Friday, April 15, 2011

Metals, Minerals & Materials (Part One)

The Alchymist by Joseph Wright (Public Domain)
In the course of our research and reading through a lot of old books and older ideas, we've accumulated a pile of messy notes. This is one set of those notes that finally reached a critical mass and is now going to live here on the blog.

A large proportion of the Metals, Minerals & Materials covered in this list are fanciful, fictitious or mythological. But some are quite real, and often-times it might surprise you what supposedly made-up term used in classical science fiction might actually be a real product or an actual trademarked commodity now.

In any case, this is the first pass through our notes. We deliberately left-off such things as Niven's Scrith, Disney's Flubber, DC's Kryptonite, and loads of TV-derived silliness because we just plain don't find stuff that we cannot use terribly interesting. Some of the stuff listed below might not prove-out and get dropped from the list, but the goal is a master list of such things that can actually be used or adapted for writing, game designing, and so forth. It's a shared resource, so help yourself.

Metals, Minerals & Materials (Part One)
Note: We have avoided including the Seriously Trademarked stuff where possible, so there aren't any mentions of very many of the Star Trek metals/materials in this list, like Transparent Aluminum, Trellium-D, Tholian Silk, for any of that sort of thing you should really go to Memory Alpha. Likewise for Star Wars stuff, you ought to go to Wookipedia. This is far from being an exhaustive list, but it is a start. We're still digging around and doing research that might yield a few more entries on this list/table as we keep plugging away.
Adamant  Whether you want to spell it Adamantium, adamantine, or Adam & The Ants, it's a heavy, dense metal that is unbreakable. The Greek Gods made the gates to Hades out of this stuff and the guys at Marvel bonded it to the bones of a mutant Canadian. It last forever, stays shiny even in Aqua Regia, and stops bullets, maybe even ones made from nano-thermite. This is some tough stuff. Aggregated Diamond Nanorods might be one of the closest things we're going to get from modern materials science, but don't bet on it--there are new breakthroughs all the time and we haven't even plugged in the first artilect yet.

Alicorn Horn  Also called Unicorn Horn. It prevents or detects poisoning. So they chop it off of the beast's head and stick it in their goblets of wine and steins of beer and mugs of hot cocoa. Some stories say that it can heal grievous wounds, but that's probably just marketing...and don't go accepting cheap imitation knock-off Narwhal Horns. They're obviously inferior workmanship.

Amrita The nectar of the gods, similar to Ambrosia. Just don't let wild animals eat The Food of the Gods...or else you might have to sit through this movie. Without any help from Terrence Mckenna.

Antimony/Antimonium  The ancient Egyptians knew about Antimony and so did Pliny. It is a very real substance, but was given a lot of philosophical and magical implications or attributes that might, or might not prove useful as a possible source of some obscure toxin, a clue to a murder, a magical formula, some precursor-form of the Philosopher Stone or something else. It might look like a simple lump of silvery metal, but it could be oh so much more.

Aqua Regia  Because Nitro Hydrochloric Acid just doesn't sound as cool, and because it is also supposed to be the liquid within which gold was dissolved. It also works on platinum and quite a list of other metals. Just saying. During the late 1700's Lavoisier called it nitro-muriatic acid, which is an improvement over nitro-hydrochloric acid, but not by much. This is more of that Alchymy-stuff, and it might have some cool implications to develop in terms of dissolved gold as a possible fluid condenser or something along those lines. Also, just think about how would the average bunch of tomb-looters deal with 400 gallons of dissolved gold? Consider this as well--when the German army liberated annexed swallowed invaded Denmark on 9 April, 1940 in the course of Operation Weserubung, a brave Hungarian scientist, George De Hevesy, dissolved the Nobel Prize medals of some of his colleagues so that the Nazis couldn't confiscate them. After the war he returned and found the jar of dissolved gold medals still undisturbed and so he precipitated the metal out of the Aqua Regia and sent it back to Sweden to be re-cast as new medals. That has got to give you ideas.

