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The Red Curse

by David Knott

In a message dated 98-07-19 14:36:50 EDT, writes:
> If it does go back to D&D, then perhaps the NPCs given in the sourcebooks
> should be given the powers described in Dragon, since these were written
> for D&D anyway?

Which "powers" are you referring to? As I recall, none of the crew of the Princess Ark were afflicted by the Red Curse, and very few of them had non-standard special abilities.

But I have noticed after reviewing the D&D material on cinnabar and cinnabryl that the "Red Steel" boxed set did change things a bit more than I had remembered. Comparing that Dragon article with the later "Red Steel" boxed set, I would reach the following conclusions about the Red Curse in its original form:

Area of Effect: The Red Curse was originally stated as affecting the Savage Coast, but at that time the region does not seem to have been clearly defined -- however, from the context as well as later references I would infer that the area affected was the region around the Gulf of Hule, from Slagovich to Cimmaron County -- and even within that region many were able to escape its effects. It appears that the rest of the region (from Cimarron County to Herath) received some slight contamination, enough to adversely affect magical detection and coat things with a fine red dust but not enough to poison the inhabitants.

Timing of Effects: The first effects of the Red Curse used to manifest after a number of weeks (not days) equal to the character's constitution scores. As a result, the region was far less isolated that it became after AC 1009 -- people could visit or leave the region for somewhat longer periods before nasty things started to happen to them.

Effects of Curse: Most people in the affected areas received one "degree of contamination" as per the Princess Ark article. The effects on natives and long term visitors seem to have been as follows:

1) Intelligence and wisdom are reduced by about a third (roll 3d4 rather than 3d6 for these ability scores).

2) Limits on spellcasting power apply: Maximum spell ability is equal to relevant prime requisite minus 9. This is a major penalty under D&D rules and even has a slight effect under AD&D rules.

3) Maximum life span is reduced by 20%.

4) One point of constitution is lost.

5) No Legacy or other special ability is gained.

Note that most rulers of the region would have had little reason to do anything to reverse the above effects on the lower classes -- they could still do their work, and their dulled mental abilities would have made them less troublesome to their "betters".

Usage of cinnabryl (and the priestly version of the "Maintain" spell, which was probably granted soon after the discovery of cinnabryl) reduce these effects somewhat for those individuals who were able to keep this precious material on their persons:

1) Intelligence and wisdom were restored to their normal levels (natives would add +6 to the original score of 3d4).

2) Spellcasting limits would still apply, but the restored/improved ability scores would be used for this purpose.

3) Normal life span is restored.

4) The lost point of constitution is not regained.

5) No Legacy or special ability is gained.

Adventurers from the Savage Coast would probably have been in this category. After much trial and error (sometimes with fatal results), adventurers from that region would have learned to manage their cinnabryl, keeping it in direct contact with their persons while in the cursed regions and putting it away when they are elsewhere. Since they have no special abilities granted by the Curse, they can function equally well within and without the cursed regions as long as they take the proper precautions.

Around 1000 AC the Inheritors learned how to boost their levels of contamination and gain special abilities from the Red Curse. Each degree of contamination above the first required a number of doses of seed of cinnabar equal to the next degree of contamination (so gaining the first "Legacy" requires two doses). Each degree of contamination beyond the first grants one special ability and increases life span by one year per level of the character but costs one point of constitution -- the article says one per does of cinnabar, but if that rule were used then attaining a degree of contamination of 10+ would be impossible. The special abilities granted do vary considerably from the Red Steel list of Legacies.

The disasters of AC 1009 increased not only the area affected by the curse but its intensity. The City States and southern Hule escaped from the Red Curse, but the rest of the Savage Coast as far west as Herath and even beyond felt the full effects of the curse for the first time. From that time on normal natives of the area received two levels rather than just one level of contamination -- now nearly everybody had a "Legacy" from the Curse. The curse seems to have been modified as follows:

1) Intelligence and wisdom were no longer affected; instead, a randomly determined ability score associated with the character's initial Legacy was reduced by 2d4 points. For below average characters, this reduction was often fatal. For the earliest Inheritors, the affected ability would be constitution (with the loss assumed to have been absorbed and compensated for already). For other natives, the affected ability score would be determined when the first Legacy is rolled for.

2) Spellcasting is no longer directly affected.

3) Life span is no longer affected, except for the greater likelihood of immediate death from ability score losses.

4) Constitution was no longer lost unless it was the ability score relevant to the acquired Legacy.

5) The available Legacies changed to match the list in "Red Steel". Note that Legacies of people who did not use cinnabryl could become rather nasty and uncontrollable.

Under the more virulent form of the Red Curse, cinnabryl would restore all but one point of the lost ability score and keep the Legacy under control, with its hideous side effects kept in check.

Inheritors would gain no additional longevity from further contamination, but past gains would not be lost. Those who have access to both the Dragon article and "Red Steel" might wish to use the following table for additional Legacies:

d20 roll Result
1-12 Consult table in Dragon article and roll on the appropriate special ability table. One point of constitution is lost unless other factors intervene.
13-16 Roll on "Red Steel" table for region #(die roll - 12).
17-18 Roll on "Red Steel" table for current region.
19-20 Select a current "Red Steel" Legacy randomly, and then select an associated Legacy (according to the tables in "Red Steel") randomly. If the character's existing Legacies are all from the Dragon article and they have no obvious "associated" Legacies, roll d12 and consult the table in Dragon article.

Most of the special abilities in the Dragon article are independent of one another, but a few are obviously associated -- for example, the series "Anti-Magic I" through "Anti-Magic IV". For such abilities, the "associated" Legacy would be the next such ability in sequence -- for example, for a character with "Anti-Magic II", the "associated" Legacy would be "Anti- Magic III".