Content of the article: "To make a plague scary, don’t make it immune to Lesser Restoration…"
… make it immune to detect poison and disease.
Every so often, there's a thread about how to make a disease plot scary when spells like lesser restoration exist that can simply cure diseases, and one of the suggestions is to make it resistant to magical cures. And, sure, you could do that, but it feels like a cheap nerf. But depending on the properties of the disease, lesser restoration (and the Lay on Hands ability of paladins) might not be the best magical weapon against it.
Not to be topical or anything, but let's call our disease the Crown Plague, and say that it's mostly spread by airborne water droplets between people standing in adjacent 5' squares. Let's also say that it only shows symptoms several days after infection, and that some people are asymptomatic carriers for it.
So the Crown Plague hits a city like Waterdeep, where tens of thousands of people are packed into a very small space. Hundreds of people are infected in the first wave, and within a week, the temples are packed with victims. But that's okay! Waterdeep is full of clerics, and powerful wizards who can teleport to other cities and bring back more clerics to help. Lesser restoration is a second level spell, so it can be cast by a third level cleric twice per long rest! An especially powerful cleric could cast it over a dozen times! And other classes get it too! We'll have this plague under control in no time! Everyone in the temple gets cured. Hooray!
The next day, another hundred Waterdhavians show up sick, because the city is full of carriers who haven't shown symptoms yet, who keep passing it to everybody else. And one of those carriers just joined a merchant caravan heading to Baldur's Gate. Before long, the priests of every temple in every city are pouring all of their magic into each curing a few cases per day, and nobody has any magic to spare to help other cities, let alone smaller communities that don't have spellcasters at all. There certainly isn't enough magic to spare to cast lesser restoration on people who aren't showing symptoms.
That's where detect poison and disease comes in. It's a first level spell for clerics, druids, paladins and rangers, and most importantly, it's a ritual. Any cleric or druid, or anyone with the Ritual Caster feat for cleric or druid, can take ten minutes to cast it, then concentrate on it for ten minutes as they walk around town looking for carriers, then cast it again, at no resource cost whatsoever. It penetrates up to three feet of wood and one foot of stone, and has a range of 30', so it can detect disease in people in their homes from the street through a closed door. It's a continuous effect, not requiring an action to target anybody in particular, so the only limit to how quickly you can scan people is how quickly you can walk, run or ride around town. When you find an infected person, keep them inside until a third level cleric can come and cure them. It'd be a huge effort of logistics and public order, but it could be done. Detect poison and disease is the best magical weapon against a large-scale plague. Lesser restoration can save individual lives, but detect poison and disease can stop the spread.
So a disease that can't be detected by divination spells, and is of the particularly insidious type described here with regard to symptoms and contagion, is the kind that could truly threaten a magical world, even if there are people who can magically cure sick people when they find them. That's how a plague can be scary in a world with clerics.
Anyway, not to be topical or anything, but wear a mask.
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