In too many games, role-playing takes a back seat to Kewl Powerz, a tag given to the multitude of spell lists, special abilities, and innate powers claimed by a character. Many times this is a problem of munchkins, or blowing up stuff becoming more importat in a game than role-playing though alternate personas.
Before being assaulted by dissidents, let me offer a few words. Sometimes it is fun to powergame, to let hell fly with a barrage of fireballs, lightning bolts and hordes of summoned demons and towering elementals. This sort of game doesnt hold my attention very long as blowing things up in a constant phantasmagoria of pyrotechnics, spell components and cheetoh crumbs becomes old hat.
This is my solution, an altered perspective on magic that is much less SOTAGEC*, and perhaps more satisfying.
The Laymans Guide to Low Magic
1. The Greater Art of Summoning
* Elementals and Spirits
2. The Lesser Art of Warding
3. The Lesser Art of Exocism
4. The Lesser Art of Astrology
5. The Greater Art of Alchemy
* Potions and Brewing
6. The Lesser Art of Enchantment
7. The Greater Art of Healing(currently in works)
SOTAGEC=State of the art graphical eye candy. Applied to films that have extensive special effects, but lack other cinematic attributes, like a plot.
Additional Ideas (13)
Lesson 1: Not all Sorcerers were black robes, and pointy hats.
Put away the fancy notions of conjuring mythical beasts to do your whim, the art of summoning is a precise, and dangerous art, though without a doubt one of the most potent of the low arts.
Charisma is the key attribute of the summoner, as he must charm, seduce, cajole, and otherwise entice the subject of his spell. This art is not merely the conjuring of monsters and elementals, it contains that, but also contains much more, for the path of the summoner is sixfold.
Song of Beasts
Animals of the earth are the simplest to summon, and at times, the most valuable. Only rudimentary knowledge of the Art of Summoning is required for at least minimal effect. Most who know the Song of Beasts, as the practice is called are themselves known as beastmasters, and other such titles.
The Song of Beasts is two-fold. The first, and easier application is the summoning of an animal. This is specific, and not a Aquaman-esque Friends of the Deep. If the Sorcerer wishes to summon a pack of wolves, he must prepare the proper ritual, and there must be wolves to summon. There is no 'cast a spell and see what comes' because the answer is nothing. It might be suitable to retain a list of what animals the sorcerer is able to summon, and expand from that list in a logical manner.
The second application is the control of an animal once summoned. This is a step, or increment more difficult than the summoning of said animal. It is one thing to draw a beasts attention, and another to command it to your will. As a sorcerers ability in the Song of the Beast increases, so does his ability to command the beasts he does bend to his will.
The difficulty of the summoning depends on three factors, the intelligence of the animal, or it's willpower, it disposition to being summoned, and distance. More intelligent animals are more wary, and require extra effort to summon. Some animals are not opposed to being summoned, dogs, horses and other domesticated animals are easy to summon, it has been bred into their nature. A wild falcon, or tiger would be more difficult as they are fiercely solitary animals. Last but not least, the closer they are, the less time it takes to summon them, to an extent.
The Lone Ranger, or any other horseman capable of calling his horse with naught but a whistle. Impressive not because the horse comes to a whistle, but because the horse comes only to His whistle.
The Constable who has a strong relationship with his hounds. His commands are are quickly enacted by his dogs. Attack, guard, find, track, and half a dozen other tricks and talents, all at the command of a single sorcerer.
The Beastmaster, perhaps one of the better known examples, and certainly not a bad one. Commands his animal allies, but those who observe do not see the exchang of master and servant, as he treats the animals excedingly well. A lessen there, the summoner who treats his charges well may not have so hard of a time the next time he calls upon them.
Lesson 2: Mortals always overestimate their importance in the greater sense of things.
A dangerous bit of knowledge here. Summoning mortals (Humans, dwarves, orcs, etc) is easy, in fact, it is as easy as summoning animals. There are a few differences to consider first.
The summoning of mortals lacks the dual nature of summon/command that is present in animals. Some argue that this is the divine order of free will over predestination. Others claim that human beings are far to complex to be yoked by the simple magics that manipulate lesser beasts.
To summon a mortal, the sorcerer must A: Know the name of the person to be summoned, and B: must have a sample of their person available. Thus, many people, especially adventurers and mages will affect 'working names' to protect their real names from those who would take advantage of them by summoning them away from their own lives and families.
