Saturday, December 21, 2013


We've all what a terrible thing unmitigated addiction can be, and have seen lives and bodies scarred by substance abuse.  In fantasy games, drugs are usually magnified, which makes for some powerfully negative side effects to addiction.

So, it's tough to get players to use a lot of drugs.

My solution is to make drugs powerfully useful. I intend to make drugs shoulder some (all?) of the duties that potions normally bear.

Scrap did some cool drugs, once.

Here's my take on the matter. It's not very realistic, but whatever.

Drug Rules

Here's the big idea: you're on a track for drugs.  It looks like this:

Clean - Habituated - Addicted - Dependent

At the end of every week in which you used the drug, roll under Wis or go up a step in the Addiction track.

Clean: Means you are completely drug free.

Habituated: You don't need to use the drug, and you can quit whenever you want.  You get +2 to Save vs Side Effects and Overdose.

Addicted: You need to use the normal amount of the drug (either 1/day or 1/3 days, use your best judgement for each drug).  You get +4 to Save vs Side Effects and Overdose.

Dependent:  You use the drug 3x as much as the average user, and need 3x as much to get an effect.  You get +6 to Side Effects and Overdose.  You get -6 to Relapse and Withdrawal checks.  You'll have an extremely hard time quitting without help (or necessity).

Quitting is automatic if you are only Habituated, but otherwise there are 2 steps. You can attempt this 1/week, and it can move you back a step on the addiction track if you succeed.
  1. Relapse: Roll under Wisdom to see if you can resist taking drugs this week. If you are unable to get drugs despite your best efforts, you also go to step 2.
  2. Withdrawal: Roll under Constitution to see if you go into withdrawal.  If you feel yourself going into withdrawal, you can always use some more of the drug to avoid it.
  3. Congrats! You move back a step on the addiction track.
Overdose: If you get drugs from a sketchy source or consume them in a sketchy way, there is a 1-in-20 chance to overdose.  Pretty much all sources are sketchy sources when you first meet them, but they become trustworthy over time.  You can also overdose intentionally.

And don't forget why you took the drug in the first place.

Main Effects: This is why.

Side Effects: Roll under your Con to avoid these.  You cannot choose to fail this (always roll it).

Drugs are honestly pretty hard to make succinct rules for.  You got addiction, withdrawals, relapses, overdoses, side effects, infected needles, etc. 

Price assumes a silver standard.

Non-Magical Drugs

Dagra Wood is for dragons.
a.k.a. Dragonsbane, Firewood

In the swamps west of the mountains, you'll find squat, barrelchested trees that always grow alone.  These trees are called Black Dagras, and they are beloved by dragons. When the wood is dried and roasted, it emits an odor that is pleasing to dragons.  When it is scratched and inhaled, the resultant dust causes a certain euphoria to grip the dragon.  They describe the sensation as feelings of warmth, heaviness, and giddiness.

In the wild, dragons will rub their snouts on the trees, eventually grinding the black dagras into sawdust and spending afternoons coiled around the tree, sleeping. These are popular spots for ambushing dragons, and so the great beasts are often very cautious when approaching, and take other measures besides.  They are no fools.

In the cities, urbanized dragons buy the things by the pallet. Cushions are filled with dagra shavings, and some dragons have dagra posts installed inside their houses that they rub their snouts against. A smooth, polished nose is a sure sign that a dragon has been indulging in a significant amount of dagra. It has a connotation of being a crutch for soft and pampered dragons (with the accusation often coming from their wilder counterparts) and most urban dragons will deny or downplay their usage.

Main Effect: Temporarily suspends any negative emotions and allows for restful sleep.

Addiction: None.

Overdose: Deep sleep for 3d6 minutes.  Exceptionally brave thieves have engineered this by blowing a tube full of dagra shavings directly up a dragon's nose.  This is foolish, since it takes 1d6 rounds for the overdose to kick in.

Delago is for farmers.
a.k.a. Bug, Racky-Tam, Twigfellow, Vine

In some parts of the world, this creeping vine is the most abundant crop.  It's ragged fans of pale green leaves are a common sight in many farms, where it is air-cured in open barns or fire-cured over smoldering hardwood fires.  It relaxes the nerves and allows for easier concentration.  Habitually smoking it will eventually bleach your teeth a dazzling shade of white.

