April 10, 2014
Drugs In Tabletop Games
Drugs, drug use, and most importantly drug addiction, feature to varying levels in many different tabletop games. Some treat them very seriously, others do not make mention of them at all. It all depends on what game you are playing, the sort of campaign your Gamemaster is running, and – of course – your group’s own individual thoughts and feelings on the topic of drug use. So, rather than giving an overall view as I have with other very sensitive topics, I am going to look at a two specific games and how they handle, or could handle, drug use.
First off, lets start with the big one, Dungeons & Dragons and/or Pathfinder. This is one of those games that might mention drugs and drug use, but never really have it come up in terms of mechanics. It exists in their worlds, primarily in the form of made-up fantasy drugs or opium dens, but only as a story element. However, there are definitely things that exist in that world that could very easily be seen as a form of drug use. I am talking about potions. Potions are magical liquids that you drink in order to give yourself some magical effect. Most often it is healing, but it can also be an increase to strength, durability, swiftness, give you supernatural insight, and much, much more. Potions typically have a very limited duration and once they are done, they are just done. There is no after-effect, no crash, and no real chance of addiction. Drug use is not a major theme of these games, and that is fine. These games are meant more for the simple fun.
On the opposite end of that spectrum are games like Shadowrun where drug use is not only brought up and described in great detail, along with the rules of addiction and substance abuse, but it is also relatively common among player characters. Combat drugs are especially useful to those characters lacking the boost that cyberware, bioware, or magic can give them and instead rely on a drug that they can take and gain a powerful, albeit temporary, boost. This game, in my opinion, handles the subject very well, as there are definitely risks to using drugs that include overdosing, addiction, withdrawal, the crash, and even going burn-out. Sure, some might view that the game takes too positive of a view of drug use for some, but that is left up to individual players and Gamemasters. If you have someone in your group uncomfortable with such things, then tone them back or do not bring them up at all.
Most games do treat drug use as a very serious matter, as they should. Many “realistic” games, in which the players take on the roles of people living in something closely resembling our real world, usually have a fairly good set of rules regarding drug use and addiction, and will go into how drugs can destroy someone and what effects they will have not only on that person’s life but on the lives of all those around them. Games like World of Darkness do a very good job with this, in fact.
Obviously, drug use is a very serious issue that affects the lives of countless people all over the world, and such should be taken seriously. As with all serious matters, consult your group before making it a major theme in one of your campaigns. Make sure your players are comfortable with it and if they are not, then avoid it. Keep games fun, that is what is important.
As always, thanks for reading and I wish you all good gaming.
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