The Fanatasy Role-Playing Game of Medieval Germany



Gothic Germany




Alchemy was founded as a "science" by the Greeks in Alexandria during the Second Century AD. Its body of knowledge was acquired and expanded upon by the Moslem Arabs after they swept over the Middle East in the 700s. The Arabs also added knowledge gained from the Chinese, with whom they had distant contacts. When the Crusaders from Europe invaded the Middle East in the 1100s, they brought alchemy back with them to Europe, which quickly spawned European experiments.

Alchemists were early chemists. By combining, dissolving, sublimating, or precipitating various materials, they could produce certain simple, predictable reactions. However, without scientific method and vacuum pumps (developed by Robert Boyle in the 1600s), alchemists could not discover gases, crucial to the true understanding of chemistry. Some alchemists, including many successful physicians, were content to observe results and repeat certain techniques. Others invented various theories explaining the phenomenon they observed. Many European alchemists had clerical training, so some were inclined to attribute certain results to the actions of invisible demons, while others indulged in philosophical speculations about the nature of the universe. Many famous medieval philosophers dabbled in alchemy, including Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas.

The plethora of alchemical theory quickly led to wild speculation. Alchemists observed certain substances changing color and form. Just as they could precipitate salt from seawater, so did they hope to precipitate gold from solutions of base metals. Lead was a popular choice because it was both inexpensive and already quite dense. Many theorized that a universal catalyst was the secret to this transmutation. This catalyst was the "Philosopher's Stone." They understood enough chemistry to know that catalysts are not consumed in reactions, and therefore can be reused. Hence the extraordinary value of a universal catalyst. In fact, some even hoped that appropriate materials and catalysts could be found to create an elixir of eternal life, or at least a powerful healing potion.

Many medieval alchemists were showmen (or women). They used simple reactions and experiments to impress their audience -- preferably a rich nobleman. Holding out the hope of transmutation, they acquired important court positions and a good living, at least for a while. Even if the gold never materialized, a flashy alchemist lent immense prestige to a noble's court. For example, the rich and powerful Duke of Burgundy sponsored many alchemists. The most successful alchemists were very charismatic and remarkably convincing.

Alchemists were also secretive. They recorded materials, experiments and results in a code, a shorthand of unique and frequently private "scientific" symbols. These codes and ciphers were to discourage "theft" of their valuable knowledge. Of course, this also prevented anyone from examining their information and challenging it. It also greatly enhanced the prestige of one who supposedly commanded this secret, mystical knowledge.

ALCHEMY FOR ADVENTURERS: In Darklands, the universal catalyst, the Philosopher's Stone, really exists. Novice alchemists have a limited, low-quality stone, but with effort it can be improved, usually by trading with other alchemists and university scholars. Meanwhile, the budding alchemist must search the land for various raw materials and formulas.

The most effective approach to alchemy is specialization. It is more useful to have one good alchemist than four poor ones. The single good alchemist can mix potions for the entire party. This is possible whenever a party takes up residence somewhere, including city or village inns, as well as camping outdoors. Provided you have decent skill, know the formula and purchase sufficient ingredients, anything can be created with enough time and luck. Of course, bad luck can cause destructive results. When creating characters, you may prefer older, more experienced alchemists, even if that means weaker attributes.

It is also possible to purchase potions, ready-made, from other alchemists. However, these can be difficult to find and costly to acquire. Furthermore, alchemy and other intellectual skills may be needed for successful dealing with other alchemists.

Many alchemical potions are useful in battle. They can attack enemies, reduce their abilities, and improve character's offensive or defensive abilities. The "Essence of Grace," a healing potion, is especially useful. Finally, when facing fiery dragons or demons, "Firewall" is indispensable for those who don't know the requisite saints.


Alchemical Materials

Darklands alchemy uses nineteen special substances, plus four general "bases" of common materials. These are listed below in order of rarity (from the most rare to the most common). Astute adventurers will notice that these raw materials are extremely easy to carry, even in large quantities.

MARSH VAPOR: A natural gas, whose medieval admixture produced a sharp smell. Acquiring and containing this vapor was extremely difficult because it is virtually colorless. It is also known as methane.

NAPHTHA: First used by the Arabs in incendiary devices, it is a highly volatile, inflammable oil. Various types can be distilled from wood, coal, and petroleum.

MANGANES: A rare ore that, when refined, purified, and heated, burns quite brightly. It is also known as magnesium.

ORPIMENT: This sulfur-arsenic compound is bright yellow, can appear in large masses, and frequently figured in important alchemical reactions. It is also known as trisulfide of arsenic.

WHITE CINNABAR: This silvery-white metal is usually found as a powder, because it is extremely brittle. It is also extremely poisonous, but still useful (in small quantities) as a compound in certain medicines. Sometimes used in glassmaking, it is also known as arsenic.

