Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bootleg Alchemicals

Though alcohol is legal across the New World continent, smuggling still exists to avoid taxation. The largest illicit smuggling of intoxicants, however, involves alchemical substances of various sorts made illegal, over decade ago, in most of the member states of the Union (including the City, the Steel League, and Lake City) thanks to the efforts of church-driven abstinence movements.

This has done little to stem the tide of these substances, which are available in speakeasies or drug dens throughout most major cities. “Bathtub alchemicals” are made in small laboratories within cities or rural areas. Larger scale operations (on some level, likely under the thumb of the Infernal gangsters of the Hell Syndicate) smuggle in alchemicals from foreign countries. Some may even come from other planes of existence, though the origins of such extra-terrene substances are murky.

Alchemical intoxicants come in many varieties, having effects similar to “mundane” drugs (like alcohol, cocaine, opiates, or cannabis) or mixtures thereof--there is an alchemical similar to cocaethylene, for instance. There are also “exotics” which produce magical effects similar to many potions in traditional fantasy worlds. Cheaply made alchemicals may be dangerous, in ways beyond the intended effects, and cheaply made exotics often strangely so.

Here are a couple of alchemicals not uncommon in the City and its world:

Absinthe: In the world we know, absinthe is just a liqueur flavored with essence of wormwood (usually with a high alcohol content), but in the world of the City, it literally harbors a green faerie. Technically, its an alchemical tincture of the larval stage of a spirit creature. These larvae appear to the imbiber as small, pale green, luminescent, and winged pixie-things, but are invisible to others not magically aided. It’s use enhances creativity, and may lead to clairvoyance or clairaudience in a chance which increases with dose (10-40% on first try, with chance increasing by 5% for every week of 4 or more days use. Similar intervals without use lower the chance). With long term use, it allows the user to perceive astral beings, but also causes hallucinations, so telling the two apart is nontrivial. This gives way to paranoia, and possible convulsions if use is heavy and prolonged.

Purpureal ether: Also called mauve enmanation, this alien substance is difficult to describe in earthly terms: it's purplish and has a slight glow, and can be “poured” or contained--something fog from dry ice, though it doesn’t dissipate like any fog, and is, in fact, a radiation from somewhere in the outer dark. It can be collected on moonless nights with little cloud cover on alchemically prepared cloth screens.  These are pressed or squeezed to yield the substance, which is then bottled in opaque receptacles--sunlight will degrade it within others. After 24 hours, it becomes more violatile, and is used by inhalation from bottles, or from cloths on which some of the substance has been pored.  It’s use deadens pain, increases strength (+1 with commiserate damage bonus) and heightens the mind (making the user immune to illusions and the like) for 1d4 hours. It also, however, reduces coordination (reducing anything reliant on dexterity by -1). Longterm use (daily use for a period of 1-4 months), causes degeneration first of the nerves (further dexterity loss, though this time permament), then of the flesh (charisma, and finally constitution loss).


frijoles junior said...

inspiring stuff!

Anonymous said...

Very nice. The idea of bathtub alchemicals is quite delightful.

If there a special group of the City's law enforcement dedicated to stamping out illegal alchemicals? A fantasy version of the Untouchables just seems like fun.

Trey said...

Thanks, guys.

@seaofrpg - I would suspect their would be. In fact, now that you mention it, I think that would make a great campagin.