The Malady Workshop
Writer: Jason Bakos and Themis Paraskevas
Publisher: DMs Guild
Product Length: 35 pages
Last November I wrote a review for The Malady Codex. That accessory provides you with 11 diseases you can use in your campaign and if you don’t own it and implement the occasional disease at your table you really should consider it. Where The Malady Codex may leave you wanting is in creating new afflictions. Enter The Malady Workshop.
As with The Malady Codex, medical students as authors is a strength that is unmatched by most other authors in roleplaying circles. This gives them a decisive advantage when creating content like this. To be fair, most authors wouldn’t need such an advantage unless they were writing similar content. What I love about both titles in the Malady series that I have read is that the authors don’t shy away from incorporating myths and superstitions around medical conditions.
Have you ever read a medical journal? They tend to be on the dry side. They aren’t engaging and it’s generally a chore to read them. Not so with this title. Bakos and Paraskevas maintain a consistent tone and the result is a wonderful accessory that I couldn’t stop reading once I started.
I often hear from creators that they don’t think production means much when it comes to a finished product and I have considered it at length and I have to disagree. Any given accessory could be just as functional, and useful, as a simple Word document with no formatting or art. Or, at the other extreme, if the accessory is so stylized that it’s garish and straining on the eyes and the product becomes unusable.
But with The Malady Workshop the production, as with any good product, enhances the experience through both aesthetics and functionality. The cover art is beautiful and the table of contents has hyperlinks to the appropriate section in the document. The interior art is thematic and section headings and bullet lists both contribute to easy, fluid reading. Additionally, it makes flipping through the document quick and simple (if you print it) and improves the document’s accessibility. I don’t want to belabor the point anymore with this but it’s important for me to communicate that I believe a good production can make or break an otherwise wonderful product.
The meat of any product is its design. This is where I agree with all creators I’ve spoken with. A good product solves a problem DMs may have and simplifies their jobs. Whether creating diseases for use in a campaign is a problem worth solving is subjective. But if you consider this accessory is a platinum best seller and was published less than three months ago it’s easy to conclude that dungeon masters are eager to use diseases in their games.
A DM using The Malady Workshop can get as detailed as he or she wants with the created diseases. The authors provide easy means to address a disease’s origins, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and cures. They use a “Malady Point System” which helps a creator understand just how dangerous a disease is and it’s a good proxy for whether your custom disease is ridiculously overpowered or maybe an underwhelming inconvenience.
Another fun aspect of this product is how they’ve aligned these maladies in four major groups (red, brown, yellow, or white). A skin condition would fall under “Brown Juice”, for example, because it is associated with the cold and moisture elements. The other two elements the authors introduce to us are heat and draught. So the category that is diametrically opposed is “Yellow Juice” where you might find a nervous disorder.
This Workshop is an incredibly useful tool for DMs but only if they are interested in creating custom diseases. Even if a DM uses diseases they’re probably better off using The Malady Codex UNLESS they want to create their own for some reason. Maybe they want it for story elements or perhaps they have a highly thematic homebrew world where existing diseases don’t match well. Having said that, I love this product and have every intention of using it regularly for my players. Furthermore, I will be recommending it to the DM of another group where I am primarily a player.