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Dragon's Dogma 2 players are hurling their pawns into the briny depths to purge Dragonsplague, a mechanic so deadly and unique I don't want to spoil it in a headline

 A vicious dragon looms in Dragon's Dogma 2, a wicked smile on its fanged maw.
A vicious dragon looms in Dragon's Dogma 2, a wicked smile on its fanged maw.

Dragon's Dogma 2 is a game of bizarre mechanical complexities—it's at times frustrating, baffling, and weird, but that also gives it a unique flavour. The game isn't that interested in being convenient, but it is interested in leaving you asking what the hell just happened while you're surrounded by corpses. I'm about to spoil how, but you may want to read on if you're scared of calamity.

In short, the Dragonsplague is an illness your pawns can contract after fighting a dragon or, according to the mechanic's tutorial tip, by coming into contact with an infected pawn. If you lived through the horrors of WoW's Corrupted Blood plague, you might be getting flashbacks, and with very good reason—the elimination of a whole town's worth of NPCs is a genuine option.

Infected pawns will eventually transform into a shadowy dragon and obliterate the town you're sleeping in, killing everything, even quest-essential characters. This is, ah, bad, because Dragon's Dogma 2 is a game in which you only get one save and can not, under any circumstances, miss your chance to blow.

Here's a haunting example of the carnage via Kylmere on Twitter: "I forgot about the warning so I randomly got a cutscene after sleeping and now everyones literally dead, including characters important for progressing the story", they write, sharing a video of a corpse-filled Vermund.

Symptoms of this disease include coughing, head-clutching, getting ornery about your commands, and glowing red eyes that are easier to spot in the dark—as shown below. This particular symptom is apparently obvious, but considering I'm colorblind and can't see a difference, I think a rather unfair village nuking is probably in my future.

Curing this thing involves either sending your pawn away, or killing it—typically by hurling the poor sod off a cliff, which has led to plenty of witch-hunt style punishments for pawns that get even a little sassy with their players. For the meme, out of abject fear—who cares, to Poseidon's depths with thee.

In seriousness, the paranoia really is getting to some players. As one writes on the game's subreddit: "I'm now no longer looking forward to the game and simply anxious that this could happen to me in my playthrough," worries user Weary-Presentation-2. "I no longer care about side quests, the main quest, exploration, any of it. My main focus now always has to be: 'What can I do to prevent this calamity in my game world?'"

After some fellow players explained what to look out for, they appear to have calmed down, but considering how obtuse the game itself is about the whole thing? It's a valid concern. The actual event itself is a simple cutscene, with very little ability to intervene on the player's behalf—which is somewhat of a letdown, because I think a brawl with a shadow dragon in the dead of night would rule, and its absence feels like a missed opportunity.

As one player notes, though, it seems like Dragonsplague massacres might follow special rules. Whereas you'd usually have to burn wakestones to resurrect dead NPCs at a morgue, others are reporting that their NPCs simply pop back up after a week or so of waiting. Whether these players are being genuine or simply experiencing a bug in the wake of mass slaughter, it's unclear—but that's a hell of a long time to live in anxiety that your save has been 'bricked'.

The mystery's likely to keep unfolding as more players interact with the mechanic—especially since, as noted by one particularly dedicated Dragonsplague scientist here, a hired pawn can act as a carrier for the disease. "If your pawn is a Lv. 42 Beastren Warrior named Leon … thank you for giving me a test subject, and go make your main pawn take a bath RIGHT NOW." You heard them: Make sure to wash your pawns daily to avoid lice and shadow-borne dragon massacres.