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Hollow Moon Planetology: Blue Moon - Natural Resources

by Sharon Dornhoff

Matera's Natural Resources

The patron Immortals of the Hollow Moon worked great wonders, in making what was once the frozen, lifeless interior of an equally-frozen, lifeless satellite into a refuge for dying species. Planning well ahead, they provided the lunar world with water, fertile soil, (barely) adequate light for vegetation, and a climate which was livable albeit harsh. Nothing essential for life or growth was missing from Matera, once Ka and his allies finished terraforming the rocky inner surface of the Nearside; biologically, the lunar world seems much like Mystara, with complex and abundant ecosystems all its own. However, so far as the moon's geology was concerned, the Immortals saw no need to fix what wasn't broken or to change things from their original (i.e. Luna-like) state. The HM setting's barrenness in ancient times, though hidden beneath introduced plants and soils, has left its legacy in the rocks, metals, and the rarity or abundance of particular minerals ... including the total absence of materials such as gold (players' quote: "Say WHAT!?!?!"), a lack your PCs will definitely be concerned with!

Note that whenever possible, in designing the Hollow Moon, I've been using the genuine article -- our own Luna -- as a model. Some of the geological quirks which are presented below are actual features of our IRL moon; others are common-sense conclusions, based on what might or might not be true of a hypothetical Matera (e.g. given that the Hollow Moon was lifeless in the Carboniferous, deposits of organically-derived coal and petroleum haven't got any business being there! ;-D). My apologies in advance to any mineralogists in the audience, BTW -- I'm sure there'll be a HUGE mistake or two (or ten...) in this -- as I've never studied geology and had to go by what I read in library books, for this topic. Any suggestions or corrections, from those who know more about the subject than I do, are welcome.

The non-mineral resources of the Hollow Moon, such as timber and assorted plant or animal by-products, will be mentioned in posts about the regions where they are grown or exploited, if they weren't already covered in the previous two entries.

Lunar Geology 101: What's Missing, What's There

Compared to Earth, the IRL Luna is remarkably light: it's about one-eighth the Earth's size, yet weighs only one-fiftieth as much. The reason for this is that the moon contains virtually none of the heavy elements which occur on the planet it orbits, and its interior is much less dense that Earth's molten core. While neither Mystara nor Matera HAVE a solid core -- molten or otherwise -- Matera does resemble its IRL twin, Luna, in being devoid of heavy elements*. Originally, no element heavier than molybdenum (#42 on the periodic table) occurred naturally in the Hollow Moon; with the Immortals' handiwork, tin and iodine were also introduced, as necessary nutrients for life forms. A few substances, such as silver, have been brought to Matera in the possession of various races, so they turn up in (very valuable) finished goods, even though they can't be mined or otherwise obtained in nature. The heaviest pure element known to Materan alchemists is "resplendite" (iridium), which was present in its native state in the makeup of the ice-and-metal comet which broke through Mare Orientale.

(* - Conversely, the invisible moon Patera has an exceedingly high ratio of heavy elements in its core, which helps account for why the smaller moon's gravity has so great an effect on the larger one's climate and geodynamics. Mathematically-gifted astronomer-sages among the pachydermions of Patera have postulated that the two moons, if their material were thoroughly mixed, would have exactly the same density as Mystara.)

Thanks to this truncated table of elements, Matera doesn't have any of the prized metals -- gold, platinum, mithril, adamantite -- which OD&D/AD&D characters usually chase after; nor is there any lead, mercury, or uranium in the Hollow Moon. (On the positive side, nobody will be setting off any Blackmoor-style nukes there, either! ;-D) Silver is every bit as rare and precious, to lunar cultures, as platinum is on Mystara, and is used exclusively in jewellery or for the silvered weapons of professional monster-hunters, never as coinage. If brought to Matera, gold and platinum would be valued more as curiosities than as wealth per se; gnomish metallurgists or Modrigswerg alchemists might be the best market for such exotic materials, as well as for quicksilver. Despite its rarity, gold won't be nearly as attractive to lunar jewellery-makers as Mystarans might expect, given that its colour is rendered a rather flat grey-green, by lunar light. Lead, if anything, would be a LOT more valuable to practical-minded Materans than gold or platinum, once they learn of its usefulness in soldering and in constructing scry-proof containers and sanctums.

Besides a lack of heavy elements, lunar geology is less diverse than Mystara's in that sedimentary rocks are rare or, in the case of organic-derived deposits such as shale or limestone, completely unknown. Only in the geologically-recent past were there oceans inside the moon; consequently, there's been no time for seabeds to accumulate sediments or for silts to dry up and harden. (Not that the crystal-bottomed lunar seas have silted beds, in any case.) The Hollow Moon setting has no limestone, diatomite, or chalk, therefore no limestone caves or lime-derived metamorphic rocks like marble. Lunar sculptors must make due with fine varieties of jade, while the finest stone buildings are built out of porphyry. Gnomish pourstone (cement) uses perlite and pumice, in lieu of lime. Malachite and azurite are unknown on the moon. Soda ash for industry doesn't occur in mineral deposits and must be produced the old-fashioned way, by burning seaweed.

