How to use malicious and unpredictable magic in fantasy worlds, stories, and roleplaying games. Ideas for chaos, corruption, shadow, dream, and nightmares to haunt the characters.

Malicious and Unstable Magic: Chaos Taint, Nightmares, Planar Breaches, and Other Afflictions

Magic is unpredictable and will eventually cause problems and backlash even if the practitioner takes the uttermost care. Chaos magic, shadow taint, dreams gone awry, miscast teleports and planar breaches may all hound your characters.

The following describes what happens, while the why and what comes next is left for the story to decide. This is intended for brainstorming and improvised storytelling to describe the effects and taint of unstable and corrupting magic.

Chaos Taint

Chaos twists, distort and mutate reality, and affects everything it touches. The tainted character may suffer from many maladies.

  1. Chaos Minions. The tainted attracts strange and insane people, and become the center of attention for dangerous and unstable people, and weaker creatures with the same taint. The tainted can use these creatures as minions and even found a cult.
  2. Confusion. The tainted loose grasp on reality, and become unable to discern what is real or not. The afflicted are often confused, disoriented and sometimes inclined to violence.
  3. Cursed. The taint manifests in a curse. See the Curses table.
  4. Erratic Behaviour. The tainted’s behavior becomes erratic. See the Erratic Behaviour table below.
  5. Haunted Look. The tainted grows pale and pasty, with dark circles around the eyes.
  6. Mental Affliction. The tainted gains a mental affliction. See the Mental Affliction table.
  7. Planar Breach. The tainted’s magic, or use of magic items, has a chance of causing a planar breach. See the Planar Breaches table.
  8. Scared Animals. Animals sense the taint and shy away whenever possible.
  9. Veins. The tainted’s veins become prominently visible right under the skin.
  10. Wilting Touch. The tainted’s touch spoils food and kills plants.


The character becomes cursed. The potency and longevity depend on the source and the events that triggered the curse. A powerful curse may extend to the cursed’s bloodline and continue for generations.

The curse can be lifted if detected, but it may prove difficult, and supernatural creatures may interfere.

  1. Lyncatrophy. The cursed become a were-creatures unable to control the transformation or its actions while in wereform.
  2. Patron. The cursed gain a supernatural patron, although the patronage is not safe nor entirely beneficial. The patron wants something, and its goal is unclear.
  3. Possessing Spirit. The cursed become host to a malicious spirit, and experience memory loss, sleepwalking, and unexplained events. The spirit will become the doom of the cursed and nearby creatures.
  4. Third Eye. The cursed grow an invisible third eye in the forehead. Its purpose, or who sees through it, is unknown.
  5. Vulnerability. The curses become vulnerable, taking easier and more damage if injured.
  6. Withering Body. The cursed heals slower than others, which extends to magic healing. The cursed also age faster.

Planar Breaches

The multiverse breaks down, and the planes blend into each other. Some would say the end draws near.

  1. Ash Rain. There is an ash-like substance in the rain. The material cannot be identified as any natural substance, but it is undoubtedly not ash.
  2. Creatures Pass Through the Gate. Creatures move between the worlds, and some will attack the characters.
  3. Demiplane. The spell creates a new or temporarily opens a portal to a demiplane. The caster can choose to enter the demiplane, with all the dangers that entail.
  4. Divine Attention. The character becomes the center of attention of one or more gods and the feel the presences of something both benevolent, malicious, and dangerous.
  5. Elemental Surge. Earth, fire, air and water magic temporarily becomes more powerful, potentially dealing more damage. Elemental forces manifest in the surroundings as if reality is breaking down.
  6. Glimpses of Other Worlds. The character glimpse alien landscapes and strange creatures. The creatures glimpse the character in return.
  7. Physical Trauma. The caster is injured by the planar breach. The wounds are severe, potentially lethal.
  8. Unnatural Weather. Strange weather phenomena manifest in the area, with sudden temperature changes, sudden downpours, and violent storms appearing out of nowhere. This is an omen, reroll on this table for the main event.

Shadow Taint

The character becomes touched by shadow, a dark and twisted mirror of the real world.

  1. Dark Eyes. The shadow tainted’s eyes darken, becoming almost inky black. The tainted sometimes feel as if someone else also looks through the eyes.
  2. Enmity. The shadow tainted gain the hatred of a shadow entity of great power.
  3. Haunted. The shadow tainted become haunted. The haunt occasionally manifests and attempts to kill the character.
  4. Physical Trauma. The shadow tainted is injured by the shadow taint. The wounds are severe, potentially lethal.
  5. No Shadow. The shadow tainted no longer cast shadow.
  6. Pale Skin. The shadow tainted’s skin pales.
  7. Shadow Attacker. The tainted’s shadow comes to life an attacks the caster, potentially with lethal force.
  8. Shadow Stalker. A shadow creature appears and hounds the shadow tainted. Accidents, mysterious deaths, and dark whispers following the shadow tainted’s wake.

Teleport Mishaps

Teleport and translocation spells bend with the fabric of reality, which can be dangerous. Sometimes reality breaks.

