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  • Of Strange Materials

    With Exigents on the horizon and my work on an homebrew, I've started to think about the possibility of strange and exotic "magical materials". While with previous editions each Exalted splat corresponded to a certain MM, with Exigents and the rules for Evocations we can examine all kinds of strange and new materials with which the Chosen of the Gods may resonate with- and I must say, that the lack of a "magical copper" physically hurts me. If we were to correspond each of the existing materials materials with its mundane form, we would get that we have already covered gold, silver, iron, jade, steel and diamond/glass- which is three pure metals, one alloy and two gemstones/minerals, which barely scratch the surface of metals of antiquity, not to mention the periodic table as whole and compounds (yes, I'm a chemist, and my research is about theoretical inorganic chemistry. Blame me for trying to force my real life work into my rpg life :P).

    Anyway, examining materials of similar nature- that is, gemstones, metals and alloys of mystical/ historical importance- I have composed the following list of potential candidates, divided by tiers for how much potential I see in producing a new magical material-like product out of them:

    1st: Lead, Copper/Bronze/Brass, Mercury, Tin, Obsidian, Zinc, Amber, Sulfur

    Lead, copper, mercury and tin are all at high priority for obvious reasons- those four are a part of the "seven metals of antiquity", which complete the set with the three canon materials. Lead even already has an in game existence in the form of the so called "Black Lead". Copper is a different issue, as it has two significant alloys, one of which is already dominant in the setting due to Malfeas being a "city of brass". While the existence of magical brass does not exclude the existence of magical copper (like we have both iron and steel parallels), I still think that having three materials which revolve around the same metal is a bit too much, and perhaps copper and bronze should be folded into a single material.

    Mercury has its own issues- as many of the immediate associations one could have toward it are already covered by Moonsilver. However, as similarity between silver and mercury is a thing also in our world, I still think there could be a place for magical mercury as long as it would draw upon different themes of the metal (like its ability to amalgamate or its madness inducing nature). Zinc, while not technically a part of the seven classical metals, was discovered in India around the same period, and so I tend to believe it too could have strong enough themes for a magical parallel.

    For the non metallic materials, we have obsidian, amber and sulfur. Obsidian in quit an easy one, considering that it was used to craft weapons in the early age, with mesoamerica being especially known for the use of it. More than that, the concept of "Smoky Mirror", as far as I can recall, is tied to obsidian made mirrors, and as such also connected to Tezcatlipoca, sorcery, the night and other powerful themes, and its origin from vulcanic glass could be related to the Chosen of different volcano gods. Amber is also a strong thematic material, and it was already suggested in one homebrew Exalted project called the Memorials as their magical material. Sulfur is also an ancient material, even if less useful in crafting weapons- however, we should remember that Vitriol does corresponds to sulfuric acid, and while 3e's Infernals may not draw upon it for resonance (I think it was stated somewhere, but I'm not sure), it doesn't mean it has no potential for certain exotic Exigents.

    2nd: Arsenic, Antimony, Bismuth, Phosphorous, Cobalt, Platinum, Ice, Chitin, Amethyst, Emerald, Ruby, Sapphire

    Unlike the previous materials, that tier has either a less powerful thematics or mythical connotations, or that they were discovered at later times than the classical ones. Among those, arsenic, antimony and bismuth are the earliest to be discovered. From this trio, I feel that arsenic has the strongest thematics, with it being used for poisoning and killing from an early age. Antimony is also poisonous, even though it has a few different themes we could examine (such as it being separated into "male" and "female" in ancient era, or the popular interpretation for its name (which is likely wrong) as "monk killer" and perhaps being connected to wildlife. Unlike the other two, bismuth is generally not poisonous, and its alchemical importance is not well defined other than it being connected to Taurus.

    The more modern metals are platinum and cobalt. Platinum has a strong theme as a noble metal (even though that it is not that chemically noble, but never mind), and its high value makes it even "above gold". Cobalt was called "kobold ore", and if famous for the blue colour it gave to glasses (not to mention that it has a metallic D&D dragon based around it in some editions). Ironically, while those two may be less "mythic" or "ancient", they may have stronger themes than things like bismuth and their like.

