Resource Review: Malady Codex II (Jason Bakos and Themis Paraskevas): 4.5 Stars
Brainstealer is his name. The culmination of illithid experimentation. I have never, not once, met a creature more blessed by its nature, yet more corrupted by it. If you ever see folks running away en masse, be wary, for his grasp extends far and cannot be easily held off.
The Malady Codex is back with Volume II, an expertly crafted compendium of mental ailments that will challenge characters and players alike. While some of the mechanics seem overly complicated, this brilliantly executed book will provide numerous opportunities for in-depth roleplay, problem solving, and narrative that will lead to immensely rich sessions and memories that will talked about in campaigns to come.
Theme. I don’t know if the authors intended a horror ambiance when they created Malady Codex II, but that is the feeling that jumps off the page when I read it. With beautiful plague doctor art, potentially devastating diseases, and creatures that could haunt my nightmares, Jason and Themis portray a dark, gritty world just waiting to infect unsuspecting characters. Despite the psychologically horrifying content, the authors do great work in presenting numerous options for player agency and cures. So while these diseases may be terrifying for a time, there is always hope as far as the players are concerned. They are heroes, after all.
Execution. The authors have taken well-known real life mental disorders and expertly applied them to 5e mechanics and themes. Mood swings? They’re not just the surge of hormones rushing through the body of teenagers–they’re the long term effect of powerful magical discharges! Fugue states? Well… lets just say “ear worm” *shudder* and leave it at that. Page after page of this product drew me in as I geeked out over how all these disorders were applied. Yet, despite the fact that these disorders are “gamified”, you can tell that both authors have immense respect for those who suffer from them in real life. They don’t take their work lightly, rather, they present a very real potential to bring more conversations about mental health out in the open.
Roleplay. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of these diseases are all the roleplay opportunities they present. Sure, some of the maladies contain mechanical and combat consequences, but by an overwhelming majority, the value they offer is about roleplay. Catching, diagnosing, living with, and curing these diseases is what it’s all about. Often, on a scale much, much larger than the characters. I personally tend to value combat over roleplay, but I am super excited to see players deal with these.
Complexity. My only complaint with the execution of this product is that some (definitely only a few) of the maladies are overly complicated or hard to understand. The FAP disease, for example, is somewhat difficult to understand on an initial reading. Even more problematic, however, is that it pretty much requires an additional dice roll every time the infected creature casts a spell. In a system that tends towards simplicity and stream-lined mechanics, this ends up seeming problematic. The Mood Swings section suffers from the same problem. While mostly understandable, it is unclear to me what they mean by “emotions temple”. Furthermore, it means every social situation involves one or two additional rolls.
In their follow up to the original, best selling Malady Codex, Jason Bakos and Themis Paraskevas do not disappoint, and I am positive they have another top-seller. We are giving it 4.5 Stars and saying it’s Highly Recommended for anyone who wants to introduce these diseases into their game. If you appreciate our reviews, and want to buy the product, click through the picture below to do so.