Lakes of Blood and Ash
GUIDE: Crafting Artifacts Artifact 101
The first step is designing the artifact.
Before crafting an artifact, a character must first design it—deduce the materials and procedures needed to create patterns of Essence that achieve the desired effect.
Botching on a design roll introduces unnoticed flaws in the design, which negatively impact the final product. This could represent an oversight (not realizing the process must begin under a full moon) or sabotage from a rival. It may manifest by adding a drawback to the artifact (see p. 16) or increasing the severity of an existing drawback. Multiple botches may do both, or stack to create truly legendary drawbacks.
Crafting a Design
The most difficult way to design an artifact is to work from first principles. The character has nothing from which to work and makes all decisions regarding the artifact’s construction as part of the extended creation roll.
About half the crafting time actually consists of research and experimentation, just as sorcerers must (often disastrously) cast their half-formed spells. Up to half the research (a quarter of the total necessary successes) can be done theoretically.
A character doesn’t need a workshop or tools while working theoretically, and he can retain all accumulated successes as long as he carefully records all his work (and doesn’t lose these records). Discovering necessary exotic materials is a natural part of this process; seeking them out delays the extended roll without endangering the final project.
Every five successes reveal one necessary exotic ingredient in addition to accomplishing preliminary crafting.
First Age artisans could access complete design notes, including step-by-step instructions and comments on the process from millennia-old masters. Second Age artisans are rarely so lucky.
Plans reduce the cumulative crafting difficulty by half and reduces the time for material determination. By definition, original artifacts can never benefit from this bonus. Characters can seek out complete artifact designs in a number of places.
Creation’s most complete arcane libraries (in the Imperial Manse, Lookshy, Mahalanka and one or two other locations) hold hundreds of designs but are jealously guarded. Other artifact designs are recorded in ciphers now nearly impossible to crack. Still more reside only within the minds of surviving First Age Lunars and Sidereals, though persuading them to share such secrets would be a pretty trick indeed.
The disadvantage of using someone else’s finished design is that you must also use exactly the same magical ingredients. If an artifact’s design calls for nothing more exotic than jade or orichalcum, this is not much of a problem.
By examining its Essence patterns and its physical form in minute detail, the character can puzzle out how it functions and backtrack through its creative process.
The player makes an (Intelligence + Occult) roll at a difficulty of the artifact’s rating. Add the roll’s threshold to the Artifact rating; the character adds two dice to his crafting rolls for a number of rolls equal to this number. This only serves as a limit; the actual reverse engineering takes place during the time represented by the extended crafting roll.
Dissecting the artifact allows a character to more intimately see how it works. If the (Intelligence + Occult) roll is successful, double the number of crafting rolls to which the dice bonus applies. This destroys the subject artifact.
Botching a crafting roll using this method destroys the artifact prematurely and dangerously in addition to any other effects. The character (and anyone working with him) suffers a number of lethal levels of damage equal to the artifact’s rating squared as its essence explosively flows back into Creation.
If a character works with magical materials not natural to him (a Solar working jade, or a mortal working any material), his player suffer a -2 internal penalty on each roll. First Age artisans circumvented this limitation by working together, a practice that would work just as well today. Having a single qualified Exalted assistant of the ideal type eliminates the penalty.
Jade – Colors in white, blue, green, red, black. Dragonblooded exalts are best sought for crafting in these materials. 1 pound of jade costs Resources x3. Nine pounds costs Resources x4, 25 pounds costs Resources x5.
White jade adds +2 to damage and +1 to the difficulty of rolls to resist knockdown and stunning caused by the weapon. White jade occurs beneath mountains and near large
deposits of dense stone. It is incredibly plentiful beneath the Imperial Mountain, directly over the Elemental Pole of Earth. The Realm uses white jade for its official currency because it resists wear and is so readily available. White jade is ideal for artifacts that manipulate earth and stone or restrain another being’s mind.