It is common in pipes and in hookahs (when mixed with fruit pulp) and is sold is pouches of shredded leaf. When it is rolled into a papyrus cigarette, it is called a pick and is associated with criminals (pipes are associated with wizards). Picks are usually sold in tightly wound bundles, and sometimes come in useful when you need to light something on fire.

Certain wizards prize this leaf above all others.  They call it racky-tam and enchant their pipes the same way other wizards enchant their staffs. These wizards are called ringmages, after the smoke rings they blow, and they are known for their wisdom, childishness, and secret traditions.

Price: 1s for 20 cigarettes or 30 bowls-worth or shredded delago.

Effect: +2 to save against fear and inhaled poisons. Also makes you look cool.

Addiction: None

Overdose: Nausea and headache.  -1 to hit for 4 hours.


a.k.a. Bodice-ripper (delobia), Bonce (delobia), Mortar (delgum), Macky (delgum)

Delago is sometimes concentrated into a thick brown paste called delobia, which as much the same effects but in a much more concentrated form.  It burns at a hotter tempurature, and so can only be smoked from very long pipes (up to 3 feet!) to avoid burning the mouth/lungs.  It is also sometimes mixed with gum and sugar and then held in the mouth against the gums; this form is called delgum, which causes gums to darken and skin to break out in freckles. Habitual users have tons of freckles.

Price: 2s per dose.

Main Effect: +4 to save against fear, +2 to save against negative emotion-based effects, including pain.

Addiction: Immune to positive emotion-based effects, including inspiration and high morale.

Dependence: Cumulative -1 to all initiative checks.  Slow speech.  Apathy.

Withdrawal: You are bedridden with nausea and nightmares for 1d6 days if you fail a save, or merely 1 day if you pass it.

Overdose: Screaming, seizures, cardiac arrest.  Easy save (at +2) or die.

Doglands Lotus is for the decadent.
a.k.a. Lady Pillows

This big, pillowy lotuses are actually a type of cactus fruit.  It just happens to resemble a pale yellow lotus. They grow in only one place: the Lotus Mounds of the Doglands.  These are big, domed colonies of communal cacti with their own ecosystems. The narrow, spiked pathways that wind through the interior are home to the lotus wives, who are nourished by the lotuses. Since harvesting them always involves encountering the lotus wives, and encountering the lotus wives always involves risking the Dog King's wrath, the lotuses fetch an appropriately high fee.

A dose is a single, succulent lotus. The juicy "petals" are plucked and eaten like an artichoke. The crisp skin of the lotus holds a sweet, pinkish pulp. After ingestion, the user feels a surge of confidence and libido. Habitual usage eventually turns the hands and feet purple, as if stained by raspberry juice, starting with the areas around the finger- and toenails. These areas of purple skin are permanent.  Normal skin tone can be regained with dyes and bleaches, but the purple will return. People usually cover up their purple extremities, but they can be a point of pride among certain communities.

Price: 15s per lotus.

Main Effect: +1 to attacks, damage, and saves. +2 on Charisma checks.  Lasts 1 hour.

Side Effect: You blush at the drop of a hat.

Addiction: Whenever you take damage, you don't find out how much damage it was until the beginning of your next turn. This doesn't allow you to keep fighting longer than would normally be possible--it merely delays the pain response for a few seconds.  You have a harder time planning ahead, since you don't know how much damage you took last turn until after you declare actions for this turn.  You might declare actions at the start of a turn and then drop dead when you actually attempt to take actions.

Dependence: Make a save every week or else you will abandon all of you other goals to pursue eating lotuses full time. This usually involves traveling to the Doglands (where lotuses grow on trees!). This usually involves the character becoming an NPC.

Withdrawal: Inconsolable depression for 1d3 days.  Weeping, uncontrolled sobbing, everything upsets you, usually towards sadness (but sometimes towards irritability).  You get -1 to all attacks, damage, and saves, and -6 to Charisma checks. You need to save each day or else you refuse to get out of bed.

Overdose: Unconscious for 1d20 hours, then make a save.  If this save is failed, the coma continues for another 1d20 days (possible to die of dehydration). Then another save is required.  If this second save is failed, the coma is permanent.

