(There is absolutely NO point in re-inventing the wheel. Gary Astleford has already created the penultimate set of drug design and use rules for CP2020. Far be it from me to attempt to improve on perfection. So, without further ado...)

Drug Lab 101, Ver. 3

for Cyberpunk 2020

by Gary Astleford (ocelot@connectnet.com)


For lack of a better excuse, this file is a result of wanting a more detailed drug system that covers more possibilities. It's based off of the information supplied in the CP2020 rulebook, the "Hardwired," "When Gravity Fails," and "Protect and Serve" supplements, and the Interface magazines (specifically Issue 3 of Volume 1). If drugs aren't an important part of your campaign, you may want to stick with the normal rules found in the core rulebook. However, a good deal of Cyberpunk literature (Gibson, Williams, and Effinger's stuff especially) involves the main characters and their struggles with drugs.

When creating a drug, you must ask some questions:

  1. What does the drug do? What benefits does the drug grant the user? Why would anyone want to take such a drug?
  2. What sorts of negative side effects are there? Do these effects occur after taking the drug, or when it wears off?
  3. How strong is the drug? Is it powerful or mild? How easy is it to overdose on this drug?
  4. How long do the effects last?
  5. Is the drug illegal, or can you buy it at any drug or liquor store?
  6. What form does the drug come in? Do you swallow it, snort it, or shoot it?

With these optional rules, you can create new and interesting chemicals to cripple your characters with. The basic formula from the standard rules still applies. You choose the Drug Effect(s) you want, and add the costs together. Next, you choose any Side Effects that want your drug to have. Side effects reduce the base difficulty number. After side effects, you choose the drug's Strength, which adds from between 1 and 5 to the base difficulty, and then you choose its duration, which multiplies the base difficulty by 1, 2, or 3 times (the longer the drug lasts, the harder it is to produce).

Once all the numbers have been assimilated, you have the drug's base difficulty. A base difficulty can never be a negative amount, and at the very least must equal 1. If, by chance, you end up with a negative number, drop the negative and use it as if it were positive (drugs that really mess you up aren't all that easy to make, either). The base difficulty multiplied by the drug's legality modifier will give you the drug's base cost in Eurodollars. The last step you take is to choose what form the drug comes in. The drug's form will affect its final street cost.

In the Beginning, man created drugs. And for a while, they were good. That is, until they wore off...


People take drugs for any number of reasons. The most common among these is to "escape". The drug makes you feel good, and for a while you forget your problems. It's a form of relaxation, like a chemical massage. The reasons cyberpunks take drugs are similar, but there's also more to it than that. Some people take drugs to give them that extra something, that special "edge" that makes them just that much better. While much of this can be psychological, some of it can be attributed to a drug's effect on the person's physiology.

Below are listed certain drug effects, what happens if you OD (see OVERDOSE) while taking one, and what they mean to the discerning pharmaceutical gourmet. Base difficulties are listed in parentheses. Note that a drug effect can only be bought ONCE.


Drug Features are beneficial modifications that can be worked into drugs. They add a significant amount of difficulty, but the benefits they grant are sometimes worth it. Difficulty Cost Modifiers are listed in parentheses. Note that a drug feature can only be taken once per drug.


Side effects are the bad things that drugs do to you. They come in two varieties - UNTIMED and TIMED.

Untimed side effects are the big, bad ones. They happen as soon as the drug is imbibed, and cause permanent damage to the user of the drug. Each Untimed effect can only be used in a drug's creation once.

There are two types of Timed side effects : IMMEDIATE and DELAYED. Immediate side effects manifest as soon as the drug takes effect, while Delayed side effects occur after the drug wears off (ie, "hangover"). When choosing a Timed side effect for a drug, you must specify if the effect you are adding to your cocktail is either Immediate or Delayed. Note that the same side effect can be taken twice, one for an Immediate effect and one for a Delayed one. Immediate effects last until the drug wears off. Delayed effects kick in as soon as the drug wears off, and last as long as the drug's previously rolled duration.

Timed side effects can be bought as "possible side effects" at 1/2 cost, dropping fractions. A possible side effect only occurs on a 1D10 roll of 1-5. For instance, if "Kidney/Liver Failure" is bought as a possible side effect, it will grant only a -4 cost modifier (instead of -8), and its effects will only be felt 50% of the time.

