Full Item Description
True ether is a clear liquid, except in large quantities, when it begins to gain a blueish tint. The expense of condensation is enough to prevent most people from ever seeing enough ether to notice the change in light refraction. It has a light shock while touching skin, much like we would get from holding a lightning globe.
Traditionally mages had ignored the possibility of condensing magical energy into a material form. After all, when one can simply reach out and shape said energy into what one wills, one doesn’t see much need for a storable form of that energy.
Likewise, the general populace had no need for storable magic, and thus they ignored the possibility as well. Magic wasn’t an essential in their day to day lives, and thus the constant powering of spells was, and to a large extent still is, a completely pointless endeavor (e’en though the fruit of such an endeavor could be potentially huge).
At the University of what is now Steamcity Firdon, the quest to find storable magic energy was mostly just a thought-child of some upper-level students, with potential applications for enchanting and other, more arcane topics.
Through a series of mishaps and revelations during experimentation, researchers were able to create a magical vortex of the right frequency and of sufficient strength to coalesce the planet’s natural MFE (magic field energy) into a mostly stable liquid form. Liquid mana had been discovered, and thus was the magidustrial revolution born.
Ether is condensed magical energy, and thus is a fully capable power source for spells, items, magic glyphs and anything else that needs to be powered by magic. It isn't permanent, however; over time it will lose its material form, evaporating into nothingness. This takes approximately 2 weeks for a standard ether cartridge.
When ether enters the bloodstream, it binds with the body’s natural energy field. In mages, this produces an effect extremely similar to a classical mana potion, increasing magical capabilities for a time and invigorating the mage, allowing him to push his limits farther. The effect of ether on ‘normals’ is roughly similar to that of mages; the subject feels stronger, faster and more energetic than normal.
Caution must be taken, however, as the downer experienced after the ether effect wears off can be debilitating, both to magical abilities and to physical capabilities.
Ingestion or skin contact both result in the same effects, thanks to a high absorption rate.
Ether does have it’s dangers however. Because it’s concentrated magical energy, too much of it in one place will overload the local magic energy field, producing random effects until the energy concentration lowers to more natural levels. The magnitude of these "magic leaks" scales upward as concentration of magical energy increases. Evaporating ether will also contribute to this effect; more than one storehouse has spontaneously exploded due to stocking more ether than could be used.
- One of the PCs gets splashed by a sizable dose of ether, and must then deal with the horrifying downer from absorbing so much ether into their body.
- A crime lord has his loyal retainers consuming sizable amounts of ether before gang-fights, and is taking over the entire crime syndicate. The PCs must stop him before he has a monopoly on crime in the city and can bribe is way past anything the authorities can do.
- Enchanted items given an ether bath soon after creation hold their magical charge better, needing to be refreshed much less often. Items with spell-charges have those charges completely refilled by the ether bath.
Additional Ideas (3)
The quality of Ether can vary, initially starting as extremely low-grade "magical dregs" that can barely power a cantrip due to impurities, then slowly improving until it becomes possible to truly power upper-level spells with it.
As Moonhunter once said, magic is a technology, and should be treated as such. Increases in quantity and quality are a trademark of advancement, and so it makes perfect sense to incorporate this into your campaigns.
Whether it merely magnifies the latent abilities of the subject or actually imparts magical ability to the truly ungifted is a choice for the GM to make. Regardless, this doesn't have to simply be a substance usable only to the mages and their ilk.
Danger: Mana Poisoning
One thing often not considered with magic is that generally, the body of a bog-standard human isn't capable of dealing with the raw concentrations of mana that comprise spells. Thus ether, being condensed, highly-concentrated magic, is likely to produce mutagenic effects in those exposed to it.
Depending on the method and time frame of exposure, this can range from cancerous, radiation poisoning sickness from long-term evaporation, all the way to explosive tentacular growth for heavy physical saturation.
As a tool, ether has many uses and much utility, but it also presents very real dangers, especially for those who are exposed to it for long periods.