Wednesday, July 24, 2013

20 Magical Cauldrons

1.     The Great Cauldron of Life - a massive cauldron of silver and bronze worked with care and craftsmanship to depict stags, lions, fruiting trees, rich fields, scenes of love and care, childbirth and growth, rising suns and moons. Its ancient sides bear a light patina, but smoke and soot does not seem to be able to accumulate upon the cauldron. It is suspended upon an electrum chain hung from three poles, one of ivory, one of ebony and one of gold. To use, it must be filled with water from a holy spring, the seventeen healing herbs of St. Ivraepius and twelve spoonfuls of the red salt of Chaldea. Once this mixture is boiling, a corpse should be put into the cauldron and the Three Hymns of the Triple-Mother Goddess recited. The fire below the cauldron then goes out and the holy soup flash evaporates in a cloud of pungent steam. The corpse inside is returned to life, healed of all its wounds and ills, naked and hairless as a newborn babe.
2.     The Crucible of Essence - a large, jet black crucible of some black magmatic stone studded with tiny sparkling crystals and carved in strange, stomach-churning abstract diagrams. The lid is heavy and carved with similar designs, though the handle is of bronze and a white ivory condenser is sprouts from one side. The crucible can be used, along with the instructions in the Tome of the Soul Stripper to render essential spirits from whatever object is placed within. If an object is simply placed inside, without any magical spells incanted, and the crucible is heated, the object is rendered to a fine, concentrated essential fluid, which may be collected with a golden vessel from the spout of the condenser and used for further spells requiring those material components.
3.     The Alembic of Peppi - a glossy alembic made of woven strands of obsidian and gold, standing on four obsidian legs carv’d to resemble the legs of a bull, a lion, a man and a lizard. This powerful magical container, when heated by hemlock and tawny oak wood mixed with the resin of the senescent pine tree, will transmute and concentrate any alcoholic beverage introduced into it. The effective amount of alcohol contained is effectively increased tenfold, allowing a 50% spirit to become as intoxicating (and flammable!) as though it were a 500% spirit, with no deterioration in taste or flavouring. Myths say that the alembic was discovered by the Archmage Brewer Peppi on his journeys through the membranes between the Old Worlds.
4.     The Pot of Gold - an apparently ordinary little kitchen pot of black iron and with a creaky handle. When this pot is filled with at least twenty pounds of gold a rainbow suddenly shoots up from the pot. Anybody affected by at least a feather fall spell can walk along the rainbow, traversing as much as 20 miles through the sky. Admittedly, the pot generally does not come along for the walk.
5.     Cauldron of Cornucopia - a massive 500 lb cauldron carven and polished entirely out of glimmering green emerald, it is always full of fresh, raw fruit, vegetables, fish and meats. The cauldron can hold a total of 200 lbs of food. Whenever food is removed, it is slowly replenished, at a rate of 1 lb per hour. The food inside the cornucopia never spoils. There are rumours of a red cauldron of cornucopia, which is always full of peeled and pulped tomatoes.
6.     Caldron of Cerridwen - a large, scorched and pitted cauldron worked with bone and plant motiffs. Any freshly dead body placed inside the cauldron together with vinegar and stones struck by lightning will rise from the dead, ready to continue it's battles. However, though these revenants are intelligent and remember who they were, they cannot speak and have no souls. A deceased soul that would be restored to life after its body has been animated by the Caldron must have a separate body prepared for it, for the magic of the Caldron forever prevents the restoration of any soul to the animated body. A caldron revenant does not actually die and has to be fully destroyed by fire or acid to stop it moving.
7.     The Chamberpot of Hychïenos - a chamber pot of translucent alabaster enchanted to sterilize anything placed into it. It neutralizes the smell, sound and taste of any object placed within and dissolves 1 lb of matter into sweet smelling vapours every hour. It can hold up to 10 lb of matter at once.
8.     Cauldron of Invulnerability - a huge cauldron of bronze etched with swirling, chaotic designs. Any creature that bathes in boiling water within this cauldron must make a save vs. death. If it succeeds, the waters do not boil it (and kill it), instead it becomes invulnerable to mundane weapons and attacks for 7d7 days. Just being completely submerged in boiling water, before jumping out, deals 6d6 damage. An inorganic item placed in its boiling waters gains a +10 bonus against attempts to break it.
