Addiction, Withdrawal, and Getting Clean

Addiction rules in Shadowrun are tough. On the one hand, it’s realistic that it’s a dangerous road to walk down, but it could be as few as four or five bad rolls before your character is starting to lose attributes. The book’s rules are spread out over a bunch of sections and books, so here’s a bit of a run down on how it works. This is less a true “house rule” and more of an interpretation of how we handle the rules as written at the table.

The key to addiction is the Addiction Test. These occur some number of weeks after your character consumes an addictive substance or engages in addictive / habit-forming behavior. These have a variable frequency; less addictive substances mean fewer addiction tests, more addictive ones mean more tests. Failing a test means your character has become addicted to the substance/behavior or that their addiction has grown.

When your character performs an addictive activity, (11 – Addiction Rating) weeks later, they must roll an Addiction Test with a threshold determined by the activity’s Addiction Threshold minus 1 for every full week that you go without performing that activity again. If you reduce the threshold to 0 in this way, you don’t even have to make the test. But, every time your character performs the addictive activity, the threshold is completely reset back to its original value.

Once the date of your addiction test arrives, assuming that it needs to be made, you roll it. For psychological addictions, the dice pool is Logic + Willpower. For physiological addictions, it’s Body + Willpower. If your addiction is both psychological and physiological, you must past both tests. If you succeed, everything remains the same.

Failing any test, even just one half of a pyscho-physiological addiction test, means you become addicted to the activity or your addiction grows, i.e. mild addicts become moderately addicted, and so on. If you were already burnt-out, failure means that you reduce your Body or Willpower, whichever is higher, by 1. If they’re equal, reduce Body for physiological addictions and Willpower for psychological ones. The book doesn’t say what to do for a pyscho-physiological addiction, sadly, so as a true house rule, you reduce the one that matches the failed test, or if you fail both, we flip a coin.

Because our game usually involves the passage of time in between runs as jumps, it’s likely that addiction tests will take place during these jumps. Similarly, for characters already addicted, cravings may have to be avoided during those jumps in order to keep your test threshold down. Cravings are resisted with an addiction test. If you fail, you perform the addictive behavior. If you succeed, you don’t, but you also suffer withdrawal with a negative penalty to dice pools based on the level of the addiction (–2 for mild, –4 for moderate and severe, and –6 for burn outs) and the type of addiction. Note: at the severe and burn out phase of addiction, characters also suffer a –2 or –3 penalty to social tests respectively at all times.

Withdrawal lasts until you perform the addictive behavior or you stay clean for a number of weeks equal to your Addiction Rating. At that point, your addiction switches to the Dry Addict quality (p. 57, Chrome Flesh). From this point forward, cravings no longer happen, but Composer Tests may be required in situations that tempt your character to engage with their addiction once more, and that test suffers a penalty between 1 and 4 based on the severity of the original addiction. If they do engage with it, the process starts all over again.

No one really gets clean without a constant tug-of-war with their addiction. The closest you can come is to switch the Addiction quality for the Dry Addict one. Spells like Alleviate Addiction can stave off the negative effects of an addiction as long as it’s sustained, which opens the door to quickened or tattooed spells of this sort to aid a character’s recovery. Additionally, other in-character reasons to resist may help to boost one’s Composer Test to avoid falling off the wagon. Support from a sponsor in a 12-step program, from their family and friends, or maybe even a character’s devout faith might make it easier to remain clean. Situations like this will be handled on a case-by-case basis. They will not prevent the Composer Test entirely, but they may make it easier to pass so your character remains clean.