Essence and Essential Compasses

General Info
A nugget of raw, purely chaotic magical energy condensed into physical form that can be harvested and collected as a crafting item. They are found throughout the world in seemingly random places, and at any level in strata. They rest in the fluffy poofs of clouds, lie hidden inside of an especially ripe fruit on an especially old tree, or they might be underground where they can be mined from between diamonds or found simply floating in the center of a cave. Essence are the byproduct of the magical currents that surround us. Wherever raw magical energy sees high concentration (such as at the intersections of ley lines or at the site of a battle wherein tons of magic was expelled at once) there’s an increased chance of some magical energy getting ‘captured’ in a ‘whirlpool’ of magic current and staying there long enough to ‘solidify.’ At least, that’s the simplest and most common theory. And that energy can then be used by the various races to craft incredible items of power.

Hence they are sought after by adventurers all over the world – those who know they exist anyway. Essences are so rare the average civilian is not aware of their presence, but those on the front lines of combat of any kind, or in a position of power or high education, know of their existence. They’re very rare, but enough exist in the world to encourage the ongoing hunt. Due to their chaotic, undirected nature, an essence might be found repeatedly in the same place, somewhere someone has looked repeatedly, or it might be reabsorbed into the natural flow of energy around it.

Essence have an odd feature. Once found, they ‘stabilize’ as if existence has acknowledged that it has been defined as an object in itself. This means that it can be harvested without disappearing. Once found by an intelligent being, it will not reabsorb. It stays where you put it.

Essential Compass
Finding essences, therefore, requires some luck and a special device called an Essential Compass. An Essential Compass looks like a palm sized wooden box with a regular old compass inside it, but for two features. One, with a Z axis, it is capable of pointing in any direction. And secondly, instead of being attuned to a direction the compass attunes itself to an essence placed inside the compass’s box. A super duper fancy compass worth 100,000g might be outfitted with delicate sensors to tell you the distance in feet you are from the essence, making the hunt easier, but creating sensors to locate objects that appear and disappear at random is a very difficult science.

This is handy, but it requires possession of an essence in order to find more, and a single essence of a common element (Fire, Water, Air, Rock) runs at 30,000g. Therefore, Essence Hunters require a lot of gold, a lot of luck, a good network, or a combination of all three to get started. However, even after collecting a sample of the essence you want to find more of, you still need to be within 100 yards of an essence for the compass to pick it up, and then you never know where it might be hidden. For example, you might be lead to the base of a mountain, where you find a solid rock cliff face. In this instance, you know what direction to mine in, but you have no idea just how far into the mountain it is. Similarly, using the example above, you might be lead to a great ancient tree. It would take some time to determine just where on or in the tree the essence is.

Size and Types of Essence
Physically, the average size of an essence is about an inch in all directions and it may shift between its elemental form and a solid form at random times. Touching the essence without some kind of tool deals serious damage because it contains so much energy. Alternately, you might accidentally run into its elemental form unknowingly, in which case the below damage descriptions apply within a certain range, at the DM’s discretion according to how the DM describes the element as manifesting itself. The type of saving throw can also be changed by the DM, depending on the circumstances, like falling into a whirl of water rather than touching with an unprotected hand.

