Dal Tana, the Magical Salts of Shastra

General Notes

Dal Tana is the name given to the Five Salts that power salt mages. These salts can be consumed (in moderation) as food. Chefs all over the world make dishes with the bright colors of the salts. As such, most shops sell at least a little red, yellow, and blue salt. Black salt is the rarest and most expensive, rivaling the prices of fine jewelry. White salt is so common that it can be purchased in bulk for a few coppers.

Salt Mages, though, spend their lives mastering the ten forms defined by the accepted two-color and three-color combinations of the five salts. Each two-color combination fuels a different category of magical spells while the three-color combinations unlock special magical abilities.

Salt Mages use their own language to name and activate their spells. The source for this information uses Shastranusian words as is it provided from the miners and formen of the salt mines. These words appear in italics.

Mother of Salt

Mother-of-Salt (Flanya Vi Priru), is the source of the five salts. It transforms soil and rock to salt wherever it is buried, starting with black salt and growing outward to the other colors. The longer it is left undisturbed, the larger the salt deposits generated from the mother-of-salt. The largest mines in Shastra are believed to come from a single mother-of-salt that has been untouched for thousands of years.

Shastran Alchemists (Enzarosh) believe that they can split a Mother-of-Salt in two allowing for the creation of new mines. However, given the time scale required to generate enough salt, this is only theoretical.

Mining the Salt

Mining salt in Shastra is an arduous task. Salt must be dug out by hand with non-magical tools. It cannot be flooded with water to make brine for extraction by evaporation. The water will ruin the magical properties and flavors of the salt. Magic tools or even nearby magic items have a corrupting effect on black salt and a destructive effect on Mother-of-Salt.

Shastran Artificers (Oon Zerosh) are in high demand. They are renown throughout the world due to their extensive experience building effective, yet non-magical drills. These muscle-powered drills are similar to Archimedes screws normally used to pump water. The salt is hard, yet brittle; the drills are designed to allow most of the broken pieces to be gathered into carts. Drills range in size from the lever-powered tunnel borers to the personal hand drills operating by turning a crank.

As the miners dig deeper into the mine, some are tasked with reinforcing the tunnels with arches. Shastran Alchemists (Enzarosh) have developed a thick paste that interacts with the salt to create a substance they call concrete. The paste has a simple formula, lime, manufactured rock sand (meo loisha) or volcanic ash, and a bit of water. When the paste is applied to the walls of the tunnel, it transforms into a concrete arch to keep the tunnel from collapsing.

Working in the salt mine is dangerous without protective equipment. The three biggest dangers are dehydration, hypothermia, and inhalation of the salt. To protect from dehydration, miners cover all skin with a thick cloth garment and gloves. This also prevents hypothermia from the unnaturally cold tunnels. To prevent inhalation of the salt, Shastran Alchemists have developed a type of electrum called Gretuer Mona that makes the salt inert. A mask made of Gretuer Mona covers the nose and mouth of the miner. From time to time, an inert bright pink dust gathers on the mask and the miners merely wipe it off with their gloves.

Other Hazards of Salt Mining

The five salts react strongly to the presence of magic and spellcasters (Inzarosh) except for Salt Mages and Psions. The five salts become volatile and either activate random magical effects or detonate magical items and spellcasters. They doesn't affect the fey or fey creatures unless they use magic or cast spells. If the salt activates random magic, much of the precious salt is lost.

To protect the salt, security around the mine entrances is tight and the penalties severe. Guards line a perimeter around mine openings far enough away that magic will not trigger the salt. Visitors are questioned and sent away peacefully. Those that resist face nullification or worse.

Shastran alchemists originally developed Gretuer Mona to non-magically detect the presence of magic or persons that employ magic. Sprinkled on suspected magical items or spellcasters, it turns into a fine, brightly-colored pink dust in the presence of magic. The electrum alloy doesn't discriminate between divine or arcane spellcasters.

