Great Level-drain alternatives from Dark Souls

I like the idea of level drain. It's like taking bites out of your soul. It makes any enemy, no matter how goofy, into a terrifying thing that you never, ever want to fight, or go near, or look at. It sends the message: "There is nothing you have that I can't take."

But jeeze, that book-keeping. There's way too much fiddling around to consider going up or down levels in the middle of a fight.

Dark Souls - the best D&D videogame - has some great alternatives.


Your max HP is halved. How simple is that? Keep track of what your max HP was, and keep increasing that as normal as you level up, but you can never have more than half of that. Season to taste. The sadist DM may wish to allow players to be double or triple cursed to 1/4th or 1/8th of HP. 

Curses are generally inflicted by Basilisks, which obviously look like this:

Also known as "Curse Frogs," these guys puff up their throats and spew cursed smoke everywhere. 1, 2, or 3 saves before you are cursed, according to taste. Anyone who is cursed will immediately solidify as a jagged stone statue, returning the next morning as a shivering wreck. These statues will be littered around any place where Curse monsters live.

The Accursed are the only ones who can harm ghosts. In the middle of ghost towns, you can find men who will take away curses. Curses can never be lifted - only transferred onto someone else.


Your head sprouts egg-sacks. The creature inside will devour half the XP you earn from now on. Every time you level up, it will too, growing and hatching into... well, you're the DM. Use my worm table for inspiration if you want.


This malady is generally inflicted by the egg-burdened servants of Chaos Witch Quelaag.


They'll grab your legs, and their maggots will infest your head. If you receive their sacred burden their leader will welcome you as one of their own, and he has much sorcery to teach. They may even have a cure, though they consider the idea the vilest heresy.


  1. Interesting ideas and very inspirational pictures. I wouldn't have thought to go that way, but man it would work... If a fighter at full HP gets hit with the 1/2 HP curse, does his HP total drop instantly?

    1. That's how it works in Dark Souls, but you could do whatever, right?

      Or really: in Dark Souls, you get hit with a status effect and it fills this little bar on your screen until the bar is full. So, like, rats hit you and each hit fills like a third of your poisoned status bar. Once the bar is full you are poisoned, and the bar (slowly) ticks back down to empty (so long as you aren't hit by anything poisonous again, which pumps the bar back up). You can equip things that increases your resistance to a status effect (takes more hits to fill the bar, it empties more quickly).

      Curse works a little differently in DS as it takes very little to fill the bar so resistance items are important. Once cursed you turn to stone and die. Once reborn (you die a lot in DS), you have half your hp until the curse is lifted. So it's not exactly an instantaneous thing, because, you know, you die first.

      But yeah, I think it works best if you get hit with it, fail your save and then just "lose" half your hp (if its like curse). If infested, maybe the effect is a little more gradual. You fail your save and then, after your next full rest you have a fat lump on the back of your neck, etc, etc.

      But I dunno. That's just one DM who plays Dark Souls impression of how it would work.

    2. The way I've got it: When you get cursed, you're instantly solidified into a stone statue, and you only come back as an Accursed the next morning, healed up to your new half max.