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Inactive File => Arkenstone Publishing => Topic started by: agony on January 28, 2009, 08:43:49 AM

Title: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 28, 2009, 08:43:49 AM
So the Apothecary/Drug rules seem to be exactly what I'm looking for in our upcoming campaign.  The problem is that the Apothecary section is rather confusing and I'm hoping someone can shed some light.

-Herb Lore: I understand this, you create an Effect and use the dice, perfect.
-Secret of Apothecary: So if I want to create a drug I roll an Herb Lore check for the Effect and then pick one of the effects from the Apothecary list while the SG picks the other, ok fine.
-Alchemy: Not quite sure here.  You make an Herb Lore check and can add the Effect dice to the subsequent Alchemy check (so those Herb Lore Effect dice are then gone correct?).  So when I create the initial drug do I follow the steps of the Secret of Apothecary (Pick 1 effect and SG picks another) and THEN distill and pick 2 more effects (which can be anything)?  So there are 4 total Apothecary effects in play here? 

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: oliof on January 28, 2009, 01:46:27 PM
The Apothecary rules are quite the old ammenite alchemy rules, and IIRC, you got it right.


Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 28, 2009, 02:02:20 PM
That seems a bit awkward that if I want to create a positive Apothecary effect and I roll well on my Herb Lore - the recipient is more likely to be harmed by substance.  That would make sense if it was poison but I'm not sure I understand the reason to cause Harm if the person who imbibes the drug fails the roll - furthermore with the check being opposed by the value of the Effect.  Seems like it would be only useful to create drugs which cause negative effects in this instance.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 28, 2009, 04:09:56 PM
Those rules should perhaps be understood in the context of old TSoY - I added them in the SS largely because they were one of my original inspirations for adding the Effect rules into the game - I wanted to show the old hands how the verbiage (but not the function) of the rules changes with the Effect rules to account for.

As for what the rules do, they are slightly weird. I actually had to specifically ask Clinton for long explanations of how they work when we worked on the Finnish edition of the game, that's how confusing they are. I might rework this into something slightly simpler now that I'm rewriting TSoY in general. We'll see.

But concretely, notice that natural drugs and distilled drugs work quite differently:
  • When you take a natural drug, you usually want to win your Endurance check against the drug - you only get the positive effects of the drug and don't suffer Harm from it. So a suitably weak drug is better for you. This is no problem, as Effect levels are easy to lower - you can split the Effect into smaller ones or simply just throw aways some of the dice in it to get the Effect down to a level where you dare to use it. There is little reason to want a natural drug at a Effect level higher than one, in other words.
  • With distilled drugs, on the other hand, you usually want the drug to win the Endurance check - it has to take over your body to do its work. If you fail the check you'll get the full two or more effects from the drug as well as some Harm, while winning the check means that you suffer the full effects (one positive, one negative) of the core natural drug the distillation is based on. This is a difficult balancing proposition in fact, as a high Effect value drug gives out more severe Harm while being more likely to succeed in doing whatever it is that it does.

It's a quirky system, but it has certain nostalgia value in the context of TSoY. We could rework it to fit better with your own game, if you're interested?

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 28, 2009, 06:30:00 PM
Yeah, I think I may have to re-work it to fit my game.  We have a character in question who took Herb Lore, Alchemy, and Secret of the Apothecary.  Our first session is tomorrow and I think I'll just wing it and let him create Effects with Alchemy until I have more solid crunch.  I'm not really sure what we're looking for at this point though, think I'll have to get some feedback from the player and what he was expecting to be able to do with the ability.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Paul T on January 29, 2009, 03:33:01 PM
You know, just winging drugs as Effects sounds totally functional and fun, to me.

As for the original intent of the rules in TSoY, this thread is a good resource:

[TSoY] Help me poison my lover: (

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 30, 2009, 12:24:38 PM
Had the first session last night which went swell.  We attempted to stick with the Drug rules as written but that didn't last long as it took way too long to explain the strange behavior.  We ended up going with simple effects as I said.

