Resource Review: The Malady Codex (Jason Bakos and Themis Paraskevas): 4 Stars
“Ah… the power of magic. I pity the commoners who fool themselves, believing that one potion made from a petty crook can heal their pain. If, by some miracle, you didn’t get scammed, buying a colorful brew of goblin tea, don’t expect to get rid of these diseases so easily!”
I’ve been looking forward to this codex for the last month. I’m always looking for new ways to inflict various levels of hazard upon my players, and I knew this would be a great tool. With 11 different diseases, including some that can even affect those pesky Paladins and Monks, this codex is an interesting, useful, and fun way to add a bit of grit into your campaign. While plagued with a few problems, it is potentially a great resource for any DM to pull out when needed.
The codex provides a good variety and spectrum of diseases to challenge your players and introduce plot hooks based on them. It is well layed-out, reasonably well written, and systematically describes everything the DM needs to know. Some of the diseases are easy to cure, presenting just a momentary frustration or challenge for even low level players, whereas others could literally span the course of an entire campaign while the adventurers race to stay ahead of it.
My favorite disease in the book is Mad Mage Virus. Not only is it penetrative (able to infect those pesky paladins!), but at the later stages it can spawn an aberration, which may lead to a whole new plot line. While one or two of these diseases are narrow use or, in my opinion, relatively boring, I am very excited to introduce most of these into upcoming campaigns.
In addition to 11 diseases, the codex also comes with a few useful appendices. The two NPCs could become useful in certain situations, but they mostly seem like vague deus-ex-machinas to throw in if the PCs need help. Not much is actually said about them in the codex. The 3 “monsters” (two of which spawn from Mad Mage Virus) are genuinely interesting and could add some interesting combat and roleplaying scenarios to any campaign. The magic items, while very specific to the diseases in the codex, are relatively unique and provide easier ways for the PCs to overcome challenges brought on by the maladies. Finally, the two summary tables provide a quick reference for DMs to keep with them, or on their screens
Despite its excellent content, the codex is “plagued” by a few stylistic issues that take away from the overall experience of reading it. First, there are a decent amount of grammar and miss-typed words, as well as an entire paragraph that is placed in the wrong place.
The biggest drawback of the codex is that it seems confused, unable to decide if it wants to be a medical student’s homage to D&D or a fantasy recreation of famous disease. In attempting to straddle both, it becomes nearly schizophrenic and leaves the reader feeling confused. I would prefer for it commit fully in one way or the other. While either would be fine, I would love to see a full immersion into fantasy–fictional lore about how the diseases arose, more quotes and personality from Acesius, and the author’s comments and historical notes relegated to a separate appendix for interested readers to reference.
This doesn’t negate from the overall content and importance of the codex, but it does distract from what could be an overall immersive experience. If these are fixed, future editions would assuredly be 5 stars.
Despite its few flaws, the Malady Codex comes highly recommended at 4 stars. It presents many opportunities for players and DM’s and could be easily integrated into almost any campaign. It is mechanically sound, and presents various levels of challenge for players of all levels.
Pick it up by clicking the picture below: