Blood Cauldrons   Leave a comment

In the lands of Cantadel, a strange device is known to many practitioners of the arcane arts but used by few, a cauldron of dark crimson capable of performing magical feats often considered to be cursed, taboo, or at the very least dangerous. Originally created by goblin metallurgists who nearly rivaled the ancient goblin weavers, the Blood Cauldron is a tool that would be familiar to wizards, historians, or other collectors of lore, or those who keep up to date on the methods of producing magical effects.

In my own games, my players have only encountered Blood Cauldrons once. It was used by Sarjalon Scornsmith, a “wrathwight” who fueled his magical power with pure, undiluted anger. Sarjalon failed to stop the players (as expected) but the cauldron they collected from his lair was something that threw them for a bit of a loop. The amount of blood bubbling within the cauldron made the players initially think that Sarjalon was undead. In time, it was ignored as just another curiosity, though there are Blood Cauldrons at work elsewhere in the background of that story even now.

Ultimately, a Blood Cauldron is an excuse, and that’s something that DMs need. It’s not enough to tell players “this magic thing you’ve never heard about before is happening now because I Say So!” More importantly, there are magical effects that can come about through the use of storytelling that suffer if you have to explain them through the standard Vancian magic used in D&D. Other gaming systems that don’t use Vancian magic don’t have this problem to the same degree… though every system does, eventually, run up against the limit of what players can do within the rules.

That’s the secondary beauty of a Blood Cauldron or an item like it. The players typically have rules that they must follow unless they can find a legal exception. Not every player needs an exception, and there are many who wouldn’t care for one if given the option, but it’s good to have a few exceptions to the rules ready.

A Blood Cauldron is about the size of a standard pot, but it has three thin metal rods surrounding it that hold it up with deceptively thin chains. Every piece of metal looks black at first glance, but is actually a very dark red. Contrary to (relatively) popular belief, the cauldrons aren’t always used for boiling blood. They can suffice for regular potion crafting, or certain alchemical items that are in a liquid or colloidal form. They probably wouldn’t work as a true substitute for a fully stocked alchemist’s lab, but they’d do the job sometimes.

What follows is a magical item that can only be recreated with a Blood Cauldron, along with instructions that a player can use to manufacture a Blood Cauldron for themselves. Finally, in case you’re confused by the Blood Cauldron’s prerequisites referencing an Alchemical Secret, the Alchemical Secret itself will be listed. For more information on Alchemical Secrets, check the earlier Magical Mondays entry that discusses Alchemical Secrets in my campaigns. (If you *don’t* want to include Alchemical Secrets in your campaign setting, consider raising the cost of the Blood Cauldron.)

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War Ink of the Goblin Tribes

Aura faint (school depends on specific type, see text); CL Variable (usually 1st, 3rd, or 5th )

Slot Chest; Price 1000 gp, 4000 gp, or 9000 gp; Weight

Description: Possibly the first use for Blood Cauldrons, this type of colorful ink allows a warrior with no magic capability to gain the ability to cast a spell once per day. The War Ink is applied to its recipient as a magical tattoo on the chest in a painful process that takes one hour per level of the spell being conferred. Applying the War Ink requires a DC 20 Heal check. Once applied, the recipient is able to cast the spell at the level of the caster who made the ink. The recipient does not need any material, focus, or verbal components, but must still gesture somatically (and as such the War Ink’s conferred spell is subject to spell failure.) These somatic gestures are different than those that a caster would use, and take 1d6 days for the recipient to learn (minus their Intelligence modifier.) Once the somatic components are learned, the recipient is able to cast the spell once per day. Their caster level is set by the Ink’s creator at the time of creation. Once the ink is applied, the recipient will be detected by a detect magic spell as if they themselves are magical items, as the War Ink links to them very closely. Cursory examination of the individual (assuming their chest is visible) makes the glowing war ink relatively obvious, however.

Removing War Ink takes four times as long as applying it, and deals 1d4 Con damage. Once removed, it is destroyed. A recipient of the War Ink who takes more than a quarter of their hit points in damage, or damage from a frontal sneak-attack (or equivalent), or energy damage from a frontal attack if they are not wearing armor causes a 20% chance that the War Ink will be rendered nonfunctional. War Ink of the Goblin Tribes, functional or not, must be removed before a new type can be given to a recipient.

Any spell of third level or lower known by the crafter of the War Ink may be turned into War Ink (as if brewing a potion.) When the spell is used by the recipient, it is treated as arcane even if the spell was originally divine. For example: an adept may create Cure Moderate Wounds as a War Ink, and this spell may be applied to one of the tribe’s warriors. When creating the War Ink, the spell is divine. When the tribe’s warrior uses the War Ink, the spell is arcane. Using the War Ink provokes attacks of opportunity unless the spell it is based on would not. The recipient may Cast Defensively.

Rumors exist about tribes that have War Ink that corresponds to spells of higher than fourth level. These are likely fabrications. However, some believe that an alchemical secret relating to this exists, and could be discovered with sufficient research and exploration.

Requirements Brew Potion, spell to be emulated, creator must use a Blood Cauldron with the blood of an animal or humanoid. Cost 500 gp, 2000 gp, or 4500 gp

Blood Cauldron

Aura none (in and of themselves, they are non-magical); CL

Price 800 gp; Weight 15 lbs.

Description: This standard-sized pot has three thin metal rods surrounding it that hold it up with deceptively thin chains. Every piece of metal looks black at first glance, but is actually a very dark red. A Blood Cauldron is perfectly suitable for brewing potions, boiling soups, and preparing any number of things that a regular cauldron can prepare. Like a spell book, a Blood Cauldron is not a magical item in and of itself (and does not even require magic for its construction.) However, a Blood Cauldron is required as a focus for the creation of many magical items, the casting of certain spells, and the performance of numerous rituals.

Requirements Treat the Blood Cauldron’s cost as a 550 gp metalworking item and a 250 gp alchemical item with the two crafting procedures being resolved separately but happening over the course of the same time period. Both checks require a DC 25 crafting check. A failure that wastes the materials of the metalworking check causes the entire project to fail. A failure that wastes the materials of the alchemical check can still, at the crafter’s option, produce a masterfully made cauldron (or the materials can be retained for a second attempt.)

Blood Cauldron Crafting

Secret Level 3rd

Price 9000 gp

Prerequisites CL 6th, Crafting DC 20th

Description: Knowledge of this alchemical secret allows a crafter to create a Blood Cauldron, to gain a +5 circumstance bonus on Spellcraft checks made to recognize things relating to Blood Cauldrons and the magic that can be developed with them, and to automatically succeed at using Blood Cauldrons for known rituals described as using Blood Cauldrons.

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