P is for Plague, Living Cancer

Name: Plague
Campaign: The Great Tower of Oldechi

I’m a big fan of taking a race that D&D hard-codes as evil and using it to play a good character as a quiet, ineffective “screw you” to race-based alignment as a concept. I really should have expected that somebody would flip it.

Plague’s player heard me say that “Cid Viscous” was the most unnecessarily on-the-nose PC name I’d ever had in my campaigns and took it as a challenge*. By the rules Plague was an archlich, a good version of the traditionally evil lich (because the prefix arch- means “especially good”, as in archangel or archaeologist). Plague’s player, however, considered the epic destiny’s alignment as a recommendation more than a requirement. His entire focus was engineering and spreading disease, and he slung as much darkness, necrosis, and overt evil as he could.

For the most part he managed to spare the party his predations, but that was more by omission than design. Remember that arcane striker I mentioned who wanted to take War Wizardry? Here he is. I still remember when he found the feat in the book. His eyes lit up, he read the name, and before he could get another word out the rest of the table exchanged meaningful looks and strongly recommended against it.

The best story regarding Plague is one I’ve written before, so I’ll reproduce it here:

…the party became trapped in a library the size of a small city, where all the books were rapidly being devoured by a group of insect-like creatures. Using the remaining books [Plague] engineered a devastatingly powerful, fast-acting disease transmitted by contact. His goal was to get to the enemy hive, die, let the disease wipe out the insects while the party hid, and claim victory when he came back the next day.

The final battle of that arc became a skill challenge, with the character racing toward the enemy hive while the rest of the party covered him, blocking attackers with control effects and clever tactics and throwing themselves into the fray to distract the enemies. He took hefty damage but made it to the hive on his last legs. With his most powerful remaining attack he took out the hive’s support structures, dropping it on him.

The damage from the falling hive took him to negative four or five digits. His exploding corpse infected pretty much everything in and around the hive. By the next day some 90% of the insects were dead, and there were very careful high-fives all around. That’s still the record for the hardest I’ve ever killed a player.

I have since been informed that Plague was cackling madly the whole time.

The moral of Plague’s story is “let the players be clever”. I had a fancy fight planned against a full hive of epic-level insects, but Plague’s death run while the rest of the party provided covering fire was a much better story and a much more entertaining session.

Plague, hilariously, died. His player left the party and he switched allegiances, accompanying Laotzu instead (take a drink). Eventually Laotzu’s lust for power consumed him and led to him siphoning off so much of Plague’s power the latter could only manifest a head and an arm for the rest of his existence, and even that happened only because the original party kept ahold of his phylactery. He didn’t even join the new pantheon as a herald.

* — For reference, Plague’s title is currently contested by Slogg Sexipants, half-ton ladies’ man.

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