On Mines and Mining – Part Five

The Finale! Previous posts are as follows:

Part One: Mining and Smelting
Part Two: Alabaster to Corundum
Part Three: Diamond to Lodestone
Part Four: Marble to Rhodochrosite

Natron (5 sp / lb): Art, Preservation
Salt (5 gp / lb): Alchemy, Cooking

Salt occurs as a white, pink or reddish mineral in rock salt form. Rock salt occurs in vast beds of sedimentary minerals resulting from the drying of enclosed lakes and seas. These salt beds may by up to 350 meters thick and cover many square miles. Salt is also extracted from sea water.

Salt can be extracted from rock salt deposits by mining it. This was traditionally a very dangerous profession, and thus left to slaves and convicts. The salt occurs in the form of irregular salt domes, and may be transparent, white, pink, reddish or red in alternating bands. Some salt mines still in operation today are very ancient, including famous mines in the Punjab and Poland. These mines cover many square miles, run up to 10 levels deep, and have hundreds of miles of passages and thousands of chambers. In other words, they would make perfect dungeons.

Salt can also be collected from salt water from the sea or from brine springs. When extracted from water, the salt is either evaporated from the water using salt pans (pots made from a crude ceramic material called briquetage) or by boiling it down over a fire. Even when boiling is used, the brine is usually allowed to evaporate in salterns in order to concentrate it before the boiling occurs.

Salt is a useful material on its own, primarily as a food additive and an alchemical ingredient. At some points in time it was almost as valuable as gold. Alchemists can make spirit of salt, or hydrochloric acid, by mixing salt with vitriol (sulfuric acid). Spirit of salt was mixed with aqua fortis (see Urine) to produce aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid. Alchemists also used salt to produce sal mirabilis, or miraculous salt, a popular laxative.

Another product of dry sea beds is natron. Natron was used as a grease-cutting cleaning agent, a mouthwash, and tooth paste. When blended with olive oil, it made soap. Natron was an ingredient in antiseptics and it was used to dry and preserve fish and meat, kill insects, make leather and bleach clothing. The Egyptians used it in the mummi-fication process because it absorbs water. When added to castor oil, it made a smokeless fuel, allowing artists to pain in tombs without staining them with soot. The Romans combined natron with sand and lime in their glass and ceramic production, and it was used as a flux in soldering precious metals and as an ingredient in blue paint.

Sandstone (8 sp / lb): Architecture

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-sized minerals. Most is comprised of quartz and feldspar, the most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. Sandstone is usually colored tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. It is a common building material because it is easy to work and often resistant to weathering.

Serpentine (1 gp / lb): Architecture, Art

Serpentine is a group of many different minerals. The Romans called them “serpent rock”. They come in colors ranging from white to grey, yellow to green, brown to black and they are usually splotchy or veined. Serpentine is plentiful in sea beds. In the soil, it is toxic to plant life, and thus deposits often underlie strips of grassland in wooded areas. Serpentine marble (lizardite) ranges from red to green and weathers very well. Serpentine is a common stone in hardcarving. It can be carved into art objects or used as an architectural facing.

Silver (100 sp / lb): Art, Coins, Equipment

Silver, or argentum, is a whitish metal that is harder than gold, but still easily worked. This made it an excellent material for making coins, and in fact most coins through history were minted from silver. There are three main sources of silver: Quartz, galena and acanthite. For more information on quartz, see the entry for Gold & Quartz. For information on galena, see the entry for Lead. Acanthite is a blackish-grey mineral with a metallic luster.

Silver is most often used to make coins. Historically, silver coins were far more common than gold and copper (or bronze, brass, billon or potin) coins. In fantasy games, silver is also used on weapons, probably in the form of silver plate, because of its effect on lycanthropes. Silvering a weapon would probably involve the use of mercury, and would be performed by an alchemist rather than a smith.

Lunar Caustic, or lapis infernalis, was made by dissolving silver in aqua fortis and evaporating the substance. Sticks of lunar caustic were used in surgery because of its antiseptic properties. It blackens the hands. Argentum fulminans, or fulminating silver, is a silver compound that explodes readily, though the charge is fairly harmless in small amounts.

In mythology and folklore, silver is associated with the moon, thus lycanthrope’s vulnerability to silver.

Slate (5 cp / lb): Architecture

Slate is a grey stone formed from shale. The most common use for the stone is roof shingles, though high quality slate can be used for grave markers and other monuments.

Soapstone (1 cp / lb): Art

Soapstone is rock composed of talc and rich in magnesium. Soapstone has been a medium for carving for thousands of years. Native Americans used it to create bowls, cooking slabs and smoking pipes, the Indians for temple carvings and the Chinese for official seals. It is highly heat resistant, making it a good material for cooking slabs, seals that are to be dipped in hot wax and as a mold for soft metals.

Spinel: Medium Gem

Spinel is a class of minerals found in gemstone bearing gravel, limestone and marble. Spinels range from blue to mauve or dark green, brown or black in color.

Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Sulfur (1 sp / lb): Alchemy, Laundry, Medicine
Vitriol (10 gp / vial): Acid

Sulfur is a soft, yellow mineral that can be found near volcanoes and hot springs and in salt domes. It can also be extracted from pyrite (iron + sulfur), cinnabar (mercury + sulfur), galena (lead + sulfur), sphalerite (zinc + sulfur), stibnite (antimony + sulfur) and the sulfates, gypsum, alunite and barite.

Sulfur is extracted by stacking deposits in brick kilns built on sloping hillsides, making sure to leave airspace between them. Powdered sulfur is then placed on top of these piles and ignited. As the elemental sulfur burns, the heat melts the sulfur in the deposits, causing molten sulfur to flow down the hillside. It is then collected in wooden buckets.

Sulfur was used by the Egyptians to treat granular eyelids, and the Greeks used it for fumigation and bleaching cloth. Sulfur was also used, along with phosphorus, by Robert Boyle in a forerunner to modern matches. Sulfur is odorless. The odors associated with it come from hydrogen sulfide in rotten eggs and sulfur dioxide in burnt matches.

Alchemists could turn sulfur into a powerful acid called vitriol. Vitriol was, in fact, sulfuric acid. It was made by burning sulfur into sulfur dioxide, and then converting the sulfur dioxide into pure sulfuric acid.

The colors of Jupiter’s moon Io are from various forms of sulfur. The planet probably smells of brimstone, and could be an excellent haunt for demons and devils.

Clay (5 cp / lb): Art

Terracotta, from the Italian for “baked earth”, is a clay-based ceramic. Terracotta usually has a reddish-orange color. Terracotta could be glazed or unglazed. It could be used to make pottery, figurines, bricks and roof shingles. Perhaps the most famous use of terracotta was in the creation of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi-Huang’s terracotta army. Virtually all cultures made use of terracotta, from China to India to Greece and Western Africa. Terracotta could be dried in the sun or baked in kilns.

Tin (3 gp / lb): Alloys, Equipment

Tin, or stannum, is a silvery metal that is primarily found in an ore called casserite. Pure tin deposits are sometimes found near river and stream flows. Miners harvest this tin by digging a trench at the bottom of a deposit, loosening the gravel with a pick, and then running water over the gravel to remove unwanted material. This process creates gullies. Casserite occurs in quartz deposits. It is a black to reddish brown to yellow crystalline mineral. It is found with tourmaline, topaz and arsenopyrite (q.v.).

Tin was mostly used in the form of bronze or pewter. Bronze is an alloy of tin and copper (see Copper above). Pewter is an alloy of tin and lead (85:15) that might also contain portions of antimony or copper.

Tin ingot currency (see below), with each ingot weighing one pound, was used in Indo-china and the Malay Peninsula during the 14th and 15th century.

Alchemists created “butter of tin”, or tin chloride, which was used in the dyeing industry to fix colors.

Topaz: Medium Gem

Topaz is a gem that occurs with granite or rhyolite lava flows. Pure topaz is colorless, but tinted wine, yellow, pale grey, reddish-orange or blue-brown from impurities. Precious topaz is orange and imperial topaz is yellow, pink or pink-orange. Blue topaz is the rarest. Folklore holds that topaz wards away evil spirits.

Tourmaline: Medium Gem

Tourmaline is a semi-precious stone found compounded with such elements as aluminum, iron, magnesium, sodium, lithium and potassium. It occurs with granite, marble and schist. There are several varieties of the gem. About 95% of all tourmalines are schorls, and colored bluish to brownish to black schorl. Dravite is a dark yellow to brownish-black, rubellite is rose or pink, indicolite is light blue to bluish-green, verdelite is green and achronite is a colorless tourmaline.

Turquoise: Minor Gem

Turquoise is blue-green mineral. It is a hydrous phosphate of aluminum and copper. Even the best turquoise is only a bit harder than glass. It forms from the action of acidic solutions on pre-existing minerals during weathering, often from such minerals as malachite and feldspar. Turquoise is often a by-product of copper mines. Turquoise has been valued as a precious stone for thousands of years. It was used by the ancient Aztecs, Chinese, Egyptians, Mesopotamians and Persians, for whom it was the national stone. The name derives from the French for a product derived from Persia imported through Turkey. It did not become a common ornamental stone in Europe until the 14th century. Common belief held that the stone had prophylactic qualities, and would change color to indicate the health of its owner. It was also supposed to aid horses.

Aqua Fortis (50 gp / vial): Acid
Black Powder (3 gp / lb): Equipment (Guns)
Saltpeter (2 gp / lb): Alchemy

Urine is not a mineral, but it contains minerals and it was an important material for Medieval industry. It was used as a source for both phosphorus (q.v.) and saltpeter, or potassium nitrate. Saltpeter is Latin for “stone salt”, and it was a critical ingredient in black powder and slow matches. Saltpeter was obtained by mixing manure with either mortar or wood ashes, common earth and straw into a compost heap 5 feet high by 5 feet wide by 15 feet wide. The heap was covered to protect it from the weather and kept moist with urine. This leached the water from the heap after one year, with the remaining liquid being mixed with wood ashes to produce saltpeter. The saltpeter crystals are added to sulfur and charcoal to produce black powder.

