What's That Old Thing?
At first glance, this appears to be an unremarkable medieval/Gothic hurricane or "storm lamp" like any other, complete with slightly burnished/tarnished brass body and riser-bell top, articulated handle and glass housing, weighing about 3 lbs (1.36 kg) and standing just under a foot tall (30 cm) and about 6 inches (15 cm) in diameter - surprisingly light for the material and size.
This Thing's Been Through A Lot
Closer inspection finds countless scratches, dings, minor dents and other markings that mar nearly every inch of the surface of the lantern, including the glass itself, giving it a nearly "frosted" pattern, though none of the damage appears to have been severe, unbelievably, almost as though it has sustained the kind of battering it has, throughout however long it has been around, without any serious impact, merely minor mishandling. The patina on the brass is heavy and anyone with any experience with metals, art objects or anything similar (knowledge checks?) will know that the lantern is at least 50 years old and if the person were well-versed, over 100, due to the buildup - this may be fairly alarming, as this style of lamp would not have existed in some campaign worlds at that time, and if it did, it shouldn't be anywhere near the good condition it is in.
What The Heck?
Physically, besides the deceptive lightness, a number of anomalies mark this lantern as particularly strange.
With some close examination by a technical mind, a compartment is found on the underside of the base, which opens up to reveal a chamber of complex metallic gizmos, cylinders, wires, springs, crystals and things characters from a non-technical world/time would have absolutely no way of identifying as electronics components. Cryptic runes are engraved about the inside of the compartment, possibly concerning its function, but simply being indecipherable. Although characters can poke around in here, nothing of use can be learned or done.
Next, there is no wick, bowl or reservoir or vent for a flame visible within the glass plate of the lamp - there is no easy way to open and access the strange arrangement of objects that is inside the glass housing, in fact. It is simply a semi-transparent glass globe with a yellowish cast, the size of a grapefruit, with a series of milky glass rods or tubes encircling the entire inside of the globe, making the whole assembly look frightfully fragile. It is possible, with some effort and intellectual pondering, to remove the lantern's outer glass plating, as it is affixed with a few screws in a few places, but not to take the globe or rods loose, though it is unlikely that would lead to anything meaningful, as they are solid, dense bulbs, and they and the main globe remain only warm at most, and only on the BRIGHT setting, and cannot cause burns or provide sufficient heat to be of use in an emergency.
Also on the "back" of the lantern's body is a small folding metal crank handle, that, while strange looking, is able to be vaguely recognized and understood, at the very least by anyone having seen any sort of similar basic mechanical devices as siege engines, drawbridges, some heavy crossbows, etc. Unless the lantern is on while being cranked, it is not obvious that turning the handle charges the lantern, or in fact does anything at all, though it shouldn't be much of a leap - only the lantern once again working will make that connection evident for certain, however. The crank handle turns with slight internal resistance related to the unknowable mechanism used to generate and store energy, so while it isn't difficult, by the time it is fully wound to its stopping point, it will have been a workout.
That's Pretty Bright
On the lantern's body is a simple brass four position switch, or sliding metal bolt, as archaic characters would most closely classify it:
- ON | BRIGHT | FLASH - written only in strange symbolic script of stylized circles, some with rays emanating from them.
POSITIONS: - O | ((O)) | *>O<* - (or however you want to represent them).
ON provides 8 hours of 20 watt LED light (equivalent of 60 watt incandescent light bulb), up to 10 yards/meters, fading to darkness.
BRIGHT provides 4 hours of 40 watt LED light (120 watt light bulb) up to 20 yards/meters.
FLASH strobes semi-randomly as an emergency signal for up to 6 hours, alternating BRIGHT and normal intensity, from 60-120 watts.
It works just like a modern LED lantern because essentially that's what it is, with some differences, such as being made of brass and glass.
How Does It Work?
The inner globe and glass rods or tubes inside it, when actived, flares to life instantly, at either 60 or 120 incandescent watts, far brighter than any torch, and provides a clean, steady source of cold, yellow-hued light for at least 10 yards at the ON setting, though the illumination fades the farther out you get from the lantern. There is no mistaking its strangeness and anyone seeing it will mark it as obvious magic or witchcraft, an enchanted item, perhaps holy (or cursed). Although it has no specific built-in "beam" or flashlight-like capacity, clever characters could easily place something dark and opaque around the back and sides of the lantern to create a very efficient beacon lantern or spotlight, with almost no effort.
