Copyright © 1993 by Michael O’Brien (additional input: Mark Holsworth)
- Rainbow Grass – Pent
- Stigummay – Prax & the Wastes
- Xcori – Kralorela
- Cataplasis – Sog City, Fronela
- Lunar Tea – The Lunar Empire
- Malhauti Venom – Teshnos
- Gallegos Leaves – Ulifilas, Lunar Heartlands
- Other Top Stuff – Hazia and Black Lotus Dust
Rainbow Grass – Found: Pent
Rainbow Grass grows wild over much of middle Pent, and most prolifically north of the Ute River. Whether it is called “Rainbow” Grass for the psychedelic visions it causes or because of the secretion of glimmering oil it exudes along its stem is moot. A short, tubular plant growing in clumps, it is harvested by the Pentian nomads in Earth season and consumed in large quantities through the winter and particularly during Sacred Time. Rainbow grass is used in many shamanistic rituals and is a particular favourite of Pentian ancestor worshippers, who burn it in honour of favoured ancestors (spirits of the dead enjoy rainbow grass smoke); for this reason it is frequently planted at nomad burial sites.
A euphoric effect can be obtained simply by licking the oil from the sharp blades of Rainbow Grass. Fortunately horses shun it, but over-enthusiastic Pentans – usually unitiated boys not yet permitted to smoke – are caught out by their bloodied and raw tongues.
The nomads obtain a more potent oil using a crude distillation process. Cut and dried rainbow grass is then soaked in the oil, rolled into tight wads and stored away for the winter season.
Rainbow grass is a psychedelic which when licked or smoked in small quantities causes a relaxed euphoria and a slight tendency for the user to see faint POW auras. The stronger the concentration of the rainbow grass oil, the more this effect approximates the Second Sight spell. Heavy smokers gain other visions, hallucinations some would say, but actually perceptions of the spirit plane itself; only shamans would normally smoke this much rainbow grass.
If 2 Magic Points are cast into Rainbow grass smoke all the spirits caught in there become visible, as per the RuneQuest spirit magic spell Visibility. Many Pentian spirits know this and can make use of Rainbow grass smoke to appear before their kin.
Aside from licking the oily blades, Rainbow grass is taken in a variety of ways. Traditionally, a wad is just thrown on a fire and the smoke is allowed to collect in the tent. Some Pentians also use wooden pipes, and recent years Lunar influence has spread the practise of rolling wads up into large cigars. Some shamans have also been known to chew it – what effects this has on the user are not documented. It is moderately psychologically habit-forming but is not physically addictive and no tolerance is built up.
Rainbow grass does not thrive in temperate climes and its properties are not widely known outside of Pent. Wads of oil-soaked rainbow grass remain potent for several seasons, so it could conceivably be exported long distances without a significant loss of quality.
Stigummay – Found: Prax & the Wastes
Stigummay is made from mashed larval grubs of the Arrowbush Beetle of Prax and the Wastes. Its properties are well known among the Animal Nomads, and Stigummay is often used in the initiation rituals of the Storm Bull cult in these regions. The Storm Khans claim the tiny but ferocious Arrowbush beetle is somehow akin to the Storm Bull, as attested by the curious beast-rune like marking on its back, its horn-like antennae and the violent effects of eating Stigummay.
Stigummay is prepared by grinding a handful of live Arrowbush beetle grubs with a mortar, and mixing with water. The result is a lumpy, greyish paste which looks, smells and tastes foul. In addition to to the Stigummay paste, the warriors always swallow one or more live grubs, which trigger the reaction.
Because of its disgusting nature, swallowing the Stigummay is difficult to do without gagging (roll under CON x3). Many warriors cheat, and rinse their mouths with juice of unripe axolberries, which deaden the taste buds. Such berries are not offered to those undergoing initiation, or strangers forced to swallow the brew to prove their manliness. And although Arrowbush beetle grubs are plentiful year-round, axolberries are only available in Earth season.