A summoned individual can attempt to resist a summons spell, but it requires either great distance, or willpower greater than that of the sorcerer who is attempting the summons. Summoning mortals is a resistable action also. Thus, resistance to summoning is innate, and tied to said person's willpower. A weak-willed and unassertive person would find resisting a summons very difficult if not impossible. The same indifferent person would also make a very poor sorcerer, as most everyone would be able to resist his summons.
The villians cavalry arrives just in time...right after the main villian lit a red candle while taunting the PCs, stalling for time, while he cast a spell to summon his best assassins.
The Sorcerer-Judge uses the summons power to bring a wanted criminal into custody, regardless of guilt or otherwise.
Okay, so summoning mortals didnt have the same zing as summoning monsters, but it depends on your view of human free will versus predestination.
Naxt...Demons. I'll try not to be cliche and laugh villianiously.
Lesson 3: Never summon anything you cannot feasibly banish. This is the leading cause of death among summoners
Diabolism is a perilously simple art, one that invites sloppy rituals and hastily prepared spells. Summoning a demon is a simple matter, summoning a demon that is controlled is another matter completely. The main cause is that the majority of rituals to summon demons were in fact created by demons as a way to enter the material realm. A ritual might be 95% correct except for a small part to control the demon once summoned. Once summoned, the demon kills the summoner, and is free until their ability to retain in creation expires, or they are driven back to their home realms.
Demons require a sacrifice to even notice a ritual summoning. This can be a simple sacrifice of an animal strongly opposed by the demon, such as slaughtering a cockerel to summon a basilisk demon, as the cockerel in mythology slew the basilisk. Weaker demons require lesser sacrifice, while only the strongest of demons demands human sacrifice. Such demons are the most likely to have delivered flawed summoning rituals to summoners.
An intelligent sorcerer will not summon a demon unless he is proficient in the Art of Warding, and has at least one ward, if not more in place before summoning a demon and bargaining with it. There in lies the danger of dealing with demons.
It is easy to strike a bargain with a demon, but much harder to strike a pact that serves the summoner more than the demon summoned. Simple demons are limited in power, but also limited in their ability to manipulate and coerce a summoner into inferior terms. More potent demons are correspondingly more cunning, and almost always end up with the better end of the deal.
Deeds completed by demons, ill-gotten gains, and demonic lore all carry a specific and identifiable taint. Only the foolish summoner resorts to demonic pacts rather than seeking another way to achieve a goal.
Ye have been warned
Lesson 4: Elementals
Lesson 4: If you play with fire you will get burned, this applies to all elements.
Elementals are not difficult to summon. Control, as always is the difficulty. Unlike demons, Elementals are not quite as difficult to control, as they lack the whole pain and lies impetus to their bargaining. An elemental will generally expect some sort of chimage, or payment for their summoning.
Once a deal is made, and payment is also made, an elemental will serve a sorcerer loyaly so long as they are not commanded into a life ending situation, or forced to go against their elemental nature. Thus commanding an earth elemental to help build a wall, or to reinforce an existing location would be readily obeyed, while a command to leap off the cliff to plummet like a catapult shot down on enemies below would not be likely followed.
Summoning elementals is easy, but often expensive in terms of sacrifice and offerings. Fire and wind elementals enjoy expensive incenses, and dried herbs, while earth elementals will require precious metals and jewels. Water elementals will ask for the most expensive of drinks, or in rare cases, the fluid of life, blood.
Next, the dead.
Lesson 5: Children shouldnt play with dead things
Any compentent sorcerer can tell you that death is not the end of life, merely a change in aspect. The soul continues on, most are drawn on to their reward, or recycled back into creation, for such is the way of things. A few, however, linger on lost between the worlds, trapped in a crumbling shadow of our own existance. A well versed sorcerer can learn to summon these restless shades and extol knowledges and services from them.
To summon a ghost, the summoner must procede to the place of either the slains death, or to their grave should they have one. An offering and ritual incantation are made, if appeased, the desired ghost will appear. This is always helped by proper sacrifices, such as blood, or things strongly associated with the ghost, such as the blood of a mighty stallion to summon a heroic horsemans ghost, or a song played for the ghost of a bard. Offering blood doesnt always mean killing the source of blood.
