Alchemy, Herbalism and Poisons

For information on the costs of potions and poisons look here.


Alchemy is the art and science of purifying the self and the world. It's as much a spiritual journey as any other form of magic. The problem is that a lot of people don't realise that. To the uninitiated, the big schtick of alchemists is the potions they make, but there's far more even to them than meets the eye. An alchemical potion is an expression of a profound truth, it is a manifestation of the alchemist's path to perfection. That non-alchemists buy them and knock them back like cheap beer causes alchemists equal parts distaste and amusement.

Alchemical potions have different effects depending on who takes them. If a potion is taken by an alchemist who knows how to make that sort of potion, then it has a bonus effect. If it is taken by anybody else, then it has its ordinary effect, and may also have side effects.

Spirits & Alchemists

Alchemy is about spirit. It is about the isolation and understanding of the essential natures of things. As a result, alchemists have something of an advantage when dealing with spirits. An alchemist who has a chance to study a spirit for a whole day or more can buy their next Rank of the Alchemy for 2xp rather than the usual 6. An alchemist who actually manages to get a chance to do experiments on a spirit can produce some very interesting and unusual results.


The thing about alchemy is that it changes you on a fundamental level, and most people aren't ready for that. During an adventure, keep track of how many alchemical potions each PC has taken. If a PC drinks a potion which brings the total number of potions they've consumed that adventure above the character's current Psyche hits then they have become “reliant” upon that type of potion. Note that a good night's sleep sets the tally of potions drunk back to zero - somebody can safely drink a few potions a day and never become addicted. You can't become reliant on a potion by losing Psyche hits. You can become reliant on more than one kind of potion.

Reliance is partially psychological and partially physical, alchemically speaking it's all the same. While a character is reliant on a potion they are assumed to be under the reversed effect of that potion at all times. For example, if a character is reliant on healing potions then they are permanently down one Body hit to all locations, and can only have those hits restored by taking healing potions. An alchemist will never suffer reliance upon a potion that they know how to make.

Generally the only way to cure reliance is by going cold turkey. A character who is reliant upon a potion must spend at least one adventure and one downtime without drinking a single potion of that type. At the GM's option the withdrawal symptoms may prevent them from achieving anything else (such as raising a Class level) during that downtime, and during the adventure the effects of their addiction and craving should be roleplayed. If a character is not going cold turkey then the GM may choose to impose a penalty on their income to represent the expense of fuelling their addiction. This penalty is likely to be reduced or ignored for those with sufficient Wealth - for many of the more dissolute nobles drug habits are de rigeur.

Selling Potions

Characters can sell off the potions (and poisons) they've manufactured in downtime for HALF (round up) the price listed (that is, the cost for people without the skill). IC because you're an adventurer, you don't have the connections and trust to sell things off at 'reliable merchant' prices. Merchants wishing to use their class skills to sell at better prices should discuss the matter with the Head GM. Additionally alchemists should feel free to sell or trade their creations to other PCs for whatever rate they can negotiate.


The main potions which can be brewed by alchemists are as follows:

Healing Potions

Price 3 Hexa, raw materials cost 1 Hexa.

The old mainstay of an adventurer's life, healing potions heal one Body hit to every location when drunk.

Alchemists who know how to make healing potions heal an extra Body hit to the Torso when they drink one.

A character reliant upon healing potions is permanently down 1 Body hit to every location. Drinking a healing potion will restore the hits lost to reliance, but only for one Encounter.

Strength Potions

Price 5 Hexa, raw materials cost 2 Hexa.

Strength potions give a character an extra two Ranks of the Strong skill (or three ranks if they normally have no ranks of Strong) for the duration of the Encounter in which they are drunk. Characters reaching Strong 5 this way do not recieve a Mythic Feat. See the Skills page for more details.

Once the potion wears off the character is weakened - any Ranks of the Strong skill they have are ignored for the next Encounter, and if they don't normally have any Ranks of the Strong skill then their damage is reduced by one rank for the next encounter (singles to halves, halves to ZERO, as usual). Note that strength potions are not cumulative - drinking more than one strength potion in the same Encounter will have no additional effect.

Alchemists who know how to make strength potions may purchase Strong as a Scholar skill.

