Rules > Optional > Corruption
Corruption is an insidious affliction of the soul. A
number of different corruptions exist, from the
mind-rending horror of ghostly possession to the
monstrous physical transformation of lycanthropy. However,
all corruptions function in a similar way. When a character first
contracts a corruption, it shows itself in minor symptoms—brief
bouts of melancholy or a mild fixation on unusual stimuli or a
particular environment. The corruption eats away at the victim’s
mind and spirit with the promise of dark gifts that come with
frightful drawbacks. Fighting these temptations is draining
on a victim, and some spend their entire lives on the verge of
giving in. Others believe they can control their corruption, and
allow the corruption to progress in order to gain the power it
grants. Such beings eventually become completely defiled as
corruption takes a permanent hold over them.
The following pages describe how corruption affects a Starfinder character, starting with general rules. Then shadow corruption, which is used in the Signal of Screams Adventure Path, is provided as a fleshed-out example. Finally, other possible corruptions are described.
A character can contract corruption in numerous ways, from an ancient curse to a technomagical virus. A corruption’s origin is usually supernatural, and contracting one requires failing a saving throw against the corruption’s cause. When corruption first takes hold, it begins at stage 1 and is dormant. A victim might not grasp the nature of the affliction for some time. During this period, dark urges or horrific nightmares might occur, but nothing more.
When you’re afflicted with a corruption, you must attempt a saving throw against the corruption’s progress at the end of each day, before taking the normal 8 hours of uninterrupted rest to regain spent Resolve Points and daily abilities. If the corruption is mental, this is a Will save. A physical corruption requires a Fortitude save. The save DC is equal to 10 + half your level + the number of manifestations you have (see below). If you fail, you can instead spend a number of Resolve Points equal to 1 + the number of manifestations you have in order to succeed. If you can’t or don’t spend the required number of Resolve Points, your corruption progresses one stage. Every time the corruption progresses to an evennumbered stage, such as from stage 1 (dormant) to stage 2, you gain a manifestation.
To increase the mystery of how corruption functions, you (as GM) can control the selection of manifestations available to PCs. You might offer a choice of two or three manifestations to a player whose PC has failed a saving throw against a corruption, describing the gifts in tempting detail but only hinting at the stains. In addition, you can forgo the default rules and control the rate at which manifestations can be gained. You might decide that a PC can gain no more than one manifestation per level, for example, slowing the progress of corruption and the increase in power it offers.
Corruptions become evident through manifestations, which
alter your mind and body in strange ways. A manifestation
grants a power, known as a gift, but it also imposes a
detriment, known as a stain. When you gain a manifestation,
you choose which manifestation to receive, but some have
prerequisites that must be met before they can be selected.
Saving Throws: Unless stated otherwise, for gifts that require a saving throw, the DC is equal to 10 + half your level + your key ability score modifier.
Refusing Gifts: When you select a manifestation, you can refuse its gift and accept only the stain. If you do, you gain a +1 bonus to further saving throws against that corruption. This bonus stacks for each gift you refuse. You can change your mind and accept a gift at any time, however, losing the corresponding bonus to saving throws against your corruption and risking your soul.
Alterations: The number of manifestations you have affects your personality and appearance, as detailed in a given corruption. If you accept five gifts or have nine manifestations, you succumb to corruption and become an NPC under the GM’s control. This change can also alter your other statistics, depending on the corruption.
Multiple Corruptions: In the rare case that you gain multiple corruptions, you must attempt separate saving throws against each, and gain manifestations from each corruption you fail the saving throw against, in order. You still succumb to corruption when you have five gifts or nine manifestations, however, regardless of the source. Therefore, having multiple corruptions only speeds your doom. When a specific corruption’s feature is based on the number of manifestations you have, you count only the manifestations that arise from that specific corruption.
Corruptions are hard to remove. Each requires a specific set of deeds or circumstances as detailed in the corruption’s description. Remove affliction can suppress the gifts and stains of a target’s corruptions for 10 minutes per caster level. In addition, one casting of break enchantment or remove affliction can remove one manifestation, but only if the victim meets the cure conditions of the corruption or hasn’t accepted the gift associated with that manifestation. The DC for such spells is 15 + three times the number of manifestations the target has. Removing a manifestation in this way doesn’t cure the corruption.
Those who spend extended time on the Shadow Plane, are repeatedly exposed to shadow magic, or fall under the sway of creatures such as velstracs, certain undead, or shadowy fey, risk contracting shadow corruption. Click here to see Shadow Corruption.
Shadow corruption is one of many paranormal afflictions. Summaries of numerous other corruptions follow, suggesting possible manifestations and cures.
A foul curse from a supernatural creature, such as a vengeful spirit or cruel hag, imposes the accursed corruption, which amplifies the victim’s hateful emotions. Even after the curse is lifted, this resentment lingers. The victim lashes out against perceived slights and grows ever more spiteful. As the corruption takes root, she can stagger enemies with a glare, turn them into harmless beasts, or slash them with claws that drain a foe’s strength. She might even become powerful enough to twist the strands of fate or grant a twisted wish. However, she grows allergic to cold iron, balks at helping her allies, and takes on a horrific appearance with bulging, bloodshot eyes. Removing this corruption requires seeking the forgiveness of the one who cast the original curse and undoing any harm caused by using the corruption’s gifts.