I do have a question which is pertinent, however.  What limits would you impose on such a Secret?  I'd like to develop another Secret or two that the character may learn related to Alchemy but I'm having a hard time coming up with new material since the source (Apothecary) is so vague and malleable in our game.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 30, 2009, 09:04:10 PM
Clearly you'll be needing a rethought system for this sort of thing - no sense being vague about it. What sort of genre are you playing in?

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 30, 2009, 09:53:13 PM
Sword and Sorcery.

The player has used his ability thus far to create a potion which was 4 effect dice which could be added to Vigor.  He's also used it to heal someone.  He's also narrated color in throwing dust which lightly burned the skin of an adversary.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 31, 2009, 03:04:37 AM
Ah, quite so.

Here's a suggestion about a simpler and less quirky alchemy system, see if that's the sort of thing you'd find interesting. SS characters are pretty easy to rework if you get new ideas in the midst of play, so if you decide to change the system, remember to allow the player to reallocate his Advances.

Herbalism (R)
The ability for finding and preparing natural remedies and poisons. The usefulness of this depends greatly on the local natural landscape; a character will often have to chain a suitable wilderness survival Ability with Herbalism when he needs to trek far into the wilderness in search of rare herbs.

Trade Routes (R)
The character's knowledge of far-away places and people, as engendered by his immersion into the mesh of trade that connects the world. Useful for our purposes because the ability can be used to find and purchase exotic spices, herbs and other ingredients for alchemy. While Herbalism (R) is limited by the natural landscape in this regard, Trade Routes is limited by the strength of the local trade. No fresh ingredients may be obtained in this way, unless they're local. On the other hand, mineral ingredients and other non-herbal materials may be acquired.

Secret of Alchemy
The character's knowledge of the sacred lore of alchemical science. Alchemy is a holistic science and world view, but its essential precepts concern the workings of the natural world on the small scale. The skilled alchemist may create unlikely miracles of substance by working with rare ingredients in his laboratory. Specifically, the character may now learn the Alchemy (R) Ability and use it to create various Effects, whatever the group deems suitable for alchemy to accomplish. Specifically this nimbus of possible workings is larger and more varied than the simple possibilities allowed by Herbalism (R) - the latter is limited to simple curatives, poisons and perhaps vision-inducing drugs (realistic shit, in other words), while real alchemy may create fires that consume nothing, waters that do not make things wet, acids that burn only negroids, stones that scream in sunlight and any other miracles the group deems fit.

Alchemy (R)
The character's ability at preparing curative, poisonous or otherwise effective substances with chemical and esoteric processes. Alchemical work may be supported by Abilities that concern obtaining the exotic substances required for alchemy.

Secret of Equipment (Laboratory)
Per the equipment-rating-based Secret of Equipment in Solar System, alchemy could be improved by getting a laboratory that provides equipment bonuses to alchemical work of various kinds. The laboratory Effect (which determines how many equipment ratings an equipment has) would probably be created with Trade Routes (R) as the alchemist buys rare glasswork and exotic ingredients for his work.

Secret of Preparations (Ability)
The character has trained and prepared carefully to overcome greater skill with better preparation, trusting in his tools implicitly. The player may opt to replace a check of the indicated Ability with a prepared Effect in any situation where he could use the Effect for bonus dice. For example, an alchemist with the Secret of Preparations (Fighting) would not hesitate in applying his powders, flames and tinctures in a fight, thus leaving his own fighting skills out of the equation altogether as long as he had the appropriate Effects prepared. The opponent may choose to attack the Effect itself normally, of course. Cost: 1 Pool appropriate to the replaced Ability.

The above options cover the basic alchemy - as Harald suggested, many things can be done with the simple Effect rules - as long as you just want to use the alchemy to do basic things that Effects can accomplish, the above rules suffice. Note that I probably wouldn't allow the basic alchemy to do functional things that would be qualitatively impossible to do without the alchemy - so I wouldn't allow a flying potion, for example, because that wouldn't just help in doing something that could be accomplished otherwise, but also would allow entirely new capabilities. The following deals with creating alchemy with different capabilities.

