OSR: Spell Research and Magical Industry, Part 1

In order to provide a basis for player invention and extrapolation, you'll need a system that:
  • Explains most magical phenomena in your setting. 
  • Explains some real-world phenomena.
Once the paradigm - the core set of rules and assumptions used by the system - is understood, players can improvise within those rules without constantly needing GM adjudication. Players asking "Can we do do that but in reverse?" or "Oh, is that why plants have green leaves?" won't send the GM scrambling for a thick reference tome. If it makes sense within the paradigm, it's good enough for RPG purposes.

Here's the state of the art magical paradigm in Endon, expanded from the original Principia Arcana.
Spells are living creatures. Spells, enchantments, ghosts, and souls are all more or less the same. Souls inhabit a living shell most of the time. Weak souls require the living shell to be maintained with food, water, air, etc. Strong souls, like those of sufficiently magical creatures, can ignore biology and physics.
A wizard's spells range in intelligence from pond scum to ferrets. A spellbook is a menagerie-prison. A well-trained brain is a mind-gun loaded with spell-bullets. Minor spells, called cantrips, infest the wizard's soul and bind to it. You can imagine them as extra, mutated limbs, except stuck to the soul and not the body.
Spells can be bred and trained. Copying a spell is difficult and tedious. Enchanting an object means convincing a spell to activate more-or-less permanently and is exceptionally tricky. Runes and engravings can help form a combination prison, racetrack, and factory.

Magical energy is spell food and fuel. It’s gunpowder for the mind-bullets. Raw magic generates
octarine light, the eighth colour, when it interacts with normal matter; a faint purplish-green sparkle or flare.

Wands are portable brains for storing spells and magical energy. Powerful wands can act like a magical battery, storing extra charges for a wizard. Concentrated magic has a tendency to explode.

Raw magical energy flows from the sun to the earth. This is why spells return at dawn and many magical effects only last for a single day.

It's possible this theory isn't true. It might even be wildly inaccurate. But it does explain most of the observable facts and that's good enough for the wizards. After all, Newton knew how gravity worked without having the faintest idea of why gravity worked. The theory of caloric fluids explains a cooling cup of tea and predicts the speed of sound in air. Radioactivity had a long and exciting life without an explanation; oil prospectors corrected for continental drift long before the geologists started paying attention to coastlines and fossils.

So maybe magic will turn out to be electromagnetic corpuscules or planes of negative and positive energy. Maybe it will be something else entirely. But right now, for the purposes of this article, the spells-as-living-creatures theory given here is true.
Figure from Occult Chemistry, which is a real book and also excellent.


There are eight metals. All metals are made from condensed magic. This is why gold and silver have an almost supernatural appeal.
  • Occultum: purified condensed magic. Massless. Like dark glass. Core fuel for many magical items and devices.
  • Gold: a powerful conductor and accumulator of magic strongly associated with the sun.
  • Silver: capable of altering the nature of magic, just as the moon alters sunlight into moonlight. Ghosts and highly magical creatures are wounded by silver.
  • Mercury: a "live" form of silver. Acts as a magical capacitor, storing charge and then suddenly releasing it. Also has strong associations with transformation and scrying magic.
  • Iron: a strong association with blood and violence. Accepts enchantments easily.
  • Tin: a "dead" form of silver. Tin has no known useful magical properties.
  • Lead: absorbs magic and stores it. Used as the core of magic batteries or for heavy magical shielding. Ghosts cannot pass through lead.
  • Copper: capable of negating spells or diffusing magical energy back into the environment. Magic shields and barriers are often made of copper.
Generating Occultum is very difficult and requires enormous specialized condensers. Very few wizards attempt it, and instead buy from local suppliers. A single occultum "coin" the size of a fingernail is worth 100gp.

It's fairly easy, using a small bit of magic and some basic tools, to transform a metal higher on the list to one lower on the list. The reverse requires a lot of magical energy and usually results in an explosion.