Azoth  The Universal Medicine. Related to Alkahest, the Universal Solvent. This way leads to the mysteries of Alchymy, the Cadeuceus, talk of the Philosopher's Stone and a lot of tedious blathering by innumerable crotchety old farts in robes, more cryptic writings by Crowley, a bunch of confused cryptographers who still think that it's some sort of a code or anagram or something equally baffling and unhelpful as that. Azoth might well be another name for Aethyr as it is considered to be the supreme fluid, at least by those who read some of the books written by some of those creaky old dead guys who used to bumble around in robes and whatnot.

Ballotechnic Substance  These sorts of materials, for example Red Mercury (see below), are able to super-charge conventional as well as nuclear explosions. There might well be other substances, perhaps Green Mercury, or Black Cadmium or something else that can perform the same function.

Beryllium  A real enough metal, but one doesn't want to overlook the amazing Beryllium-Bronze alloys used in aircraft during the Atlantean civilization as detailed in the first Lensmen book by E. E. Doc Smith, nor can we overlook the Beryllium Sphere that showed up in The Shadow.

Caesium-frankolithic-mixia-lubidium-rixidixidexi-doxidroxide  From Red Dwarf. If you can say it three time fast without cracking up, you can use it...

Calmia  Zinc Oxide. It was alleged to be a component in Orichalcum alloys (see below) in De mirabilibus auscultationibus by Pseudo-Aristotle, who may have been a Simulacrae. Perhaps Calmia has other, more mysterious powers or effects when used in various solutions or as a component in tombak, perhaps? Maybe there is a special quality that can only be captured in a pile of powdered Calmia at specific astrological times or under the influence of specific Rays?

Carmot  The very stuff out of which the Philosopher's Stone was made. If Paracelsus could have a Philosopher-Stone in the hilt of his sword, at least according to legend, then why not have an entire sword made from Carmot? What a treasure...but who--or what--would wield such a thing? Oh, and Paracelsus is a good example of an Alchymist who wasn't a couch potato or a doddering old gray-beard with spectacles. He had quite a lot of adventures...like real Alchymists used to do, before D&D relegated them to the side-lines. We'll have to do a post on good old Paracelsus one of these days. He'd know where to go to get a good Carmot-bladed sword...

Cavorite   H. G. Wells gave us this gravity-blocking material that enabled The First Men in the Moon to get there, and those phlegmy Martians from War of the Worlds may have used some Cavorite in their tripod-technology as well.

Chaos  See Prima Materia. No, really.

Cintimani  A Wish-granting jewel that might, or might not be some form of amber? This is the little stone that Bodhisattvas carry. What if someone found the source of this amber, or the stone from which these were carved? Who or what manner of beings carved these stones? Why? According to some Buddhist sources, the Cintimani are mani-jewels, physical metaphors for the teachings of Buddha and they allow the holder to shrug-off pain or sickness and manifest food, treasures and other good things. But it's not just a simple matter of grabbing the little rock and making demands on the universe--in fact it's quite different than that. The Cintimani manifests the desires that are within the heart of the holder--it doesn't ask you for a list of presents or give you a menu like a drive-thru window. It gives you what you deserve based on what is within your heart and soul. Might want to think twice about picking up that shiny little jewel after wasting the Bodhisattva with your ecclesiastical arbalest, huh? Oh and as for where these things come from? They are said to come from Makara, the Dragon-God of the Sea, the one with the giant fish-head. Dragon-gods from under the sea offering trapezoidal jewels that grant you deep, dark desires...nah...

Cobaltum Thorium G

Collapsium  H. Beam Piper's fictional ultra-metal composed of collapsed matter, possibly degenerate matter, that no longer has separate electron shells. It's super dense, and usually gets plated over other, more normal metals to act as shielding and armor. Not to be confused with Will McCarthy's The Collapsium.

Corinthian Bronze  The most valuable form of Bronze in classical antiquity, and we still don't know how to make it quite right. Both the Bible and Byron refer to this metal, so it has to have something special about it, right?

Duralloy  Started out as a science fiction nonsense word for super-hard metal, now it's a trademarked material...but probably only if you capitalize the 'A' in the alloy part of the name. Otherwise it's a frikkin' joke and completely indefensible.

Duralumin  No, Marvel didn't invent this one either. It leads to Alclad, which is a trademark of Alcoa.

Dureum  Another super-metal from E. E. Doc Smith, from his incredible Lensmen series.

