Aberrant Afflictions

Published August 10, 2014 by in For Gamemasters

Login to Favorite
You already voted!

Microscopic threats are one of the avenues relatively unexplored in Numenera so far. In a world where genetic modification, rampant xenobiology, transdimentional ecology and ubiquitous nanotech have all gone native; monsters dont need to be big to be feared. So let’s expand on the core books definition a little:

“Diseases work like poisons, but their effect occurs every day, so the victim must make a Might defence roll each day or suffer the effects. Numenera p.96

Apart from the future mutant strains of common afflictions we know today (influenza, cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis etc.) the Ninth world has a whole plethora of nasty possibilities open to GMs. Not only is the surface infused with wild nanite itterations that can colonise and alter human bodys; it is also home to organisms from vastly diffrent ecosystems that have adapted to thrive in our world. So ‘normal’ medical practices for a Ninth worlder are sure to have a few interesting quirks, for example:

  • Nano-spirit possessions need to be exorcized by the application of certain prior world radiations, or the infusion of a healing nano-spirit to drive out the hostile entity.
  • Extra-terrestrial organisms often require rare and dangerous chemicals to cleanse their taint from a victim, many of which are toxic to the patient in the wrong doses.
  • Ultra-terrestrial malignancies can be born of spheres wholly incomprehensible; treating them is difficult for ordinary healers, as their vectors can exist on multiple levels of reality.

Below are some samples you can include in game. Infections and Infestations found here increase 1 step in severity at varying rates until they reach 10 or the affected succeeds the difficulty task. The effects of each stage are cumulative and some are permanent (permanent effects are denoted by a *). Weakness is an optional rule included in the Numenera setting, and works like a reverse edge (pools with 1 point of weakness applyed to them, cost 1 more to use for anything that requires points).


Nano (advance by hours)

Iron Etch (Level 3) – Etch giests are a constant hazard to those that tinker with prior world devices. A possessed host has minerals leeched from their body and converted to delicate metal traceries across the skin. The host quickly progresses from a deep lethargy to anaemia and weakness. While the spirit might be driven out of its corporeal shell, the metallic lines remain scrawled across the skin in mysterious geometric circuits. Iron Etch is common throughout the Steadfast and the Beyond.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Lethargy
3-4 Initial Itching
5-6 Onset Circuit traceries cover 1/3rd of body +2 speed weakness
7-8 Acute Circuit traceries cover 2/3rd of body +2 might weakness
9-10 Terminal Circuit traceries cover entire body double electrical damage*

Boneshimmer (Level 4) – This cryptic ghost replaces calcium deposits with a tough sapphire crystal or blue coral-like substances. While initially rather benign, even beneficial, the spirits prolonged presence can thin the blood, stiffen the joints and induce terrible wracking seizures. Those that recover from a Boneshimmer possession often retain the spirits blessings, causing some to actively seek such a joining. Boneshimmer is common to The Cloudcrystal Skyfields.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Teeth turn crystalline natural light weapon*
3-4 Initial Bones turn crystalline +2 to might maximum*
5-6 Onset Joints harden +2 speed weakness*
7-8 Acute Blood has difficulty clotting physical damage causes bleeding
9-10 Terminal Sudden seizures mental damage causes paralysis

Maze (Level 5) – The dark nano-spirit known as Maze is a thing of madness. Its presence alters the delicate humors of the mind, causing its hosts senses to trade places. It begins with hallucinations, advancing rapidly until sounds have flavours and smells have textures. Usually within the course of a day the host’s senses begin to switch at random with increasing speed, until the spirit has driven them hopelessly insane. Maze is common to The Lambent Fields.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Audio-visual hallucinations dazed
3-4 Initial Taste and hearing switch +2 intellect weakness
5-6 Onset Touch and smell switch +2 intellect weakness
7-8 Acute Senses switch constantly +2 intellect weakness
9-10 Terminal Dissociative insanity PC becomes an NPC*

Chorus of the Dead (Level 6) – One of the most feared spectres to haunt the Ninth world wastes, the Chorus is a mindless, invasive thing that transforms hosts into shambling husks. Aeon priests called on to exorcize the Chorus call it a viral meme, contracted through dense coded bursts of sound made by the carriers. To hear the song of the Chorus is an analogy for death among the lands it has scourged. The last known Chorus of the Dead manifestation was on the Mathenunis borders.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Forgetfulness
3-4 Initial Auditory hallucinations dazed
5-6 Onset Falls into a coma unconscious
7-8 Acute Twitching and mumbling brain damage*
9-10 Terminal Rises as a carrier PC becomes a creature*


Extra (advance by days)

Skitterthorn (Level 3) – A curious xeno-flora, Skitterthorn is a parasitical desert vine that uses other creatures as vectors. The mature creeper is a woody tangle of fragile needle thorns and delicate red flowers. An embedded thorn takes root over the course of two days, worming thin rootlets through muscle and fat to anchor itself. Tearing out a Skitterthorn is agonizing (1 step down damage track). It grows rapidly, leeching nutrients from its host to survive, eventually forming a bristling shroud.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation
3-4 Initial Boils on exposed skin
5-6 Onset Bright red flowers bloom +1 might weakness
7-8 Acute Thorny vines spread +1 speed weakness
9-10 Terminal Encased in vines natural attacks vs. host take 1 damage

