to the same evil they combat.  Their feuds against wickedness risk corrupting them as well, making their valiant efforts all for naught.  Such adventurers may become the very monsters they quested forth to destroy, in the end.  Only a true champion of justice can withstand an onslaught of defilers and diabolic forces.  All everyone else can hope for is solace and sanctuary, for it’s all we have in an endless struggle to fend off powers far beyond our control.  We have no control, you see!  The darkness comes!  It will damn us all!

The forces of corruption are a new threat to your players.  Similar to the Sanity stat, Purity is an alternate option to measure your players’ endurance against forces of absolute evil.  The lower their purity is, the more likely they are to succumb to its dark embrace, similar to the Dark Lords of Ravenloft or the hellish creatures found in countless dark fantasy tales.

Author’s Note: I’m back with another rule module for you all!  In short, I gave the Pureness stat some playtesting, but found out it was wasn’t properly defined or fleshed out.  That and the base concept was tied to either Gamma World style mutation or “Arcane Corruption” (DCC style spellcasting).  The resulting feedback concluded that a mix of Ravenloft’s Dark Power effects charts, disease tracks and mutation were the best way to go.  In a sense, this is a compilation in addition to expansion on what I already have.  In short, this is a revision of the purity idea from my Arcane Corruption post.  It’s still similar to the rest of the post, same as my post for mutation.

Also, one of my players wanted me to delve deeper into the Curse of Undeath, making a post inspired by Dark Souls.  So, stay tuned for an expansion on that!

New Stat: Purity

Unlike sanity, purity represents a wholeness of the body and mind.  While it’s possible to suffer effects of madness, it’s also likely your mind can be damaged in other ways from loss of purity.  Purity represents the wholeness of body and soul.  In essence, it resembles a mix of morality, sanity and ones identity.  To lose purity means to lose not just your moral compass, but your humanity.  Or for that matter, any connection to your identity or origin.  When falling too low, you risk becoming a monster both figuratively and literally.

Base Purity starts at 10 + bonuses based on your character.  To find out the bonuses, gather character’s motivations and characteristics.  Noble and/or selfless characters gain 1d8, Detached and self-centered characters gain 1d6, Amoral and selfish characters gain 1d4.  Alternatively, you may gain purity based on alignment.  Lawful Good, Neutral Good and Chaotic Good are 1d8; , Lawful Neutral, True Neutral and Chaotic Neutral are 1d6; Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil and Chaotic Evil are 1d4.

Your Purity may never exceed your base amount.  However, you can always lose purity and recover it to your maximum like hit points.

Losing Purity

Doing foul deeds or being exposures to absolute evil risks tainting you.  When facing the taint of evil, the target must make a saving throw using their Purity stat.  The following are some examples of acts and exposures that can deplete purity.  Initial exposure to the Impure or an impure act has a DC of 5.  Continuing exposure/action or being exposed/acting upon a new corruption will increase the DC by 5.  This continues to increase until the subject has failed.  Upon failure, the subject loses at least purity and gains a relevant impurity effect up to two times, once for when they enter a new tier of impurity and again while they are in that tier (Mild, Moderate, Severe).  The amount of purity lost depends on the severity of the act.  Stealing supplies that someone needs for survival is an act that would risk loss of 1 purity while a massacre of a large number of people would risk losing up to 1d10 purity.  Loss of just 1 would be for a vicious and petty act, while something up to 1d10 would be a truly damning act of true evil.  If you drop to 0 Purity at any time, the character becomes an evil NPC and/or monster until cured.

Alternatively, you can just have a character lose 1 point of purity, akin to the rules for Sanity in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Causes of Loss:

  • Dark Power/Blasphemy (animating the dead, desecration of religious grounds, diabolic pacts, possession, praise/rituals to dark gods)
  • Exposure to Impure Creatures/Locations/Artifacts (activating and attuning to tainted items, cursed with impurity, dealing with creatures made of/fueled by impurity, utilizing dark ritual grounds)
  • Mental Violence & Abuse (abusive mental manipulation, character assassination, discrimination, exposing/selling-out dangerous secrets and allies, psychological warfare, verbal bullying)
  • Physical Violence & Abuse (assault, murder, mutilation, physical bullying, sadism, torture, unethical experimentation)

Effects of Impurity.