Most ghosts lack the strength to harm the living, but those few who can, will. Thus a smart summoner will have a proper ward in place before summoning an unknown ghost.
Ghosts can be induced to spy upon others, or offer their wisdom from beyond the grave. They will offer anything they know, so long as the actuallity of undeath is not questioned, for the laws of the living go against the laws of the dead. Stronger ghosts can be compelled to hunt the living and harass them in their subtle way, or striking them in a far less subtle way.
The most common cause for summoning the dead is for purposes of communication, and gaining lost information. It should be remembered that what they pass along is what they knew in life, or what they recall from their period of undeath, it is not default truth or canon. The dead make poor soldiers, and are best suited to their darker, passive role in creation.
A note of warning. Ghosts are driven by, and ruled by petty passions. They have some item, cause, or person that has anchored them in creation. Threatening that anchor can either cause the ghost to fly into a rage, or to become compliant to the summoners will. They will not willingly go against this anchor, and most will desperately protect their anchors and will go to great lengths to keep them secret from summoners.
Lo, I see my father...
Next, Higher Spirits, or Gods
Lesson 6: Any god, regardless of power, will be offended by a little reference
There are entities that are not demons, ghosts, or elementals, for those is reserved the title of 'Little God', or 'Spirit'. Summoners are cautioned against calling for the services of these beings as they are not summoned, nor controlled, they are beckoned to, and negotiated with. Powerful spirits are among the most dangerous entities in creation as their power is mightly, and not limited in the manner of demonic bondage, or the laws of the elemental courts.
Each spirit will have certain things attributed to it, and the larger and more potent the spirit, the harder it is to summon, and the more knowledgable and capable it is. Thus, in theory, the Gods could themselves be summoned, but their shear power and breadth means that the cry of one sorcerous summoner will be ignored completely, and a constantly calling sorcerer might be visited by a lesser servitor of the god to:
A.) help if the summoner has good reason to call, and do so overstepping the clergy of the god, or
B.) punish the summoner for being so arrogant.
This is an extreme example. A better example might be a summoner calling up the spirit of a great river, as opposed to a water elemental. He would have to make a proper offering to the spirit, and state what he desires from the spirit.
If the spirit accepts the offering, it will do as the sorcerer asks. If not, their could be anything from a tacit denial to the spirit assaulting and punishing the sorcerer for being an uppity git.
It is of supreme importance to remember manners and etiquette when dealing with the celestial spirits.
Thus, the Art of Summoning is Complete.
Next: The Art of Warding
Lesson 1: Always always always always practice safer sorcery, use a ward.
First of all, I would like to thank everyone who passed the exams on the Art of summoning. With any luck, the rest of the entries here will be by far more brief. Summoning, being the large and diverse art that it is, required a very large amount of space, and time. Without further ado, on to the sublime and essential art of warding.
Warding is the simplest of the arts, and almost every sorcerer worthy of such title will be at the very least, aware of the basics of this art. There are many sorts of wards in common mythology, the string of garlic to repulse the vampire, the line of salt against restless spirits, and the manifold ways to thwart the fair folk. These become the tools and tokens of the Warder.
In almost all cases, a ward has a physical component, be it the garlic, or the prepared lines of salt, or the common pentacle, or circle of protection. The amount of time, and the value of the materials used determines the strength and durability of the ward, along with a skill test using the sorcerers dexterity and their occult knowledge. A hastily inscribed circle of protection drawn in fifteen minutes with charcoal is not going to be as strong and resilient as the circle inscribed in the floor itself, and then ceremonially filled with powdered charcoal from a brazier blessed by a high priest of the God of good luck.
The low art of warding does not create walls of flame, or crackling sheets of electricity. The ward is an invisible, intangible thing. The hastily prepared warda bove would offer resistance to strong spirits, but they would be able to penetrate it by sheer will. The later ward would be as strong as steel, and impervious as plexiglass. Nothing less than a divinity would be able to penetrate such a carefully inscribed circle of protection.
Weak wards are the most common. It is unnaturally rare that a ward is even required against greater spirits and demons as they are bound by their own unknown laws. Most wards laid counter lesser minions and spirits. A forest village will have wards of protection against fickle forest sprites and mischievious pixies. A similar moutain community would be warded against rock sprites, and against boggarts and rock-biters. Large cities are commonly warded against restless ghosts, with individuals being responsible for the warding of their own homes and neighborhoods.
