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Weekly Update #37 - I Need a New Drug

Oh, thank gods! 

Chapter 5 finally wrapped up last week, after several iterations - first as "Living the Life," which has since become its own book, and then as "Delivering the goods," a chapter featuring rules for instruments, skills, drugs and performance. The drugs section was by far the hardest part; as that section notes, "Assembling a comprehensive list of rock-star drugs and their effects would consume this chapter and then some."

Although the Living the Life book contains a chapter titled "Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll" (named, like all the line's headings, for a song... in this case, Ian Dury's late-70s demi-hit), I had to keep the section called "Let's Get Fucked Up" (named for a more recent song by Illegal Substance) short yet informative. Ringing in at just under 3000 words, that section now hits the bases I had wanted to hit without once again breaking the bank, word-count-wise.    

Here's a snippet from that section, describing a few common substances and their general effects. In an effort to be true to the material (people take drugs for good reasons, after all), I included both the benefits and pitfalls of chemical indulgence in this listings.

Enjoy... and have a Happy Halloween!

See ya next week...

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I Need a New Drug

The following entries offer snapshots of the typical story-and-game effects of various drugs the characters might use.

Alcohol
Dose: 1 drink Potency: 1 (weak beer) to 4 (everclear)

Effects: Lowered inhibitions, slurred speech, impaired reflexes, muddied thinking, aggression. Moderately addictive. Long-term use may have intense story-based physical effects, and may lead to Wyrds: Addiction, Asshole, Beast, Obsession, or a combination of them.  

Overdose: Loss of muscle control, vomiting, and often passing out. If OD after more than five drinks, roll stamina with appropriate modifiers; failure means coma or death by poisoning, inhaled vomit, or organ failure unless life-saving measures are taken. 

Anabolic Steroids 

Dose: 1 shot or 3 pills Potency:

Effects: Story-based; no immediate intoxicating effects, though long-time users feel euphoric, energetic and volatile. Employed in “stacked” regimens over several weeks. Used to combat fatigue and build up impressive “stage muscles”; may become a story-based reason for physical trait gain. Steroid use has significant effects on libido, sexual performance, and cardiac health. Heavy use may result in the Wyrds: Asshole and Beast. 

Overdose: Racing heart, potentially fatal heart attack. 

Antidepressants 

Dose: 3 pills Potency: 2 to 3 

Effects: Story-based effects. Elevates mood. Large doses (3 pills or more) often bring on euphoria while scrambling sensory input. Potentially quite addictive, with crushing depression a typical side-effect of withdrawal. Common among artists on the road, who use them to control mood swings, emotional fatigue, and psychiatric disorders. Abuse may lead to the Wyrds: Addiction, Obsession, Stage Fright, or a combination of all three. 

Overdose: Racing heartbeat, flush, disorientation and unconsciousness; death unlikely but possible, especially when antidepressants get combined with other drugs. 

Caffeine 

Dose: 3 cups, cans or pills Potency: 1 (coffee, tea) to 3 (high-grade energy drink or pills) 

Effects: Energy rush and jitteriness, but not intoxication per se. Large doses may cause insomnia or mood swings. Constant use leads to story-based changes in temperament and sleep patterns. Physically and psychologically addictive. Heavy long-term use may lead to Wyrds: Addiction, Asshole, Beast, Obsession, or a combination of them. 

Overdose: Racing heart, flush, intense anxiety, and mood swings. Fatal OD extremely unlikely, but the rush may feel exceedingly unpleasant. 

Cannabiniods

Dose: 1 joint, 2 hits, 1 brownie Potency: 2 (joint) to 4 (hash oil or high-grade pot) 

Effects: Euphoria, scrambled senses, potential shifts of time/ space perception; occasional hallucinations with high-grade drug. Requires wits-based roll, not stamina-based one, to ride the effects. Not physically addictive, but might become psychologically addictive with heavy use. Constant use may lower mental traits and add one to four levels of the Wyrd: Spacey. 

