Responsible Portrayal of Addiction in System

@MPA, I see that you are familiar with Godbound. You mention that you think the way this game handles several of the godly powers could lead to abuse. Since this topic is on “Responsible portrayal of Addiction in System”, and it looks like you don’t feel this game handles Addiction responsibly.


In Cryptomancer, drug addiction manifested in a single way. If you were addicted to “soma” (fantasy opiate), you’d have to make a roll to see if you could spend your downtime action. If you failed your role, you were likely using during that period, or looking for soma, or dealing with something soma-related (perhaps a friend was having troubles related to withdrawal or supply) and didn’t complete the task you thought you would.

Addiction had zero impact on the “action” or “in the now” scenes and play… it was more about “when we went are seperate ways to execute on a plan, they didn’t follow through this time.” Whether that not following through was actually related to soma or just normal logistical failure, no one really knew.


I don’t have any good answers, but this is something I’m wrestling with in writing Get Ready 2 Rock. I don’t want to include addiction mechanics in the rules, because I don’t want to steer players toward that topic (because it’s meant to be a super goofy game). But at the same time, players are going to want to do that sometimes anyway, because drug and alcohol abuse are such a big part of our cultural narrative about rock stars. Including a “how to play with drugs and alcohol responsibly” section in the rulebook seems quite inadequate, since 90% of the people who play the game won’t have read the rulebook.


Well I don’t know if I want to answer now, since my comment was flagged as inappropriate.

Whether you answer or not is up to you. I, would like to see your answer to the question posed in this topic.

Your original response was flagged for carelessly addressing a sensitive subject that doesn’t belong in this discussion. The way you address, discuss, and bring in this sensitive topic was not appropriate for this conversation. It is possible that it could be included in a conversation about Responsible portrayal of Addiction in System, but your original response was not one of those ways. You have the ability to edit the post and re-release it from being temporarily hidden. If you would like to discuss more, please message me or anyone of the moderators and we can discuss it more away from this topic.

We strive at the Gauntlet Forums to maintain a safe space. The flag system is one of those methods. It allows general users to flag individual posts. Moderators will review those flags and take action, even if that action is to ignore the flag and let the post stand on it’s own as is.

Again my direct messages are open to you, or anyone if you would like to discuss this, but let’s return to the proposed topic of “Responsible Portrayal of Addiction in System”.


I think that the creators have a responsibility to address the issue of co-dependency, because of the ramifications of their spells/psionics.

As I said before, in Godbound the creator did address the godly power Madness. He stated that the GM and players should discuss how this would affect the PC as someone they know may suffer from mental illness.

But nothing is said for the powers Desire or Intoxication. If I may give you an excerpt for the divine power:

Some powers induce or use drug addictions. An addict will perform
any inoffensive act in exchange for their drug of choice, and
lesser foes must save versus the worse of their Hardiness or Spirit
saves to resist doing even very harmful or immoral acts in exchange
for an offer of their craved substance.

As conclusion, I would challenge GM’s to step in where the creator(s) haven’t.

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Thank you for your response.

It sounds like to me, you would suggest using the same method the creator of Godbound used for Madness.


Absolutely. Maybe he will in the future?

My game Living Alchemy is expressly about playing deeply afflicted characters. Addict is associated with a dice pool that represents how well you cope with it.

The game’s core mechanic allows you to use extra dice at the risk of triggering your affliction. Once your affliction is triggered, you need to satisfy it. In the case of addiction, that means indulging in it. I actually got the idea from Craig Ferguson talking about his experience with alcoholism.

In other words, addiction is a way of dealing with stress. Players are tempted to accrue a bunch of stress and deal with it through indulging in it. If they don’t have a reliable dealer, they’re in an incredibly rough spot. If an adversary becomes aware of their addiction, they may be in peril.

The game never provides any way to get rid of your addiction. It’s something that is considered a part of your character that you simply need to learn to deal with.

I’ve spent my whole life around people with psychological problems so I really tried to do it justice.


I think the kind of game that has to worry about a responsible portrayal most (if even possible in that case) is one where addiction is used to heighten the experience somehow. I’m thinking about Delta Green here, where “disorders”, addiction being one of them, are used as part of a game mechanical downward spiral. Accrued due to stress they irrevocably break down parts of my character’s personality (taking away one of their motivations) and I have to manage them by taking penalties to tests or eating into my budget of bonds representing important personal relationships. Again, that might be trivializing the issue no matter how responsible the designer tries to be, so I’d want games like this to at least be clear about the fact that a real experience is being used that way and what to do if people are uncomfortable with it, how to replace it with something else for example.

Both for the above and for games where it is more about representation and less about unrelated mechanical considerations, I find it helpful to include text expounding the “things that seem a given” from the OP. Lovecraftesque for example has an essay on “Mental Health and Lovecraft.”


I also like how Blades handles it. But that’s just one approach, and this amazing community has such smart people, I wanted to see what everyone thought. There have been some wonderful posts on this thread!

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For me, drugs/addiction fall into a loose category of topics that you shouldn’t include/mechanize lightly and, if you do decide to include them, you should both have something specific to say about them and give them an appropriate degree of focus/gravity within the game (i.e. don’t trivialize them and/or use them as a means to some other end).

I guess I’m most okay with the approach taken by Blades, because it has something to say about drugs and doesn’t glorify them, and the approach you’d likely take with Fate, because, at least, aspects challenge you to think specifically about why you use, the role addiction plays in your life, and how it/they might cause problems for you in every situation.

I wouldn’t want The Addict as a protagonist playbook/archetype because it’s a challenge one faces and not a defining quality or identity, i.e. you are not your disease (though I guess I could maybe see it as a secondary antagonist playbook, e.g. if you were effectively embodying another character’s addiction).


100% agree.

I’ve decided not to flirt with addiction in mechanics at all, though I am still thinking about drug use mechanics, without addiction.


One thing that genuinely bugs me about the conventional portrayal of addiction in roleplaying games is leaving the social implications up to the players who in many types of fictions are naturally motivated to keep the character group functional and cohesive.

This is not aligned with the truth of addiction that I know. Addiction that shows up only when it’s convenient and never threatens the social cohesion of the “adventuring party” rings terribly false to me. I want to see the addicted character lie and steal from their friends when necessary because the game system creates incentives the player cannot resist.

An abstract, simplistic idea: the stronger the hunger, the better the character becomes at anything that relates to satisfying the hunger and pursuing their personal goals, and the worse they become at doing their job as defined by the game’s concept (adventuring, fighting) and forming meaningful relationships with other player characters.

Keeping the character just as strong, just strong in different, less pro-social areas, avoids deprotagonizing the character the way just draining their health and piling on penalty dice often does.


Thank you for the excellent examples!

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