Here’s another entry in the “fantastic drugs and compounds” list – in this case a stimulant so potent that it may be able to get adventurers out of several major jams before it kills them. A source, or stockpile, of M’ram may offer considerable power – and attract considerable amounts of trouble.
M’ram (Windrace, Heartforge) is a crystalline white powder with a faint flavor of mint and an astringent effect. It’s alchemically derived from a combination of several relatively common plants – including a type of red algae and several of the aromatic herbs commonly used in cooking. To function properly, however, M’ram must be psychically sensitized, so that it can be unconsciously directed to affect specific biophysical systems as needed. Without that critical step in preparation, and some fairly complex alchemy to stabilize it, M’ram is simply a powerful stimulant, operating on the metabolic level and with subsequent ramifications throughout the user’s system. It is more than powerful enough to kill by overdose and subsequent stroke or heart failure if used incautiously.
If properly prepared, M’ram allows the user to draw on deep reserves of energy – permitting near-superhuman feats. Unfortunately, there’s always a price to pay later – and M’ram tends to be exhilarating, and so can readily become both physically and mentally addictive.
A very modest dose of M’ram is roughly equivalent to five or six cups of strong coffee or a high dose of any other common stimulant. It lets the user resist the effects of fatigue, remain awake for considerable periods, and even “refreshes” the users mystic and/or psychic reserves by five to ten percent. It also leaves the user at a small (-1) penalty wherever fine control or clear thought is required when M’ram is being used to counter the effects of exhaustion (on whatever level).
At this dosage level M’ram acts like a massive shot of adrenalin, allowing the user to draw on deep reserves of energy. This may be used as an emergency stimulant, to counter narcotic and paralytic poisons, or in resuscitation attempts, but its major use is to allow the user to exceed his usual limits. A dose of M’ram at this level provides (Constitution, or whatever physical endurance trait the game in question uses) “adrenalin points”, which the user may expend to accomplish some exceptional feat, resist an injury, or in any way which the game master is willing to allow. Once the points are expended, or after an hour in any case, the user will become utterly exhausted (losing any remaining points) – and will have to rest for several hours. Taking more M’ram before recovering usually results in overdose problems and a later lapse into a coma. Note that the “point cost” of any particular feat is up to the GM.
This dosage level operates a lot like the previous one – but allows the user to spend “points” on on physical enhancements that will last for 1d4+1 minutes. Sadly, while this greatly enhances the user’s abilities, it also leads to complete exhaustion – often requiring days to recover from – within minutes. Serious damage is rare (the roll to resist it is pretty easy) – but occurs more frequently when M’ran is used frequently.
This dosage level acts like the previous dosage level, above, but it also allows the user to take twice as many actions – including movement actions – as would normally be permitted in a given length of time. Unfortunately, the crash afterwards usually involves damaged tendons, pulled muscles, fracturing your own bones, and a nasty little heart attack on top of the results of a level three dose. If you don’t mind potentially crippling or killing yourself, it’s still a wonderful thing.
Dosage level five is sometimes known as “Berserkerite”. It induces a kind of physical intoxication or hysteria – adding immunity to pain and stunning blows, greatly-augmented “hysterical strength”, and an maniac fixation on your objectives to the effects of a level four dose. The problem is that the user can easily inflict great damage on himself – often without even noticing it. The berserker state persists for 1-2 minutes before burning out in feverish delirium and usual side effects of dosage levels three and four.
This dosage level throws the users body into a form of metabolic “final strike” – an effect which gives the user triple his or her basic speed and number of actions, reflexes fast enough to evade most blows and missile weapons, virtual immunity to toxins, and a package of similar bonuses. Unfortunately, this will almost certainly to kill the user within 2d4+2 rounds through massive internal injuries, circulatory failure, fever, and so on. Even the (extremely rare) characters with major physical enhancements who manage to survive this kind of abuse usually suffer crippling long-term injuries.
Dosage level seven induces a sort of “nove flare”, usually burning out the user in a single action or round. While this may result in a truly spectacular display of power at that moment – allowing the user to perform some mighty act of magic, lift a vast weight, or otherwise accomplish some incredible feat – there is no reasonable chance of survival. There may not even be much of a body left afterwards; expending that much of the bodies energy reserves in a moment resembles a detonation more than normal metabolic processes.
M’ram tends to accumulate in the body, suppressed by the normal instinct for self-preservation thanks to it’s psycho-sensitive nature. Thus overdoses often result from using it too often, rather then from taking too large a dose – and typically result in moving one or more steps up the dosage level chart without meaning to do so.
Side Effects include “caffeine nerves”, numbness, damage to the digestive system (commonly ulcers), hyperactivity, headaches, and psychic energy surges, although these are rarely serious if the dosage level is low and infrequent. The effects of long-term use include paranoia, nervous tremors, high blood pressure, and hallucinations.