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Basic Information

A perfume is a scented material which the user applies to themselves to adopt its smell. Typically the preparation will consist of odiferous material such as musk, ambegris, many compounds also used as incense and flower extracts, suspended in light oil, alcohol or water. Application may consist of anointing, spraying or sprinkling the preparation onto the wearer - ancient Egypt, on the other hand, favoured cones of perfumed wax which melted over time into the wearer's hair, releasing scent as they did so. Scented hair oil is generally a significant part of the perfume business in some cultures, even into the present day.

Culture and sumptuary laws will tend to define who can wear what perfumes - and what scents are considered appropriate for various social states, genders and occasions. Very strong perfume is rarely well regarded and tends, often with justification, to be considered an attempt to cover up a foul smelling person (and almost never succeeds in doing so) but may be inevitable in situations where hygiene is poor and relatively wealthy people must be in close proximity to one another. Perfume, especially worn by women, also has its place in courtship, although legends about the aphrodisiac properties of various perfumes tend to be exaggerated (or largely psychosomatic).

Traditionally a luxury good - even into the modern era good perfume from non-synthetic materials is expensive stuff - and therefore potential treasure.

Of course, culture aside, humans have the luxury of being the only sapient species about - and struggle with many discretionary odour choices made by our domestic pets. The preferences of other species are hard to predict.

Oddly, perfume production has historically been associated with monks - often as an offshoot of herbalism and the extractions involved therein.

On a related topic, perfume was important enough to the ancient Egyptians to have its own god, Nefertum who was also credited with performing something similar to aromatherapy for the other gods (and presumably his priests provided an equivalent service for other people).


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • A strong signature scent can linger a long time after the wearer has left - in some cases, even a human nose can track the wearer quite efficiently by their artificial scent.
  • A more discriminatory nose might well be able to analyse scent quite broadly - picking out specific components and being able to compare batches.
  • Of course, sufficiently strong perfume may well overload the searcher's sense of smell - or be used to create a false trail as one wearer is exchanged for another.
  • The right perfume may help in dealing with scent based species … or the wrong one may annoy them. Scents may be a much bigger deal in their culture.
  • Perfume might well be a good format for "potions" that boost social skills and/or some kind of love potion.
  • Expect plenty of perfume wearing in high end social settings like a royal court - not wearing it, whether you stink or not without, may be anything from exotic to rude.
    • Especially the case with a sick or dying monarch - the court of Henry VIII developed an increasing taste for perfume in step with that of their king, who used the stuff more and more towards the end of his reign in an attempt to cover up the smell of his multiple infected wounds and general odour of sickness and decay.
  • an NPC wears a lot of strong perfume - is that the result of bad taste, ansomia or some condition that makes them stink (up to and including being undead?
  • Perfume found as treasure could be interesting - especially if it is perfume for another species.
  • The evidence for active pheromones in humans is disputed at best - in other species they are highly significant and the perfume industry may reflect that.
    • With the added hilarity that may ensue if a human's perfume happens to trigger a pheromone response in a non-human with whom they are dealing.
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