All drugs have a strength, rated from +1 to +5. Strength is an abstract description of the potency of the drug. Strength effects the numerical effects of the drug’s effects and how easy it is to overdose. For example over the counter pain relievers have a low strength, while hard drugs have a high strength.
The effects of a drug tell you what it actually does. Very, very often drugs have multiple effects, of which only some are desirable. Some common examples of desirable drug effects are euphoric, pain killer, soporific, temporary bonuses to stats and aphrodisiac. On the flip side of the coin drugs can be addictive, carcinogenic, hallucinogenic or give you a heart attack. The power of all drug effects depends on the strength of the drug: the stronger the drug the greater the effect. If no game mechanical numerical effect is given the GM should follow this instruction in the story telling. For example the stronger the hallucinogen the more vivid and “real” the hallucinations should be.
Taking more than one dose at once
The easiest way to boost drug strength is to take more. Doses beyond the first don’t usually have as much effect as the first dose though. The table below tells you how much you add to the strength of the drug if you take multiple doses at once:
|Original Effect Strength||Dose 2||Dose 3||Dose 4||Dose 5|
1 This strength can only be reached by drugs with saturates effect. X is the original strength.
If a drug has effects at different strengths the bonus strength applied to each effect is based on the strength of that particular effect, not the drug as a whole.
The sixth dose doesn’t give any benefit over the fifth dose.
All drugs also have an overdose effect. This is what happens if you take far too much of the drug at once, or fill your system with a cocktail of different drugs. Characters normally have a drug tolerance equal to 10 + their Body Type Modifier. If the total of the strengths of the drugs in a characters system is equal to, or greater than this the character has overdosed, triggering the overdose effects of all drugs in his or her system. A superhuman bruiser (BTM -5) overdoses when the total strength of drugs is 15, while a very weak netrunner (BTM -0) overdoses when the total strength of drugs is 10. Professional junkies often have a bonus to their drug tolerance, thanks to years of hard training.
No drug dose lasts forever: how could they sell you more if it did? The effects of a drug apply for the drug’s duration, and with many drugs there are after effects which occur once the drug wears off. Because the rate at which a drug is metabolized depends on many variables, and the purity of drugs available on the streets is questionable at best, the duration of a drug is randomly determined.
The most common durations are:
Very Short: 1d10 rounds
Short: 1d10 minutes
Medium: 1d6 * 10 minutes
Long: 5 + d6/2 hours
Very Long: 1 day
The drug needs to get into your body for it to have any effect on you. Some common forms of drugs are: tablets, gel-capsules, inhalators, snorted powders, injected or drinkable liquids and dermal patches. How fast the drug can take effect depends heavily on how it is introduced into the body.
Onset time, or how long does it take for the drug effects to kick in:
Pills and tabs: 1d6 * 10 minutes
Gel caps and drunk liquids: 4 + d6 minutes
Powdered and snorted: d6/2 minutes
Smoked, inhaled, injected or contact: d6 rounds
The legal status of drugs varies between drugs and jurisdictions. Generally speaking dangerous drugs are illegal, while the less harmful ones are legal. In practice most police departments quietly tolerate those drugs that, while illegal, do not cause trouble (for the police department) while they crack down heavily on those drugs that do cause trouble (e.g. combat drugs).
Legal drugs are usually cheaper than illegal drugs. Pirate copies of patented drugs are the most common exception.
Addiction and Withdrawal
Drugs are addictive by two mechanisms: they can hook your mind or your body. Or both.
Physiologically addictive drugs
Physiologically addictive drugs cause adaptations in the body of an addict, so that the body does not function correctly without the drug. If you stop taking the drug (or lower the dosage) serious physical symptoms appear. While the exact symptoms vary, in game terms physiologically addictive drugs lower your attributes by half during the withdrawal. (As if you were Critically Wounded). Your stats immediately return to normal if you take the drug though. Wouldn’t you like another dose?
Psychologically addictive drugs
With psychologically addictive drugs the addiction is all in your mind. The drug makes you feel good every time you take it, and before you know it the psychological reinforcement has turned the satisfaction into dependence. If you stop taking the drug you receive a -2 penalty to everything until you kick the habit. The penalty goes away if you get your fix, of course.
Time to withdrawal
Although there is a fair amount of variation between drugs and between addicts, by default an addict feels the need to take the drug at least daily (usually more often if they can afford it), and should they go 48 hours without their fix they go into withdrawal. The withdrawal lasts at least one week, at the end of which the addict tries to kick the habit. This is represented by rolling BODY + Carouse (if the addiction is physiological) or COOL + Self Control (if the addiction is psychological), or both one after the other, against a task difficulty which depends on how addictive the drug is. If the addict succeeds they no longer suffer the withdrawal symptoms. If the addict fails they can try again with a cumulative +5 bonus each week until they succeed. Having just one dose of the drug immediately stops the withdrawal and re-sets the process.