Universal Maladies Condition in Expedition Demeter | World Anvil
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Universal Maladies

The Sickness in Reality

A lone ranger stood alone in the foggy wood. He was just a few steps from the furthest he's ever been from home. He took a timid step forward and took in the surrounding environment. The Black March was expanding again. Everywhere he saw the signs of sickness. Trees stood diseased and dying with black mold growing in black tendrils along the bark. The ground was soft, and the further he went, the more the solid dirt gave way to the wetland. He kept walking forward, moving into the fog. He carefully placed each step, listening to the sounds of the wildlife. That is when he noticed the silence. Not a sound rang out in the woods. He turned around and suddenly realized he didn't know where he was. It was like he lost track of time. It was sudden like not a second had passed. Had he moved in further than he thought?
The sound of a bird chirping rang out and he scaled a sigh of relief. He journeyed further until he saw the telltale signs of melancholia. The black ichor that pumped from the ground below, the haze that rose from it and drifted in the fog. He pulled a makeshift cloth from his pouch and it tied behind his neck to cover his nose and mouth.

Again he felt that sense of unease. How far had he traveled? His legs ached, his eyes heavy. He wondered if he'd make it home. He knelt down and took out the food in his satchel, A loaf of bread. He eyed it hungrily while his head filled with thoughts of home. He thought of his son's smile that would greet him when he burst through the door and he would smile back. He thought of being caught up in the passionate embrace of his wife. He broke off a piece of bread started to eat. He thought of his infant daughter and how she would see to hug him with the most infectious smile. He thought of how he would never see that anyone smile again. He would never see his family again and tears welled up in his eyes...wait. Why would he think that?

He looked down and shouted in fear at the black mold that had infested his meal. It seemed to crawl and squirm as he jumped and threw it to the ground, pushing himself back into the tree behind him. He felt the thick liquid slip through his fingers. He didn't want to look. Instead, he listened for the chirp of the bird. He heard it and at first, he felt hope. He turned his head saw the black oil on his hand. It seemed alive. It pulsed and writhed as he took a cloth and tried to wipe it clean. It was starting to burn.
The chirping continued, but it was wrong. It was the same sound, but it seemed different. It was deeper, more guttural and despite how close it seemed, it sounded distant like it was miles away. He tried to peer through the fog and only saw the outline of it. It was a bird once upon a time, but now it leaked the ichor over the ground and its beak was stained in blood. Its feathers were black and the way it started with blank white eyes left him paralyzed. Then something else emerged from the Mist. A man dressed in rags surrounded by animals that once called this place home. They were tainted and mutated things, these grotesque creatures, twisted by the ailment that stained this land. He wanted to scream but he couldn't. He just stared, wondering what they would do...if it would hurt. Would the long make due on his promise and take care of his family if he died here? Maybe they would be better off without him...
The body was found mere feet away from the border of the The Wailing Wood and the The Black March. He died of starvation and stared with unsettling focus. The blank white eyes, gazed into the distance while the ranger laid back against a tree with a fresh, perfectly healthy loaf of bread mere feet away.

What is a Universal Malady

  Universal malady is a term that refers to the strange and often disorderly effects present in a specific location. Each unique form of these effects have been given a name that is synonymous with some form of mental state or disorder, as it would seem that reality is suffering from some kind of sickness and oftentimes that sickness affects the organisms within its area of effect. An organism is part of reality and feels these effects universally.
Melancholia for example often causes symptoms that are in line with the disorder in the minds of those within its area of effect. These disorders haven't been around for long. It is estimated based on the rate of growth that these areas affected by Universal maladies started showing their symptoms somewhere between fifteen hundred and a thousand years ago. The effects vary based on the condition, but it usually involves both emotional changes to the observer and physical changes that can be perceived in the affected environment. Other elements have been reported as well. Apart from more dangerous creatures, things like acidic mist or paralytic water can be found in some of these dangerous locations.    