The list of side effects follows. Difficulty Cost Modifiers are listed in parentheses. Note that stat reductions are cumulative.




Not all drugs are created equal. Some are less potent than others, while some are dangerously strong. Hence, you have Drug Strength.

The strength of a drug determines how powerful its effects are, how much can be taken before an overdose occurs, and how easy (or hard) they are to get hooked on if they are addictive. Drug strength can be any number between 1 and 5. The higher the number, the stronger the drug and the greater its effects.

Add the number chosen for the drug's strength rating to the base difficulty.


Some drugs are addictive. Someone who is addicted to a drug is physically or mentally dependent on it. Without their drug, they cannot operate at full capacity. When a drug is used, an addiction save may be called for. This depends entirely on how addictive the drug is (see the entries for PSYCHOLOGICAL and PHYSIOLOGICAL ADDICTION side effects).

How often an addiction save is called for depends on how addictive the drug is. Slightly Addictive drugs require an addiction save every 1D6+4 times they are used, Mildly Addictive drugs every 1D3+2 times they are used, and Highly Addictive drugs require a roll each and every time they are used.

I recommend that the GM roll this number and make a note of it secretly. That way, players will only have a general idea how many times they can take a drug safely before they're forced to roll for addiction. If such a roll is called for, the user must roll above the drug's Addiction Number on 1D10. The addiction number of a drug is equal to it's strength times 1.75 rounding fractions to the nearest whole number.

Addiction numbers are listed below :


Once a drug has worn off (see DRUG DURATION, below), an addict will need to get another dose. However, he won't necessarily need one right away. The chart below details the time a user can go before he is incapacitated by his need for the drug. When the user's most recent dose has worn off, roll the requisite number of dice under TIME TO NEXT DOSE to determine how long it will be before his cravings for the drug return.

If at that time he doesn't get a fix, roll the number of dice under TIME TO WITHDRAWAL to determine when, exactly, withdrawal symptoms will appear. It is recommended that the GM roll these values and keep them secret.

Anyone attempting to kick a psychological addiction must stop taking the drug altogether. Withdrawal symptoms include -2 to all actions until withdrawal is complete (about a week or so). A strong psychological craving for the drug will remain, and a character who was once hooked may need to make a Cool roll (Resist Torture/Drugs applies) to resist the temptation if offered the drug again.

Physiological addiction is much stronger and harder to break. Kicking such an addiction takes about two weeks of treatment. All of the character's physical and mental attributes are reduced by half to reflect on the severe mental and physical anguish of the process. As with psychological addiction, the character will still crave the drug, and the same Cool roll applies if he comes into temptation's way.


Users may take multiple doses of a drug, but the drug's effects will not be doubled. In fact, for each subsequent dose after the first, halve all beneficial effects the drug grants, rounding fractions down. All negative side effects are not halved, however, making this a risky proposition. For example, a drug that causes death as a side effect taken twice will cause two subsequent death saves to be made. While it may seem safe to take less powerful (and dangerous) drugs like they were M&M's, there is still the topic of Overdose.


When someone takes multiple doses of a drug, he increases his risk of becoming sick by introducing too much of the chemical into his body. If the total strength of combined drug doses is ever greater than 10 plus the character's BTM score (assume the BTM is a positive number), the character has a chance to become terribly ill from overdosing. The effects of an overdose vary greatly, depending on the drugs taken. Check the individual Drug Effects entries to find out exactly what happens to the user of the drug. If a drug has more than one effect (ie, a drug that acts as both a Euphoric and a Stun Reducer), apply both sets of OD results.


Drug effects don't last forever. Eventually, the human body will filter out its blood supply, and normal functions will begin anew. The amount of time the drug lasts for determines the final base difficulty number. The difficulty number is used when a character attempts to create a drug from raw materials. Subsequently, it also helps determine the drug's base cost per dose, since drugs that are difficult to create are usually much more expensive than drugs you can produce using Mr. Wizard's Chemistry Kit.