Ghoul fever can transform a person into a ghoul after death, but ghoul corruption is subtler. It takes hold in someone who has withstood ghoul fever or in someone who has resorted to cannibalism. Unbidden, the urge to consume the flesh of a living or recently dead sentient creature surfaces within him. He might be able to restrain himself for short periods, but the sight of a fresh corpse tests his resolve. Manifestations include claws, fangs, and the stench of the grave. He might gain the ability to paralyze foes and to absorb the knowledge in a brain by eating it. The victim is also difficult to heal with magic and clumsy with manufactured weapons. Surviving this corruption requires an extended period of fasting and isolation, and perhaps a divine blessing.
Some gain the hellbound corruption by making deals with the devils of Hell. Others carry this corruption due to infernal ancestry. The prospect of hellish eternity weighs on the victim until she gives in, fulfilling a prophecy of damnation. As the corruption takes root, she begins to resemble a devil. Dark tutors teach her the Infernal language, sinister persuasion methods, and other forbidden knowledge. She might be able to glimpse the future or teleport by stepping through Hell. The corruption slowly changes her into a lawful evil fiend, eventually making it impossible to raise her from the dead. Purging this corruption requires atoning for vile deeds, destroying fiendish contracts, and relinquishing rewards for them. Doing so might involve seeking the aid of a powerful celestial.
When a character survives a lycanthrope attack, the lycanthropy corruption may ensue. This corruption turns the victim into a feral beast. The civilized world becomes a straitjacket, restraining him from tearing anyone he dislikes limb from limb. Lycanthropy manifestations include the ability to shift into a bestial form with enhanced strength and senses. Silver burns the victim’s flesh, and he finds it hard to resist effects that manipulate his emotions. The victim blacks out and wakes up to evidence of carnage he has caused. Consuming doses of the poison belladonna and slaying the lycanthropy’s source can alleviate this corruption.
Whether from radiation or genetic engineering, the mutant corruption radically alters a victim’s DNA. Her physical form transforms in ways that become more drastic over time. She could grow an extra limb, several more eyes, a prehensile tail, or anatomy that’s more alien. Her skin might grow thinner or more susceptible to energy damage. Outward transformations accompany variations in personality. Perhaps the victim no longer sees herself as a member of her own species, grows to resent those not afflicted by mutations, or believes herself to be a superior evolutionary product. In any case, she feels out of touch with and could attempt to destroy non-mutants. The mutant corruption is akin to a disease and might be treatable with gene therapy and other medical procedures.
Nanites—microscopic robots that rearrange matter—can be a blessing, but their programming can become corrupted. A character who has nanite corruption has been injected with nanites that are out of control and slowly taking over his body. The nanites might have been intended to heal, but as their code degrades, they change the host instead. Benefits of nanite corruption include faster healing, various immunities, and the ability to use the nanites for attacks or defenses. However, the host loses emotions and begins to see the faults in organic life. Electricity can send his body into painful spasms. Being saved from nanite corruption requires the nearly impossible removal of all rogue nanites, followed by months of recovery.
The possessed corruption centers on a second mind vying to control the victim’s body, although the source of that mind could be anything from a spirit to a personality brought about by psychological trauma. Regardless, the victim’s allies notice small changes in her personality as the second mind exerts more influence. This corruption aids the victim against mental attacks and can grant her supernatural powers, but the second mind gains more control over her actions and could consider her friends to be strangers or worse. Ending this corruption involves casting out the second mind through methods such as exorcism, fulfilling a possessing spirit’s unfinished business, or undergoing extensive therapy.
When a vampire has fed on a character but then lets the victim live, that target might contract the vampirism corruption. Referred to as vampire spawn, someone who has this corruption transforms into a vampire over time as her thirst for blood grows. She might start by feeding on small beasts, but soon she begins to crave the blood of sapient beings. She also sees herself as a superior creature free to treat lesser organisms as playthings and food. As she gives in to the corruption, she gains vampiric powers, such as supernatural allure, command of animals, and the ability to transform into a cloud of mist when severely wounded. Before long, she casts no reflection, can’t stand direct sunlight, and can enter private residences only after being invited. Slaying the original vampire and forsaking blood are essential to ending this corruption, along with magical purification.
Someone who ponders too long the vast emptiness of space or the destructive forces therein risks contracting void corruption. Devotion to the Devourer is a possible avenue to this corruption and a path to becoming an atrocite (Starfinder Adventure Path #4 56). Perhaps dark meditation opens the mind to nihilistic entities that live in the darkest reaches of the planes. The corrupted character has nightmares in which an apocalyptic catastrophe or unfathomable being consumes all life. Eventually, these visions bleed into the waking state. The victim learns to temporarily befuddle others’ perceptions and to summon creatures from the void. However, his own awareness is altered and physical mutations mark him as a servant of nullity. Only a grounding connection to loved ones and therapy that rights the voidwrought changes can bring the victim back.