This article originally appeared in Issue #010 of the downloadable PDF magazine.
Some material based on ideas from Zed Potts.
Kwil (neroquilanserin) is an experimental drug used for treating emotional or psychological disorders believed to have neurological components. It is refined from a substance derived from certain marsh plants on the frontier world of Porstan, where it is used for hunting the native unicorn sea-snake, prized for its iridescent skin. As the Porstani deliberately limit their technology to pre-industrial levels, the substance is applied as a paste to the harpoons used for the hunt; it serves as a low-grade neurotoxin to the sea-snakes.
The sap of the marsh plants is mixed with local seawater and the result poured into bowls carved out of local sedimentary rock. This is then heated both by placing the bowl over a heat source and by putting hot pebbles into the mixture. As it is heated, it thickens, and changes color from clear through yellow and amber to brown; when it turns brown and has thickened enough that it no longer readily pours, it is considered ready for application.
This paste may then be refined using any of several methods to produce the drug. The unrefined substance can be synthesized at TL8 (and then refined); the refined drug can be directly synthesized at TL12. The refined drug is a clear liquid which may be administered either by injection or orally.
Effects of Kwil
Refined drug: In most patients, the refined drug reduces the intensity of experienced emotions; there is also evidence of increased cognitive ability. Negative effects observed include reduced ability to correctly judge spatial relationships and a subjective belief in the enhancement of reflexes or other physical abilities (demonstrated false). The effects last for 2D hours. In approximately 8% of patients (roll 3– on 2D), the drug appears only to act as a hypnotic, with the patient being placed into a state of extreme suggestibility lasting 1D hours. Evidence of addictivity is not as yet confirmed, but the data are suggestive of psychological addiction. The refined drug is sold to medical facilities at approximately Cr50/dose.
Unrefined precursor: The unrefined product may also be dried (usually in vacuum) and the resulting solid crushed under mild pressure, producing small brown flakes. It has no medical use in this form, but is sold “on the street”. It is, naturally, known as “flake” as well as “Kwil”. If a flake is crushed to powder and inhaled, or dissolved in ethyl alcohol and ingested, the user will, depending on the actual dose, experience lethargy, stupor, or unconsciousness for 1D-3 hours, followed by 1D hours of full-sensory and synesthetic hallucination. Users of “flake” have also reported feeling “detached” and some users of artistic inclinations claim that their creativity is “released”. No long-term studies of “street” users have as yet been undertaken, but some long-term users have turned up with neurological damage. The “street” price is generally around Cr10/dose where easily available and not illegal; where supply is restricted or illegal, prices easily rise above Cr250/dose.
Kwil in Adventures
- If “flake” is illegal (even if the medical form is legal), the PCs may be letting themselves in for encounters with either police or the underworld – or both – if they attempt to import unrefined product, or are otherwise found in possession of it.
- Powdered “flake” introduced into the air systems of a starship just before breaking out of Jump can leave the ship vulnerable to pirates on breakout. “Flaked” crew and passengers may not be able to react effectively against pirates boarding the ship, even if not unconscious (“flaked out”), and the subsequent hallucinations may leave them unable to recall any useful details about the attack. It doesn’t take much in the way of precautions to defeat such an attack, though...
- The PCs may find “flaking” unprepared opposition to be an effective and nonlethal way to temporarily avert a threat, possibly long enough to accomplish their objective. Of course, if done outdoors, the attempt could backfire if they’ve neglected to take precautions...