Taint Table of Contents

How Taint Works
How to Get Rid of It (quickly)
How to Get Rid of It (mundane)
Taint and the Dead


Some places and items are so evil that exposure to them marks, or taints, a character in a very real and difficult-to-cleanse way. Taint is a form of evil that cannot be described by the good-evil law-chaos axis.

It is a malevolence so profound that it warps the very fabric of reality. A weapon used to slaughter thousands of innocents, a forest grown on land soaked in the blood of an evil deity, a book bound in the flesh of an archfiend for his own horrible purposes, and the presence of an evil deity are all sources of taint.

How Taint Works

The rules as written for taint are a little confusing at first. Here is an attempt to clarify them, as they relate to this game:

Whenever a character “gets X points of taint,” they have a corruption and depravity score of X. Some effects may increase or reduce a character’s corruption or depravity score without affecting the other score. For example:

Example: Bob is messing with an Evil Artifact and gains 4 points of taint. An hour later, Bob is attacked by a taint elemental, which deals him 6 points of corruption with its tainted slam attacks. Bob now has 10 points of corruption and 4 points of depravity. If a spell or effect removes 4 points of taint from Bob, he now has 6 points of corruption and no depravity.

There are four thresholds of taint: Mild, Moderate,Severe and Dead/Insane. These are based on the afflicted creature’s Constitution and Wisdom scores for corruption and depravity, respectively, although any creature with even a single point of taint qualifies as mildly tainted, and has crossed that threshold. The exact numbers are on Table 4-1 on Page 63 of Heroes of Horror. 24 hours after gaining enough taint to cross a threshold of taint, they manifest a randomly-determined symptom from the threshold that they have crossed.

Example: Bob continues messing around with Evil Stuff and now has 6 points of corruption and depravity. His Constitution score is 12, his Wisdom score is 16. Checking the table reveals that Bob’s meager Constitution is not fit for mucking about with such dread things- he now has moderate corruption. His mental fortitude is a bit greater, resulting in only mild depravity. 24 hours later (assuming no magical help arrives), he manifests a minor corruption symptom and a moderate corruption symptom. If Bob has heal cast on him within 24 hours, he could either have his taint reduced by 1/3 of the healer’s caster levels, or have his corruption or depravity reduced by one step.

A creature that becomes moderately or severely tainted gains a bonus feat. This can be any feat for which the character has the prerequisites. Falling below the taint level that gave the character a feat renders that feat inoperative.

How to Get Rid of It (quickly)

Taint cannot be removed within a tainted area, no matter when the healing magic is applied, even if it is within 24 hours of contraction. Outside of a tainted area, the following spells have the following effects.

It is important to note that no character can have a taint score reduced by any particular spell more than once per day, although different spells can reduce taint if cast on the same character in the same day. Unless a spell specifically says so, it cannot reduce a taint score from one threshold to the next.

Unless otherwise noted, these effects are separate from the spell’s normal effect:

Taint removed
When to Use
Reduce corruption OR depravity score by 1d3 points per 2 caster levels. This spell can reduce taint to next lowest tier, if the reduction is great enough.
1d3 points/3 caster levels*
Reduce taint to next lowest tier (mild/moderate only- does not work if subject is severely tainted) OR reduce it by 1 per 3 caster levels
enough to threshold of next lowest tier, if the target is mildly or moderately tainted, or 1/3 caster levels
Within 24 hours of contraction or anytime
Remove enough taint to bring a single creature to the next lowest threshold
Remove Curse
Removes 1 point of depravity
1 depravity
Remove Disease
Removes 1 point of corruption
1 corruption
Remove 1 point of taint/4 caster levels. Can bring tainted creatures down 1 tier if cast within 24 hours of crossing to a higher one.
1/4 caster levels
anytime/within 24 hours
Greater Restoration
Reduce corruption and depravity by 1d3/2 caster levels. Can bring tainted creatures down 1 tier if cast within 24 hours of crossing to a higher one.
1d3/2 caster levels
Anytime/24 hours

*The quest must be a separate quest from the overarching storyline, and must take at least 12 days to complete. This usage of atonement costs the caster 1 Action Point.