Wards are unlimited in potential size. A single sorcerer can ward a home against ghosts, or a mansion if he uses properly instructed assistants. A small army of assistants could be used to actually make a ward around and entire neighborhood, or even a city. The cost in materials would be staggering and the ward would have to be refreshed yearly, but the value of having a city free from ghosts, or the less exotic ward versus bears, for say, a northern city might be well worth the cost. In the larger cities, it becomes the task of the Warding Circle, or guild to maintain the wards of a city.
Ward Contingencies - most wards are very specific about what they will restrict. A ward versus bears will do nothing against dogs, wolves, or anything not a bear. Stronger, and more difficult wards such as None Shall Pass These Doors often have contingencies worked into them as they were laid. Some include, none shall pass save for the priests of Nepthys, or Ward against all bears that are not white, or some other wording. This generally increases the difficulty by at least one step, or more for each contingency.
Alarm Wards - not all wards stop, some merely alert someone or a place when they have been breached. These wards might be a step easier to create, and last longer. It would be the magical equivalent to a motion detector, or perhaps a heat sensor.
When dealing with warding circles, pentacles and sectioning off parts of towns, or large buildings, a steady hand and good eye are needed to ensure that the warding lines, be they of chalk, salt, ash, or special paint are laid properly. Dexterity is a key attribute in addition to the occult knowledge of warding. Some might be tempted to spend huge sums of money for exotic materials, but in most cases a very common material is just as good. Many rare herbs, and lines of gold will repel the dead, but common salt will do the same for considerably less.
A lesser sort of ward is a fetish. The string of garlic to repel vampires is the best example. This sort of warding relies on knowledge of weakness, and then exploiting said weakness. Garlic to repel vampires, while cold iron to scare away sprites and fairies.
And thus ends the Art of Warding
Warders would be respected members of their communities as it is their regular use of sorcery that keeps the home hearth free of roaming ghosts, marauding spirits, and other unwelcome denizens. It is a lucky farmer who can have his grainary warded against rats, or the blacksmith who can have his workshop warded against fire.
But for the most part, the warder works to keep the immaterial world at bay. They are also likely to be one a village council in their home village, or a very respected member of the community. In towns and cities, the leader of their circle, or guild, as there is no world wide heirarchy of warders with a grand hierophant of warders, is often an advisor to the local nobility, or a seated member of the ruling council.
Perhaps slightly less respected than the art of warding, the art of exorcism is seldom lacking in demand. The fantastic world is often teeming with restless ghosts, and rogue spirits harassing the living. Much of exorcism, like Warding is a matter of ritual, and observance of the proper rites. Thusly, exorcism is divided into three basic tasks: placation, expulsion, and banishment.
Placation - often times, the simplest way to end a wayward spirit is to simply communicate with it and discover why the spirit or ghost is misbehaving. With an offering, perhaps music, chanting, a bowl of cream, tea, or blood, the exorcist calls forth the offending spirit. The exorcist them entreats with the spirit (charisma based test, plus their occult skill) to discover the reason for its errant behavior.
In many cases, the cause is simple, and simply put back to right. The ghosts are out huanting because their cemetary has fallen into complete ruin, and is being looted by graver robbers. Some work on the part of the community, and the ghosts are placated. Or a wolfen spirit has been deeply offended by the callous way that villagers have been slaying wolves.
Once the cause of the offence has been brough to light, the exorcist can make a suitable offering, a for or reparition for the trespass. Some spirits will be glad to accept such chimiage, while others will not be so easily mollified. Some request a deed, or other form of atonement. The wolfen spirit mentioned above could accept an offering of a large amount fo meat for his wolf charges to eat for the winter, or could demand that the villagers eat a diet of only vegetables for a winter, to see how they like not having meat.
In rare occassions, a cagey exorcist can outwit a potent, if not so bright, spirit into ceasing its rampage. Tales of such exorcists would be common folklore, but the truth of the matter would see them much more rare than portrayed. Spirits dislike being tricked, and they remember such trickery and sometimes reward an overly cunning exorcist with terrible curses, or even bodily harm.