Ectoplasm That gooey stuff that squeezes out of mediums when they're in the dark, and no not Crowley's Elixir--get your mind out of the gutter. Please. Can't take you anywhere...

Eitr  Poisonous (green?) primordial stuff from which all life arose according to Norse mythology. It's deadly dangerous, and might have untold magical properties, not the least of which is the creation of life itself...so that ought to stir up a few ideas. It's probably mutagenic to those exposed to it over any length of time, unless you have the blood of a god running through your veins perhaps...Ymir arose from this stuff, Gargantua might have traced his genealogy back to the Eitr as well, if he'd laid off the wine and got to work on it.

Electrum  Whether it is naturally occurring or man-made, this alloy of gold, silver, copper and sometimes other metals was invented in antiquity just to stymie and flummox role-playing gamers who don't read boring old books on ancient metallurgical practices. The Greeks used it as a form of currency and the Egyptians sheathed obelisks and other things in it. There is no one recipe, formula or standard for the proportion of gold to silver to copper to other stuff, and in fact the use of electrum for currency may well have arisen from its lower gold content (see Seignorage). But aside from being made into pretty Lydian coins, electrum is also a very good conductor of electricity. And that makes it a very important material in Triestemon.

Elixir  Snake Oils and patent medicines, smooth solutions of disgusting components within a sweet-tasting fluid (mostly alcohol-based), an Elixir can be a powder used to seal and heal wounds, a clear fluid panacea sure to cure all your ills, or just about anything else you would want to find in a bottle. In alchymy it has a few other attributions and connotations, and I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the nature of the elixir produced by way of Crowleyian sex magic. Just be sure to wash your hands afterwards. So aside from Crowley, elixirs are a sort of Victorian refinement to those potions that still get all Shakespearean and vomitous in their insistence on eyeballs, wings, and other bits and bobs of dead animals and the like. Oh and then there is the Elixir (besides the Absinthe)  that Crowley tried to patent and sell as a curative for all that ails the world...that was to be produced from his own man-juice...but the Thelemic Energy Drink failed to catch on for some mysterious reason...like that it's gross...maybe Lady Gaga will have better luck? If that's not enough of an ick-factor for you, here's an article on the use of bodily fluids in hoodoo. Again, wash your hands.

Faidon  Doc Smith's famous blue gem from the Skylark series that is formed from crystallized energy in the heart of white dwarf stars. It shows up in Skylark Three.

Filius Philosophorum  Jung found it intriguing. It might or might not be the Philosopher's Stone itself. It has its own set of symbolism in alchemy, and more than one source considers it to be a thing in and of itself, a sort of 'wise sun child' or an alternative product to be gained through the process of alchemy, one that does not give immortality, but perhaps wisdom and charisma. Something to consider. Politicians and patrons like the Borgias would kill to acquire such a thing. With no hesitation. But then the Borgias would know what to do with such a thing. The Borgias make such wonderful villains...

Flexible Glass  Lost since Roman times(!) this amazing substance is not only good for printing electronics onto it, you could make all sorts of amazing toys, tools and weapons with it. Gordon Dickson used something similar in some of the Dorsai books, but imagine what the Roman Empire might have done if they hadn't lost the secret to making flexible glass...

Fullerenes  Buckminster Fuller meets Carbon and the world gets super-strong geodesic domes. Eventually. Also called Buckyballs or Buckminsterfullerene. Your grandkids will ignore it the way you ignore vanadium or take chrome for granted.

Hepatizon  Black Corinthian Bronze, preferred for statues and similar in some respects to the Japanese shakudo bronze-alloy. According to Pliny, the formula for making this alloy was lost in classical times. But what if it wasn't? What if someone re-invented it or re-discovered it? What if there's one last metal-worker and bronze-caster left who does know the secret to Hepatizon or Corinthian Bronze? Wouldn't that, or couldn't that, spark something of an espionage-scenario where competing interests try to get their hands on this person, or prevent them from falling into the wrong hands? Alchymical cloaks and daggers in Greyhawk or Blackmoor, perhaps?

