One of the spells in the Ars book has the same effect that chloroform has in the real world (everybdoy goes straight to sleep). Well, one of my players thinks this should be duplicable using mundane means. Or semi-mundane means, at least. I tend to agree since the effect is not THAT strange.
So here goes the question Is there any equivalent substance to chloroform (victim falls unconscious) in the Ars period? It can be either a natural product, a plant concoction or a reagent without problems. My chemicals knowledge is nil, so I have no idea about that. We would prefer if it was a "contact poison" so it can be used in not-so-legal-elopements, but we are flexible here and would accept easily a liquid substance that needs to be ingested.
Diethyl Ether was known by some alchemists of roughly (1275ish) in the time period. Hermetic magi could possibly have known of it earlier. Opium was even more widely known. There are probably other substances available in period that I'm not aware of.
I wouldn't have a problem with a Mythic Alchemist or Mythic Herbalist coming up with a fictional compound that would fit the bill.
One of the secrets taught at Salerno was the ability to create anasthetics; this has been incorporated into A&A as the "Soporific Sponge" theriac. Anasthetics are cold in the fourth degree and are narcotic, stupefying the senses. The Salernian potion contained hyoscyamus (henbane), mandrake, opium and hemlock. This decoction was certainly believed to cause unconsiousness in sufficiently large quantities, and the inclusion of opium suggests it could actually do this. Note that all the ingredients are poisonous, and knowledge of them would be restricted to the professional. Anyone else could easily get the quantities wrong, resulting in no effect at all, or death (and all points in between).
Ah! There it was! I knew I had seen it somewhere but could not remember where. For some reason I checked the alchemist reagents, but not the medicinal theriacs.
Still, it says "a few minutes", not the one round that chloroform seems to need to render someone unconscious (at leas tin the movies, that is where I have seen it in use :mrgreen: ). Would a more concentrated dose make the effect faster?
In the rules for Mythic Herbalism the difficulty 3 effect lists "sleep" as a potential consequence. +3 to the difficulty for "contact poison". Wpould say, increwase the difficulty to 6 (+3 for contact poison for a total of 9) allow someone to build a chloroform-like substance? I would say so, but to confirm it
Realistically, the cocktail Mark is describing would work more like a "Mickey Finn" than like the chloroform-in-the-face movie trick. At the same time though, that sort of cocktail should be easy to cook up with the proper skills (albeit with the danger of overdose that he cites) and shouldn't take a season to prepare. So for something using the reagent rules, I'd say go ahead with the more dramatic.
Hi, I am an anesthesiologist. I have little knowledge of what was available in the middle ages, but I can comment on "Hollywood chloroform".
Even the best, fastest-acting inhaled anesthetics, developed in the 1980-1990 period, require at least 20 seconds to reach unconsciousness in ideal conditions, with an airtight mask and willing patient (or unwilling patient who can be strongly restrained meanwhile). Chloroform, diethyl ether and nitrous oxide (laughing gas), all developed for anesthetic use between 1820 and 1950, were all noticeably slower acting, and with the exception of nitrous oxide they have unpleasant irritant smells.
The instant drop without a fight when a moist cloth is pressed to the mouth in Hollywood movies is a gross exaggeration, as is the portrayal of "truth serums" usually reported to be intravenous injections of thiopental.
The use of opium and various toxic chemicals could have been possible in the middle-ages, but any onset of action faster than "minutes" requires hollywoodian suspension of disbelief, which one may accept for a roleplaying saga...
For people living in or near New England, I suggest visiting the "Ether Dome" at Massachussets General Hospital in Boston, where the first successful ether anesthesia for surgery was reported in the 1830's if I remember my dates. One can view the original masks, sponges, bottles and adjustable operating table used then, all in a surgical amphitheater where dozens could watch.
There are potentially some stuff that could have been used at the time that is relatively quick, but that is at the cost of safety. It essentially means trying to deliver just enough of a lethal or highly damaging substance as to make it cause unconsciousness instead of death or injury.
So, for example you could have it be possible for someone who has very high skill, able to prepare well and isnt disturbed "in the act".