Green jade adds +1 to damage and steals one mote of Essence from living creatures that take damage from the attack, transferring it to the wielder. Green jade looks as if it grew like a plant. It develops in regions of plentiful vegetation, such as thick forests
or jungles, often entangled among the roots of the greatest trees. Wood elementals and forest gods often become protective of the jade that forms naturally in their domains. Green jade is best for controlling plants, affecting animals and drawing ambient Essence into an artifact.
Red jade adds +3 to damage due to intense heat. Red jade deposits appear in the hottest regions of the world—beneath active volcanoes and in the center of scorching deserts. Its location makes it diffi cult to harvest, sometimes requiring Fire Aspects, artifact-equipped mortals or summoned elementals to retrieve it. Red jade is warm to the touch and often flickers in the light. It is perfect for controlling fire or making people immune to it, as well as causing harm or heightening reflexes.
Black jade adds +1 to damage and adds +2 to defense. Black jade forms in deep lakes where water pools for a long time and in large seas. The floor of the Western Ocean holds astoundingly quantities, but most of it is so many miles beneath the surface that even Water Aspects cannot easily obtain it. Even a thin shaving of black jade seems to hold infinite depth, making it highly prized as a meditation aid. Apart from controlling water, this variety of jade works well for affecting or communicating with gods, elementals and demons.
Blue jade adds +1 to damage and +2 to Rate. Blue jade looks almost translucent with misty shapes that appear and vanish. Occultists and soothsayers sometimes use these shapes as an alternative to reading entrails or the constellations. This jade appears in areas of rarified air or great cold, such as the heights of the Imperial Mountain or the glacial wastes of the North. Artifacts that control the weather or sense or affect thought are usually best made with blue jade.
Each bonus is available to any Terrestrial Exalt who attunes the artifact (or other Exalted who make the effort), not just Dragon-Bloods of the appropriate element. Only one bonus applies, even when a weapon incorporates multiple types of jade. Bonuses apply equally to hand-to-hand and ranged artifact weapons.
A workshop capable of working jade is a Resources 3 expense.
Moonsilver – This magical material forms only in the Wyld. Beams of moonlight unpredictably illuminate a region of the Bordermarches or Middlemarches, boiling off the Wyld and distilling its Essence into the fluid, waterylooking moonsilver.
Moonsilver is ideal for artifacts that emphasize fluidity, transience, chaotic change, sleep and dreams, among other things.
The Lunar Exalted also developed special Charms to help them work moonsilver.
Stabilize Moonsilver (2, Perception, 3, one hour): Raw moonsilver must be collected at night under the light of the moon. The raw moonsilver is still unstable with residual Wyld-energy. Through coaxing songs and careful taps and strokes with crystal hammers and probes, the artisan quiets the Wyldness remaining in the raw moonsilver so it becomes a stable metal. Pacify it too much and it freezes into silver; hit it too hard, and it shatters into drops of quicksilver.
Orichalcum – The golden magical material of the Solar Exalted is the strongest of all the magical materials.
Artisans can find orichalcum where it forms naturally, or they can distill their own from molten gold. Natural deposits appear in areas where sunlight streams down upon an area heated by the blood of the earth—magma. Left there for centuries, gold deposits melt and distill naturally into orichalcum, which earthquakes and shifting earth eventually moves deeper or darker underground where it remains until mined.
Orichalcum is in scarce supply in the Second Age of Man. Any remaining deposits are heavily protected.
Distill Orichalcum (2, Stamina, 3, one week): Purifying gold into orichalcum can only be done at a source of molten lava. It also requires large, high-precision mirrors to concentrate sunlight on the molten gold. Boiling the gold continuously for a week, using magma and sunfi re, to drive out impurities, is not intellectually challenging… but the prolonged, constant attention to direct the mirrors and keep the lava from contaminating the gold is remarkably fatiguing.
OTHER SOURCES OF MAGICAL MATERIALS
Each magical material’s description suggests where to obtain or how to make that material.