Ice9  Vonnegut's contribution to science fiction is far deeper and more meaningful than just this one idea, but this is a great idea. Cat's Cradle is chock-full of fun new ideas/words to consider adding to your game, setting, etc.

Ichor  Literally the Blood of the Gods. Now there's something gross, nasty and all too cool not to find some way to use it in a game...

Illaster  Might be the same as Prima Materia, but it doesn't have to be. It could be an artificially-created form of pseudo-Primordial matter or a twisted, mirror-opposite anti-protomatter concocted by demented old cackling alchymists in order to wreak vengeance on those wizards for pushing them off to the side-lines since the Seventies. Blame Paracelsus.

Liquid Electricity  One of those things that you just have to have in a story or a game setting. The stuff from the old silent movies, not the new invention that isn't quite the same thing, nor as much fun.

Lor  One of two component materials used in the fabrication of super-explosives (the other is Yor-San),  introduced by Edgar Rice Burroughs in Carson of Venus.

Mana  Magical power that came to us via the Polynesians by way of colonialist academics by way of role-playing games like GURPS. Not to be confused with the defilement of Mana (Conceit).

Manna  The original delivery fast-food.

Mead of Poetry  Sweet amber brew that can set your tongue to bragging and give you the poetic abilities of a Yeats, if you're lucky. And you drink enough. Just don't drink that Swill of Limmericks or that stuff that comes in the white bottle with the smiling Mister C. on the label.

Mimir's Well  If it's good enough for Odin then it's good enough for your characters. Drink this stuff and you'll expand your horizons to a godlike degree. But you didn't think that it would be easy to just waltz in and slurp a big gulp from the rim of this particular well, did you? Ha. Bring on the Giants, Thurses, and see if Fenrir is available for some light recreation...and no way would anyone be so stupid as to be on a quest to bring some of this water back to some spell-casting ninny and Not Drink Some For Themself While They Are There. Or are they? You wouldn't do that, would you?

Mithril  You can read Tolkein. You can read Gygax. You can get armor or a dwarven battle-axe. It's true-silver, it's super-durable, ultra-light, and makes great underwear for adventuring hobbits. Not to be confused with MIThril, which is a wearable computer project. It would be kinda cool to mix the two, though, wouldn't it?

Muriatic Acid  Hydrochloric Acid by any other name is still oh so reactive and useful in a game. Just add salt to Vitriol (see below), and voila--Muriatic Acid. You can find it in the gastric juices of humans, animals and many monsters. It was first experimented with during the Renaissance, but that could just be because all previous records were dissolved in an accident. People played around with all sorts of chemicals, body parts and fire back in Antiquity (Classical and Lite Versions), so it stands to reason that they may have toyed around with stomach acid to some extent. Be that as it may, Muriatic Acid, as modern hydrochloric acid was a major star of the Industrial Revolution. It has a ton of uses in everything. One interesting fact about the history of Muriatic Acid is that until the passage of the British Alkali Act of 1863, producers of soda ash just vented the acid out a vent into the air. Ouch. Talk about alchymical pollution. Then there's this whole business of Pickling Steel...and submerging a cheeseburger into hydrochloric acid...

Nano-Thermite  Wow. Metastable Intermolecular Composites (MICs). And they have massively energetic exothermic reactions. That means that they like to go BOOM! What's not to like? Even the name is a Fifties Sci-Fi gobbledlygook pile of syllables that boils down to a handy acronym. And they're making this stuff into bullets. Okay, so technically this isn't a Mythological Substance, but it sure would be in a post-apocalyptic setting. Oh those poor killbots won't know what hit them...

Neutronium  A material made-up entirely of neutrons, as envisioned in 1926 by Andreas von Antropoff, a scientist trying to come up with what an element with the atomic number of 'zero' would be like. These days we use it to refer to Neutron-Degenerate Matter, or stuff that's all neutrons both. Isn't progress wonderful?