    In this tier there are also four gemstone, which are a part of the so called "cardinal gemstones". The last gemstone in the category, diamond, is already canon in the form of adamant. While each of the stones does have its own themes and mystical meaning and cultural importance, having four stones with different colours kinda leaks into Jade's territory in the setting, and none of those stones feels like it may serve as something to make artifacts out of it other than possibly amethyst, which I think I read that there were certain objects crafted from it. Anyway, one should be really careful if and when they would integrate those materials as exotic materials of some kind.

    Finally, the last three materials are really strange choices for an exotic material. Phosphorus is in that list due to it being the first element to be chemically discovered, and it has some alchemical importance due to its reactive nature- not to mention its name as "light bearer". Perhaps a similar mechanism to that of Vitriol could be used to adapt "magical phosphorus' into the setting. Ice is also a strange choice, but weapons and artifacts crafted from "eternal ice" or "magical ice" have showed up in fiction more than once, and as such it is not out of the picture to adapt such a material to a something like a Chosen of Winter/Frost. Chitin is here due to fantasy literature sometimes detailing weapons and armors which are crafted from bugs of some kind, so it may have some potential in making artifacts, even if its organic nature makes it a strange choice.

    3rd: Bone/Ivory, Wood, Clay/Porcelain, Flint, Nickel, Cadmium, Tungsten, Tantalum, Electrum, Chrome, Titanium, Topaz, Coral, Pearl/Nacre, Turquoise, Opal, Onyx, Lapis Lazuli

    Now, most of those materials would seem like a really, really weird choice at first glance to make a magical material analog for, either due to them being very common or simple in nature, or that they seem to lack the same cultural importance as other materials. Still, they may surprise us, and as such they are also included here cause who knows how inspiration would strike, ha?

    The first are the "simple materials"- bone, wood, clay and flint. I personally feel that flint is the weakest in this group, for it is basically just a stone- even though its connections for the beginning of civilization may be strong enough to produce something interesting. Bone also seems to be a weak choice- but if we would think about ivory, I think that it has enough cultural significance in order to think about a magical analog based around ancient and powerful bones of dead behemoths or worse. Wood as a magical material is strange, but there are many mythological weapons which were crafted from mythical trees, like the spear of Odin being crafted from the World Tree. Clay also seems simplistic, but magical porcelain does feels "right", especially if it were to be connected to an Exigent such as the Chosen of Masks.

    Now, I must say that the main reason that nickel and cadmium are here is for the same reason that I decided to calculate them for my research- they complete the set (that is, the rows for platinum and mercury). Sure, technically palladium should also be here, but I have hard times to separate it from platinum, and not without a good reason. Chrome is also on the list simply because there is a lesser known D&D metallic dragon corresponding to it. Tungsten is here due to its unique nature as a very hard metal (one of the hardest, if I remember correctly), and that it has many unique features compared to metals- such as that it does not amalgamate. Tantalum also doesn't amalgamate, and it may have certain connections to "protection for psychic powers" according to some youtube videos I have seen (yeah, not the best source for research, but oh well). Titanium is here because... I don;t know? It feels important, I guess. Finally in the metal group, we have electrum, simply due to it being an interesting alloy of gold and silver/copper, even though I'm not really sure about its nature as an independent magical material source.

    And finally, we have gemstones, both organic and inorganic. Magical coral, for example, could be an excellent choice for an ocean based Exigent/Exalted, like perhaps a fanmade version of the Spoken or the god-admirals of cabochon. Pearl/Nacre is also a good alternative for the same type of Exalts, so of you have an idea for two different types of sea-related Chosen here you go. Topaz, while not being a cardinal gemstone, also has a certain cultural significance. Turquoise and Lapis were both important and dominant gems in the ancient world, even though they quit pale in comparison to sapphire and emerald, not to mention jade in the setting. Opal and onyx are also quit dominant as gems with protective powers, either for good luck or against war, even though that fashioning a weapon or artifact out of those is kinda weird IMO- and among the two, I think that opal's "luck attributes" may be a strong theme.

    And that's what I have in mind! Now, now- I'm not suggesting that we should adapt ALL of the materials in that list to be exotic/magical materials on their own right, but I do think that many of those has a good potential. Personally, I would have liked to see a magical version of all of the first tier materials, most of the materials from the second tier and perhaps a few of the third- like pearl or ivory. Feel free to say which of those materials do you think would make good candidates for new exotic magical materials, which differently won't, which materials should have been in those lists and what themes the actual magical version of those would have.

