D&D’s curing conundrum

A discussion over at the Paizo Publishing web site has sprung up, wherein the original poster suggests that diseases in Dungeons & Dragons are too easy to cure.

Essentially, all a character needs to do is to get a relatively low-level cleric to cast Remove Disease, and the character is good as new.

That ease of removal means that there’s no opportunity for a player to role-play his disease and no opportunity for the DM to exploit the disease as a character element.

Good points indeed. In fact, my gaming group is currently in a lengthy dungeon crawl where we’re battling undead mummies who can infest characters with the disease known as Mummy Rot. As things have turned out, anytime we get touched by a mummy, we just rest a day, cast the appropriate spells and move back in for more battles. Really, it’s kind of anti-climatic.

In that discussion, we’ve offered a few ideas to make curing less simple:

  • Some diseases might have Spell Resistance. (This would be natural for magic-based diseases.)
  • Diseases ought to have high Heal Skill Checks for diagnosis. (Particularly important for monsters who deliver a random disease or exposure to multiple diseases.)
  • Caster Level checks would be required to heal properly. (A cleric would need a high roll to completely remove it, a mediocre roll to slow its progress and a failed roll wouldn’t do anything.)
  • Specific spell components are needed for specific diseases. (I love this idea. Forcing the characters into tough situations like “kill this unicorn, harvest its horn or your friend dies.”)

I think that all of those ideas are good options. Most diseases would only require only one of those extra steps. Other diseases, like Lycanthropy, could require multiple steps for removal.

At the very least, a change like this could bring diseases back as an interesting plot device.


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