Demand for arcane magic similar to demand for drugs

Why hasn’t arcane magic been stamped out? We know that the populace hates arcanist, but are they consuming magic items anyway? I think they might be. I think it’s possible that arcane magic is difficult to wipe off the face of Athas because the people of Athas still purchase arcane products even as they hate the creators of those products. That sounds a lot like the situation with narcotics. Here is one such in demand arcane item.

Elixir of Apparent Youth

This clear, sparkling potion shimmers in the light, its iridescent colors fascinating to behold. When imbibed, the drinker appears to become younger, their wrinkles smoothing out and hair returning to its original color. Each dose reduces the apparent age of the imbiber by 10 years, to a minimum apparent age of adulthood for their race (for instance, 18 years old for humans), though their true age remains the same.

If a dose causes the imbiber to fall into a younger aging effects category (for example, from venerable to old), the penalties from their previous category are reduced to those of the current category, while the bonuses from the previous age category are retained. For instance, if a venerable-aged character were to appear old after drinking the elixir, their strength, dexterity, and constitution penalties would lessen to -2 each, but they would retain the +1 bonus to their intelligence, wisdom, and charisma.

This elixir does not truly reverse aging, and the imbiber’s lifespan remains the same. They will still die of old age at the proper time according to their actual age. If multiple doses are consumed, the effects stack, potentially reducing a character’s apparent age by decades.

Multiple elixirs stack. The real age of the imbiber must still be tracked to determine any aging bonuses.

Moderate transmutation; CL 10th; Craft Wondrous Item, alter self; Price 5,000 gp per dose; Weight -

Creation: Cost 2,500 gp, 200 XP, 3 days.


On the harsh, sun-scorched world of Athas, the Elixir of Apparent Youth stands as a compelling testament to the paradoxical allure and dread of arcane magic. This potent elixir, born of arcane mastery, illuminates the reasons why, despite the fear and scorn heaped upon it, arcane magic persists in the shadows of Athasian society.

The Elixir originates from the clandestine arts of arcane spellcasters, both defilers and preservers alike, who serve a clientele of influential individuals desperate to stave off the inexorable march of time. These arcanists, including certain members of the Veiled Alliance, risk societal condemnation and the wrath of the sorcerer-kings, undertaking their forbidden art in secrecy to transform the fleeting vitality of youth into a tangible form.

Vendors of these Elixirs, often intermediaries for these arcane practitioners, peddle stories of miraculous rejuvenation, deftly hiding the reality that these potions merely reduce the visible signs of aging and alleviate some physical burdens of growing old. The stark contrast between the promise of youthful vitality and the harsh truth encapsulates the conundrum of arcane magic on Athas - a potential source of marvel, shrouded in fear and misunderstanding.

Despite the widespread vilification of arcane arts, the potent allure of these Elixirs drives an underground demand for magic, a clandestine market driven by the primal human desire for youth, vitality, and a reprieve from mortality. As such, these Elixirs continue to circulate in the underbelly of Athas, marking the uneasy relationship between the people and the arcane.

For those aware of the elixir’s true nature, it serves as a poignant reminder of the lengths individuals are willing to go to grasp the illusion of youth and vitality in a world where survival itself is a daily struggle. The Elixir of Apparent Youth, then, is a symbol of the forbidden allure of arcane magic, and the desperate hope it ignites in a world ruled by desolation and dread.

One of many such items. To an illicit arcanist, the potential for profits is enough that they are willing to take the risk of capture and death.

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Actually this makes sense. People could go to that snooty psion who makes psionic devices for payment. But he’s a snob and will only sell to Nobles and Templars. The city psionic school isn’t snobbish, but charges silly prices and the King levies a tax on all such purchases.

That shady elf in Shadow Square can fit you up with an item that’s just as good as what the psykers make, but only half the price and no questions asked.

Who cares how it works as long as it works?

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Under 3.5e rules, you probably could make a psionic item like the one above, although it’s notable that in the official 3.5e psionic material, they were careful to keep arcane magic and psionic powers in their respective niches.

I’d expect that any wondrous (universal) items with a legitimate use, like a bonus to skills (except Spellcraft, of course) would mostly be psionic, while anything that is illicit or unusual (girdle of opposite gender, for example) is going to be of arcane origin, and either impossible or difficult to make as a psion, or simply unnecessary because there are licit ways to make money for psions.

I expect a brisk trade in illicit potions of eagle’s splendor among would-be suitors or con artists.

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Part of the grim nature of Dark Sun is that despite how horrific the situations are, characters are able to continually choose the dark options. Sometimes because of choice, other times because of necessity. Likening the use of arcane magic as a drug is not completely wrong.

I take it you created the item in question? Alter Self, Psionic is a power in Dark Sun, but a potion is certainly more readily usable than something that requires “power trigger” like a dorje. If you want it to have this “drug” feel, you would wish it to have an ending duration. Repeat customers, and all that. As it is, for a permanent effect of “Apparent Youth” the cost would likely be more around 12,000~ gp or CP for Ceramic, as it would be a continual effect (3rd level caster x 2nd level spell x 2,000 for continuous, ignoring additional costs for potion which is x25).

The idea of nobles buying this, and secretly harboring arcanists to fund their private interests is certainly within the themes of Dark Sun. Even Templars that might be particularly vain might seek out this option, if only to try and keep their underlings from seeing them as getting weak in their old age.

A dorje of Psionic, Alter Self might could work as an option, but a tonic taken can be far more discrete and is user friendly. The “repeat customer” route, of selling vanity in potions, would be probably around 300 gp/cp. For a night out on the town, one might wish to have a few of those, netting around 1,200 for around 12 hours of youth once more (this is after being generous and boosting the spell effect from 10 min/level to 1 hr/level) . All the while, the arcanists are able to brew up more with their secret patrons. One could call these lesser elixers - “philters of apparent youth”. Then if they spend the big bucks, they can get the real deal of the permanent elixir.

Universal Items would certainly be more reputable. But it also more obvious. I imagine a Universal Item of Alter Self would keep that apparent guise of youth or features desired, but could be seen as more tacky depending on the level of corruption one imagines in the Athasian rich. The difference between designer and store bought, or in this case, illegal and legal. A noble daring to use those tonics exposes his influence, power, and wealth to afford such indulgences, while the other using a Universal Item seem are more restrictive.

This could be how members of the Veiled Alliance stay in certain areas.
They take on rich patrons, feeding their avarice and vanity, while brewing potions.
Alternatively, if it was something inorganic mixed into a tincture, it could be defilers hidden about. But the idea of the Veiled Alliance working through the black markets to try and maintain influence seems to be a nice touch for a story of intrigue and manipulation.

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Good idea. Introduce something similar to the addiction mechanic from BoVD, but instead of addiction, have the users suddenly re-age unless they keep up with their doses. So none would be permanently, but the higher cost elixirs would be lengthy and more costly. And your philters make a good gateway drug into the more hardcore and expensive elixirs.

FWIW: Psionic Tattoos as the psionic equivalent of potions - usable by everyone.

Dorjes are equivalent to wands.


While the form factor of the exilir is indeed like that of a potion, due to the limitations of potions (such as scope, maximum level), the exilir is a wondrous item.

Thanks for the reminder. I remembered some psionic magic transparency stuff I was doing and that is relevant.

Except that they can go up to 9th level psionic effects.

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They do? Don’t you need additional feats or abilities for that?

Not standard ones. Psionic Tattoos ::

“Scribing and Transferring Tattoos: The manifester level of a psionic tattoo is the minimum level required to manifest the scribed power. A psionic tattoo can contain only powers of 3rd level or lower.”


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They do. However you do need one additional feat.

In the Mind’s Eye article, “Getting Wired” the psionic tattoos were updated.

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Hm… I suppose having Alter Self as a tattoo would be very interesting. Then you could have one you could release when you wanted! As the topic was about the “demand for arcane magic” I hadn’t thought of that. Of course, the idea of it as a tattoo gives me a different idea. One that… could be quite interesting.