Travelers who venture to the strange lands of Lartasia will notice that in the deeper wilds colors show more vibrantly, the saturated hues showing with almost neon brilliance. At night in these secluded places, the luminescence will reveal fauna with unnatural intelligence. Majestic stags who once were prey now hunt wolves who talk as if they were scholars. Lartasia is home to other more bizarre creatures. It is the home of dragons, who come in many forms granting wishes in the most curious of ways. The people of Lartasia are said to have the technology and skill to conquer the world but infighting and their lazy luxury brought on by this mania makes that dream impossible.
In the Freeholds your fears are made real. You wander in a land where every creature is a form of spider or a land where everything is uncomfortably close to one another. The civilized races find survival difficult outside of the cities as massive insects terrorize any and all they come across.
Reality is tearing at the seems in these troubled times, and the effects are varied and rarely pleasant. The longer the exposure, the faster the onset and more severe the symptoms.


While the specifics around these maladies are vague and often difficult to understand even to those who have dedicated their lives to studying them there are a couple of specific pieces of information that they have been able to find both through their own efforts and through the efforts of the Gods.  

  • Areas affected are circular and spread outward evenly, indicated that there is a "ground zero" at the center of every area affected. No one has ever verified this but it assumed to be accurate.

  • There is a physical source of the condition in every area affected. This was confirmed by the gods shortly after they all but disappeared. Something actively causes the condition and as such, one can infer, removing that source will cure the area or at least stop its spread.
  • Some of these maladies, namely vertigo and disquiet may not have an epicenter or a direct source but instead appear as a direct result of other maladies or cataclysmic events. The Estoyan Pathfinders have proven this as vertigo can be cured if a pathfinder gets involved.
  Apart from these simple facts there isn't much else known about the universal maladies. Exposure to its effects compound over time and the symptoms dissipate as one removes themselves from the area of effect. This is not to say that other conditions applied while in areas affected will go away if one leaves. The horrific things that can happen to you while traveling in an area affected by Melancholia or disquiet will remain until treated or, if they cannot be treated, until your death. Mania and hysteria seem to have the most permanent effect on those who are exposed. In fact, it is theorized that the effects of Hysteria will never go away and the mind-altering effects that occur while exposed to mania are just as permanent although they may improve with luck and treatment. Hysteria and mania require exposure for much longer periods of time for the effects to really kick in. Some need to be exposed for days to months to feel their effects.      
  the secrets of ground zero
There is a ground zero for most areas affected by a universal Melody and this place is often where the effects are most severe if exposed. The closer one gets to the epicenter the quicker the effects of exposure. Usually, the source of a universal malady can be found within the epicenter and it is always a collector. The collector actively spreads the condition and must be destroyed in order for the area affected to return to normal. The process can take anywhere from a couple of days too many many years depending on the size of the area affected and the particular malady in question. The maladies are the result of different organizations referred to as void courts, of whom the collector is a part of.
by Remarin

The Gods have Abandoned Us

  While the divine answer prayers and make their presence known quite often, they have been unusually silent the past several centuries. They no longer show up to greet their followers. They no longer appear when summoned, and they no longer share the information they have gleaned from studying the maladies and the void. It seems to many that the gods have abandoned this broken world, paying only enough attention to ensure mortals know they are still present. Many deny the idea that the gods have abandoned the world, often using the massive influx of The Oathbound and Scions as evidence.  
Gm Notes
The gods did discover the source of universal maladies. The void is foreign, like most Outsiders but instead of joining this existence, it seeks to consume it. In reality, the gods did not abandon the mortals to their fate. Once the void was discovered to be the source of all Universal maladies the gods took up arms and decided to fight it head-on. This massive battle for the fate of reality is taking place in The Weirlands and leads to further maladies as the gods die. This place is the endgame for players. Its where the story of the expedition ends.


