lead Material in Scarterra | World Anvil


Lead is a relatively common metal in Scarterra and real world earth. It's also easy to mine and shape.   In modern Earth, lead costs about a third of copper. In Scarterra, it is roughly 80% to 90% as valuable as copper. It has metaphysical properties that are situationally useful but the main reason lead is comparable more expensive is because mining and processing it is fairly dangerous.


Physical & Chemical Properties

Lead is a relatively soft, heavy, and easy to shape metal.   Lead is well known to be to be toxic. Lead can be safely handled and touched but it should not be consumed or inhaled. Even small doses of lead poisoning can cause serious long-term effects.   The most exotic property of lead is its ability to block magical divinations.   A quarter inch of lead will block any and all forms magical divination spells, from the direction the lead is at least. A magical diviner can normally walk around a lead obstruction with little problem.   Long range divination (scrying) can be blocked by a much smaller and thinner amount of lead. Framing an area with a lead lining is usually sufficient.   Any area at a high risk of lead contamination is probably also at least partially warded from magical scrying, whether the occupants want it that way or not.

Geology & Geography

by me with Hero Forge
-Hallmar Snowview, freelance miner
"Most commercially viable sources of lead are from "lukewarm" mines fed directly by the elemental plane..   There are also scattered "cold" deposits of lead throughout Scarterra. These deposits are usually much smaller than elementally active lead mines, but they also are much safer to mine as the area probably doesn't have lead particles in the air and water.
  When "cold" lead deposits near the surface, lead can be mined safely without any special training or precautions. I'm not sure the specifics, shortly after the death Vladimir the Conqueror, some human wizard researched a specialized spell to find cold lead deposits. Basically they sweep over random areas and look for resistance to their scrying. These spots usually indicated a cold lead deposit nearby.   I don't know if this spell was every used outside of West Colassia, but it was used extensively here. They surely didn't get all the lead deposits, but they probably got all the easy lead deposits. That means most of the rest of the shallow lead deposits are in the Great Colassian Tundra...talk about a "cold" ore deposit.   Lead just isn't valuable enough to trek that far into the deep wilderness to get it. Just hire a team of dwarves and they can operate an underground mine safely. You'll save money in the long run.

Origin & Source

by Eron12 with Heroforge
-Zajac of the Fumayan Lanterns
Lead mining is dangerous and either takes very careful mining techniques to avoid exposing workers to lead poisoning, or it involves using a highly expendable workforce.   Dwarves have trained lead miners that take extensive safety precautions. Most non-dwarven mining operations use slave labor or indentured convict labor (which only a few survive).
  If a person or group wants lead and does not want to engage in working slaves to death, they will frequently buy lead from a middleman.   Some will pay extra to ensure their lead was "ethically mined", but most prefer do not look too deep into where their lead comes from for an aura of plausible deniability. Everyone likes sausage, until they see how it's made.

History & Usage


By the end of the Second Age, most of Scarterra was well aware of the dangers of lead poisoning and largely stopped using lead except as an aid to block scrying. But the knowledge of lead's properties was mostly lost during the Second Unmaking.   For much of the Red Era of the Third Age, most Scarterrans (especially humans), had no idea how dangerous lead could be and used lead in a great many things because it was easy to mine and work with. Some historians speculate that lead poisoning is largely responsible for the downfall of the mythical Fakhari Empire.  
In the Feudal Era, the chronic ill health effects of consuming or inhaling lead particles are fairly well known thanks to the evangelism of Tapukeah Nicola. She also taught how Purification magic can mitigate lead poisoning but it needs to be used at frequent intervals if the subjects in question are continually exposed to lead inhalation.
by me with Midjourney
  This doesn't mean that people in power always take precautions to not give people lead poisoning. It means that lead poisoning is a known quantity. Since taking proper precautions is expensive and time consuming, Lead mining and sometimes lead handling is considered work for slaves or individuals being punished.

Everyday use

Lead is fairly heavy and soft and is situationally useful because it is easy to shape and work with relative to other metals.   Long range divination, (in other words scrying), can be stopped by a prepared structure if there are at least two band of leads lining the walls. This usually means one about a a quarter inch thick lead band about one inch tall where the wall meets the floor and another inch where the wall meets the ceilings.   Lead lining is usually painted both for aesthetics and to provide a tiny measure of protection from lead contamination.

