Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Red Goop

Health potions are red.

This is because the primary ingredient of health potions, the panacea flower, is also red. It is native to the land of Ool, where the mangrove swamps and mudflats are choked with the red blooms. Parasitic breeds burrow into rain-warped tree trunks. Pink lily pads congest still water. Tall-stalked subtypes claw up out of the jungle underbrush. Colonials twist their stalks and roots together into mats of red weed. Thousands of variants live and die and breed and compete for water, soil, sunlight. Plantation fields with perfect rows of identical flowers stretch out to the muggy grey horizon. The imperious ceramic domes and minarets of the Petal Houses rise above the swampland canopy.

These noble families of Ool hold a monopoly on both the panacea flower itself and the methods of its preparation, enforced by ancient compact. The borders are viciously guarded – what the jungle does not repel or kill, the Petal Houses’ vast mercenary armies will. Oolian citizens are not permitted to leave, and invited guests brought in to meet with the Petal Houses are given strictly regimented visits, watched very carefully by very observant house guards.

The punishment for smuggling panacea flowers out of the country is to be force-fed panacea seeds, and then hung. Potions brewed from corpse-flowers sell for four hundred times the normal rate.

Oolians who manage to escape the reach of the Petal Houses (and they are few indeed – the Houses employ veteran headhunters) rarely speak of inner Oolian life or the making of panacea potions. So severed from the rest of the world, they fall into destitution with unfortunate ease.

On the making of Panacea

Here is how a panacea potion is made: the flowers are gathered from the plantation fields, and prepared in secret by the half-blind workmen of the House. Workmen are only permitted the use of their eyes for the two hours of their shift, after which they must remove their eyes so that the next shift might use them. Workers have two shifts during each day, with four work crews in total. Transitional periods are very carefully watched by the house guards, who have an abundance of eyes.

After gathering, the flowers are sorted into batches and fed to the oozes in the fermentation pits. These oozes are bred from primordial stock and grown on nothing but distilled glacier water from the bordering mountains. They are transparent and glassy, but turn bright red after the introduction of the flowers.

Alchemical additives and carefully measured stock of human stem cells and gut flora are then added, according to the desired potion recipe. The oozes’ membranes lyse, and they are rendered down into jelly. Organelles float to the surface and are harvested for other purposes by shrivel-skinned, black-toothed servants.

The base panacea potion is of smooth texture and a half-jelly consistency, and tastes of a very strong red. Because of this, most panacea potions are watered down and flavored with honey and spices – red is a horrible, cloying flavor when taken straight from the bottle.

Caravans and ships bringing panacea potions out of Ool do so in secrecy, and hidden roads and generous donations to local authorities keep it that way. A brokerage guild owned by the Petal Houses serves as a go-between for local merchants – if one sees a eunuch in white silk (surrounded, of course, by guards), the Petal Houses are about.

The Petal Houses will sell to anyone who is willing to agree to their terms, and so panacea potions might be found anywhere from the great apothecaries to roadside sheds.

It is said by many folk that the Petal Houses hold wealth greater than imaginations can conceive of.

This is false.

It is a misleading understatement.

Potion Properties and Variants

On its own, a panacea potion will restore energy, numb pain, sterilize wounds, nullify poisons, and encourage cell regrowth. Additives to the potion can provide additional beneficial properties.

Some common variants, and their price modifiers, are as follows.
  • Cure a specific disease. (x1.5, x1 toxicity)
  • Cure a curse. (x5, x2 toxicity)
  • Regrow a lost body part. (x10, x3 toxicity)
This is a hyakume. Petal House Guards look like him, except bigger and better at violence.

The Truth

Ool is hell. Panacea is an infestation, a disease rather than its cure. It’s possible to live in Ool, but very difficult to die – the constant inundation of the flower, even in minute amounts, is enough to keep cells alive and ever-growing, twisting out of shape as chromosomal errors grow greater.

Panacea potions are addictive. Everyone knows it. Drinking some leads to drinking more. The painkiller high and rush of energy excites the brain, drags it into patterns. A fix is needed.

