Uncontrolled Substances – Zashin

   Here we have another in the series of exotic substances and compounds suitable for use in any – or at least a wide variety – of role-playing games. After all, drugs and spices are usually almost as valuable as gold and gems – and raise much more interesting dilemmas. Will you trade your treasure, horde it, or use it?

   Zashin normally exists as a thin gas, so tenuous that it passes easily through normal matter, although it does respond – weakly – to gravitation. On most worlds, it is found in small quantities near the planetary core and, occasionally, riding the lines of force in the magnetosphere. Gathering it is quite a task, usually requiring specialized magnetic traps, psionics, or magic. It’s existence might have been missed entirely, save for some curious investigations of why “visions” seemed to be so common near the magnetic poles. It is believed that Zashin actually incorporates interdimensional particles, while rotate through many other dimensions whether those are hidden aspects of reality or entirely separate realms – while existing primarily on the mental level in any single one.

   Zashin is usually released into the sinuses (into whatever body cavity or opening comes closest to the brain in non-humanoids or near wherever the mind is located in immaterial beings). As it begins interacting with the mental fields of the mind, it acts as a carrier – extending the user’s mind into other realms of existence entirely. The effects are usually quite transitory unless the user either takes measures to keep the particles from dissipating or has a very high mental energy level, which will help keep them temporarily bound.

   While so bound, Zashin essentially operates as a carrier – providing the user’s mind with access to normally-inaccessible levels of reality. Unfortunately, the utility of such an effect is limited to the effects of dosage level three unless the user already possesses psychic abilities; otherwise he or she will likely interact with other dimensions and realms only by accident. The effects of the dosage levels are, of course, cumulative – and the effects of higher dosage levels will fade through the lower dosage levels as the Zashin dissipates.

   Dosage Levels

  1. Even a trace dosage of Zashin can expose the “user” to fragments of other-dimensional mental activity – intercepting stray thoughts and images from other realms. Unfortunately, this tends to manifest as completely random visions, voices, and weird impulses – all essentially random, and all being filtered through the user’s mental matrix of familiar images, languages, and memories – often resulting in complete gibberish. Still, artists, researchers, and visionaries occasionally use Zashin at this level for inspiration – either intentionally or by staying near natural sources.
  2. At this level, Zashin allows the user’s mind to brush against alien minds more completely – gaining the occasional complete idea, substantial thoughts and bits of literature, or odd memory. In more concrete terms, those using Zashin at this dosage can acquire strange skills and lore (allowing the players to buy such things without having to come up with other excuses). Such contacts are, however, still rare and intermittent.
  3. Zashin generally isn’t naturally available at this dosage level – but it can be concentrated to this point fairly readily artificially. At this point, the user’s mind will be extended into other dimensions in a metastable state. While this extension will collapse when the Zashin starts to dissipate, until that happens the user is extremely difficult to attack or probe mentally, since a good deal of his or her mind will be located in other dimensions. In addition, the alien mental contacts typical of a level two dose will be augmented as well, becoming more complete and stable while the effect lasts. This can be quite distracting, but otherwise doesn’t change the results particularly.
  4. At this level the user can reliably contact sympathetic minds in other realms – conversing, sharing ideas and advice, and gathering strange insights. Unfortunately, the user’s roster of “friends” is still essentially random and their viewpoints can be extremely alien. They can be quite helpful at times – and at other times are merely a distraction. It’s always difficult to know which it will be in any particular situation. Unfortunately, given the expense and difficulty in acquiring Zashin at this concentration, only those with special resources in the first place can afford to explore this avenue of advice.
  5. Doses of Zashin this concentrated are almost impossible to come by – but throw the user’s mind wide open to sympathetic minds in other realms (or at least to something which the user’s mind tends to interpret as such). The user will experience entire other alien lives (or at least acquire memories which seem to represent such an experience) during the few moments such a high level dose is typically effective. Some reports have indicated a subjective duration of many years, leading to speculation that the dimensional aspects of Zashin may include a temporal aspect as well.
  6. Doses of Zashin this concentrated are generally things of legend, but – if one should be available – it allows the user’s mind to shunt energy between dimensions or aspects of reality. Such forces are invariably ones that can be manipulated mentally – but they’re still things that do not belong in the user’s reality at all. The effects are extremely unpredictable, even if the user is lucky enough to absorb some information related to handling the energy in question as the Zanshin takes effect. User’s are rarely that lucky.
  7. While a true “overdose” of Zashin really isn’t possible – given that it has no physical effects and only short-term mental ones – at this point the user’s mind will be so dimensionally scattered that actually focusing on a particular dimension will be impossible, even for non-psychics. This fugue state rarely lasts for long, but is pretty incapacitating while it does.

   Side Effects: Zashin’s side effects are – at least normally – purely psychological. Many people find themselves unable to handle exposure to other dimensions and alien mentalities. Odd quirks and minor insanities are all too common in users, while not a few go entirely mad or find their own personalities being overwhelmed by alien memories or experiences. A few instances of infection by “psychic parasites” have been reported – and a dose at level six or higher might have almost any imaginable effect, either on a temporary or permanent basis.

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