There are eight true gems. All other gems are corruptions, variants, or "mere stones."
  • Diamond: believed to be fragments of the crystal spheres surrounding the earth. Diamonds can act as a lens backwards through time, allowing glimpses of the past. They also act as powerful magic resonators, increasing the power of spells and enchantments.
  • Ruby: this red stone acts as a magical focus, gathering diffuse energy or spells into one point.
  • Citrine: orange and sharp, citrine is known as a thinking stone, and is used for many intelligent or near-intelligent spells.
  • Topaz: true yellow topaz can diffuse a spell or enchantment, blunting its power without destroying it.
  • Emerald: emeralds are fragments of leaves from a primordial tree. They enhance spells that deal with life directly; either sustaining, measuring, or ending it.
  • Sapphire: deep blue sapphires enhance patterns and ensure time flows at a constant rate.
  • Tourmaline: indigo tourmaline can split light into all eight colours. Light, detection, and invisibility spells rely on tourmaline.
  • Amethyst: least worthy is the violet amythest, a gem that merely protects other spells from minor interference. Used as a charm against drunkenness.
Gems are sold by jewelers. A cut gem (with a specially selected number of facets) worth using in magic is worth at least 10gp, with larger stones worth up to 1,000gp.

Combining the theory of metals and gems, we can see why crowns (gold, a magic accumulator, surrounding a variety of beneficial gems) are such powerful symbols.

Other Sets of Eight

  • Eight colours of light (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and octarine)
    Eight points on a compass rose.
    Eight intervals in the octave.
  • Eight possible directions (up, down, left, right, forward, backwards, backward-through-time and the impossible forward-through-time). 
  • Eight true celestial bodies (the Sun, Mercury, Venus, the Earth, the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), all others being classified as "entrapped offspring".
  • Eight elements (stone, water, ice, fire, lightning, acid, air, and the newly identified "void" or "vacuum")
  • Eight perfect geometric forms (sphere, tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron, icosahedron, cuboctahedron, and unahedron, the regular polygon with fewer than zero faces).
Some specious wizards maintain that the "eight deadly sins" and "eight blessed virtues" fall within this system. "If that were so," High Wizard Brumley once quipped, "then surely the eight table  settings of a formal dinner service and the eight pawns on each side of a chessboard would have supernatural significance."

Magical Industrial Equipment

Please compare prices to the price list here.

Magic Accumulators

A lead cylinder wrapped in thin bands of gold and glass. The cylinder slowly builds magical charge. Rotating the cylinder speeds up the process. mall Magic Accumulators are the size of a coffee machine. Large Magic Accumulators are the size of a carriage.Gargantuan Magical Accumulators take up half a warehouse.  

Magic Accumulators
Size Tempo Charges Per Day Cost
Small [   ] 1 1,000gp
[   ][   ] 2
[   ][   ][   ] 3
Large [   ] 4 3,000gp
[   ][   ] 8
[   ][   ][   ] 12
Gargantuan [   ] 8 6,000gp
[   ][   ] 16
[   ][   ][   ] 24
Charges can be used to refill a wand or magic weapon's charges. They are also used to bind enchantments, transmute metals, and power strange and dangerous magical devices.

Magic Accumulators only explode if they are at full charge and rotate for an entire day without discharging. Most have safeguards to vent raw magic to the atmosphere instead of detonating, but safeguards can always fail.

Magical Batteries

Large copper and iron tubs containing mercury and filaments of occultum, magic batteries store magic charges for later use. 

Magic Batteries
Size Tempo Charges Stored Cost
Small [   ] 2 2,000gp
[   ][   ] 5
[   ][   ][   ] 10
Large [   ] 6 6,000gp
[   ][   ] 15
[   ][   ][   ] 30
Gargantuan [   ] 20 12,00gp
[   ][   ] 50
[   ][   ][   ] 100
Each time a charge is added beyond a battery's listed capacity, there's a 10% chance they explode. Most sensible wizards refuse to fill batteries beyond 50% capacity... unless they're working on a really exciting project.

Spell Breeding Reactors

Two copies of a spell must be placed into the heart of a spell breeding reactor. Raw magic, carefully placed gems, spinning gears, and filaments of occultum gradually induce copies of the spells to form. Spells can be collected into scrolls or spellbooks, or directly bound to objects using an enchantment engraver.

