For day 6 of #RPGaDay2021, "Flavor," I wanted to draw attention to a strange, but cool bit of Dungeons & Dragons History: the Zzonga Fruit.
Zzonga Fruit was introduced in TSR Product #1037, The Player's Guide to Alphatia by Aaron Allston, which was book three of GAZ0: Dawn of the Emperors.
Doesn't sound familiar? If you were an AD&D player, you might have missed this one. It was a BECMI product. The GAZ series started with GAZ1: The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, and ran through GAZ14: The Atraughin Clans, each a two books boxed set detailing a different nation across the world of Mystara. Almost all of them discussed how those nations were affected by a pair of decadent Empires that had their hooks onto almost every other nation in some way.
GAZ0 Brought it all together, detailing both the Rome-Like Thyatian Empire, and the Fantastical magician-ruled Alphatia Empire. Both decadent, corrupt, and on the verge of causing a global war. (Which then played out in Wrath of the Immortals.)
Zzonga is a tropical plant that figures heavily into the history of both Empires. The Alphatia so brought it to Mystara from their home world after they destroyed their own home world in an Elemental war. The fruit of the Zzonga plant creates a calm, pleasant Euphoria that leaves a character chilled-out and unambitious for 1d4 days.
|Zzonga Bush entry from The GM's Guide to The Dawn of the Emperors
Zzonga is more than just a drug: it is woven into the game world's history. Zzonga addiction left the populace of the Alphatia's homeworld dull and drugged so that no one spoke up when extremists started the war that destroyed their splat system.
Emperors of Alphatia have used Zzonga trade as a means of drugging potential enemies into passivity. They have made it more abundant to reduce civil unrest, or forced it into scarcity to fill the Imperial coffers.
An early emperor of Thyatis (then a freshly-seceded Alphatian colony,) Lucinius rose to and maintained his power by becoming a celebrity gladiator... He ensured his wins in the Arena by doping his opponents with Zzonga before his matches.
Alphatia's state of Decay in the era of the Gazetters was caused by widespread and excessive Zzonga use among the Nobility, leaving organized crime and petty despots to take control, or simply causing industry to languish across the Empire.
Which is not a coincidence: the Empire of Thyatis has used spies and fifth columnists to build up the Zzonga supplies and keep their potential enemies ineffective.
After Alphatia's utter destruction (the whole continent was sunk) during Wrath of the Immortals, a new age of illegal Zzonga trade among Alphatian refugees starts to show up in The Poor Wizard's Almanac and Book of Facts for 1011AC.
Zzonga figured into several of my campaigns when I need a gantady drug. My new game Deathtrap Lite has complex rules for addiction and recovery inspired by how Zzonga appeared and was used in my Dungeons & Dragons games. If I could have included it, I would have.
It certainly was a bold move in 1989 to include images of drug use in what was marketed as the "kid's" version of D&D, when depicting drugs in kid's media coukd have easily added fuel to the moral panics already aimed at the game. One I think worth remembering and considering.