A character reliant upon strength potions is permanently weakened, as from having drunk a strength potion in the previous Encounter. Drinking a potion of strength will restore them to normal for one Encounter, but won't give them the usual bonus skill Ranks.

Purification Potions

Price 5 Hexa, raw materials cost 2 Hexa.

Purification potions purge the drinker of all disease, poison and impurity. The downside is that they also deal a Through Single to every location because they burn out a lot of other things as well. Alchemists of any sort, Light Sorcerers (Ordained or otherwise) and those reliant on purification potions are all sufficiently purified to avoid the burning.

Alchemists who know how to make purification potions are immune to the effect the potion was taken to cure for the remainder of the encounter.

Reliants have their immune systems greatly suppressed, as a result of which poisons and diseases have double the normal effect on them.

Sleeping Potions

Price 3 Hexa, raw materials cost 1 Hexa.

Sleeping potions put the drinker into a deep sleep from which almost nothing will awaken them for at least four hours. During this sleep they will recover their Psyche hits as from a normal good night's sleep.

To alchemists who can make these potions the sleep is simply natural, and a ninety minute catnap after drinking a sleeping potion will restore all Psyche hits the alchemist has lost. To the reliant these potions are the only way to get a decent night's sleep at all. Unless they drank a sleeping potion the previous night they are permanently at half their normal number of Fatigue hits (round down) and down one Psyche hit.

Love Potions

Price 10 to 20 Hexa, raw materials cost 3 Hexa.

Another old mainstay, a love potion causes the person who drinks it to fall in love with the next person they lay eyes on and remain besotted with them until either sunrise or sunset, whichever is sooner.

To an alchemist who knows how to make love potions they simply make the world seem a generally more beautiful and pleasant place.

For a reliant, it is impossible to feel any of the more tender emotions unless under the influence of a love potion.

Dream Potions

Price 5 Hexa, raw materials cost 2 Hexa.

Much beloved by Dream Sorcerers and Glass Sorcerers, these potions grant the drinker visions. Dream Sorcerers, Glass Sorcerers, characters with the Visions skill and alchemists who know how to make dream potions may all use these visions to produce something of use (although for Glass Sorcerers “of use” usually means “images of the Vitriarchs”). Anyone else just has random daydreams and hallucinations.

To a reliant, these potions become the only way to stop the images in their head and their hallucinations from getting out of control.

Travel Potions

Price 15 Hexa, raw materials cost 3 Hexa.

Travel potions allow the drinker's soul to leave their body as an invisible ethereal spirit and travel to other places. Possible destinations include wandering the world astrally (relatively safe), wandering the realm of Dreams (comparatively safe), wandering the Burned Realm (dangerous) and wandering the Shattered Plain and the Tower of Glass (insanely dangerous). However, although the potion allows the drinker to leave their body easily enough they must find their own way back to it. If someone stays away from their body for too long it could die from hunger and thirst, and then where would they be? Note that while travelling as an ethereal spirit the drinker cannot initiate psychic combat except with other ethereal spirits.

An alchemist who knows how to make travel potions may return to their body at will.

Reliants must drink a travel potion each day and each night in order to keep their spirit in their physical body and not go astrally wandering.

Anti-[Form of Magic] Potions

Price 15 Hexa, raw materials cost 3 Hexa.

There are seven types of these potions - variants which protect against Ash, Blood, Chains, Dream, Glass, Light and Wind. Alchemists must learn how to make each type of potion separately. As long as you have taken a potion since the end of the last encounter, it will counteract the next instantaneous spell cast on you from that magic type. Shout 'anti-magic' to let everyone know that the Storm of Shards has just harmlessly sprayed off you, or whatever. You cannot be affected by more than one anti-magic potion in this way. Ongoing magical effects (Such as a Blood Vengeance, Sickening, Given Name and Renamed) are merely supressed for the length of the adventure.

Alchemists who know how to make a potion to protect against the right Form of magic can call 'anti-magic' twice per potion taken. Additionally they may break an ongoing spell of that Form permanently and completely by drinking one potion.

Reliants have to take a potion every day just to stop the effects of the spell from getting twice as bad as before.


