Go to Arcane Magics      Go to Epic MysteriesGo to Game Mechanics     Go to Greyhawk Locations
Maldin's Greyhawk

Wondrous Materials

by Denis Tetreault
 Version 2.0

Fantastical world settings should have wonderous materials to be discovered. Though not "magic" in the sense of magic items, they do have some sort of magical or arcane nature, and can often be used as raw material in the casting of spells and the creation of magic items. Some of the materials that follow are personal favorites that were first described in other locations that may be difficult for new DMs to discover, and proper credit will be given to the original source, although I have modified and expanded upon those original descriptions therein. All other materials are original to my own campaign.
 

New Materials

Bright Earth

This yellow powder sometimes collects in very limited amounts in small hollows and fissures on rock outcrops found deep in the heart of the Bright Desert. The powder is believed to be some form of altered residue formed by the powerful chaos magic that effected the region so long ago. If bright earth is used by a wizard as an optional component during the casting of arcane spells, it has an unusual chaotic effect on the spell's final outcome. Roll a d20 and consult the following table:
 
1
Spell fails completely
2-3
Spell backfires on caster
4-5
Spell is at half effect (damage, duration, area of effect, etc)
6-8
No effect on the spell
9-15
Random effect that doesn't alter the spell's purpose*
16-19
One property of the spell has double effect (for example: damage, duration, or area of effect)
20
All properties of the spell are at double effect

* Random effects could include color (blue fireballs, or green skin tint while affected by protection from normal missiles), sound (whistling magic missiles, or a gong sound on a touch attack), temperature (spells that don't normally effect heat or cold may feel warm or cool)

Devastation Crystals

These clear, colorless, water-soluable crystals sometimes form in salt pans near Lake Udrukankar in the Dry Steppes. They resemble salt crystals, and even taste salty, so they are very difficult to find. They do, however, radiate a very faint magical aura, and thus can be found by the use of detect magic. They are quite uncommon, several days of casting about salt pans with detect magic may turn up one or two crystals if the searcher is lucky. If someone ingests devastation crystals, they quickly develop a feeling of general malaise, apathy, and depression which lasts d6+6 hours. Periodically a devastation crystal may contaminate or "poison" salt harvested on the salt pans by the Paynim tribes, leading to a local phrase used to describe someone who is down and depressed (no matter the cause) as someone who has "had bad salt". Devastation crystals are the major component of a potion that temporarily deadens spellcasting ability, and as a component in disenchantment magic.

Hool Tar

Known as Osprem's Tears, supposedly shed when the goddess became estranged from her husband Xerbo, these black, floating blobs of thick tar have been found washed up on shores around the entire western Azure Sea for centuries. To find a piece floating out at sea is extremely rare, and considered a great omen (the nature of which depending on the beliefs of the crew). They range in size from walnut to melon-sized, but pieces larger then a fist are extremely rare. After the founding in CY 304 of the fortress-town of Westkeep on the stretch of the Javan River that flows through the Hool Marsh, pieces of the tar have been spotted floating past river guard stations, and it is now thought that the source of the tar lies deep within the trackless Hool, the Javan silently delivering the strange material to the sea. While this would seem the cause of the name-change in recent times, one cannot help think that there is some amount of politics involved with the relatively recent renaming of the rather lyrical "Osprem's Tears" to the less-flattering "Hool tar".

The rounded blobs of tar are somewhat soft and rather dense, being slightly heavier then the equivalent volume of water. Despite this, the blobs inexplicably float in seawater, and have neutral buoyancy in fresh water (and therefore can travel down the Javan River below the water surface). While the material may have some use as a component in appropriate arcane magic, the tar's real value is its use as a patching material for caulking leaks in ships' hulls. When used by someone familiar with the patching of ships, even while out at sea (and not in dry dock), any leak properly patched with Hool tar will not leak again... ever! One can imagine how much even the smallest Tear would be sought after by shipcaptains around the Azure Sea. The material is so rare, however, that few captains ever see a single piece throughout their entire career. This has not prevented the spread of rumors about an unsinkable pirate ship named "The Tears of Osprem" which is completely caulked by the incredible material. If anyone were to find the source of the tar, they would be rich beyond imagination, however the Hool rarely gives up its secrets. Some Keoish sages have suggested that finding the source may not prove useful, and that part of the tar's properties are likely imparted during its travel to the sea. There may be other reasons behind such discouraging words.