Telempathic Projection as a tattoo could be very interesting in that regard. A tattoo someone could activate, but its use instead is focused on altering your own mood. I don’t know how that would perform, but the concept of it is quite interesting. The idea of this one being that on use, the user enters a state of bliss (or otherwise depending on the product if spiked), and would require a will save against the item to be other than the indicated product.

Of course, one minute of happiness isn’t going to sell very well. But you could probably make one for 10 minutes. 250~ ceramics for 10 minutes, unless you get particularly fancy with it and expand it from there, or just make it an adhoc price adjustment for a longer high. I’m reminded of the mood drug “Bliss” in Dr. Who that ended up accidentally wiping out a civilization.

Nearest equivalent magic wise might be “Calm Emotions” but you could probably use that as incense then. Less potent than the tattoo of … well let’s call it Sensation, but you could affect more people. I like this theoretical competition going on then between Psionics and Magic for these indulgences. The darker side of affluence!


The 2e spell Emotion might be your best bet, arcane magic-wise.

It got chopped down in 3.0e and lost the Happy emotion

Before getting hacked down into Rage and Crushing Dispair (and maybe Heroism) in 3.5e.

No real reason a person couldn’t create a Happyness spell, but then you’re into homebrew…


That one needs updating to 3.5e (an example update here). I’m not sold on the original (or the update) because it is overly convoluted.

Hyperconscious by Bruce Cordell has some additional rules for tattoos, including a tattooing prestige class. Although not official 3.5e content, it is authored by the same person that created psionic tattoos in 3.5e.

My understanding of 2e spells was quite limited unfortunately!
I played a paladin and a rogue when the paladin died in the Temple of Elemental Evil.
I looked at the spell, “Emotion” and it was very interesting! I can see the splitting off of the spell certainly. Rage, Good Hope, Crushing Despair, and Heroism feel like all just parts of the spell that got made into individual effects.

I expanded my search and went through various 3.X spells to look through various enchantments and found “Elation” in the Book of Exalted Deeds. It is stronger than Rage in my opinion, so not exactly the thing I would suggest for balance sake, even if one approves the spell. That being said, I think Heroism fits a duration around an hour so that could be used, but it could be expensive at around 750 ceramic! In that same vein, imagining its effects make an interesting level of sense. A substance that made you move and act better, seeming to just overwhelm your frailties just by being a better version of “you”.

I would almost want to say the “Heroism drug” as a potion would be popular with the templarate, made by the Defilers. Then the enforcers of the Sorcerer Kings have this item that can give them a rush of confidence and fighting potential, making them better at dealing with rogue casters at the same time. Having the history of its creation start off from templar orbs, and then when the effects got desired enough, the rise of the potionfruit variation, especially by those in the Alliance that sought to even the playing field.

Its recreation use would be developed first by those that grew dependent on the confidence and potential, and spread a bit from there. Given the price difference, it might not be as popular as the philters, but the feeling like one could do anything could be enough to cause problems, and spur corruption in the ranks of those that want to feel unstoppable again. Combining this with the philters, an aged character chasing their glory days can become quite dangerous (reducing age penalties, and gaining a +2 morale bonus to attacks/skills/saves).


Sure, I could see that.

I would caution you or anyone else thinking down this route - lots of potions/effects can be enjoyable, but almost none are normally described as “addictive”. Folks with addictive personalities not withstanding, a person might consume a potion of Fly each evening to unwind, but its not going to be as technically (biochemically) “habit forming” the way narcotics and alcohol can be.


I’ll plug some actual D&D drugs in this thread.

There is a big difference in the nature of things. There would need to be something particularly twisted about the process to make it otherwise such a substance. Unless the substances involved were somehow twisted or otherwise changed, I do not imagine it would be deserving of an effect.

If the potion was made in some way to “cheapen” the expenditure and alter its effects, duration, or cost, then it would be … different… and dangerous. As it is, there is no inherent issue with such things other than they could be habit forming, and disconcerting. And then it becomes more of a localized issue, because not every area would have these discrepancies. That in turn could become a plot hook to deal with, if a campaign was going that way.