Anyone with the Herbalism or Alchemist skill is assumed to know pretty much everything about all of the herbs below and their properties, and those with the Herbalism skill are also able to prepare them for use. Those with the Poisoner skill are assumed to know about and be able to prepare all of the poisonous ones.

A few brief words on the science of all this. As you may note, the effects of herbs in the White City are based on a mystical worldview. Furthermore, the life cycles of plants in general fit this worldview. There are some kinds of plant that grow only on the sites of murders, just as there are some that grow only by the banks of rivers.

A further note on the distinction between the Alchemist, Herbalism and Poisoner skills. Basically herbalism is far more flexible than alchemy (at least point-for-point) but far less powerful. Herbal cures and poisons are of limited effect and can be easily counteracted by other herbs. A poisoner has less flexibility than a herbalist, but can do more with the poisonous herbs. A herbalist could use silkflower to poison somebody by preparing the petals and then mixing them into that person's food, a poisoner could prepare a refined form of the poison which would be easier to transport and apply and harder to detect (at least until ingested).

The Uses of Herbalism

The effects a Herbalist can produce are broadly suggested by the list of herbs below. A few more concrete suggestions include:

  • First Aid skill is increased by one rank, this *can* take it over 5.
  • The Herbalist can prepare slow-acting poisons (see the poisons page), although these are only suitable for ingestion (or equivalent).
  • A Herbalist can often reduce or remove the effects of slow-acting poisons (GM discretion).
  • A Herbalist can also, with 30s of work, remove the effects of paralysis.
  • The symptoms of many diseases can be alleviated.

This list is not exhaustive. It is generally assumed that by spending a few hexa at the beginning of an adventure and keeping her eyes open while travelling in the countryside, a herbalist has enough herbs to produce most herbalism-based effects on demand. However, for certain extreme circumstances (that is, if the use of Herbalism has become a Plot Point), the acquisition of specific rare and powerful herbs may require a special journey.

A List of Herbs

  • Deathbed - This herb grows in places ravaged by plague and is considered to be associated with the Prince of Miasmas. Deathbed is harmless unless the subject is already ill or injured, at which point the herb removes all their capacity to hold on to life.
  • Dustfall - A short, spiky grass which grows in places where the ashes of the dead have been scattered. When drunk in an infusion it acts as a painkiller.
  • Echorush - Rushes from the River of Echoes, when properly prepared and infused, produce a form of nepenthe.
  • Firecap - A mushroom which has a mild euphoric effect. There are also a remarkable number of people who claim that eating it makes you immortal, despite a complete lack of supporting evidence.
  • Grey Lilies - They aren't actually grey at all, they're white like most other lilies. They grow around places where people have drowned. They have both a curative (First Aid bonus) and a painkilling effect.
  • Lady-of-Battles - A flower found growing wherever the soil is thick with blood (and also, incidentally, considered to have some association with the Old Power of the same name). It has strong curative effects (back with the standard First Aid bonus).
  • Nightgrass - A stubborn and hardy grass that grows in the farthest reaches of the North. It is thought to bring vivid, and some would suggest true, dreams.
  • Rattle-Weed - Grows at the sites of murders and betrayals, this is a fast and subtle poison.
  • Sagacity - Just used for cooking really.
  • Silkflower - Found in spaces where spiders congregate, this is a nasty little bloom which causes creeping paralysis and eventual death.
  • Silverleaf - A hallucinogen favoured in the Port of Glass. This herb is dangerous and potent and does eventually drive its users mad.
  • Spiderbane - As the name implies this herb is poisonous to spiders, and also to the Weavers of the City of Silk. It is found throughout the Great Forest, but never in great quantity.
  • Stonecap - A hallucinogenic mushroom also known as “the eye of stone”, used by the centaurs that live in the hills along the River of Echoes. Associated with the Lord of Sand & Stone.
  • Vainglory - Leaves of this plant are dried and smoked as a mild hallucinogenic, particularly popular in the Port of Glass.
  • Veracity - A mushroom found in the West in the usual fungal places. When properly dried it has an unusual psychoactive effect, which is best looked at as an analogue to a modern truth serum. It causes the subject to babble whatever happens to be on their mind, without enough coherence to lie properly.
  • Weeping-Bark - The bark of a willow whose roots have been watered with tears. This one's a soporific.
  • Whisper-Moss - Moss that grows along the banks of the River of Whispers. It has some healing properties (the standard First Aid bonus) and is rumoured to grant a chance of surviving even the direst of wounds.


