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Some places and items are so evil that exposure to them marks, or taints, a character in a very real and difficult-to-cleanse way. Taint is evil. It is a corruption so deep it warps the very plane of reality. A weapon used to slaughter thousands of innocents, a forest grown on land soaked in the blood of an evil deity, a book bound in the flesh of an archfiend for his own horrible purposes, and the presence of an evil deity are all sources of taint. Then, of course, there are rings...
Taint and Alignment
One way of using this variant system is to replace alignment with taint. As a way of describing characters, taint works somewhat differently, since the standard alignment system uses sets of opposites (law vs. chaos, good vs. evil) and taint has no opposite. You're either tainted, or you're not.
In such a system, tainted characters are "evil", considered a threat to common people and, in sufficient numbers, to entire nations. Characters without taint may act altruistically or selfishly, kindly or cruelly, generously or miserly, as their personalities dictate. An evil monster has a taint score equal to one-half its Charisma score, with evil undead getting a +1 modifier and evil outsiders a +2 modifier.
Alternatively, taint can be used in addition to alignment. While characters with a minor amount of taint aren't necessarily evil, they probably are. The more taint they acquire, the more evil they become. The DM should monitor taint carefully and provide a warning when a character disregards its effects, just as he would when a character acts outside his alignment.
If you include taint in your campaign, you can add a detect taint spell to the cleric's spell list. If you are not using alignment, change the paladin's detect evil ability to detect taint.
The detect taint spell or spell-like ability is identical to detect evil, except that it detects the presence of taint within a creature or object. When determining the power of a tainted aura, refer to the table in the detect evil spell description. Find the creature or object's taint score on the row for "Cleric of an evil deity"; the aura's power corresponds to the column in which the taint score is contained.
Initial exposure to a tainted place or tained objects gives a character 1d3 points of taint.
For every 24 hours spent in a tainted place, or spent carrying a tainted object, a character must make a Fortitude saving throw. The base DC is 10, +5 for every consecutive 24 hours of exposure. Multiple simultaneous exposures (such as carrying a tainted weapon in a tainted place) increase the DC by +5 per source of exposure every 24 rounds. If the character fails his saving throw, his taint score increases by 1.
Some natural substances absorb taint and thus protect those who are exposed to carry them. Examples include a pure jade rod the size of a human finger, a sheet of vellum prepared from a year-old lamb, an intricately carved piece of lightning struck oak, or a silk sash. The DM can create other examples appropriate to the campaign as well. Regardless of the shape or substance of the item, taint-absorbing items cost 100 gp each.
As an item absorbs taint, it darkens, softens, and gradually rots away over seven days. During that time, it absorbs all taint to which the carrier is exposed. Possessing multiple taint-absorbing items at the same time can protect a character for longer than seven days, but the benefit does not accumulate indefinitely, as shown on the following table.
|Items possessed||Days of Protection|
|7 or more||1|
Evil and Taint
Simply having an evil alignment is no defense against taint- it is too profound an effect for personal beliefs or moral codes to ward it off. Only undead and creatures with the evil subtype can ignore taint.
Of course, you may choose for evil creatures to become tainted by good. You can create sacred places and objects in your campaign that taint evil characters as well. You could say that creatures with the good subtype are immune to the effects of taint in such sacred places, but those sacred places would rot away creaturesof the evil subtype.
Alternatively, you could inflict taint according to the conflict between law and chaos, along with or instead of taint associated with the good-vs.-evil conflict.
Alternate Saving Throws
Often, fantasy literature portrays characters who delve into ancient, lost, or forbidden knowledge as becoming warped by their exposure to such knowledge. In campaigns with the same conceit, the Fortitude save makes no sense. However, you could easily use a Will saving throw instead to determine whether a character picks up taint. This would mean that bards, clerics, sorcerers, and wizards develop a resistance to taint as they go up in level (because of their good Will saves), but other classes would have a much harder time resisting.
Whether a Fortitude save or Will save is used, clerics, druids, monks are equally resistant to taint, which supports the genre conceit of horrible secrets hidden in inaccessible temples and monasteries. Rogues are vulnerable either way, explaining how thieves appear in the genre as unwittingly releasing horror on the world when they steal something that was better left lost and protected.
When a character casts an evil spell in a tainted area, treat the caster as +1 caster level for spell effects that depend on caster level. When a character casts a good spell in a tainted area, treat the caster as -1 caster level for spell effects that depend on caster level. These changes in caster level have no effect on spells known, spells per day, or highest level of spell available.
If you are using different planes, entire planes may inflict taint. Mildly aligned planes inflict taint as outlined in Becoming Tainted (see above). On strongly aligned planes, the saving throw DC increases by +5 every 12 hours instead of every 24 hours.
Effects of taint
A character's taint score applies as a penalty to his Constitution and Wisdom scores. Thus a character with a 16 Constitution and a 14 Wisdom who acquires a taint score of 4 has an effective Constitution of 12 and an effective Wisdom of 10. These penalties reflect the taint's impact on the character's physical and mental health.
Characters who embrace taint (see below) and make use of it can ignore some of these penalties. Though it reduces ability scores, the effect of taint is not treated as ability damage, ability drain, or any other penalty to an ability score that can be removed by magic.
