A Cut Above Crystal Catalysts

By Rich Kirkland and Scott Moore


The following rules change and illuminate the crystal catalysts found in the Essence Companion. The basic premise behind crystal catalysts is that certain crystals naturally capture and store essence that spell casters can use in spell casting. Each crystal can only be used for specific categories of spells.

In the rules presented in the Essence Companion, crystal catalysts are ranked by gem type and gem size and nothing else. These rules suggest that a raw and uncut gem is significantly more powerful than a finely cut and polished stone, since the process of cutting and polishing a stone actually reduces the size of the gem (typically by 60 percent). While there may be some instances where an unusually shaped crystal would be preferable in its natural shape, most stones increase in beauty, luster, and brilliance through cutting and polishing. The process of cutting a stone allows light to enter and refract out of the stone with more brilliance and character. So along that line, why wouldn't certain gem cuts increase (or decrease) the ability of a gem to collect or contain essence. Also, natural phenomena such as minor flaws and clarity of the stone should also impact the power and beauty of a given gemstone. The following rules account for all of these factors. A GM is welcome to apply these rules for crystal catalysts or even just to modify the value of gemstones.

Before we begin, though, let me stress that stone cutting has always been a painstaking and careful process. A mis-cut on a fabulous diamond could ruin its value. Most apprentices serve under a master for over 10 years before being allowed to work on precious stones. Apprentices watch the master, polish stones and work with settings for the stones before learning to cut. So if player characters plan on using their stone crafting gemcutting skill, don't make it a routine maneuver.

As I pointed out earlier, most rough gemstones in real life are reduced by 60 percent for a proper cut. For simplicity, I have made this 50 percent for these rules(since I like math I can do in my head). Cut gemstones are much more brilliant and appealing than rough gemstones or even the smoothed cabachons. The increase in value suggested may even be conservative when you consider the carrying cost of the typical gem cutter or jeweler. And never forget the rarity of the skill required to cut a stone properly. Consider the fact that the earliest record of a cut stone in the real world comes from the 14th century. Prior to this stones were smoothed in a tumbler to make cabachons or possibly engraved or carved into cameos. The process of cutting stones has continued to improve over the centuries, so finding a good lapidary (gem cutter) is not a simple task.

Since I was unable to determine the basis for gem values in the Treasure Companion, I have made the assumption that the carat values reflect a cut gemstone and not a rough gemstone. For this reason, all adjustments to value presented in this chart assume the starting value is a cut stone. So an average rough gemstone is only 25 percent of the per carat value of the finished stone.

Any adjustment to power can modify any one of the following (GMs decision for his campaign): maximum number of charges, number of power points each charge contains, or even the number of charges the gem receives from each Charge spell provides to the stone.

One final note (before the charts intimidate anyone), these charts are only needed once for each gemstone. The GM should roll these factors during setup to speed gameplay.

The first step is to determine the quality of the gemstone. The following table provides an indication of the clarity and purtiy. A GM may wish to allow a player with gemcutting skills to cut a stone out of a flawed stone to provide a smaller less flawed stone, but the reduction in size should be at least 50 percent.


The effect of the purity and clarity on the crystal for catalyst purposes is summarized in the following two charts. This is directly changes the rules presented in the Essence Companion, but provides greater variety in gem power.


After the clarity and purity are determined, the cut of the stone is the final determinate in the gemstone value and power. The following table outlines the various gemstones along with the various modifiers.


Final Notes

The changes in power points contributed by common stones is very much intentional.

Common stones generally gain no benefit from cutting, clarity, or purity. The above rules mainly apply to translucent gemstones, though opaque stones are very appropriate candidates for cabochons, glyph stones, and cameos.

 Editor's Note

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