To get the final difficulty number for a drug, add together the cost of its effects, its side effects, its strength, and multiply that sum by the difficulty modifier of the drug's duration. Voila! You're almost done! Remember that no drug's difficulty can be lower than 1, OR a negative value. If your final difficulty number is negative, drop the negative symbol and use the number as if it were a positive.


Not all drugs are illegal. At the same time, though, not all drugs are available at Save-On drugs, either. So we come to the question of legality. Decide for yourself if the drug you're designing is something that the average vice squad would want to see on the street. Legality is important, because it helps determine the base cost of the drug in question.


The base cost (in Euro) of a drug is determined by multiplying the final difficulty number by the legality multiplier supplied on the chart below. The resulting number is the base cost for obtaining the substance on the street. The drug's final cost is determined by the form that it comes in.


The drug's form defines its physical characteristics and how the user will interface with it. Is it something you can smoke? Is it a pill? Do you use a syringe or an air hypo to inject it? The drug form also determines how much the final drug will cost, whether or not it can be "cut", and how fast it takes effect.



Drugs are "cut" for any number of reasons. Most powdered drugs are already cut with an inactive substance, since they would be far too powerful (and possibly deadly) if they weren't toned down. Of course, most dealers don't have your safety in mind when cutting their products. Unscrupulous dealers want to make their stock last a lot longer, so they cut it down and charge normal price.

It is up to the individual user to check the quality of the dope he buys. A drug that is cut loses strength equal to the percentage it is cut by, rounding down. For example, a strength 4 euphoric that has been cut 25% with baby laxative will have a relative strength of 3, as opposed to 4 (its potency is reduced by 25% of the original STR). If cut 50%, it will only have a STR of 2, and so on.


Multiply the base Euro cost of the drug by the drug form cost multiplier (above) to find the drug's final cost per dose. This is an average price, based on the price of materials used and man-hours of work involved. Dealers will charge what the market will bear, however, and price increases during shortages and police crackdowns are all too common. On the up side, drugs which have a very low demand will cost significantly less. Final price is determined by the GM's discretion.


Why a third version of my Drug Lab? Because I was bored.

More than that, though, it seems as if people really enjoy the article, so I thought I'd tidy up a little bit. The text has been reorganized and cleaned up. Some of the details have changed. The first and (never before released) second Drug Addendums have been phased into the main file, making it all-inclusive and whole. The system now has 17 drug effects, and over 60 side effects. I feel pretty confident that the file is complete. I can go on with my life until I come up with something else to add.

As an aside to CP2020 drug designers everywhere :

I've gotten queries in the past concerning the Drug Lab and its use in making what I would refer to as "poisons." These "poisons" are drugs that are utilized for their negative side effects ONLY, in order to kill or incapacitate characters.

Let me stress that this system wasn't originally written with this in mind. The negative side effects of a drug are meant to be unintentional (from a designer's point of view), and to aid players and GMs in constructing chemicals that can be reasonably replicated by players in game time. In essence, by cutting a few corners, a drug designer can make a functional cocktail which might have a few bad side effects. Realistically speaking, he doesn't necessarily "pick" a specific side effect. Outside of making random side effect charts (which I loathe doing), I can't see any way to fix this sort of problem.

On the other hand, if someone wishes to actually DESIGN a drug with a specific side effect, a GM might consider adding the effect's Cost Modifier to the drug difficulty, since the drug is being engineered to have a nasty edge. This is, of course, the GM's option (and one that I recommend).

These rules are easy for unscrupulous players and GMs to abuse. They allow a great deal of complexity and choice when constructing drugs for use in games. It is my strong recommendation that players and GMs who wish to use these rules do so with caution, lest you create monsters.

Gary Astleford (ocelot@connectnet.com)
May, 1998

(Version 3.0)

DRUG EFFECT                     Cost    DRUG EFFECT                     Cost
Antibiotic                      10      Anticoagulant                   10
Antidote                        15      Aphrodisiac                     10
Attribute Increase              20      Coagulant                       10
Contraceptive                   10      Depressant                      5
Enhanced Perception             15      Euphoric                        5
Hallucinogen                    10      Hypnotic                        15
Increased Endurance             10      Increased Healing Rate          15
Pain Negation                   10      Soporific                       5
Stun Reducer                    10