Using Formulas:
A formula is a specific alchemical working with a single, wondrous effect. They are Secrets, so cost an Advance. Each formula is used to create a concoction that is represented by an Effect that is often expensive and difficult to create. Once a character has created the concoction, he does not need to recreate it as long as he continues supporting the Effect. Concoctions can be duplicated for other characters (who pay Pool for the new Effect), but characters who don't know the correct formula cannot support the concoction - it goes bad at the next Pool refresh. Actually using the concoction does not require spending it for bonus dice (which would, in fact, be an extremely wasteful way of using the expensive concoction) - however, the character using the concoction has to make a successful Alchemy (R) check to use the concoction. Failing or losing any such check reduces the Effect value of the concoction by one level as the alchemist contaminates his supplies, has a laboratory accident, is assaulted by doubts or otherwise has to backtrack in his understanding of the formula.

Each concoction is created through an unique process that may not be trivial, depending on the local conditions. The Story Guide determines the exotic substances and expensive steps required by a given formula - all concoctions require extreme steps that cause them to be difficult, expensive and unpractical for non-experts to create. This is mostly pertinent in that the alchemist may need either help or other Abilities aside from Alchemy (R) to create his concoction - the last Ability check will always be in Alchemy (R), but other checks may be chained to represent the difficult process of obtaining the correct materials and working conditions. Each Ability check made in concoction creation costs 1 Pool based on the Ability used on the check (essentially, each step is made into an Effect that replaces the latest step) - this is the only cost of creating concoctions, so the total Pool cost can range from 1 to however high the conditions push it. The nature of the creation process (the fact that the latest step is always preserved as an Effect) luckily allows the alchemist to take breaks freely.

The above might be slightly confusing - think of a "concoction" to be equal parts about the alchemist having secured a supply of rare ingredients and about the understanding the alchemist has of the formula in question. This is like Ars Magica, in which characters can create longevity potions; each such potion is actually an incomplete understanding of the whole idea of longevity potion, so a character never really creates "the" longevity potion.

Formula of Flight
This concoction is formed of two two different substances, one of which recognizes the magnetic field of the Earth while the other counters the force of gravity. A third substance is used to neutralize the effects of the first two. A clever combination of these powers allows making items featherlight as well as actually flying, perhaps by the use of specially treated items to navigate the magnetic currents. The effect lasts for a scene at a time unless neutralized. The Alchemy (R) check made in applying the concoction can be used to resolve possible conflicts (such as whether the alchemist can fly somewhere quickly enough), chained as support for a piloting check or other such purposes.
Concoction quality effects:
Marginal (1): The concoction is pure enough to float items less heavy than a person. It is applied as a paste.
Good (2): The character has mastered the second mixture as well, allowing him to create items that sail the magnetic currents. The lift is now enough to carry a person and more.
Great (3): The character has mastered the third mixture and can decrease lift as necessary. The lift is powerful enough to make a horse fly.
Amazing (4): The concoctions are fine enough to be used as powders. The alchemist has enough to lift a ship if necessary, or a crowd of people.
Legendary (5): The concoctions can be mixed and ingested regularly to internalize the power of flight. The effect does not need to be reapplied each scene.
Ultimate (6): The only limitations are practical and related to creating, applying and distributing enough of the concoction.
Transcendent (7): The effects of the concoction are permanent, and it can be produced in great quantities elegantly.
Cost: As per normal for concoction creation.