Spell levels may need to be adjusted based on your campaign and magic system. Level 0 or 1 spells are trivial workings. Level 9+ spells are proper works of archmastery; very difficult to cast, let alone breed. A reactor to breed those spells must be custom built and requires at least 100,000gp in components.

Spell Breeding Reactor
Level of Spell Tempo Time to New Spell Charges per Spell Cost
Low (0-2) [   ] 1 day 1 3,000gp
[   ][   ] 12 hours
[   ][   ][   ] 6 hours
Medium (3-5) [   ] 5 days 3 10,000gp
[   ][   ] 2 days
[   ][   ][   ] 1 day
High (6-8) [   ] 20 days 5 20,000gp
[   ][   ] 10 days
[   ][   ][   ] 5 days
Very High (9+) [   ] 80 days 10 n/a
[   ][   ] 40 days
[   ][   ][   ] 10 days

Running a spell breeding reactor with two different spells is a good way to create new and lucrative hybrid spells. It's also a good way to destroy your equipment.

Enchantment Engraver

Every wizard has their own system for binding spells to object. Most involve a negligible amount of gold and occultum, though more powerful enchantments may require gems and specially prepared materials.
Enchantment Engraver
Level of Spell Charges/Hours per Spell Cost
Low (1-2) 1 300gp
Medium (3-5) 3 600gp
High (6-8) 5 1,000gp
Very High (9+) 10 n/a
To enchant an existing object, consult the price list.

Enchantment effects are based on the spell used. The GM will need to adjudicate the exact effects, but players probably have an idea in mind when they start down the path to magical industry.

Test Cases

A wizard discovers a new level 1 spell named extinguish flames. They want to mass produce and sell it. Endon's current Tempo is [  ].

The wizard spends all the money they have in the world and takes out some seriously painful loans to buy a small magic accumulator for 1,000gp, a low-level Spell Breeding Reactor for 3,000gp, and an Enchantment Engraver for 300gp, for a total of 4,300gp.

A Season in Endon has 180 days. Because the Magical Accumulator only produces 1 charge per day, half of those days are spent producing spells and half are spent enchanting objects. Assuming all goes well, that's 90 enchanted objects in a Season. Assuming they can be sold for 5gp each, that's 450gp per season... so it'll merely take 10 years (without interest) to turn a profit.

Oh dear.

What if the wizard went into business with a larger firm, and could afford a gargantuan Magical Accumulator, four low-level Spell Breeding Reactors, and a lone enchantment engraver for a total of 18,300gp.

The accumulator produces 8 charges per day. 4 are spent on making 4 new spells per day and 4 are spent enchanting objects with those spells. 4 spells x 180 days in a Season x 5gp per object is 3,600gp per season. That's merely 5 years to turn a profit.

Oh dear.

So how does a wizard make money in Endon?

First, by selling items for more than 5gp. Marketing helps. Legislation is better. Publicity is best. What if, instead of a shabby metal token, the wizard sold beautiful enameled orbs (a few penny's worth of paint and varnish)? What if, instead of hawking extinguish flames on street corners, Parliament were to pass a law requiring every theater, coachyard, and dockyard to own an extinguish flame device? What if they were motivated to pass such a bill by a few well-timed fires conveniently extinguished by our friend the wizard and their new invention?

Second, by accepting that most low-level magic items are churned out by vast factory firms, who keep prices low to drive out competition and use surplus equipment from early ventures to crank out low-level magic items as a side business.

Third, by sabotaging those bastards and replacing them.

Fourth, by buying lightly discounted magical equipment that's almost as good as the verified stuff. You can get up to 50% off the prices above if you're willing to buy damaged, experimental, or jury-rigged devices.

Fifth, by selling things that non-magical physics can't do. Extinguish flames? Water can do that. Continual light? Coal gas is cheap. But a tiny dancing statue that fits in the palm of your hand? Paint that lets you see through walls? A flying carriage?

Sixth, by waiting for the Tempo to increase and magical equipment to become more efficient. At Tempo [   ][   ][   ],
a gargantuan Magical Accumulator (24 charges/day), three low-level Spell Breeding Reactors (12 spells/day), and a lone enchantment engraver costs just 15,000gp and produces 12 spells per day.

