Friday, July 6, 2018

The Three Forms of Magic Weapon; or, a Flame-Tongue of your own in 2517 easy steps!

When it comes to heroic figures wielding blades of fire and lighting, the ballads usually don’t go into great detail about their composition. Oh sure, all the named weapons have long and storied lives of their own, forged by such-and-such and used in the Great War of whenever to genocidal effect. But the bards singing the songs don’t know a spell from a jar of spit, so they fudge the rest and nobody minds.

Since you are reading this, you probably mind. There are three methods a “magic item” might be created: Occultum, as a Temple and as a Relic. This will be the first of three posts regarding the different formulae and ritual used to bind eldritch power into an otherwise mundane object.

Occultum - The King of All Metals 

Credit, Nihal Rahman

Many pantheons and cults have claimed occultum to be the “metal of the gods”. It certainly isn’t, at least, it certainly doesn’t belong to any god(s) that we know of. Occultum is universally the hardest possible currency, and substantial deposits are likely to instigate, and eventually end, wars. In its pure form, it is completely immune to magic, occasionally reflecting spells directly back at the caster. Occultum plate armour would make a royal treasurer weep, and weigh about half a ton, but would be entirely impervious to spells as well as being extraordinarily resilient. When not being used as coinage (1 occultum = 10 platinum = 100 gold), occultum is sometimes melted down and mixed with base metals. These alloys elevate the properties of the base metals into new and stupendous forms, requiring comparatively little of the ultra-rare active ingredient. For example, Occult-Iron blades are harder, sharper, tougher and rust-resistant, while Occult-Silver wires are used to conduct magic. These alloys are the most reliable and long-lasting of all "magic items" due to simply being a result of unique metallurgical properties. You'll still get songs sung about you though.

Working with occultum is remarkably difficult due to its immunity to magic and high melting point, but never fear! It is highly ductile, and metals wrapped in thin occultum wires or sheets still demonstrate many of the related properties. Liquid occultum has certain properties some magic-users abuse to horrifying effect. Care should be taken that it is not exposed to excessive jostling, as it is liable to decay into octarine light and high-velocity lead shrapnel.

The less said of gaseous occultum, the better. It is a Bad Thing™.

Properties of Occultum Alloys

Now, while players are welcome to read the list below, most of mine have had far more fun experimenting with the tiny tidbits of occultum wire they've dug out of golem corpses in the Chambers. Remember, nothing bad can ever* happen from mixing occultum with other materials.

Results in incredibly strong, flexible, rust-resistant metal that can be sharpened to a much finer point. Adding lumps or wires of Occultum to ordinary metal provides a +1 damage bonus, reforging it allows for +1 Attack as well.

Heavier and harder than Occult-Iron, and nigh-indestructible, but the secrets to its manufacture are entirely lost. The dwarves know the secret ways of carbon, but only the elves knew how to keep the Occultum content high enough without total meltdown. Used for +2 weapons.

The springs produced by Occult-Tin are capable of powering golems, guns and all sorts of gadgets. The Moon Colony is powered almost entirely by a subterranean network of Occult-Tin, with a Mostly Immovable Rod vibrating at its core.

These wires are used as the "nerves" for golems in the Chambers of God, conducting micro-spell instructions to the limbs, as well as for more... practical purposes. Thicker Occult-Silver wires are capable of conducting a higher spellsurge, but will radiate excess energy at uncomfortable frequencies.

A room temperature ultraconductor. Effectively has negative resistance, and will actively draw power out of every available supply, acid or electrolyte and send it in colourful, destructive arcs of lightning.

Extremely psionically reactive. A normal person, given some meditation tips, could a make an Occult-Platinum coin slowly levitate and wobble about the room. A true master? One shudders to think.

Once again, a lost art, this time for good reason. There's a sizeable portion of octarine light mixed into the radiation. However, small animals like rats or cockroaches have a 15% chance to spontaneously develop sentience when continuously exposed.

Looks solid. Feels heavy. Bends like butter. Will slowly morph back to its original shape, like memory foam.

Occult-Lead has some strange properties. Left in a laboratory overnight, every single experiment nearby decayed, rotted, fell over or otherwise failed. It seems to somehow draw bad luck into itself. More research required.

This amalgam probably isn't sentient. Probably. However, it seems perfectly content to solve mazes, picks locks and open jars. Just pour it in and watch what happens. Breathing the fumes is not advisable.

When placed in close proximity to a cube of, say, stone, a lump of Occult-Silicon will slowly twist itself into an identical shape. Higher levels of Occultum are required for smaller, more differentiated objects like a key.

Only small scraps of Occult-Carbon have been located in crumbling high-elven facilities, many wizard guilds would kill for a sample. Kill you, for example. It is an extraordinarily durable material, though it struggles to hold an edge, so it's best suited for tools rather than weapons. However, it's properties truly show through when used as armour. Blunt-force trauma will cause it to bulk up into thicker padding, while it will react to a sharp jab by forming hard scales. Fire makes it crisp up into an diffusive layer, while extreme cold has it seal any gaps with insulation. What is even more remarkable, a few minutes later any modified Occult-Carbon armour will reverts to a serene grey sheen, as if it never changed at all.

A simple property, Occult-Aluminium is just as hard as the original metal, but weighs the same as air.

Combining the traits of Occult-Copper and Occult-Tin, this alloy is capable of absorbing and diffusing impacts at an astonishing rate. Care must be made during the forging, since no further adjustments can be made. Results in +1 armour and shields.

You'll probably be thinking at this point, most of these properties don't seem particularly... magical. And you'd be right! Occultum is anti-magic, at it's core. It is a mix of phlebotinum and unobtainium. It defies physics, but in a pretty reliable way. It is the exception to all the other rules. Each of these material properties makes it incredibly useful in a wide number of potential projects, limited only by your imagination and how bloody hard it is to find the stuff!

When I give players a 'magic item' and tell the wizard "this object contains a small amount of occultum" I can just watch their eyes light up. As Skerples says: If you want to build something insane, you'll need a bag full of occultum. It's a little bit like residuum, just less crap. Sure, you can just use that +1 sword. Or, you can use the fire trap from two floors back to melt away the lesser metals, leaving behind pearls of occultum and that make something of your own. And I think that's what makes it special.

That's all for now, next time: Temples! Or rather, how to convince a spirit with godlike powers to live inside a metal stick so you can hit things with it.

*Except that one time. So far.

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