Formula of Neutralization
This concoction, which can be made in many forms ranging from powders to fog, is a powerful universal catalyst that quickens alchemical reactions and causes volatile materials to break down into their basic components. The full formula causes drugs and poisons to go inert, spoils food and hastens aging in humans, and chars flammables left in it for prolonged periods, as well as neutralizes any other alchemical concoctions. However, a clever alchemist can tap only facets of these powers for his own purposes by introducing certain impurities into the concoction: if the success in the Alchemy (R) check to apply the concoction beats or equals the quality of the concoction, the character gets to choose the exact targets it affects this time, making f.ex. himself invulnerable. Without such control the effects are often unexpected.
Concoction quality effects:
Marginal (1): The concoction quality is deducted from the Effect value of any plain (non-formulaic) alchemical Effects and other chemically reactive Effects that come to contact with the concoction. The concoction is liquid and there is at most a couple of gallons of it.
Good (2): Food spoils and people age when in contact with the concoction. Characters have to beat the concoction quality with Endurance (V) to not suffer the quality as Harm. (A React (I) check is required to notice this subtle Harm caused by aging if the concoction is administered in secret.) The concoction can be powdered and there is enough for insidious traps and such.
Great (3): The concoction reduces the quality of any formulaic alchemy it contacts by its own quality. The concoction can be easily turned into air-weight vapours.
Amazing (4): The concoction may paralyze muscles when administered directly: a character needs to beat the quality with his Endurance (V) to act physically.
Legendary (5): The concoction may stop thought and can be used to put people into indefinite hibernation.
Ultimate (6): Only Passive Abilities can be used when the concoction is applied in a scene.
Transcendent (7): The effects of the concoction are permanent, and it can be produced in great quantities elegantly.
Cost: As per normal for concoction creation.

Formula of Illusion
This concoction, when introduced into the human system, causes an altered state of consciousness. This can range from a suggestive state prone to following instructions to outright delirium to even a sort of oracular vision capable of viewing far-away places or the future, depending on the specific application by the alchemist. A successful application check allows the alchemist to determine how the concoction affects the victim - the result may be turned into an Effect representing the influence.
Concoction quality effects:
Marginal (1): Target turns susceptible to suggestion and has to beat the quality with Resist (R) to act of his own free will.
Good (2): The concoction may be delivered as invisible vapours. It causes visions and may prove supremely addictive.
Great (3): The alchemist may control the visions caused by the concoction, and they are real enough that the victim won't distinguish them from reality.
Amazing (4): The concoction allows the victim to see through walls and in the darkness, and otherwise see hidden things.
Legendary (5): The concoction causes psychometric flashbacks and scrying visions of far-away places.
Ultimate (6): The concoction shows flashes of the future.
Transcendent (7): The effects of the concoction are permanent, and it can be produced with ease.
Cost: As per normal for concoction creation.

These are, obviously enough, just examples of formulas. The SG should deal with individual formulas as secrets jealously guarded by alchemists; an individual alchemist probably will only have one or two of these secrets, which he then applies in inventive ways. If you have some specific ideas of the sort of formulas that you want to introduce into your game, we can create those as well. Shouldn't need very many, though: these are the sort of thing an entire Indiana Jones movie would revolve around.

Secret of Magnum Opus (one or more Formulas)
The character has unlocked a part of the Magnum Opus, the great work of alchemy that makes it more than a bag of tricks and points to connections between smaller truths. He can now create a single concoction that can be applied to fulfill the potential of all of the original concoctions in one Effect. Additionally, by researching the known Formulas the character can develop a synthesis, a new Formula, with a successful Alchemy (R) check: the player determines the theme of the formula and its quality effects up to the level of the check success, while the Story Guide fills in the rest. The character can only use each Formula as inspiration in one Magnum Opus, and he does not pay an Advance for the new Formula he created. Requirements: Know two formulas.

Secret of Transcendent Mastery
The character has realized the deeper spiritual truths behind the alchemical processes and that the inner and outer world reflect each other. This realization allows him to use the Pray (V) Ability (and by implication the Vigor Pool) interchangeably and in support of Alchemy (R) when creating alchemical works. Any steps in the alchemical workings that the character decides to make transcendent are worked out immaterially, in spirit only - thus a wholly transcendent alchemy requires no tools and produces no substances. (This does not necessarily mean that the character needs to do nothing to create a complex concoction, say - spiritual alchemy might require him to fast, follow onerous taboos or create or sever relationships to other people.) However, transcendent alchemy can only be applied for the character himself - it does not work for others. On the other hand, transcendent alchemy works in the spiritual realm as well, should that ever come up. Requirements: Secret of Alchemy

