Bad things happen when you play with the dead, but that never stops adventurers from plundering the nearest crypt, ripping the lids off of every coffin and sarcophagus they can lay a hand on. Sure, the DM is gonna drop some skeletons, mummies, and maybe even a wraith on ya, but what about the no-seeums? What about those dwellers in the crypt you can't see??
While working on my latest module I had plenty of time to consider the death that death induces, and below are just a few of the things one might 'pick up' while ransacking the final resting place of some gold.
- Lich Mold - Sure, you beat that undead wizard back to the hell where he belongs, but this rotting corpse and musty robes held a terrible secret even he didn't realize. This horrible fungal hyphae will float through the air as you relentlessly whack away at the lich, an invisible killer your characters will breathe in as they battle for their very lives. The affects of Lich Mold are not immediately apparent. It starts with a mild cough, a shortness of breath. Soon after there will be fever, necrosis of the extremities that slowly creeps towards your interior, and finally a wrenching, fitful death. But that's not the end of it. No ordinary mold, but the magical detritus of the creature itself and an extension of that evil, the mold is turning you into an undead creature, a sub-lich, the living dead embodiment of your current incarnation. Don't worry, it won't make you evil, just undead. You will retain your current abilities, and gain some new ones like immunity to sleep/charm, some low-rent magical resistance, and a much wider grin that you never can shake. [50% chance to contract when in the presence of a Lich, save vs. disease or contract the disease, disease can be cured by cure disease within 2 weeks of initial contraction, fatal thereafter]
- Coffin Crop - "Maybe the gold is under the corpse? Let's move it and see." This invisible killer is a fungus that both preserves and lives off of the deceased host. If touched by bare hands it will be absorbed by the skin in 4d6 rounds unless dissolved/washed in alcohol, lye soap, or some other antibacterial substance. Once absorbed it requires a cure disease cast at level 5+ to kill/cure. Coffin Crop will reduce a character’s hp permanently by 1/week until the infected is cured or deceased. The infected character(s) will begin to emit a very sweet, floral aroma almost immediately upon absorption, issued from the oral cavity. This is how the fungus aspirates. [25% chance to contract when in the presence of a corpse that is handled, save vs. disease or contract the disease, disease can be cured by cure disease(lvl5) within 4 weeks of initial contraction, fatal thereafter]
- Mummy Miasma - Just because the desert is hot and dry doesn't mean that it's without a sense of humor. While the priests have done their best to prepare the body for the afterlife, they sometimes miss a step. Lung removal is an integral part of the process, but it's not easy getting those air sacs out without messing things up, and sometimes a bit of the lungs remain. It is here that the Miasma takes hold, a tiny creature that exists between life and death. When the mummy awakens to defend its charge or when its curse is activated, it always moans. Moaning is how you know it's a mummy, amiright? But it's not the mummy who's moaning, it's the Miasma forcing its way out the mouth-hole and past the wrappings into the air at large in order to settle in a healthy pair of lungs. The effects of the Miasma are noticeable within 24hrs, with a deep lethargy and bouts of near-comatose sleep being the primary symptoms. The Miasma will eventually sink the infected into a dark sleep from which they cannot be awakened. The disease keeps the body functioning, especially the lungs which aspirate as normal, feeding the miasma as well as allowing it do spread further. [25% chance to contract when in the presence of a mummy, save vs. disease or contract the disease, disease can be cured by cure disease within 2 weeks of initial contraction, fatal thereafter]
I think disease in the game world is often disregarded, after all, how often do the characters catch a cold? Get sidelined with a Flu? I know that doing all of the housekeeping on everything everyday is a hassle, and I'm not suggesting you manage each and every meal or bathroom trip, but if the characters decide to go off and play with the dead maybe there is a chance they will leave with more than a sack of gold and a new sword...