Jopeth is for the rich.
a.k.a. Stickler, King's Lunch, Modern Panther

Jopeth is made from the spines of an eel.  Actually, that's false, it is literally the spine of an eel with all the flesh removed and stored in a tiny barrel of brine.  They're about 1'-2' long and have a long, visible stinger at the end that the eels use to paralyze their prey and rich people use to get high.

Everything looks bright, everything sounds loud (not in an unpleasant way) but you have a hard time distinguishing dull orange from bright orange.  You also have a hard time telling apart a whisper from a shout.

Price: Average of 50s per spine.  Each spine holds a number of doses proportionate to its size (2d4) which theoretically corresponds to cost.

Main Effect: You gain 1d6 temporary HP.  These are like hit points that are damaged before normal hit points.  They never last more than 1 hour, and they never stack with other temporary hit points.  You also see faces in clouds (vivid ones), hear voices on the wind, and find meaning where there is none.

Addiction: You automatically fail all saves against illusions. You are an unreliable watchman due to the number of false alarms.  On the plus side, nothing seems surprising or shocking anymore.

Dependence: All healing from magic, booze, and inspiration is reduced by 1 HP (stacks up to -3 HP).  Your max HP is also 1 point higher.

Withdrawal: 1d6 hours of vomiting, which reduces your HP to 0.  For the next 1d3 days, you cannot raise your HP above half.

Overdose: Paralysis for 3d6 hours and the effects of Addiction are permanent.  EVERYTHING IS REAL.

Hensetta is for wizards. (don't lose spells)
a.k.a. Chicken Poof, Wizard Shit, Goblin Dust

Harvested from a certain kind of mat-forming algae that grows on the ultra-saline Saltsea, Hensetta is ground up into a paste, which is then made into spherical lozenges, which are then wrapped in fragrant leaves and then swallowed.  It gives the user laser-like focus on what you are doing, but blinds them to peripheral concerns. It'll also fuck up your kidneys after a few years of usage.

Still the stuff is popular among wizards (it "steadies their minds") and archers (it "steadies their hands").

Price: 5s per ball.

Main Effect: If a wizard is struck by an opponent while casting a spell, there is only a 25% chance of losing the spell (instead of 100%). All attack-roll penalties due to movement, cover, and dim light (but not total darkness) are halved.

Side Effect: You never notice anything except things that are supremely obvious. You are always surprised in combat if the enemy approaches from a direction that you were looking at. You are horrible at conversations, since you are unable to think about anything except what you are already talking about, with tedious precision.

Addiction: It takes you an extra round to rouse yourself from sleep. Eating meat makes you horribly ill.

Dependence: You lose the ability to count objects higher than 3.  You can still do math just fine.

Withdrawal: The world confuses and alarms you, and you get -1 to attack rolls for a day.

Overdose: Become so focused on objects in your surroundings that you are unable to focus on other things.  You might start focusing on a glass of water and become trapped in a cycle of horrible hyper-focus, unable to look away or even think about anything except the glass of water.  You forget that things exist that aren't glasses of water.  As paralysis for 2d6 hours.

Talakeshi Jelly is for thugs.
a.k.a. Thrum, Ambrosia, Jackal Jism

It varies in color from red to orange to pink.  It is sold in little tins (like lip balm) that are usually stamped with the colorful design of the manufacturer.  It can be absorbed in all sorts of way.  Some people rub it in their eyes, others put it in their rectum or vagina (where it is absorbed through the mucus membrane), and others will rub it in a wound or skinless patch.  It can be eaten, but since this dulls the effects, only newbies ever eat it.

It is beloved by soldiers and pit fighters. Asria actually experimented with giving it to all of their royal guards, but discontinued after a number of incidents of violent psychosis. Still, it is very popular among those who fight for a living, and is extremely common in some neighborhoods, with certain street gangs taking large doses every night to prepare themselves for any ultraviolence.

Price: 5s a dose.

Main Effect: You get +4 to all initiative checks for the next 4 hours.  (If using my system, treat your Dex as 4 points higher when rolling for initiative, max 18).  (If you don't use individual initiative, give them +1 to hit with all Str-based attack rolls).