Overdose: Racing heart, paranoia, intense anxiety and disorientation. Fatal OD essentially impossible, though it feels awful! 

Ecstasy 

Dose: 1 pill Potency: 2 to 3 (depends on purity) 

Effects: Intense euphoria, friendliness and sensual cravings. Flush, warmth and energy, with deepened appreciation of sensory impressions, especially touch and music. Frequent thirstiness and dehydration; occasional mild hallucinations. Wits-based roll to handle effects. Jitteriness and mood swings from euphoria (on the rush) to depression (the comedown). Psychologically, not physically, addictive. Long-term heavy use may lower mental traits, damage heart and kidneys, and inspire profound despair when the user isn’t high. 

Overdose: Racing heart, inner “burning” sensation, intense anxiety, sensory overload, and panic attacks. Especially when combined with intense physical exertion, OD may cause strokes, fatal seizures or heart attacks.

Opiates 

Dose: 1 shot, snort, hit or pill Potency: 3 to 5 (depends on purity and intake method) 

Effects: Intense blissful rush, floating feeling, dream-like disconnection, and impaired coordination and reflexes. “Softening” of pain and other sensations. Lowered energy or interest in external events. Occasional nausea and constipation. Highly addictive, with vicious withdrawal effects. Long-term use almost always leads to Wyrd: Addiction, possibly with Obsession, Stage Fright or both (plus Spacey), with reductions of physical and mental traits. 

Overdose: Powerful disorientation, potential suffocation, heart attack, seizure or all three. Fatal OD quite possible; Disaster leads to death unless character is successfully resuscitated.

Psychedelics 

Dose: 1 tab, cap, hit or pill Potency: 3 to 5 (depends on potency and specific drug) 

Effects: Wide range of effects, from mild disconnection to wild hallucinations; greater Potency yields stronger effects. Usually takes effect between a half-hour to two hours after ingestion, with a “floating” state followed by increasingly intense hallucinations. High may last two to six hours, depending on Potency, and might leave residual flashbacks and disconnection for days afterward. Wits-based roll for serotonin-like drugs (LSD, mascaline, DMT, ayahuasca); stamina-based roll for Belladonna-based drugs (PCP, ketamine, Jimsonweed, Belladonna extract). Occasional vomiting, especially with mushroom- or Belladonna-based drugs. Anxiety, disconnection and skewed perceptions very common; dexterity-based rolls suffer cumulative -1 penalty per dose because of scrambled sensory input. Dehydration common, with exhaustion and occasional depression after the trip ends. 

At Guide’s option, a successful psychedelic-drug roll may raise the character’s intoxication level to High, Grooving (for a dramatic success) or even Visionary (for a Triumph) if the character is in full-blown trip. Frequent use has significant story-based effects, possibly adding the Wyrds: Obsession, Offspring, Stage Fright or – with PCP – Beast. 

Overdose: Bad trip – intense anxiety, paranoia, and horrific hallucinations. Racing heart, increased body temperature. Potential freak-out, with extremely irrational and dangerous acts. Belladonna-based drugs can kill through heart attack or seizure. PCP may temporarily raise physical traits by several points while adding three to four temporary degrees of Beast...  


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Chapter 5 Done - YAY!!!

Rules for drugs, instruments, skills, and performances DONE! *whew* 

Now to finish that damn magic chapter and the characters chapter...

"And yet," as the man said, "it does move..." 

Cheers! 

- Satyr

Weekly Update #36 - Let's Get Fucked Up

Damned musicians and their penchant for drugs! 
Chapter 5, "Delivering the Goods," is almost finished. The problem holding up that chapter involves finding a graceful way to sum up the chemical romance of psychoactive drugs in the music world without blowing several thousand words trying to capture a vast and complex subject. I can't NOT address this topic in the book, but it's like trying to ride a seven-mile snake through the eye of a needle. Arg...
This week's update comes from the section as it currently exists. As always, what you see here is subject to change, deletion, or movement to another book before the final manuscript is done. 
Enjoy!

