Colours of Magic

I'm looking at rules for #downtimes, in particular the creation of minor magical items. I'm happy with magic items being born and not made, but for consumables such as potions and scrolls I want PCs to be able to make them during downtime, but need to limit supply.

In the 1E DMG Gary requires monster parts for potions, scrolls and spell research. This is clearly a way to drive players back into the dungeon and keep supply linked to risk.

For scrolls not only do you have to buy some (admittedly not very expensive) fancy paper and pluck a harpy to make your quill, you also have this wonderfully convoluted process for making the ink:

And who can say this doesn’t rock? I love that Gary stayed up all night coming up with the precise ritual for making the ink for a Protection from Petrification scroll. It reads like a schoolgirl’s recipe for a love potion and I say that with nothing but admiration.

From a practical point of view, it’s hard to see this ever getting used. Once you’ve fought the medusa, the basilisk, and the cockatrice you simply aren’t going to need a Protection from Petrification scroll – either you’re already a statue, or you’re already pretty good at not being turned to stone.

Since scrolls are essentially additional charges of your existing spell repertoire, I decided to use a more forgiving resource bottleneck – you can make spell inks out of just the crushed gemstones. And we already have a table that sorts gems neatly into 8 colours, and there are 8 schools of magic, so we can create a little extra bottleneck there by requiring the colours to match.

The next step was to assign a colour to each school:

Divination White Evocation Red Transmutation Warm Abjuration Green Conjuration Blue Enchantment Purple Necromancy Black Illusion Prismatic

White gems (with the exception of pearls) suit divination because of their clarity. The association of red with fire and energy is straightforward. Warm was one I had to ask some help with, but then a friend mentioned the philosopher’s stone-

It is often said to be orange (saffron colored) or red when ground to powder.

-so that gives us transmutation. Green seemed to have associations of safety, protection, and occasionally curses. Blue is the colour of water, from which all things spring (at least if you side with Thales) and purple is the colour of mind and psionics because my partner, Lady Amethyst, said it is, and who am I to say otherwise?

Thus, we have a concrete list with at least least a slight rationale for each association. Now I just have to figure out the right value of gem dust per level of inscribed spell to make the system appealing without leaving the party awash with scrolls.

The generated image above has confused the quill with the ink, and sparkling ink with ink made out of sparks, but that gives me the idea that perhaps scroll inks aren’t strictly physical, and it’s not the physical dust of the gem that is invested into the scroll, but its sparkle, its very lustre, extracted by some arcane means.