BLACK BEAN: This material, originally acquired from the East, is reddish-brown. It has a strong taste and certain unique but temporary stimulating effects on the body. It is also known as cocoa.

ZINKBLENDE: This clear, cleavable ore can yield a wide variety of results in various situations. It is also known as sphalerite, or zinc sulfide.

ANTIMONI: This silvery-white powder is very brittle, and invariably contains other trace elements. It is resistant to certain chemicals, can be used as a hardening agent, and is also known as antimony.

AQUA REGIA: A very strong, volatile and dangerous acid, this can dissolve almost anything, including people. It is a mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid.

GUM: A sticky, resilient and strong material, it often includes pitch or resin. The purer forms generally were imported from the Middle East.

MONDRAGORA: A natural substance, reputedly from a plant, with many mystical properties.

ALUM: A very astringent powder, used in dyes and baking powders, or alone to induce vomiting. At this time the only known sources were in Italy and Asia Minor (Turkey). It is also known as ammonium bisulfate, potassium aluminum sulfate, or sometimes (incorrectly) as aluminum sulfate.

CHAMOMILE: A supposedly rare plant whose dried leaves have various properties, often medicinal. Actually, it is fairly common, but easily mistaken.

PITCHBLENDE: A mineral that is a lustrous brownish-black. When added to certain procedures, it can produce a slightly glowing material. It is also known as uranium oxide or radium oxide.

ZINKEN: A bluish-white salt that can improve metals, especially steel. It also has various medicinal properties. It is also known as zinc.

NIKEL: A hard, silver-white material that can be formed into a metal. It is much more useful when mixed with other materials, such as steel, where it adds strength and durability. It is also known as nickel.

BRIMSTONE: Pale yellow crystals that burn with a blue flame and emit a horrible stench (like rotten eggs). It is sometimes associated with demons and Hell. It is useful in many compounds, including gunpowder. It is also known as sulfur.

PURE GOLD: A dark yellow metal that is very soft and heavy. It is considered extremely valuable. At somewhat lesser purity it is formed in bars or small, thin round coins for monetary purposes.

MELANCHOLIC (MELANC) BASE: A variety of plants considered useful in alchemy, such as bell mushrooms, belladonna, camphor, hemlock, seed of sea holly, nightshade, thorn apple, henbane, turpentine, etc.

SANGUINE BASE: A variety of animal materials, such as eye of newt, toad tongues, bat claws, powdered unicorn horn, etc.

CHOLERIC BASE: A variety of acids and other liquids considered useful, including aqua fortis, vitriol and Roman vitriol, alcohol, distilled water, etc.

PHLEGMATIC BASE: A variety of common minerals, such as kupfer (copper), lead, lime (calcium oxide), quicksilver, and kohle (coal).


Alchemical Formulas

There are 66 different alchemical formulas, divided into 22 different groups. Each formula has three variations, with each variation named after its original source. Easier formulas have lower magic numbers, but also produce a lower-quality potion. The three versions are listed in order, from easiest to hardest, and thus from the lowest quality results to the highest.

Formulas also have various danger levels. These danger levels are only important when mixing your own potions. If a mixing failure occurs, the danger level (plus a certain amount of luck) determines the size of the disaster. An inept and unlucky alchemist could blow up himself and the rest of the party!

NOXIOUS AROMA: (NoxAro) Formulas from al-Razi, Gerard of Cremona, and Petrus Bonus. This portion produces a powerful stink that reduces the agility, perception, and skills of everyone within the cloud. Those closer to the center are more powerfully affected. Duration varies with quality, from about 5 to 15 seconds.

EYEBURN: (Eyebrn) Formulas from Solomon, Galen and Nicolas Flammel. If this potion directly hits a character, he or she is blinded, immobilized, and significantly hampered. Those nearby are hampered, but not fully blinded. Duration varies with quality, from about 8 to 25 seconds.

SUNBURST: (Sunbst) Formulas from Africa, Raimundus Lullus and Brother Elias. This potion is a flash bomb that blinds the enemy, who then act only in self-defense. Friends are not blinded because the user warns them in advance. Duration varies with quality, and lasts about 12 to 25 seconds.

BLACK CLOUD: (BlkCld) Formulas from the Orient, Rufinus of Genoa, and Michael Scot. This potion slowly creates a large, black cloud of smoke. This "smoke screen" is very useful in many situations. However, it cannot be used in battle because the screen takes too long to form.

STONE-TAR: (Stonetr) Formulas from Sina, Albertus Magnus and Robert de Keten. This creates a puddle of sticky black goo that slows anyone moving through it. The speed reduction varies from the quality of the potion. After about four minutes the puddle hardens, making the area passable.