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Let’s Get Fucked Up

Given the swimming pools of booze I’ve guzzled over the years – not to mention all the cocaine, morphine, sleeping pills, cough syrup, LSD, Rohypnol… you name it – there’s really no plausible medical reason why I should still be alive.

Ozzy Osbourne  


Let’s talk about drugs.

Chemical romance is an inescapable fact of the music industry. Not everybody does drugs, but everybody knows somebody who does. For plenty of musicians, techies, scenesters and suits, drugs present an intrinsic part of the (un)holy trinity of Sex, Drugs & Rock-n-Roll. For better and worse, drugs have shaped the direction and texture of music for the last half-century at least, and some forms of intoxicated musicality may reach back to prehistoric times. Drugs help artists cope with stage fright, exhaustion and apparent creative blocks, help take the edge off (or keep the edge on) during the long grind of touring, and provide hours of fun and debauchery along the way.

They also help you seriously fuck up your life. The roll-call of artists who’ve died from drug use is as tragic as it is impressive: Michael Jackson, Keith Moon, Darby Crash, Miles Davis, Amy Winehouse, Bonn Scott, John Bonham, Elvis Presley, John Coltrane, Whitney Houston, Dee Dee Ramone, Johnny Thunders, Phil Lynott, DJ Screw, Charlie Parker, GG Allin, Sid Vicious, Kristen Pfaff, Brian Jones and the Big Three, of course – Jimi, Janis and Jim – plus a whole lot more besides. Others have died from complications of drug use: heroin didn’t pull the trigger on Cobain’s shotgun but it certainly didn’t help his state of mind; Randy Rhodes wasn’t high when the plane smashed through his tour bus, but the band’s driver (who fancied himself a pilot too) was wasted enough to think that buzzing that bus would be fun. And then there’s the living death of artists like Sly Stone or Peter Criss, who haven’t died as of this writing but whose lives effectively ended years ago thanks to their addictions. Legends like Johnny Cash and lesser artists like Nicki Sixx have battled addiction and come out scarred but intact; less-fortunate luminaries like Shane McGowan still carry on, functioning but forever impaired.

And yet, without drugs much of the most brilliant music of the last century would never have been composed. The stunning musical experiments of the 1960s rock, soul and jazz came largely from marriage of music, technology, politics and hallucinogens. Bands like the Beatles, the Wailers, Rush, the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead turned chemical insights into musical gold. The Doors took not only their name but their artistic philosophy from Aldous Huxley’s psychotropic treatise The Doors of Perception, which quoted Romantic artist (and reputed opium user) William Blake: “When the door of perception are cleansed, the world will appear as it is – infinite.” And as Ted Nugent has proved, you can be drug-free and yet still be worthless as both an artist and a human being.

In Powerchords, those psychoactive substances could also range from arcane brews like goblin ale or mystic substances like red shoes. Techomagical spincasters employ hallucinogens as part of their reality-shifting repertoire. Would-be stars use singing potions, while groupies have been known to enchant their idols with drugs that trigger an obsession with the dedicated fan. Chapter 6 features several strange concoctions from the Powerchords realm. The most common substances, however, are painfully mundane...
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Weekly Update #35 - Energy, Intoxication, and Get Your Shit Together

Rules, rules rules! that's what I've been working on lately. The majority of the work has gone into Chapter 5: I Want You to Want Me, the all-new performance chapter that originally began as part of I Put a Spell on you but soon revealed itself to be another chapter entirely. Now almost complete except for the section about game effects of drug use (an essential element of rock-n-roll roleplaying), that chapter is almost done. Here's a section of it. 

Enjoy!  

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Energy

Music demands physical, mental and metaphysical vitality. And so an artist who’s scared or sick, or a band at odds with itself or just plain tired, performs below their usual level. On the other hand, you could be having a great night, your band feels tight, and everything’s coming up roses. Hence the Energy circumstance; if there are dramatic story reasons that help or hurt a character’s health, bring this circumstance into play.

