Exploring D&D 5E
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Exploring D&D 5E

Diablo “Taint” Concept for 5E

I’ve been preparing a lighthearted, multi-planar campaign and one world to visit was Sanctuary, the world of Diablo. I thought about starting the game directly there, to shock the players with the seriousness of it when they expect something carefree and have a second surprise when it ties to something quite amusing at the last expected time.

Of course, I also get to toy with the system a bit, something I love. Below you will find my ‘taint’ system. Please take it as a concept and not a balanced, ready to use addition. I would actually love to hear some input. Also disclaimer that the lore of how taint works is completely made up by me.

Edit: Another Disclaimer. This should be part of a sort of a revamp. In addition to not being balanced in detail, this of course adds a layer of power, meaning the players will have an advantage. So the world of Sanctuary should have either changed rewards or stronger monsters etc to balance this.

Taint of Nephalem

The worldstone was used to turn nephalem into simple humans and contain them that way. It was corrupted by the Prime Evil and the Lord of Destruction, Baal and destroyed by the Archangel of Justice, Tyrael. Since there was no proper ritual to put an end to its function, the results were erratic: Many nephalem found that they carried a feeling of heaven and hell inside them. The Nephalem were the children of Inarius and Lilith, but as all demons and angels came from the same source each (Tahameth and Anu), somehow the essence of all the hell and heavens were connected in them. As some of them grew in power, so did this feeling; bestowing upon them various powers. While they did come from a union of a demon and angel, they were also the children of Sanctuary; seeking freedom, choosing their path and their own destiny. As such, they started calling these feelings a ‘taint’ and while most of them were unhappy with it; they didn’t shy from utilizing these powers to fulfill their destiny.

The Choice

The players have a few choices certain levels, deciding where their taint weighs on. Note that this is a meta-choice. The characters don’t really “choose” their taint. They just have it and discover various aspects in time.

There are two types of choice. First is the broad one: Heaven vs Hell. Second is choosing an aspect from hell or heaven. The aspects are Hell are Terror (Diablo), Hatred (Mephisto), Destruction (Baal), Pain (Duriel), Anguish (Andariel), Deception (Belial), Corruption (Azmodan). The aspects of Heaven are Valor (Imperius), Hope (Auriel), Justice (Tyrael-old), Fate (Itherael), Resoluteness (Malthael-old), Inspiration (Tyrael-new), Death (Malthael-new).

Taint Effect

At level 1, players choose two aspects: one from the heavens and one from the hell. This will define two features.

  1. They will receive a cantrip at level 3; a level 1 spell at level 5, a level 3 spell at level 9 and a level 5 spell at level 13. These spells are added to spell books if the nephalem are casters and can cast spells of the respective levels. Otherwise, they will be able to cast them once per day. The situation for each spell is decided dynamically ie if the character can cast level 3 spells but not higher, than the first spells will be added to spell book and the higher spells will be 1/day abilities (until the player is able to cast higher level spells, at which point they will be added to spells) If the nephalem lost their ability to cast spells (through a permanent effect such as being a fallen paladin), the spells would revert to being abilities. I haven’t listed the spells here but basically they will be spells that reflect the aspect. For example, hope could have healing spells.
  2. At level 5, they will receive a special, unique ability for their aspect. Unless specified, these abilities can be used as many times as the character’s proficiency bonus. Most abilities rely on the proficiency bonus for numbers or dice. I will call it PB. As characters receive two aspects and level 1 proficiency is 2, a level 1 character can either use each ability once or one of them twice until higher levels. Each long rest restores only 1 use. For example, if the character has +4 PB and used 2 abilities, it would take 2 long rests to get back to 4 (unless they used it in between.) Further rests wouldn’t grant more uses. If the character then uses the ability 4 times in a row, it would take 4 long rests to get back all the uses. Some ability samples are as follows.

Aspects of The Heavens

Hope: Choose a target at half or lower health. Heal them for PB*d6 hitpoints. Affects any intelligent, non-evil target.

Fate: You can decide for a reroll on any dice by you, an ally or an enemy. You also choose if the reroll should have an advantage or a disadvantage.

The Archangels Tyrael, Malthael, Imperius, Itherael and Auriel

Valor: Make a charge attack that automatically hits. Until your next turn, you get resistance to all damage and all targets around 10 ft will make you a priority target.

Justice: When an ally takes damage, you can take a reaction to judge the enemy and deal damage equal to what they dealt to the ally. This damage is either searing or same as the original type.

Resoluteness: Whenever you or an ally fails a saving throw, you can choose to succeed it. Until the end of your next long rest, you also add your proficiency modifier for the saving throws of same kind. This bonus does not stack with itself.

Inspiration: You activate an aura that lasts until the end of your next turn (by when you can choose to re-activate) as a free action. This allows all allies within 60 feet to roll all dice with an advantage.