From saltpeter, the alchemist can produce aqua fortis, or strong water. Aqua fortis is nitric acid, a highly corrosive and toxic substance. Aqua fortis was used as a solvent to dissolve silver and most other metals, with the exception of gold and platinum. It was prepared by mixing sand, alum or vitriol with saltpeter and then distilling it by a hot fire. The gas that is produced condenses into aqua fortis. Refiners used this acid to separate silver from gold and copper, to mosaic workers for staining and coloring wood, and to other artists for coloring bone and ivory a fine purple color. Book binders used it to produce a marble effect on leather. Lapidaries use it to separate diamonds from metalline powders and to etch copper and brass. When mixed with oil of vitriol, it was used to stain canes with a tortoise shell effect.

Alchemists mixed aqua fortis with spirit of salt to create aqua regia, the gold dissolving acid and an important step in the creation of the philosopher’s stone.

Zinc (7 gp / lb): Alloys

Zinc is a grey metal that is found in deposits of sphalerite. Sphalerite, which is also called zincblende, black-jack, and mock lead, is a yellow, brown or grey mineral.

Zinc is smelted by roasting in an oven. The zinc is placed in a clay retort shaped like a cylinder resting on a funnel. The retort is also packed with dolemite and a fuel like cow dung. The retort is then placed vertically into a furnace, which causes the zinc to become a vapor that condenses in the clay funnel and drips into a collection vessel. Such a furnace can separate 450 pounds of zinc in a day, producing sulfuric acid as a by-product.

Zinc is primarily used as an alloy with copper in brass. Flower of zinc, an alchemical compound also called zinc oxide, was used as a salve for the eyes, skin conditions and open wounds. It is still used in baby powder and creams that prevent or fight rash. The Romans used flower of zinc in paints and to make brass.

Hyacinth: Medium Gem
Jacinth: Medium Gem
Jargoon: Medium Gem
Zircon: Medium Gem

Zircons occur in many kinds of rocks, but mostly granite. Zircons can be black, brown, hazel, pink, red, yellow or colorless. Light colored zircons are called jargoons, a corruption of the Persian zargun, or “golden colored”. Red zircons are called jacinths, and yellow zircons hyacinths.

Zircons were believed to decorate the lost city of Iram and the hilt of Excalibur. In the Roland cycles, Ganelon gave his wife Bramimunde two golden necklaces inlaid with jacinths and amethysts. According to the Book of Enoch, there is a mountain of jacinth in Hell. Jacinth was believed to be a good luck stone for travelers. It also wards off plague and protects one from fire.

Zarmon’s Hammer, a minor artifact

This is a minor artifact I worked up for Jeff Rient’s open call.

Zarmon’s Hammer
Zarmon was a great smith, maybe the greatest smith in the world, or perhaps in all the Motherlands. This is a point of dispute among sages and was a point of honor to Zarmon when he yet drew breath. One winter, in the depths of the twilit season and in the throes of a pernicious melancholy, Zarmon resolved to seal his fame and forge a magical weapon, a sword. As a master smith in great demand, he had many opportunities to consult with great mages, and peppered each one who walked into his workshop with questions about the forging of magical things. While most had not the skill or knowledge to help him, a few truly learned men and women advised him that his endeavor must end in failure, for he had no command over things arcane. Finally, one archimage (possibly the magnificent Baloc) told him that, indeed, an enchanted weapon was not beyond his abilities if he was completely dedicated to the task. He would have to forge the weapon in the presence of raw elemental power and mingle his own blood, his own soul, with the weapon.

Following Baloc’s instructions, Zarmon moved his factory and household to the southern island of Taprobane, to a place where hot magma flowed into the pounding surf. There, on a windswept ridge, he constructed a forge and began working on his sword. For a year and a day he worked at refining the steel and folding it, pounding it every day with his trusty hammer, firing it in the flowing magma, quenching it in the pounding surf and anointing it with his very lifeblood. For a year and a day he poured his every waking moment into the sword, the great sword, the greatest sword forged by mortal man. And on the final day of his task, at the completion of his work, he laid his hammer on his anvil and held aloft the unadorned blade and watched it cut the wind and throw the sunlight off its back and a tremor shook Zarmon. He dropped to his knees, gasped a final breath, and toppled with his masterpiece into the flowing magma, and smith and sword ceased to be. All that was left of Zarmon the Smith was his old, trusty hammer, with which he had forged a thousand swords and known a thousand joys and sorrows and built for him a reputation as a worker of wonders.

Zarmon the Smith did not leave behind an enchanted sword for the ages, but he did leave an enchanted hammer that passed into the hands of his sons and made them almost as great as their father, and then passed into the mists of time when their workshop on the shores of Taprobane was sacked by pirates. The hammer exists to this day, looking for all the world like an old smith’s hammer and still working wonders in steel.

2 x I: ____________, ____________
1 x II: ____________
1 x III: ____________

Art: The Smithy by Martin Driscoll.

On Ibis, City of Sorcerers – Part Five

Six building descriptions for Ibis.

Part One (Map)
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

1. House of Three Leopards: A wayfarer’s inn (map above), popular with traders, caravan guards and sailors. The inn is constructed of adobe bricks and painted with a coat of yellow paint. The sloped roof is clad in red tiles. The inn has a shaded courtyard decorated with potted palms and a long taproom that serves an excellent short beer and other simple fare. There are five dormitories (6 sp a night), six shared rooms (3 gp; single bed, don’t always choose your roommate) and four private rooms (7 gp a night).