Energy also reflects the overall state of the band. Euphoric romances, exciting new members, great tours, spiritual blessings, united purpose, hit records, cool grooves or other happy events can keep artists energized; on the flip side, lovers’ quarrels, bad breakups, leadership disputes, hard tours, rotten conditions, financial hardships, road fatigue and other trials can sap vitality from the most devoted artists. For more details, see Powerchords: Living the Life.

For characters with certain Legacies and Wyrds, this circumstance is even more important: • The Legacy: Healing Harmonies adds a +1 bonus per degree, as the music rejuvenates both the audience and the band.

• The Wyrd: Lifethief adds the same bonus, as the character literally feeds off the crowd’s vitality… or her bandmates.

• The Wyrds: Addiction, Asshole, Beast and Rivalry subtract -1 from the roll per degree if the Wyrd in question is causing conflicts within the band… as such things usually do.

• The Wyrd: Stage Fright subtracts the same penalty unless the character has either pulled himself together with a will-based roll, or else found something to distract himself from that fear, before the performance begins. (See the sidebar “Get Your Shit Together.”)

• For a really important performance – say, one in which major-label agents are in the crowd or Satan is planning to make you his sex puppet unless you win – the resulting tension can either help or hurt your Energy. In this case, roll a single die. An even number adds +1 to your Energy, while an odd number subtracts -1 from it. The highest number possible adds +2, while the lowest reduces it by -2. This random chance adds to the dramatic nature of the roll and reflects the double-sided nature of a high-stakes gig. In this case, ignore the usual +5/ -5 modifier limit. A high-stakes performance breaks the usual rules of excellence and failure.

Each + or – modifier adds to or subtracts from the performance roll. The Energy categories are:

Broken: One half-step from quitting. 

Fractured: Serious illness, disputes or fatigue.

Ragged: Undeniable sickness, tensions, fear or fatigue. 

Weary: Pushing through troubles but feeling the strain. 

Tired: Kinda beat but dealing with it. 

Solid: All good. Let’s roll. 

Vital: In good spirits. 

Stoked: Hey, ho – let’s go! 

Rockin’: Riding the wave to a killer gig. 

Soaring: Firing on all cylinders. 

Euphoric: "I could live for a million years." 

[SIDEBAR] 

Get Your Shit Together 

Just before a gig, a character or band that’s feeling ragged can try to pull things together. In story terms, the artists involved try to rectify the situation: talking, hugging, praying, snorting lines, shagging groupies, meditating, beating the crap out of one another – whatever seems to work for the musicians in question. In game terms, the players decide what the characters are doing, and then make an appropriate “Get your shit together” roll. That roll depends on the situation and characters involved: 

• If the character’s trying to get herself in order alone, roll the traits related to her attempt to do so – probably a will or stamina-based roll. In Compact rules, this would be a Spirit roll. 

• If characters are trying to help one another, make that a social-based roll, again using the appropriate traits. This applies to physical solutions, too – decking the drummer might involve a social trait combined with an attack. 

• A successful roll raises the performer’s energy or intoxication one or two levels in a favorable direction; an unsuccessful one drops it one or two levels. A Triumph adds three levels, while a Disaster drops it three levels. Really dramatic roleplaying might raise or lower that attempt even further, with significant story-based effects. 

• You can try to get a character’s shit together onstage, but at a -3 penalty to the roll regardless of who’s doing what to whom. 

Tough love is a staple of the music business, and often involves methods that seem appalling otherwise. For better and worse, punching the singer is a time-honored way of solving problems backstage… and sometimes it even works. 

