Divinity Poisoning

Content warning: This article contains mentions of burn injuries and cancer. While they are not graphic, they may be uncomfortable for some.
Divinity poisoning is the result of mortal beings experiencing prolonged exposure to divine and radiant magics. The working hypothesis among researchers is that divine magic can never be truly conformed in such a way to accommodate mortal bodies; while mortals may wield it, they cause harm to themselves each time they do so, even if they cannot immediately perceive it, and this somehow leads to the deformities and injuries associated with divinity poisoning.

Symptoms

Divinity poisoning is currently known to manifest in three different forms; from most to least common, they include:
  • Burns – appearing gradually despite no exposure to heat, burn-like injuries most commonly occur around the hands and forearms, but have also been known to occur around the face and neck. They progress much in the way a burn would, starting off with faintly reddened skin and general sensitivity, continuing to peeling, blistering, and damage to progressively deeper tissues if the exposure to divine magic is not ceased.
  • Pseudo-cancerous growths – similar to burns, these most often form around the hands, but have also been seen in the lungs, esophagus, spinal cord, and brain. They are referred to as, "pseudo-cancerous," because when biopsied, they are unmistakably distinct from typical tumors. They are always hard and rigid, appearing more crystalline than organic.
  • Chimerism – the most difficult type of divinity poisoning to describe because it is so rare, it's difficult to make generalizations. It appears to be mostly harmless, and usually reflects the deity with which the individual has a connection to. Two priests of Zarotva were known to have had scales growing along their backs and pupils changing to slits. A naval officer who was a devout worshipper of Loaliv had portions of his skin turn smooth, white and grey, and his irises and pupils growing until his eyes were almost entirely black when in the pitch dark. Chimerism has not been known to cause harm to those afflicted with it.

Treatment

There is no known cure for divinity poisoning. Being that it is such a rare condition and can present itself in a variety of ways, there are some reported ways to ease certain symptoms, but they are unlikely to work for all those afflicted. The only known way to halt the progression of the disease is ceasing exposure to divine and radiant magic immediately and permanently.   Those with mild, burn-like injuries have found some pain relief with your typical burn treatments such as aloe vera and numbing creams; more severe burns often require dressings and regular antimicrobial treatments.   Pseudo-cancerous growths have been surgically removed before, but thus far has proved to only be a temporary measure. Regardless of how thoroughly the growth is excised, they have always returned, sometimes in the same location, sometimes in new ones.   No treatments have yet been concocted for chimerism.

Prognosis

Burn injuries have the worst prognosis once they progress into or beyond the second degree. Since they do not heal, they become a constantly open wound, often on the part of the body used most to interact with the world. Even with regular antimicrobial treatments and dressings, infections are not uncommon.   Pseudo-cancerous growths can vary; some may stay small and in places where they do not negatively impact quality of life, allowing people to live with them for decades. Others are far more aggressive. Similar to burn injuries, they seem to progress so long as exposure to divine or radiant magic is continued.   Chimerism is not known to cause any ill health effects.

Affected Groups

Elven and dwarven males have been the majority of cases seen, although it is not believed that they are any more predisposed to this condition than females or other species; rather, it seems to be that during times of war or conflict, males make up the majority of soldiers and so are more likely to be victim to or a user of divine magic, and since elves and dwarves are two of the world's longest-lived species, any who take up religious professions will have far longer to be exposed to divine magic than shorter-lived species such as humans or birdfolk.   Genasi and Selhi have not been known to be afflicted by divinity poisoning.

Prevention

Divinity poisoning is only known to occur in those who have had high levels of exposure to divine or radiant magic, either in excessive amounts very quickly, or lower levels over prolonged periods of time, most often being the latter. Rare or one-time exposure is not known to pose a risk of divinity poisoning.

Cultural Reception

Reception tends to be mixed and can vary depending on how the condition presents itself. Chimerism generally receives a more neutral to positive reception with some believing it to be a gift, a badge of loyalty from their deity. Burns and pseudo-cancerous growths are rarely viewed as such; when the afflicted reaches a point where they are unable to hide their symptoms or choose not to from the beginning, the best case response is often pity, while the most common and worst is outright disgust. Some who are untrusting of deities even believe it to be deserved for getting involved with divinity at all. Such views are most common in Adis, where most countries have had to deal with their borders being encroached on by the Avarian Divine Empire and live in fear of the day Avari decides that their land should be his.   Those who are met with the latter often leave their homes, finding some measure of safety and acceptance in aasimar and tiefling houses.
Type
Divine
Origin
Mutated
Cycle
Chronic, Acquired
Rarity
Rare
Classes
Generic article | Oct 8, 2022

Information on any subclasses which are not allowed or will require reflavoring to fit the setting.

A note for players: divinity poisoning is generally something that will begin to take effect around the time a PC reaches 10th level. There are some obvious classes for which this would apply, such as clerics and certain paladins, but also martyrs, celestial warlocks, divine soul sorcerers, college of cantors bards, and potentially various other subclasses depending on how they are flavored. If this is applicable to your PC, we can work out how this will affect them either during character creation or around the time in which they would begin experiencing symptoms.


Cover image: The Hand of Christ by The Blowup

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