  • Fire – 30,000g – Appears as a small flame, then reverts to a small lump of glowing coal or perhaps a candle. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 Saving Throw of the DM’s choice. On a fail, take 5d6 Fire damage.
  • Water – 30,000g – Appears as a puddle or whirlwind of water, then reverts to a pearl, seashell, or river rock. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 STR Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Bludgeoning damage as the force of this element knocks you away.
  • Air – 30,000g – Difficult to see. This is a whirlwind that reverts to what looks like a floating glass bubble or quartz.If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 STR Saving Throw of the DM’s choice. On a fail, take 5d6 Bludgeoning damage as the force of this moving element knocks you away.
  • Rock – 30,000g – Appears as a still or mobile puddle of dry sand or colored dust, then reverts to the form of a pebble or gem. These typically deal no damage.
  • Lightning – 50,000g – Appears as a ball of sparks, then reverts to what looks like a smooth orb with rolling clouds inside. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Lightning damage and you are knocked prone. On a success, you take half damage because lightning jumps.
  • Cold – 50,000g – Appears as a smattering or a whirlwind of snow or frost, then reverts to a lump of ice that is freezing to the touch or a snowball that doesn’t melt. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Cold damage.
  • Thunder – 60,000g – Thunder cannot be seen, only heard, and is very difficult to find when not in physical form. Using the ears, you can follow a cacophony of noise that bounces off any surrounding walls but emanates from a single point. Its physical form could be a hovering cloud or a noisy object, like the bell on a wind chime. Everyone within 30 feet of it must make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, anyone within 30 feet takes 5d6 Thunder damage and you are Deafened for 1 Minute. On a fail you take half damage. It can be contained in a metal or leather case of some sort, but glass will shatter.
  • Force – 60,000g – The elemental form can only be felt or seen as it acts on other objects. Within a radius of the center point, items might be floating, or gravity has been inverted or reduced, or those items are being repeatedly forcibly slammed into each other. Alternately, it might simply be an invisible wall that has no rhyme or reason to be there. Then suddenly that force is gone and the items or wall drops, reverting to its physical form which is completely invisible. It cannot be seen with a see invisibility spell because it is not an illusion, but pure magical force. It can be any shape and can be touched without damage in physical form, but cannot be seen. In elemental form, If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Fire bludgeoning damage as the element invisibly punches you, and you are knocked prone.
  • Nature/Life – 70,000g – Difficult to spot because its physical and elemental may appear exactly the same. May manifest as a moss, a flower, a leaf, a seed, or even a small animal like a mouse or snail. Life essence animals and plants usually have a tell, like a glowing shell or moss-like fur. Animal forms tend to be attracted to living things that are injured or sick before moving on like a normal animal. If you touch without protection, you are healed to full HP. It does no harm.
  • Death/Decay – 70,000g – Difficult to spot because its physical and elemental form may appear exactly the same. May manifest as a non-contagious disease inside a single victim, or it may take a more obvious physical form like an unusual spider or centipede, a fossil, or a bone. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Necrotic damage.
  • Light/Radiance – 70,000g – Appears as a single point of glowing light, like a star has fallen from the sky. It does not revert to a physical form, but can be moved by placing a bottle around it. If you touch without protection, make a DC 18 CON Saving Throw. On a fail, take 5d6 Radiant damage and you are Blinded for 1 minute.
  • Darkness/Void – 70,000g – Appears as a single point of nothing. A dot of darkness, like a tiny black hole, the absence of even light, a pocket that contains nothing and yet fills the space between something. This also has no physical form, but it moves with you when you place a bottle around it, as if responding to thought. If you touch without protection, there is no saving throw. Take 5d6 Force damage, and the portion of whatever touched it simply disappears.

These are the only known elements, but the above doesn’t quite cover everything…
((BTW: Poison damage is not covered by the above, because poison is manmade or secreted by animals/plants/magically constructed things. Armor that deals poison damage has poison on it, it’s not infused with poison as an ‘element.’))

DM Note – Treasure Item!
Again, I figure they’re a cool item to include in treasure hoards, or something to find while adventuring in some tunnels or something. Like finding Materia in Final Fantasy 7 – they’re everywhere, just one at a time.

Drop Frequency – I’d say with an Essential compass, a new one could be found once per session in the wild. Players could find up to 3 throughout 1 session in a hoard of treasure or while looting an Artificer’s office. To make them more attainable, larger Essence could be found, such as a “Large Essence” worth 3 regular size essence. This would allow the player to craft something cool faster if we’re not finding enough essence to make cool stuff by level 12.

Crafting with Essence
You can have a skilled blacksmith take an essence and “infuse” it into a material, usually liquid, such as molten metal. Infusion is a secret technique, wherein the essence is stabilized further – basically, the chaotic nugget of magic is given purpose, or order. Thus, it learns how to behave in a certain way. In Agrea, the most skilled artisans at using essence for armor and weaponry are certain blacksmiths. In theory, jewelers can set it in a necklace or something, but raw magical energy is not meant to be contained like this. Set into a necklace, touching it can cause the wearer damage. Infused into the metal of a necklace is different. Similarly, some artists might infuse their paints or clay with essence to achieve a visual effect, but again, this can be dangerous. Depending on the technique, touching a fire infused painting could set someone on fire.

To learn more about the kind of results you can get out of crafting with essence, visit the Crafting with Essence page.

Essence and Essential Compasses

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