The Second Great War and other stories
But perhaps the strangest and least-explicable element of arcane magic is the mage crystal. For the uninitiated, a mage crystal contains the remains of a mage’s power when he dies, in a format suitable for powering strong artifacts and augmenting certain spells. They are, however, finite in power, being essentially a natural version of a ring of spell storing, save that charging them up again is highly impractical and dangerous.
While its power is dependent on the mage’s power, remaining spells for the day, and manner of death wholly consistent with Skerry’s Law, its placement can be reliably predicted by no known theory. The Lonson study, below, showed that crystals formed naturally were about two hundred percent more likely than magically-formed ones to incorporate the dead mage’s essence. The Loehmann study, also below, showed the exact opposite, with magically-formed crystals almost twelve times more likely to become mage crystals. Similar studies have shown similarly contradictory results about the location of the dead mage, distance to the dead mage, age of the dead mage, facing direction of the crystals, and even the purity of the crystals.
The only point that remains consistent is that the mage crystal does not emanate magic for at least three weeks after it is formed, with more powerful ones taking more time to mature. Unfortunately, their power means that buying crystals for experimentation is rarely cost-effective and results in the least powerful crystals being the most available for study. While the defense of the land is surely the most important use of such crystals, one must wonder whether the convenience of powering lights or the proposed “mage-train” (from Avadi to Home to Vilarys) are more worthy than study of the world around us.
—Sophitia Vargen, On the Mage Crystal
Mage crystals are prized among artificers and other craftsmen for the power they contain. Mage crystals were first used in wands and staves, but have since been used in almost any magic item or effect. In most cases, the market price of a mage crystal is as fixed and unchanging as the market value of a gold piece, and powerful mage crystals are often traded among the wealthy in place of large quantities of gold.
Including a mage crystal as part of a wand reduces the wand’s XP cost to create by 1/25 of the mage crystal’s market price. It is possible to reduce the XP cost of the wand to zero in this manner. The time required to create the item decreases proportionally as well, to a minimum of 1/10 the original required time (minimum 1 hour). The formula is as follows:
(Time required) = (Time normally required) * (0.1 + 0.9 * (Actual XP cost) / (Normal XP cost))
When the wand’s charges are depleted, the mage crystal’s powers have been exhausted. A new one can be inserted by a trained professional in place of the old for a nominal fee, following the same rules as laid out above for creating the wand in the first place save one: The cost in gold to recharge the wand is also reduced by the same amount as the time required to recharge it.
The preceding also holds true for staves, potions (the potion is brewed with the mage crystal inside), scrolls (the mage crystal is dissolved in the ink), and other limited-use items. For items that have uses per day, the calculations are far more complicated.
The market price of mage crystals is almost as fixed as that of gold, and adventurers finding mage crystals can be assured of receiving their full value if they should choose to sell them (assuming a reputable merchant). There are many types of mage crystal, but the twelve most common are listed here, along with their prices:
Type O: 25 gp.
Type I: 200 gp.
Type II: 1,600 gp.
Type III: 5,400 gp.
Type IV: 12,800 gp.
Type V: 25,000 gp.
Type VI: 43,200 gp.
Type VII: 68,600 gp.
Type VIII: 102,400 gp.
Type IX: 145,800 gp.
Type X: 200,000 gp.
Type K: often 1,000,000 gp or more.
Type K mage crystals are incredibly rare and highly unusual. They are almost universally found in strange and hard-to-reach places, such as high mountaintops or the depths of an ocean trench. Their market price is astronomical, for the simple reason that it is nearly impossible to exhaust a type K mage crystal’s power reserves. Regardless of how much power is drawn from the crystal, it always seems to have more. Furthermore, a type K mage crystal often produces a warping effect on magic cast in its immediate vicinity, especially if cast directly on the crystal. Most spells rebound off of a type K mage crystal, even if they can’t normally be reflected.
Some spells, however, such as flame strike and prismatic wall have been known to detonate a type K mage crystal, causing it to fling all of its stored magical energy outward at once. Such an explosion is of highly variable intensity; it could be as dangerous as a pinprick, or it could be large enough to vaporize an entire building. Worse, however, is that a single detonating type K mage crystal will also detonate any other nearby type K mage crystals, with unspeakably deadly results. The largest known such detonation occurred in the Eastlands village of Efrifava. Four type K mage crystals were accidentally detonated by an absent-minded alchemist, vaporizing the entirety of the village, deforesting everything within a two-mile radius, creating a crater almost fifty feet deep, opening a temporary portal to the Negative Energy Plane (several creatures that wandered through the portal ended up destroying a good fifth of the nearest town before their own destruction), and (probably) causing an earthquake to strike the city of Libiros, some 300 miles away.