Poisons! A bit like a custard pie in the face, really. Hilarious when they're happening to someone else, less so when it's you. All sorts of poisons can be found in the White City world, but there are two basic divisions that are of immediate concern to players. Those are, Fast-Acting and Slow-Acting Poisons. The difference lies in whether they take effect fast enough to be noticable within a normal encounter or not.

Slow-Acting Poisons

These do not take immediate effect. There is no need for a call to take care of them, since it won't be relevant in the same fight in which you get hit. The GM will explain the effects if you've been hit by one during battleboarding, and then you can deal with them (or not, and suffer the effects in later encounters), or will decide on the consequences if you've hit an NPC with one.

Slow-Acting poisons have all sorts of effects: maybe the hideously infected bite of the Komodo Dragon is slowly killing you, perhaps you're beginning to hallucinate that your companions are Cloistered Bretheren sent to kill you, or maybe you simply proceed to vomit your guts out and go into the next encounter seriously weakened. Either way, the effect can usually be offset by a Purification (potion or spell)(if the effect results from ongoing poison in the system), Blood Cure, an antitoxin (ditto), or at GM's discretion by a Herbalist.

Fast-Acting Poisons

These have some immediate effect, so they need a call. There are two calls for fast-acting poisons.

'Paralysis' or 'paralysing [amount of damage]':

The first time in an encounter you take a flesh hit from paralysing damage, your character's limbs start to seize up. From then on you have about a minute of free action before you should stop moving around. You may want to roleplay your character slowly paralysing towards the end of the time. Every subsequent flesh hit from paralysing damage approximately halves the remaining time.

Regardless of how much paralysing poison you've taken on board, a Purification or Blood Cure totally clears you up. Additionally, a Herbalist can clear up most paralysis cases (unless the GM rules otherwise) in about 30s of work. Characters who have no help getting over paralysis will take hours or in bad cases days to recover. If something else doesn't get them first.

'Poison', or 'Poison [amount of damage]'.

The actual 'Poison' call represents some nasty corrosive substance that will screw up the area of the body it's applied to. Specifically,any time 'poison' damage reaches flesh, the relevant location immediately takes an additional Triple. This kind of poison works with brutal speed; if you didn't have an antitoxin in your blood when it hit, no amount of magic or herbalism is going to stop it working. All you can do is start healing up the damage.


Price 8 hexa, raw materials 3 hexa.

Another thing PCs are often interested is antitoxin. Antitoxins remove the current effects of one kind of ongoing toxin, or (if you took the antitoxin since the last encounter), prevent the effects of one new dose (including the 'poison' call). You can only be under the effect of one antioxin at a time. You should shout 'Antitoxin!' when you've just used one, to let everyone know what's happening.

Poisons in Play

Sale of poisons is pretty much illegal in most civilised areas but that doesn't stop them being available for the right price. Keep in mind that although *buying* poison isn't particularly difficult, *doing* things with it usually requires Poisoner: Application (without this skill, anything you may achieve will be strictly at GM discretion). For those able to apply poison, the principle is that you rub it on before or during an encounter, then let the GM decide the result after the encounter (for slow-acting poisons) or start making the relevant calls (for fast-acting ones). It is not possible to apply more than type of poison to a single weapon.

A slight subtlety is whether you are using melee weapons or ranged weapons. For ranged weapons, you need a dose of poison for each individual shot, on the other hand the necessary doses are cheaper. Melee weapons are just dosed once, and then stay poisoned for the rest of the encounter; on the other hand the relevant poison doses require all sorts of fixing agents and wotnot and really need to be slathered on, so they cost more.

If you really want to, you can put a ranged weapon poison dose on to a melee weapon, or vice versa. Ranged weapon doses come off melee weapons the first time they connect with a character (whether dodged, parried, etc.), but if they reach flesh they take full effect. This will mostly be useful for backstab monkeys. Melee weapon doses on a ranged weapon will faithfully stay on for the rest of the encounter, assuming that arrow/knife can be retrieved.

system/alchemy.txt · Last modified: 2011/09/05 22:22 by osj01
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