Niello  A truly shiny-shiny alloy--Niello is a mixture of Silver, copper and lead sulfides that was used extensively in Europe for inlays and decorations from the Late Iron Age onwards. The Egyptians get the credit for inventing this shiny alloy, but the Europeans really went to town using the stuff on just about everything. What can one say--it is very shiny. During the Renaissance, the artisans of Florence devised a process that they called Niello that involved scratching a design into a metal plate with a sharp object (a burin), and then filling in the grooves with a sort-of enamel mixture of silver, lead and sulfur. This created a very high contrast between the black substance and the remaining shiny metal. So with niello you get both a substance in wide use during the Medieval period, and a stunning Renaissance artistic technique for producing high contrast images that could as easily be employed in the creation of advanced golems, enchanted firearms, royal armor, or even ecclesiastical arbalests. If you'd ever want to do such a thing...and that's totally ignoring or overlooking the historical implications of the Kievan Rus, the Mongols redistribution of niello across Europe and Asia, or the uniquely Thai take on niello in the hand-made jewelry that was often sold to American soldiers on R&R over the course of the Thirties to the Seventies. You might say that there's a lot more to Niello than meets the eye.

Nuclear Isomers While not mythical at all, in themselves, their application in Nuclear Batteries or a range of  new types of nuclear weapons that would fall outside of current treaty limitations make this a substance that could easily launch a thousand covert operations, be the working-stuff for Gamma Ray Weapons, or act as a handy Macguffin, or even serve as nice background for those supposedly eternal batteries certain post-apocalyptic games have had on offer since the Seventies. Three articles that go with this: A Perverse Military Strategy, Scary Things Come in Small Packages, and Gamma Ray Weapons. Implications abound. Who knew that Hafnium might end up becoming a nuclear rock star amongst the periodic table? But then not everyone is on-board the Hafnium train as you can read in this article: Superbomb Ignites Science Dispute.

Orichalcum  Whether it's the 'gold-copper' of ancient Rome, the secret metal-alloy of the Atlanteans, or a form of bronze used in groddy old sesterius coins in some wizened numismatist's collection, Orichalcum is what Sanat Kumara's wand is made from, the Breastplate of Tumus was made from this stuff according to Virgil in the Aeneid, and the Third Wall of Atlantis shone with the reflected red light of orichalcum according to Plato. This is one mythical substance that has gone through more transformations that you can shake a wand at. The Wikipedia entry will get you a ton of links to explore, and it covers the way that this substance has changed or been re-interpreted fairly well.

Parium & Sythium  John W. Campbell Jr. gave us these two super-materials in his classic story Marooned.

Philosopher's Stone  The Holy Grail of mythical substances, possibly the Grail itself, we could do a massive post just on this one topic, and we might get around to that, but for now let's get you something to work with, shall we? Edward Kelley wrote a book on the Philosopher's Stone. He may never have found it, but he had opinions on the matter. In fact quite a number of people have written all sorts of books about this mystery material that could be just about anything. As long as it conferred longevity or immortality, transmuted base metals into gold, and brought with its discovery terrifying implications, assassination attempts by those who wish to keep it a mystery, secret societies who may have been founded on their possession and use of this substance for milennia, an excuse to indulge in crypto-masonic gibberish ala Dan Brown, and more fun stuff. This is the one thing that many, many people have been obsessing over, searching for, and killing people over for centuries. It's not a little matter. Even if it doesn't exist, all the alchemical treatises and mystical manuscripts and those who believe in it create a magnificent backdrop for all sorts of shenanigans and skullduggery.

Phlogiston  It started out in 1667 and wound up becoming the basis of an out-of-print RPG produced in Wisconsin. The worst failures and obsolete, superseded notions of science often become the best fodder for role-playing games and fantasy novels. Not always. But quite a lot, really. Go Ptolemy. Go Archimedes. Go...

Plasteel  One of those sci-fi substances/materials that have been bandied-about for decades, Plasteel is also a Registered Trademark for the Plasteel Corporation. Really. It is also a very real composite of fiberglass an steel that was patented in 1973. Did Frank Herbert get any money from these folks? Did Harlan Ellison? Ellison used the term in 1956 in his story Trojan Hearse. But he didn't invent the term, either. Nope. Plasteel was developed in 1940s as a substitute for aluminum for civilian use during WWII by...the Plasteel Corporation. Either way, the term has been appropriated by science fiction writers and game designers and and there's no going back now. Dune used it.  Star Wars uses it. Warhammer 40K uses it. So, with a slight bit of tweaking you can use at least five different varieties of the stuff now...