Jeklea Sea-turnip

The sea-turnip is a very rare type of seaweed that can only be found intact floating far offshore in Jeklea Bay and the southern Azure Sea. The weed resembles a reddish-brown sargassum-type plant, usually in roughly circular clumps three to six feet in diameter. At the core of the clump is a single turnip-shaped bulb about the size of a double-fist, and the origin of the seaweed's common name. If the somewhat woody bulb is cut into, a central cavity is revealed, filled with a light, slightly reddish oil. Each sea-turnip contains approximately 2 ounces of the oil. When sea-turnips wash up on shore, the bulbs are always found split and the oil lost, hence they can only be recovered out at sea. The oil is much more difficult to ignite then whale-oil, however once it does catch, it burns twice as hot and four times as long. The oil has also found to be very useful as a base component in the manufacture of magic oils, such as Oil of Sharpness, Oil of Etherealness, and Oil of Fiery Burning. The reproductive cycle of the sea-turnip is unknown, and 2 plants have never been found within several miles of each other. All attempts to "farm" sea-turnips have failed utterly.

Phost Stones

The Phostwood, so named for its unique phost tree, was always a haunting place on summer nights. The timeless, other-worldly glow of old, rotting phost logs now provide a ghastly nightlight for a bloody battleground between the forces of Iuz, Tenh, the Pale, and various bandit groups. Fallen phost trees take 10 years before the rotting process has progressed far enough to produce its unique phosphorescent glow. During the cold winter, decomposition slows enough to deaden the glow. What is not commonly known is that reactions within the very largest logs, and as such only found in the oldest central region of the Phostwood, logs that may take a quarter century to rot through, produce a type of petrification in the very core of the log. These "phost stones" range from pea- to fist-sized, never having more then one or two per massive log. Phost stones have been known to hold their dim glow for centuries, and have found use as a component in light and illumination magic. The Church of Pholtus once sponsored collecting excursions into the Phostwood, however the dangers of the wood have put a halt to those in recent times. The Church's supply of phost stones is becoming precipitously low as a result, and the Church heirarchy is considering the hiring of highly skilled adventurers to escort collecting missions into the heart of the wood.

Rift Flowstone

This orange-tinted travertine deposit can only be found in caves and along the cliffs of the Rift Canyon. Formed like most other types of cave rock formation by the evaporation of mineral-laden waters and the crystallization of those minerals on a surface, they resemble typical (usually small) stalactites, stalagmites, or sheet-flowstone along surfaces. The inside has alternating light and dark layers representing the extremely long length of time it takes to form the deposits, one layer at a time. The nature of the Rift Canyon, and the strange substances that apparently sometimes occur in the groundwater, produces Rift flowstone in very small quantities all through the Rift, although it seems to be more common nearer to Wormcrawl Fissure. The stone itself seems to have an unusual affinity for transformation or mutagenic magic, and has found use in arcane processes and procedures related to those types of magic. One particular use that can be noted here is that carved Rift flowstone has been used quite effectively in the manufacture of Figurines of Wondrous Power. Ivid V owned an entire chess set carved from Rift flowstone, but it is unknown what the pieces did, if anything. The set disappeared during the fall of Rauxes. 

Stygian Ice

Deep within the inky glaciers of the Land of Black Ice are rare pockets or voids within the ice. Normally these pockets are empty, however sometimes these are geode-like, filled with dark, blade-like, razor sharp ice crystals of varying sizes (from microscopic to dagger-sized), crystals that have slowly grown over very long periods of time. Exactly how these crystals form is unknown, though sages have several theories. Some believe they form in locations within the ice that develop interplanar links with the Baatorian plane of Stygia, hence their more popular name. Some propose connections with the para-elemental planes. Yet others believe that they are a byproduct of the Black Ice itself, and have no extra-planar connection whatsoever. These latter sages use the term "stygian" as a reference to the crystals' color, rather then as commentary on their possible origin. The ice crystals will melt at temperatures slightly below the melting point of normal ice, so they can be harvested by slowly warming ice crystals scooped out of one of the pockets, and collecting the liquid that first melts out. Once melted, however, they cannot be refrozen. Any ice that forms is quite normal, and loses all of its arcane nature.