DRUG FEATURE                    Modifier        DRUG FEATURE            Modifier
Lessened Withdrawal Symptoms    +10             Longer Duration         +10
Timed Duration                  +10

UNTIMED SIDE EFFECT             Modifier        UNTIMED SIDE EFFECT             Modifier
Addiction Tolerance             -4              Carcinogenic                    -10
Cardiac Arrest/Heart Attack     -12             Coma                            -10
Death                           -15             Genetic Damage                  -6
Nerve Degeneration              -15             Nightmares                      -6
Permanent Sense Loss            -6              Physiologically Addictive       -5/-10/-15
Possible Attribute Loss         -8              Psychologically Addictive       -4/-8/-12
Severe Withdrawal Symptoms      -6              Sterility                       -8

TIMED SIDE EFFECT               Modifier        TIMED SIDE EFFECT               Modifier
Acne                            -2              Aggressive Behavior             -6
Bad Breath                      -2              Bloodshot Eyes                  -2
Cold Sweats                     -2              Constipation                    -2
Cowardice                       -6              Dandruff/Eczema                 -2
Dehydration                     -2              Delusions                       -5
Depression                      -4              Diarrhea                        -4
Difficult Respiration           -6              Diuretic                        -2
Dizziness                       -4              Easily Bruised                  -2
Excessive Salivation            -2              Flatulence                      -2
Hair Loss                       -2              Hallucinations                  -5
Headaches                       -4              Heartburn/Acid Indigestion      -2
Hives                           -4              Impotence/Frigidity             -2
Internal Bleeding               -4              Irrational Fear                 -10
Itchy                           -3              Kidney/Liver Failure            -8
Lack of Concentration           -5              Light Sensitivity               -2
Loss of Appetite                -2              Loss of Inhibition              -4
Memory Loss                     -4              Nausea                          -4
Numbness                        -4/-6           Paralysis                       -6
Paranoia                        -5              Psychotic Rage                  -10
Reduced Attribute               -5              Reduced Awareness               -6
Ringing In Ears                 -2              Runny Nose                      -2
Sense Reduction                 -4              Sexual Arousal                  -4
Sleepy                          -4              Strange Skin Pallor             -2
Suicidal Tendencies             -5              Technicolor Excreta             -2
The Munchies                    -2              Tremors                         -2
Water Retention                 -2              Weight Gain                     -2

Note : All timed side-effects can be bought as "Possible Side Effects" at half cost.

DRUG STRENGTH                   COST    DURATION                MULTIPLIER
Strength +1                     1       Short - 1D10 Minutes            x1
Strength +2                     2       Medium - 1D6x10 Minutes         x2
Strength +3                     3       Long - 1D10 Hours               x3
Strength +4                     4
Strength +5                     5

Legal/Common                    x1 Euro
By Prescription Only            x5 Euro
Type C Illegal                  x5 Euro
Type B Illegal                  x7.5 Euro
Type A Illegal                  x10 Euro
Experimental                    x25 Euro

Pill, Tablet            2D6x10 Minutes          x 0.5                   No
Gel Cap, Caplet         9+1D6 Minutes           x 1                     No
Paper Tab               1D10 Minutes            x 1                     No
Smoked, Inhaled         1D5 Turns               x 1                     Yes
Powdered, Snorted       1D2 Minutes             x 1                     Yes
Injected                1D5 Turns               x 1.5                   Yes
Liquid                  1D10 Minutes            x 1.5                   Yes
Derm, Slap Patch        10+2D10 Seconds         x 2                     No
Contact                 1D5 Turns               x 2.5                   No


Total Difficulty = Effects + Side Effects + Drug STR x Duration Multiplier
Base Cost = Total Difficulty x Legality Multiplier (see VARIABLE DRUG COSTS)
Final Cost = Base Cost x Cost Multiplier (see DRUG FORMS)

Confused? Take a look at the Drug Lab Conversions, which contains all the regular CP2020 drugs reworked using these rules.

After reviewing those conversion, you can check out some of the New Drugs I've created with my system.

Finally, here are a set of Drug Quality Rules by Lucifer, just in case you feel like throwing your medtech players an occasional monkeywrench.

Original Material, Copyright © 1998, Gary Astleford (ocelot@connectnet.com)

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