The effects of Stigummay occur shortly after swallowing the live grub – it is possible to eat the Stigummay paste up to six hours before battle, and bolt down the grub just before the fighting. Stigummay causes the warrior to feel battle lust, and raises all attack skills by 10% per melee round until the live grub inside the warrior is killed by his digestive processes. Unfortunately, the stronger the CON of the taker, the shorter time it takes to kill the grub. Every 2 melee rounds, the warrior must make a CON roll. The first is CON x1, the next is CON x2 and so on. If the roll succeeds, the grub is killed by his digestive processes. Once the grub perishes, the added skill levels then drop by 10% per melee round.
However, when the grub is killed it reacts with the remaining Stigummay in the warrior’s belly to form a powerful irritant, POT 10 + 1 for every melee round the grub survived after being swallowed. This attacks the warrior’s CON, and it if succeeds, immediately reduces his fatigue to zero and causes him to vomit and retch for 1d6 melee rounds. All skills are halved during this time. If the warrior resists the CON attack, he has resisted the urge to vomit immediately, but still must do so with 5 minutes or another CON attack occurs.
The effects of Stigummay are compatible with spells such as Fanaticism, but not Berserk. A Berserker’s inflamed stomach acids kill the swallowed grub immediately.
Some outsiders have noted that certain battle-crazed nomads swallow live maggots before a fight, and less fortunate others have even been forced to swallow Stigummay by them. Nobody thus far has had the desire to export the idea out of Prax, not even to Pavis. Arrowbushes have been successfully grown beyond Prax and the Wastes (notably in Esrolia where they are used in ornamental gardens), but the beetles have never survived the transition.
Xcori – Found: Kralorela
Xcori is the Kralorelan name for a small shrub which grows in semi-arid soils across eastern Genertela. The juice extracted from the sinuous roots of the Xcori plant can be imbibed as a mental stimulant, and is often purchased by aspiring Kralorelan scholars before their examinations, which are lengthy, esoteric and crucial, as they determine the candidate’s future advancement and status. They are also very expensive to sit for, and many aspiring mandarins can only afford to take the exams once in their life.
Xcori aids in mental concentration and negates the need to sleep (in fact, a user high on Xcori juice probably wouldn’t be able to sleep even if he tried). Depending on the POT of the juice, takers gain from 1 to 8 points of “false INT” for 1d20 hours. A corresponding number of points are reduced from the taker’s STR, CON and DEX (which sometimes plays havoc with the calligraphy component of the examination). Modify all skills accordingly. It is generally added to warm water and sipped.
It is very important that candidates continue taking Xcori throughout their examination cycle, because withdrawal symptoms include total nervous collapse and extreme fatigue for up to a week. This often happens to examinees who never took Xcori after the gruelling tests anyway!
Xcori is not particularly addictive, and a slight tolerance is acquired by the few frequent users. Although it is not expressly forbidden, the examining exarchs often penalize those they suspect of trying to pass with the help of Xcori. One tell-tale sign is characteristically shaky calligraphy, which inadvertently discriminates against fair-dealing scholars who are otherwise worthy, but mediocre with the brush.
Xcori grows wild in the northern reaches of Shiyang province and beyond, and has resisted attempts to cultivate it. During examination periods it fetches ludicrously high prices among desperate students (up to 33 silver taels a dose). Students are the main market, for slaves, the menial classes and merchants are prohibited from using it.
Cataplasis – Found: Sog City, Fronela
Cataplasis is euphoric substance administered by means of a poultice – a patch worn next to the skin. Cataplasis is amalgam of several ingredients, soaked into the patch and affixed to the skin by a bandage. The active component is known in Sog City as “mildstone”, but it is not a mineral at all, rather the droppings of a rare species of waterbird called the gull-raptor that lives on the shores of the Sweet Sea and the banks of the Janube River as far as Galastar.
Unlike many drugs, Cataplasis keeps its user “high” continuously, or at least as long as the poultice is worn and the drug is being absorbed by the skin. It promotes in the user a slightly euphoric feeling of well-being, self-confidence and calm equanimity. Some say it is a taste of the Solace one can expect in the Malkioni afterworld, but many sects forbid their members taking it, and no Cataplasis addict can ever be a successful sorcerer.
