Lyrium, radiation and madness

I don’t know if younoticed, but Dragon Age did something BRILLIANT.
It invented a substance of crystallized madness — Lyrium.

It’s the Uranium 238 of the psychotropic world — radiative & deadly, debilitating to the mind & spirit but not the body.
It’s also the “plot juice” that makes a lot of the series run: The dwarves mine it and thereby derive their magical immunity. The mages chug it like cool-aid to refill their mana. The Templars are carefully exposed to it & become super unmagical. And more: kryptonite-like, it comes in flavors and the flavors wreak various havocs, directly.
I think it plays some role in magic item creation, and probably the construction of Quieted mages?

I’m not ready to go that far — I think magic items work better as paragon exemplars of their type. But a substance of crystallized madness sounds ideal for my Azoth: an intrusion of the chaotic energies of that place warp thenatural world already; deciding that they deposit a permanent taint sounds very fitting!

An inorganic substance like horn or coral, Lyricum is found in places where the world grows thin and the energies of Azoth creep though, warping the stone and soil into stage organic shapes. These formations are much sought after by mages & kings, because they still carry the imprint and power of that fey place.

A constant menace to the miners of the stuff, as well as a byproduct of its refining, fine Lyricum Dust is a great hazard. When free in the air it forms thick ground-hugging hazes filled with whorls and eddies; it is water soluble and diverts the flow of water as well. It actively seeks thinking creatures to settle upon and in, forming auras around them.
Inhaled or imbibed, it causes visions and madness. Brief exposure, such as passing through a cloud of he stuff without holding one’s breath or ingestion of an ounce of liquid causes a “long term madness” with a duration of 1d10 minutes. An Intelligence (madness) saving throw against a DC of 10 negates. Call for this save upon first exposure and every hour thereafter.
Continued exposure while in this state (continuing to breathe or drink) increases the duration to 1d10x10 hours, no save.
Even under the strongest precautions, miners must make this save from daily to yearly (depending on quality of protective gear) or suffer an indefinite madness.
The “gas” is highly flammable, and the vapor it produces affects its victims with much greater potency. Bringing candles, torches, unshielded lamps etc. into a pocket of disturbed Lyricum dust causes it to explode (dealing 5d6 fire in the area, dexterity save DC 15 halves) and the fumes it produces cause an intense short term madness, intelligence save DC 15 negates. Sufferers of this madness are left with the debilitating long term madness as a parting gift.

You would have to be mad to intentionally wet down raw lyricum dust, form the resultant mud into sticks of incense with blood or honey as a binding agent, and then at some later date burn the tapers and intentionally inhale the smoke. And yet…
Lighting a taper takes an action. Entering the 10′ cube around a lit taper or ending ones turn there exposes one to the smoke. A lit taper burns for 1 minute unless extinguished, and a thrown taper has a 50% chance of going out.
The smoke affects the inhaler as burned Lyricum dust above, causing a short term madness to those who partake even the slightest. As a side effect, when the madness clears (and an unwilling participant may repeat their save at the end of each round while under the effects), the creature has +1d4 on intelligence, wisdom and charisma checks for one round. A DC 10 intelligence (madness) save negates the negative effects of the smoke, as does holding one’s breath.
Clever adventurers might keep a taper around as a sort of alchemical weapon, since most beasts are vulnerable to its intelligence-based saves and 50% of the results incapacitate the victim.
A single taper is a common magic item, and its manufacture should be regarded as similar to that of meth.

If manufactured into a gently glowing potion via admixture with quicksilver and other fixatives, a draught will affect the imbiber as per a single use of the Wand of Wonder, centered on themselves. That’s incredibly dangerous, naturally; study in unstable Lyricum is often regarded as a particularly expensive method of committing suicide.
A spellcaster under the effects of a Lyricum Draught experiences a slightly different side of the drug. They must make an Intelligence (madness) saving throw against a DC of 12 + the purity of the draught (rated 1-5). On a failure, the Wand of Wonder effect occurs, and the caster gains a long term madness. On a success, the madness is of a long term type, but lasts only 1d10 minutes and the caster may regain a spell slot of a level equal to or less than that of the purity of the Draught, which lasts until the madness ends. If they are unable to gain a slot equal to the purity of the Draught, the Wand of Wonder effect also occurs, but if they ride the lightning just so, the Wand of Wonder effect sublimates entirely into the spell slot.
Purity 1 is common, 2-3 uncommon, 4-5 rare.