Expulsion - the most classic aspect of the art of exorcism, the path of expulsion deals with driving an alien essence from the body of a living mortal. A possessed victim is somehow restrained, and then ceremonially presented with symbols of the greater divinities, berated with sorcerous texts and sutras all reminding the inhabitor of its transgression. It is a an extended contest of wills as the exorcist must match his will to see the laws of heaven held against the petty and often childlike will of many lesser spirits and the selfish will of the dead.
Exorcists skilled in expulsion carry an aura of command to them, and many are as unpleasant as the spirits they drive from their victims. Once the spirit is driven from the host, it is then up to the exorcist to appease the spirit in way or another.
Banishment - the path of banishment drives a spirit away from a place for a certain amount of time. It is a delaying tactic, as the offending entity is sure to return, and return in a foul mood. The exorcist is recommended to have suitable defenses prepared for the spirit, or to have vacated the premesis. Ghosts offer an exception, a banished ghost cannot return to the place of its haunting. If the place was an anchor, such as its grave, or place of its demise, the spirit is fatally shredded and will fade. Death for the dead.
Like the rest of the art, banishment deals with effacious prayers, observance of rituals, and ancient rites. Prayers are most effective when dealing with demons, as the demons are forbidden from intering the material world, and the gods will respond with what they seem necessary. This could range from the subtle arrival of a demonslayer, to the appearance of the valkyries, angelic host, or whatever display of celestial might the gods prefer. Prayers involving the dead are the least effective, as the divinites expect humans to deal with their own revered ancestors on their own.
Permanently Dealing with a Spirit - banishment is a delaying tactic, expulsion simply pushes the spirit out of a human host with nothing to prevent them from reinhabiting. There are three ways to permanently deal with a spirit. The first, and perhaps most effective is to deal with the spirit, find out what it wants, and appease it. The second is effacious prayers that the heavens themselves set the spirit to rights. This rarely works and should never be relied on. The last method is to deal with a mystic or demonslayer to destroy the spirit, to kill it. Killing spirits has a detrimental effect, both on the fantastic realm, on to the characters karma. Slaying the spirit of a tree slays the tree as surely as killing a soul will kill a body. Spirits also notice which exorcists rely on such heavy tactics, and either submit more easily, or make life hard for the kill-happy cleric.
Lesson 1. Real astrologers are mathematicians and astronomers
Among the least respected of the low arts is that of the fortune teller. For every genuine fortune teller there is an army of fakirs, charlatans, conmen and snake oil salesmen.
A true Astrologer is surrounded by obscure information. Almanacs, star charts, and records of geneaology. The first task in astrology is to gather as much information as possible. The birthdays, and deathdays of family members, dates of importance, their first bloodshed, their first lover. All of these add up to make a picture among the constellations and stars.
Once the largest amount of information can be gathered, the astrologer begins adding them into the formulae and tables of the stars. Correspondences are drawn, and the formulae are balanced and the solutions, along with the stellar correspondences and nighttime observations come up with the prediction.
The more accurate the information, and the more plentiful it is will create a more powerful horoscope. A skill roll, or challenge is required, which also can improve the quality, or length of the horoscope. A short term prediction does not require as much information as a long term. A woman seeking to learn if she is pregnant by her lover, or another man would only need supply information from the two men, while a lord seeking the future of his kingdom would have a monumental task of gathering harvest records, birth and death rates and a mountain of further information.
Now, how does this become useful in a game setting? Most PCs, and players, are well accustomed to the prophecy of doom(TM) predicted in the reading of tea leaves, the casting of knuckle bones, and the infamous drawing of the death card(TM). While some of these can be real uses of foci by gifted foreseers, they are almost always fakes. The astrologer will be able to ask the PCs all sorts of questions about their backgrounds that would otherwise never come to light.
Every hero had a mother, every heroine a father. Are there siblings, who, what do they do where do they live? When was the PC born, what was their birth name? What were signifigant dates in thier past?
This is all well and good for the PC that knows, but what about the PC who doesnt know. Is there going to be a trek back to his of her hometown to hunt down their lost parents, or a mission to the church to find when precisely they were born, or find out their birth name.
If the PCs are seeking the fortune of their enemy, how much more would they have to learn about the enemy before a prediction could be made? What self-respecting mother would name her son Mephisto, the Master of Corpses? Great for adding a human touch to villians, or adding a monsterous one when the horoscope says that the villian had no mother...
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.
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.
Lesson 1: Caveat Emptor
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.
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.
For more details see The Vocran Palimpsest