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.

An Idea is Born

A long time ago, I set up my blog to enable posting by sending an email. It has been a while and with version 6.0 of WordPress, I wanted to see if it would still work.

The other reason for this post is that I am trying to piece together a Choose Your Path campaign setting where the DM and players get information about regions of the campaign world as they explore them. For example, the party is on Pella's Column, if the party travels to explore the Miasma, there is some information in the Pella's Column document to get the first adventure going. In the DM's section of that document, there is basic information about the Miasma with information about getting the detailed document about the Miasma. After the initial game session in the Miasma, the DM sends a request for the detailed document.

(click to embiggen)

The Miasma document is a sourcebook for that area and provides hooks for other areas of the larger world. It is big enough for several sessions and introductory material for several other places connected to the Miasma. The process repeats when the party encounters one of those places.

What prevents a DM from just asking for everything all at once?

You can't move backwards, the adventure always moves you forward. Once you enter the Miasma, you can't move backwards to Pella's Column. You can move within the Miasma or move forward to new places.

It is possible to move around until you can move towards Pella's Column, but that will take at least two or three other encounters before a document will connect you back to Pella's Column.

Is it railroading? Yes and no. You always have a choice of where to move forward. You lose the choice to move backwards. However, as you move to new places, you discover way to revisit areas. After visiting enough areas, the DM will begin to ask the party "where do you want to go?" allowing for more direct ways to travel around.

A DM request will immediately send a digital file so that the DM can prep. If possible, I would like to also send a physical booklet/zine/pocketmod as a physical reference. I imagine the physical components functioning like the 2e Monstrous Manual with the ability to add to a 3 ring binder. (A dude can dream, can't he?)

Anyway, that's the idea. We'll see where it goes from here. What do you think?

Five dice showing 4, 5, 5, 2, 6

Doubles and Lonely Dice

This is the description I found on the troll dice roller website about a novel dice mechanic. An anonymous person was experimenting with an idea for a GURPS magic system using the site. The mechanic was documented this way:

Experiment with a custom magic-system in GURPS using HP as blood sacrifice, using 2-10 d6.
Doubles, triplets and above count as their value, lonely dice only add +1 per dice.
a roll with 5 dice [4,5,5,2,6] will make 1+5+5+1+1=13.

I immediately played with various numbers of dice and wrote scripts for d8s, d10s, and d12s. Yet after all that, I was drawn to 5d6. It reminded me of Dice Throne and ultimately Yahtzee. I had to admit that I was drawn to this idea using 5d6 because of the endless games of Yahtzee and Kismet I played as a kid. That shared memory makes this dice mechanic feel intuitive through repetition.

This is the point where my co-worker would say that my Nerd is showing.

When I began looking at the probabilities, however, it inspired me for possibilities in my home game with the kids, retroclones, and various other games. For the curious, here's a handy table.

At this point, my co-worker would use their teacher voice and talk about all the work they need to do.

The next few posts are going to explore how this dice mechanic can be used in 5e and other role-playing games. It not only provides an interesting sub-system, but it can be a part of the world-building. Specifically, I'm going to look at using this to build a bolt-on and hopefully simple way to make magic different.