The resulting effect of impurity is determined by how low your purity score has fallen.  Here is a list of example effects caused by low purity.

Mild Impurity – Purity Score is below maximum, above 2/3 of your maximum (rounded down.)

  • Adverse to Light – The light has become your enemy, you feel at unease when exposed to it.  You gain the Light Weakness flaw. *M2
  • Burning Blood – Your blood burns the lining of your innards, acidic vapors trail from your mouth sometimes.  You gain the Acid Blood flaw (except this version only deals 1d10 damage instead). *AC
  • Convulsions – You cannot control spasms and ticks in your body.  You shake violently at times.  You gain the Arcane Seizing flaw (except this version pertains to ranged attacks in addition to spells) *AC
  • Gross Growth – You gain a hideous growth that’s clearly visible on your body.  You gain the Gross Growth flaw.  *AC
  • Hated by Animals – Animals have come to dislike you immensely.  You gain the Hated by Animals flaw.  *AC
  • Healing Resistance – Healing magic is less effective on you now.  You gain the Healing Resistance flaw. *AC
  • Limp Arm – One of your arms begins to feel numb and useless.  You have disadvantage with 2-Handed Weapons or 1-Handed Weapons using that arm.  Furthermore, it takes twice as long to equip shields/armor on that arm.
  • Limp Leg – One of your legs begins to feel numb and useless.  You gain the Slowpoke flaw *M2
  • Memory Loss – At the end of a short or long rest, roll an Intelligence saving throw.  (DC 16)  Upon failure, you gain disadvantage on the next skill check or attack roll.  Until you rest again, you retain disadvantage while doing the same type of roll.
  • Obvious Disfigurement – While not hideous, you have some sort of blight that makes you obvious to find.  In fact, you cannot hide it.  It can always be detected by someone looking.  You gain the Easy to Pick Out flaw *M2
  • Strange Temperature – Your body temperature is not normal for a healthy person of your description.  You gain the Extreme Body Temperature Flaw *AC
  • Taboo Indifference – You no longer care about cultural taboos and customs, disregarding a lot of personal concerns as well.

Moderate Impurity – Purity Score is below 2/3 of your maximum, above 1/3 of your maximum (rounded down.)

  • Ability Decay – You feel your talents begin to dissolve and waste away.  You gain Ability Decay. *M2
  • Curse of Undeath – You cannot totally die; but each time you are revived, you come back worse for wear.  You gain the Corruptive Immortality flaw. *AC
  • Enraged – You have gained a bad tendency to flip out into rage and become extremely violent over various triggers.  You gain the Prone Psychosis flaw *M2
  • Frantic – Your mind is destroyed by horrible fear and guilt from exposing yourself to true wickedness.  You gain the Fearful flaw. *M2
  • Hideous – Your deformities become something truly vile and horrid.  You gain the Grotesque flaw.
  • Lost Sense – You’ve lost one of your senses!  You become Blind, Deaf, Mute, Lose all Taste or Lose all Feeling.
  • Manifesting Hallucination – Delusions you’ve experienced begin to manifest into seemingly real entities!  You gain the Ghostly Image flaw *M2
  • Painful Lumps – Horrible lumps make moving too often hard and draining upon you.  You gain the Lumps flaw.  *AC
  • Slave to Darkness – You have fallen under the influence of some otherworldly power.  You gain the Slave to Desire flaw.
  • Warped Spine –  Your posture is always strange and your back is always in pain.  You gain the Bad Back flaw.  *AC
  • Weak Immune System – Your body’s ability to fight off diseases and dark powers has declined drastically.  You gain the Weak Immune System flaw *M2
  • Weak Skin – When you’re hit, you seem to bleed harder.  You gain the Deep Wounds flaw *M2

Severe Impurity – Purity Score is below 1/3 of your maximum.