Death: You start reaping, causing your level+PB damage to 30ft around you for PB rounds.

Aspects of Hell

Diablo, the Lord of Terror

Terror: Choose a target and overwhelm it with terror. They get disadvantage to any and all rolls for number of turns equal to your PB, rounded down. Moreover, they can’t take bonus or reaction actions. Affects any intelligent target.

Mephisto, the Lord of Hatred

Hatred: You choose two targets and cause enmity. They will hate each other, justifying it however they can. If you spend another use, their hatred will be out of control and into straight hostility. Depending on the targets and situation, this may mean physical combat or otherwise trying to end each other. The first use of this hatred will last a number of days equal to your PB while the second level lasts a number of weeks equal to your PB. Either way, the effect ends once one of the sides die. However the effect ends, the targets do not know the source and will blame themselves unless it’s made clear that you conjured it.

Baal, the Lord of Destruction

Destruction: Choose a target and bring down destruction for PB*d6 damage. You can choose the type of damage for each dice. If the target takes damage more than half of their remaining hit points, they take an additional damage equal to half the damage done.

Belial, the Lord of Lies

Deception: You can choose get +10 on a bluff check, declared before you roll. You can stack this on a single roll, ie spend two uses for a +20. If you spend 3, the roll succeeds automatically, allowing unbelievable lies to be bought (like you are just a child ruler hanging in sewers)

Azmodan, the Lord of Sin

Corruption: Not an active ability. You can bribe or somehow make some promises to an intelligent being able to understand you. They need to understand that they are getting into a magical deal but not the details. You can have minions whose total level is equal to or less than your level * your pb. Minions need to be lower level than you. Meaning at 2nd level you would have 2*2=4 total levels. You could have 4*level 1 minions, 8*lvl 0.5 or a mixture. The level for generic monsters etc is adjusted the same way as the Monster Manual. Your minions can be as PC characters, leveling up. The restrictions apply and you choose to increase the level of the characters. The DM has the final say, ie he may not allow leveling a minion that you keep safe in a house. The minions serve you with their best and they are loyal with their lives. They get an advantage to resist effects that bring them out of your control into someone else’s influence (so they would get an advantage against a charm spell but not a fear spell). Replacement of minions is not automatic unless you set up the means for it (for example you could take the control of a fallen tribe leader and the DM could allow for automatic conscription of fallen). You can choose to end the deal and it is the only way of ending it permanently outside powerful magic such as wish. If you choose to do so, the minion will know it immediately. If you tricked them into the deal, they will also understand the extent of the deal when it’s over. This effect has no range limit, including planar ones.

Duriel, the Lord of Pain

Pain: You can spend a use of his ability with a spell or an attack that causes damage, transforming it into hellish pain. Damage rolls are automatically maximum and furthermore the target will receive a disadvantage to any rolls that include physical action until your next turn.

Andariel, the Maiden of Anguish

Anguish: You brew a poison that has no odor, taste or color specifically for one target. You need something from the potential target to brew this: Ripped cloth, lock of hair, nail, teeth, blood etc. Once the target imbibes the poison, they will fall in a state of anguish, having a disadvantage of any rolls that require mental activity. You can decide between immediate to up to 7 days of “hatching” period. Also, you decide how many uses of your ability you spend. 1 use lasts PB*days. Two uses double that number. Three uses will last PB*week, four uses will double that. 5th will last PB*months and 6th will make it a permanent madness only curable by powerful magic such as wish.

At level 2, the player will choose between Heavens and Hell for a saving throw proficiency. They have three choices for each and they can pick one. For Heavens it’s Con/Wis/Cha, for Hell it’s Str/Int/Wis.

At level 7, the player will choose between Heavens and Hell for a second time. They can choose the same as level 2 or differently. Becoming familiar with the forces of the environment, they will receive Searing damage resistance if they choose Heavens or Necrotic resistance if they choose Hell.

Each of their choices will have a physical effect. Choice of heavens may grant a metallic or brighter look of skin, molten or glowing eyes, a booming voice or Angel wings they can sprout (similar to the archangels but immaterial and not functional in any way) etc. Choosing hell can cause burning eyes, a hoarse voice, scales, bones growing outetc. The aspect change particularly tends to reflect the entity it comes from and becomes more apparent as more power is unlocked. For example, taint by Auriel may cause longer wings than usual or a high level Diablo taint could even cause a tail to grow out!

I hope you enjoyed the read. To emphasize, I am merely presenting a concept that would need proper balancing. But I think this is cool and feels like ‘Diablo’. In separate articles I will talk about races and classes to further expand the setting into D&D Next.

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In this publication you’ll find articles that talk about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.

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Ekrem Atamer

Ekrem Atamer

Gamer, gaming industry wanderer, development and design enthusiast. Current WIP: TBD

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