Excerpt of
“The Promise of the Earth, an Alchemical Treatise”

By Olivia Prima Harela felia Livia – Seedkeeper

Introduction

I find that outside of our enclaves people seem to have one of two incorrect opinions about Alchemy and its mate, Herbalism. Either these arts are seen as magical panaceas, capable of healing any malady, or they are seen as worthless snake oil- a placebo at best. The truth in fact, lies somewhere between these opinions. While I cannot distill the whole of the art into this tome, I hope that these pages will at least serve as a primer for the untrained public.

Alchemy is the study of change- the transformation of one material into another. It is a philosophy as much as anything else, involving the identification of a material’s spiritual essence, a discovery of its true purpose, and a transformation into its potential. Those who study alchemy work to distill ingredients into cures or toxins and create chemical reactions for good or ill.

Herbalism, meanwhile, is the term we use today for the gathering of the materials for alchemy. While the vast majority of these items are herbs, expert herbalists are also well versed in the gathering of various fungi, tubers, and even insects that can be used in alchemical concoctions.

Schematics and Ingredients

The first and most basic level of alchemist is the Hedgewitch, and that title is granted once the individual has a routine understanding of the simple alchemical schematics located in the Green Book of Changes. Granted, this title has some potentially heretical connotations if one looks at it on the surface alone, but the term is quite old and dates to before the glory of the Throne. It refers to those who looked for their materials beyond the manicured hedges of civilization, and ventured into the uncultivated wilds for their materials. Of course, in our modern society the barrier between what is cultivated and what is wild has been broken down, as we have the means to grow what we wish in our cities. That said, those who lie beyond the walls of a Salgothic city will find themselves at the mercy of what they can find, and this old term still applies.

The title of Apothecary is given to those who have mastered the intermediate alchemical schematics listed within the Book of Fire and Gold.  There is not, to my understanding, a comprehensive treatise of complex schematics in the way of the Green Book or the Book of Fire and Gold, as many of these schematics have been lost and those that remain are carefully guarded by the Grand Alchemists who keep them.  Those who come across a complex schematic would be wise to keep it close to their chest, for many are those who seek such rare finds. 

It is one of my greater joys that we have managed to catalog and develop so many different alchemical ingredients, although it is common for students to throw up their hands when first presented with the full liber herbarum. Thankfully memorization is not necessary, as our schematics call not for the particular ingredient, but instead the nature of the ingredient. Thus our schematics will not call specifically for Goldspore, but rather for an herb with the nature of Stimulant, or Focus Aid.

It is perhaps most interesting that the more common ingredients found in herbalism have only two natures, while the more rare herbs have four natures. Of course the rarest of ingredients gathered by herbalists, typically those insects which nest within our plants, do not have any natures that are useful for alchemy at all- but possess instead spiritual or magical natures which make them useful to magicians and cultists.

However, not all natures work well together- and herb ingredients must be combined in a particular order. It is not possible to mix natures at will and alchemists are bound by the limits of the schematics, whether those are the ones contained in the Green Book of Changes, the Book of Fire and Gold, or in schematics they have within their possession. In addition, all alchemists, no matter their level, require alchemist professional tools in order to properly create alchemical concoctions. The work simply cannot be performed without the necessary equipment.

Delivery

There are four different delivery methods for alchemical concoctions: Injury, Inhalation, Ingestion, and Contact.  Injury requires that a wound be taken for the preparation to enter their bloodstream, inhalation affects anyone within melee weapon range of the substance, ingestion requires the consumption of the concoction through the mouth, while contact requires only that an individual touch the concoction with their bare skin for it to take effect.  

Each alchemical schematic details which method of delivery is appropriate for the specific concoction. Besides the method of delivery, there is also the speed of onset to be aware of- concoctions that are delivered via inhalation or injury take immediate effect, while those that are delivered via ingestion or contact take fifteen minutes before the patient starts to feel the effects.