Whatever their origin, stygian ice crystals (and their liquid byproduct) have been proven to have several interesting uses. The most common of these uses is in the manufacture of potions of cold resistance, and as a component in a variety of cold-based spells and magic items. More difficult, partially due to the inherent difficulty of working with and enchanting a material that melts quite easily, is the manufacture of arcane weapons. If the blade-like crystals are properly enchanted while still frozen, and large enough crystals can be found, they can be used to manufacture nearly-unbreakable daggers that are capable of accepting powerful magics. Crystals are rarely large enough to produce weapons larger then dagger size (see black ice blade), though there are shortsword-sized weapons that are known. A single blade the size of a two-handed sword is thought to have been created from stygian ice, the Blade of Black Ice, last known to have been wielded by Lord Robilar and suspected of being forged by Iuz himself.

Suel Cinders

Once every year and a half there is a strange event somewhere in the western Yeomanry, predictable in timing but unpredictable in location. Over an area of approximately 100 yards by 300 yards, small stones rain from the sky. The stones look like unremarkable volcanic cinders, range in size from pea-sized to fist-sized, and number anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred. Rarely these are larger, such as the Great Fall of CY 579, where several hundred stones fell, the largest being almost a foot across. The location of the fall is different every time and appears to be random, perhaps effected by winds or other unknown factors, and can occur in any weather. The source of the cinders is a complete mystery. One of the more popular theories postulates the existence of a unknown type of volcano somewhere in the Hellfurnaces that expells these geologic projectiles at regular intervals with such great force that they are ballistically propelled several hundred miles into the Yeoman countryside.

If Suel cinders are collected up and placed in a forge, they will raise the forge's operating temperature by almost 200 degrees Fahrenheit without being consumed. Dwarven communities will pay handsomely for these curious rocks. The Dustdiggers are always listening for reports of a new fall and will immediately dispatch investigators. Attempts to plot the long dimension of the strewn field, in the hopes of triangulating its source, have thus far proven unsuccessful, however the Dustdiggers are a stubborn and persistent lot. 

Xenincoluite Gems

These beautiful gemstones may be among the rarest substances in all of the known planes. Although there is some variability in shade, they are always a reddish color, often with an orange tint. They are harder then corundum (ruby and sapphire) but slightly softer then diamond (Hardness of 9.5), have an internal brilliance as bright as diamond, and polish up as very beautiful gemstones indeed. While gem experts may recognize them as an unknown material (very few sages have ever seen or even heard of these gems), they are easily mistaken as highest quality rubies or garnets. Although none have been found in recent times, it is believed they occur in very special regions of the quasi-elemental plane of Minerals, near to its border with both the Positive Material Plane and the quasi-elemental plane of Radiance, and are somehow related to powerful bursts of unusual planar energy that sometimes occur in that region.

While xenincoluite gems would be highly valuable based on their gemstone properties alone, their unnatural arcane affinity for certain types of magics is the reason why they are so highly sought after. If a being comes into contact with one of these gems in its place of formation, the stone drains one energy level per round. Once removed from its matrix on the plane of Minerals, the stones lose this power, although the arcanoloth Asterbal is believed to have a scepter containing a xenincoluite gem that can drain life on contact. The gems maintain their arcane affinity for life energy, draining and entrapment magic, and can be used quite effectively in magic item creation (there is a mounted xenincoluite gem in the Ring of Marchanter) and with spells such as trap the soul and Marchanter's Crystal Cravings.
 

