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02 August 2010 @ 08:38 pm
[Caldera] Residuum (Magic)  
Caldera is my new fantasy setting for Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition. Two million people are packed into a city of street levels stacked on top each other like pancakes. Why? Because the leaders figured out that the emotional and creative energy of people living close together creates magic. This is an article about the rock beneath the city becoming infused with magic.

Read more about Caldera on my Obsidian Portal website.


The core rules explain that disenchanting a magic item extracts the magic from it and transforms that magic into a fine, silvery dust called residuum. It’s so rare and useful that a mere pound of it is worth 500 thousand gold pieces. Wow, right?

In Caldera, residuum is not so rare. In fact, the magical energies pool in the rock below the city, whose citizens mine the stuff. Well, they don’t mine pure residuum; they’re mining ore, called arcanite, which contains minute quantities of residuum. They use heat and magical processes to smelt the arcanite, and to extract the residuum. The miners are exposed to all kinds of strange magical effects over time, and most exhibit strange transformations. In general, the process the smelters use protects them better (through use of shielding, special suits and goggles, and so on).

Residuum comes in many forms. The most common form is called arcane residuum, and is a fine, silvery powder that shimmers with moving colors. In Caldera, it’s worth about 100 gold pieces an ounce (about 1/300th the value of what the core rules describe). There are other forms, each with special magical properties sought by wizards and enchanters.

Magic in powder form is incredibly useful to one who knows how to use it. However, the street has discovered a simple use: snorting it. When ingested or snorted, residuum produces heightened emotions in the user. In the right headspace, the drug creates incredible euphoria or megalomaniacal confidence. Unfortunately, these feelings are addictive and over time a residuum dependence requires more and more of the drug to achieve the effect. Withdrawal symptoms are painful and often lead to death (or suicide). An ounce of residuum will cover a typical addict for a few weeks. In addition to magnifying emotions, taking residuum occasionally transforms users permanently, giving them strange magical powers often accompanied by changes in physical appearance. These powers are often dangerous, making encounters with angry or scared residuum addicts potentially lethal.

There’s an even purer form of residuum called liquum. When residuum is combined with elemental water, heated with elemental fire, filtered through elemental earth, and then distilled with elemental air, the result is a shimmering liquid form of magic a thousand times more potent than residuum. It is generally too expensive to be used as a street drug, but it is used in powerful enchantment rituals as an amplifier.

A knowledgeable arcanist can use specially-prepared residuum and liquum to boost the power of his spells. This works like the metamagic feats from the previous rules edition, making saves more difficult, damage higher, range further, casting easier, and so on.

In general, because of the presence of mineable residuum in Caldera, magic items are more common. In fact, there’s an industry built around enchantment. The most common magic sold is for convenience (lighting, cleaning, cooking, communication), safety (weapons, security), or entertainment (games, recording and playback).
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on August 4th, 2010 12:29 am (UTC)
Very nice. My one concern would be the costs for the powder/liquid in comparison to the benefits derived from them. I haven't really done up a chart or anything, but if the stuff costs too much per use for too little effect, no one is going to utilize it.
 Adam Drayadamdray on August 4th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
When I have some time, I'll do a formal write-up. My plans are to revisit the Disenchant ritual and the magic item creation rules, and then write up residuum and liquum as diseases with useful side-effects in the middle stages, not as magic items. Essentially, once you start taking residuum, you can get hooked and it can be awesome at first, but you'll need more and more of it to get the "fix," and the withdrawal will be hell. And yes, the economics have to work.
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on August 4th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
Crap. I was also going to mention: It's great you have a setting repository for all the info on OP, but I'm glad you're posting things to LJ about the setting, too, as that lets me keep up with new developments.
 Adam Drayadamdray on August 4th, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'll absolutely keep posting to LJ.

I've been trying to get a group together to -- you know -- actually play in this setting. I have two interested people, one of whom is about to go back to college in the Fall and won't be available much. I'm waiting for vacations and GenCon and whatnot to be over to see if the deafening silence I'm hearing is just people being busy, and not people being disinterested.
nyqos on August 13th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I want to play this!
 Adam Drayadamdray on August 13th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Well, if you can be at my house twice a month in the evenings, you're more than welcome to join...

Or you can gather a group together yourself and run it. In that case, I can share some DM stuff with you.