Prima Materia  The very first, primal form of all matter, arising from, crystallizing out of or derived directly from Chaos itself. You can read Raymond Lull, browse through a metric ton of books on alchemy, pore over the Orphic Hymns, re-read Babylonian mythology, and spend a solid year of digging-up the dirt on Prima Materia and you'd just be getting started. What does a lump of this stuff cost? What could a sorcerer do with this stuff? Take a look at Renaissance Magic and you'll start to get ideas. Then look at Giordano Bruno or any three other authors listed there and things will really take off...

PyrE  The Stars My Destination, by Alfred Bester. Telepathically-detonated explosives. Booyah.

Red Mercury  A spurious or hoax substance of indeterminate composition allegedly used in the creation of various explosives and weapons systems, including nuclear weapons. So far, despite all the reports since 1979 and all the press attention through the 1990s, nothing more than some red dye or worthless powder has ever been recovered. At one time terrorists were charging as much as $500,000 per kilogram for their worthless red powder. So is your Red Mercury more of the same old scarlet dust, or is is the Real Thing and dangerous as all hell--and certain to garner a Lot of Attention from people in all the wrong places? Red Mercury was claimed to not only enhance explosions as a Ballotechnic substance, it was supposedly able to be used in Stealth Paint as well. The Wikipedia entry also lists a ton of previous fictional uses of Red Mercury that might give you some ideas. It makes a great MacGuffin. You might also read-up on the Father of the Neutron Bomb, Samuel T. Cohen; he was also an aficionado of Red Mercury.

Rhenium-diboride  Might just become another materials science super-star.

Soma  The original primal energy drink. It has more than 114 hymns behind it.

Strangelet  Weird particles from high-energy physics that just might unlock all sorts of quantum gobbledygook and nonsensium if you let them loose in a lab, let alone around some of those Whately-Labs types that the DARPA folks have been handing out contracts to lately...

Thokcha  Meteoric iron, 'Thunderbolt Iron' from Tibet. 'Sky-iron' is considered to be the supreme substance for forging vajra or other iron weapons. Tibet, with its high altitude, thin atmosphere and desolate landscape, has had a lot of meteorite impacts, and thus there have been plenty of such fragments to work with and to use in the creation of ritual implements and weapons. Having passed through the heavens, meteoric iron was considered to have a special sort of purity, and it took on a variety of special attributions that suggest magical properties or at least correspondences that could/might get used in the manufacture of magical weapons. It is worth considering the impact of a kingdom located at a very high altitude, with thin atmosphere, where meteorites are a common occurrence and what sorts of things those people might do with all those meteorites, like add them into the mystically powerful Panchaloha alloys of sacred metals, as set forth in the Shilpa Shastras...

Tin Foil  Makes a very useful hat. 

Toadstone  You can find a magical prize inside ... a ... toad? According to medieval folklore it's a batrachite. Maybe it's worth something? It could be magical. But what sort of magics do they do? There has to be some reason that those people are out there hunting down toads and frogs...then there's those Tonguestones that they keep going on and on about...

Tombac  A brass alloy with a high copper content and a bit of zinc, as well as a few other inclusions such as arsenic to give it coloration. Tombac is a French version of Tembaga, a word of Javanese origin for copper that has an interesting etymology, if you care to go explore that sort of thing. Tombac is soft, easy to cut, shape or mold and is used in medals, amongst other things. It is a form of faux gold, and the next time your group of plunderers loot some ruined temple, you might want to hire a competent (and honest) Alchymist to assay the actual gold-content of those fancy ornamental candlesticks you swiped...and it might be worth noting that 'red brass' or tombac was used on the fittings for locomotives...

Tumbaga  A particular alloy of gold, silver and copper common to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica that is extremely versatile and beautiful. The Spanish Conquistadors found it especially appealing. The Mesoamerican cultures created tumbaga as a very workable alloy, retaining malleability after casting, that they used in making all manner of objects of religious importance. One remarkable quality of tumbaga is that with a little citric acid to remove the surface copper, you get a pure gold surface supported by the stiffer, firmer copper-gold alloy underneath (what is termed Depletion Gilding). It is a marvelous metallurgical technology that was in widespread use across all of South America. Prior to the Conquest. Maybe those bars of bullion you found in that shipwreck aren't gold or silver, but tumbaga instead, like was found in this Spanish Galleon.