Withdrawal

While certain alchemical concoctions can increase an individual’s abilities beyond that which they normally may achieve (a boost to one’s strength, for example), such a benefit comes with a cost. All enhancements to a subject’s attributes are matched by a period in which the same attributes are depleted, and the patient finds themselves experiencing a weakness of the same trait they increased. This depletion is called Withdrawal, and can be quite dangerous.

In their natural state, most alchemical effects take place instantly and last for the space of one hour. During the next hour, the target finds themselves once again in their normal state, but in the hour following, if the individual had their attributes increased, they are then decreased by the same amount of the enhancement. Assuming the individual survives, they will then return to normal once more. The overall effects of the attribute increase, decrease, withdrawal, and a return to normalcy will take a total of three hours. For example, a concoction that has a single Steroid effect, the Anesthetic effect, and a double Clarifier effect will have various changes on the patient in proportion to the level of enhancement to each attribute in the concoction over the subsequent three hours, as per this table:

1st Hour Immune to Pain (Anesthetic) Strength +1 (Steroid) Faith +2 (Clarifier)
2nd Hour Normal Strength Normal Faith Normal
3rd Hour Normal Strength -1 (Withdrawal) Faith -2 (Withdrawal)
4th Hour Normal Strength Normal Faith Normal

An alchemical concoction that has a negative effect on attributes does not have a withdrawal.

As such, it is extremely important for alchemists to understand their patient’s abilities and not raise someone’s attributes to a level that they cannot sustain in Withdrawal, for in some patients Withdrawal could lead to debilitating effects, including death. This is perhaps why the title of Pharmacist is so highly prized among alchemists, for it is granted to those who understand how to mitigate Withdrawal and remove it from concoctions altogether.

Stacking

While an individual may choose to take many potions at once, it is not typically beneficial to do so without due care. Once an Attribute has been affected, it cannot be affected again until a potion has fully run its course and any withdrawal from the concoction has been completed. For example, if an individual is under the effect of a single Steroid (which increases Strength), taking any other Steroid or Relaxant (which decreases Strength) will have no effect. This is because effects that target the same Attribute cannot be stacked.

 

However, a careful alchemist will see a benefit in this process. Say, for example, that one has two concoctions. One which has a single Steroid effect and the Anesthetic effect, and a second which has a single Relaxant effect and a single Clarifier. Taking the first potion first means that the individual is immediately under the effects of +1 Strength and Anesthetic. If they then take the second potion their Strength remains at +1, as the second concoction’s Relaxant has no effect, and will also gain the benefit of the Clarifier and find their Faith at +1 as well.

This only holds true for alchemical concoctions, however. It does seem as if arcane spells or rituals that affect Attributes can be stacked with alchemical concoctions which also affect Attributes- although there are no known factors that can take a human beyond the mortal maximum of 3 in any Attribute. It is said, however, that the stacking of alchemical effects and arcane effects can increase the risk of anacrusis – although I know too little about the work of those who murdered Benalus to say so with any certainty.

Qualities

Perhaps the most important task for the alchemy student, then, is to learn to recognize the different natures, or qualities, which can be present in their ingredients. Some of these are more or less common depending on the area, but it is wise for the student to learn the uses of all of them.