Other sources exist. For example, when a human prays to a specifi c god, those prayers materialize in Yu-Shan in the form of ambrosia, which the gods value highly. Ambrosia may be made into nearly anything (and is always of fi ner quality than the most expensive such goods in Creation proper), including jade. There is, therefore, a great deal of jade in Yu-Shan. However, only ambrosia created by prayer to the Unconquered Sun, Luna or the Five Maidens can become that particular Incarna’s associated magical material. Acquiring ambrosia is a neat trick, but so is mining the Labyrinth, dodging Realm garrisons at orichalcum mines, or beating the Sidereals to a fallen star. Another source, which the gods do not discuss for obvious reasons, is the gods themselves. Through special Charms, a god may be forged into artifacts of jade. They may also be forged into artifacts of orichalcum, moonsilver or starmetal, but they provide very small quantities of each unless they are direct servants of the relevant gods—in which case using their Essence for trinkets may
not be a good idea.
Neither of the above methods creates soulsteel. In the First Age, soulsteel was a recognized and oftabused magical material. It has many uses, and using it treads on no gods’ toes. Only the walking dead objected then, and few in the First Age gave their opinions much weight. Execution in a manner to create a ghost, followed by permanent imprisonment in soulsteel, became a First Age punishment for criminals of the worst sort, such as serial murderers and traitors against the Deliberative. Lost workshops may still hold caches of soulsteel.
Artificers use magical materials because they are usually ideal to contain the desired Essence pattern the artifact requires. But magical materials are fairly blank slates, and a craftsman must seek out other occult elements to complete the artifact. The natural Essence patterns of these exotic ingredients reinforce those desired in the wonder or serve as a mold to shape the artifact’s Essence flow.
Artificers use exotic materials in various ways. These ingredients may be alloyed into the magical metal, woven into cloth (often through magic), used to fuel mystic fires for glassblowing or forging, sublimated into the material or anything else appropriate to the task. An ingredient might also find use in a tool used in creating the artifact, such as brewing other ingredients in the skull of a sage who confounded 10 gods, or wielding chisels made from a Second Circle demon’s teeth.
In nearly every case, acquiring such materials requires an arduous search of some kind. The more powerful the desired artifact, the more rarefied the necessary components. Ingredients may be conceptual, such as “the last dream of a fetus before it is born,” but this requires dealing with Fair Folk nobles, demon princes or other powerful, dangerous entities that can blur the categories of reality and turn concepts into tangible entities.
Once a character designs the artifact and acquires the necessary magical materials and components, she may build it—assuming she has a proper place in which to work. The base difficulty to craft an artifact is equal to (artifact’s rating + 2), and each roll represents a season of work. An improperly furnished workspace only makes it harder. In the First Age, Exalted built massive ateliermanses for their crafts, which provided an infinite variety of tools and workspaces while automatically rearranging the geomancy of the workspace for maximum harmony with the current project. Second Age artificers are not nearly so lucky. Fortunately, crafting daiklaves and other “no moving parts” artifacts requires less exotic equipment than does magitech, which cannot be built or repaired without a host of dedicated tools. On the other hand, relying on craftsmanship instead of motonic science and refabricated components means that even the best workshops offer less benefit to artisans.
Workspaces range from ideal (the above ateliermanses) to rudimentary (a hut with a few scavenged tools). The quality of the workspace includes the existence, quality of and appropriateness of the tools within that space. A rudimentary workshop is virtually free, but that’s its only benefit. It applies an external penalty of -4 to all rolls to craft an artifact because of the great lack of preparedness. Shaping Hand Style (see The Manual of Exalted Power—The Dragon-Blooded, p. 142) makes hands into effective tools of any mundane sort and allows a character to function at this level without any workshop at all.
A basic workshop is well-equipped but entirely mundane in its focus. This is a village blacksmith’s forge, carpenter’s shop, weaver’s loom or other setup with all the necessary tools. It costs Resources 3 to build a shop and Resources 2 each month to maintain it. The basic workshop applies a -2 external penalty to all artifact crafting rolls. A character using Craftsman Needs No Tools (see Exalted, p. 213) or Clay-Wetting Practice (see The Manual of Exalted Power—The Lunars, p. 149), both of which allow an Exalt to function without tools, operates at this level.