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    I totally blame my research for this :P


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  • #2
    We don't yet have prominent examples, but stuff like this is certainly part of the game already; they're referenced at the end of Arms of the Chosen's description of the magical materials.


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    • #3
      The obvious name for a copper/bronze/brass magical material is hepatizon, which previously got a mention on p.147 of Compass of Celestial Directions Vol. 5: Malfeas.

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      • #4
        When in doubt, steal shamelessly from other game lines.

        Signs of Sorcery from Mage: the Awakening has "Perfected Metals" which lines up pretty well with magical materials of Exalted.

        such metals include -

        Brontium - Perfected Copper
        Kassiterum - Perfected Tin
        Apeiron - Perfected Lead


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        • #5
          Originally posted by Isator Levi View Post
          We don't yet have prominent examples, but stuff like this is certainly part of the game already; they're referenced at the end of Arms of the Chosen's description of the magical materials.
          Oh, I know that they conceptually exist- I've talked about actually homebrewing such examples so they "exist exist".


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          • #6
            Something you might want to reference is the how metals are used in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. https://coppermind.net/wiki/Metallic_Arts

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            • #7
              Magical Mercury

              Names : Prophetium, Augurum, Liquid Fate

              Themes : Alternate futures, prophecy, madness

              Relates to : Rakan Thulio, Mercury, Nox

              Origin : Rain which is phased out of existence by an alteration of Fate may sometimes turn into Prophetium instead of disappearing, becoming charged with the memory of what could have been.


              Properties :

              Prophetium causes the person who comes in contact with it to become out of phase with Destiny, causing them to experience all of their possible futures all at once. While the experience may have some divinatory properties, it almost invariably induces madness to some degree as the mind becomes unable to process which reality is real and which one is merely a potential future. Some diviners try to mitigate this by using extremely small doses, however any dose remains within a person's body indefinitely, causing them to gradually become mad with each use.

              While this liquid metal is too dangerous to use as is for artifact crafting, Rakan Thulio has managed to create an alloy of Prophetium and Starmetal which he named Starthread. The resulting material forms supple threads which ressembles a sort of soft, malleable iron. The Starmetal within it keeps the dangerous powers of Prophetium mostly under control, but an Exalt who wields a Starthread artifact can feel a storm of out of control fates brewing at the back of his mind whenever he draws upon its power.

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              • #8
                In Ancient China, mercury was associated with immortality(and thus was a major component of multiple failed Elixirs of Immortality) and the divine. Its sometimes found in Han-era and earlier tombs. The Tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi has a portion that's contaminated with mercury, so excavation is going really slowly.

                In Exalted, mercury might have similar connotations, and might actually be associated with the underworld.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by HamSandLich View Post
                  In Ancient China, mercury was associated with immortality(and thus was a major component of multiple failed Elixirs of Immortality) and the divine. Its sometimes found in Han-era and earlier tombs. The Tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi has a portion that's contaminated with mercury, so excavation is going really slowly.

                  In Exalted, mercury might have similar connotations, and might actually be associated with the underworld.
                  “Dude, this is so strange. This stuff is associated with immortality, but all the things we make it into do the opposite of that.” :P

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                  • #10
                    As most of the materials in the book are already metals, I'd think it'd be more interesting to have other non-metal materials. Bones of behemoths, blood of demons, etc.


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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                      Mercury has its own issues- as many of the immediate associations one could have toward it are already covered by Moonsilver. However, as similarity between silver and mercury is a thing also in our world, I still think there could be a place for magical mercury as long as it would draw upon different themes of the metal (like its ability to amalgamate or its madness inducing nature).
                      I would like to point out that things already go deeper for Mercury in the setting than that - as described in the Oadenol's Codex, Moonsilver is mined in certain peculiar nodes in the borders of Creation under the light of certain phases of the moon, by a proccess that might be said to be carving or molding as much mining. If given too much stability moonsilver turrns to mundane silver, if too chaotic, quicksilver, Mercury's "common name" in english language.

                      I think there's also talk of Cinnabar in RoGD1, in the section on Mercury Ants and their queen/elemental dragon that might be of relevance to the subject of exotic components and their mystic associations & properties.