A tainted character experiences the Constitution and Wisdom penalties in a variety of ways, from mild nausea, joint pain, or disorientation to rotting flesh, severe skeletal warping, and irresistible murderous urges. The lists of effects below are categorized according to whether a character is mildly, moderately, or severely tainted. A character who has lost less than 50% of his Constitution to taint is mildly tainted. A character who has lost 50% of his Constitution to taint is moderately tainted. A character who has lost 75% of his Constitution to taint is severely tainted. The effects on the list are primarily meant as role-playing features, though the DM can apply minor game-related modifiers to represent some of these effects if he so chooses.
|Occasional vomiting or nausea|
|Pain in joints|
|Hair goes white|
|Pleghmy, wracking cough|
|Eyelid swells, obscuring vision|
|Pale, grayish, dead complexion|
|Sunken eyes, cracked lips|
|Skin seeps greasy, yellowish "sweat"|
|Skin thickens, cracks, and turns leathery|
|Bones begin to warp and thicken|
|Black, lichenlike growth across skin itches incessantly|
|Reddened, burnlike sores and scars|
|Eye clouds or blood vessels break, obscuring vision|
|Lips shrink back from gum|
|Gums swell, bleed, and rot|
|Bleeding from eyes, nose, mouth, ears, or lips|
|Hair falls out|
|Uncontrollable seizures that wrack the body with spasms|
|Eruption of painful sores|
|Sores ooze blood, pus, foul-smelling ooze, spiders or insects, thich pasty substance, maggots, or acidic green slime|
|Hears voices of evil spirits|
|Disregard for hygiene and cultural mores|
|Flesh of nose rots away, leaving skull-like openings|
|Mutated, deformed fingers, toes, leg, arm, head, ear, eye, or teeth begin to grow on inappropriate parts of the body, then shrivel, rot and eventually fall off|
|Spine twists, back hunches|
|Severe warpings of skeleton; skull enlarges and deforms|
|Great swollen growths on the body|
|Lungs eaten away from inside- wet, labored, and painful breathing|
|Eye falls out, leaving gaping socket that glows with eerie green light|
|Skin peels off in papery sloughs at the slightest touch, leaving raw, red flesh beneath|
|Fingers or toes begin to web and fuse|
|Irresistible murderous urges|
|Reduced to primitive behavior|
|Eats inedible or still-living things|
If a character's Constitution score reaches 0 from the effects of taint, he dies- and 1d6 hours later he rises as a hideous, evil creature under the control of the DM. What sort ofcreature he becomes depends on his character level before dying.
|Character level before death||Transforms into|
|2nd or lower||Ghoul|
|9th or higher||Bodak 1||1 Advance the bodak until its HD equal the character's level before death|
As terrible as the effects of taint are upon the living, they are even worse upon the dead. Any creature that dies while exposed to taint animates in 1d4 hours as an undead creature, usually a zombie of the appropriate size. Burning a corpse protects it from this effect.
Once a character's taint score reaches 10 (assuming he is still alive), he may seek out forces of great evil and pledge himself to their cause. Often evil cults, templs of evil deities, and the militaries of evil warlords eagerly accept such pledges, giving the character access to new sources of power (see Tainted Prestige Classes).
It is possible to remove taint from characters in several ways, including through the use of spells, the performance of good deeds, and cleansing in a sacred spring. Taint cannot be removed unless the tainted character wants to be cleansed.
The following spells can reduce taint scores when cast outside tainted areas. No character can have his taint score reduced by any particular spell more than once per day (though different spells can reduce taint if cast on the same character in the same day).
Atonement: The spell can remove taint, but with limits. First, it always requires a quest. Second, the caster decides how much taint to remove when casting atonement, up to a maximum equal to the caster's level. This use of atonement costs the caster 500 XP. Atonement can reduce a taint score to 0.
Heal: This spell reduces a character's taint score by 1 point per three caster levels, but it cannot reduce a taint score below 1.
Restoration: This spell reduces a character's taint score by 1 point per four caster levels, but they cannot reduce a taint score below 1.
Greater restoration: This spell reduces a character's taint score by a number of points equal to the caster level of the cleric casting greater restoration. Greater restoration can reduce a taint score to 0.
Simple good deeds are not enough to remove taint. A character wishing to reduce his taint score through good deeds must undertake a particular ritual under the guidance of oneof his deity's clerics. The ritual prepares the character to undertake the deed.
Each deity's faith has a list of ritual good deeds that the faithful may perform to prove their dedication to their deity. For example, the faithful of St. Cuthbert may choose to put on garments sacred to their faith (and which identify their faith to anyone who sees them) and patrol a particular part of their home as part of the militia or city guard. adventuring is never part of a good deed, and a acharacter who undertakes an adventure prior to completing his good deed must begin again with the ritual.
Deeds must be repeated every day for a week. Upon completion, the character's taint score is reduced by 1 point. The character may continue the deed for another week to continue losing taint, or may return to the temple to undertake the ritual again and begin a different deed.
Alternatively, deeds may be quests undertaken on behalf of the deity. After the quest ends, the caracter's taint score is reduced by 1 point per week required to complete the test.
Good deeds may reduce a character's taint score to 0.
Springs sacred to a particular deity or cause are located in remote regions, requiring long and dangerous travel to reach. For each day a character spends resting andcleansing himself at a sacred spring, his taint score is reduced by 1 point. A character using this method to reduce his taint score can undertake no activitites other than resting, eating, sleeping, and normal conversation.
Cleansing at a sacred spring may reduce a character's taint score to 0.
Cleansing Places and Objects
Clerics may use hallow to remove taint from an area, but it takes time. The spell must remain intact for a year and a day to remove the taint from the area. If, during that time, an opposing character casts unhallow on some or all of the area, the effort is lost and must be reinstated by another casting of hallow. (The hallow spell only affects a 40-foot radius area, so large areas may require many clerics working simultaneously to completely guard them.)
Unintelligent items left in a hallowed area for a year and a day lose their taint. Items that have an Intelligence score (and are thus treated as constructs for this purpose) can only be cleansed by using the spells mentioned above.