A master’s workshop comes with every tool one could want for mundane artifi ce, whether the craft is weaving, gem-cutting or alchemy. It certainly includes several tools of superior workmanship, and maybe a few of perfect workmanship or preserved from the Shogunate or Old Realm. Such a workshop costs Resources 4 to build and Resources 3 each month to maintain, but does not penalize the rolls to create the artifact. Founding a workshop of this sort is sure to draw attention, unwanted by most returning Solars.
A flawless workshop is stocked entirely with perfect or First Age tools. The artisan has every mundane ingredient found in Creation, and a few exotic ingredients from demesnes, the Wyld, the Fair Folk or other arcane sources. The Dragon-Blooded preserved such workshops through the Usurpation, so contemporary savants and artificers call them Shogunate-style workshops. The Realm, Lookshy and a few other nations of exceptional wealth build and maintain a few flawless workshops; the sidereals and the Silver Pact own a few more. A flawless workshop adds two dice to each crafting roll. Assembling a flawless workshop requires a labor pool like that necessary for creating a three-dot manse, and the spiritual impact is significant. People sensitive to mundane or spiritual events must notice such a workshop’s construction unless the artisans take extreme and supernatural measures for secrecy.
An ideal workshop consists of a First Age factory cathedral or atelier-manse. Such facilities must be part of powerful manses (see the “Factory-Cathedral” manse power on p. 78). They also require three powerful, exotic components every year to continue operating. An ideal workshop adds four dice to artifact crafting rolls. These wonders have all ceased to function since the Usurpation, and the Fair Folk and the Wyld destroyed
• Toys and Minor Tools
One-dot artifacts have minor effects with limited influence on the game. One-dot artifacts are weak. They might amaze a mortal, but a one-dot artifact should not much impress an Exalt; they do cooler things themselves. Such artifacts are often tools of convenience: writing brushes that take dictation, or cups that create limited amounts of water or ale. The least of the artifact weapons and armors are one-dot artifacts because they improve only slightly on the mundane weapon.
Most magical toys are one-dot artifacts; some of these may have an incidental ability to aid a very limited set of tasks. Very large toys may have greater artifact values to represent their grand scale and that they required more effort to craft. Artifacts with minor benefits may require less committed or spent Essence. One value of toys (versus the more effective minor tools at this level) is that they are more easily sold. Rich lords may spend money for an animate soldier; fewer care to own an aid to surviving the wilderness.
Maximum benefits: Attributes +1, Abilities +2,
Soak +2 and Hardness 2, Damage +2, Rate +0
Standard Essence (C/E): 2m/2m
Examples: A brush that paints as its owner mentally directs, enabling it to include details smaller than most humans can manage. This decreases the difficulty of appropriate rolls by one and works while the character performs other actions. A drum that slowly beats through the night without a player, keeping wild animals away. Toys: A toy soldier that animates and moves as directed. A Gateway board that plays out its own games. The first might aid in increasing the War skill if used in numbers, decreasing the untutored training time by one day. The second might similarly reduce training for a Gateway specialty under War or Lore.
•• Effective Tools
Two-dot artifacts are quite useful in specific circumstances or moderately useful in a broader range of situations. An artifact falls at this level if it has significant effects on the game by eliminating certain worries or strongly aiding a range of actions. These artifacts allow a character to surpass certain obstacles with relative ease. A two-dot weapon might take beating a mortal opponent easy but only provide a small advantage against other Exalted. Two-dot artifacts are common enough (especially as daiklaves) that their advantages generally balance out when they go up against each other. Two-dot artifacts may mimic the powers of Charms with Essence minimums of one or two.
Maximum benefits: Attributes +2, Abilities +4,
Soak +4 and Hardness 4, Damage +4, Rate +1
Standard Essence (C/E): 5m/3m
Examples: A pair of sandals that increases the character’s foot speed is somewhat useful in combat, in competition and when every second of dashing counts, making it generally useful and a two-dot artifact. A chair that makes the person seated in it aware of all who approach is a two-dot artifact, because it doesn’t automatically defeat Stealth Charms and is conditional. A lantern whose glow illuminates the undead is handy only when such creatures are concealed. A whip that gives those struck by it a -1 MDV penalty toward the wielder is not tremendously potent, but useful no matter what sort of order the character wishes to give.