Quality Common Effect
Addictive The addictive quality removes the effects of withdrawal, but at a cost, as concoctions made with the addictive quality create a compulsion in the patient to keep using the specific concoction. This compulsion starts as a mild compulsion, but increases in severity each time the concoction is used- although a patient can only increase the severity a single level per event. This compulsion can be removed in any way an insanity is normally removed.
Anesthetic The anesthetic quality grants the patient an immunity to the pain effect and allows them to use injured limbs as normal for the hour duration.
Antidote The Antidote quality, when used in certain schematics and typically combined with a negative effect, can negate another negative effect.
Antitoxin [Level] The antitoxin quality reduces all attribute effects, both positive and negative, from an alchemical concoction that is delivered via ingestion or inhalation by the level of antitoxin. For example, an Antitoxin 1 will reduce a Strength +1 or a Strength -1 ingestion or inhalation concoction to nothing.
Antivenom [Level] The antivenom quality reduces all attribute effects, both positive and negative, from an alchemical concoction that is delivered via injury or contact by the level of antivenom. For example, an Antivenom 1 will reduce a Strength +1 or a Strength -1 injury or contact concoction to nothing.
Apathetic The apathetic quality functions as a stun social defense, and keeps the user from defending against social calls for the duration. This lasts for an hour.
Clarifier [Level] The clarifier quality is tied to faith, and increases the faith of the patient by the level of clarifier in the concoction.
Delayed The delayed quality affects the onset of the concoction, and causes effects to take place a half an hour after the concoction has been consumed.
Depressant [Level] The depressant quality is the opposite of the clarifier quality, and decreases the faith of the patient by the level of depressant in the concoction.
Euphoric The euphoric quality is a rare and powerful one, and places the patient within the hopeful state. This lasts for an hour, and expires once expended or at the end of the hour, whichever occurs first.
Excitant Similarly, the excitant effect grants a defense that can be used against Fear or Terror. This lasts for an hour, and expires once expended or at the end of the hour, whichever occurs first.
Expedient The expedient quality halves the duration of all effects within the concoction, including withdrawals.
Extended The extended quality doubles the duration of all effects within the concoction, including withdrawals.
Focus Aid [Level] The focus aid quality serves to help aid in the focus of the mind, and increases Resolve by the level present in the concoction.
Fortifier [Level] The fortifier quality is tied to the Fortitude attribute, and increases it by the level present in the concoction.
Foul Foul can only be applied to concoctions that are delivered via ingestion. This quality makes the presence of the potion known, as it tastes very bad. If the patient has less than Fortitude 1, it causes the Miserable state.
Hallucinogen [Specific] The hallucinogen quality is an interesting one, and is tied directly to the mind’s ability to create and participate in strange experiences. The patient gains a specific severe hallucination for the duration of an hour. To determine that specific hallucination it is necessary to roll on the hallucination table below.
Immune Shock [Level] The immune shock quality decreases Fortitude by the level present in the concoction.
Intoxicating Herbs with the intoxicating quality have the effect of temporarily suppressing Despair while also putting the patient at Resolve -1. It takes three units of intoxicant to become inebriated, and the effect lasts for three hours. Similarly four units of intoxicant result in four hours of intoxication, five units result in five hours, etc. At six units of intoxication the patient gets the blackout condition where whenever you change position under your own power, such as moving from sitting to standing, in addition to still being inebriated.
Irritant The irritant effect lasts for an hour, and keeps the person who consumes it from Resting for its duration.
Mending When used in certain schematics, this quality can negate a negative state and return the user to a healthy status.
Mindburner [Level] The mindburner quality decreases Resolve by the level present in the concoction.
Neurotoxin [Level] The neurotoxin quality decreases Intellect by the level present in the concoction.
Nimblemind [Level] The nimblemind quality is tied to the flexibility of the mind, and increases Intellect by the level present in the concoction.
Paralytic [Level] The paralytic quality freezes and slows the muscles, decreasing Speed by the level present. It is the reverse of the stimulant quality.
Potent Alchemical concoctions that are potent cannot be resisted by individuals with the Tolerance Grit skill, or by subjects under the Tolerance Builder effect.
Purgative The purgative quality induces a gruesome and violent effect, as the patient is incapacitated for 10 minutes while they involuntarily purge from both ends. However, this quality is beneficial in that it permanently ends all alchemical effects the user is currently under- including withdrawal. If a concoction with the purgative quality has other alchemical qualities, these come into effect as normal despite the purge effect.
Relaxant [Level] The relaxant quality causes the muscles to relax, lowering Strength by the level present within the concoction.
Soporific The soporific quality immediately applies the blackout condition upon onset and causes unconsciousness for the period of five rests. Defensive or offensive skills may not be used by the patient until they rise.
Steroid [Level] The steroid quality is tied to the Strength of the patient, and increases that attribute by the level present in the concoction.
Stimulant [Level] The stimulant quality allows the patient to increase their Speed by the level present.
Suppressant [State] The suppressant quality is a very powerful one, and depending on the specific schematic, removes the mechanical effects of a specific State for an hour. If the State lasts longer than an hour, the effects return when the suppressant wears off.
Tolerance Builder Tolerance builder is an interesting quality, and one which is usually paired with other- negative qualities. This is because after the concoction wears off, the next times the patient is affected by a concoction with the same or lesser qualities as the Tolerance Builder, they must call no-effect against the previously experienced qualities. This Tolerance Builder lasts until the person affected by it goes an entire event without consuming an alchemical concoction containing any of the associated effects. Tolerance Builder may not be used in conjunction with a purgative.
Undetectable Concoctions with the undetectable quality cannot be diagnosed by the Plague Doctor Diagnose skill. The affected users symptoms are unclear and the doctor is not sure if it is a disease, potion, or other effect.

