The Art of Alchemy
Lesson 1: Boil Boil Toil and Trouble
Perhaps the most diverse realm in the Low Arts, Alchemy is both feared, mistrusted, and more commonly used than any of the other arts. Some alchemists have started down the path not knowing that their final destination was that of a low sorcerer. Some would deny such a claim vehemently.
There are several branches of alchemy that will be explored in turn. THe first, and most common branch of alchemy is that of herbalism and brewing. The most taken for granted branch of alchemy is known by the modern name of metallurgy, but is enlightnened metal working in the realm. Healing is the final, and most difficult form of alchemy, with practitioners being both sought after, and respected, according to their skill.
Herbalism and Brewing
Easily the most common in fantasy, this branch of alchemy deal with organic materials, and their reactions with the body, and the surrounding world. Potions that speed healing, allay fevers, potions of love and lust (Viagra anyone?) as well as potions that create mild feelings of euphoria, ro those that can calm the critically disturbed and insane (Mmm-hmm, love me some anti-depressants j/k)
The herbalist uses natural materials, mostly plants, roots, fibers, and a small number of inorganic materials such as iron or silver dust. Animal parts, namely blood, viscera, bone, and horn also find their way into the herbalists cauldron to be boiled and simmered and reduced to their innate forms. Herbalists generally tend to be mild mannered and subtle people as their art requires patience, and an understanding of the sublime. This would range from Professor Snape's Potions class in the Harry Potter books, to the classical trio of witches stirring a great iron cauldron of stewing newts eyes and ogre toes.
Some common items produced by the Herbal Alchemist Maiden's Tea - this slightly bitter brew resembles normal tea but has the side effect of rendering a woman infertile for a number of hours, or days following its consumption. Overdoses of Maidens tea causes stomach ache, diarrhea, and other ailments of a minor if painfully inconvenient nature. Maiden's Tea is easily brewed.
Healing Salve - this thick gritty paste is often white in color, and smells of crushed celery. It is applied to a wound after it has been cleaned and such. Then it is bound with a suitable wrapping of gauze or cloth. It accelerates healing, and minimizes scarring
Ironwood Tea - similar to Maiden's tea, except that Ironwood temporarily alleves male impotence. Overdoses lead to tremors, incontinence, and joint pain.
Oil of Rejuvination - not quite magical, this oil is used by the wealthy and noble born to reduce or remove wrinkles from their faces.
Sheening Oil - this oil is among the less expensive things an herbalist can make, it causes hair to become longer, shiny, and flow like water, in the manner of TV haircare commercials.
Soma's Powder - less than legal in some places, Soma's powder, named for the alchemist who first created it, causes the user to enter a mild state of euphoric calmness. It is mildly addictive, and some people in high stress positions become regular users until they overdose themselves into a stupor and are replaced by a more competent rival.
Giants' Blood - coppery potion that tastes of raw blood with a strong metallic aftertaste. Causes the user to exhibit increased strength, and muscle growth with continued usage. Causes long term rage issues and may cause sterility.
Quicksilver - a mind altering substance, QS makes those who take it more physically nimble, and fast with their reactions. Some take it to enchance their ability to throw knives, or balance on ropes or performs sleight of hand, until they develope permanent palsey from overuse.
Hero Juice - This potion causes the user to gain a sense of invulnerability, as well as numbing the body to injuries and pain. Some would be heros die under its influence as they ignore potentially life threatening wounds because they dont feel them as they go beserk on their foes. Go to Comment
The Art of Alchemy
Lesson 2: Idle Hands are the Devil's plaything
To those who live their lives with weapons of wood and stone, bone and antler, metal is a mysterious and terrible substance. It defies the imagination that stone can be changed from a hard but brittle substance that is seldom sharp and strong, into something that holds a cutting edge, or a piercing point, that doesnt not shatter like stone.
Even in our enlightened day and age, the arts of metallurgy are often lost on the common populace. What is in steel? Iron and carbon, yes, but what is the process, and most people dont know that there are other trace elements added to create different varieties of steel. Vanadium, Chromium, Molybdem, nickle, all of these are added in varying amounts for different effects and products.