9.     The Evercold Vessel - a cylindrical cauldron of matte, silvery material that feels vaguely cool and slick to the touch. It contains seven silvery-blue spheres 1 lb in weight each and may hold an additional 60 lb of matter. The temperature within the vessel is adjusted by the spheres. Without spheres, the vessel keeps all contents at 10°C. Each sphere kept in the vessel lowers the temperature by 10°C.
10.  The Steaming Bowl - a simple clay boat coated in slime, that seems perpetually damp. When it’s circumference is stroked thrice, it begins to emit steam. It can be used to broil vegetables or to power a turkish-style sauna.
11.  The Basket of Hands - a basket woven of blood-red thorn bushes and reeds. Any severed hand placed in the basket reanimates when three drops of lavender oil are applied to it. It then follows the orders of the caster like a mage hand. The hand remains animated for 1d6 days, thereafter lavender oil must be applied daily to keep it animated. 1+INT modifier hands can be controlled by the caster.
12.  The Casket of the Skull - any skull or severed head placed within this jewelled casket is preserved from further decay and, if the brain is still relatively intact, reanimated and kept “alive”. Entertainment may have to be provided for the poor bodiless soul in the casket to prevent madness from boredom. The casket comes with a convenient crystal slit, which can be opened giving the occupant a view of the surroundings.
13.  The Pot of Pot - a porcelain bowl decorated with silver and electrum designs. It is always filled with a brownish, odiferous powder. When heated, the pot begins to give off a smoke that induces euphoria, loss of muscle control and occasional nausea. The smoke spreads to fill a fifty foot radius, though wind can disperse it. The smoke naturally disperses five minutes after the pot ceases to be heated, or more slowly in particularly poorly ventilated areas.
14.  The Bowl of Holding - a bowl of bronze wrought with seven nymphs that function as handles and supports. The bowl of holding can contain up to twenty times its volume of liquids or loose material (up to 4,000 pints worth). The bowl weighs 20 lbs plus the weight of whatever it contains. It is particularly popular at symposia and other drinking events.
15.  The Bone Cauldron of Voices - a cauldron made from the skull of a giant. Any organic object that is cooked within it will absorb the voices and sounds in the vicinity and reproduce them when sprinkled with lemon juice. Bones are the most common encoding medium.
16.  The Druids’ Golden Cauldron - a mighty artifact of pure, heavy gold ornamented with symbols of mistletoe, trees, hanged men, moons and stags. When any potion is prepared using this vessel, it doubles in effectiveness and grants a +2 Strength bonus on top of its general effects. Some say the cauldron is pure myth.
17.  The Black Pot of Aberration - a pot that holds about seven gallons, it is plain and black, giving off a chill, unearthly cold. Organic material placed inside is transmuted into an amorphous, mutant spawn-foetus combining the properties of the creatures and vegetables that were cooked within the pot. Fed with blood for a period of not less than thirteen days, the spawn will squirm out of the pot, ready to obey (more or less) the commands of it’s creator and baker.
18.  The Crystal Cauldron of Gasping - a cauldron shaped out of a single block of translucent rosy quartz, etched with depictions of the 121 all-seeing eyes of Omniocchus the Very Awakened. When filled with quicksilver and lightly heated, the shimmering mercury fumes rising from the cauldron create a vision of a far-off place. A skilled telemancer can use the fume-vision to also transport messages, for inorganic materials that do not react with quicksilver may pass through the mercury veil - for example, a clay tablet with a chiselled message may be thrown through. Living creatures passing through the mercury veil are usually killed by mercury poisoning. Caution! The cauldron should be used in a well-ventilated space with little wind and the viewers should have their own air supply to avoid mercury poisoning!
19.  The Copper Cauldron of Power - an unassuming, middling-sized cauldron etched with geometric patterns and sporting a green patina, the cauldron extracts magical essence from sacrificed objects (and the hearts of sacrificed creatures). After the objects or hearts are boiled for seven hours and the sacred chants of Manomnos are repeated 666 times the liquid within begins to glow. At that point wands, rods and staves immersed within the cauldron regain expended charges. The DM should rule how many charges a particular object or sacrifice restores.
20.  The Enamelled Cauldron of Cleansing - a colourful cauldron of cast iron enamelled in bright colours with depictions of ducks and cows. Any garments or items thrown into the cauldron and boiled for not less than ten minutes will emerge dry and spotlessly clean. If herbs are added to the water, the objects emerge smelling politely thereof. Some myths speak of this being the very cauldron in which Morgana boiled the loincloth of Arthur after he had faced the Unclean Knight of the Brown River.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Best of All Possible Worlds (Setting)

