Friday, October 21, 2011


So I was thinking about ergot poisoning, probably because there was recent discussion of The Crucible and any talk of old Salem makes me think of ergotism.

That, in turn, made me consider having a fantasy-style village suffering under the effects of ergotism, which made me develop this table.

I was originally considering making a table of ruins and an accompanying table of diseases, but I just decided to give you some random medieval diseases.  Maybe I'll work on the other table sometime?

Anyway, use this for the next poor schlub who begs your cleric for healing, or for the next beggar you meet in the street.  Add D&D diseases, or just different diseases, to taste.  A period-appropriate name is given in parentheses; feel free to look on the internet, though, as diseases such as ergotism and typhus have lots of colorful nicknames.  If you're the least bit squeamish, don't go searching diseases willy-nilly on the internet (for that matter, don't even go to the attached Wikipedia articles).

You could also adapt this to a what-killed-this-random-village table by switching to only fatal diseases.

Ergotism ("evil fire")
Plumbism ("painter's colic")
Dysentery ("bloody flux")
Leprosy ("lepry")
Malaria ("the ague")
Smallpox ("the red plague")
10  Typhoid fever
11  Plague
12  Cholera ("black fever")
13  Tuberculosis ("consumption")
14  Impetigo ("tetter")
15  Scabies ("seven-year itch")
16  Diphtheria ("bull-neck")
17  Scarlet fever
18  Influenza ("grippe")
19  Typhus ("jail fever")
20  Gangrene ("mormal")

Here are some additional websites for further information on these or other diseases; excellent resources for archaic disease terminology:


  1. Oh man, this is a wonderful table! It makes me want to dive back in to the Cthulhu Dark Ages game. Sadness. I hope we can use this in a game soon!

  2. I would give anthrax a place at the table. It was fairly common and really perfidious. Someone had buried some infected skins on a field ages ago, then a farmer puts his cattle there to graze and suddenly the cattle starts to drop dead and soon, so do the people. A great way to create cursed places.

    The Black Spider by Jeremias Gotthelf is a novella in which anthrax (in form of the black spider) plays a prominent role and it's quite a chilling read in some places.

    I have this great book (only in German, unfortunately) about diseases and how they shaped culture and history. I love it, but it's definitely not for the squeamish. At times, the cures are just as bad as the actual illness. Mercury treatment, anyone?

  3. Oooh, I forgot about anthrax! Good call. I know I heard about the infected skins thing at some point — endospores are a nasty business.

    Actually, just making a d20 table, there were a lot of diseases I omitted. Venereal diseases, for example. Ah well. Expect me to return to diseases in roleplaying eventually, so I might make an expanded table in the not-too-distant future.

    I shall likely have to find and read The Black Spider at some point.


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