  • Amorphous – Your corporeal form is corrupted beyond recognition.  You are semi morphic at that.  You gain the Collapsed Form flaw. *AC  You can attempt to fit through spaces smaller than you with an Acrobatics check.
  • Big Brute – You change into a hulking monster, losing some of your intellect in the process.  You gain the Forcefully Evolved Mutant Flaw (but ignore infertility) *M2 and count as a large creature.
  • Bloodlust – You must consume some aspect of the living!  Flesh, blood, souls!  It doesn’t matter, this dark ritual is something you must commit.  You gain the Bloodlust flaw. *AC  Once per long rest, after doing such a deed, you gain your hit die + your level in temporary hit points, which lasts until you take another rest.
  • Destroyed Insides – Your internal organs have been completely ruined.  Almost any physical activity borders the impossible, it seems.  You gained the Destroyed Insides flaw. *AC  Once per lost rest, negate the damage of a non-magical bludgeoning/piercing/slashing attack.
  • Frailty – Your body is weak against any possible abuse it can take, crumbled under too much pressure or pain.  You gain the Brittle Body flaw. *AC  Long per long rest, you can use a reaction to try to make an enemy pity you.  They must make a Wisdom saving, working exactly like Sanctuary otherwise.
  • Fused Hand – Your fingers meld together on one of your hands, potentially ruining your combat abilities.  You gain the Fused Fingers flaw. *M2
  • Healing Defiance – Your ability to heal is impaired.  You gain the Healing Defiance flaw. *AC  However, you may drain hit dice from a willing ally within reach of you during a rest.
  • Moribund – You are closer to the brink of death, you look as those death is slowly claiming you.  Your character automatically fails 1 death save upon dropping to 0 HP or less.  Furthermore, you have disadvantage on all death saving throws afterwards.  Once per long rest, you may kill a creature to get rid of any failed death saves you may have.
  • Otherworld Corruption – Something extraplanar corrupts your essence and form.  You count as an evil outsider from respective spells and effects.  Beings predisposed towards disliking such creatures will likely hate you too and might turn hostile towards you upon detection.  Depending on the origin, you gain respective traits:

~Cosmic: You gain two of the following: Tendril Arm *AC, Innate Powers *AC, Third Eye *AC, Expanded Mind * AC, Long Neck *AC, Facial Tendrils *AC, Eye Stalk *AC, Deep One Eyes *AC or become Amphibious (breath underwater and on land).

~Fiendish: Gain 1d4 traits from Demonic Taint* AC, also gain one of the following: Strange Eyes/Ears/Nose/Mouth/Skin *AC, Tail *AC, Horrible Smell *AC

~Undead: You look like a corpse, disturbing most.  You gain the Living Dead flaw *M2 (no disadvantage to intimidate).  In addition, you gain one the following: Immunity to Poison damage/Poisoned effect, Not Breathing *AC and Not Hungry/Not Thirsty*AC

  • Sickening – Your deformities are so severe, they cause illness.  Any creature gazing upon you for the first time must make a wisdom save (DC 15) or become poisoned for 1d4 rounds.  Covering up or disguising can avert this effect.
  • Weird Happenings.  Strange things happen while you’re in the area.  If you stay too long, it can be traced to you.  You gain the Strange Happenings flaw. *AC
  • Wild – You begin to act and look more feral and impulsive.  You gain the Savagery flaw *AC, one of the Strange (bestial based) body effects *AC and gain one of the following: darkvision 60 ft., Unnatural Weaponry *AC, Climb/Swim/Flight (choose 1) = Land Speed, Advantage on Perception with hearing or smelling.

Atonement.

Characters who make actions to atone are granted new saving throws at their next long rest.  They must complete an action of atonement (determined by the DM) in order to be granted the saving throw.  Characters who succeed this saving after their rest may remove an effect of Impurity.  Characters can also atone before being the subject of a Lesser Restoration spell (if suffering Mild or Moderate Impurity) or Greater Restoration spell (if suffering Severe Impurity.)  In addition, characters who atone may gain back 1 point of Purity.  Characters who use a month of downtime in a pure and meditative place can cleanse themselves of Impurity and return their stat to normal.

The DM can modify the number gained back as they desire, such as regaining full purity once atoned and away from the source of corruption for up to 1 week or even 1 day for example.  They cannot exceed their maximum.

Abbreviation Index:

*AC – Arcane Corruption

*M1 – Mutations Part 1 – Benefits

*M2 – Mutations Part 2 – Drawbacks

Image Source:  Uzumaki – Junji Ito

Made by Doctor Necrotic, for Doctor Necrotic Media.

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