Seventh, by taking out loans under a false name, getting as rich as you can, and running away from the city in the dead of the night with a coach full of discount magic items, gold, and disguises.

And finally, eighth, by experimenting and pushing the boundaries of the possible.

In Part 2, I'll cover making new equipment and the joyful wonder of magical explosions.


OSR: Currency in Endon

Endon, the city at the heart of my upcoming Magical Industrial Revolution book, is Restoration-Georgian-Regency-Victorian fantasy, so I've created a Restoration-Georgian-Regency-Victorian price list. There are still items I'd like to add: magical reactors, potions, newspapers, printing presses, inns, funerals, etc., but I thought I'd put up the draft for review.
Dore's London

The Season

In Endon, the Season lasts from January to June: approximately half the year. It starts with the first balls of the season, properly wakes up with horse races and Parliament's return, roars through spring and early summer, then slowly winds down by June as the great families return to their country estates. For convenience, a Season contains 180 days.

Everything in Endon happens during the Season. During the rest of the year (the Off-Season), it's assumed life  just carries on. Poor, Lower, and Middle Class PCs are assumed to be working or nursing wounds, grudges, and/or infants. Some Middle and Upper Class PCs can roll on a giant carousing table to lose their fortunes at cards, gain insight into the future, etc, etc. In the Off-Season, nobody gains or loses money.

PCs go on adventures during the Season. Once a dungeon has been cleared, a crisis averted, a mansion burgled, a rival bankrupted, etc, the Season ends. The GM, probably between game sessions, then rolls to advance various Innovations and sets up the next Season.

Adventures in the Off-Season are possible (of course).

The prices below are based on notes from the Jane Austen Society, Henry Mayhew's London Labour and the London Poor, and T.A.J Burnett's The Rise and Fall of a Regency Dandy. The last source in particular was very useful for adventuring purposes. Scrope Davies lead a very interesting life.

1gp = 10sp = 100cp = (very approximately) £1 in 1800 = (extremely approximately) $100 modern American. The values should be within an order of magnitude of accurate. Given this information, it should be possible to adjust Endon's currency to suit your system.

Item Cost
Rags 3cp
Work Clothing (coat, underclothes, boots) 8sp
Proper Clothing (jacket or dress, shoes) 1gp
Extravagant Clothing 10gp
Wig 1gp
Fine Hat 1gp
Fine Umbrella 1gp

Cheap Meal (bread, drippings) 1cp
Basic Meal (bread, cheese, beer) 3cp
Moderate Dinner (cold meat, bread, beer) 7cp
Steak Dinner (steak, dip, bread, beer) 1sp
Sumptuous Dinner (steak, fish, fruit, wine, beer) 1gp
Bread (1 loaf) 1cp
Local Cheese (1lb) 4cp
Fancy Cheese (1lb) 1sp
Oranges (1 dozen) 1sp

Rental Housing
Lodging House Room (disreputable, per night) 2cp
Lodging House Room (reputable, per night) 5cp
Apartment (small, per Season) 30gp
Apartment (large, per Season) 60gp
Apartment (luxurious, per Season) 100gp
Townhouse (on the outskirts, per Season) 50gp
Townhouse (central, per Season) 400gp

Owned Housing
Townhouse (on the outskirts) 1,200gp
Townhouse (central) 10,000gp
Country House 5,000gp
Country Estate (moderate) 20,000gp
Country Estate (vast) 100,000gp

Gin (5oz) 1cp
Beer (1 pint) 2cp
Local Wine (1 bottle) 3sp
Fancy Wine (1 bottle) 8sp
Brandy and Water 1sp

Penny Theater 1cp
Coffee House Evening 8cp
Prostitute (appalling) 3cp
Prostitute (cheap) 1sp
Prostitute (expensive) 1gp
Admission to the Long Mall 1sp
Box at the Theater 5sp
Piano 30gp

Foreign Language Lessons (per Season) 2gp
Dancing Lessons (per Season) 4gp
Tuition and Board at Endon College (per Season) 15gp
Apprentice to a Wizard (per Season) 30gp