  1. Items Missing. Some of your items were misplaced somewhere along the way.
  2. Mind Swap. The caster’s mind enters a new body in the vicinity of the target location of the teleport spell, and that body’s mind enters the caster’s body.
  3. Monsters Appear. The teleport brings in someone or something along. The creature appears confused and frightened, and most likely angry.
  4. Off Target. The caster materializes miles off target.
  5. Physical Trauma. The caster is injured by the shock to changing location. The wounds are severe, potentially lethal.
  6. Planar Breach. The teleport, although otherwise successful, create a breach between planes. See the Planar Breaches table.
  7. Simulacrum. The teleport creates a replica in place of the caster at the location of the casting. The caster do not control the simulacrum.
  8. Redirected. The teleport is redirected into a trap.

Ressurection Voes

Dying and then returning to life is a miracle and transcends mortal understanding of reality. Sometimes the resurrected come back wrong.

  1. Damnation. The resurrected’s soul is damned and has just this life to find redemption. A resurrected that also is a divine spellcaster will have a crisis of faith and possibly lose spellcasting abilities.
  2. Guardian Angel. The higher forces are invested in the resurrected and have sent a guardian spirit.
  3. Guardian Fiend. The forces of darkness are invested in the resurrected and have sent a guardian fiend.
  4. Haunted. The resurrected did not return alone. A spirit, angel or fiend slipped through the cracks into the mortal realm.
  5. Higher Purpose. The resurrected return with a purpose, a quest that needs to be fulfilled.
  6. Undead Enmity. The undead is attracted to the character, seeking to kill the character.

Dreams and Nightmares

The sleeper falls into the dark deeps of the dreamlands, a place of twisted logic and terror. Bad dreams usually end with waking up, but sometimes they do not.

  1. Alien Worlds. The afflicted experience strange dreams of a shadowy world, strange creatures, and a death-like existence.
  2. Bitter Kisses. The sleeper is kissed, gold changes hands, and the sleeper is left in the dark.
  3. Bloody Crown. A bloody crown lies on a battlefield, surrounded by fallen friends and allies.
  4. Body Changes. The dreamer experience the body changing into something alien and horrible.
  5. Dreams Become Real. The subject of the nightmare cross over from the Dreamlands into the real world.
  6. Encroaching Darkness. The world grows dark. Loved ones’ voices mutter nearby but are not seen.
  7. Physical Trauma. The sleeper succumbs to battle wounds and enemies close in. The injuries are real and potentially lethal.
  8. Giants From the Sea. Giants rise from the sea, and the world grows dark.
  9. Parents’ Dying Moment. The dreamer witness the parents final moments as they actually happened, not the lies everybody has been telling.
  10. A Presence in the Room. A malicious presence watch the sleeper.
  11. Visions of Leng. The dreamer plunges deeper into the nightmare than ever before and glimpses the shores of the Plateau of Leng.
  12. Watery Grave. The sleeper is in a dark place, wading in rising ice-cold water, and shadowy figures close in. The sleeper sinks into the water and is engulfed by darkness.

Erratic Behaviour

The character occasionally behaves inappropriate, and possibly dangerous, for the situation.

  1. Compulsive Liar. The character is sometimes unable to tell the truth.
  2. Compulsive Truthteller. The character is sometimes unable to tell lies.
  3. Confusion. The character loose grasp on reality, and become unable to discern what is real or not. The character is often confused, disoriented and sometimes inclined to violence.
  4. Involuntarily Muttering. The character begins to mutter.
  5. Random Wandering. The character sometimes takes long walks, lost in thought, at odd hours, and often without any recollection of doing so.
  6. Speaking in Tongues. The character begins to speak in tongues, channeling an unknown entity.

Mental Affliction

Dealing with magic can cause mental afflictions and illness, usually related to the creature, event or location that triggered it.

  1. Amnesia. The afflicted suffer from memory loss, sometimes just moments, other times whole years.
  2. Confusion. The afflicts loose grasp on reality, and become unable to discern what is real or not. The afflicted are often confused, disoriented and sometimes inclined to violence.
  3. Dream and Nightmares. The afflicted suffer from poor sleep and frequent nightmares. See the Dreams and Nightmares table.
  4. Easily Frightened. The afflicted is easily frightened and will outright flee from combat if able.
  5. Easily Shaken. The afflicted is easily shaken and may perform poorly in combat.
  6. Fear of Possession. The afflicted strongly fear losing control and become a host to supernatural creatures.
  7. Frenzy. The afflicted sometimes involuntarily enter a frenzy, gaining strength while suffering the loss of mental faculties, and possibly erratic behavior.
  8. Hallucinations. The afflicted suffer from hallucinations.
  9. Mania. The afflicted become manic.
  10. Paranoia. The afflicted become paranoid. Everybody appears to the lying, and someone is always watching.
  11. Phobia. The afflicted develop a phobia.
  12. Possession. The afflicted become host for a possessing angel, demon or spirit.

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