The Spellplague was the big traumatic world event that switched Forgotten Realms from its Third Edition to its Fourth Edition state. It’s tradition for it to have one of those every edition change.
It happened nearly a hundred years before our narrative present in this book, and it featured entire continents being pulled from a parallel dimension into this one, fundamental and traumatic changes to the way magic worked, and yes, a plague.
The plague was caused by excessive exposure to those chaotically-changing magical energies, and it caused terrible mutations and curses in its victims. A lot of them died, some suffered permanent disfigurations, and a rare few got weird powers to go along with it. These people were known as the spellscarred. The major changes subsided long ago, but there are still occasional flareups of the Spellplague even today. Feel free to insert your favorite COVID mismanaging jokes here, though this was written a decade before the real-world plague.
In any case, if you take this background, you are one of the Spellplague’s recent victims. You were lucky enough to be the kind that gains magical powers, but that’s scant consolation since their initial manifestation blew up your home and family. You spent a long time wandering alone and hiding your mutation, because people notice they tend to treat you like, well, a plague carrier. You’re not contagious, but good luck convincing them of that.
Anyway, you were eventually helped by a priest of Ilmater, the FR god of compassion, who directed you to the city of Helm’s Hold. The god Helm died during the original Spellplague, but his temple there has been converted into a hospital and shelter for the spellscarred. You spent most of your journey there trying to figure out how you contracted the plague in the first place, without success. Now that you’re getting close to your destination, you started having nightmares again, about the night when you changed, and about the whole world being consumed in blue fire.
(These are similar to the Faithful’s dreams, but there is no divine salvation at the end).
Soon there will come a time when you can no longer hide your affliction. How will you act then? And can Helm’s Hold really help you?
There are no racial or class restrictions for this theme. The plague is pretty egalitarian that way. The background skills for this theme are Arcana and Heal.
At level 1, you get a spellscar - an obviously unnatural lesion or mutation such as a glowing blue scar, tentacle fingers, or other such features. This gives you a -2 penalty to defenses and saves from all Spellplague-related effects, including attacks from spellchanged and spellscarred creatures. It also lets you sense these creatures or Spellplague-afflicted areas if they’re within 5 squares.
Yes, this does mean Spellplague monsters can sense you, but they also get that defense and save penalty against your attacks.
You also pick one of these three abilities:
Dimensional Shift: Teleport 2 squares as a minor action once per encounter.
Twist Fate: Reroll a failed saving throw once per encounter.
Vanish: Once per encounter, become invisible for a turn as a minor action.
At level 5, you can draw on your spellscar to boost your attacks, even though it hurts you. Spellscar Empowerment is a daily power that you can use when you hit with an attack. It dazes the enemy for a turn, and deals 5 + (half your level) damage to you. The price seems to be a bit steep even for a guaranteed daze.
At Level 10, you get to pick a second power from the Level 1 list.
The optional utility powers here represent an effort spent at mastering the chaotic energies contained in your spellscar.
Plague Disruption is a level 2 encounter power that uses a minor action. It activates an aura 2 that lasts for a turn. Enemies inside have a -2 penalty to attacks and “disadvantage” on power recharge rolls (i.e, they must roll the d6 twice and take the lowest result).
Torture Reality is a level 6 daily power. If you’re targeted by a melee or ranged attack you can use it as an interrupt to redirect the attack to a creature adjacent to you. This can be another enemy or even an ally with better defenses, but it can’t be the attacker.
Morphic Recovery is a level 10 daily power that turns an enemy’s weakness into your strength. If you hit an enemy granting combat advantage to you and you have no encounter powers left, you can use this power to recover one of those spent encounter powers of level 7 or lower.
The level restriction makes this less useful on paragon tier, since you’re going to start gaining higher-level powers and replacing your lower-level ones. This makes this power less useful outside of the Neverwinter campaign.
I like this more than Devil’s Pawn, as it makes for a more party-friendly edgy secret. It’s even more FR-specific!
Mechanically, it’s also useful to a broader variety of characters, though I guess each one will benefit less from it than an infernal warlock would benefit from Devil’s Pawn.