  Estoya leads the way for "curing" reality. Its expeditions have been seeking the cure since the world went askew. The Estoyan Pathfinders have made the biggest impact. Their ability to literally reverse the effects of Vertigo.
Apart from this, most people are not well traveled enough to know that these conditions exist. They usually chalk it up to magic and hyperbole. The high races are fairly indifferent about the state of existence. The Alfen (Elves), The Tablin, and The Dwarves are the only races who either remember the times where vertigo plagued the land, or deal with the various maladies on a day to day basis. This contact has leaves them comfortable in the more favorable conditions of the present day. The same can be said of many other nations as well. The freeholds are no strangers to Phobia, where the malady is ever present and the Lartasians seem content with their exposure to Mania.

This indifference doesn't seem to all, however. Many members of the high races joined Expedition Demeter, and there are even some who stayed behind that recognize the instability of reality. The Nocturna are by far the most jaded. They sit in their city-state of Arkysalem and simply wait for the end to finally render their race extinct.  
by stargazerrjl

Silver Lining

The world of Expedition Demeter is inherently broken. Its fundamental laws are unraveling and with each passing year...it gets worse. This fact leads many to believe that the universe is "sick" and many are desperately trying to find a cure.
In the time of Expedition Demeter, traveling through the unknown is a perilous venture. One will wander into The Black March and slowly they begin to notice the world...changing. It starts subtle as the colors around you begin to dull little by little. Noises sound distant or are distorted completely. a stillness settles in the air making it stale. You have entered melancholia. The good news is, not all the maladies are inherently dangerous. Mania has caused numerous issues in Lartasia but it has also caused a massive boom in invention and art. The creatures of mania are said to be sparkling conversationalists. Vertigo is the sole reason Estoya hasn't succumbed to the ravages of melancholia to the north.        

The Problem

  The real problem in studying these anomalies is that they are seemingly random. The location, severity, and areas affected have little to no common factors between them. Melancholia is only seen in The Black March, but reports of it in Dis have risen from time to time. The only exception is The Weirlands. Reality ailments are never as unpredictable or as perilous as Existential Anxiety. The Weirlands are the only region to experience it, and not one person has been able to study it fully before being lost in time and space. However, Its effect has been experienced by the world long before its afflictions. Therefore Disquiet does have a known cause: The death of gods

The vast majority of scientific study in the world is dedicated to understanding both the symptoms and the cause of these universal maladies. The gods themselves spent centuries studying it and attempting to fix it. The gods were fairly transparent with their findings, sharing information and offering insight into what their worshipers find. This fact was always considered strange and led many to worry, just how bad could this be if the gods seek the council of mortals?
Regardless, it seemed the gods found their answer as they have not directly involved themselves in years.

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Articles under Universal Maladies

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Dec 29, 2018 02:58 by Lyraine Alei

I really, really like this article, and I think you did a really good job with it. The individual maladies are interesting, even if the phobia one was unnerving (arachnophobe here, lol), and I think they could be expanded on with their own pages with more tales and records of people who had come across these as well as any attempts at recovery or resolving the maladies' temporarily, such as the pathfinders who walked forward/backward in close proximity.   I don't really have anything in general that can be improved on, but there are a few contractions missing their apostrophes.   I also really like the artwork.   Oh? How close to each other are the maladies where they're usually found? Do they "cluster" closer to the oldest malady or spread further away from the oldest? Has anything left within the maladies?

Lyraine, Consumer of Lore, She/Her, primary project: Corive
Dec 29, 2018 03:05 by R. Dylon Elder

Thanks so much for your critique. Be sure to throw a click on that button if you liked it :), also thanks for the depth here. There are critters who stray from areas of effect from time to time. Melancholia and Mania being the major ones. The actual distance varies. It's seemingly where they show up. ( the reason is because they are deliberately put there) it can be miles to many hundreds of miles between maladies. Certain maladies do tend to localized themselves though. Mania can only be found In Lartasia for example.

Dec 29, 2018 05:26 by Lyraine Alei

I had spent a lot of time reading this and then rereading it to make sure I didn't accidentally skim over (which tends to happen when facing a long article, which is amusing since those are the articles I enjoy writing the most on).   I find it interesting that Mania is only located in Lartasia, and it makes me wonder if the "whatever" cause them specifically chose Mania for Lartasia, and then why it doesn't wander away from Lartasia.

