reagents Material in Scarterra | World Anvil


Reagents is a generic term for "things that can be turned into magical items or alchemical mixtures."


Geology & Geography

Reagents can be found almost anywhere but they are most concentrated near fonts of magical energy which is why most governments or creatures that happen to claim a magical font as their own will police their land carefully for reagent poachers.   Outside of magical fonts, reagents tend to be more common in wild unsettled areas than civilized well-settled areas. The major exception is reagent gardens which are almost exclusively a product of the civilized world but it takes a lot of labor and specialized knowledge to cultivate a reagent garden.

History & Usage

Everyday use

"Common reagents" refer to reagents usable for potions, scrolls, alchemical items, and other expendable magical items and "durable reagents" refers to reagents that can be used for permanent or at least long lasting magical items like wands, magic swords, and the like.   In many cases, reagents are a currency in and of themselves and many will accept reagents as payment in lieu of coin.

Cultural Significance and Usage

To use a modern analogy, in reagents on Scarterra are like petroleum on Earth. In that they are a valuable resources that is hugely sought after in trading deals and are often a coveted prize that precipitates armed conflict.   Spell casters, be they mages or theurgists are powerful and influential but they cannot be everywhere at once and they have finite daily limits to their powers, and the creation of magical items, especially potions and scrolls allows even a common soldier to essentially keep a support spell in his pocket for a tense situation.  
Alchemists can also use reagents in their mixtures, be they offensive or violent mixtures such as poisons, flash bangs, smoke bombs, alchemist's fire or more peaceful mixtures such as alchemical food preservatives, glues, dyes, and medicines.   Alchemists can even create reagents out of more common materials but this process is so expensive and time consuming that this is normally only done as a last resort.
by Eron 12 with Hero Forge
by Neshik's Player with Hero Forge
Adventurers and high level professional soldiers alike frequently seek to keep potions and magic scrolls on hand so they can emjoy a critical and often lifesaving edge in combat. Even if the warriors are spell casters themselves, no single spell caster can do everything so those that can afford to do so will keep potions or scrolls on hand for magical abilities that they cannot do themselves.


Reagents, especially plant and fungus based reagents need to be harvested and processed very carefully in order to avoid being partially or completely wasted.   Some rare plants can only be made into usuable reagents if they are harvested on specific times such as one plant that needs to be harvested under the light of a full moon or another that must be harvested under the darkness of a new moon. Some reagents are more potent if they are harvested on specific calendar days, such as the so called "Tween Days".   If a reagent is harvested from a rare animal, the beast often needs to be hunted and slain by specific ritualistic means in order to maximize the potency of the reagents harvested.   If a magical beast is hostile and dangerous, most adventurers and soldiers don't care about these ritualistic means. They will remove the threat and harvest whatever they can, but hunters who are specifically out to obtain reagents will usually follow the ritual protocol (if they are aware of them).

Environmental Impact

Most fae, magical beasts, and to a lesser extant spirits have some capacity to have reagents extracted from them.   A lot of magical beasts have been driven to the point of extinction by relentless reagent hunters and some nature loving groups such as the Stewards of the Dominion will often try to defend endangered magical creatures or enact acts of vigilante justice against unscrupulous reagent dealers.  
Fair Folk can be slain and reagents harvested from the remnants left behind and they are naturally very disgusted and enraged by mortals killing Fair Folk for something lowly as reagents though more than a few are hypocrites who will not hesitate to harvest reagents from rival Fair Folk they have slain. Most Fair Folk have little issue harvesting reagents from lowly sprites, but they don't like to share this resource with mortals.
  Spirits are difficult to harvest reagents from because they are virtually indestructible and normally return to the Aetherial Realm to reform when "slain". Usually reagents obtained from spirits are done so peacefully. A unicorn might shed hairs near a worthy mortal who provided some service for nature.

Reusability & Recycling

Common reagents are pretty fragile and are almost impossible to recover once expended but durable reagents are...durable.   Even a broken magical sword can usually be carefully melted down to recover most of the regeants and repurposed for another magical item later. It is more difficult to scavenge resuable reagents from a destroyed magic cloak however.


Trade & Market

by Me with Hero Forge
Typically, reagents are traded in terms of "drams" but drams is a ambiguous that it takes a degree of education simply to understand. Most commoners recognize reagents as having value, but they rarely know if they are holding 10 drams worth of reagents or 100 drams of reagents. Thus, reagent dealers practice a very specialized trade, and they are not always trusted because they are rarely fully understood.   A single hair of a unicorn may be worth as many as fifty drams of reagents and weighs next to nothing. Alternatively a pound of honey from a beeshive near a patch of faerie flowers might be worth fifty drams. Either way, the market value of fifty drams of reagents is usually 50 silver coins.
  Reagents vary widely. The same reagents used to make a healing potion are probably not the same reagents needed to animate an undead warrior. Unicorn hair might be materila to make an amulet of poison detection but it would not be particularly helpful in creating a sword that can summon a halo of fire.   A lot of reagent brokers make a good living as middlemen in helping spell casters and alchemists offload reagents they don't want for reagents they do want.

Law & Regulation

Stealing reagents is treated as stealing any other valuable property or resource.   Harvesting reagents from a noble's land without his permission is usually considered a very serious crime, even more so than hunting game on an noble's land without his permission.
  Dragons and other intelligent non-humanoids that claim reagent rich land rarely pass laws against reagent poachers but they will usually come down on tresspassers with brutal and often lethal force.
One silverpiece per dram
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Jul 11, 2023 08:25

Nice and well thought out article! Especially like the addition of environmental impacts of the harvesting. Must be quite hard for people to remember the rituals for the various reagents. Did they discover these methods over a long period of time or is it something passed down through religion rituals or something?

Feel free to check my new world Terra Occidentalis if you want to see what I am up to!
Jul 11, 2023 21:15

Reagents is something that sort of developed organically in my RPG beta test. Neshik the gnome emerged as the party leader in my first RPG campaign. Neshik's was a very heroic character that made potions on the side and I noticed Neshik usually refused payment of gold for his heroic acts, but Neshik's player and therefore practically drooled when offered reagents so I ended up making NPCs in similar vocations also prefer reagents over coins. We've been tinkering with the RPG mechanics ever since and I built lore around it.   As for if they discovered these methods over a long period of time or if they were passed down as religious rituals. The answer is kind of both. In a polytheist society, religious rituals are often created by trial and error. I would suggest reading Professor Devereaux's brilliant series on Practical Polytheism.   I'm still working on an article to formally integrate his information with Scarterra in a fairly succinct way. The baseline of Professor Devereaux's academic description on historical polytheist societies mostly works for Scarterra, but Scarterra is a world with actual magic, so that alters things.   I did base my agriculture article largely on one of Professor Devereaux's blogs. I think every World Anvilite should check his work out.  

How do most Scarterrans feed themselves?
Tradition / Ritual | Oct 11, 2023

overview of agriculture in Scarterra