Friday, November 19, 2021

OSR: Crystall Balls

by Bruce Rolff
An ancient type of Artifact, they were originally created out of flawless ice by the Ancient Vulkari in the glory days of that Empire.  Today, most of the originals have melted, but the instructions of how to create them survived long enough to be recorded in some ancient volumes.  As such, others were created out of glass by the heirs and former subjects of the Empire after it declined into decadence and then collapsed.  Eventually, the recipe for creating such devices spread beyond even the heirs of that ancient people, till there is not a people or tribe under the sun who do not have at least some tale of such a tool, or of those who use it.  

What is the one that has come into your possession?


1- A Handsome Man's Wizard Glass, a perfect sphere of glass engraved with faint etchings to make it easier to hold.  May be found resting on a trio of gilded silver legs.  The inside of the glass boils with smoke and clouds, tiny bolts of lightning clashing and striking inside it.
2- A Quarrian moon-lenses, a pair of tiny glass disks encased in a small frame designed to perch atop the nose of a humanoid.  Wearing these over your face, the user can alternate between the lenses being clear and showing him distant lands and alien views.  They are best used in star- or moonlight.
3- A Dwarven scrying bowl, low and heavy, made of iron and bronze.  Fill it with oil or water and meditate while peering into the depths, and if you have done it properly, images of what you seek will appear on the flat surface.
4- An Imperial sight-stone, a glittering geode carved into the perfect shape to hold up to an eye and peer in, like a telescope.  When in an area with sufficient light, the stone shimmers and reflects images of distant vistas into the observing eye. 
5- A Gralei observer shield, a magical, mirrored shield that when bathed in sun or moonlight can act as a disembodied eye.  Note that these are not thought to be made by the Gralei, but are believed to be the work of a previous civilization that the Gralei either destroyed or defiled the grave of.
6- A Vulkari Ice-Eye, one of the originals.  Made of ice that is blisteringly cold and will not melt except in Dragon's fire.  Usually carried in special bags or chests that prevent the user from harming himself, and manipulated only with claws or with special gloves that were enchanted to protect the user's hands.     

How they are used:

By holding a Crystal Ball, you can scry on a person or place anywhere in the world, at least theoretically.  To use one takes 10 minutes and requires concentration, along with passing the Scry Check successfully. 

The base DC for a Scry Check is 10, and is modified by the table below:

- I am unfamiliar with the subject, whether person or place (+4)
- I am only vaguely familiar with the subject (+2)
- I am familiar with the subject (+0)
- I have a representation of the subject, such as a painting or sculpture that is accurate (-1)
- I have more MD or a higher Cognition than the creature I am looking for (-X, where X is the difference)
- I am looking for a creature who also possesses a Scrying device/is using the device as I am (-2/-4)
- I have intimate knowledge of the subject (-2)
- I am deeply connected to the subject in some non-trivial way (-2)
- I have a deep and personal connection to the subject (-4)
- I have the body part, fluids or other item from the subject's body with me or on my person (-8)

There are also other complications to using a Crystal Ball or other Scrying device. 

Firstly, these devices use what counts as divination magic, and thus can be defeated by anti-divination wards or items that cloak the user in magical darkness or channel the power of the Void.  For example, some Adventurers carry charms that prevent them from being scryed upon or their futures being predicted.  To the Prophet or the Sage using a Crystal Ball, the adventurer would simply never appear.  Some creatures also learn how to channel the power of the Void to perform various feats, and these creatures cannot be found with scrying or other divinations.  If Void Monks exist in your setting, they could never be a part of any prophecy nor be seen in a crystal ball.  Additionally, should such magicks be powerful enough, it would obscure the view of everything around them, either distorting it or shrouding it in inky blackness.

Secondly, the other problem with using Scrying Devices is that those who use them can easily become the prey of those who also possess them.  For just as each enables the user to look out into the world, it enables others to look out from the same device, back at the one who uses one.  For this reason, while many Sages use such devices, they conceal them in places that contain no important information or hide them.  Their more powerful cousins, the Magi, do not usually use them at all, for Magi are constantly suspicious and always on the look-out for spies who would steal their power.  Any Magi who uses such a Scrying device is either arrogant or extremely powerful, possibly both.

Thirdly, some powerful creatures can sense when they are being scryed on and can cut the connection, should they wish to.  This can merely destroy the connection, but depending on the strength and malice of the creature, it can also be dangerous to the one using the tool. 

Any creature who has the ability to cast spells or more than 5 HD/Class levels can make a save upon being scryed upon.  On a successful save, that creature can detect it is being scryed on. That creature can then make a COG check, which is contested by the COG check of the one using the Scrying device.  If the creature being scryed on wins the contest, it can see the creature scrying on him, and may be able to discern other pieces of information about the creature with the Scrying device.  Additionally, if it succeeds on another COG check, it can cut the connection.

by Bruce Rolff

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