Unobtainium  No, really--this pre-dates James Cameron's Avatar by half a decade. It's an actual engineering term from the Fifties. What's really cool is that the Wikipedia entry also lists some similar terms: handwavium,  buzzwordium, phlebotinum, flangium, eludium/illudium, and wishalloy. They are all fair game...

Ununpentium  This is your ticket to UFO Conspiracy Culture. No kidding. Really. Bring your tin foil hat.

Viriditas  Whether you get it from Hildegard of Bingen or Kim Stanley Robinson, it still boils down to the vibrant, vital, lush green force of life expanding into the world. A powerful green force. A source for Magic? Magic itself? What if it was the direct emanation of the very life-force of Divinity manifesting itself through space-time?Are there other colors/spectra? Is this a collective emanation of many deities, the bleed-through of a dying god, or just the medium through which life and providence are enabled within an otherwise sterile, barren universe? The mind reels. You're welcome. Oh and consider what a character like Hildegard of Bingen might be like in the usual/stock medieval fantasy milieu...that could get really interesting...

Vitriol  Sulfuric Acid just doesn't sound nearly as cool, does it? In a pseudo-medieval setting you get to have your sulfuric acid and Vitriol both. There could easily be a dozen or more sub-types or dilutions/admixtures of Vitriol that could be used for various purposes. Historically, a lot of people interested in alchemy were not lard-ass bookworms, they were swordsmen, scoundrels and spies--in short adventurers. Vitriol could be one of the things that might redeem the Alchymist from being a lame supporting-role NPC to being a dashing and brilliant rogue who knows too much...and it's about time. We'll develop this more fully in a later post. There's also a rather intriguing connection to Priscillian that is worth digging into a bit deeper as well, what with him being the first person to be executed for heresy, though the civil charges were only for practising magic...

Yellow Metal  H. G. Wells again, this time it's a very durable, non-corroding 'yellow metal' from The Time Machine. Do morlocks make tools, weapons and armor from this yellow metal? Yes. They. Do.

Some Fun Bonus Links


  1. It's clear whose brain must be harnessed for the special resources section of the Domain Game. Great list.

  2. @ckutalik: Count us in. A bunch of this stuff will be showing up on the various tables that we're building for the adventures and scenarios that are under construction at netherwerks. Plus we really do want to develop a more fun and adventurous Alchymist Class for gaming purposes. Soon.

  3. Great list. Very comprehensive. Was neutronium on there, and I just missed it?

  4. @Craig: Glad you liked it. Hope it comes in handy!

    @Trey: Just added it. Thanks for catching that. There's a few more items to add. Lots more than we expected at first, but it has been fun finding out about some really strange sorts of fictional matter that we can drag into a game scenario or a story...and some of the real-world materials are even more bizarre than anything anyone ever dreamed-up in fiction before...these are indeed interesting times!

  5. Very interesting! I'm so glad I've found your blog. I'm stopping by from the A to Z challenge and I look forward to reading more from you.

  6. Very cool! And an excellent chance to get some use out of the transform-post-into-pdf button. Danke!

  7. Colossus' osmium steel? :)

    pdf'd and snagged... 'schwink'

  8. Pseudo-scientific genius! I'm really excited about eitr and liquid electricity...

    I believe I've only mentioned a few neo-substances in Humanspace:

    Diambrite-a super-scientific synthetic explosive. Inspired by Vance's Diambroid and Doc Smith;s Duodec.

    Duranium-a super metal, the Emperor of Humanspace sits on the Duranium Throne (duranium appears in Star Trek, Star Wars, and other places so I think it's fair game).

    Anti-Tox, Boon, Flask, and Vax-miracle drugs

    Slan-a life extending and powerful awareness spectrum anti-synthetic narcotic found only on Canopus 3.

    Wavium crystals- rare anti-synthetic crystals that transform light into inter-dimensional contra-gravitic waves. Power source for most Humanspace devices and basis of contra-gravitic technology. They eventually burn out and depleted wavium is a high explosive. See hand-wavium above.


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