Friday, April 8, 2011

F is for Firedust, Fair Folk, and Food

Although Malaster does not have guns, per se - they do have explosives. Alchemists have produced a variety of substances that go boom when sufficient (which can mean any, in some cases) heat, pressure, or electricity are applied to them. Explosives are, as a rule, at least as hazardous as they are in our world, usually more expensive, and are by no means general-purpose materiels - rather, they are tools, for the most part, of highly trained specialists.

Firedust is by far the most common of Malastrian explosives. It is, in fact, exactly what it says it is - firedust is Essence of Fire, reduced and purified into a crystalline form. In its purest state, firedust is extremely hazardous, and aggressively unstable - to the point where magical protections and tools are needed to handle it. Instead, firedust is mixed into various other concoctions, to lend them some of its elemental nature. Depending on the exact formulation, firedust preparations can be used as rocket propellants (although rockets are largely considered to be of dubious value in warfare, except as signaling devices or distractions), produce voluminous clouds of smoke, as a blasting charge, or as explosives in grenades - usually "blast" type, rather than fragmentation type (although experimental versions of the latter exist).

Firedust's major problem (aside from its cost, and the general hazards of working with explosives in a world where Burning Hands is a first level spell...) is that the more of it is in a mixture or charge, the more unstable the firedust gets - the assumption is that there is some sort of sympathetic resonance that occurs. While this is rarely a problem with contained charges, large amounts of firedust, even in suspension/mixture, are difficult to work with safely, restricting the possible size and power of firedust based devices. As a result, most firedust devices are easily man-portable, and few are larger than a small keg (5 gallon or so) in size.

As of yet, Firedust - and other alchemical explosives - have made relatively little impact on the battlefield - they are hazardous, expensive, and hard enough to use that only trained individuals can make proper use of most of them, which has so far restricted them to specialty units, "reconnaissance" forces, and the like.

Fair Folk
Faeries, Boggans, Boggarts, Sidhe, Brownies, Barghests, Nixies, Pixies, and Yosei, the six-and-thirty sisters of Yakshini, and the six-and-twenty of Apsara, Kilmoulis, Leprechauns, and a host of others. Call them the Fae, or the Fair Folk. Heap praise upon them, and keep your criticisms tightly reined - or cleverly worded - because drawing the wrath of the Fae upon you is far from wise.

Fortunately, the Fair Folk are not as common on Malaster as they were in the Old Country - and in the centuries since the Diaspora, many have forgotten the old ways of propitiating them. But while they have lessened in number, they are not extinct, and in the forgotten places, they still gather.

Although there are some suggestions that Elves and the Fair Folk share some common ancestry, elven-kind are not generally considered to be part of the Fae hosts. Despite this, the Sidhe, and the sisters of Yakshini and Apsara are well-inclined towards their Elven cousins(?), and there are more than a few legends of the offspring of unions between elves and these greater Fae.

Fae magics are strange and powerful, but also specific and limited - they have access to impressive illusions and glamours, and spells that can befuddle the wits and sap the will of their opponents, but few if any defensive magics, and almost no directly offensive ones. And their spells are often restricted in some way or another - they may only be able to create winds that blow widdershins, for example, or create specific illusions that are often not useful. Nearly all Fae magics react poorly to the touch of cold iron, and even the mightiest of the Fair Folk are vulnerable to iron that has never known heat in its forging - even those who have a geas protecting them from conventional weapons.

People on Malaster eat food. Surprising, but true.

I'm generally not going to spend a lot of time talking about food on Malaster - they have food, some of it looks a lot like what we eat, some of it is what we eat (but they might have different names for it), some of it isn't much at all like what we eat in specifics, but close enough in generalities that it's close enough. So the characters might have sostera berry cakes with kalwen syrup and yik-yik butter for break-fast - but, frankly, if it looks like blueberry griddle cakes with maple syrup and butter, and smells like it, then it probably is - or close enough.

Where foods are culturally significant, or might have some secondary effect (whether herbal, alchemical, magical, or merely cultural) from being consumed, that will be a different matter - but in general, players should feel free to assume that geographically appropriate foods are easily available, and those that aren't might be available at times, or in some forms (preserves, for example, or canned goods), but are going to be more expensive, or require magical intervention (which is available, and is certainly used in some cases).

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