Mind affecting spells (Befuddle, Demoralize, Fear, etc.) are less effective against Cataplasis addicts – halve the chances of such spells working on them. However, to perform any complex function (such as casting a spell, tying a knot, or writing) requires a successful concentration roll (INT x3). Many people in Sog manage to carry out virtually normal lifestyles under the influence of Cataplasis, wearing a patch as they go about their daily affairs. The drug has two unpleasant side-effects, constipation and excessive perspiration, but addicts will tell you that these discomforts are worth the pleasures Cataplasis brings. The drug is extremely addictive, both psychologically and physically, and few are strong enough to break the habit (try rolling under POW x3 six days in a row). When in 1499 the Syndics ban closed all trade between Galastar and Sog, supplies of Cataplasis in the metropolis dried up rapidly, with desperate addicts fighting over what remained. Once the supply was gone, many addicts committed suicide rather than face the pain of withdrawal; of those that didn’t, few survived (including one who lived long enough to resume his habit when the Ban was lifted a hundred years later!).
Now that trade has resumed between Galastar and Sog, Cataplasis is again available. With the build-up of a century’s worth of gull-raptor guano, the price was initially remarkably cheap. In lawless Sog there are no prohibitions against taking this or any other drug (unlike almost every other city along the Janube) and many people became addicted to Cataplasis when it again flooded the market. However, the appearance of the Kingdom of War in 1612 severely curtailed Janubian river trade, limiting the availability of Cataplasis and causing the price to sky-rocket. The streets of Sog are now full of desperate addicts, and while Cataplasis patches were once worn ostentatiously as part of the prevailing fashion, they are now hidden on the person secretly.
The price of a Cataplasis patch varies, from 100 – 300L. Some are weaker than others, reducing the effects described above. A good patch should last up to a season.
Lunar Tea – Found: The Lunar Empire
Moon Rock has many magical and medicinal properties, and despite its rarity on the earth below, is used for a variety of arcane and therapeutic purposes by the Red Emperor and his high nobles. The lower orders too, can share in this somewhat, with the consumption of Lunar Tea. Lunar Tea is normal tea, imported from Porthomeka in the Holy Country or grown domestically in Holay, Aggar and Tarsh, mixed with a fine grey grit the sellers claim is crushed moon rock. Various medicinal properties are claimed for drinking Lunar Tea, but it is mainly drunk as a mild relaxant.
Most Lunar Tea is, of course, a crock – the grey powder is usually just crushed local stone with no therapeutic value whatsoever. Only in the richest Lunar households would a drinker be assured of getting the real thing.
Prices reflect the authenticity of the product – ranging from 15L a bushel to 175L.
Molhauti Venom – Found: Teshnos
The Molhauti is a small species of snake that lives along the lush waterways of Teshnos. Molhauti snakes are sleek and attractive, distinctive for multi-coloured bands circling their bodies. Molhauti are said to have been created as playthings by the volcano god Solf, long before he burnt himself out.
Molhauti are venomous, and can control the potency of their venom (POT 1 to 24). The venom POT is matched against the victim’s CON: if successful the victim loses the equivalent number of general hit points. If the victim resists the venom, he feels a brief jab of intense pain, followed by a sweet sensation described by some addicts like that of being born again. The bite leaves two tiny puncture marks, which must heal naturally.
Several cults and a number of secret societies in Teshnan cities of Dombain and Glo use Molhauti venom in their initiation tests – if the candidate survives the bite, he is allowed to join. In addition, many Malhauti addicts live throughout the country, frequently keeping a pet snake in a cane basket to supply them. These trained snakes rarely inject more than a relatively harmless dose.
Addicts gain a degree of tolerance from Molhauti venom through repeated exposure, though their bodies are often covered with tiny bitemarks slowly scabbing over. In the lush heat of Teshnos this makes clothing uncomfortable, and naked Molhauti addicts are a common sight lounging at the gateways of towns and cities across the country, each with a little snake curled about them somewhere.
Unfortunately, addicts tend towards obesity, and over time the venom dulls the senses and thickens the tongue. Male addicts also often become painfully, if uselessly priapic. No wonder then that the indolent volcano god Solf is often depicted as a fat Malhouti addict, little snake and all.