Old Favorites

Tantulhor ("Nine Hells Revisited", by Ed Greenwood, Dragon 91)

Tantulhor (no relation to "tantalum") is about the weight of iron, has a slightly brownish color, can be worked into a smooth finish, and is apparently unbreakable - weapon blades fashioned of it will cut anything they touch, except stone. The metal can only be found on four of the planes of Baator (The Nine Hells) - Phlegethos, Malbolge, Maladomini, and Nessus - and no where else in the multiverse. The very few mines in existence are better protected then most baatezu fortresses, although acquiring raw tantulhor would do a would-be master thief little good. Methods of forging and working this metal is completely unknown outside the Hells, and the 3 currently operating tantulhor forges are literally the best kept secrets on the planes. Even then, proper forging of a tantulhor blade may take years. Knowledge of the metal is limited outside the Hells to highly experienced sages and wizards who specialize in the lower outer planes. The Rod of Dispater is known to be made of tantulhor, as are many devils' talismans.

Tantulhor is capable of accepting incredible magics, and weapons above +5 are believed to be possible, although none are currently known. Tantulhor may only be limited by the skill of today's most talented enchanters. Even without enchantment, properly forged tantulhor edge weapons are capable of slicing through armor and bone with ease, and gain a nonmagical attack bonus of +2 and damage bonus of +3. This bonus adds to any enchantment bonuses.

Arjale ("Nine Hells Revisited", by Ed Greenwood, Dragon 91)

Arjale is a black, lightweight metal found only on Baator (the Nine Hells). It can be worked to a smooth surface and can be brought to a razor-sharpness. If alloyed with iron, it becomes light green-grey in color, and quite pliable (a metal sometimes called "dajavva"). The amount of iron can to some extent control the degree of pliability. Moloch's whip is composed of dajavva, and is known to produce terrible scars. Whether that is a magical effect of the item, or an effect particular to dajavva, is unknown. The talismans of many baatezu (devils) are known to be fashioned of arjale. Like tantulhor, knowledge of how to work the metal in all its forms is limited to the special forges of Baator. Arjale is known to accept enchantments of at least +5.

Hellstones ("Nine Hells Revisited", by Ed Greenwood, Dragon 91)

In searing hot veins within the infernal rifts of Nessus are found the fiery red, strongly lawful evil gems known as "hellstones". Hellstones are the hardest gems known - many have survived hammer blows and weapon attacks unscathed. They are lit by an inner, flickering radiance, and do damage to all non-evil creatures (and half damage to non-lawful creatures of evil) upon the slightest contact, equal to 1-4 points +1 hit point per level or hit dice of the creature touched. The pit fiend Alastor is known to bear a double-bladed +4 axe, the head of which is studded with hellstones. The stones are rare, valuable (4000 gp each), but superstition-shrouded on the Prime Material Plane. Apart from the danger to most people of handling them (for they retain their damaging properties when removed from the hells) - even with tongs or gloves, the chance of an inadvertent contact is great - many priesthoods, classes (i.e., paladins), and individuals will not wish to possess or even be close to them, except to destroy them.

Sometimes, sages assert, contact with a hellstone does no damage, but causes a subtle change in alignment, not immediately noticed by the victim, one step closer toward lawful evil. A crushed hellstone - one that is shattered into many small fragments - will lose its radiance and capacity to cause damage. Due to their often lethal damaging properties, hellstones are often called "deathstones", "doomstones", or the like. Their "scholarly" name is Ulith, or the plural Ulithim.

Oerthblood ("Irongate: City of Stairs", by Gary Holian and Denis Tetreault, Dragon 351)

Deep below the Fortress of Unknown Depths, on the shores of the Nyr Dyv, is a powerful magical device called the Endless Well. Actually a centuries old automated mine, it uses golems and machinery to bring deeply buried substances to the surface. The Endless Well can draw up a molten, dark red, ferrous metal that, when cooled, is black, dense, easily enchanted and nearly impervious to damage. This substance is called Oerthblood and from it several famous artifacts were made, such as Heward's Mystical Organ and parts for the infamous Machine of Lum the Mad (both described in the Book of Artifacts accessory).