Relatively rare within lyricum “groves”, egg-sized crystalline growths sometimes form. These talismans are highly sought after, functioning as pearls of power, frequently worked into jewelry, staves or similar. Possessing one for more than a year begins to risk long term madness.
Spells cast through a crystal’s restored slot always trigger a wild surge, per sorceror.
Both the long term madness and wild surge effects may be removed through careful treatments of the stone, though sources disagree over the precise formulae. The stones also take extremely well to enchantment, forming a core component of many extremely rare items.

These lair underground in lyricum intrusions, tending their silicate gardens.
Use the creature stats of a green dragon, but add the Euphoria Breath trait to the green dragon’s breath cloud (as an additional effect, same save DC but against Intelligence). Additionally, these dragons have innate, reactive, passive spellcasting powers; as a reaction to anyone casting a spell within the radius of their fear aura (or 15 feet if none), they may cast one of the following spells of a level equal to or less than the triggering spell, each once per day:
dancing lights, mage hand, minor illusion, color spray, mirror image, suggestion, major image, hallucinatory terrain, polymorph
Other than casting time this is in all ways a standard form of that spell, taking concentration, each spell only useable once, etc; the DC to resist the spell is equal to the dragon’s breath DC.

This so-called Lyricum Golem isn’t really; obtaining that much fissile lyricum is far too dangerous (but see lyricum elemental and greater lyricum golem!). Incorporating lyricum into the metal manufacture of arms and armor, however, can lend it sentience; laying the proper spells upon that frame transforms the whole into a helmed horror, or at least a variant thereof.
Instead of the Spell Immunity property of the Helmed Horror, the Lyricum Golem has the Tarrasque’s Reflective Carapace; when targeted by magic missile, line spells or ranged attack roll spells, it is unaffected and 1-in-6 the effect instead rebounds on the caster.

Actually made from the coral whorls of a lyricum growth, semi-stabilized in some unknown way, this dangerous creature is as a stone golem, with the Tarrasque’s reflective carapace (as above) and its slow ability instead inflicts a short term madness (DC 17 Intelligence (madness) save each round negates).

As an earth elemental, with AC 15 (instead of 17), lacking earth glide and seige monster, with the ability to discorporate or reincorporate as a bonus action, gaining fly 30′, air form (resist thunder, may pass through enemies, no damage on its attacks, immunity to prone and grapple). In any form, it emits lyricum dust; those exposed suffer a short term madness, DC 15 Intelligence (madness) saving throw negates. Those touching it or hitting it with melee attacks while within 5 feet are exposed. So are those within its space while the elemental is in air form. So are those it hits with its attacks while not in air form.
It has vulnerability to fire in any form, and in air form this vulnerability, uniquely, deals treble dsmage (instead of double). When it takes fire damage, all those within 20 feet take 5d6 fire, Dexterity save DC 15 halves, then expose them to the creature’s lyricum dust.
For every 5′ moved through liquid or each 5′ moved through it, it takes 1 point acid and loses its discorporate/incorporate, lyricum dust and explosive abilities for 1 round.

Normally, the gnomes’ advantage on mental saves provides a great measure of shielding from the effects of lyricum. Derro are communities of gnomes so tainted with the stuff that, while their immunity has kept them alive, that is all that can be said. Use evil, insane deep gnomes with an immunity to further madness or confusion effects for now; await better stats.


About lackhand

I was born in 1984 and am still playing games, programming computers, and living in New York City. View all posts by lackhand

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