Cultural Significance and Usage

Nuldrun Dragon by Eron12 using Hero Forge
-Nuldrun Dragonbane, freelance castle engineer
"Compared to the overall cost of building a castle or temple, the cost of installing lead lining is a pittance.   Most castles and homes of the elite or political have lead lining in every part of the structure to prevent scrying. It almost goes without saying the same lead lining that stops divination from coming in also stops divination from going out. If a castle has a diviner on its payroll, they probably have at least one tower that is not lined with lead.
  Some lords and ladies get sneaky, and will only selectively ward part of their castle, that way they can spy on their guests and servants while keeping their own dirty laundry hidden. If a castle builder is especially frugal or is extra paranoid about lead lining, he might only comission a single lead lined room for sensitive meetings.   As long as no one is licking the walls, there really isn't any threat of lead poisoning though many structures opt to keep children's rooms and the kitchen free of lead lining.   I don't know the metaphysics of it, but lead lining only provides complete protection on enclosed rooms with a roof. Putting lead lining into a town wall will not prevent outside mages from scrying on people in the town, though it makes scrying a little blurry. It also make it harder for people in the town to scry outward.   It's still worth it to put a lead lining in a town wall in my opinion. If you are warding a wall with abjuration spells, the lead will block attempts to identify what the wall is or isn't warded with. You can even bluff to your enemies into thinking that a non-magical is magical by putting lead lining in it.

Industrial Use

by Eron12 with Hero Forge
-Bevan, Swynfaredian alchemist
Turning lead into gold is not a true goal of alchemists...at least not most alchemists.   Turning lead into gold is a two pronged metaphor. First it is a metaphor for spiritual transformation, turning something common and base into something pure and valuable.   Second, it is a metaphor for an impossible or nearly impossible task.
  Transforming useless things into useful things, and accomplishing the impossible is what alchemy is all about.   Metaphors aside, lead is what we call in the trade call an 'alchemical insulator'. It is highly resistant but not completely immune to most alchemical processes. That means we use a lot of lead containers and lead tools as part of many basic alchemical processes.   Lead items are not super durable and lead implements need to be replaced often, but all things considered, lead is one of the cheaper esoteric materials we use as part of the alchemist trade.


Lead can be touched without risk, but lead particles should be inhaled or consumed. Lead poisoning causes long-term physical and mental hardships over time.     Divine Purification magic can help mitigate risks of lead poisoning.   Casting Purification magic on a lead object normally does nothing.   Purification ● can detect poisons or toxins. So can the arcane Divination spell "Detect Poison". Such magic can detect the presence or absence of lead, but only with five or more successes on the roll. Lead blunts magical divination, and it is difficult for a theurgist to recognize the difference between "nothing is there" and "something is blocking me".   Purification ●● clear lead particles out of a quantity of water or food. Roughly double the normal quantity for desalinating seawater or removing more overtly deadly poisons.   Purification ●●● can clear a person who was recently exposed to lead poisoning, a month or so exposure with a good roll.   Curing someone with chronic and systemic lead poisoning requires Purification ●●●●●. In this case it won't fix all their problems, it will fix most of the physical symptoms but it won't restore lost attributes or remove mental derangements caused by lead induced brain damage, but at least things will stop getting worse.


Trade & Market

Typically lead bars trade for around 4 silver pieces a pound. In some cases people will pay 5 or 6 silver pieces a pound if they can be assured that the lead was "ethically mined". Prices also go up about 10 to 15% in areas where magical scrying is relatively common such as Swynfaredia, Kahdisteria, and Uskala.
by Me with Midjourney


Ideally lead is stored in watertight, mostly air tight areas to provide people from drinking or inhaling lead particles.   In practice, lead is often stored in less than ideal conditions.

Law & Regulation

Sale, mining, and transportation of lead is completely legal in nearly every Scarterran locale though many places have laws against making lead utensils, cookware, or any other use that seems likely to lead to lead poisoning.   Because of it's associations with counter-espionage, shipping a large quantity of lead is often suspicious even if it's not illegal per se. Those who are possessing large amounts of lead are often viewed as suspicious and heavily scrutinized (by non-magical means of course)


4 silver pieces/pound
Melting / Freezing Point
Common State
Related Locations
Related Technologies

Cover image: by me with Midjourney


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