                      PS: I think the Mercury Ants might be the only instance of the element being referenced as such, instead off just "quicksilver" in Exalted that i can actually remember, what is possibly relevant in light of the silver - moonsilver - quicksilver association given on Oadenol's Codex.

                      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                      The more modern metals are platinum and cobalt. Platinum has a strong theme as a noble metal (even though that it is not that chemically noble, but never mind), and its high value makes it even "above gold". Cobalt was called "kobold ore", and if famous for the blue colour it gave to glasses (not to mention that it has a metallic D&D dragon based around it in some editions). Ironically, while those two may be less "mythic" or "ancient", they may have stronger themes than things like bismuth and their like.
                      Much of what you said about Platinum also applied to Aluminium until at least the mid-1800s, no?

                      And Cobalt, as its name even hints, has a connection in legend to kobolds - in fact cobalt originated as German for goblin ore, so named because a supposed favoured prank of these mine spirits was to fool miners into taking worthless ore, that gave off poisonous fumes when smelted, in place of cooper or silver.

                      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                      Finally, the last three materials are really strange choices for an exotic material. Phosphorus is in that list due to it being the first element to be chemically discovered, and it has some alchemical importance due to its reactive nature- not to mention its name as "light bearer".
                      Well, it's not like jade weapons in real life were anything beyond cerimonial/for coolness anyway.....
                      And speaking of light/fire-bearing materials brings me Pyrite, the infamous "Fool's Gold" to mind.

                      Originally posted by LostLight View Post
                      Perhaps a similar mechanism to that of Vitriol could be used to adapt "magical phosphorus' into the setting. Ice is also a strange choice, but weapons and artifacts crafted from "eternal ice" or "magical ice" have showed up in fiction more than once, and as such it is not out of the picture to adapt such a material to a something like a Chosen of Winter/Frost.
                      Meh, eternal ice, everlasting flame, crystalized/frozen lightning.... all elemental associations already touched by Jade under a different name.


                      Just my random rambling commentary on what you brought up. Touching on what initially got my attention, far from complete or orderly, but then i did say it was rambling anyway....
                      Last edited by Baaldam; 06-23-2019, 10:22 AM.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Jetstream View Post

                        “Dude, this is so strange. This stuff is associated with immortality, but all the things we make it into do the opposite of that.” :P
                        This is ancient China i'm talking about here

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by HamSandLich View Post

                          This is ancient China i'm talking about here

                          I think the part on cinnabar in the RoGD relates at least in part to that mercury-purification-immortality association.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Baaldam View Post

                            Well, it's not like jade weapons in real life were anything beyond cerimonial/for coolness anyway......
                            Oh, that depends on where and when we're talking about. Jade was the Damascus Steel of stone-age tech, as the Maori well know.

                            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mere_(weapon)

                            Yes, they were also valuable ceremonial objects, but that doesn't mean they weren't used to bash heads wide open - they were very much practical weapons.

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                            • #15
                              Mage the Ascension's Primium can be found in Auto's innards.

                              Adamant is used more in my headcanon.

                              And I have made major and minor magical materials. Like I frequently use Brass Bamboo as a minor material originating in Malfeas, light and strong metal, and naturally in a cylindrical shape so good for piping. And Tin Ferns, which is high quality tin and makes for natural art.

                              But another major magical Material I've included is Bloodgold, as another Soulsteel level kinda evil but not necessarily evil Material, so associated with blood and death and ferocity.

                              First Frost is another idea, basically permanently frozen ice from before Creation that can be carved for ingredients.

                              And yeah I love the idea of Behemoth bones sometimes being potent enough to work as Magical Material.

                              Rocks of the Eternal Shore, though I really use them as a place to forge artifacts upon, but they would serve as a potent ingredient possibly in a miracle forged by a Primordial if they can be shaped or harvested.

                              Demon the Fallen had Syr, black metal that possessed its own spirit, good stuff.

                              I've thought of using Cinnabar as a magical substance in Creation like how Jade is. It would be similar to moonsilver in its flow, but have amaranthine qualities.

                              If you want you can use Vibranium. I just use other Materials when I'm homaging it though.

                              Vajra lightning that is hard as diamonds. Man I really actually wished I could have used this as a replacement for adamant but I'll just make it an edition. But often Oricalchum and Adamant would reflect the same qualities.


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