Bronze and Brass
Infinitely easier to create than iron, these metals are unfortunately not as strong, nor as durable as iron, but contrary to gaming opinion and 'game fact' they are not the incredibly heavy, and soft metals that they are often made out to be. Cannons were made of brass long before they were made of iron, and if it was soft and heavy, it would have never been made into weapons and armor, but it was.
Creating these materials is a simple matter of smelting copper ore (malachite, serpentine, most any strongly green stone is a likely cantidate) with tin, an equally easy to find soft white metal. Heated, the slag burns off and the two metals are mixed into an alloy, creating the material. The timing and mixings are important, and the laws of low sorcery can be applied for the counting of time, the shaping and forging of the metal as well as its quenching, or cooling.
Perhaps the greatest weapon of man is iron, shaped into the plow to cut the soil and raise farms, turned into weapons and armor to defeat foes, as the Egyptians learned from the iron spear wielding Hittites, and for making stronger nails, horseshoes, locks, hinges, and barrel bands. Black iron is the first step, made by hammering iron ore until the slag is literally beaten out of it. This is cold iron, as it was made by strength of arm alone and is not heated in a forge.
Wrought iron is similar, but it heated before being hammered. The impurities in the metal give it its matte black color. The metal is strong, but is also brittle as it still contains an excessive amount of carbon in it.
Cast Iron is likely the most advanced mass produced iron available in a typical fantasy setting, as the iron is smelted at higher temperatures in crucibles that let the molten iron be drawn off from the bottom, leaving the crust of impurites on the surface of the metal. Cast iron is still brittle.
The word should cause shivers, as there are precious few materials superior to steel in the fantasy world. The steel sword is the tool of the paladin, symbol of the king. It is strong, somewhat flexible, and resistant to snapping and shattering as iron is. This is the metal that shines in the dark, and is the fear of orcs and things fell and evil. There are secrets to the making if steel that are carefully kept, with lethal force if need be.
Each smith who learns the arts of making steel does so in a slightly different fashion from his peers, as there are no limits of conformity, no standards and measures commities to ensure equal quality. Japanese steel, folded and hammered dozens of times is revered for its powerful cutting edge (often to ludicrous extremes) just as the Europeans held damascus steel in high regard.
Mithril, orichalum, soulsteel, adamant, and the plethora of other exotic materials exclusive to fantasy are the realm of the master smith. It takes the secrets of steel, and mixes it with the secrets of magic and sorcery to craft these rare materials. The logic, if the blade cannot be harmed due to its material, how in the world was it forged, if not from the generic wizard made it formula? Iron is soft, until you mix carbon, perhaps mithril is the same, until you mix a certain amount of silver, or of some other certain element. Go to Comment
In the common magical world, amulets and charms and maigcal swords are as common as snowflakes in a blizzard, but economics and world power balance dictates that this level cannot be maintained. There must be some way to justify the ignoble Sword +1 and the Amulet of Protection +1. The lesser art of enchantment fills this purpose, providing a large number of low power magical items that suffer from enough of a drawback to prevent thme from becoming unbalancing.
How does lesser enchantment work?
It is common knowledge that the creation of greater magical items requires the casting of spells into a prepared object, or possibly inviting a powerful god or demon to do so in the magic user's place. Lesser enchantment works in much the same method.
The first method of charm creation is the preperation of the vessel. Great attention must be paid to the materials of the item to be enchanted, perhaps moreso that the materials of a greater item. In a greater item, the power is in the magic, with the item being the conduit of said power. Charms, conversely, are items that magic merely enhances. Once the item is suitably purified and sacntified depending on the faith of the low sorcerer, the process of enchantment begins.
For most items this involves the carving of many intricate runes or the etchings of symbols of power. This creates a sympathetic beond between the new charm and the forces emulated by script. Material components are very important in this. A lesser flaming sword requires a ruby in the hilt, while a charm of water-breathing such as a necklace would require very fine mother-of-pearl or polished sea coral. For the most part this means that charm weapons and tools, emplements and the like very much look the part of the magic item. No plain wooden cup can be used as a recipticle for a healing spell. Such a charmed cup of healing would be most certainly ivory, inlaid with gold and silver.