Lyraine, Consumer of Lore, She/Her, primary project: Corive
Dec 29, 2018 05:39 by R. Dylon Elder

Well technically it is a someone. Those little centered boxes will drio down if u want the spoiler. I just dont want my players to see. The next article im working on will take a look at them specifically but the malady is based what of kind of something. It's not really their choice in the end, but the real reason mania is in lartasia is actually hinted at in the article in a deceotive way.

Dec 29, 2018 05:41 by R. Dylon Elder

Deceptive rather...as i cab tell from the article my phone spellcheck is useless lol as for why the critters stray, it depends. Meloncholia wants to spread whereas the critters of mabia are sentiment and choose to leave

Dec 29, 2018 05:47 by Lyraine Alei

I had read the spoilers, since I'm not one of your players, but I think I had forgotten what was in them, haha.   The fact the critters choose to stay or move is interesting too, since it means they find something they want when they move (either what they want isn't where they are, or it is, whatever that something is).

Lyraine, Consumer of Lore, She/Her, primary project: Corive
Dec 29, 2018 06:03 by R. Dylon Elder

Indeed it is. Lol, i set up little mini-bosses that are the cause of the maladies. The players can choose to deal with them or not. They can pretty challenge and yeah some seek things elsewhere other time, like with mania, they are trting to escape hysteria. Lol oh and thanks for the like as well :) i appreciate it

Dec 29, 2018 06:49 by Lyraine Alei

No problem, I had thought that I had hit like on the page, but I guess I was doing too much at once. XD

Lyraine, Consumer of Lore, She/Her, primary project: Corive
Dec 29, 2018 07:26 by R. Dylon Elder

oh i understand completely

Dec 29, 2018 10:19 by Bioblaze Payne

Can you explain more in your GM Notes about the War itself? Really interesting, and would Love to hear more about it. This article goes quite indepth on these maladies and much like the comment from Alei, that phobia one was un-nerving indeed. LoL

Dec 29, 2018 18:21 by R. Dylon Elder

So this way will be discussed in tbe article ill publish today. It's not too relevant here and really needs further depth thanks for the feedback :) and dont forget to like if you liked it. If you want i can send you that info if you like once its done as well.

Dec 29, 2018 12:29 by Evi

Very interesting train of thought with maladies that trip up the word itself. You are right though, it is very abstract. I think this article would benefit from being split into smaller articles. I feel like each malady deserves their own article. Something else that would make it easier to follow, is linking other articles about the world and putting excerpts in those articles. If you do that, the excerpt will automatically show as a tooltip when you link the article. It was kinda text-wally and overwhelming at some points, maybe some explaining illustrations would help? Also maybe explaining the topic for the article halfway down is a bit late. A summary up top might help. Do they still want to cure maladies like Mania even if they also improve the lifes of some people? The girl in the quote seems like she thinks it's the best thing to ever happen to her, in that case, does some people work to keep the malady? (even if misguidedly) Good work, very thorough. Hope you found some of this useful ^.^ One last thing, i think it's custom to put artist names and link with the images to give them fair exposure with the use of their images. I know you listed them at the bottom, but don't think they'll get as much exposure out of that, and while reading they come off as your own original art.

Dec 29, 2018 18:12 by R. Dylon Elder

Oof lot to unpack. So im working on putting credit under images but currently it's very intrusive and i hate the look of it. I'll get on it. As far as individual articles, i may do that but i don't have much to say right now about them just fluff. As far as tooltips and the other stuff that sounds kike formatting. Ima is honest. I have no idea what those are and would love to know lol what about the world needs to be excepted? Im legitimately asking here cause really need to work on the disorganized monster the world has become the last month. It was very helpful and i appreciate the feedback so much. Be sure to like it if you liked it. Idk if it didnt take or was forgotten or what but I've noticed some of my likes not saving recently for some reason on other people's articles. Thanks so much and ill try to hit u back some time today :)

Dec 29, 2018 18:23 by R. Dylon Elder

And also your question. So the next article im doing will focus on those who cause and actively was t the maladies to spread. Few people really WANT the maladies. Mania eventually gives way to hysteria which is bad news and meloncholoa just sucks. But people will easily find a way to use it as best as they can. Mania being the perfect example.