FLEADUST: (Fleadst) Formulas from al-Razi, Nicolas Flammel, and Richard Anglicus. This creates a cloud that causes horrible itching and irritation. The stronger a character's armor (on both vitals and limbs), the more his or her skills are reduced. Duration varies with quality, from about 20 to 60 seconds.

THUNDERBOLT: (Thundr) Formulas from al-Tamimi, Maimonides, and Arnald of Villanova. This potion explodes like a cannon. Damage varies with potion quality, while penetration power is great at the explosion site, then decreases quickly with distance. The explosion may also damage armor (reducing its quality).

EATER-WATER: (EatWar) Formulas from Solomon, Alfred of Sareshel, and Gerard of Cremona. This powerful vitriol eats through vitals and limb armor of whomever it strikes, reducing armor quality. When the armor is destroyed, any remaining power inflicts damage on the person. The amount of armor quality destroyed varies with potion quality and luck, from 3 to 15.

ARABIAN FIRE: (AFire) Formulas from Geber, Zadith, and Hugh. This potion explodes into bits of flaming liquid, like Greek Fire. The amount of damage varies with the distance from the burst. Armor does not protect against this weapon; in fact, armor also suffers quality damage from the flames. Even metal armor is affected, as straps burn off and moving parts become pitted or misshapen. The quality of the potion affects the amount of damage, as does luck.

BREATH OF DEATH: (BDeath) Formulas from the Smaragdinian tablet, al-Kindi and Simon Cordo. This potion explodes into a deadly mist that can injure or even kill anyone near the bursting point. Armor provides no defense. The quality of the potion affects the amount of damage, as does luck. The mist dissipates almost immediately.

DEADLY BLADE: (DeadBld) Formulas from Hayyan, Vicent of Beauvis, and Roger of Hereford. This potion improves the amount of damage a weapon can inflict. The increase varies with quality. The potion affects all weapons except impact and flail types. Duration is about one day.

STRONGEDGE: (StrgEdg) Formulas from al-Majriti, John of Rupescissa, and Petrus Bonus. This potion improves the penetration of a weapon. The increase varies with potion quality. The potion only affects edged weapons and polearms. Duration is about one day.

GREATPOWER: (Grtpwr) Formulas from ibn Rushd, Jildaki and Albertus Magnus. This potion increases the overall quality of a weapon, up to a limit of 99. The amount of increase varies with potion quality. Only impact weapons, flails and handguns can be improved with this potion. Duration is about one day.

TRUEFLIGHT: (TruFlt) Formulas from ibn Umail, al-Bitruji, and John Dausten. This potion improves the accuracy of a missile weapon; that is, it increases the chance of a hit. The amount of increase varies with the potion quality. Duration is about one day.

HARDARMOR: (HrdArm) Formulas from ibn Yazid, Brother Elias, and Leonard of Maurperg. This potion improves the quality and thickness of one person's armor (both vitals and limbs). Thickness increases one or two levels, while quality improves 20 to 30 points. Duration is one day.

TRUESIGHT: (TruSgt) Formulas by Arfa Ras, Rufinus of Genoa, and Leonard of Maurperg. This potion improves a person's perception. The amount of improvement (10-30) varies with potion quality and luck. Duration is one day.

NEW-WIND: (NewWnd) Formulas by Sina, Michael Scot, and John of Rupescissa. This potion temporarily increases a person's endurance. The amount of increase (7-16) varies with the potion quality and luck. Duration is about one day.

IRONARM: (Ironarm) Formulas by Jabir, Robert de Ketene, and Hugh. This potion temporarily increases a person's strength. The amount of increase (7-16) varies with the potion quality and luck. Duration is about one day. Despite any wounds, when the potion wears off a person will not die for lack of strength.

QUICKMOVE: (Quckmov) Formulas by Hayyan, John Dausten, and Richard Anglicus. This potion temporarily increases a person's agility. The amount of increase (7-18) varies with the portion quality and luck. Duration is one day. When the portion wears off, agility never drops below one (1).

ESSENCE OF GRACE: (EssGrc) Formulas by Galen, Michael Scot, and Avicenna. This potion restores lost endurance and strength, especially the former. The exact amount restored varies with the potion strength. The restoration is permanent (i.e., the potion acts a "cure").

FIREWALL: (Firewal) Formulas by Jabir, Maimonides, and Raimundus Lullus. This potion enhances armor quality, but only against flame attacks. Duration is about one day. This formula is almost indispensable when fighting dragons or demons who have flame weapons.

TRANSFORMATION: (Transf) Formulas by Morienus, Avicenna, and Nicolaus of Autrecourt. Potions from this formula can be used to purify certain sites, and if one is very fortunate, transform worthless metal into a florin of gold. However, all require a certain amount of pure gold to act as "seed" material. Generally, the cost of the "seed" (i.e., the components) exceeds the value of the florin that results.



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