Latchworm Hives (Level 4) – This quasi-parasitic xeno-fauna is endemic to certain tropical and sub-tropical swamps. Clouds of barbed filament eggs drift in the air like seedlings, sticking to exposed skin. It grows from large enflamed patches into a hard chitinous honeycomb sunk deep within the epidermis. Within each ‘hive’ is a feathery tubeworm that preys on flying insects, using the hosts body to provide what it cant catch. Even if the latchworm is killed and its hive cut out of the skin, the process leaves behind ugly red pits.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Itching
3-4 Initial Painful red patches across skin halve all recovery points
5-6 Onset Patches harden into hives social skills inability*
7-8 Acute Hives spread across skin +1 armor
9-10 Terminal Hives cover upper body +1 armor

Lost Light (Level 5) – The highly addictive sub terrain fungus known as Lost Light has a terrible legacy for those that stumble into its embrace. If inhaled, the spores of the Lost Light infest the lungs, spreading toxic mycelia into the blood that spark a languid euphoria. Eventually fruiting apothecium spread across the skin, flat sponge-like beds that glow with a sickly bioluminescence. In the final stages the host loses consciousness, its glowing corpse a treacherous beacon in the dark.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Euphoria
3-4 Initial Aching and nausea +2 might weakness, very dim
5-6 Onset Muscle tremors and twitches +2 might weakness, dim
7-8 Acute Constant fatigue +2 might weakness, normal
9-10 Terminal Coma unconscious, bright

Bluebloat (Level 6) – This pale turquoise algae spreads in still tropical pools, turning them into deadly hazards. Drinking water tainted by Bluebloat exposes subjects to a virulent contagion that roots in the throat. As Bluebloat expands throughout its new host its encysted chambers fill with superlight gas. A deep wet cough soon escalates into bloating, high fever and shortness of breath. Eventually the unfortunate victim distributes a new generation of algae by bursting high in the air.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation
3-4 Initial Hacking cough, vomiting dazed, -50lb
5-6 Onset Swelling and delirium impaired, -50lb
7-8 Acute Difficulty breathing debilitated, -50lb
9-10 Terminal Subject bursts from within dead*


Ultra (advance by weeks)

Else-polyp Bloom (Level 3) – These ethereal anemones tend to be picked up while traveling through dimensional boundaries. The first signs of infestation come when the host’s vision drains of colour, becoming increasingly dark until they are totally blind. The translucent tenticular polyps begin to flower over their body in the following weeks, entirely intangible to the touch. It’s unknown what the polyps get out of this arrangement, but their presence can be both blessing and curse.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation
3-4 Initial Sight becomes monochrome visual skills inability
5-6 Onset Polyp buds in visible spectrum blindness
7-8 Acute Polyps spread across skin halve dimensional esoterie/foci costs
9-10 Terminal Polyps cover entire body free GM intrusion (Abykos)

Crimson Roil (Level 4) – This bizarre malady has been linked to the outworld portal in Yenth. Travellers to the world beyond the Ninth who have suffered from various fevers, dysentery and other ill humours before returning have been known to burst into flame for no apparent reason. The attempts to appease whatever vengeful entity strikes down these travellers have been unsuccessful. None have yet divined the reason benhind its random ire, but many will refuse to use the portal until after sunset.

Severity Stage Effect*
1-2 Incubation
3-4 Initial Increased energy and endurance +2 to might maximum
5-6 Onset Severe burns if exposed to sunlight 3 points of damage every hour
7-8 Acute Sunlight scorchs the skin like fire 3 points of damage every round
9-10 Terminal Sunlight causes combustion catchs fire in direct sunlight

*this only applies to the Ninth Worlds sun, sunlight from other stars doesn’t cause this reaction

Prism Blight (Level 5) – The colourful and bloody end Prism Blight brings has given it a dire reputation. Commonly striking those that linger too long in areas where the walls between worlds are weakest, its carriers appear as insubstantial rainbow hued worms. Victims infested by the worms touch become the cocoon for hundreds of shimmering butterfly-like creatures formed of light. When these insect erupt from the skin the toxic remains of their cysts mix with the hosts blood, often killing them.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation Buboes form across skin
3-4 Initial Nausea +2 might weakness
5-6 Onset Aching in joints +2 speed weakness
7-8 Acute Fatigue +2 intellect weakness
9-10 Terminal Insects burst from skin 6 damage & poison (level 5)

Fade (Level 6) – The curse of the Fade transforms living creatures into the walking dead, bestial monsters whose skeletal appearance evokes superstitious dread. Bourn by the claws and fangs of certain dimensional monsters, Fade brings on fevers and confusion as it eats at the soul. The effects are irreversible and terrible; as the condition worsens victims become prone to violent fits as their flesh turns translucent. After 3 months all that remains is a carnivorous berserker that spreads the plague to its prey.

Severity Stage Effect
1-2 Incubation
3-4 Initial Confusion and forgetfulness +2 intellect weakness*
5-6 Onset Constant cluster headaches +2 intellect weakness*
7-8 Acute Violent outbursts ‘ignore pain’ mutation*
9-10 Terminal Uncontrollable aggression PC becomes a creature*


4 thoughts on “Aberrant Afflictions

  1. Nicholas Johnson says:

    This is so brilliant! I just made a focus and submitted it yesterday with the same idea in mind; Carries a deadly Pathogen. Maybe I can include an ability to pick a disease from here as a replacement.

    1. TT says:

      Sounds good, the terminology I’ve come to use tends to define anything nanite based as spirits (ghosts, spectres, possession) and anything ultra-terrestrial as curses (hexes, divine wrath, blights). Seeing as their inexplicability to the common people of the Ninth world seems to fit this way of defining them.

      1. David's Perspective says:

        This disease/comment makes me think of Lady Gaga for some reason. >.>

  2. Joshua Dudley says:

    This is a great article!! I love the idea of strange diseases and other hidden dangers in Numenera. Great job!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *