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5E Paladin and 'disease' - your ruling on this matter, please

Herobizkit

Adventurer
I have plans for a Paladin to encounter an "undead treant" whose CR is far above her level. I am taking much of my inspiration from this creature as seen here, and one ability in particular has me curious.

Fungus (Ex)

The [undead treant]’s branches are encrusted with a virulent fungus that grows rapidly when in contact with blood, sending filaments ripping through the bodies of any living creatures damaged by its slams and dealing 1d6 points of Dexterity damage in the process. A creature brought to 0 Dexterity by this effect is slain.
Given that 'diseases' in 5e generally have a mid- to long-term incubation period and require saves, and this infestation's incubation is immediate with no saving throw, would you rule that Fungus counts or does not count as a 'disease' for purposes of Paladin immunity?
 

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iserith

Magic Wordsmith
It seems more like a poison than a disease. Are there any ability score damaging effects in D&D 5e though?
 


steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
I have plans for a Paladin to encounter an "undead treant" whose CR is far above her level. I am taking much of my inspiration from this creature as seen here, and one ability in particular has me curious.

Given that 'diseases' in 5e generally have a mid- to long-term incubation period and require saves, and this infestation's incubation is immediate with no saving throw, would you rule that Fungus counts or does not count as a 'disease' for purposes of Paladin immunity?
No. Basically, it may sound like it acts like a disease. But that doesn't make it one. It is an "infection", sure. Just as real world bodies are subject to fungal infections. But it is not a disease.

If you want to argue that a fungus is the same -or "close enough" for the paladin's ability- as a bacteria or virus, then that's your call. I would not permit it.

Paladin's disease immunity does not protect them from this. Which might be a lovely [horrifying] surprise for them as well.

It seems more like a poison than a disease. Are there any ability score damaging effects in D&D 5e though?
There are. Shadows drain Strength directly. Intellect Devourers drain Intelligence (though it's only a "stun" effect until you get 1 pt. back). There are probably others, but it is quite a rare ability.

"Energy Drain", as it once was, does not exist. Wights, Wraiths, Succubi/Incubi, Night Hags, et al. who used to be able to "Energy Drain" now do damage to/reduce the PC's "hit point maximum" and if that gets reduced to 0, you die. So it's not a sucking Experience Levels or Con. points anymore.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
I wouldn't rule it as a disease unless it specifically said it was. It's really more like a parasite infestation, anyway.

There is no way I would do auto DEX damage, though. There should definitely be a Con save involved. To keep things simple, I wouldn't fool with DEX damage at all, actually. Slap on the poisoned condition and some extra slashing damage (in line with whatever it's CR is) on a failed save. That oughta do it.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
No it is not a disease, paladins in pathfinder or 5e would not be immune to this ability.

Saying that, I would certainly not use that ability as written in 5e, especially not in a solo 1 on 1 fight.

In 5e I would count this fungus attack as a type of poison, something like 2d8 extra poison damage and inflicts the poisoned condition DC 15 Con check at the end of your turn to remove the poison condition.
 

S

Sunseeker

Guest
Yeah, I agree that I wouldn't run it as is. You'd waste that character pretty quickly, especially if they're a low-dex paladin (1d6 will kick that in 2-3 rounds) or a high-dex, light-armor paladin (creating something of a death spiral). I would definitely include a con-check to first and foremost, not take damage, and secondly to completely fight it off. If you want the latter to be hard, just make a save on a 15 and a "cure" on a nat 20.

Though, insert query: why are you having the paladin encounter an arguably CR 14 monster, on their own, and as stated way above their level? Do you want to kill them?
 

Quartz

Adventurer
This is not going to be a combat encounter, so what do you want to happen?

Mechanically, I'd suggest using the Exhaustion system as the parasite gradually takes over if the paladin does get zapped.
 

Shadowdweller00

First Post
No. Basically, it may sound like it acts like a disease. But that doesn't make it one. It is an "infection", sure. Just as real world bodies are subject to fungal infections. But it is not a disease.

If you want to argue that a fungus is the same -or "close enough" for the paladin's ability- as a bacteria or virus, then that's your call. I would not permit it.

Paladin's disease immunity does not protect them from this. Which might be a lovely [horrifying] surprise for them as well.
Speaking as a health care professional and former biologist - this is completely wrong. Disease is by far the more broad and encompassing term. ALL infections that cause impairment of the host organism are "diseases" (or result in diseases; the technical labels of the two may differ). Not all diseases are caused by infection (e.g. heart disease).

The paladin should be immune.
 

steeldragons

Steeliest of the dragons
I was speaking as a DM, not a health care professional or biologist. But nice to know how you'd rule at your table.

Biology definitions aside, I still wouldn't permit it. This isn't an illness he facing, which is the obvious "common sense" purpose of the paladin's disease immunity. As others have said, it seems more like a kind of "poison" effect, in game terms, than a "disease" one.

I still would not allow it. I like the exhaustion idea, but would probably add it on top of damage...though Dex. ability damage, as written, is kind of steep. I might just go with straight HP damage + exhaustion or look at other poisons in the DMG to get an idea of appropriate/approximate equivalents.
 

Dausuul

Legend
Speaking as a health care professional and former biologist - this is completely wrong. Disease is by far the more broad and encompassing term. ALL infections that cause impairment of the host organism are "diseases" (or result in diseases; the technical labels of the two may differ). Not all diseases are caused by infection (e.g. heart disease).

The paladin should be immune.
I agree that the fact it's caused by a fungus does not disqualify it from being a disease. I would have no problem saying paladins are immune to thrush, ringworm, and athlete's foot, all of which are caused by fungi.

That said... given the mechanics, I think it's pretty clear the victim of the treant's attack is not the host for this fungus. If that were the case, the fungus would continue inflicting Dex loss over time. Instead it causes a bunch of Dex loss in 1 round and then stops. The fungus's host is the treant; an infusion of blood from a wound allows it to grow rapidly, but it can't keep growing away from the treant. This is really more of a physical attack than an infection.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Speaking as a health care professional and former biologist - this is completely wrong. Disease is by far the more broad and encompassing term. ALL infections that cause impairment of the host organism are "diseases" (or result in diseases; the technical labels of the two may differ). Not all diseases are caused by infection (e.g. heart disease).

The paladin should be immune.
I agree with yoru definition of disease.

I disagree that the paladin should be immune. This isn't a disease. It is an *attack*.

I mean, getting hit by an axe isn't a disease, it is an injury. Having filaments rip through your body over the course of seconds is not a disease. It is physical trauma.
 

Iosue

Adventurer
Either way looks good for this, but personally, given that this is a "virulent fungus" that grows when in contact with blood, I'd say that the paladin would be immune to that effect. It seems to be similar to mummy's rot -- not done by will of the creature, but a side effect of its attack. Just as the paladin's divinely protected body chemistry protects them from mummy rot, it would likewise not provide the conditions necessary for the virulent fungus to grow.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
Pathfinder stat blocks call out disease clearly because there are things immune to it like paladins in that game too, so I don't see why would a conversion of the monster that could normally effect paladins in that system not work against paladins in this system.
 

Celtavian

Dragon Lord
Sounds like a disease to me. Paladins in 3E were immune to infections like Green Slime or parasitic infection. I don't see why they wouldn't be in this edition. The idea behind the disease immunity is based on religious myth concerned with purity of the soul and a god's grace providing purity to the flesh disallowing disease of any kind from inhabiting the flesh.
 

Herobizkit

Adventurer
For clarification, I'm sending a "generic" CR9 treant and slapping on the undead template.

I'm sending a higher-than-her-level monster because I'm trying to get across to the player(s) that, in an "open-world" game such as Kingmaker (which I am running and adding other modules and homebrew stuff), there are some things that are just too strong to face alone, or at all - and I know the player's gut reaction will be to charge it, especially with that Paladin's smite evil ability.

On top of that, the Paladin IS a low Dex character (6).

The Paladin is going to receive a warning in the guise of a group of humanoids who abandon the Sunless Citadel. The "vampire tree" (which the heroes left behind in the care of an NPC Druid) uproots itself when its food supply no longer includes blood and starts seeking its own sustenance. Of course, the nearest source of sustenance will be the human village above.

The purpose of doing this is to "scorched earth" the village off the map so the players will focus on the area they're in... and if they decide to tackle the beast and fail, it will then become a wandering horror through the Kingmaker area. :)

The Paladin's player is a big fan of Dark Souls, so I know this is going to make him very happy. And paranoid. But overall happy.
 

Paraxis

Explorer
I don't think any player has ever been happy when a DM places a monster in front of them that they are compelled to deal with and it can literately one shot them.
 

Quartz

Adventurer
I've just remembered that there's an old Dungeon adventure with an undead treant. There's also a 'Critical Threat' with a ghost treant.
 

Sage Genesis

First Post
Incidentally, the original Pathfinder tree is for me a (minor) example of game design failure. The flavor text states that it's a disease - because that's what fungal infections are, even in D&D. The mechanics say that it isn't. This is a situation that never should have happened in the first place.

As to the question itself, I would go with "yes, it is a disease and the Paladin is immune." There are two reasons for this.

First, unleashing a high level creature with 1d6 Dex damage and two attacks per round on a Dex 6 character is just ridiculous. Just kill the character right away and stop pretending like there's any gameplay still going on.

Second, 5e is not beholden to the (in this case incorrectly used) classifications that Pathfinder uses. This ability is a fungus. It's a disease. Whether it was or wasn't so in PF is completely meaningless, game conversions don't work if you just slavishly copy over words without regard for their context.

I'd also like to weigh in on the Dark Souls comparison. In those games, if you die you can relatively easily respawn at the last save point. Then you can try again and again, learning the correct tactics and skills to bypass the monster. But in D&D you typically have to reroll your entire character. You will not learn the correct tactic in dealing with the treant other than "be someone else with a higher Dex and hope the dice favor you". Or maybe they will just learn not to fight the thing entirely. That's also a valid lesson, but not really one shared with Dark Souls. The two approaches, and therefore experiences, are simply too different.

I would strongly advice reconsidering this idea.
 

Uchawi

First Post
I would treat the attack as parasitic and not a disease. Since the undead tree no longer uses photosynthesis, it must live off other creatures, which is very undead like. Consider it similar to a vampire draining blood.

So in that sense, a race like the warforged may be considered immune to the attack.
 

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