Some people even do something about it – some city-states ban their use, some governments buy up the entire region’s supply and never let it see market. But mostly, the potions are bought and sold in daylight, and the guards and constables are sent in when things get too unsightly. Midnight raids and black carriages. The way of things.

Panacea addicts are recognizable by the bright red staining of their lips and mouth and their black, rotten teeth. The skin shrivels and darkens, the eyes sink into their sockets. The mind dulls, the body relaxes, but is filled with a terrible power; simple movements might be more forceful, thoughts take more time to catch up with actions. Mutations spread through the slums. Birth defects begin to appear.

It can build up in the watershed. It can be consumed by animals.

The Petal Houses know exactly what they are doing.

Panacea Addiction and Toxicity

Each point of health recovered with a panacea potion is a point of toxic residue. A potion consumed while at full health (such as to counter disease), counts as full toxicity.

Stage 1: 0-25: Buildup as normal with no side effects. Detox rate is -1 point/day.

Stage 2: 25-50: Detox rate is -1 point/day. Target will begin to have urges every 1d4 days, must succeed at DC13 Will save or take -2 penalty to all checks until they get their fix.

Stage 3: 50-75: Detox rate is -1 point / 2 days. Urges every day, save DC 15, -3 withdrawal penalty. Cannot feel anything less than extreme pain.

Stage 4: 75-99: Detox rate is -1 point / 3 days. Urges twice a day, save DC 17, -4 withdrawal penalty. Cannot feel pain at all.

Stage 5: 100: Complete saturation. Detoxification impossible. Mutation is absolute. Requires heavy diet of panacea to prevent starvation.

 eemeling. LISA the Painful is a hell of a game, people.

Overdose and Mutation

Hitpoints gained by drinking panacea potion can go above a character’s HP maximum, and these points will degrade according to the stage of consumption listed above. They may also be depleted through normal combat activity, though combat damage will not lower toxicity levels.

Any time a character gains half of their max HP as excess panacea HP, they will gain a mutation from the following table. If a character gains excess HP equal or greater to their maximum HP, they will change fully into a panacea mutant.

Dropping below maximum HP will reset the count towards mutation.

Panacea Mutation Table (1d12)

  1. Growth of additional limb (1-2: arm, 3-4: leg, 5-6: useless flipper)
  2. Asymmetry.
  3. Body swells, flesh becomes jellylike, skin splits open
  4. Hydrocephaly
  5. Body parts swell or shrivel.
  6. Limbs and spine twisted out of shape, remain that way.
  7. Impotent panacea flowers begin growing out of the flesh.
  8. Lungs fill up with panacea ooze, constant drool.
  9. Weeping sores that will eventually grow eyeballs
  10. Gigantism
  11. Spine curls into a ball, cannot stand upright.
  12. Horrible flesh monster.

Full panacea mutants (those that have reached Stage 5 or double their max HP) lose their minds, and settle into a placid existence of mindless bliss and spurious carnage.


A message runner in the Keikobol slums is found dead and half-eaten in neutral territory, killed for the panacea he was taking. Witnesses claim a junkie killed him, which isn’t much of a surprise, but all the gangs are all pointing fingers at each other and claiming it was a setup. The next major shipment is due at the end of the week and nobody is willing to share the usual cuts.

The player characters are press-ganged into the mercenary armies of a Petal House – they wish to insult their rivals, and a band of plausibly deniable foreigners ravaging the rival’s plantations is precisely what they want. The new breed of flower the rival house is growing, however, was not part of the plan.

Money. The wealth of a single Petal House equals the GDP of a moderately wealthy nation. You will not be the first to desire it. You might be the first to succeed.


  1. This is a polish and resubmission of an older post from the first time around.

  2. Those are some pretty serious side effects. Health potions can be a deadly salvation.

    But I wonder who guards the Petal House guards? All those eyes must pick up something they shouldn't now and then.

  3. Cool Story bro. No but seriously, this was a cool and interesting read but I don't have too much to add.

  4. This is excellent. There's such an oppressive sense of the strange emanating from the workers who must forfeit their eyes between shifts and the culture that grows around such a dangerous resource. I want to forget everything I've read here just so that I can read it again for the first time.