A stairwell in the taproom leads down to the cellar, where the innkeeper store kegs of beer, bread, vegetables and expensive bottles of wine. A secret door behind the wine rack leads into a smuggler’s den. A door in the den opens to a subterranean dock and a flooded tunnel to the River of Death [A]. The den currently holds twelven marten skins worth 8 gp each, 25 ingots of zinc (5 lb, worth 8 sp each) and an olivine worth 155 gp.

The landlord of the House of Three Leopards is Hermess, a spare man with stringy white hair, piggy brown eyes and a pleasant smile. Hermess (4 hp) is paid by the smugglers, but is not one of their number and will claim he knows nothing about their hideout. His wife, Ucheb, and three children live on the ground floor in two connected rooms.

The smugglers are led by a fence named Aylana, a short woman with salt-and-pepper hair, alabaster skin and brown hair. Aylana is a former sailor who turned to crime when she lost a foot to a sahuagin attack. Aylana wears wooden hoop earrings inlaid with silver that are worth 100 gp and speaks goblin.

| Aylana, Thief Lvl 3: HP 10; AC 6 [13]; Save 13; Special: Back stab for double damage, thievery, decipher script. Leather armor, dagger, keys, brown hooded cloak. Sharp mind, contrarian.

| 1d6 Smugglers: HD 1d6; AC 7 [12]; Atk 1 weapon (1d6); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP B/10; Special: Surprise on 1-3 on 1d6.

3. Zacoran the Chymist: Zacoran (3 hp) sells alchemical ingredients and concoctions, magical spell components (5% chance to have what you are looking for, charges 1d6x100 gp for each rare component) and there is a 1% chance he is trying to shift a magic potion or spell scroll (1d6 x 500 gp). Zacoran is a cynical man, and loud and obnoxious. He carries a wicked-looking dagger and is not shy about brandishing it if he feels he is being cheated. Zacoran is a member in good standing with the merchant’s guild [34]. His shop is guarded by an animated carpet. See “Urban Adventures” in NOD #2 for information on alchemists.

| Animated Carpet: HD 1 (7 hp); AC 9 [10]; Atk 1 (no damage); Move 6; Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Grab and hold.

5. Ramord the Wig-Maker: Ramord (5 hp) is a maker of wigs from human, goat and horse hair. He is well regarded in the neighborhood and is an outspoken advocate for the poor (though stingy in his own right). Ramord’s specialty is beards, specifically the false beards employed since Nabu times by nobles and merchants to make themselves appear more stately and elegant. Wearing such a beard, which requires the use of spirit gum, gives one a +1 bonus to reaction checks in Ibis. Ramord is a paunchy little man with pudgy but nimble fingers. Naturally, he wears a fine beard (not overly long), but his head is bald.

7. Ismid the Lapidary: Ismid (1 hp) is a scrawny young man with olive skin, thick, black hair and large, dark brown eyes. He cultivates a professional appearance, a powerful lense always hanging around his neck from a brass chain (worth 45 gp) and his clothes always neat. Ismid is single, but shares the room above his shop with his elderly and ailing father, an old soldier who was cashiered with a miniscule pension by the queen. This has stoked a burning resentment for the ruling class in Ismid, who now hosts secret meetings with agitators in his attic. The group wishes to throw down the old ruling caste and install a republic in imitation of the city-state of Antigoon. Ismid is capable of identifying the value of gems and fancy stones, and usually has a collection of minor stones (100 gp value in total) on hand for sale or trade.

9. Sudica the Chandler: This four story building houses three apartments and a chandler’s shop on the ground floor. The chandler, Sudica, is a tall, skinny woman with olive skin, dark brown hair and eyes. She has a foul personality and leads a solitary life, dipping her candles and preparing her scented soaps. She shares a room with her grandmother Nathe, who despises and fears her, for Sudica has an obsession with ghouls.

11. Granary: This two story building of thick stone is a granary that is half full of emmer wheat. It is guarded by a mature woman named Melig. Melig has alabaster skin, sandy brown hair and dark, burning eyes. She is quite short and stout, looking much like a dwarf but with finer features. Melig is a retired fighting-woman who is married to a papyrus collector named Kaval. She carries a short sword of blue-steel and wears boots of elvenkind. She is bored with her job as a guard and uninspired by her marriage, and if a better offer comes along, she will probably take it.

| Melig, Fighter Lvl 3: HP 17; AC 3 [16]; Save 14; Chainmail, shield, short sword, boots of elvenkind.

Tomorrow – final part of Mines & Mining.

Sunday – six more building previews.

Deviant Friday Five – APFurtado Edition

Sorry to introduce math into all of this, but today’s Deviant, APFurtado, had lots of neat stuff and I didn’t want to choose only five. You can check out his blog here. His style reminds me of Vaughn Bode‘s stuff and Phil Foglio‘s work in the grand old Dragon.

Excellent Castle Resource

This is a site I found years ago that I just re-googled today because its existence popped into my brain. Essentially, Bob Carney builds castles out of Lego and posts photos of his creations and – best of all for RPGers – floor plans! The plans are often drawn by Bob specifically for Lego construction, meaning they are a bit squared off and therefore easier to transcribe to graph paper*.

