The more I think about poison the less I think it needs a subset of rules like these one-pagers are, unless poison is a tool used by the players. Because really all it will amount to otherwise is a chart of modifiers +/- to save versus poison. Well, that's assuming that poison doesn't do a wide array of things like cause damage instead of death, etc. Yes, I've seen those articles-- including the one way back in the Best of the Dragon II. But to me that makes poison . . . not poison. So it doesn't interest me and I am assuming that it would, weaker or stronger, be killing you.
To use it as a tool other things become important: how it enters the body, how hard to get, how much it should cost. The last one especially gives me pause because if I get it wrong I could break my whole campaign. It would need to cost enough so that one dose would be about equivalent to the amount of treasure you would gain from killing a creature. Well, maybe a little less for missile weapons because you can miss. I'm away from my books, but I imagine later versions give poison a specific price. Has anyone got experience with how that has affected player use of poison?
After Coming up with the Drug one-pager that listed some common base drug effects and then allowed you to use those as building blocks to make your own I was pretty happy. That seemed to do exactly what I'd hoped for-- make a stable, simple system that tons of variety and customization could come out of. I thought I could do the same thing with disease, building diseases from a core of common symptoms. But two problems 1) there are many more symptoms than I had drug effects, and 2) symptoms aren't usually the important part of disease, they just let you know you've got it. Sure leprosy, might be about the symptom, but unless you want your campaign world to be quite horrible, fingers-dropping-off is not going to be a building block type of symptom to be used over and over.
Here is what matters about disease in a game:
- How easy to catch
- how does it handicap you when you've got it
- how fatal
- how long before you die once you catch it
Some other considerations:
I think another part of disease flavor is having a lesser disease give you immunity to a more dangerous disease, and also scaring the crap out of players catching that lesser one. So a couple of those would be nice.
That being said, I think the actual vectors should be uncertain and mysterious. Maybe the way you possibly catch them is very broad: Being in a swamp, being on a ship for a month. That way players can be scared of the vapors and such and not go around lecturing the peasants on bathing.
Chris Hogan reminded me of something I totally forgot, that things like Jungle Rot, could be very important in an exploration game. So there should be room for maladies that may not be fatal at all in themselves, but hamper adventurers in important ways.
Also, how can you talk about diseases without thinking of the terrible brain rot of syphilis. So, at least one or two on the list would need to be STDs.
There is the possibility of campaign altering diseases like a plague killing all the oaks or livestock, but I think that could probably be easily extrapolated from the four points above and not need much extra in the way of mechanics.
I think anything that forces me not to try and tackle it at all because the possibilities seem so vast is a good candidate for boiling down to a one-pager. I feel like I can use drugs in my campaign world now, before there were just too many possibilities and variables, I was always thinking "I need to sit down and work out how I'll handles those." What else would I like to have but feel similarly about:
- Martial Arts
- Herbs (much weaker than potions, probably nicely corresponding with symptoms)
- Gambling Games (for taverns and such, but there are so many and often hard for me to grok)
- Dogs (noisms went a nice way towards giving me what I need here)
- Horses (Michael Curtis had a perfect 2 pager, I'd just want to shrink it a page for compactness)
- Pantheons/Cults (I really crave something like 2e's domain system so I can randomly determine religious powers for many different cultures)
- Property (maybe not the full blown building a castle, but what about buying/renting a house, upkeep etc.?)
- Other Magic Item Categories