Friday, 11 February 2011

Psychoactive substances for adventurers

No doubt partly inspired by watching the excellent Third Stage edit of David Lynch's Dune the other day, I've been contemplating the possible role of psychoactive substances in the life of an adventurer. So I've come up with a few such substances, which will be available to characters in my Labyrinth Lord game. They're just a first draft, so if anyone can see any glaring flaws please let me know!

Salts of Vitesse: The product of a complex alchemical process, salts of vitesse come in the form of a fine white powder or small geometric crystals. When ingested, the recipient's nervous faculties are magnified, resulting in a quickness and precision of action and thought. This grants a +1 bonus to Dex and Int (to a maximum of 19), as well as the ability to act first in a combat situation against a foe where all other factors are equal. Salts of vitesse are mildly addictive, and can lead to a deterioration of a character's health over time. After every session in which a character has ingested salts of vitesse, he must make a Wis check on 1d20. A roll of above his Wis score means that the character will do everything he can to use the salts again in the next session. On a roll of 1, the character must make a saving throw against poison or suffer a permanent loss of one point of Con.

The Black Paste, Alil: This thick black tar-like paste is extracted from the seeds of a desert plant. Alil can be chewed or smoked, and induces a brief cataleptic trance wherein strange visions may be experienced. In addition to these recreational effects, alil has a tendency to awaken latent psionic ability, which leads to it having a certain degree of popularity among adventurers. Any player character experiencing the alil trance must make an Int check on 1d20. A roll of under or equal to the character's Int indicates that the drug has activated a previously unknown part of the character's mind, and he gains a random psionic ability for the duration of the game session. The new ability should be chosen from the following (from Mutant Future): 1. Ability boost, 2. Combat empathy, 3. Empathy, 4. Increased willpower, 5. Intellectual affinity, 6. Know direction, 7. Mental barrier, 8. Metaconcert, 9. Mind thrust, 10. Accumulated resistance. (Use the guidelines in the Mutants & Mazes appendix as to how often these powers are usable.) Each time a psionic power is awakened there is a 5% chance of the character's Wis being permanently reduced by one point, as his mind loses its grip on normality.

The Yellow Powder: The musky, sticky, rich smelling yellow powder is derived from the pollen of the Latimer orchid. When rubbed into the gums and tongue it brings about a mild hallucinatory state, wherein the recipient's capacity for visualisation and imagination are increased. The powder is used recreationally by many, including those of an artistic bent, but it is members of the illusionist class who benefit most from its effects. Due to the greater precision and depth of imagination produced, all illusions created by one under the influence of the yellow powder gain a +1 to attacks and damage. The yellow powder is not addictive, but it can lead to a detrimental state of internalisation and paranoia. Any session where a character uses the yellow powder, he must make a Wis check on 1d20. A roll of above his Wis score results in a 25% chance of an episode of paranoia some time during the session (at the DM's discretion). See the gorgonmilk blog for the paranoia table.

Memory Dust: Infamous among magic-users of all kinds, this fine pearlescent dust is renowned for its ability to expand the human mind's capacity for the arcane energies required by spell memorization. Taken as a snuff, the dust gives a magic-user the ability to memorize a single spell of the level above his normal maximum (for example, a 1st level magic-user could memorize a single 2nd level spell). The dust is highly addictive. After every session in which a magic-user has made use of the dust, he must make a Wis check on 1d20. If the roll results in a number higher than his Wis score, the character will do everything he can to use the dust again in the next session. A roll of 20 indicates that the character's tolerance for the dust has increased, and from now on he must consume twice the quantity to achieve the same effect. A magic-user who continues to use the dust will eventually build up a high tolerance to the drug, and in the end will need to consume large amounts of it to gain any effect.

Blood of Glory: This rich crimson viscous fluid is not in fact blood, though it bears a strong resemblance. It is actually the juice extracted from the pulp of the fruits of the Ylam tree. Imbibing a sufficient quantity of this 'blood' induces a frenzy of aggressive emotions which are especially strong in the heat of battle, leading to a berserk rage. Combatants under the influence of the blood of glory gain a +1 to hit and +2 to damage, but suffer a -3 penalty to armour class, due to the reckless abandon induced by the fluid. There are no detrimental side-effects of the blood of glory, aside from the inherent danger of fighting while under its influence.


  1. Very cool! Snagged for use in my LL game, to use alongside the other drugs I'm using. :D

  2. Hey trollsmyth, it's not just me who likes the idea of drugged up adventurers in a dungeon then! ;)

  3. This is a great assortment! I use something very similar to Memory Dust in my campaigns called Yggoa -- it's derived from the powdered bark of a rare crystal tree type.

    And I need to track down that DUNE edit post haste. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Oh cool! I'd be interested to hear more about how Yggoa works in your campaign.

    And yes, that Dune edit is brilliant! I enjoyed it so much that I really have the urge to watch it again some time very soon. I'd never seen any of the extended / deleted scenes before, and while some of them are of pretty poor quality (in terms of the recording, not the content), they really add a lot to an already amazing film. There's almost an hour's worth of extra scenes, in comparison to the standard "theatrical cut" of the film.

    I would say I'd email you a copy, but it's 7.9 Gb ;)

  5. No worries! Found it on Demonoid. I will post about Yggoa and my homebrew memory slot system soon.