[END SIDEBAR] 

Intoxication

Chemical enhancement can either take your performance to the next level, or else level it completely. This double-edged circumstance reflects your overall impairment (see “Let’s Get Fucked Up,” [[[PAGE XX]]] ) and its effects on the performance. If you’re playing in a band, the modifier reflects the impairment of the group’s most intoxicated member. That character’s bonus or penalty counts for or against the entire band, allowing a psychotropic insight to bring everyone else along whereas foggy flailing spoils the gig for everybody. 

Each + or – modifier adds to or subtracts from the performance roll. Intoxication categories are: 

Visionary: Drug-inspired brilliance. 

Grooving: Locked into a tight trip that totally enhances the experience. 

High: Loose enough to shake the rust off. 

Sober: Not under the influence, or not showing it if you are. 

Buzzed: A bit blurry and slow on the uptake. 

Skewed: Scrambled reflexes, perceptions or both.  

Wasted: Obvious mental and physical impairment. 

Wrecked: Making an ass of yourself. 

Gone: Total impairment, collapse, or both. 

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Weekly Update #34 - Wild Talent

Hola, folks!

Chapter 6 - "I Put a Spell on You" - is underway to the tune of about 5000 words and rising. Part of that chapter covers the potent yet unschooled "wild talent": artists who, like Meghan  Susan Green from Arpeggio, have power they neither know how to use not truly understand.  

Once again, the word-count is rising fast; this time, though, an end is in sight. 

Enjoy! 

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Blind Man’s Cry: Wild Talent

Wild talent means “You have no idea what you’re doing, but you’re doing something…” In many stories, such as the webcomic Arpeggio, a clueless bard slings magic around without even realizing that magic exists; eventually, the weirdness gets out of hand and that musician must have a Come to Jesus meeting with the universe, either learning how to control her talent or else being destroyed by it. There’s more truth than poetry in this sort of story, too – just ask the ghosts of Morrison, Joplin, and other artists who let their gift run away with itself. (Personally, I think Hendrix knew exactly what he was doing… but even masters make mistakes.)

In game terms, wild talent manifests as random Legacies, Wyrds and magical effects that neither the character nor the player can control. Instead, the Guide keeps a list of Legacies and Wyrds (probably two or three of each) that suit the character’s background, personality and music. Essentially, these become “unofficial” traits the character has but the player does not know about. Each trait has between one and three degrees, with the value of that trait, like its identity, being kept secret from the player.

When the player rolls a success or failure, or at some other dramatically appropriate moment, that Legacy or Wyrd manifests. As with a Triumph or Disaster, the trait’s effects last for a short time (usually a day or less); with a wild talent, however, that trait manifests repeatedly, becoming a signature of the character’s wild talent.

Unlike Triumphs or Disasters, the wild talent doesn’t follow success or failure. Bad things could happen after a great performance, while something good might come of a terrible night. The Guide says what happens, how and why. For dramatic impact, wild talent should be tied to appropriate moments in the story; an attractive Offspring, for instance, might show up after the musician plays a sad love song, while an intense healing session causes the musician to start cutting himself (the Wyrd: Self-Injury, described in the Deliria book Everyday Heroes).

Appropriate Legacies: Bardic Gift, Burning Bright, Charming, Charisma Bomb, Empathy, Entourage, Fame, Fey-Fond, Healing Harmonies, Patron, Soulsight, Task-Master

Appropriate Wyds: Addiction, Bad Rep, Beast, Fey-Cursed, Hated, Psycho, Lifethief, Mystic Heritage, Offspring, Party God, Road Gremlins, Self-Injury, Spacey

A character with wild talent must purchase the Legacy: Musical Prodigy and the Accord: Wild Talent as “official” traits; she might also buy whatever Accords, Legacies or Wyrds the Guide allows her to have. The wild talent traits are extra blessings or curses that remain beyond the player’s control. In time, if and when the character learns to master her art, the player may “officially” add the wild talent traits to her character sheet… or even, with the Guide’s approval, get rid of those traits altogether. If and when that happens, the Wild Talent Accord gets replaced by a magical practice that suits the character’s studies...   

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