Sunday, March 8, 2015

Another rejected Magic Item (The Cauldron of Decadence)

I gave it a shot and submitted a magic item for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Ref Book. It got rejected, so I thought I'd at least share it on the blog. The pictures I chose are either harmless or art but might be considered NSFW if boobies are a problem (even though it is in a artsy way ...). Please consider that this is written with having a pseudo-historical horror setting in mind, so evil deeds are described in this (I know it's not everyone's cup of tea, so there you go, you are warned). Either way, if you're into LotFP-products this should be harmless. Judge for yourselves if it's any good  :)

The Cauldron of Decadence

This big and richly ornamented kettle is the original witches cauldron. But instead of bestowing the owner (as countless legends would make one believe) with ultimate power, the benefits one might have by using the cauldron are mere side effects and it's true power - although most will realize it only way too late - is the corruption of those souls that have contact with it. A very subtle poisoning, starting with harmless orgies and ending with giving administrative bodies to the horse* one shares a bed with or burning down the city while eating pickled children and sending out drunk soldiers to kill the opposition and rape the rest.

Every time the cauldron is used (that is, something prepared in it is consumed), the ecstatic rush a character experiences will grand xp per level (500 per level for the owner, 100 for those participating), but only if the use trumps its former appliance in decadence (which starts with preparing a soup in it and might end with something like cooking a pregnant woman, calling it an "exquisite delicacy" and applauding the ceremony the whole time).

The owner's level corresponds with the reach the Cauldron of Decadence has (xp in meters, one percent of that for the years to come), which means that anything produced in/with the cauldron might travel as far as that and the same goes for stories of the owner's exploits or legends of it xp in days.

It's quite addicting and finding out how to get that kick (the xp and the ecstasy) is very easy, as that soup offered the first time won't taste as good the second time until you do something different, like hitting a servant during the meal. But hitting the servant won't do it the next time and you'll need something else to get that kick, spiraling down every time, getting more powerful every time, affecting more and more people every time. Using it will ALWAYS leave the user with the urge to use it again and experience that rush again (it is an addiction after all) which will naturally lead to experimenting how it could be achieved.

"Orgy of the Times of Tiberius on Capri" by Henry Siemiradzki [source]
The addiction, however, is never associated with the cauldron itself, but with the owner instead (who himself believes he's the center of the universe, too). Resisting the cauldron is very difficult, but not impossible. The effects, the addiction and how difficult it is to resist very much depend on the exposure to the cauldron:
  • Just sniffing at it allows for an easy save (depending on how long it hasn't been used, something between a bonus of +1 for recently and +5 for decades ago). A failed save will result in a mild addiction with the urge to use the cauldron for cooking and claim ownership of it. People will fight and kill each other to substantiate this claim.
  • Inhaling the fumes for the first time while it is in use allows for an unmodified save. Failing that save will result in a form of intoxication that, much like alcohol would, will make a person willing to participate in everything that might go down during an orgy. The owner will be accepted as long as he keeps using the cauldron on a regular basis.
  • Consuming something produced in the cauldron will result in a severe addiction if a save complicated by the owner's level is failed. This will mean a total and unquestioning loyalty to the owner up to killing those opposing him and his exploits, but in general stopping at nothing to make those exploits happening. If that means giving your own son to be cooked for a soup than that's what's going to happen.
A save is allowed with every new use, but every failed save increases the difficulty furthermore by +1. If the owner somehow manages to get off of the addiction (regardless of the difficulty, a natural 20 would do that), he will stop using the cauldron and might even realize that the item is somehow responsible (there is a very slim chance for this to happen, so it's Int-check minus 10). If he realizes that the cauldron somehow machinated all that evil, he might try to destroy it. However, those still addicted will start intriguing, fighting and killing for the ownership as soon as the owner is free of his addiction.

Once this save is made, half the experience gained by using the cauldron is lost (which manifests through a paralyzing weakness and nausea for a number of days equal to the levels gained). This loss may be avoided by consuming another dose from the cauldron immediately (not longer than level times 10 minutes after the successful save) and fail that save.

Every week passing without being able to consume something from the cauldron allows for another unmodified save. Failing that save will result in some depraved deeds in the desire to relive the former high. A character will have no control over his actions in this and the DM is free to decide the dark places this might go. One successful save will end the addiction.

Décadence by Gerard Rancinan [source]
The Cauldron of Decadence has the most obscure origins. Is it a dark gods idea of a practical joke or the result of a curse uttered by the lips of a betrayed and dying emperor? Many legends exist about it, but there is few that they seem to agree upon. One fact that comes up every so often in countless variations is that those using it will loose their soul in doing so. As a matter of fact, the souls of those dying in or by consuming something from the cauldron will fuel the cauldrons dark power (a character loosing his soul this way can not be raised from the dead, of course). The ecstasy felt by those using the cauldron is drained from the poor souls trapped inside.

Incidentally, destroying the cauldron (a difficult task, but not impossible) would free all those tortured souls upon the world. The consequences of such an act would be of the world shattering kind.

There are several possible ways to introduce this item in a campaign world. It's evil power helped engineering the rise and fall of several empires. It's not hard to imagine what a witch could do with such a thing (controlling demons, for instance) and what consequences it might have on a setting. Players could either find and sell it, fall to it's dark power and rise an empire (or die trying) or even try to destroy it, with all the consequences this might bring. But it might even be about a fake cauldron or just some bottles of wine produced with the cauldron that cause mayhem in a setting.

*This did actually happen, as Caesar Caligula not only threatened to make his horse a senator, but also (according to Cassius Dio) appointed him a priest. History is strange that way ...

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