Transport and Mail
Local Postage 2cp
International Postage 1sp
Local Runner / Courier 1sp
Boat across the River Burl 4cp
Bicycle 2gp
Horse (Riding or Carriage) 20gp
Horse (Racing or Hunting) 100gp
Carriage (basic) 30gp
Carriage (luxurious) 80gp
Coach 100gp

Tip 1d6cp
Urchin (hourly rate for simple tasks) 2cp
Servant (per Season) 4gp
Fancy Servant (per Season) 12gp
Superlative Servant (per Season) 20gp

Misc. Supplies
Brass Barometer 2gp
Candles (1lb) 3sp
Cheap Book or Notebook 5sp
Coal (a day's worth) 1cp
Glass Bottle 1cp
Plates, Cups, Cutlery (6 sets) 1gp
Silver Watch 5gp
Teapot 2sp
Soap (1lb) 1sp

Bloodletting (unskilled) 3cp
A Course of Drugs 1gp
Pulling a Tooth 5cp
Amputation of a Limb 1gp
Difficult Surgery 30gp
Extremely Difficult Surgery 100gp
Advice of a Physician (per visit) 10gp
A Fleet of Physicians (per day) 50gp

Dagger 1sp
Sword or Rapier 3sp
Dueling Pistol 5gp
State-of-the-Art Fowling Piece (shotgun) 70gp

Magic Items
Minor Magic Item (pg. ##)  [   ] 5gp

[   ] [   ] 3gp

[   ] [   ] [   ] 2sp
Minor Magic Weapon (pg. ##)  [   ] 15gp

[   ] [   ] 8gp

[   ] [   ] [   ] 4gp
Magic Sword (pg. ##)  [   ] 100gp

 [   ] [   ] 50gp

[   ] [   ] [   ] 30gp
The brackets [  ] indicate the Tempo of Endon.

Income Revenue
Unskilled Manual Labour (per day) 1sp
Unskilled Manual Labour (per Season) 2gp
Skilled Manual Labour (per day) 2sp
Skilled Manual Labour (per Season) 4gp
Shop Clerk (per Season) 50gp
Merchant Banker (per Season) 200gp
Reputable Physician (per Season) 500gp
Sale of a Novel or Work of Poetry 10x1d20gp
Interest on Wealth (per Season) 2% of wealth deposited*

There are four social classes in Endon. The minimum costs for each are listed below. If you can't pay the costs,  you drop to the next class down (or, at the very end, starve to death).
  • The Poor must support a Cheap Meal per day and a new set of Rags each Season.
  • The Lower Class must support a a Lodging House Room and a Basic Meal per day and a new set of Work Clothes per Season.
  • The Middle Class must support a Moderate Dinner per day, a Servant, an Apartment, and a new set of Proper Clothing per Season.
  • The Upper Class must support a Steak Dinner per day, two Servants, a Luxurious Apartment, and a new set of Extravagant Clothing per Season. They must also own a Carriage, a Riding Horse, and a Country House.
The costs are the absolute bare minimum required to scrape by. Overspending is encouraged. Sharing housing costs with other PCs is also possible.

Cost to be Poor (per day) 1cp
Cost to be Poor (per Season) 2gp
Cost to be Lower Class (per day) 5cp
Cost to be Lower Class (per Season) 9gp
Cost to be Middle Class (per day) 3sp
Cost to be Middle Class (per Season) 45gp
Cost to be Upper Class (per day) 8sp
Cost to be Upper Class (per Season) 138gp

*Traditionally, this would be 5% of wealth deposited per year, but the Season is only half the year and I'm including taxes and fees wherever possible. Invest wealth at a bank. Assuming the world doesn't end (and what are the chances of that), the bank will provide a nice stable income at the start of each Season.


Need money quickly? No problem! Loans are available at 100% interest per Season, due at the end of the Season. Take out a loan for 1,000gp and you'll need to pay back 2,000gp. If you only pay back 500gp, you'll need to pay back another 3,000gp the next Season, etc. Debt can rapidly spiral out of control. If you can't pay, the lender will accuse you of Theft (pg. ##) and put you on trial.

You can take out new loans to pay off old ones but eventually the lenders will get together and come after you with a vengeance.

Loans from friends, relations, and patrons charge 5-10% interest per Season but typically come with strings attached.