Hallucination Table

The hallucinogen quality is an interesting one, and is tied directly to the mind’s ability to create and participate in strange experiences. The patient gains a specific severe hallucination for the duration of an hour. To determine that specific hallucination it is necessary to roll a D12 on the table below.

Roll Hallucination
1 Phantom Sounds: Strange and eerie sounds fill the air, such as whispers, footsteps, or distant laughter, even though there’s no one else around.
2 Crawling Insects: The player feels imaginary insects crawling on their skin, causing them to constantly brush or scratch themselves.
3 Unusual Stranger: The player perceives a person with a menacing disposition following them at a distance and watching everything they do, recording notes for some unknown purpose.
4 Phantom Smells: The player is overcome by unusual and often unpleasant smells, such as burning rubber, rotting meat, or fragrances that evoke distant memories.
5 Nature’s Reflections: Reflective surfaces, including the eyes of others, act as portals, reflecting alternate versions of the world or  the player.
6 Enhanced Perception: The player has one or more sense heightened to a painful or distracting level, such as increased sensitivity to light, sound, and texture. Ordinary sensory stimuli can become intensified and amplified. The sensations are too intense to be useful.
7 Mystical Enlightenment: The player experiences what seems to them to be a profound spiritual or mystical experience, feeling a sense of unity with the universe or encountering a higher power.
8 Emotional Amplification: The player experiences intensified emotions, leading to heightened feelings of joy, love, awe, but also potentially amplifying feelings of fear, anxiety, or sadness.
9 Paranoia and Fear: The player experiences a heightened sense of anxiety, suspicion, or a feeling of impending doom. They may become fearful of their surroundings, people around them, or even of their own actions.
10 Hidden Friends: The player begins to see smiling faces emerge from objects around them, laughing and creating a feeling of community and manic euphoria in the player.
11 Whispering Trees: The player hears voices or whispers emanating from the trees, as if the forest itself is communicating with them.
12 Déjà Brew: The player experiences a sense of déjà vu, reliving moments or conversations within that they believe have occurred before.

Conclusion

Here ends the first part of my treatise.  While this information is quite in-depth for the beginner, I dearly hope that I have managed to clarify some of the mystery that surrounds the alchemical arts- enough so that when the reader engages with alchemists and herbalists in the future, they might better understand the real strengths and abilities that these professionals possess.  Such knowledge ultimately assists all of us, as it is this knowledge that helps keep the populace safe from charlatans and grifters, while also helping us to understand the limits by which we are bound.  On the next pages I shall start with my understanding of the Green Book of Changes, as well as some of the alchemical concoctions that are unique to the Salgothic enclaves…

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