Bob has an impressive collection of castles from throughout Europe, including most of the standard castle plans (tower keep, concentric, etc). The image to the right is Neuschwanstein.

If you need a castle floor plan, take a look.

Bob Carney – The Land of Nod salutes you!

* Man, I love graph paper.

On Ibis, City of Sorcerers – Part Four

A few more streets today, and then in a few days I’ll preview about half of the building locations.

Part One (Map)
Part Two
Part Three

D. Court of Spirits
This open yard is filled with patches of slender white mushrooms about 9-inches in height. The courtyard is not paved. In the middle there is an old, dry well (that might lead down to a dungeon, if a Referee is so inclined). The buildings that surround the yard back up to it and have any windows that might look over it boarded up or painted, except for the hostel [40].

On moonlit nights, the mushrooms awaken and become mushroom fairies that look like crude little dolls of white clay wearing mushroom caps and glowing as brightly as the moon above. These fairies will form circles and perform a very slow dance. Standing in the midst of one of these circles has a random effect:

1. In the blink of an eye, 10 years have passed. To observers, you simply blink away, but you will return to this spot 10 years of game time later unaware that you have been away.
2. You are teleported to Fairyland for 1 year and replaced by a wicked changeling. Observers will not see the switch, but may discover the change later.
3. As above, but instead of being replaced by a changeling your trip to Fairyland lasts for 10 years to you, but occurs in the blink of an eye to observers. You reappear aged a decade and with one level of druid or magic-user (or one extra level if you are already a druid or magic-user). Alternatively, a Referee may wish to play out your time in Fairyland.
4. Hypnotic patterns drive you mad unless you pass a saving throw.
5. You gain fairy sight (i.e. permanent detect invisibility), but you also see people as their inner (and often horrible) selves and lose 2 points of charisma as you find people unpleasant to deal with.
6. You are transformed into a werewolf. This will not become obvious, even to you, until the next full moon.
7. You are transformed into a mushroom-man.
8. You grow the ears and tail of an ass, effectively lowering your charisma by 1.
9. You are split into three separate beings, each with a portion of your personality and a third of your class levels.
10. You now bear an invisible fairy mark. Fairies are more friendly toward you (by fairy terms) from now on (i.e. +2 reaction adjustment).
11. You spontaneously learn a 1st level magic-user spell, but forget it and one other spell within 1d6 days. While you know the new spell you can cast it once per day. Once it and the old spell are forgotten, you will not remember ever knowing them and they will be replaced in your spell book with an unflattering sketch of your mother.
12. You think you’ve been transformed into a werewolf, and will act the part at each full moon until someone gives you a proper slap upside the head and calms you down. Nonetheless, you will go through the motions again at the next full moon.

E. Silver Lane
This narrow, noisy lane is named not only for the commerce that occurs in its confines, but also for the quartz paving stones that are streaked with silver. The bakery at the end of the street was once a noble villa, hence the higher class of paving. The buildings here rise a minimum of 10-ft and thus provide shade for most of the day. Many of them have rooftop gardens.

Crowds: The streets here are always crowded with customers, apprentices running errands and masters coming or going from lunch or home.

Random Encounters
1. Cart loaded with bread headed for a temple; pushed by two apprentices and guided by a third waving a stick
2. Disgruntled mercenaries (2d6)
3. Gaggle of 2d6 students visiting the scriptorium
4. Guardsmen (1d6 + sergeant)
5. Sly man begging alms and picking pockets (Thief Lvl 5)
6. Thugs (1d4+1) sent by the thieves’ den to collect protection money (Fighting-Men Lvl 3)

F. Court of Purple Dreams
The Court of Purple Dreams is dominated by a tall, pyramidal mausoleum of Princess Hashminepsis, who passed from NOD over 400 years ago (or should have). The buildings surrounding the court back onto it, and thus the court is very private and quiet. Running under its purple pavers are tunnels connecting to the sewers and allowing easy access for the ghouls of the under-city to their mistress’s tomb.

Crowds: There are no crowds in the Court of Purple Dreams, ever. Random encounters only occur here at night, and are usually with unpleasant things.

Random Encounters
1. Ghost, seeking to warn you away from certain doom
2. Ghouls, seeking fresh meat
3. Imps, seeking distraction
4. Midnight Peddler, seeking customers
5. Necromancer (Lvl 1d6+2) seeking counsel
6. Vampire and 1d3 spawn, seeking a warm drink

G. The University
The old University dominates the central portion of the map. Paved with aged limestone stained yellow with time, and walked with sages similarly aged, it boasts the finest library known to mankind (at least in the Motherlands and their environs).

Crowds: The University is always crowded with sages, students and apprentice magicians, as well as their servants and tradesmen who have been called on to provide some service. At night, it is more quiet due to curfews, but is still prowled by rakes, harlots and the more cunning students.

