Taint is the physical representation of evil polluting the land weakening the barriers created by the Gods to hold back the Nephilim from the mortal world. The sorcery that created the barriers is too strong to break from without - but it can be weakened from within.

To this end, the nephilim use what powers they can to communicate beyond the barrier. They speak in whispers to the corruptable, promising them power beyond their dreams in exchange for aid. They speak words of command in the dark corners of the world, awakening what monsterous servants remain from the First War, spurring them to action. It is through the use of these agents that dark magics are focused and rituals prepared, weakening the barriers enough to bring through a Demon. Demons possess the power to weaken the barriers still further, creating a hole in the protective magics large enough for the nephilim to exploit.

Weakening the barriers is difficult and time-consuming. It requires large amounts of dark magic, and the proccess is easy to interrupt. To make matters worse, the barriers heal with time, making every attempt by the demons a desperate race. Because the rituals to weaken the barrier require enourmous amounts of magic, large numbers of sacrifices must be at hand. Furthermore, because the rituals are so time-consuming, the demon must not allow any interruptions to the ritual once it has begun.

Once a demon has been summoned and begins to prepare the rituals, the Taint level increases by 1 every 3 months. This represents the demon and his minions terrorizing the surrounding countryside, and slowly gaining dominion over the region. Once their hold on the area is complete, they begin to warp and twist it, preparing the land for their masters' return.

If a demon is inactive or defeated, the Taint level decreases by 1 every month or so. Without the demon to perform the necessary rituals and provide leadership to his minions, organization breaks down, and the human population begins to resist and eventually retake the land. The presence of heroes can greatly accellerate this proccess by inspiring the humans to act more boldly and in a more concerted manner. This inspiration is represented by the Perform (ballad) skill.

Levels 1-3
There is no physical diference in the landscape, but the land is more savage and lawless.

Level 4
For every 24 hours spent in a level 4 tainted place, a character must make a Fortitude saving throw. The base DC is 10, +5 for every consecutive 24 hours of exposure. If the character fails his saving throw, his taint score increases by 1.

Level 5
For every 24 hours spent in a level 5 tainted place, a character must make a Fortitude saving throw. The base DC is 15, +5 for every consecutive 24 hours of exposure. If the character fails his saving throw, his taint score increases by 1.

Level 6
For every 24 hours spent in a level 6 tainted place, a character must make a Fortitude saving throw. The base DC is 20, +5 for every consecutive 24 hours of exposure. If the character fails his saving throw, his taint score increases by 1.

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 table below is categorized according to whether a character is mildly, moderately, or severely tainted. A character who has lost 25% 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.

1d6 Mild Taint
1 Burning hot lumps rise up all over your body. You have a constant fever. Every time you try to run or charge you must make a DC 20 Fortitude Save or become fatigued.
2 Your skin seeps greasy, yellow ichor. You add a +2 circumstance bonus on grapple checks made to resist or escape a grapple or to escape a pin. You take –2 on your Athletics and Legerdemain checks. Opponents add +2 to their attack roll when attempting to disarm you.
3 The skin on your face peels off in long, papery strips, leaving unsightly red patches. You take a –2 penalty on Diplomacy, Gather Information, and Perform checks.
4 You are constantly short of breath and feel like you can’t get enough air. You are staggered during the third round and any subsequent rounds of any combat.
5 Your eyes begin to cloud over, obscuring your vision. In combat, every time you attack an opponent that has concealment, roll your miss chance twice. If either or both results indicate that you miss, your attack fails.
6 You gain a medium Depravity
1d8 Medium Taint
1 In moments of intense activity, blood gushes from your nostrils and ears. At the beginning of any combat encounter, you must make a DC 15 Fortitude save or be sickened for 4 rounds.
2 Your skeleton warps and thickens. Raise your Strength score by 2, and reduce your Dexterity score by 4.
3 You are plagued with a phlegm-laden, wracking cough. You also suffer occasional bouts of vomiting, often at specific times of day. You take a –3 penalty on Fortitude saves.
4 Open, painful sores, some leaking blood or pus, erupt on your body. You take a –1 penalty on Strength- and Charisma based ability checks and skill checks.
5 Your joints, particularly your knees and elbows, sometimes flare up in sharp pain. You take a –3 penalty on Reflex saves.
6 Your lips pull back into a frozen rictus, exposing your teeth and gums at all times. You take a –2 penalty on Charisma-based ability checks and skill checks.
7 You suffer from uncontrollable seizures that wrack your body with spasms. You take a –4 penalty on initiative rolls.
8 You gain a severe Depravity
1d6 Severe Taint
1 Though your corruption is not visible to others, the inside of your body is a festering cesspool of corruption. Bloody pus pools in your body cavities, strange growths develop on your organs, or tiny limbs or heads bud beneath your skin. Reduce your Constitution score by 2.
2 Your lungs are eaten away from the inside, resulting in wet, labored, painful breathing. Your physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution) are each reduced by 1
3 You gain a severe and a medium Depravity
4 Your fl esh shrivels and clings to your bones, making you unnaturally gaunt. When you manifest this symptom, subtract your Hit Dice from your hit point total. Thereafter, subtract 1 from the number of hit points you gain at each level. This effect can reduce the number of hit points you gain to 0 (but not below)
5 Your spine twists and your back hunches. Reduce your Dexterity score by 2.
6 Parasitic worms protrude from your sores, sapping your strength. Reduce your Strength score by 2. You gain a +2 bonus to Intimidate checks and take a –4 penalty on other Charisma-based checks.

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 GM. What sort of creature he becomes depends on his character level before dying.

Character Level Creature
1-2 Zombie
3-5 Ghast
6-8 Wraith
9-10 Bodak

Removing Taint

Removing Taint from a character is a different proccess than removing it from the land. If a character is unlucky enough to have a Taint score, it means that the power of the demons has permeated his body, and must be ritually cleansed.

A Witch or Scholar can remove Taint from a character with the performance of a lengthy and expensive ritual. The ritual is one of appeasement and abasement before the Titans or Furies, sacrificing in their name to gain their favor, and then begging a boon that will restore the tainted character. The ritual takes several hours to perform, and costs 125 silver in sacrifices and paraphernalia, all of which is consumed by the end of the ritual. At the end of the ritual, the scholar or witch makes a Forbidden Lore check (DC 15) for the appropriate deity. If he succeeeds, the character's Taint score is reduced by 1, plus an additional 1 for every 5 points over the DC.

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