Friday, December 7, 2012

Friday Question: To Drug or Not to Drug

It's Friday and this is a good thing.  A very good thing.  My question this Friday is this, going to the tavern and getting imaginarily sloshed before or after an adventure seems like a staple of gaming.  But how often do drugs enter the scene?  Do you have the thieves guild running drugs like in Thieves World, where brick of Krrf are sold away from the eyes of the city watch. 

Do you use drugs in your campaign?
If so, is it illegal and what are the consequences?

I've never went into detail for that kind of thing in my campaign I've hinted at it.  I've come up with a few concoctions and blatantly ripped off Krrf to use in my game.  Justifying the legality of it  is sometimes difficult without infusing modern day reasons.   Because I've never went into detail with the drug running I've never only thought about the reason why its illegal.  The main ideas that surface are guards getting hooked on the stuff and not staying at posts or getting involved with criminals and turning a blind eye to certain activities.  Or peasants loosing work due to being drug sick.  So I guess in my world what little I have thought about it ties to the productivity of a person and not so much the health.

Anyway, I'd be interested in how and if others make room for drugs in your campaigns.


  1. Why would drugs be illegal in a Fantasy setting? Blue laws (anything regulating 'immoral' behavior) seems to be a particularly American obsession. Not that other nations haven't enacted them, but laws against recreational drugs can be traced back to the temperance movement of the 1840s. Here's a timeline of American drug laws.
    I could see having them as an aspect of Shadowrun game or anything of a modern of futuristic genre. I would make the play aspect revolve around obtaining superior performance enhancing drugs, or maybe a Psi-enabling drug in a Traveller campaign, rather than recreational drugs.
    But to actually answer your question, I can't remember a player ever have their character looking for recreational drugs in any campaign I've played in. Even the ones back in the '70s when I knew players who smoked pot regularly.

  2. The reasons you list for making it illegal in your campaign (guards getting hooked, peasants not peasanting) would probably be handled differently: Guard fails on the job? Immediate dismissal or even jail. Peasant not working? The Poor House or execution! A typical campaign world (well, fantasy anyway) probably doesn't have a huge percentage of the population with the "victim mentality" or the do-gooders who enable them. Life is tough, and if you screw up, you probably die.

  3. When I was like 13 I had an idea for a campaign side plot where an alchemist was brewing cheap potions of heroism that had nasty homicidal side effects for habitual users and soldiers were getting hooked on them then having flash backs at inappropriate times and going berserk.

    I wanted to slowly work it into a campaign with escalating rumors and outbreaks and maybe even PC got hooked etc. of course I was 13 so it never happened, but it would be a good sand box side plot now.

  4. I have used non-alcohol drugs in my games. I like inventing local drugs to add flavor to a setting (and possible story hooks). For example, in my Extra Stout game, I created a vento nut that people chew. It is basically cocaine which you chew like tobacco. It's highly addicting but, unlike the real world of Miami Vice, easy to produce and therefore affordable. I got the idea from Herbert's Dune.

  5. My players are about to be offered the chance to become drug dealers (and given their generally chaotic behavior, they'll likely accept). So, I do use them in my campaign.

    There's nothing illegal about the use of, or selling of, these substances - there is, however, a tidy profit to be made by anyone who engages in the business. It tends to be the seedier criminal types who do, and that means trouble for noobs trying to break into the market.

  6. For me the absence of both dangerous drugs and oppressive law enforcement is part of what makes it a fantasy.

    If only we could choose from a selection of well run brothels between heroic quests, and were forced to turn to D&D to experience drug addiction & police harassment.

  7. Drugs tend to show up in my games (occupational hazard, maybe) but they tend to be "background setting color" rather than prominent elements.

  8. Drugs occur in my game from time to time, Dust, Drowse, Hash, Alcohol, Black Root, Cocaine, Coffee, Tea, Tobacco and Poppy Syrup are the most common, along with various mushrooms.

    Hash, Alcohol, Black Root,Coffee, Tea, Tobacco are cheap, common and perfectly legal pretty much everywhere. Blackroot BTW is a mild a stimulant somewhat like Khat.

    The others drugs are pricey but legal, usually sold by alchemists

    Dust and Drowse are occasionally illegal and are nasty naturally magical drugs

    Given the limited rule of law in most parts of Midrea and cheapness of life, no one has really attempted to try to limit them.

    Also "do-gooder" movements aren't really all that common either.

    As for use, only once by a PC for any of the hard ones (Drowse) a mistake which nearly destroyed a kingdom! Never talk to the Powers of Hell while high as kite on Drowse, just saying

    My current group has a lot of LDS guys and gals in it so I doubt they'd even RP the hard stuff though.

  9. To Rod's point, there were several attempts to eliminate the use of smoking and coffee well before the Victorian Era, in the Early 17th century with various effects

    Temperance Movements and that mindset are the bane of urban life and a product of the age of enlightenment froward mostly.

    They might exists in your game world.

    In mine, its hard enough to keep idiots from summoning demons or animating the dead and while there are abolitionist movements and temperance ones, few people pay them any mind

  10. I haven't yet really explored drug use in any fantasy games (modern or sf are other matters), I think that it would be an interesting addition if handled well. sevenbastard's cheap potions of heroism looks like it could be a really interesting approach.

    But, more importantly, I want to disagree with Rod Thompson's and Dave's objections. There have been many cultures worldwide that have enacted prohibitions on particular substances (the Aztec limitation of alcohol to only the extremely aged is notable here), and in those places that don't there are frequently social taboos against using certain substances. In China, even before the legal prohibition on it that led to wars with the English (for purely commercial reasons, of course), opium smoking was frowned upon in polite society. And so on.

  11. I'm reading Daniel K Morgan's "The Cold Commands" (sequel to "The Steel Remains"). Both are awesome fantasy novels (although I prefer the first), and both feature drugs fairly prominently.

    Yeah, I've used drugs in my D&D games, and I've used drugs a LOT in my CyberPunk games (we've had entire games, adventures and even a short campaign based around drug use).

    Generally they exist for flavour. No game effects. Just there to add that little touch to add some verisimilitude to the game as the characters puff on their pipes of fine halfling pipeweed.

  12. Re: Opium in China, it was frowned upon, but Opium Dens allowed those who wanted to, to quietly destroy themselves. A VERY different solution than the modern American solution. I hadn't heard about the Aztec issue, so I can't comment on that.

  13. In 1729, China issued its first edict prohibiting the sale of opium, and enacting severe penalties on those who opened houses for smoking it. It continued despite those laws, largely, because the British supported the practice with a lot of money and military might. This ultimately led to two wars between the British and Chinese.