Random Encounters
1. A dozen young students trailing behind a harried scholar
2. 1d6 upper class-men and their valets
3. A magic-user and his apprentice
4. A rake coming to collect a debt owed by a student
5. Adventurers seeking a sage
6. A monster escaped from the subterranean vats

Art by Giovanni Batista Tiepolo: Banquet of Cleopatra (1743)

NOD Sandbox Format

I’ve posted about this kind of thing before, but now I’m starting to visualize how I want to format my sandboxes in future issues of NOD and future blog previews. My main concern is making the information 1) useful for a Referee during actual play and 2) flavorful and unique enough to keep players interested or fire the imagination of the Referee so he or she can keep players interested. With that in mind, here’s how I might format future sandbox presentations …

• Description of the area; where does it fit in with other maps
• History of the area – very basic
     o Pandiluvian Period
     o Golden Age
     o Modern Age
• [Basic map showing the regions and naming them, along with stars for city-states and dots for towns]
• [Smaller map showing where this region fits into the larger world map]
• [Welcome to NOD sidebar – quick description of the campaign world and what has appeared before]


Sub-region 1
• Description – landscape, flora, fauna, minerals; hex movement in the region
• List city-states, major towns, monster tribes and strongholds and their interactions (if any); include mini armorials

• List major dungeons, along with rumors regarding those dungeons

Sub-region 2
• Description – landscape, flora, fauna, minerals; hex movement in the region
• List city-states, major towns, monster tribes and strongholds and their interactions (if any); include mini armorials

• List major dungeons, along with rumors regarding those dungeons

• Random encounter tables for the different regions – one table using 1d12; go from weak to strong, so when the Ref rolls a “12” he knows he should chuckle wickedly
• Discuss No. Appearing formula, when to roll, how often to roll, etc.

• Picture (head shot – maybe no picture, see how this one goes) of major humanoid types (including berserkers, men-at-arms typical for the region); for each a brief societal description (mostly as pertains to game play), armor and weapons; show hexes where they appear; give tribal treasure guides – coins, art, livestock, magic – main idea is to help make the goblins of Region X distinct (at least a little bit) from the goblins of Region Y
     o Give stats for sub-chiefs/sergeants (+2 HD) and chiefs/captains (+4 HD) along with stats for the basic monster type
• Discuss concept of tribal spell-casters (with a basic statblock for level 3, level 5 and level 7)
• Note – Humanoid leaders and spell-casters that have class levels are described in detail in the text
• Give three map templates for different types of lairs – these will change from issue to issue, but always remain basic; label the chambers rather than number them
     o Cave Lairs
     o Village/Forts
     o Camps

Keyed Encounters
• List all of the keyed encounter areas:
     o Set-Up (describe the place, the people, etc)
     o Twist (why should anyone care)
     o Reward (not just treasure, also information, captives to free, XP for discovering)
• For towns and city-states, do sidebars like I do for official city-state write-ups
     o Include a little map, very basic, with maybe 3 locations that are quickly described or maybe just given descriptive names
• For “dungeons”, have a black and white map with chambers that are described on the map (“Orc guards with flame throwers”, “slime lake”, maybe a little drawing for fun) and leave rest to the Referee to flesh out [I might not go with this idea – I need to test it out]

Walled village of 100 cantankerous diamond miners ruled by Bob, a flatulent mayor with red hair and green eyes and five lovely daughters. The village has a popular roadhouse run by Beth, a swarthy beauty with a missing eye, that rents private rooms for 5 gp a night and serves an excellent brandy and robust camel stew. The village is defended by 12 men-at-arms in chainmail carrying leaden clubs and darts. The villagers have 300 gp worth of diamonds and mining tools, and keep trained crysmals that they use to find new veins of diamond.

Cave lair of 200 gnolls with a chief called Gronk and 20 sub-chiefs. The gnolls carry battered shields, barbed spears and short bows. They worship an idol of Demogorgon and have a high priestess called Zima. The gnolls have a cursed crystal ball they stole from a traveling magician and know about the secret entrance to the Dungeon of Doom [Hex No.]. The gnolls are allied with the ogres in [Hex No.].

Monastery of Mercurius, the God of Merchants and Travelers. It houses 20 acolytes and adepts and its abbot is Father Frink. The abbey is constructed of purple stone and has numerous towers topped by conical, silver roofs. Its sits on a hill covered with sunflowers and badger burrows. The monastery has a vault containing the shin-bone of St. Blabus which, if kissed, cures disease about 2 out of 6 times (if it doesn’t work, its assumed you’re a creep and you’re beaten soundly and sent on your way). The monastery’s village consists of blah blah blah.

A magical spear is lodged in a crooked oak tree here. The spear has a red shaft and a bronze head and answers to the name ‘Longfellow’. It hums in the presence of warriors with more skill than its owner, and will do its best to get its owner killed so that the more powerful warrior can claim it.

New Monsters
• List all of the new monsters that appear in the text that aren’t easily found elsewhere.
• [Sidebar of new monsters that appear here that first appeared in another issue of NOD]

Pre-generated Characters
• Six (or more?) pre-gens that can be used as a rival party or whatever; use any new races/humanoids unique to the area and classes that mesh with the area, should reflect the region; no levels so they can be scaled as a Referee needs them to be for his game.