Those that do no consent to the test will discover that one or two psionic guards are stationed at every post. The guards will cover the area with Gretuer Mona to nullify any magic items and disrupt spells. Then they will attempt to force feed an elixir made with the electrum alloy to all trespassers. The elixir will temporarily nullify the ability to cast spells or commune with deities or patrons. It is extremely painful to spellcasters through intense headaches and a burning sensation. Sorcerers will writhe in intense pain from the transformation of their blood into dust. All others will have stomach pains, but no other harmful effects.

The elixir can last anywhere between two hours to forty days depending on the amount swallowed and the constitution of the victim. (This had horrific effects in the last war 30 years ago). The guards are punitive by order of the king. They will continue to force feed elixir until trespassers are unconscious or dead. For those they do not employ magic, either the psions will drive them away or the guards will cut them down. The five salts are the primary income for the Shastran kingdom, so no quarter is given to any potential threat.

Any unauthorized Salt Mage that approaches a salt mine suffers a fate worse that nullification. They are poisoned by their own salt, doomed to become a brightly colored zombie that vomits blue and red salt or a Dessicate (darnyawu), a Salt Mage lich whose magic is fueled by their body.

In short, don't mess with the guards of a salt mine. Since you cannot use spells or magic items to combat them, they will mess you up in ways worse than death.

Shastranusian Words

  • Cran Manucho - A brightly colored zombie that vomits bright red and blue salt created by posioning a salt mage with their own salt.
  • Danu Poa - Literally the Hollow Person. This is the name for those that use psionic powers.
  • Darnyawu - The Salt Mage lich created by poisoning a salt mage with their own salt.
  • Enzarosh - Shastran Alchemists. They are known for developing concrete, electrum alloys, and the nullification elixir. They are also employed to refine raw salt into its five component salts.
  • Flanya Vi Priru - Mother-of-Salt, the source of the Five Salts.
  • Gretuer Mona - An electrum alloy made of gold, silver, and a bit of platinum. The Shastran Alchemists alone know the formula. It can detect the presence of magic or magical items.
  • Inzarosh - A generic term in Shastran for any creature that can cast spells.
  • Meo Loisha - Manufactured rock sand. Shastran Alchemists and Artificers worked together to create this cheaper substitute for volcanic ash, a critical component in making concrete. Meo Loisha has to be very fine, almost like dust to active the salt in the mines.
  • Oon Zerosh - Shastran Artificers. They are renown for the creation of non-magical and non-clockwork machinery used to dig in the salt mines. They also worked with alchemists to develop a material used in making concrete.

Safety, Coffee, & Three Ring Binders

In my previous post, I mentioned a Session Zero document. It is based on a handful I've seen around the internet and on Consent in Gaming by Monte Cook Games. I also added in a questions about content like Psionics, Clockwork, Spelljamming, etc. I will link to it here, but know that it is incomplete. I texted the group more information about the x-card as well as Lines and Veils along with the Support Flower, but those are not in the document yet. I am also considering the addition of Stars and Wishes because it is positive and affirming. Any advice on Lines and Veils or Stars and Wishes is welcome.

The content parts of Session Zero focus on specifics of the setting. In my first draft I asked for Low Fantasy vs. High Fantasy on a scale of 1 to 10. I realized though, that these players had never played with me, so they didn't know about The Temple of Oa, Hewcasters, The Soulless, or the Crabmen of Hlong Khagee. They don't know about the alternate ships of my Spelljammer or the competitor civilization to the Arcane.

I also realized that High Fantasy to me is really out there with flying cities, lunar colonies, and accessible portals to everywhere. The idea of aerial combat may be a '10' on High Fantasy to them. Without stating my default assumptions and asking if they okay with those assumptions, I had no real way to determining what was fun for them, much less what they wanted me to add-on.

That One Thing

The item that generated the most questions was the Coffee is Common trope. Here is how I describe it:

Coffee creates a different kind of tavern. In the real world, coffeehouses sparked great ideas, debates, and heated philosophical discussions. Alcohol sparks the appearance of great ideas, as well as debates and heated discussions or a different sort.

