Addiction System


So, I’m adding a lot of “Stims” and “Chems” into my Warp Shell game, and I want a way to express progressively worsening addiction.

Anybody have any ideas or recommendations? Has it already been done?


I haven’t so I’m firing from the hip here, but maybe after so many uses they have to roll to beat target and start losing core stats after extended use? So at first it would be temporary loss to Con, Wis or Int -roll 1d4 to choose, if they roll a 4 they are lucky and don’t have negative effects until the end of a long rest. Once that has hit a certain threshold of use make it a permanent drop to one of those stats. It also feeds into the gamble of “maybe I can use this and it won’t affect me” if they keep rolling that 4. To add you could start with a d6 and bad stuff happens on a 1-3, and slowly fill 4-6 as they continue to use.


Yeah, that could be a good use of the usage die. Either for each use and/or after a determined amount of time. But for each smaller die the condition worsens like Exhaustion in D&D 5e, except with its own effects related to the “chem” or “stim” that the player is using?

What do you think?


Yes! That would be a great way to do it. I love how there are lots of ways to retool existing mechanics. I always tend to overthink it when the answer is right in front of me lol.


Addiction is complicated, so capturing it with verisimilitude in a few concise bullet points is hard. You could simplify further, but off the top of my head, you could try something like this:

  • Give every drug three stats: the number of “freebies” (uses before addiction sets in, which might be zero), the number of days of use before addiction escalates, and a target number necessary to break the addiction; for example, “nicotine (20, 30, 16)”. (A GM could allow a character to add CHA and CON bonuses to the freebie total.)
  • On the first use beyond the freebies, the character must make a CHA or CON saving throw, using the greater bonus, or become “lightly addicted,” now counting days until escalation, and a CHA or CON check must be succeed before any other roll during light addiction or that subsequent roll be HARD before drug use that day.
  • If a lightly addicted character goes a number of consecutive days without using the drug equal to the escalation period, the character can make a normal CHA or CON roll versus the addiction target number every additional drug-free day thereafter to break the addiction, but there are no freebies if the character relapses (and days of use is reset, allowing a character to “manage” light addiction).
  • After the requisite number of days until escalation, the character becomes “heavily addicted,” and all rolls become HARD until use that day.
  • If a heavily addicted character goes a number of consecutive drug-free days greater than the total number of days of use, a CHA or CON roll (whichever has the lesser bonus) can be used each subsequent drug-free day to break heavy ADDICTION, but it will always be HARD.
  • When a character breaks heavy addiction, roll a D4; this is the number of relapses the character is allowed for the drug. These relapses always lead directly back to heavy addiction. After the prescribed number of relapses, the next relapse makes the addiction permanent.


What about using something similar to SPELL BURN?

Every time you use a Chem or a Stim roll CON against a target (varies depending on what you took).

Meet or beat and there are no negative consequences.
Fail and you increase BURN by +1.
Fumble and you increase BURN by +2.

Once you reach 4 levels of BURN you are BURNED-OUT, roll 1d4. The results equal the number of days for which you receive no benefit from Stims or Chems. Instead, you have to take at least one Stim or Chem per day during that time or suffer some stat and HP penalties (for example, maybe -2 WIS, and BASIC EFFORT worth of unhealable damage?).

Here’s the catch…during your BURNOUT period you still have to make the CON attempt each time you take your daily Chem or Stim. If you fail your BURNOUT extends by one more day.

To return to normal you must not take any Chems or Stims, and suffer the penalties. You then get one CON roll at the end of each day against some high target. Each day you succeed you subtract a day from your BURNOUT. Once you run out of days of BURNOUT your penalties go away, Stims and Chems start working again, and your BURN level lowers by one per day (assuming you don’t keep using substances lol).

Seems simple, but easy to get caught up in my a repetitive loop of addiction.

PS - I realize addiction doesn’t really work this way…I’m just trying to gamify a very complicated and ugly disease without writing an entire supplement book.


I added Stims to my Warpshell games, but there was no addiction stuff at all. I used them exactly like Surge from Altered State but also had them be available as findable Loot. We kept it simple at the table.


I dig that…simple is almost always better. I just want to play up the gritty cyberpunk feel, and I like the idea of twitchy stimmed out gun-bunnies with hollow eyes, or shabby old out of work mercs with rotten teeth begging for creds.


Make sure you check with your players before you start laying the addiction stuff on them, since you don’t know what you don’t know, and it might ruin someone’s fun.

After that bit of business, I like the spell burn idea, though rather than stat damage, I might just keep it real simple and make everything HARD until they get another hit.

If you’re familiar with RIFTS at all, I wrote up a Juicer chem harness for a sci-fi game like this (I include, because it has super rough addictive properties):

Chem Harness - +4 to STR, DEX, and CON, +1 heart, and cannot be surprised when dosed; dose lasts TIMER; d20 doses in harness; after first dose PC will suffer withdrawal after d20 rounds; during withdrawal PC is at -3 STR, DEX, and WIS for 1d20 days, unless dosed.


This is a fair point. For the record, the example set of mechanics I offered was merely a response to the request expressed in the OP: “I want a way to express progressively worsening addiction.” Whether implementing it is positive or negative should be considered first, and its benefit or impact will depend upon the specific group and roleplaying setting.


I had a user who wanted a homebrew mechanic tied to his character’s near death trauma after a particularly brutal session nearly took his non-combatant character multiple times that may work well for this. This one was for trauma specifically, but you could easily tweak it to be linked to addictions specifically.

Basically, you can give them a status item that has a charge level with associated penalties/benefits for succumbing to or overcoming their trials. Whatever the trigger is (using drugs, not doing them for X amount of time, etc.), you can have them make a check to add or remove a charge level. Here’s what I gave my player and he loved the idea, feel free to take and tweak if it’s helpful: