AD&D Rare Metals Breakdown

This page consists of two parts. The first is a study in the rarer metals that create weapons, armors, and other valuable commodities in most AD&D campaign worlds. The second part is a study in the prescious metals regarding coinage. If you have additional information, or wish to clarify something, feel free to e-mail me.

Rare Weapons, Armor, Etc Metals
Adamantine (+4)
The exact nature of adamantine is guarded zealously by alchemists and those few smiths that work with it. A number of scholarly journals have suggested that the metal may be a rare alloy of luminite, effrum bauxite (titanium), and silver. If correct, then the exact ratios of the alloy's metals is a secret. Adamantine is extremely reflective, even to magic and heat; it is also extremely dense and heavy, though with a good tensile strength.

Some few deposits of naturally forged, raw adamantine ore have been found on several worlds; however, the veins are usually very light, containing at best a few tons of the raw ore. Once the raw ore has been processed in great heat, usually magical, it is poured into its mold. The mold is then destroyed -- and whatever shape the metal took within the mold, is its final shape. Only the mold can supply an edge, or final craftsmanship; thus, the molds are usually magically crafted, or done with the skill that only dwarves and gnomes working together can accomplish. Only in instances of very powerful magics can the metal be plated, due to the heat and reflectiveness of the metal.

The metal is usually fairly chill to the touch. It is very insulative, due to its reflective nature, sometimes taking eons to achieve 'room temperature'. Tales abound from frustrated adventurers that were able to defeat a red dragon, only to have to leave the magma-hot sword behind, because it refused to cool off, even with magical help. This also makes the metal very valuable to alchemists and wizards, constructing potions or spells with insulative or reflective properties.

For game purposes, any magics directed specifically at adamantine made items (or even raw metal) has a 1 in 6 chance of rebounding directly at the caster. The metal is +4 in nature, when used in weapons or armor. It will not break, and can only be smelted in the hottest of deitific or magical fires -- those that are hot enough to overcome the reflective nature of the metal (100% magic resistance).

Ebonite (+1)
It is a rare extra-terrestrial ore that has a deep black color -- hence the name 'ebonite'. Though the ore itself is fairly rare, careful attention to older libraries on metal-working, or alchemical studies of samples usually provides a great deal of information. Alloys of ebonite usually make the metal fairly brittle, though they can have interesting properties. The pure metal, however, absorbs nearly all light, heat, and even some magics.

Falling in from the dark reaches of space and the deep, sometimes large chunks of ebonite survive reentry, merely waiting to be found. More often, as the metal rains down on worlds in small quantities, over a long period of eons, it can accumulate in glacial deposits; as the glaciers erode due to winds and sublimation at the corners, along its carved channels or mountainous funnels in the glacier, larger deposits of ebonite can be found. The initial processing requires intense heat, to slag the ore; after this, traditional smithing techniques used for iron and similar metals holds. Because of this, drawing techniques, and the more subtle smithing arts, can yield ebonite wires, jewelry, and other intricate items.

In game terms, the metal is +1 in nature when used in weapons or armor, because of its light weight and its great strength. It absorbs visible and infrared light, leaking it steadily in the ultraviolet spectrum -- thus, it is black as night, very cold to infravision, and glowing steadily in ultravision. Ebonite can also absorb magic, making it most valuable in weapons (it imposes a 50% penalty to magic resistance).

Mithrel (+2)
A rarity, veins of mithrel can create entire nations with its economic clout. Dwarves and their deities have been repositories for mithrel information on many worlds, and to a lesser extent, humans and gnomic smiths. Mithrel is actually a fine opalescent, powdery rock, much like talc; alloyed with iron and silver and gold, it creates a superb metal. Few smiths of any type divulge the secret of mixing and forging the mithrel into the iron.

A very rich vein of mithrel might require the mining and smelting of nearly 750 tonnes of the raw igneous rock in which it is found, to produce 1 ounce of mithrel powder. The powder is then added to molten iron, along with the other secret alloys. Once processed as though it were a steel alloy, the raw metal can be forged, welded, and tempered in the traditional smithing methods. Due to the strength of the metal, though, mithrel is too strong for most drawing or folding techniques. Grinding, hammering, and chiseling have moderate results, usually requiring a great deal of patience and time. The final metal has the luster of gold and silver, the strength of a greater steel, a resiliency to the elements that is legendary. Rarely does the metal take tarnish that is not magical.

For game purposes, the metal is +2 in nature, when used in weapons or armor. It saves on the item chart as though it had a +4 bonus.

Pritanium (+3)
Though very common in the deeper layers of the Abyss, it is very rare on other planes of existance. Usually, communications with demons or other denizens of the Abyss are the only source of information on the metal. It is a marble green within green metal -- the marbling shifting as the eye looks upon it. In addition, the metal holds magic very well, reducing the time virtually in half for enchanting the metal.

In the Abyss, the metal is never found in an ore form. On other planes, the metal can be found within a variety of different rock forms -- in other words, not associated with any particular ore or rock formation. The metal requires Hellfire of some sort to be melted, and because of this, it is rarely condoned by other powers outside of the Abyss. Once melted and poured into a mold, it can be ground with diamond dust, or similarly hard agents to final form.

Roughly, the metal is +3 when used in weapons or armor, because of its magical abilities. Unfortunately, the metal also is more succeptable to magic, saving versus spells and enchantments with a -1 penalty.

Tanisan (+3/+4)
It is a bluish metal that seems to glow with it's own, inner light. Tanisan is ebonite that has been reforged in a pool of stagnent magic; sometimes the magic infuses the blade with left-over powers from another time -- for good, or for evil. The exact formula for utilizing the magic, the heating requirements for the ebonite, and other details are closely guarded secrets of mages and wizards, and other magical beings.

The raw tanisan metal has many of the properties of ebonite, in that it can be drawn and smithed in the traditional methods, though requiring tools of special metals to work. If smelted hot enough, the metal crystallizes. Cooling the heated metal too quickly or too slowly will shatter the crystal, and burn the tanisan into a poisoness, black powder. If the cooling is controlled very carefully, the metal becomes a single crystal that knowledgeable gem-cutters can facet.

For game purposes, the metal is +3 in nature when used in weapons or armor. The crystalline tanisan is +4 in nature, and is considered non-metallic -- mages and wizards can use it for armor, without it interfering with their magic. The black powder of burned tanisan is a class N contact poison, lethal in one hour, with a save versus poisons at +2; successful saves indicate that anyone touched by the poison receives 5d4 points of damage.

Rare Currency Metals
The Player's Handbook gives a base ten breakdown of monies, supposedly for ease of game play. Ten coppers makes up a silver, and ten silvers makes up a gold. The Dungeon Master's Guide goes into a bit more detail on this, pointing out that global currencies are nowhere near as neat and uniform as those that are most often given in AD&D campaigns.

For instance, in most campaigns, after a successful adventure, a party might find themselves in the possession of several sacks of copper and silver, and a few pouches of gold, along with some prescious gemstones. In a high-value campaign, the copper is worthless; one thousand coppers is worth the same as ten gold pieces -- and most characters would rather be encumbered with gold, than with copper. Also, no mention is made of what nationality the coins are; they could be American gold dollars for all anyone notices. Apparently, in most AD&D worlds, merchants only take note of the gold itself, and not who stamped it. This is far from realistic; the whole point of minted gold, is to give some faith to the thought that the minted coin is mostly pure gold. Notice the American quarter: shaving off a small fraction of the edge of that coin would be noticeable. Thieves in the past have routinely shaved the edges off of gold or silver coinage; after enough shavings are collected, new coins can be created where none existed before. Though this practice actually inflates the economy, it is usually frowned upon. Also, certain kingdoms would add impurities to their gold, to devalue it -- most often publicly, but sometimes on the sly.

According to Leo Frankowski, the ratio of silver to gold in twelfth century Poland was not 10:1, as in AD&D, but 54:1. Obviously, gold was very rare, and all the more valuable. If a campaign world is based in gold units, then there is no need for coppers, except in very poor nations or areas. On the other hand, a denomination based on silver makes gold all the more valuable. Many question the logic of altering the currency base in any AD&D game, because this means significantly more work for the DM, who must then alter all the prices of items. This is not necessarily so. Prior to the industrial revolution, labor intensive goods were very expensive, both in terms of time, and in terms of raw materials.

One potential explanation for the whole simplification of the AD&D currencies could be the gods of mining or metals. Gods shrink the world, with their avatars and priests communicating across distances that would normally isolate a nation. With priests of some god (usually a Lawful, Neutral one) responsible for gold weighing, measuring, and verifying gold content in coinage, it could easily be standardized. Certain generic clerical spells can also do the job, though not as well. For this reason, most gold coins in any campaign world are probably all identical -- they are stamped by whatever deity or deities that influence the mining, refining, or forging of those the gold coins. That deity then makes a bit of money off the creation of currency, and the rest of the world is assured of a standarized currency.

Elemental Atomic Weights
Gold (Au) 196.97
Silver (Ag) 107.87
Copper (Cu) 63.55

Based solely on relative atomic weights, a sack of gold weighs three times as much as a sack of copper, and twice as much as a sack of silver.

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