Art by Arthur Rackham, 1921

Thinking About Experience and Levels

First, I’ll declare right off that I’m okay with Experience Points and Levels just as they are. However, I got to thinking about how BRP advances skills that you use during an adventure by having you roll percentage dice at the end of the adventure and advancing the skill if you roll over it – thus, as you get better at something it becomes harder for you to get better still.

So, what if you had a rating for, say, Fighting and Magic, beginning at 10. Levels in fighting-man and magic-user and other classes are then pegged to ratings for Fighting and Magic (and/or other categories, whatever makes sense in a particular game). So, to become a 2nd level fighting-man, you might need a Fighting rating of 20. At the end of a session of play, you roll your percentile dice, and if you roll above your current rating, you increase your rating by 1 or 2 or 5 points – whatever the Referee is comfortable with. I think 2 would be a good number. When your Fighting rating hits 20, you become a 2nd level fighter. Likewise, magic-users rely on their magic rating. Clerics, on the other hand, might need ratings in both Fighting and Magic, say a 18 in Fighting and a 16 in Magic to advance to 2nd level.

Just a random thought inspired by the idea of “roll to advance”.

Art by Gustaf Tenggren, illustration for Grimm’s Fairy Tales in 1923

On Mines and Mining – Part Four

This post covers minerals M through R.

Part One, Part Two, Part Three.

Marble (4 gp / lb); Architecture, Art

Marble is formed from the metamorphism of limestone. It is mostly comprised of crystals of aragonite and dolomite. The name derives from the Greek for “shining stone”. Pure white marble comes from very pure limestone. The swirls seen in most marble are impurities from clay, silt, sand, iron and other materials. Green coloration is usually from the presence of serpentine. Marble’s relative softness, resistance to shattering, and color made it a popular medium for sculpture and architecture.

Cinnabar (3 gp / lb); Alchemy, Art
Mercury (10 gp / lb); Alchemy, Art
Vermillion (2 gp / oz); Pigment (Red)

Mercury, also called quicksilver or hydrargyrum, is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is a silvery metal found in deposits of calomel, livingstonite, corderite and cinnabar. Cinnabar is a scarlet to brick red mineral that is found in alkali hot springs and near volcanoes, often with dolomite.

Mercury is separated from cinnabar and other minerals by roasting. The mercury condenses easily into a condensing column and then collected and shipped in iron flasks.

Alchemists would heat elemental mercury with aqua fortis to prepare mercuric oxide. The reaction produced a thick, red vapor over the surface of the solution, while the mercuric oxide fell out of solution as red crystals. The oxygen released from this solution was called “dephlogisticated air” by Joseph Priestley.

Cinnabar is a source of vermillion, an orange-red pigment that has been used since prehistoric times. To the Romans, who called it minium, It was the most valuable pigment. The imperial government fixed the price at 70 sesterces to the pound, ten times more expensive than red ochre, because of the incredible demand and the short supply of cinnabar. Like many ancient pigments, it was toxic. The Olmecs and Mayans relied on its toxic reputation to repel tomb robbers, putting it in burial chambers and inserting it into limestone sarcophagi. The Chinese used it in carved lacquer ware, the layer of lacquer protecting people from the toxicity of the cinnabar.

Mercury dissolved gold and silver, making it useful in plating those two metals over other materials. Alchemists combined mercury with tin, sal ammoniac and flowers of sulfur to make mosaic gold, a yellow, crystalline powder used as a pigment in bronzing and gilding wood and metal.

Obsidian; Equipment, Minor Gem

Obsidian is volcanic glass that occurs in obsidian flows near active or dead volcanoes. It is usually black, but impurities can make it dark green to brown and even colorless. Obsidian with fluffy white inclusions is called snowflake obsidian. Gas bubbles can produce obsidian with a golden or rainbow sheen. Obsidian has been used since prehistoric times to craft blades, tools and projectiles. It can also be cut as a gem and used in art objects and jewelry.

Olivine and Peridot
Olivine; Minor Gem
Peridot; Medium Gem

Olivine is a greenish mineral common on Earth, the Moon, Mars and in comets. Gem quality olivine is called peridot. Peridot occurs in lava rocks. It is a rare gem and always colored olive green. Peridot is the only gemstone found in meteorites. Olivine is supposed to provide protection from magic spells, while peridot wards off enchantments.

Fire Opal; Medium Gem
Opal; Medium Gem

Opals are a mineraloid gel commonly found in sandstone and basalt. The water content in opals can be quite high, up to 20%. Opals range from colorless, white, gray, red, orange, yellow, blue, green, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown and black. Opals that have red against black are the rarest, while white and green opals are the most common. Fire opals are translucent, transparent opals of warm colors, such as yellow, orange or red. Opals were believed to be lucky stones and to cause invisibility if wrapped in a bay leaf and held in the hand.

Pearl; Minor Gem

Pearl is not a stone, though it does have a mineral base. Pearls are produced by a living, shelled mollusk. They are made from layers of nacre, or mother-of-pearl. The best pearls are produced by oysters, but they are quite rare. In a haul of 3 tons, only 3 or 4 oysters will produce perfect pearls. The largest pearl yet found came from a giant clam, and weighed 14 pounds. White and black pearls are the most common and popular pearls, but there are also pink, blue, champagne, green and purple pearls.

