Performance Enhancing Drugs

Introduction
One of the most frightening epidemics of our time is the ever increasing use of performance enhancing drugs. Not only by athletes, but by businessmen, entertainers, students and even stay at home parents. In a world that has grown increasingly competitive, people from all walks of life have turned to these drugs to stay awake longer, to sleep better, to retain information, and to increase athletic ability. Unfortunately, the benefits provided by these drugs come with harsh side effects, and time and again, we have heard of both men and women becoming addicted to these drugs, the consequences of which can prove fatal.

For players and DMs who wish to introduce a darker element to their fantasy world, this article provides examples of performance enhancing drugs that can easily be inserted into almost any campaign setting. Consider carefully what you are about to introduce, however, for while these drugs may provide your characters with increased abilities, they may also cause extreme distress not only to the user, but to the characters around them as well.

Introducing Performance Enhancing Drugs Into Your Campaign
Because of their potentially positive effects, characters might be interested in using performance enhancing drugs, even if they are already aware of the potential side effects. That said, if you, as the GM, want to introduce performance enhancing drugs into your campaign more subtly, here are just a few examples of ways that characters might be exposed:

  • The PCs have just defeated a band of orcs and have discovered that the orcs are all carrying clay pipe. They are also carrying with them what appears to be an unfamiliar pipe weed. This pipe weed is actually the brown fern drug.
  • One or more of the PCs have fallen victim to the nightmare spell and the nearest cleric is several miles away. A local merchant, however, has a substance he claims can counteract the effects of the spell. The substance that he offers to the PCs is the moon lily drug.
  • An unscrupulous magic shop owner suggests that the PCs try a new product he’s just got in. If the PCs hesitate, he offers to give them one for free. If they accept it, the magic shop owner is pretty sure he’ll see them again, because the product he’s just given them is the fairy mushroom drug.

Addiction
The drugs presented here follow the Pathfinder Rules for drug addiction. However, some drugs may have additional side effects.

Drug Characteristics

Some characteristics of drugs are summarized in the table below.

Item Fort DC Price Alchemy DC Addiction
Ambrose Powder DC 14 1,250 gp 30 Minor
Brown Fern DC 20 300 gp 30 Severe
Celestial Blossom Perfume DC 18 1,750 gp 30 Moderate
Fairy Mushroom DC 18 1,750 gp 30 Moderate
Leather Root DC 15 300 gp 30 Severe
Licorice Tar DC 15 450 gp 30 Moderate
Moon Lily DC 12 5 gp 25 Minor

Fort DC: The DC of the Fortitude save to avoid the effects of the drug
Price: The price of a single dose.
Alchemy DC: The DC for the Craft (alchemy) check required to make the drug.
Addiction: Addiction rating of the drug.
Effects: The effects of the drug on the user.
Side Effects: Side effects, if any, occur immediately upon taking the drug.
Damage: The effect of the drug if the secondary saving throw fails.

Ambrose Powder
This yellow powder is made from the dried sap of the ambrose tree and is said to invoke a connection to beings from the outer planes. Typically found in tropical forest regions, ambrose powder is used most often in shamanic rituals by tribal communities seeking contact with their gods, or by tribal warriors seeking good fortune in their hunts. Because of its rarity in civilized nations, the existence of ambrose powder is not yet well known. Some port cities, however, are well aware of the drug and have begun enforcing strict embargoes against the importation of this highly addictive narcotic. Meanwhile, other less reputable ports have begun encouraging its sale, and use of the drug is continuing to spread.

Type: Drug (inhaled).

Addiction: Minor, Fortitude DC 14.

Effects: Characters who use this drug receive a +4 bonus to their Dexterity, as well as a +2 bonus to their Listen and Spot checks, as per the Alertness feat. In addition, spellcasters who use this drug before preparing their daily spells can load an additional divination spell of 4th level or lower for every two spell levels that they possess above 0-level. For example, a 7th level cleric who uses this drug before praying for his daily allotment of spells can load an additional two divination spells of 4th level or lower. The effect lasts for 24 hours and is considered magical in nature. Characters using the drug do not benefit from its positive effects while in an antimagic field, and lose any additional spells granted by the effects of the drug.

Side Effect: Each time a character uses this drug, there is a 20% chance that they will become possessed by a malevolent spirit from the Outer Planes. Creatures who are possessed, must succeed at a DC 20 Will save or be treated as if under the effect of the confusion spell for a period of 24 hours.

