Happy Hump Day!
Hey, would ya look at that? We made it to Wednesday already. Great job everyone! Today, we want to examine Thunder of the Thorn's Physical Corruptions system. We also want to take a moment to ask you what about the adventure you're most looking forward to?
In our update yesterday, we talked about Thunder of the Thorn's mental manifestation system–an optional storytelling hook that encourages the players to roleplay the more unique challenges and depredations the adventure creates for their characters. Though that system is something that game masters are encouraged to consider using (or skipping) at their own discretion, the physical corruptions system is different and inherently baked into the adventure's balancing. Physical corruptions are 'escalating mechanical penalties that PCs suffer...' which '...stack together to provide careless or reckless players with an ever-increasing challenge as the adventure approaches its thrilling conclusion'.
Throughout Thunder of the Thorn, whenever the PCs battle adversaries afflicted with a certain kind of corruption, they risk becoming victims of the same contagion (or rather a variant strain of it). The probability of that occurring depends on the type of enemy they're facing, the extent of their exposure, and their own innate resistances to becoming infected. Should an unfortunate PC develop one of the 10 physical corruptions, they have a pretty big impediment to look forward to moving forward with the adventure. Each corruption has 3 levels of severity, known as phases. While the first phase isn't too debilitating, by the time the mutation has reached its most advanced state, the player should expect to have a significant hurdle to overcome. Though the physical corruption and mental manifestation systems are completely different in terms of how they're acquired, how they function, and most other regards, it is possible for a single PC to acquire all 10 of each. Although, thankfully, very unlikely.
One especially interesting component of physical corruptions is that they're likely to change the way a group of players approach combat situations and how they traverse their environment. This forces players to do some strategic thinking and try new and unusual approaches. Let's examine one example of how that might work in practice:
Example: Jordan is playing Turssk, a half-orc barbarian who wields a mighty greataxe. Unfortunately, Turssk acquires the corruption Ablation, which causes one of his forearms to begin mutating uncontrollably. The consequence of this isn't so bad at first, it really just means that he has disadvantage on Dexterity or Strength checks that use the affected limb. However, things quickly deteriorate and soon Turssk finds that he has disadvantage on a) attacks made with the affected limb, b) with weapons that have the two-handed property, and c) with weapons that have the versatile trait that he's wielding in both hands. Suddenly Turssk's greataxe doesn't seem like such a great option. Now the half-orc brute has a difficult decision ahead of him. Should he continue to use the greataxe that deals 1d12 damage with disadvantage? Perhaps he should swap to using one of his 1d6-damage handaxes to avoid the attack penalty? Maybe he could see if one of his companions has a spare longsword that he can wield in just one hand to deal d8 damage instead? Additionally, should he drop back from being on the frontline now that he's becoming corrupted? Or, should he plant himself squarely on the frontline and take the Dodge action to prevent his allies risking exposure, since his offensive capabilities are already lessened? And, of course, Ablation hasn't finished progressing quite yet either...'
The above is a fairly rudimentary example of how the physical corruption system works, but it serves to illustrate the point. Each of the other corruptions similarly impairs an affected PC, often requiring them to adapt their strategies on the fly. Likewise, different kinds of mutated enemies will require the PCs to rethink their approach too. One example of this would be enemies that have resistance to specific damage types or against damage cased by spellcasting, encouraging the PCs to conserve their spell slots for better use elsewhere. If you're looking for an adventure where critical and clever thinking are truly rewarded then look no further, Thunder of the Thorn has you covered! Thanks for reading. - Daniel McDonald, DeepDark Designs
P.S. There's a little extra treat for y'all below! #NoContextNeeded ;)