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Slaad Chaos Phage seems like an odd ability in 5e. They offer no real disadvantages to the party that forces them to expend resources because they require days to take effect: Red Slaad Tadpoles kill whoever they infect in three months while Blue Slaad plague causes maximum HP reduction per day until the target is turned into a Slaad.

In short, as far as I can see, a Slaad infection doesn't seem to increase the fighting proficiency of the Slaads in any way.

Which then brings up the question of how are they supposed to work towards increasing the difficulty of an encounter, since Slaad infections are diseases, and Lesser Restoration is a fairly low level spell.

  1. A party without access to it is unlikely to survive the Slaad in the first place
  2. A party that is sufficiently high leveled to take down a Slaad would probably have lesser restoration on hand, which they can cast and then long rest to regain all their spells

The alternative would be keeping infections a secret and the party suddenly wake up one day with a member-turned-Slaad trying to eat their face off. This though seems to be a power move with no counter and extremely unfair for the party, especially for Blue Slaad phage since it means one character is automatically removed from play with no hope of reversal unless someone has Wish handy. At least someone killed by a Tadpole can still be revivified.

Wouldn't a Slaad infection that causes creatures to turn before the day ends or even mid encounter (A la XCOM Chryssalids) be a more sensible flavor ability? This infection would force players to expend potions/spells slots in the encounter and serves a point to effectively deplete player resources.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What is your actual question here? Do you have an alternative setup we could review? Are you unsure that you are reading the rules right? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Oct 7 at 11:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ As PJRZ has stated in the answer below, I am mistaking Chaos Phage as a combat ability rather than as an element to add flavor to a campaign. \$\endgroup\$ – Zhehao Chen Oct 7 at 11:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might be worth making that more explicit; at the moment the question seems as though you're wondering how it works, whereas your comment implies that you know how it works, are dissatisfied, and plan to homebrew it into something with a bit more punch. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Oct 7 at 11:34
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Not all monster abilities need to be directly combat-related

First, you assume that the characters would know the details of the infection. They would likely realise they are infected by something, but the gradual reveal of its nature can be played for a certain amount of horror.

And just because Lesser Restoration is a relatively low-level spell (compared to the probable level of the PCs at this point) doesn't mean they will immediately have access to it. Perhaps there isn't a cleric in the party and they have to get to someone that can help? Or the cleric hasn't prepared it so need to risk waiting until the next day with no way of knowing how long they can last? It all adds to the tension!

And, as I stated at the beginning, not all creature abilities are necessarily related to direct combat, but can be used as role-playing or storytelling hooks by the DM.

Imagine coming across a small village where many people are getting sicker by the day. Then other healthy people start getting murdered by something creeping up from the sewers at night and...where did those sick people go?

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The Slaadi incubation effect isn't a combat ability, it's how they reproduce

Combat challenge is determined by how much damage a monster can deal out over 3 rounds, and how hard they are for a party to take down (AC, HP etc). This ability does neither of these things and thus is not a combat challenge and doesn't impact CR.

Abilities like this, that don't factor into CR, pose an out of combat challenge to the party (as opposed to an in combat challenge).

The Death Slaad entry has some relevant lore (emphasis mine):

Death slaadi are suffused with energy from the Negative Energy Plane and exemplify evil’s corruption of chaos, and they take sadistic pleasure in bringing harm to others. They propagate their race by dragooning mobs of red and blue slaadi and invading other planes. Humanoids who survive the incursion become incubators for new slaadi.

The offspring of these incubations are red, blue or green Slaad.

Red/Blue Slaad are not very intelligent (with int scores of 6 & 7 respectively) and may indeed immediately attack sleeping party members as you describe.

Green Slaad are incubated if the interacted host could cast 3rd level spells or higher, they are also described as being

[...] surprisingly intelligent

As a result the party member who births/transforms into a Green Slaad wouldn't necessarily attack the rest of the party, but would likely leave and preserve itself.

It's also not clear that party members would know they have been infected.

Both red and blue Slaad have text which forces a constitution save:

Blue Slaad

If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 15 Constitution saving throw or be infected with a disease called chaos phage.

Red Slaad

If the target is a humanoid, it must succeed on a DC 14 Constitution saving throw or be infected with a disease—a minuscule slaad egg.

Constitution in game is described as measuring:

health, stamina, and vital force.

And specifically Constitution checks represent:

Constitution checks are uncommon, and no skills apply to Constitution checks, because the endurance this ability represents is largely passive rather than involving a specific effort on the part of a character or monster. A Constitution check can model your attempt to push beyond normal limits, however.

The DMG states describes saving throws as:

A saving throw is an instant response to a harmful effect and is almost never done by choice.

And that constitution saving throws should be used for:

Enduring a disease, poison, or other hazard that saps vitality

From these descriptions what the character will know is that the claw attack from a Red/Blue Slaad is in some way attacking their vitality (in a similar way to a poison would). They won't know that they've been infected with something until some other noticeable effect occurs to them (i.e. loss of hit points from the Blue or feeling unwell just prior to the birth from the Red).

What the player on the other hand knows is that they were told to make a Constitution Save and they were not poisoned and took no poison damage. This leaves them with two options:

  1. They made the save and avoided the threat
  2. They have been infected with something

Out of those two, #1 is by far the most common, and until they see other outward signs they will likely treat it as #1. Otherwise they are going to be wasting a lot of 3rd level spell slots for no particular reason (or gold if they don't have access to 3rd level spell slots directly).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I would assume if the party just spams lesser restoration before a long rest they would have all their spells back and wastes nothing? That is assuming they have a spellcaster with lesser restoration prepared and still have slots at the end of day. \$\endgroup\$ – Zhehao Chen Oct 7 at 19:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ZhehaoChen No party I've ever played in spams lesser restorations at a long rest. Even if they wanted to, in a party of 4-5 characters, to be able to do that the spell caster would need to be a minimum of 7th/8th level and have not cast any 3rd/4th level spells in that day, which is unlikely if the party is having 5-8 encounters per long rest. If they do have that many available I would suggest they aren't being challenged enough. \$\endgroup\$ – illustro Oct 7 at 19:48

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