Phosphorus (7 gp / oz); Alchemy
Proto-Match (1 gp); Equipment

Phosphorus does not occur free in nature, but can be found with many other minerals, especially apatite. White phosphorus was discovered in 1669, by German alchemist Hennig Brand. It was named for Phosphorus, the light-bearer, i.e. Lucifer.

The most common way of obtaining phosphorus was from human waste. The process involves boiling urine to produce a residue which was heated to produce phosphorus gas which would condense into a white powder. The powder is flammable and capable of blistering fingers and burning holes in cloth. It takes 2,000 gallons of urine to produce one pound of phosphorus.

Hennig Brand eventually sold the recipe for 200 thalers (approximately 80 gp) and others eventually figured out the recipe from clues left by Brand. In 1680, Robert Boyle made the forerunner to modern matches when he used phosphorus-coated paper to ignite a sulfur-tipped wooden splint that he rubbed across the paper.

Pitchblende (Uranium)
Pitchblende (100 gp / lb); Art, Magic Items

Pitchblende, or uraninite, is a black mineral that contains uranium, lead, thorium, rare earth minerals and radium. The radium and lead are due to the decay of the uranium. Pitchblende was usually found with silver deposits.

Refined uranium is a silvery white metal. The element was discovered in 1789 by the apothecary Martin Heinrich Klaproth, but the metal was not isolated until 1841 by chemist Eugene-Melchior Peligot, making it unlikely to have been discovered in most fantasy settings. Unrefined pitchblende, however, was added to glass and mosaic tiles to give them a yellow-green to orange-red color. This uranium glass was usually about 2% uranium. Given the composition of pitchblende, a Referee who is running a science-fantasy game might want to require it as an ingredient for making magical objects.

Platinum (1,000 gp / lb); Coins, art objects

Platinum is a silvery metal that is resistant to corrosion and acid and malleable enough to work. It occurs with copper and nickel ores, often in the sands of rivers.

Like gold, platinum dissolves in aqua regia, and this substance was used to isolate pure platinum in the 18th century. More often, natural platinum, which is combined with other metals in the platinum family, is found and was worked by ancient peoples.

Platinum is harder than gold or silver, and with a much higher melting point. Platinum was unknown in Medieval Europe, but the peoples of pre-Columbian Central and South America were aware of a naturally occurring gold-platinum alloy and used it to make jewelry. Once the Europeans obtained platinum, they found they had no way of making a fire hot enough to melt it, which prevented them from minting the platinum coins sometimes seen in fantasy games. Such coins, had they existed, would have probably been made from the aforementioned alloy (and thus worth 5 gp each).

Porphyry (5 gp / lb); Architecture, Art

Imperial porphyry is a deep brownish-purple rock used to build monuments and buildings in ancient Rome and in hardcarving. It is an igneous rock that contains crystals of quartz (q.v.) and feldspar (q.v.). It came from a single quarry in the rocky wastes of Egypt’s eastern deserts.

Amethyst; Major Gem, Protection from Drunkenness
Aventurine; Medium Gem
Banded Agate; Minor Gem, Sleep
Carnelian; Medium Gem, Protection from Evil
Chalcedony; Medium Gem, Protection from Undead
Chrysoprase; Medium Gem, Invisibility
Citrine; Medium Gem
Jasper; Minor Gem, Protection from Poison
Moss Agate; Minor Gem, Sleep
Onyx; Medium Gem, Cause Chaos
Rock Crystal; Minor Gem
Rose Quartz; Minor Gem
Sard; Medium Gem
Sardonyx; Medium Gem
Smoky Quartz; Minor Gem
Tiger’s Eye; Minor Gem, Protection from Ethereal Creatures

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth’s crust after feldspar. It occurs with granite, shale, schist, sandstone, and gneiss. Pliny believed it was permanently frozen ice because it was often found near glaciers, but not volcanoes, and in spherical form would cool the hands and act as a prism. Quartz deposits often contain gold (q.v.).

Many forms of quartz are precious stones. Pure quartz is rock crystal, citrine is pale yellow, rose quartz is pink, amethyst purple, smoky quartz gray, milky quartz (the most common) white, jasper reddish brown, tiger’s eye is gold and red-brown and hawk’s eye is blue.

Agate, a form of quartz, comes in many varieties, including banded agate and moss agate. Onyx is a black agate with bands every color but blue and purple. Sardonyx replaces the black of onyx with brown. Both are cut into cabochons and used for intaglios (i.e. engraved gems).

Chalcedony is a white or lightly colored quartz. It can also be banded. Aventurine is translucent chalcedony with shimmering inclusions. Carnelian is translucent orange-red, while sard is a brown carnelian. Chrysoprase is gemstone quality chalcedony that is apple green to deep green.

The native Americans called quartz geodes that contained agate, jasper or opal “thunder eggs”. They believed that they were thrown by thunder spirits at one another.

Rhodochrosite; Medium Gem

Rhodochrosite is a precious stone that varies in color from rose red to pink or pale brown. The purest form of the stone is rose red in color. Rhodochrosite occurs in hydro-thermal veins in silver ore deposits. The Incas believed it to be the hardened blood of their ancient kings. As a soft mineral with perfect cleavage, it is difficult to facet.