Saturday 6 April 2013

Any Sufficiently Advanced Chemistry

.... is indistinguishable from alchemy. I've taken the six miracle substances from this recent Cracked magazine article and found a couple of fantasy-world uses for each one.

Gallium, the Metal That Melts in Your Hand

1. Obviously, heat-sensitive tripwires.
2. Cool way to seal a flask.
3. Reptiles or golems or undead are blocked by this wall, warm-blooded creatures can melt their way through it.
4. Stand here for too long and the heat from your boots will trap your feet in the cube of metal underfoot.
5. Gallium also reacts with aluminum to make it brittle. Imagine that a similar reagent exists for each metal - who needs lockpicking skills? Imagine a self-destroying golden treasure.
6. A metal bridge that you can blow with a tea kettle at each end.

Sulphur Hexafluoride, 
The Gas Heavy Enough to Float Solid Objects

1. It's what's under your floating disk.
2. Take the 100' leap of faith down; the heavy air will cushion your fall, but then breathing becomes a problem as you climb the 10' ladder to the passage onward.
3. It makes your voice deeper, kind of an anti-helium. Kobolds huff this stuff and hide to make people run from the "loud, singing giant around the corner." 
4. Floating skull! Run!

Hydrophobic (Water-Repelling) Surfaces

1. A necessary coating for underwater adventurers' spellbooks, bows, etc.
2. A corridor floor coated with this, then a trap dumps a blob of water, which races towards you like an Indiana Jones boulder. When blood spills on the floor, it beads and skitters like water on a hot griddle.
3. Invisible fishtank: foot-deep water on the floor surrounded by a hydrophobic zone. Will they figure out that this is the safe place to be when pursued by that water elemental?

Spontaneously Exploding Powders and Crystals

1. What's this smoky gray gem ... BAM
2. What's all this funny colored sand ... BAM
3. Bad guy to captive in10x10 room: Hold this. Don't move.
4. Explodes with shock wave from loud noise... best door opening deterrent.

Hot Ice (clear liquid that turns solid and white when disturbed)

1. Let me just stick my foot into this pool of clear water ... Oh.
2. If you can find a way to carry it around in a flask without bumping it, you have an instant door sealant, hole plugger, etc.
3. Sprayed from the ceiling, is an encasement trap.

Memory Metal

1. Clue, command word, true name, etc. written in cursive script as a twisted piece of wire that only needs an application of heat to snap back into the real letters
2. The same, but forms a key to a mechanical lock.
3. A strip of metal formed into an innocuous looking wristband expands and sharpens into an assassin's blade when placed in warm water.
4. A tangled wire ball placed in a piece of cold meat and fed to a mighty beast will, in its warm stomach, resume its former shape of a jagged, four-pointed cross.


  1. Nice ideas, those! I would also wonder about the effects of various dessicants, preservatives, etc.

  2. That kobold voice trick is a real keeper. I'm already building a running encounter around it in my head. Also memory metal as a clue or key is inspired.

    Gallium cuts both ways - if an essential object was composed of it (say, a key or clue), it would be destroyed if touched by someone warm-blooded. Good way to keep non-reptilian adventurers from using the keyring they managed to steal from their lizardfolk captors.

  3. Amazing !
    The tangled wire ball reminds me the whalebones that Inuits used to utilize for hunting.