Roleplayer #13, February 1989

Historical Alchemical Elixirs for GURPS Magic

by Steffan O'Sullivan

With the publication of GURPS Magic, the alchemy rules have been expanded. Most of the 52 elixirs were written as part of a Fantasy game-system – that is, they weren't copied from historical sources. Yet alchemical elixirs of many types were indeed sold throughout the centuries to the wealthier nobility and merchants. In the course of doing research for GURPS Swashbucklers, I came across many references to alchemical elixirs and talismans owned by various queens and powerful ministers, who usually had great faith in them.

It is not the intention of this article to give a history of alchemy, but it should be mentioned that for centuries, alchemical potions were touted as having magical powers. These elixirs are mentioned in letters, books and documents of the time, and some are presented here in GURPS terms.

The names of the elixirs have been brought into line with the names in GURPS Magic, and are not to be construed as historical. I've had to fiddle slightly with the descriptions to get them to fit game mechanics, but basically all are given as the alchemists who sold them represented them! All GURPS Magic rules apply, including the limitations on learning the more powerful elixirs. The GM does not have to allow the addition of any of these elixirs into the game.

Animal Control

Castor (Elixir of Horse Taming): Grants the subject a + 4 to any Animal Handling roll specific to horses and their relatives (mules and donkeys). In addition, it grants a +4 to any Riding, Teamster or Packing skill roll made concerning horses in a non-combat situation. The effect will last for 2d hours. Unguent only – rub on hands. $50 in materials, 2 weeks. Cost: $250/$500.

Hostile Elixirs

Hecate (Elixir of Unluckiness): The subject has the Unluckiness disadvantage (p. B37) which will come to pass once within 24 hours and then expire. Potion or Powder only. $400 in materials, 6 weeks. $1,600/$3,000.

Magical Abilities

Aphrodite (Elixir of Attractiveness): Grants one level of the Good Appearance advantage (p. B15). The subject's looks will improve one level – from Average to Attractive, from Beautiful to Very Beautiful, or from Hideous to Ugly, for example. Very Beautiful people will positively glow! The effect will last for 2d+ 1 hours. Potion or unguent only. $100 in materials, 3 weeks. Cost: $600/$1,000.

Moly (Elixir of Magic Resistance): Grants 5 levels of Magic Resistance (p. B21) to the subject for 1 hour. If taken by a mage, all of his spell rolls are at -5! All other Magic Resistance rules apply; see p. M13. Potion only. 5 weeks; $500 in materials; -2 to skill. Cost: $1,600/$3,200.

Hector (Elixir of Pain Resistance): Grants the High Pain Threshold advantage (p. B20) for 1 hour. Any form except pastille. $200 in materials, 2 weeks. Cost: $600/$1,000.

Kouon (Elixir of Gambling Luck): Allows subject a +3 on all gambling rolls for 1 hour. Use of this elixir is considered the same as cheating at gaming, and it is only available on the Black Market. Penalties if caught using it vary from a fine to a knife in the back, depending on the clientele of the game! This potion only affects games of chance – it will not confer a +3 to win a horse race or wrestling match just because there is a bet placed on it! Potion or powder only. 4 weeks; $200 in materials; -l to skill. Cost: $900+ (whatever the market will bear).

Medical Elixirs

Athena (Elixir of Calming): Nullifies any extreme emotion the subject is under for 2d hours and allows rational thought. Specifically, this elixir grants a +3 to resist any spell or skill that works on the emotions, enabling the subject to reason something through rather than be swayed by passions or sentiment. In addition, it will calm any hysterical or enraged person, and grant a +3 to the IQ roll to overcome the Berserk or Bad Temper disadvantages. It has no effect on other disadvantages, however. Any form. $100 in materials, 2 weeks. Cost: $500/$900.

Aurora (Elixir of Awakening): Acts on the subject as the Awaken spell (p. M43). Any form. $150 in materials, 3 weeks. Cost: $500/$900.

Mental Abilities

Artemis (Elixir of Immunity to Love): Protects against and cancels the effect of the Eros elixir. This elixir will also give the subject a +5 to resist any Sex Appeal attempt, and will nullify any infatuation the subject has. Duration is 2d hours for protection purposes; the effects of an Eros elixir taken within that time or earlier are canceled permanently. A natural infatuation is nullified for 2d hours, and remains nullified until the subject next sees the object of his infatuation, or an image of her. Potion only. $100 in materials, 3 weeks. Cost: $500/$1,000.

Mental Control

Phoebus (Elixir of Truthfulness): The subject cannot tell a lie, exactly as in the Compel Truth spell (p. M26). The effect will last for 1 hour. Potion or powder only. $200 in materials, 4 weeks. Cost: $1,100/$2,000.

Pirithous (Elixir of Forgetfulness): Produces amnesia in the subject for one hour. The subject's IQ is treated as normal for intelligence purposes, but the subject cannot remember his name or what he was doing at the time he took the elixir. Any quest or geas will be forgotten. The subject will not remember his skills, though if persuaded he can accomplish a task, and will perform at -2. Spell casting is impossible while under the influence of this potion. Potion only. 3 weeks; $100 in materials; -3 to skill. Cost: $700/$1,200.

Polyphemus (Elixir of Gullibility): The subject acquires the Gullibility disadvantage for 1d hours (see p. B33). Any form except pastille. 2 weeks; $150 in materials. Cost: $500/$900.

In the next issue of Roleplayer, I will present Alchemical Amulets and Talismans, which were also considered efficacious in medieval and Renaissance times.

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