Uncontrolled Substances – Vidan

   In fantasy – and, to some extent, in reality – mighty battles have been fought over the control lands, empires, and places of power, over mines, spices, and other sources of wealth, over sacred sites, over slaves, over religion, over various prizes and talismans, and over the sources of rare spices and potent substances. Oddly enough however, in most games, that last category tends to be overlooked. That’s a bit odd, since such compounds can be rich sources of power in themselves – but they do tend to spread their benefits out over groups.

   In any case, here we have the first of a series of fantastic drugs and compounds to inspire plots and for characters to fight over.

  Vidan (Mindripper) is a thin, oily, and slightly sweet, green fluid, alchemically derived from a variety of psychoactive fungus. It causes a breakdown of the natural psychic barriers which keep a creatures mind focused and separate from the rest of the universe, breaking down progressively deeper barriers as the purity, dosage level, and presence of facilitating compounds increases. Special variants – mixed with other compounds or prepared exotic abilities – can limit the effects to specific levels, but each level of effect will otherwise include the lower levels as well. Vidan is often used as an “ordeal” drug by shamans, psychics, and would-be prophets. It’s also a component in various aphrodisiac mixtures. It is usually taken orally – but small doses can be absorbed through the skin. It is also effective, and much more likely to produce side effects, if injected.

  Dosage Levels:

  1. A partial breakdown of surface barriers causes slightly enhanced psychic awareness (albeit mostly in the form of vague “feelings” unless the user is already a psychic), increased empathy with others, causes the user to share the emotional state of any creature he or she touches, and makes his or her own emotional state clearly apparent to any being he or she touches. Vidan is commonly used at this level as a recreational drug, as an aid to minor psychics, and as a recreational drug for intimate occasions.
  2. A full breakdown of surface barriers leaves the user open to any influences in the area – whether psychic impressions or telepathic leakage – and unable to refrain from broadcasting his or her thoughts and emotions to anyone who touches him or her or is simply sensitive and in the area. He or she will be exceptionally vulnerable to (honest) attempts at persuasion, easily inducted into any belief system provided that it’s proponent truly believes in it, and will be almost unable to resist psychic attacks, manipulations, and probes. At this level Vidan is commonly used to induct victims into odd cults and groups or by those who are willing to take the risk in pursuit of the information that can be gathered from psychic traces.
  3. The breakdown of internal, conscious, barriers will bring out faded, “forgotten”, or suppressed memories, as well as making it extraordinarily difficult to focus; the user will be unable to keep all his brain centers from participating in his or her thoughts. He or she will tend to babble about whatever he or she is thinking about, gesture or repeat related actions, re-experience associated sounds, scents, and other sensations, and see visions of the past. At this level Vidan is commonly used as an interrogation drug or “truth serum”, in psychotherapy, and as a memory aid.
  4. The breakdown of internal, subconscious, barriers causes flashbacks to memories of very early childhood (of even the womb), brings out deeply repressed episodes, awakens memories of prior incarnations (if any), and reveals deep instinctual drives and fantasies. At this level Vidan is occasionally used in psychotherapy and as an aid to meditative self-development. If the user can bring his or her mind under control at this point – usually by focusing on awareness without thought – he or she should be able to handle almost any lesser disturbance.
  5. The breakdown of the barriers between the mind and the empyrean plane – the realm of thought coupled with bio-energies, and thus of both psychic powers and the incompletely-dead, turns the user into a natural medium, allows (or, more properly, forces) the user to impress his or her sensory impressions, memories, and passing thoughts upon the ectoplasm of the empyrean plane (thus broadcasting hallucinations to the susceptible or sensitive, and possibly spawning various ectoplasmic constructs), and brings the user’s latent psychic potentials – if any – into operation. Sadly, the user is unlikely to be entirely sane at this point. Vidan is occasionally used at this level by those who have powerful latent psychic potentials and are desperate to activate them or who are equally desperate to contact some spirit or other.
  6. The ongoing breakdown of the minds deep and surface barriers brings the user into full contact with the local racial – or even planetary – mind. This can allow the recovery of long-lost information, make the user a channel for enormous forces, and allow the evaluation of current trends from a semi-omniscient viewpoint – but it can also easily destroy the user’s mind, overlay his or her memories and personality with those of some other creature entirely, or result in an inability to break the link later or even a total loss of identity. Vidan is occasionally used at this level by those who desperately seek some bit of lost knowledge, or by people seeking the revival – of the memories and persona if not the soul – of some deceased individual and ruthless enough to inflict the drug on some victim while using magic or psychic powers to manipulate the result.
  7. At this final level, a total breakdown of the minds barriers brings the user – or, at this point, almost certainly the Victim – into simultaneous contact with all minds in his or her current dimension – a form of “cosmic awareness” which often overloads the user to the point of death or catalonia. Most such victims are simply absorbed, their psyches so scattered as to be incapable of rebuilding themselves. Still, those few who survive often exhibit increased (or simply very weird) abilities – a result which inspires the occasional power-hungry or ambitious individual to try it.

   Overdoses of Vidan may occur at dosage levels 5+, commonly leading to insanity, psychopathic loss of identity – and inability to fully restore the barriers broken down by the drug. Fatalities are rare – but can occur if a users personal bioenergy field accidentally dissipates into, or merges with, the local biosphere.

   Common side effects of Vidan include dizziness, a reduction in blood sugar levels (leading to intense hunger), and (at high dosages) respiratory disturbances and damage to the liver. At low (2-) dosages the effects are usually limited to passing dizziness as the drug takes effect.

RPG Design Sub-Index

. Per request, here’s a quick subindex of the major RPG design articles and some of the articles with general RPG discussions. There’s a lot more scattered around of course, but with nearly twelve hundred articles up, a subindex is just going to have to settle for a sampling.

General RPG Design:

Setting Features:

Fantasy Faiths:

Some sample religions from the various campaign worlds.

Literary Magic Items and Sample Relics:

d20 mechanics, but the descriptions should be simple enough to use anywhere.

  • Part I: General information on how to build and use relics and on the role of other magic items in the game, the Hat of the Demon Pirate Ferret, the Chessboard of the Invisible Hand (a device of political manipulation), the Cloak of Zorro (for dashing heroes who do not wish to be indentified), the Kether Scrolls, The Malachite Bindings (a tome of dark magics), the Skull of Scykanthos (a tool of lycanthropic ritual magic), and Arnwen’s Sacred Sunstone.
  • Part II: The Gossamer Shroud of Death, The Clasp of the Mandarin (a social device), and Grimfang the Oath-Blade of Heroes.
  • Part II: The Seals of Seigrun – devices which provide limited spellcasting in any one field at a time – and Lawgiver, a paladin’s blade of atrocious power.
  • Part IV: Weapons of Legend, Stormbreaker, the Bracer of the Archmagi, and the Lion Bracer.
  • Part V: A Quill which forges Scrolls, a Sigil which commands Undead Thieves, the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Dragon Crowns – superheroic power devices.
  • Part VI: A Demonslayer’s Helm, Parrying Dagger, Metamagical Rings, and Skill Enhancing Relics.
  • Part VII:  Index, Summary, the Coronet of Command, the Sheathe of Excalibur, the Sortilege Staff, and several dozen minor relics.
  • The Tongues of Heaven: Combined enchantment-relics and quest objects.