Dec 30, 2018 00:54 by Evi

So the tooltip thing is super easy. Like, in one spot you link to Arkysalem. I have no idea what that is while reading, and when i have over it, nothing appears, BUT if you go into the design tab and put something in the excerpt field, that will show as a tooltip anywhere you link to that article. To me, even the part you have in the sidebar would be enough for a small separate article. What would be great about that would be that you could then add an excerpt to that article and link it, so that when you mention it in the rest of the text, a tooltip will give a reminder about what it is. (I read the sidebar first, so once i got to the maladies in the text i'd forgotten which was which) Honestly i wanted to hear back that you planned to give those artists some exposure ;) i get that it doesn't look that great in the article, but it's the main thing the artist gets out of lending the image.

Dec 30, 2018 01:16 by R. Dylon Elder

yupppp just need to find a better way to actually credit them. lol and that's a feature i knew nothing about. thanks. im reworking everything come January and ill be adding those excepts now. thanks for the tip and the like :] almost done with this next article and ill hit ya back

Dec 29, 2018 13:53

I love how you describe this horror with such detail that it's almost fitting for a near lovecraft type horror. The quotes help sell it too, with the various ways of this condition spreading like a disease, as well as the pictures giving an image of this horror. Though maybe some of the quotes can be tugged in in a spoiler tag or two to ensure the length of the article is toned down a bit. Cause while they tend to be good reads themselves to set the mood, they can be often fluff. And like said, I feel like the various conditions can all have their own metaphysical law articles dedicated to each one. Otherwise, good article!

Dec 29, 2018 17:18 by R. Dylon Elder

The problem with putting them all in one article is there isn't enough info for one. I can do a lot of fluff maybe but i haven't delved into them enoughmaybe kne day i shall do it though cause literally every e wants it lol. Thanks so much for your feedback and like.

Jan 14, 2019 06:45 by Ademal

I absolutely love the idea of this from a worldbuilding, storytelling angle, but it's the idea of tying this into a game that I particularly adore. You've made a wonderful excuse for unique regions of monsters and effects, and have done so in a very compelling way.   Mania is my favorite, but I'd love to use disquiet on a party!

CSS Whisperer • Community Admin • Author of Ethnis
Jan 14, 2019 15:02 by R. Dylon Elder

Thanks so much. It took a long while to really flesh it out and he tit out of my head. It's so abstract and i found it hard to really make it happen. I appreciate it so much. Thanks for liking the chosen as well and taking the time. :)   Mania is my favorite too. I really can't wait to delve into that particular region. Disquiet is pretty interesting when used at a party. I thought about adding dice tables to help explain what these things can do but it already 5k words and I felt bad. Lol, the effects are not always bad either, one of my players got infected with disquiet but resisted it just so. She ended up with an arm made of stone with a blue light that emitted from the cracks made when she moved it. She had a boost to strength and enhancement to magic but experienced a lot of pain. Again thanks so much :)

Jun 25, 2019 15:28

Just to parrot Ademal's sentiments, I enjoy this from a DM's point of view because it's vague enough but relatable enough to allow the setting to vary. You could even make the setting intrinsic as the players slip into their own minds and have to battle their fears. It's a great concept and I think you've executed it well. I would've liked to have seen maybe one or two more pictures, but all in all I think it's fine as it is.

Jun 25, 2019 16:19 by R. Dylon Elder

It's funny you mention wanting more pictures. This was second place in the world ember condition category. It was 5000 words and included each malady. I separated them, and now the maladies are in child articles. XD. Thanks for a taking a look and for the kind words. It's still in the works. Each malady creates its own landscape and the flora and fauna as well. It's my fav part of my setting.

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