Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Crimson Lake (AKA 'healing potions, except less boring')

Because there's no clerical healing magic in ATWC, I've tried to add other ways for PCs to recover lost hit points. Most of the classes have some ability for speeding up natural healing, and Disciples of the Word can whisper people back to health at a pretty impressive rate, but none of this makes up for the absence of in-combat healing. Thus, healing potions.

Except... healing potions are kinda boring, aren't they? And they're either nonsensical ('I drank this herbal remedy and my gunshot wound closed up!') or imply a kind of high-magic economy which would be totally out of place in ATWC. So I came up with an alternative, in the form of a 'natural' source of expensive-but-not-totally-unaffordable magical healing liquids: the Crimson Lake. 

Red Lake, New Zealand. Photo by Milton Bell.

Of all the beasts and behemoths created by the sorcerers of the Age of Wonders, the greatest and most terrible was the Red Leviathan, an immense dragon-crocodile so fierce and wild that even the sorcerer who created it was unable to control it. When he found that he could neither tame the beast nor kill it, he imprisoned it in a great cavern beneath his city, hoping it would starve to death; but such was the furious life-force that burned within it that it lived on, roaring and raging, no matter how many years of famine it endured. When the wars came, and the city fell, the sorcerer unleashed the Red Leviathan as a final act of desperation, and it proceeded to ravage both the city and the army attacking it; it then wandered into the wilds, and for years it roamed the land, destroying and devouring everything in its path. At last, three sorcerer-kings formed an alliance of convenience to slay the beast, and sent their God Soldiers to converge upon it. The resulting battle tore the land open for miles about; and when it ended, most of the God Soldiers lay in shattered ruins around the prone body of the Red Leviathan, which was scored with a thousand terrible wounds and pinned to the rock by a hundred terrible spears.

It looked a bit like this except a mile long. Image by DenaJarawr.

There the matter should have ended: but the Leviathan simply did not know how to die. Rains fell, and the wreckage-filled crater in which it lay filled with water, becoming a lake; but beneath the surface the great beast’s heart still beat, pumping its blood into the waters. The lake turned red with mingled rust and blood, and the plants which drew water from it grew huge and red and twisted, and the animals which drank from it grew wild and fearless and could not be tamed. Today, the Crimson Lake is surrounded by a weird, ruddy wilderness, where huge and ferocious red-furred beasts stalk through sharp red grass that grows eight or nine feet high. Sometimes the Red Leviathan twists and roars, trying to free itself, and then the land shakes for miles around. The savage tribes that live round about send their young men into it as a test of manhood, bidding them drink from the red waters and grow strong; the greatest of their warriors, those who boast that they have drunk from the Crimson Lake a hundred times, tend to become great, towering brutes, marked with ungainly masses of bulging muscle and thick red sinews that run like ropes beneath their skin. In the world outside, the waters of the Crimson Lake are much sought after for their healing properties; but the traders who ride there with their wagons full of barrels must pay their caravan guards well, for it is not uncommon for less than half of them to return to tell the tale.

Elixir of Life: Drinking the waters of the Crimson Lake really does heal and strengthen the body. Just gulping down as much of it as you can drink heals 1d3 damage and grants a +1 bonus to strength and FORT for the next hour; you can do this every hour as long as there's enough lake-water available for you to drink. Drinking nothing but lake water (and lots of it) for a full day gives your skin and hair a slight reddish tinge that lasts for weeks, and grants a +1 bonus to strength, attack, damage, and FORT rolls for as long as you keep drinking it, and 1d3 extra days thereafter. If you spend a number of consecutive days equal to your strength drinking nothing but lake water, your strength increases by one point permanently, and your skin and hair turn slightly redder than they were before. People who do this over and over again, repeatedly increasing their strength (to a maximum of 18), will end up with bright-red skin and hair and heaps of weird new muscle groups bulging out all over the place. Doing this means surviving for months in the middle of a savage wilderness roamed by giant, hyper-aggressive red monster-beasts, so anyone who's managed it is obviously a total badass and should be treated with extreme caution.


Crimson Lake water evaporates as easily as any other kind, but a skilled alchemist can condense an entire barrel of the stuff into a powerful concentrate of just a few ounces, which will last for years if properly preserved. Because the concentrate delivers its effects all at once, in a single powerful 'hit', it's much more addictive than the lake-water; anyone who drinks a number of vials greater than their constitution score in a single day must make a FORT save or develop a craving for the drug, so powerful that it requires a WILL save to avoid taking more whenever the opportunity to do so arises. (If multiple vials are available, an additional WILL save is permitted after each one to stop yourself from also drinking the next.) Anyone who drinks a number of vials of concentrate in a single day greater than twice their constitution score must make a FORT save or suffer a fatal overdose. 

Drinking a single vial of this concentrate has the same effect as filling your belly with lake-water (i.e. heal 1d3 HP and gain +1 strength and FORT for an hour), and drinking a number of them equal to your strength score within the same 24-hour period has the same effect as drinking the lake's waters for a full day. If you just keep drinking the stuff then it's even possible to get permanent strength gain, as from drinking the lake water itself, although this will require hundreds of vials worth of concentrate and cost a fortune. For an individual of average strength to raise themselves to Strength 18 by this method would require about 1400 vials consumed over three or four months, the collective cost of which would be well out of reach for all but the very wealthiest of men.

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