Groundbreaking – Ancil’s Alchemical Armory

Clang, clang, clang, hisssssss. “Ah, the sounds of a smithy in action. That, my boy, is an honest way to earn a living. Unfortunately, there will always be fighting to be done, and where there’s fighting, there’s a need for armor. Let’s step in and see if they …”. The man’s voice trailed off as he opened the door, the sight of the smithy absolutely confounded the image that he was expecting to see.

Randal here, back for more Groundbreaking. Today I wanted to just do something simple and provide something that you would see in Lakeside Proper, but could easily be ported to any other game/campaign. I hope you enjoy!

A Basic Blacksmith Forges are generally a rather simple affair. You need a source of heat, something to contain that heat that won’t melt, something harder than the metal you are working with to hammer against and with, and a way to cool the metal. The high heat usually needs a fair amount of room to dissipate, often meaning a large open space that is generally well ventilated, especially if there is a roof. This most often comes in the form of a stone or brick fireplace with a hearth, bellows, cooling tank, and an anvil. Depending on the specific work there are numerous other implements and tools, including a variety of hammers and tongs. Quite often, your local smith is also your local farrier, and so their shop might have an open front, high ceiling, and a hitching post. I know there is more variety and that I could have provided more details, but I just wanted a baseline for how different this place was going to be.

The Shop Ancil’s is no ordinary blacksmith’s shop. First of all, they deal in far more than iron, and in fact, they rarely work with iron because they are constantly busy with commissions for far more difficult to work metals. A quick look around their shop makes it very obvious that they don’t shy away from difficult orders, and a longer look reveals that their work is impeccable. Second of all, they don’t use a flame to heat the metals that they work with. With so many businesses operating on the waters of the lake, people don’t bat an eyelash anymore when they see some shop or activity on stilts above water that they would never have thought could operate as such. Ancil’s, on the other hand, still manages to surprise traveler’s (and even some locals that don’t get out much).

The shop is a two-story building located on the shelf, looking out over the lake, and is more solid and sturdy than many expensive buildings in the neighborhood. The front of the shop includes a door and one large window, containing the largest pane of glass in the city, that allows passers-by to look in on the craftsmen as they work. The interior walls of the first floor are covered in some of their more common products, those that they regularly work on and keep in stock. Scattered around to maximize space but allow for movement are variously sized and shaped mannequins wearing various pieces to show how they look on a body, and also to encourage trying them on. You can usually find any common metal items, however they are usually made with a variant allows instead of simple iron or steel.

What really draws the attention, however, is the completely out of place and oversized alchemical lab in the center of the room. In the center of the room, the floor descends several feet (simple wooden steps) until it is even with the water level below; you can see the water seep through the gaps in the planks as somebody steps or the waves beneath move. In the center of this lowered area is a series of glass bulbs, flasks, funnels, and condensers that appear to be floating on the water, that contain liquids and gasses of various colors that are bubbling or hissing or smoking at various degrees of vigor. In the middle of it all, is a pair of giant kiln shaped pieces of glass with glass chimneys that lead up through a large opening in the ceiling (along with a number of other, smaller glass tubes) to the second floor and beyond. It is in these large kilns that the smiths alternate between heating and cooling their materials as they work them.

Ancil There is no Ancil. Ancil’s is operated by a local born and raised brother (Antoin) and sister (Cecilia) that attended college in a distant capital city. They said Ancil is not a combination of their names, but nobody believes them. They had different primary studies, but were eventually drawn to alchemy before they graduated, ultimately taking it up as their focus. Children of successful merchants, they knew the drawing power of something new and gimmicky and so formulated the idea of Ancil’s shop before they were even able to master the skills they would need. Antoin dabbled in Arcana and magical crafting while Cecilia became obsessed with the “duality of metallurgy and woodworking”, as she called it.

The Process Because of the cost of bringing wood up to the caldera, it can be expensive to run a forge in Lakeside Proper, and even more so to run one out on the water. The popularity of alchemy brought with it more and more ideas and formulas, as well as a larger supply of reagents that lowered the overall cost of entry and experimentation. Once that lowered cost neared the rising costs of running a forge on the water, the market was ready to take the plunge (so to speak). The various reagents used to create the heat needed to work with these difficult metals and alloys are all stored on the second floor where they are carefully measured and poured into the various tubes (all properly labeled and separated to avoid confusion). It was discovered that by spacing the administration of different compounds, they fumes from one reaction could be used to fuel the next reaction, and so a cascade of chain reactions is essentially the fuel that keeps the temperatures up. Because the metals are working in bubbling chemicals or gasses, as opposed to open flame, and cooled in similarly frigid chemicals and gasses, their makeup can be altered more readily than with simple heat. Additionally, the temperatures can be more easily regulated to a specific degree and turned on or off at a moment’s notice, unlike the amount of time and effort it takes to properly heat a kiln or forge.

The Products Ancil’s is known for producing the best of quality items, as well as creating alchemical or magical items by commission. Any metal equipment found in the Core Rulebook can be found, but normally iron items function like both cold iron and alchemical silver while any steel items function as mithral. They can work with any material brought before them, and are actually looking to work on their first piece of orichalcum; so much so that they are willing to throw in a free property rune just for the opportunity.

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Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at!