Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Addiction in my game describes the compulsion that characters possess for hard drink or for stimulants and hallucinogens (such as tobacco, opium or qat), the dependency upon which can require a character to daily partake, at some expense, or to become stressed and less effective when these substances are not available.

Most often, a character will acquire an addiction through the character background generator, due to a negative roll against a middle to low wisdom. Addictions are reckoned as a measurement of material that must be drunk, eaten or smoked within the space of a day or a week. When addicted characters fail to obtain their dose, they can temporarily lose ability points or combat ability until such time as they can acquire a 'fix.'

Kicking an Addiction

To get rid of an addiction, a character must make a wisdom check each day to abstain from use of the substance. Success at this roll will not, in the short term, suspend the negative consequences of failing to partake, it is the only path that will, in the long run, end the dependency. The character must, initially, succeed at a wisdom check for seven days running. All wisdom checks are presumed to have been made at sunrise of a particular day. For each successful string of seven days, a character will receive a +1 bonus to all further wisdom checks with regards to their addiction, provided they do not fail to make a wisdom check and attempt to relapse. In relapsing, the character will immediately take steps to acquire the substance they need and use it. If this occurs, the character has lost all ground gained and must begin their resistance anew.

It should be obvious that this makes it almost impossible for a character to become free from an addiction on their own. It is so easy to relapse that, if the substance they need is available, they will certainly fail again and again to kick their addiction. There are, therefore, only two real paths to kicking their addiction:
  • The first is for others to take steps, often combative steps, to ensure that the character cannot relapse even if the character attempts to do so. If it happens that the character, failing to make a wisdom check, is kept from relapsing until sunrise the following day, they will be entitled to another wisdom check. If this succeeds, the character will not attempt to relapse that day, the crisis will be past and the character's forward accumulation of days is not compromised.
  • Secondly, the character can put themselves under the care of a physician able to aid in detoxification. This will give a +3 bonus to all wisdom checks made under the physician's care, in addition to bonuses gained by repeated weeks of success.

Thus, the path of success will mean that the character, with the help of friends and a physician, will steadily improve their bonuses week by week until it is impossible for them to fail a wisdom check.

Further Issues

Note, however, that friends must be vigilant in keeping a watch on an addicted character, as the character will give no sign of intending to relapse. As well, the player, having spent multiple sessions with a character of lowered strength, dexterity or other ability statistic will likely want to quit their treatment, returning to their use of whatever substance. These negative consequences, difficult as they are, do not go away until characters have truly freed themselves of the dependency.

Finally, a character can be compelled to fight other characters (though I do not support player-vs-player, this is a special case) from a sort of madness, if physical restraint is applied against a character's will. In cases where a character is in a town, where these substances are easily available, this may be necessary.

To determine a character's success at obtaining a substance in a town or city (where anyone might possess the substance), the character should make an intelligence check; success would indicate that the character has somehow met an individual willing to pass the substance quietly into the character's possession (addicted persons help each other). One other random character in the party, keeping watch on the addicted character, should make a wisdom check to see if this exchange is observed. If it is not, consider this:

The character may obtain this substance on a day when they have not failed their wisdom check - just in case they may want it later. Therefore, the character may already be ready to use the substance with a wisdom check is failed . . . potentially within minutes of sunrise. Thus, a failed wisdom check by the party will mean the relapse has occurred, even in the wilderness. Occasionally subjecting the addicted character to a search could prevent this, but any such searches that occur when the character is actually in possession (make the intelligence check to know) should result in a player-vs.-player conflict. Suffice to say that choice of weapons is left up to the characters.

Last, it must be noted that each time a character wants to relapse and fails to do so, the character should make a system shock survival roll (see Player's Handbook). Failure to succeed at this roll will mean the character will fall to a random disease of random nature and degree.


Scarbrow said...

" These negative consequences, difficult as they are, do not go away until characters have truly freed themselves of the dependency." Should we understand that is the same as "it is impossible for them to fail a wisdom check."?

Also, the PHB may not be as common as it used to (though it can still be acquired by various means), so I'd suggest substituting references to it with the quoted text.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Correct on both counts, Scarbrow. I need to put the system shock survival list on the wiki. I'm just being lazy.