CanRay’s Addiction Rules, first published in SR4’s Sim Dreams & Nightmares and later as part of SR5 Core, put numbers to Addiction. This helped solve the ‘What DO you roll for Addiction anyway’ conundrum. However, asides from the fact it is often misread it’s also not a perfect system. Furthermore, a GM may want to tweak it to give players either less or more leeway. So there’s some room for houserules, and definitely room for some explanation. Explanation here, houserules next post.
(Note, however, that the houserules I’ll list won’t include many forgiving houserules. Given the clock-killing space it’s hardly necessary to add much more leeway.)
First of all an important note though: The Addiction rules bring numbers to the table, ending the days of ‘nah I just only use once every session so there’s no way I’ll get addicted!’ So they’re quite useful there. Unfortunately they’re geared against PCs though, which results in a few wacky results. For example, a few years of drinking Soykaf can easily kill an average Joe, and once Focus Addiction goes high enough in Force you’ll hit the mysterious timespan of 0 or negative weeks as Addiction Test interval…
Let’s start with explaining how Addiction works. It notes that you make a test if you use X weeks in a row, but there’s an addendum in the rules that’s easily overlooked. Namely that if you don’t use during a week, the clock STILL ticks on. You simply reduce the Addiction Threshold for weeks you don’t use. The German edition actually removed this and also removed a line noting that some drugs can get you hooked with a single shot…
Each drug has the following 3 stats: An Addiction Rating, an Addiction Threshold and its Addiction Type: Physiological (physical) and/or Psychological (mental).
– Addiction Threshold is the base difficulty for your Addiction Test.
– Addiction Rating determines how long you have inbetween Addiction Tests, you test every (11-Addiction Rating) weeks.* So an Addiction Rating 9 drug like Kamikaze has you test every (11-9=) 2 weeks.
– Addiction Type determines your dicepool on the Addiction Test. You roll Willpower + Body for Physiological and Willpower + Logic for Psychological. If a drug is Addiction Type both, you have to make both tests.
* Given how the rules note you check at the end of each week, if the Addiction Rating is 11+ the interval would likely still be 1 week, not 0 or negative weeks.
Example: A Kamikaze user with 4 Willpower and 4 Body would roll 8 dice versus a threshold of 3 normally. A Novacoke user with Willpower 3, Body 4, Logic 2 would roll 3+4=7 dice on his Physiological test and 3+2=5 dice on his Psychological test. Both are against the same threshold (default two), if they fail either they’re hooked.
You test every (11-Addiction Rating) weeks, if at any point you fail your Addiction Test you get addicted. If you’re already addicted, your level goes up. If you’re already at Burnout level, you lose 1 current and 1 max Body/Willpower, whichever is highest. On a tie Body for physiological, Willpower for psychological. If it’s both Addiction Types you flip a coin. If either attribute hits 0, you hit a coma and can forget about your character.
Now comes the tricky part. What decides when the cycle-clock starts and stops? Well it starts when you first use a drug without being in its Addiction cycle already. It stops once the threshold hits 0. And as mentioned, every week you don’t use the threshold reduces 1. Stay clean long enough and the threshold hits 0 and you’re clear. If you use again, however, the threshold resets to its default value…
Example: A Troll runner uses Kamikaze (9,3), which has a cycle-length of (11-9=) 2 weeks as mentioned before. The moment he uses starts week 1. At the end of week 1 you see that he used Kamikaze that week (since that started the clock), so the Threshold remains at 3.
He stays off the drug so at the end of week 2 the threshold goes down 1. Now he’s at Addiction Threshold 2, and at the end of his Addiction Interval. Since he’s at the end of his interval and his threshold isn’t 0, he has to make his Addiction Test. He Rolls Willpower+Body with a threshold of 2.
Now there’s two possibilities. 1: He only scores 0 or 1 hits, so he gets addicted. Or he scores 2+ hits and doesn’t get permanently hooked.
Regardless the clock continues into week 1 of the new interval. Our runner stays off the drugs again so at the end of week 3, which is week 1 of the new interval, the threshold goes down again. Now the threshold is 1. After he doesn’t use in week 4 (= week 2 of interval 2), the threshold goes down to 0. Now he’s at the end of the interval so normally he’d make an Addiction Test, however the threshold hit 0 so the clock stops.
If at any point in the future he uses Kamikaze again, the clock starts fresh.
Example: A Decker gets spooked and uses Jazz during a run. Jazz is (8, 3, both) so has an interval of (11-8) = 3 weeks. Week 1 would be threshold-remains-at-3, week 2 it goes down to 2, if he stays off the drug in week 3 he’d have to make a double test at threshold 1, then week 4 he’d be in the clear. If he’d use again in week 5, well the clock stopped entirely so he’d simply start a new cycle as week 1 instead.
However, instead of staying clean our Deckers two gets in trouble again and a half weeks after using first. He uses Jazz again, which was a bad idea… This was in week 3, so at the end of week 3 the threshold resets back to 3. And since this is the end of the interval, he suddenly has to make a W+B(3) AND a W+L(3) test to not get hooked! His own bloody fault for not using another Initiative drug instead…
So again: Your Addiction Interval is (11 – Addiction Rating) weeks, with a minimum of 1. The base threshold for your Addiction Tests is the drug’s Addiction Threshold. At the end of each week your threshold goes down 1 if you haven’t used that week, and resets back to the Addiction Threshold if you did use. The clock only stops if the threshold goes down to 0.
If you use without being in a cycle, you start week 1 and at the end of the week you’ll count as having used that week. If you use while being in a cycle, the cycle continues as normal (but the threshold will reset at the end of the week).
If the interval ends, you roll either Willpower + Body for Addiction Type: Physiological drugs, Willpower + Logic for Addiction Type: Psychological drugs, and both for Addiction Type: both. If you fail either test, your addiction level rises (no double-rise if you fail both).
One VERY important use: For ANY drug where Addiction Rating + Addiction Threshold is 10 or less, unless the player uses more than once per month, they will never end up having to make a test. So unless your players use the heavy stuff (Jazz, Kamikaze, Nitro, Tripchips, Force 8+), or their runs have less than 4 weeks inbetween (rather, 1+Threshold weeks), they can just stay off the drugs and not ever face an Addiction test.
So you will never need to even look at the Addiction Rules unless your players use the heavy stuff, are popping drugs like crazy in sessions and you deliberately give them less time inbetween two runs once, or your normal schedule is more frequent than once per month. Which means that you don’t HAVE to know these rules.
P.S. One final note: Focus Addiction ONLY counts when the Active Force EXCEEDS your Magic. So if you have several Foci but only have your Magic in Force active at any given time, you’ll never face Focus Addiction.