Due to the lantern's extremely strange light property, it is possible it will cause fear or even panic to the point of superstitious riots or mobs in some cultures or villages, but may also prove a vital tool for intimidation against even normally fearsome enemies, as well as animals, and even more unusual uses could be invented by resourceful characters. Activating the lantern in dark conditions without warning destroys night vision for at least a good few minutes for anyone and likely interferes with any sort of vision requiring detailed perception. Any creatures affected by illumination or light-based attacks will be extremely susceptible to the lantern.
It takes 480 cranks/revolutions total to charge it up from dead to 8 hours of ON, each crank taking 1 second, so every 60 turns takes 1 minute, so a total of 8 minutes (1 minute/1 hour) is required to fully recharge the dead lantern - the main problem is that each crank makes very loud mechanical grinding noises that echo sharply, that are nearly impossible to muffle or disguise, so not only will it easily give away your position, it is irritating just to have to turn it; a fact which could be specifically emphasized from time to time. It doesn't have to be wound all at once, but if not, the winding progress needs to be tracked, or is actually best wound during "offscreen/during down-time", so it isn't made into a continual tedious issue itself, just a minor inconvenience that presents a minor danger of alerting enemies to the party's presence.
Even if archaic minds were able to open the lantern up, they would be unable to comprehend the schematics and workings of the lantern, as it is not completely mundane, and features some magical components, besides possibly futuristic, and the design is far beyond any possibly technical understanding or reverse engineering - the handle and recharge generator mechanism, zero-loss energy storage chamber and light emitting globe and photo-filament bulbs work together in a way defying conventional logic, requiring meta-magical mathematical design concepts, and that is to say nothing of the lantern's complete waterproofing to the point of permanent buoyancy. Neither the crank, recharge mechanism, globe nor bulbs will wear out - the lantern is essentially immortal.
Don't Drop It!
The most remarkable thing about the brass lantern, perhaps, is one quality that will likely never be fully appreciated: it is completely indestructible by most any means. It takes "damage", hence the innumerable dings and scratches and wear, creaking, but no part of it will ever "break". If a character takes components apart, they can be misplaced or lost, but not destroyed, though this should not be apparent, and this should be extremely unlikely, as the lantern has tended to stay together for as long as it has been around - at some point, events transpire to bring all the components of the lantern back together, no matter how unlikely.
Dropping, slamming, and otherwise abusing the lantern will subject it to cringe-worthy impact and force, but it will weather the shock; the same with acid, dragon breath, submersion in water (in fact, it floats, even though it is verifiably brass) - it may make scary noises, sound just like the preceding portion of breaking glass, creak, groan and flex, but it will not break, nor will it even stop working when taking high impacts, unless of course the switch actually gets moved to the OFF position as it bounces along the ground. Clever characters may realize this important property and use it as a shield or to hold closing doors open or use it as a weapon (though at a mere 3 lbs., it isn't likely to have much oomph!) - unless the GM has a problem, these are all perfectly valid and creative uses. New impact marks will appear on the lantern, but only if inflicted incidentally; it is impossible to cause direct, intentional damage: if one takes a hammer and strikes the glass globe housing directly, it will bow the glass covering as though it were about to burst, make a frightful pre-glass-breaking noise, rattle the lantern, etc. but will leave no mark. If, however, you throw the lantern at a wall, you will find new scratches and dents as appropriate.
The Lantern of Flameless Light is essentially a stylized brass-and-glass version of a crank recharging LED lantern whose origin is wholly unknown - it just happens to also be impervious to damage. It could be a divine artifact, a sorcerous construct, an infernal and cursed tool. The object is at least thousands of years old and has passed through countless hands of adventurers and seen the rise and fall of entire civilizations, races and species, and may not even be from the current planet. It most definitely shows up as magic, though only faintly, and if anything detects technology, it shows up as that, as well as electrical also, though anything that disrupts technology or magic or electrical current, while it *can* interfere briefly, will not destroy it. The lantern can be sold or traded, given away, lost, painted over, cleaned up and polished, whatever. It may or may not be mentioned in legends or known by NPCs. Eventually, it will pass from one person to another, perhaps from one owner to his heirs, perhaps won in a card game, perhaps buried beside his long-decayed skeleton.
The longer a character has the lantern, the more likely it becomes that he eventually loses it in some unretrievable way: falls overboard in a storm, to the bottom of the sea, down a well or an ancient ghoul warren, stolen by a giant flying serpent minion of an evil overlord, plunges into the heart of an active volcano, simply disappears during the night while in a bandit camp, etc. Somehow, perhaps weeks later, it will eventually find its way out of its temporary stasis and into the hands of a new owner, and it will continue its journey.