Damage: 1d3 points of Intelligence damage. Users often appear vacant in expression, as if lost in thought.

Price: 1,250 gp.

Brown Fern:
The shamans of ogre tribes were the first to discover the performance enhancing effects of this fern for use in battle. It was only later that the ogres discovered the side effects of this potent drug, but not before it found its way into the hands of the barbarians and warriors of the ogre nations. Use of the drug spread quickly, and today, members of all races have been known to use the substance, even though its use is considered illegal in many civilized societies.

In order to release the potency of this particular drug, the leaves of the brown fern must be dried in a special alchemical process and burned, the fumes of the burning leaves inhaled. Though the drug was originally administered by burning the leaves in large fires before battle, today, most users administer the drug by smoking it in clay pipes. Using a pipe to administer the drug is considered a move action and invokes attacks of opportunity.

Type: Drug (inhaled).

Addiction: Severe, Fortitude DC 20.

Effects: The effects of this drug are similar to a barbarian’s rage ability. Characters who use the drug gain a +4 to their Strength and Constitution, a +2 to their Will save and a -2 penalty to their Armor Class for a period of 3 rounds plus their new Constitution modifier. The abilities granted by the drug overlap and stack with the abilities granted by rage, as well as the effects granted by the spell rage. Therefore, the drug could potentially prolong the effects of a creature’s rage ability, while temporarily boosting its effects. Once the effects of the drug wear off, the creature immediately becomes fatigued, provided that they are not under the effects of an overlapping rage.

Damage: 1d3 points of Charisma damage. Characters who use this drug are often irritable. In addition, their faces are often marked with small, orange pustules.

Side effects: Each time a character uses this drug, there is a 20% chance that in addition to becoming raged, the character may also fly into an uncontrolled rampage, attacking the nearest living creature or object until destroyed, before moving onto the next. The side effects of this drug wear off at the same time that the drug‘s effect ends.

Price: 300 gp.

Celestial Blossom Perfume
On the shores of Mount Celestia grows a tree with pink flowers, trimmed in gold. These flowers produce a sweet smelling pollen that is harvested by the angels to create a heavenly perfume. Harmless to celestial creatures, this perfume has an amazing alchemical effect on creatures from the Material Plane, making them appear more comely with an almost divine, radiant aura. Unfortunately, such radiance comes with a price not measured in gold.

Today, the celestials take special care to ensure that the blossoms of the trees do not leave their white shores. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous creatures still manage to smuggle some of these blossoms away, selling the forbidden perfume to men and women alike who are willing to pay dearly for the beauty that it provides.

Type: Drug (contact).

Addiction: Moderate, Fortitude DC 18.

Effects: Humanoids and nonmagical beasts who wear the perfume receive a +4 bonus to their Charisma and Dexterity scores. In addition, spellcasters wearing the perfume before they have prepared their daily spells can prepare additional spells for the day according to Table: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells. Meanwhile, characters with the ability to turn undead are granted two additional turning checks for the day. The effect lasts for 24 hours and is considered magical in nature. Characters using the drug do not benefit from its positive effects while in an antimagic field, and lose any additional spells granted by the effects of the drug.

Damage: 1d2 points of Constitution damage. Characters who use this perfume often develop a severe rash on their skin.

Price: 1,750 gp.

Fairy Mushroom
These red mushrooms typically grow in forests inhabited by fey and are often seen clustered around the trees of dryads. When fresh, these mushrooms emit small dots of light from their tops, a sign of their magical origins. When boiled in a soup with various herbs, however, the mushrooms become a potent drug.

Harmless and ineffective to fey creatures, the mushrooms were offered to the druids and rangers as food and gifts. From there, the use of the mushrooms were transmitted to the world at large. Only later was it discovered that these mushrooms have harmful side effects on nonmagical creatures, and while most of the forest walkers today avoid them, an indiscriminate few still use them to enhance their spellcasting abilities.

Type: Drug (ingested).

Addiction: Moderate, Fortitude DC 18.

Effects: Humanoids and nonmagical beasts who consume these mushrooms receive a +4 bonus to their Wisdom and Intelligence scores. In additon, spellcasters who consume these mushrooms before they have prepared their daily spells can use their enhanced abilities to prepare additional spells for the day according to Table: Ability Modifiers and Bonus Spells. The effect lasts for 24 hours and is considered magical in nature. Characters using the drug do not benefit from its positive effects while in an antimagic field, and lose any additional spells granted by the effects of the drug.