Discovered as early as the age of Queen Ehlissa, Oerthblood is a highly magical element found only on Oerth and thought by some to be the residue of creation. Many sages laugh at such grandiose statements, and would rather group Oerthblood with several other special elements (such as arjale, tantulhor, tumkeoite, byand faerzress), each with their own unique properties, yet sharing several general features: extreme rarity, strong arcane properties, and occurrences exclusively tied to a particular plane.

Molten Oerthblood is very dangerous to handle, and much of the work involved in tapping it, pouring it into sheets or molds, working it and finishing it is done by golems and automatons that can withstand the molten substance's unpredictable radiation, as well as the local heat and poisonous gases. Extended exposure to this unstable form of Oerthblood can induce magical mutations, most of which are ultimately fatal. It has been postulated, however, that while it may not be the "residue" of creation, Oerthblood's radiations over the uncountable eons may have had an influence in the evolution of many of the strange and unique life forms found on Oerth, and thus a hand "in" creation. Pure Oerthblood is exceedingly rare, however, and the Endless Well is one of the only known sources of anything more than tiny quantities of the material.

Oerthblood does have a very strong affinity for iron. This has several consequences. Most occurrences of impure Oerthblood, while much more common than pure Oerthblood, are still extremely rare, are associated with and concentrated in special iron ore deposits. Deposits of this type have been found in the Irongate region, as well as a handful of locations around Oerth. Its strong affinity for iron enables the iron-Oerthblood alloy (often called “oerthblooded iron” or simply “bloodiron”) to be extracted and worked into items such as weapons and armor, however its magically-tenacious grip on iron has resisted all attempts to separate pure Oerthblood from the iron. Still, this arcane alloy is very difficult to work with, and few have mastered the technique. The legendary smiths of Irongate are some of the few who have the skills to forge it. Oerthblooded items look like they are composed of iron with shimmering black flecks on their surface, are as strong as adamantite, and just as effective. While there are no confirmed examples, only rumors of wondrous unknown magic items, it has been proposed that Oerthblood could theoretically be alloyed with other metals. Of course, it would require a source of pure Oerthblood before that could be done.

Oerthblooded Weapons and Armor

Items made from Oerthblooded metals are more easily enchanted than other substances, requiring 25% less time and XP expenditure to enchant. Oerthblooded items can also be “re-enchanted”, making their XP value fungible in the creation of a new item (minus a 10% penalty). Oerthblooded metals can also hold more magical power than other metals; effectively giving Oerthblooded weapons, armor, and shields a total allowed item bonus of +12, with an allowable enhancement bonus of up to +6.

Oerthblooded metals are extremely difficult to craft, thus all Oerthblooded items are considered to be masterwork. They have twice the Hardness of the base metal the Oerthblood is alloyed with (e.g. Oerthblooded iron, mithril, and steel have a Hardness of 20). Oerthblooded metal items have damage points equal to 1.5 times the damage points for a normal item of the base metal's type.

Shields made with Oerthblooded metal parts gain no additional properties other than those listed above. Weapons and armor made primarily of Oerthblooded metal have additional properties as listed below.

Oerthblooded Weapons*:
1. A +1 luck bonus on to hit and damage rolls.
2. A target that takes damage from an Oerthblooded weapon incurs a -1 penalty to all saves vs. magical effects for one round; penalties from multiple hits stack.

Oerthblooded Armor*:
Light Armor: DR 1/-, +1 luck bonus on saves vs. magic effects.
Medium Armor: DR 2/-, +2 luck bonus on saves vs. magic effects.
Heavy Armor: DR 3/-, +3 luck bonus on saves vs. magical effects.

*Weapons and armor must be a specific alloy of Oerthblood, known mostly to the artificers and smiths of Irongate to gain the above benefits. Only primarily metallic objects would gain these bonuses.

Type of Oerthblooded Item Item Cost Modifier:
Ammunition +150 gp
Light Armor +10,000 gp
Medium Armor +20,000 gp
Heavy Armor +30,000 gp
Weapon +6,000 gp

 

 
site map

   Visit my active site map to see the entire website at-a-glance, find out whats new, and instantly jump there with just a click.

Return to the Arcane Magics Page
Return to my main Greyhawk Page (in case you got here through a search engine)


This page last modified on October 25, 2009