The Magical Substances

Posted by EarthDragon on 12th September 2015.

As mentioned earlier, the lands in and around The Unification is home to several inherently magical materials. There are two basic magical substances found in the region: vermeil and cinnabryl. Both are useful in several ways, and can be used to create crimson essence, red steel, steel seed and smokepowder. All are described in the following text. This material is intended as a general overview; details on certain game effects are found later on this page, and in the pages on magic. Cost and availability of the various materials are discussed in the page on equipment.


The most obvious non-living manifestation of the curse is vermeil, a reddish dust found in the soil and air of the region. Vermeil is sometimes referred to as dragon's blood. The substance radiates magic, and since it is omnipresent through most of The Unification, detect magic and similar spells are all but useless there (see the pages on Magic).

Vermeil glows very slightly, enough that it can be seen in the dark, but not enough to light an area, unless in great concentration (which is rare). The presence of vermeil in the air causes strange effects at times, such as glowing winds. Because it is extraordinarily difficult to keep vermeil out of metal during processing, coins and other metal items made in The Unification glow slightly, and radiate the same hazy magical aura as vermeil.

Vermeil is unavoidably ingested by anyone living in the area, and many blame the substance for the Red Curse, even referring to affected people (those changed physically, or suffering from great attribute loss) as being "tainted" or "under vermeil's curse". However, ingesting the substance causes no harm, and by itself, vermeil has no properties other than its hazy magical radiance and those properties common to normal dust. It does not dissolve in water. Vermeil is a necessary component of the potion crimson essence, as well as of smokepowder, both of which are described in subsequent entries. Because it is a sort of "generic" magical dust, vermeil is also useful as a component of various sorts of magical dusts, powders, and inks, helping other substances to hold enchantments.


Cinnabryl is a rare, slightly glowing, shiny red metal. It is smooth and feels almost slick to the touch, leaving a slight residue, reddish in color when worn next to the skin (just as a copper bracelet leaves a green-blue residue). Cinnabryl does not hold an edge well, but is easily shape with hammer and heat. It has a density slightly less than that of gold, and almost exactly twice that of steel.

When worn next to the skin, cinnabryl protects the wearer from the detrimental effects of the Red Curse. Fortunate (or wealthy) people wear jewelry of cinnabryl to protect themselves from the curse. The metal radiates magic, and also gives off a slight reddish glow; its radiance is necessary to make crimson essence. A protective item of cinnabryl is typically called an amulet, while those designed for creation of crimson essence is called a talisman.

After being worn by a living being for a while, however, cinnabryl's magic becomes depleted; it no longer protects from the curse. Strangely, the metal's weight decreases as its magic depletes, so someone able to test the material's weight and displacement (a jeweller or alchemist, for example) can determine how long a sample of the material will last before becoming fully depleted. Since its usefulness has a time limit, cinnabryl must be replenished periodically. Consequently, it is in great demand and hunted almost constantly. Depleted cinnabryl is called red steel (see below).

Cinnabryl also has effects harmful to those not suffering from vermeil's curse. This keeps most people from taking cinnabryl away from the areas affected by the Red Curse (most of The Unification and much of its surrounding areas). When cinnabryl becomes depleted, these potentially harmful effects disappear as well. See the "Basic Effects" page for full details regarding depletion of cinnabryl, and the substance's various effects.

Cinnabryl is found in deposits in many places throughout The Unification and its environs, and only in those areas. The deposits consist of clusters of rounded nuggets of pure cinnabryl. These nuggets are generally found in reddish clay, and small deposits of steel seed (see subsequent entry) are often found with them.

Red Steel

When the magical protective effects of cinnabryl have been completely depleted, the remaining substance is red steel. This is a lightweight, dull red metal (it does not glow like cinnabryl and vermeil). Red steel is hard without being brittle, holds an edge very well and weighs only half as much as steel. Thus, it is in great demand for the making of weapons (and armour, when you can get enough of it). Because red steel is inherently magical, weapons made from it can strike creatures normally hit only by enchanted weapons, as well as those normally struck only by silver or cold iron weapons. Red steel also holds enchantments well, so in The Unification, it is the preferred base metal for magical armor, weapons, and other devices. The metal's popularity is spreading wherever it is traded, but most red steel remains within the heartland of The Unification, due to the efforts of the Inheritors, who tend to live in and around the central protectorates.

Armor of red steel can also adjust its shape when a Legacy is used. See the notes on the page on the Legacies. Items made of red steel are also discussed on the page covering equipment, and a full discussion of red steel armour is found there.

Crimson Essence

This substance is a potion that grants Legacies to the imbiber. In most cases, the power gain is random and temporary, but some people learn how to control multiple Legacies, and can use crimson essence to possess extra Legacies permanently.

Crimson essence is a liquid medium created from vermeil and other substances. Once the liquid has been prepared, it is carried close to the body and bathed in the radiance of cinnabryl for a time. Some people create cinnabryl talismans with special holders for carrying their potion vials. When ready to be used, crimson essence glows red, and motes within sparkle with reflected light

Creation of crimson essence requires two months (for an Inheritor) or six months (for anyone else). Full details can be found in the description of the Inheritor prestige class. More details on the effect of the potion are found in the pages on Magic.

Steel Seed

Steel seed is a silvery-red, granular substance found with deposits of cinnabryl. Alchemists and sages have determined that steel seed is cinnabryl that has been depleted of its magic before having been mined. These same wise folk have not determined how the substance becomes depleted, however, because it seems to be different from the organic depletion that changes cinnabryl to red steel.

In any case, steel seed is a somewhat hard, slightly brittle substance that radiates magic, in a manner similar to vermeil. But steel seed does not glow. It is something like crystallized red steel. but cannot be forged into weapons or items as that metal can. Steel seed is an important component in smokepowder, and may possibly be useful in other magical preparations. The material is found in small amounts wherever cinnabryl deposits are found. The only known large caches of steel seed are found in the cinnabryl mines near the city of Gedderon in the Oxani protectorate.


In the Chosen Of The Unification campaign setting, smokepowder can be created by combining vermeil in a specific proportion with steel seed. It can be made only by someone with the appropriate skill and materials (a Craft[alchemy] check is required, and at least 6 ranks are required to know the right mix of vermeil and steel seed and other ingredients). Smokepowder is relatively common in the Oxani protectorate, uncommon in the other heartland provinces, and rare elsewhere.

Note that detonation of smokepowder can affect the depletion rate of cinnabryl. See the section on cinnabryl depletion earlier on the Basic Effects page under the link "Depletion of Cinnabryl".