Side Effect: Tremors cause you to get -1 to all Dex-based attack rolls.

Addiction: You eat twice as much as normal.  You are always sweaty, and your skin is fever hot.  Your heartbeat is terrifying fast, and you can't help but lose weight down to the level of "thin".  If something causes you to go insane at this point, it will always take the form of murderous psychosis.  (Jelly will not drive you insane on its own.)

Abuse: You get another +4 to all initiative checks (+10 total) and +1 to all Str-based attack rolls, and eat three times as much as normal.  You lose weight down to the level of "morbid anorexia".

Withdrawal: 25% chance of horrible diarrhea for 24 hours.

Overdose: Intense, whole body tetanus.  All the muscles clench tighter than you would have thought possible.  Teeth crack against each other, biceps tear themselves off their tendons, and abdominal muscles contract until the viscera are ejected out the anus. Understandably, stronger creatures are more at risk. Roll OVER your Strength score to survive.  Failure indicates that you have snapped your own neck or back and died horribly.  Success means cracked teeth and agonized muscles. -2 to all attack and Con checks for 1 week.

a.k.a. Hammer, Honesty's Antidote, and Brain Polish

Usually distributed in narrow bamboo tubes, about 1' long.  Mevverwen can be snorted by yourself, but the preferred method of usage is for a friend to blow the contents of the tube directly up the nostril of a the user.

The tube contains a powder made from a rare type of sky-kelp that grows in the Sea of Sartoga.  It is harvested by men on canoes who sneak up on the kelp (if the kelp noticed them, it would deflate its balloon sacks and retract itself beneath the water.  One man jumps on the kelp while another man prepares to cut the balloon sack off.  The kelp resents this attack, and will withdraw it's length beneath the water, carrying the kelp-diver with it.  The men on the surface try to cut as many of the balloons off as they can while the diver tries to stay down as long as he can, and then cut as much kelp as possible from the anchor.  If successful, the kelp-hunters will get 50' or more of slimy, fibrous kelp. It's dangerous work, since the Sea of Sartoga has hundreds of weird, deadly types of sharks.

It's popular among burnouts

Price: 25s a dose.

Main Effect: You will absolutely forget the last 30 seconds and instead be filled with a mild, dopey euphoria.  If you saw something horrible in that time, you will forget it (and this can be used to negate any insanity points you might have gained).  If some major change occurred to your brain in that time (insanity, charm, mind control), there is a 50% chance that it doesn't "stick".

If someone blows it up your nose while you are inhaling you get no save.  If you merely snort it by yourself or if someone merely blows it in your face, you MUST make a save to negate the effects.

Addiction: You get -10% XP from all rewards, as you forget a lot what you experience.

Abuse: You lose 100xp per week and forget everyone's names. You no longer gain insanity points and any permanent changes to your psyche are negated. Traumatic events are automatically blocked out.

Withdrawal: Insight into the underlying secrets of the universe cause madness.  You gain some insanity points (if your system uses them) or you have a 25% chance to go insane (if your system doesn't).

Overdose: Total amnesia.  You forget your name and your history.  And then make a save, and if you fail, you lose a level and make another save, with another chance of losing a level, and so on, and so on.

Note: If the party wants to abuse this drug (and they should)  by blowing this stuff in the faces of guards so that they forget the last 30 seconds, it will totally work, but then the guard will be walking around with a shit-eating grin on his powder-covered face.  Someone may notice (unless you wipe it off somehow).

This post actually ended up being a lot more work than I thought.  I'll do 5-7 magic drugs in a later post.


  1. this is good, my players often want a menu of drugs

  2. Even if my players won't use them they'll add flavor to the locals who do.

  3. Is there a word for a sommelier, but for drugs?

    1. Fournisseur (supplier) works.

      Great post and great blog. Just stumbled into this.

    2. Thanks! That's going on a random NPC job chart somewhere, someday. I promise.

  4. Warhammer fantasy roleplay has a fantastic book about herbalism that gives a lot of information on how to build ecology of plants and growing plants at home vs wild ones.

    This is my go to reference. I plan to make a rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock system to balance side effects vs desired effects in order to brew potions.