Three-dot artifacts confer a great advantage in a single discipline or a significant advantage in a broad range of circumstances. These powerful items give their owners significant abilities denied to people who lack such artifacts. A character with a grand daiklave, facing a character with no artifact weapon whatsoever, gets all the bets. Although truly clever or powerful characters may be able to best the effects of a three-dot artifact in its area of focus, it’s rarely a sure thing.
Three-dot artifacts may change the way certain aspects of the game are played. Artifact weapons are common enough that possessing one, even a three-dot artifact weapon, only escalates combat rather than changing it. But a knot that captures sorcery and paper that becomes any contract, written and signed, provide entirely new solutions to the game’s conflicts. Threedot artifacts can be equated with Essence 3 or 4 Solar Charms, but it’s a rough balance.
Maximum benefits: Attributes +3, Abilities +6,
Soak +6 and Hardness 6, Damage +6, Rate +2
Standard Essence (C/E): 8m/5m
Examples: Anyone would fear, and rightly so, the warrior who wields a grand goremaul in battle. A belt of bat wings that grants the ability to walk as a shadow confers a matchless power. An enchanted mirror that allows a character to speak through other mirrors is extremely useful, especially in Exalted’s world of limited travel and communication. A staff that places objects (not people) it strikes Elsewhere, and can call them back just as quickly, has a myriad uses in a clever character’s hands.
•••• Greater Wonders
Four-dot artifacts provide overwhelming advantages in their spheres of influence, or great advantages in many situations. These wonders perform feats that are fl at-out impossible to most inhabitants of Creation, letting the character travel miles in the blink of an eye or shape the earth with a melody. A character equipped with a four-dot artifact has an advantage over anyone else in the artifact’s realm of effect—even four-dot weapons rarely cancel each other out, as their unique powers are not easily predicted or countered.
Four-dot artifacts almost inevitably change some aspect of the game. Characters who wield them have very attractive options open to them that are closed to nearly everyone else, which can avail them with a variety of problems. A character with a singing staff (see Exalted, p. 392) can use it to shape the course of a battle, provide irrigation or break into a
vault just as easily. This broad usefulness suggests a diminished focused power, and it’s true: the singing staff is hardly insurmountable by opponents—but it opens possibilities a character might not imagine otherwise. Four-dot artifacts are roughly on par with high-end Essence 4 and Essence 5 Charms, or Celestial-circle sorcery.
Standard Essence (C/E): 10m/6m
Examples: A clockwork bird that can lead its owner to any named person or object in Creation. A shield that protects its wielder completely from all physical harm as long as the owner harms no one. A seed that grows a forest overnight. A needle that, when used to pierce the eardrum, allows a character to eavesdrop on anything he can imagine.
••••• True Marvels
Five-dot artifacts offer unbeatable advantages in their areas of focus, or overwhelming advantages in many situations or in a few potentially vital conflicts. Whatever powers an artifact of this level possesses, they are usually unique and often impossible to counter. A daiklave of conquest (see Exalted, p. 392) makes a character a supernal general who will nearly always rout her enemies. Memories cut from victims of the Forgotten Edge can never be regained. A Dragon- Blooded warrior with the Eye of the Fire Dragon should be a true nightmare to the Solar Exalted. It is hard to quantify a five-dot artifact’s range of power more precisely than above, but they may be likened to higher-Essence Charms (6+) or Celestial or Solar Circle sorcery.
Standard Essence (C/E): 10m/8m
Examples: A key that opens any door and allows the owner to step out through any other doorway he wishes. A great orichalcum staff that can deflect any attack toward another target, including overtly magical attacks. A knife that severs committed Essence and ends lasting enchantments permanently. A prayer strip that ensures that a single object will never again be found by anyone.