In other words, a meeting place that kept everyone sober had a profound effect. Some of the ideas propelled revolutions and literary movements. It doesn't mean it's all positive, but I imagine a place that fosters sober, albeit energetic, discourse would have all kinds of scientific discourse. In a fantasy world, this would undoubtedly generate discussions on magic and their traditions. If the players want high fantasy, coffeehouses become the source of a new age of magic. If they want low fantasy, it become a place of scientific progress like rudimentary steam and gunpowder.

That Other Thing

I plan to revise the document to better explain the X-Card, add Lines and Veils, and explain the no "R" or "X" campaigns. Fun is fun however you do it. I'm not telling anyone how to have fun. I just think it is fair to say upfront that Sex and Romance in a game is not my thing. If it is your thing, then I would want you to find a DM that enjoys it and does it well. I just don't like playing NPCs as a love interest, but I would be okay with PG-13 Player to Player romance, I guess. I don't allow the Horny Bard trope. I don't even have seduction as a roll or special ability. Just nope.

That 2e Thing

I plan to write a lot about my 2e prep for this group. As of this writing, the game may not happen. That said, I plan to make a big three-ring binder o' stuff anyway. Using For Gold & Glory as a base, I hope to make kits, spells, and optional rules that everyone can use. The next set of posts will feature actual gaming content. Am I worried about the players seeing it? Not really. If anything, they may start looking for these things.

The original covers for the 2nd edition Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. The Monstrous Manual cover is from the re-released hardcover instead of the three ring binder.

Take It Back to ’89

I was texting to a friend of mine about their 5e game, but he interrupted himself to mention going old school. I immediately thought about B/X and thought about re-reading my old Blue Box at home. My friend remarked that his group would really like to run an older game, so I texted, "B/X, Rules Cyclopedia, or AD&D?"

He replied, "Second Edition."

I was taken aback a bit. That's when it dawned on me that I am old and he is not. AD&D came out before he was born, but was still around when he was a kid. I quickly moved on asking him who would run it. He said he has the books so he is learning it and then there was a pause. I waited a bit and then I made a fateful decision. I felt myself typing the question, "Would you like me to run it?"

Keep in mind that I have never really run 2e rules-as-written. My Edition was an unholy mishmash of systems, rules, and Jolt Cola infused madness. (Note, If you read the link, know that I don't use anything ACKS related anymore. I've replaced it with Old School Essentials.) Why did I just offer to run 2e, and 2e rules-as-written? I was dumbfounded by my brains' inability to stop my fingers from asking that questions. I eagerly awaited a response that said thanks for the offer but that the group will take care of it, would you like to play with us?

He replied that it would be awesome if I ran it. The full gravity of my hubris landed on my shoulders. I gently placed my phone on my desk and asked out loud, "what have I done?"

I sent a link to my Session Zero document to get a feel for what the group wanted to run. I found my backup of the 2e Rules on CD I found years ago at the thrift store and went to work. To paraphrase the Wu, I thought to myself, "Let's take it back to eighty-nine."

More texts followed with his desired character using the Myrmidon kit. When I saw that he rolled 18 for Strength, I had to explain the STR stat in 2e with 18 and percentages for Fighters. He rolled a 64. With that corrected, I then had to look up the kit. I found an Excel character sheet that calculated kits correctly, so I then turned that into a character sheet. I began to get excited about running it.

I started making a DM screen and offered to run Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Now I am awaiting confirmation from the rest of the group.

Meanwhile, I am piecing together For Gold & Glory with my other digital books. I am tempted to say "CAN I HAVE ONLY 80 POTENTIAL MODIFIERS PLEASE" and resurrect my ill-fated 2e clone. Alas, they want the original, so that will not work. So far, settings do not need to be canon. This means, of course, that I will simply need to create an actual three-ring binder for the creatures, kits, and locations.