Secret of Formulary
The character has obtained a big, fat library of alchemical lore. Thus we presume that he actually has many Formulas for a multitude of purposes, but don't care enough to create them before we need them. The player may at any point choose to pay an Advance for a new Formula which the character takes out of his formulary and studies to refresh his memory. The new formula is created by the the SG according to the player's instructions. The player may remove any Formulas from the character sheet at end of a given session of play to regain the Advance from it. Cost: 2 Reason per added or removed Formula.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: agony on January 31, 2009, 11:57:17 AM
Wow Euro, you're amazing.  This is really almost perfect, the interplay of basic Effects combined with more structured Formulas is perfect for what we are looking for although I couldn't really formulate the idea into words previously.

One question:

In the Secret of Magnum Opus you state:
"He can now create a single concoction that can be applied to fulfill the potential of all of the original concoctions in one Effect."

I'm not sure I understand this, could you elaborate perhaps or show an example?

Thank you very much for all of this, I am far from lazy and don't mind doing the work but I did not know where to begin so you helped me greatly.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on January 31, 2009, 12:50:27 PM
Normally your concoction looks like this on the character sheet:

"My flying brew 4/R" - its quality is four, it's Reason-based and it's made with the flying formula

After you figure out that aha, actually flying and illusions are connected like so, you get:

"My flying illusion brew 4/R" - it's otherwise the same, but you can use the one concoction to produce both flying and illusion effects

So it's just a minor benefit for upkeep (cheaper to care for one Effect than two), not really very important mechanically. Allows you to clean up the character sheet a bit, too. The real effect of the Magnum Opus is to allow you to create a new Formula, which would presumably be a big deal in the world of alchemists.

Actually, I'm not so sure that I'm completely happy with the Magnum Opus, now that I think of it. The Formula creation thing is neat, but I'd also like the synergy benefit to be more significant. That was the original reason for the Secret, to give some slight synergy for having many Formulas... can't think of a good benefit right now. Ideally it'd be something that uses the set of Formulas somehow, but it's difficult, because individual Formulas do not really have any relationship to each other and are not really used together. I guess I'll have to live with that concoction-combining thing until I can think of something else.

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Paul T on February 03, 2009, 01:47:02 PM

I'm sorry to jump about this issue yet again, but I just want to make sure I'm understanding your handling of Effects correctly. Here we go:

Secret of Preparations (Ability)
The character has trained and prepared carefully to overcome greater skill with better preparation, trusting in his tools implicitly. The player may opt to replace a check of the indicated Ability with a prepared Effect in any situation where he could use the Effect for bonus dice. For example, an alchemist with the Secret of Preparations (Fighting) would not hesitate in applying his powders, flames and tinctures in a fight, thus leaving his own fighting skills out of the equation altogether as long as he had the appropriate Effects prepared. The opponent may choose to attack the Effect itself normally, of course. Cost: 1 Pool appropriate to the replaced Ability.

I'm trying to imagine what this would look like--your example with the alchemist in combat. I believe you are suggesting that it would work like this... correct me where I go wrong:

The alchemist prepares a bunch of powders, and creates an Effect like "Explosive Powders 3/R". In combat, he would roll with an Ability level of 3 (from the Effect) as he uses the powders to fight his enemies.

However, his enemies could choose to attack the Effect itself, in which case, if they roll better than 3, its level would be reduced (instead of Harm being dealt to the alchemist).

Is this right?

Title: Re: [Solar System]Apothecary...Huh?
Post by: Eero Tuovinen on February 04, 2009, 12:48:19 AM
Actually, the alchemist would not roll at all when he replaces his Ability check with an Effect - he'd just use the Effect's value as is. I discuss this a bit in the Solar System text as an option for when a character goes directly against an Effect - this Secret just allows a character to activate the Effect value in this manner in situations that wouldn't normally allow it. So an alchemist with an "Exploding Powder 3/R" could use the Effect in place of an Ability check in any situation where exploding powder would be useful, and his Ability check would be considered to have come out at 3, just like if he'd made the check.

I'm not saying that this is necessarily a good idea, but it's an option to test and consider.