Harmless recreational drugs

“Harmless recreational drugs” appear in the equipment list of ForeSight, which is the SFRPG I ran all the early Flat Black campaigns in. 100 tab massed 150g, cost 1 SVU, and gave -2 ease-factor modifier to “everything”.

I am running an adventure in which the PC is a clandestine operator on Navabharata. Equivalent not quite to an “00” character in James Bond 007 but to the kind of character that you build on “Agent” points to qualify for “00” experience, he is a cuckoo, handler, muscle, and occasionally a wet-worker, with a military background. In the current adventure he is trying to recruit a disaffected technician-god to be his wire-rat, cobbler, black-bagger, and wheel gal. In doing so he has “made” a rival as being an effective of the AID: she is a swallow, cuckoo, and handler whose mission is to provoke the same disaffected god into assassinating her king. For convenience and clarity, I shall refer to the PC as “Wayland”, the disaffected god as “Coyotlinahucue”, and the rival effective as “Innawara”, though none of those is what the characters indicated think of as their real names.

Innawara is a character who turns to violence only as a last resort. She’s not averse to killing, but has limited talent for hand-to-hand fighting and often operates where lethal weapons are not available. When her mission calls for someone to die she prefers to poison them or to manipulate someone else into doing the killing. Wayland allowed her to drug him with a drug that would make him feel a strong sexual attraction to her, and made use of the ensuing distraction to drug her with a soporific. While Coyotlinahucue was installing a tap into Innawara’s vademecum, Wayland used an app on his vademecum to identify the contents of Innawara’s extensive collection of harmless recreational drugs.

I have to create an inventory. In this case I am interested in what the drugs do other than provide a negative modifier to all activity. Thus the questions are

  • what more-or-less plausible high-biotech drugs would Innawara carry to support her cover as a wealthy sybarite and dissolute party-gal? Party drugs and drugs to enhance and modulate the experience of recreational activities including but not limited to sex.
  • what more-or-less plausible high-biotech drugs would Innawara carry, perhaps hidden or disguised, for use in her work as a seductress, manipulator, agente provocatrice, and organiser of fatal accidents and quarrels? Drugs to alter moods, emotions, and behaviour; poisons for use in a last resort.

So far I have the following:

  • The “seven virtues”

    • “Prudence”
    • “Justice” (a soporific)
    • “Temperance” (rapidly counteracts alcohol intoxication, leaving a hangover)
    • “Fortitude” (a potent pain-killer and mild euphoric; tends to produce single-mindedness)
    • “Faith” (suppresses inhibitions; tends to increase suggestibility)
    • “Hope” (reduces anxiety and fearfulness, prevents new long-term memories from being coloured as traumatic; tends to suppress caution)
    • “Charity” (induces a feeling of empathy and affection, increased pleasure, and increased energy)
  • something that inhibits the formation of new memories for up to several hours

  • something that makes people randy

  • something that prevents sexual arousal

  • something that makes people affectionate

  • something that temporarily induces romantic love

  • something that makes people irritable and aggressive, shading into paranoia at large doses

  • a dissociative that produces apathy and a feeling of disconnection from the world and self, up to psychomotor retardation at high doses

  • something that makes people sentimental and sympathetic, inclined to be tearful

  • something to induce depression

  • something to induce mania

  • “chemical gag” (temporarily induces aphasia)

  • “L” (lethal in twenty seconds)

  • something lethal in about twelve hours, mimicking the presentation of a natural death such as ischaemic stroke

  • something inducing cortical blindness

  • something inducing Anton syndrome (patient is cortically blind but adamantly denies it).

  • 9-carboxymethoxymethylguanine (induces Cotard delusion).

Any thoughts?

My not entirely coherent thoughts:

Start by asking yourself if you mind the PCs getting in the habit of using all of these. I guess in part it depends how effective they are.

But once you introduce them every PC, for some definition of every that isn’t really every, is going to make them part of their standard toolkit. This isn’t a superhero game, where technology can’t be copied. And the larger the setting’s standard toolkit, the less accessible the setting is to a new player. If a new player comes into Flat Black and tries to solve a problem and then later finds there were drugs that really would have helped, that’s annoying.

Some extras, not all of them specifically for this character:

  • A truth serum
  • Something like the drugs in Egan’s Quarantine, that prevent getting bored and sloppy, commonly given to sentries &c.
  • Something that makes people able to e.g. tolerate smiling at people they detest in a party situation. Suppresses irritation, I guess.
  • Drugs that only start working when activated by e.g. adrenalin in the body.
  • Suppress thirst, hunger, tiredness, etc.
  • The Seven Deadly Sins: some of these, anyway:
    – Lust (have this)
    – Gluttony (uncontrollable appetite)
    – Sloth (depression without the actually being depressed bit, the can’t be bothered drug)
    – Wrath (makes you angry for trivial reasons)
    – Envy (makes you competitive?)
    – Pride (makes you touchy and easily offended?)
  • Something lethal in about 12 hours, mimicking a combination of rabies and haemorrhagic fever. i.e. kills you in a spectacular and disgusting way that other people will find upsetting. OK, not for this character.

I’m broadly in agreement with David; from an “amount of stuff on the character sheet” viewpoint, this is the sort of detail I’d give to a character’s primary ability, but if it’s available to everyone then everyone needs to know about it in detail.

If it’s known that stuff like this is available, I suspect society looks like a poisoning culture: lots of food tasters, cooks very highly paid to impair bribery, etc.

In a side note, I’ve recently been looking again at the drug design rules in Cyberpunk 2020, which suffer from a shortcoming: they’re intended to make it hard to design drugs that you want to take yourself. So a depressant is easier to make than a reflex booster, and you can make a drug easier to make by including negative side effects. This doesn’t allow for drugs that you plan to give to other people, for example in a needle gun.

Which means for example that I can make a very mild (1) soporific (5) for difficulty 6 and $150 per dose, but if it also has a chance of killing you (-15) it becomes the minimum of difficulty 2 and $50. Cheap murder drug! I can make a strong (3) soporific (5) hallucinogen (10), which is addictive (-10) and gives you cancer (-10), and that’s still at minimum cost…

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I don’t really see very many of these as attractive to PCs except for Temperance and maybe Hope. The rest range from something that you’d be reckless to use and on up into out-and-out poisons.

Which leaves the PCs becoming poisoners, I suppose. The difficulty there is always in tricking your target into taking the poison. If you can do that, well, we already have midazolam, fentanyl, prussic acid, MDMA, GHB, LSD, and vincristine, but PCs in modern adventure RPGs are not leading a rush to the pharmacy.

I read recently that the makers of rohypnol have included a dye in their pills that dyes drinks an intense blue colour and makes dark drinks cloudy. We already live in a poisoning culture.