Addicts must be bitten at least daily, and some prefer to be bitten many times more. If a daily injection is missed, the skin around the addict’s most recent bites begins to suppurate and peel off, spreading to other parts of the body as the weeks progress. This continues until the addict is a mass of festering sores, until he is bitten again or until he succeeds in breaking his addiction (by making successive CON x1 rolls three days in a row).
Malhauti venom quickly loses its potency after leaving the snake, and therefore cannot be bought separately. The snakes can be bought in any Teshnan city for 5- 25 wheels. Priests of Solf claim to sell the most docile of the snakes, ideal for addicts (often the snakes themselves are just drugged by the vendor to dupe the buyers). The snakes rarely grow much longer than half a metre, and like be fed at least monthly. They eat anything small and live, preferring fish.
Gallegos Leaves – Found: Ulifilas, Lunar Heartlands
Gallegos is the Dara Happan hero who was granted immortality and omnipotence so long as he did nothing. His star in the western sky now remains a fixed dot, never twinkling or moving. The hero still has a following the austere Dara Happan city of Ulifilas, famous for its conservatism and moral severity. Gallegos’s disciples seek to emulate him in their daily affairs by remaining as implacable, emotionless and inert as possible throughout, with the most devout on retirement entering a motionless trance-like state in imitation of their hero, fighting the temptation to eat, drink or even breathe, until they finally perish.
As an incentive to remain sober and sedentary, Gallegos devotees stick special leaves onto their skin. Known in Ulifilas as “Gallegos Leaves”, they come from a tropical plant native to New Coast of southern Maniria. They are now grown in special greenhouses inside the city. The leaves contain a powerful toxin, which reacts to changes of temperature. Thus, when someone wearing such a leaf next to his skin becomes excited, angry, aroused, too hot, or even too cold, the leaf exudes the toxin causing an unbearably painful burning sensation. Only when the wearer forces himself to relax and his body temperature returns to normal does the pain cease.
Gallegos leaves are broad and flat, covered with a tiny fuzz that is actually millions of minuscule hooks, each filled with the potent toxin. The leaves are simply wrapped or taped to any part of the body – most typically across the back – often in way so that the wearer cannot easily remove it. A fresh leaf lasts up to a season if the wearer does not exert himself too much. Even when a leaf is removed, there may be enough of the tiny toxin-filled hooks stuck in his skin to continue affecting him for some time (1d20-1 days). It is possible to die from the effects of a Gallegos leaf: the dignified silence of Ulifilas is sometimes rent by the screams of a fallen Gallegos disciple desperately trying to tear the leaf from his body; by doing so all that happens is the victim gets hotter and hotter, and more toxin is pumped into him.
Each attack temporarily reduces the wearer’s CON by 1d3 every minute, until the temperature equilibrium is restored. Lost CON points are regained by 1 point every hour, unless there is another attack. If CON is reduced to zero during an attack, the wearer must roll under his original CON x3 or die.
Gallegos devotees get their leaves for free, but they are not the only people in Ulifilas to use them. The city authorities have found a novel application for them in their punishment of minor sexual offenders, and certain elements in the Lunar Government itself are looking at the possible uses of Gallegos leaves in their interrogative processes.
Gallegos leaves may be purchased by outsiders from the Gallegos cult for a 5L donation, which includes compulsory fitting.
Other Top Stuff – Hazia & Black Lotus Dust
Hazia is a highly addictive euphoric substance secretly grown deep among the barley fields of Sun County. Known locally as “dummy”, when smoked it produces an effect not unlike discorporation. Its effects are described fully in Sun County and issue #4 of Tales of the Reaching Moon.
Black Lotus Dust comes from the Kingdom of Ignorance, and is so potent, one sniff makes the victim a life-long addict. It is used to keep the slave population docile and desperately obedient. It is said in the Glorantha: Genertela Book that the reigning exarch there, Can Shu the Glory of Ignorance, “reportedly believes that he will conquer the world by exporting Black Lotus Dust and eventually selling a large dose to the Sun God” (p.23).
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