**These, especially wish, should be used cautiously.

Yes, the only magical ways to remove taint after crossing the threshold is to cast wish, miracle or go on a quest for atonement.

How to Get Rid of It (mundane)

Characters without access to magic can attempt to remove corruption and depravity in three ways: by attempting good deeds, ritual fasting and seeking a sacred spring. Sacred Springs are described under Good and Evil Locations.

A character can attempt good deeds as described in Heroes of Horror to try and remove depravity. This requires a non-adventuring task assigned by someone of the character’s faith that takes at least 1 week to complete, and removes 1 point of depravity at the end of said week.

Ritual fasting requires 1 week of fasting. The character can not consume anything, even potions or other magical edibles, and must spend 10 hours each day in meditation. The character can go adventuring while ritual fasting, as long as they can meet the meditation requirement.

Each day, the character must attempt a DC 10 Constitution check (the bonus from Endurance applies to this check) +1 for each day after the first, and at a -1 penalty for each point of corruption they currently have. Failure deals 20 points of nonlethal damage, 10 points of lethal damage and makes the character exhausted for the next 12 hours. Success reduces the the damage by half and causes the character to be fatigued for 6 hours instead. A character cannot stop fasting and start again; if they stop, they must start all over again.

After 7 days of successful fasting, the character’s corruption score is reduced by 1 point.

Taint and the Dead

When someone dies with taint on them, the resulting stain on the body, as well as the consciousness (in the case of depravity) is very great. In fact, a tainted corpse in a tainted area becomes something of a liability.

A dead body with taint on it rises of its own volition, depending on the mental fortitude of the deceased and the amount of taint that the deceased had upon dying. The “Taint Level” column on the table refers to the greater of the two scores that the deceased has. A creature with mild corruption that goes insane from its level of depravity, then dies gets no save. Each interval (according to the table below,) the deceased must make a Will save. The DC is 15 + 1/2 the deceased’s Hit Dice +2. Failure means that the deceased rises as an undead creature of the DM’s choosing. Success means that the deceased has fought off the evil within its body and remains dead until its interval comes up again. Once a creature has gone through the interval of its rising period three times, it advances to the next rising period.

Example: Bob dies with Moderate taint. 12 hours later, he makes a successful Will saving throw. Over the next 24 hours, he makes 2 more successful Will saves. He is now out of his first rising period, and does not risk rising again for another day.

A creature must go through all the rising periods before it remains good and truly dead. In its second rising, it takes a penalty on its saves equal to half its highest taint score. In its third rising, it takes a penalty on saves equal to its highest taint score.

If a creature rises and is destroyed, it remains dead- unless it died or went insane from its taint, at which point, it acts as if it had made a successful save, and continues trying not to rise again.

Bob dies from massive amounts of corruption, and springs to his feet as an undead creature. His former companions destroy him. Bob now moves to his second rising period. At the end of the first day, Bob rises again. His friends destroy him. Bob still has two chances in his second rising period to rise again, and then three more chances in his third rising period to continue to run amok as an undead horror.

Even an untainted corpse left in a tainted area is at risk, although transporting it away from the tainted area, leaving it in the confines of a hallow or similarly powerful magic can protect it. A tainted creature receives no such reprieve; Evil already has a foothold in it, and nothing short of divine intervention can drive it out completely.

A tainted corpse is considered willing for the purposes of cleansing its taint via magic, unless the creature is making a saving throw to resist rising from the dead:

Taint Level
First Rising
(no penalty)
Second Rising
(- 1/2 highest taint score)
Final Rising
(- highest taint score)
1/2 months
1/ year
1/ month
1/12 hours
1/ week
1/4 hours
1/8 hours
1/ 12 hours
(If destroyed after rising)
(If destroyed after rising again)
1/ 3 days
  • A creature that has died or gone insane from its taint level rises in a number of hours equal to its highest taint score divided by 10. After it is destroyed, it still risks spontaneously rising from the dead until all the time its rising periods have passed.

It is said that there are methods that exist to keep the tainted dead from rising again, but they are not widely known, as such incredible evil has rarely been seen on the Material Plane.