Damage: 1d2 points of Constitution damage. Characters who use this drug often appear pale and emaciated.

Price: 1,750 gp.

Leather Root
Discovered by monks living in high mountain regions, this root of the leather grass plant, when salted with special salts, produces an oil that can be used as a potent drug that thickens the skin of its user into a leathery texture. Shunned by most monasteries as an unnatural enhancement to the body, it was prized by others, elevated to the ranks of an almost sacred plant. That is, until its dangerous side effects were discovered.

Today, only a handful of monasteries still use the drug, though the secrets of its creation have passed into the hands of a few settlements in lower regions. Nevertheless, because of its obscurity, few today know of the drug’s potency and so there are few laws prohibiting its use.

Type: Drug (contact).

Addiction: Severe, Fortitude DC 20.

Effects: Characters who apply this drug to their skin receive a +5 natural armor bonus to their armor class. In addition, because of the enhanced hardness of their skin, characters using this drug deal additional damage with their unarmed attacks according to the table below. The effects of this drug last for 24 hours.

Normal Unarmed Damage Increased Unarmed Damage
1d3 1d6
1d4 1d8
1d6 1d10
1d8 2d6
1d10 2d8
2d6 2d10
2d8 4d6
2d10 6d6

Side Effect: Each time that a character uses this drug, there is a 20% chance that the character’s skin will become so hardened that it impairs movement. Characters whose movement is impaired by the effects of this drug can only take partial actions for a period of 24 hours.

Damage: 1d3 points of Constitution damage. Characters who use this drug often suffer from cracked and bleeding skin.

Price: 300 gp.

Licorice Tar
This drug is a kind of waste byproduct of the licorice root, typically left over from the creation of a potion of haste. It was only recently discovered that this alchemical byproduct could be used as a stimulant, allowing the user to stay awake almost continuously, without any signs of fatigue. What’s more, the drug makes it possible for users to perform long term tasks with incredible efficiency.

In the arcane world, this new substance was, for a while, highly demanded, and soon magic shops all over began selling this potent alchemical product. Eventually, though, wizards began noticing an epidemic of sleeplessness amongst spellcasters. Further investigation revealed that the licorice tar was the cause of the epidemic, and quickly the product was pulled from shelves and outlawed. In spite of these actions, however, some wizards still continue to use the substance in secret, in order to complete special magic item orders for customers and/or to continue working on important arcane studies.

Type: Drug (ingested).

Addiction: Moderate, Fortitude DC 15.

Effects: This drug allows any character to feel fully refreshed after only one hour of sleep, and allows spellcasters to load spells normally, as if having rested for a full eight hours. In addition to these benefits, spellcasters can use this drug to work on an additional magic item, or to copy an additional spell into their spellbook each day that they continue to use the drug.

Side effects: Each time a character uses this drug, there is a 20% chance that they will be rendered unable to sleep. Characters who are rendered unable to sleep are treated as if under the effects of the nightmare spell for a period of 2d6 days. This effect is considered nonmagical and cannot be dispelled or removed. Characters who take the moon lily drug, however, can counteract the side effects of this drug.

Damage: 1d3 points of Wisdom damage. Characters who use this drug often seem distracted and slightly deranged.

Price: 450 gp.

Moon Lily
This purple flower typically grows in meadows deep in the mountain forests. In the light of a full moon, the flower blooms and the petals can be collected to create a potent alchemical substance. Originally used by healers to heal victims of the nightmare spell, it was later discovered that the moon lily provided users with additional benefits. It was also discovered that the substance has highly addictive qualities, as well as the potential to do great harm to patients being treated with the drug. Today, the drug is administered only as a last resort. Still, many adventurers still use it, regardless of its side effects.

Type: Drug (ingested).

Addiction: Minor, Fortitude DC 12.

Effects: Characters who use this drug sleep so soundly, that they can sleep in armor without feeling fatigued the next day. In addition, the drug can be used to temporarily counteract the effects of the nightmare spell, as well as the side effects of the drug, licorice tar, for one night each time the drug is taken.

Damage: 1d3 points of Dexterity damage. Characters who use this drug often appear listless.

Price: 5 gp.

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2 Responses to Performance Enhancing Drugs

  1. I like the way the Licorice Tar and Moon Lilly are tied together by theme.

    Definitely enhancing drugs, some of them give quite powerful bonuses. Interesting ideas to play with.

    Not sold on Pathfinder addiction rules, I must say.

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