Some master craftsmen, when particularly inspired can create such items without the prerequisite being a sorcerer. But, if the above scrolls have been read, the blacksmith and the apothecary are both forms of low sorcerers, and why should there be a terrible difference between a brawny beater of iron and a religiously inspired goldsmith? It can easily be extrapolated that the predominant established religion will be a major producer of charms, claiming the power is from divine inspiration. (Who's going to argue with them over the point?)
The second method of charm creation is the fast, easy, and dangerous way. Magic is an innate part of spirits, gods, demons, and the dead. An accomplished low sorcerer could summon such a creature (Again, see above for details) to do a fast and dirty blessing of their suitably prepared item. These such charms, or fetishes are going to be limited use items, possessing charges, or a limited duration on their power. After that, the power is depleted and fades. Of course, the item has to be resonate with the power of the creature summoned. A spirit of fertility and love isnt going to bless a six-flanged mace anymore than a billowing fire elemental is going to create a necklace of water-breathing. Demons, it should be noted, are not picky at all when it comes to items. The chance to unleash their powers into the living world is all the chance they need. As the expression goes a Demon will bless a lump of dirt for nothing, but you still pay too much.
The Blessed Sword - A typical sword of the time and location, but it has been prepared and blessed by a holy man (not all low sorcerers are going to take kindly to being called low sorcerers, mind you). The Holy man performs a baptism for the blade, names it honor of a holy spirit or saint and instructs the engraving of holy scriptures and symbols into the blade creating an effective Sword +1.
The Local wise woman takes a cup carved of pure river stone and adorns it with hand polished jewels and cuts runes in the stone. After performing a midnight blessing, the cup will bestow the next drinker with double potency!
A foolish Faustian summons a blading demon to enchant his rapier before a duel so that he isnt skewered by his more skilled adversary. The demon is happy to oblige him. The next day he wins the duel but accidentily is the next victim, stabbing himself through the gut when he tries to sheath his blade. Go to Comment
I am quite aware of the runes, and the concepts that they embody. I have even dabbled in casting runes of the FUTHARK alphabet. The main reason i havent brought runes into this scroll is that at the current time I havent found a way to divorce the runes from their Viking and Norse creators. Low Sorcery is intended to be very common magic, and the nature of blood-letting and sacrifice associated with the runes would make them less than appealing to the average low sorcerer. Thank you for the suggestion though AP! Go to Comment
Also called the burning touch, and the art of the knife, vivisectionism is a gruesome form of medicine compared the delicate mixtures of alchemy and the divine touch of magics. This art deals with the nitty-gritty mechanics of the living body. Books like the Vocran Palimpsest detail the pathways of blood vessels and nerve endings. The school of vivisectionism is often reviled by local clergy as the brutal and frank examination and dissection of dead bodies is commonplace. Those students that excel with the dead examinations often go on to perform vivisections, cutting open living animals to study their still functioning organs and blood vessels, a practice that gives the sect it's name.
While most of these come from criminals, or are purchased from a mortuary guild, the clergy is often at odds with the school over terms of desecrating the dead, and edging in on their Cure and Heal income. This is countered by the fact that a vivisectionist trained physician can staunch bleeding, set limbs and other almost mechanical repairs on a body at a fraction of the cost of a Clergy donation required for a divine spell.
Great information. I have an idea for you to use if you like. I will only provide minimal information and allow you to build upon it if you are interested.
The Art of Runes (A combination of magics they include warding/protection magics and divination magics. If you are interested in this, a good place to start would be looking into ancient norse or other pagan religions and how they applied runes to daily life) Go to Comment
Eventually. Calcobrina is a major region of my home campaign, and it was created back in 01 and has been growing steadily until the end of 04 when the Aterrizar campaign was put to rest in favor of a street racing LA by Night vampire game. Go to Comment
The main source of inspiration for Calcobrina was the Mirage expansion of Magic the Gathering, which in turn was very likely influenced by Arabian Nights (not the prior Arabic based expansion of the same name.) Go to Comment