*This is an outline of a setting for a game I will begin running tomorrow. Due to time constraints (work) I needed a setting that was simple, fast and easy to run—while leaving plenty of scope for all kinds of wacky ideas, room for players to drop out for a session or two, etc. I borrowed heavily from Dan Simmons' Illium/Olympos duology—a fantastic bit of science fantasy for those who haven't read it yet. It had already inspired a previous setting, but this time I needed something simpler and more basic, with a harder and faster discontinuity between civilization and wilderness.* -LR, 20.07.2013

#OUTLINE (this may mostly be fairy tales)

In the far off mists of time the Great Ones realised that all was not right with the world and that the Chosen suffered great iniquity therein. Thus they gathered them up, body and soul, and reshaped the world to suit the immortal souls of the Chosen.

Truly, they made the best of all possible worlds for them—a cosmos of possibility bent to the will and wisdom of the Chosen.

Truly, all would have been good.

If the Chosen had been the best of all possible people.

The Chosen rebelled against the Great Ones, and the Great Ones paid them no heed.

The Chosen quarrelled and fought against one another and the Great Ones paid them no heed.

The Chosen travelled through space and time seeking the Great Ones, but they paid them no heed.

And when their travelling ships returned, rats and worms and creeping and crawling things of mere matter returned with them, and the serpent—they thought—thus entered the Best of All Possible Worlds.

The Chosen faded into the world at last, becoming tenuous and thin, wispy things of little consequence, for the world ceased to be for them alone.

Their pillared halls sank into the jungles, their gleaming boulevards strewn by the tides, the mountain fastnesses tumbled into the gorges, their great roads covered by deserts, their gilded statues flaked, peeled and crumbled.

The rats who had travelled back with them crawled out of their holes and beheld the world they had inherited. They beheld and they were men.

#GENERAL GEOGRAPHY (pillar portals! safe havens! wildernesses!)

The best of all possible worlds is a world as many others, but to the men of the world that geography is not a vital constraint, for their world revolves around the Pillars of Choice - mystical pillars of metal built by the Chosen for rapid teleportation from location to location. Any man or woman must merely tap in the two digit code they wish to go to, and they are instantly whisked away there, along with up to their own weight again of matter they are wearing or holding.

Humans live around many of the Hundred Pillars, though some are in cold wastes, others in jungles, yet others in deserts. The greatest of the pillars are Forty-Two - also known as the Ever-Eating Hole - and Ninety-Nine - also known as the Sky-Garden of Heaven.

Within a radius of ten miles from each of the Pillars the Servants of the Chosen, constructs of steel and leather, patrol the land, keeping it safe from marauding beasts and monsters (though not interfering in the lives of men). The Servants generally ignore humans, unless directly threatened by them.

Beyond lies the Wilderness of Forgetting.

Most men say that those who venture beyond the Patrol are mad, bad or worse.

The worst penalty in most human communities is exile beyond the Patrol—a fate of almost certain death.

But there are some peaceable enough madmen who appear ever and again, cajoling the sons and daughters of stout, unimaginative farming folk to wander beyond the Patrol...tempting them with tales of Ruby Mountains and Towers that Stretch Endlessly Into the Sky.

And more.

#HISTORY (it's like the Shire! Hobbitses! Only the rangers are leather-and-steel faceless constructs...)

History is something that rarely happens among these latter-day men, for the world is good. The Patrols hold and wars between Pillar-Settlements are few - for only one traveller can cross a pillar at a time, making their defence a rather easy matter.

Most people are illiterate and view reading and the sciences as something that detracts from important things, like farming, cooking, carousing, eating and having a jolly good bucolic time—with many pies.

Many still speak of the unlucky time two generations ago when Mad King Korùn took five hundred men beyond the patrol to attack Pillar 5 from Pillar 4. All but three of his men perished and brought back horrific tales.