Other minerals are much less common on Matera than Mystara ... enough so, that adventurers might find their deposits worth watching for. Gypsum is valuable for making plaster and mortar, so the discoverer of a dried-up mineral spring might profit by searching the edges for these not-very-exciting crystals. Gemstones that aren't all that rare in the Know World can be real treasures to Materans, if they're also a product of water-based mineral deposition: chalcedony, agates, opals, turquoise, tourmalines, topaz, and peridots are all worth four to five times as much on the moon. The first three occur only in geodes, while the latter four types of gemstone are a product of the hydrothermal activity of the Stofler-Walter-Purbach-Arzachel range's many subterranean geysers. Sandstone (used mostly for millstones) and salt deposits are found in the Sohktar deserts, but small patches of these occur on other coastlines, and anyone who can spare other cultures from the manscorpions' exorbitant fees to obtain these materials will be rewarded. All of these minerals are rare, because they can only arise on Matera where a bay or hydrothermal spring has dried up: the moon's seas have never shifted, to leave encrusted crystals or sand behind.

The last category of minerals unknown to the Hollow Moon setting are fossil materials such as fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, petroleum), fuel-associated materials (jet, tar), and fossilised biological remnants (amber, petrified wood, non-glass corals). Materans use pine resins and sticky insect secretions as a tar-substitute for caulking and waterproofing, smelt ores by suspending them over volcanic crevices if charcoal won't provide enough heat to serve, and do without the rest of the listed materials. The Hollow Moon is much too young, as a life-supporting environmental system, to have fossils or fossil-related substances yet. Pearls are the only organically-formed gemstones which are found in the setting. Fuel-quality peat is available in great quantities in the far west, in Stygia, although increasing numbers of attacks upon peat-cutters, by yowlers, gargoyles, and worse, have led many to give up the practice in the last few years. Ivory can only be obtained from the teeth of primitive whales or of hippopotami -- or, for the truly ruthless and reckless, from khurki jakasta -- and is considered more valuable on the moon than on Mystara.

The Mare Orientale comet is the only celestial object ever to penetrate the moon's crystalline bedrock, BTW. Looking for meteoritic iron, or tektites of any kind, in this dome-enclosed setting is futile (and stupid!).

Lunar Metals and Minerals

Iron is abundant in the Hollow Moon, and it tends to contain trace amounts of nickel, making lunar steel highly corrosion-resistant. About 1% of Matera's native iron/nickel alloy has the property of natural magnetism, sufficient to disrupt compasses -- not that those ever point north on the moon, anyway -- and to catch the interest of gnomish engineers, who prize such magnets for their research in proportion to the metal's strength of attraction. Perhaps one deposit in a thousand of lunar iron ore actually contains elemental titanium, and steel forged from such ores has a +4 bonus on all saves vs breakage or melting. Native tin, nickel and zinc are scarce, but not enough so to be considered precious metals, on the moon; copper is common enough that it's considered a base metal, mined for its practical uses or for making alloys rather than for providing all-copper coinage. Native brass is quite abundant on Matera, though unknown as a natural alloy on Mystara, and is used even by primitive races such as the margasta, who know nothing of forging metals but can work raw metal into useful shapes. (In effect, Materans have a "Brass Age" technology, where other worlds would have a "Copper Age".) Brass is also prized in the more civilised cultures, which use it as a non-corroding material for ships' anchors, drainpipes, outdoor gates and fences, ceremonial weapons, and "litholichten" lanterns (see below).

In the absence of gold, platinum, and naturally-occurring silver, gemstones become the object of every Materan miner's ambition, and the foundation for currency among civilised lunar races. Copper or brass coins inset with chips of low-grade or flawed gems are the usual medium of exchange, within and between Matera's nations. Mystarans accustomed to the easy transaction of gold, silver, and copper pieces will be in for a shock, when they try to sort out the dozens of colours and types of gem-coins Materan merchants evaluate at a glance. Depending on the varieties of gemstone mined in a given region, the types of gems used in different nations' coinage vary enormously; to make matters worse, only a limited number of colours (clear, purple, blue, green, white, or black) are distinguishable under the deep-blue ambient light of the Hollow Moon, which makes a "ruby piece" look identical to a "black sapphire piece", to the uninitiated! Mystaran explorers whose groups include a skilled gemcutter/dealer -- or, at the very least, a dwarf who's grown up listening to such people's jargon -- will benefit greatly from such a character's advice on how to tell a quartz piece from a diamond piece. If no such help is available, at least they should learn pretty quickly to check all black- or grey-stoned coins under artificial light, to make sure that that Cacklogallinian's "emerald piece" isn't just cheap yellow corundum turned green by the Firmament's light.

And make no mistake: the Hollow Moon is a gem-hunter's paradise, despite its lack of sedimentary deposits. The vast majority of precious stones known IRL are of volcanic origin, and there's no place in the Mystara-Patera-Matera planetary system that's more incessantly-volcanic than the Nearside. Lunar gems generated by volcanic activity include diamonds, various corundums (ruby, sapphire, lesser colours; violet corundum is called "porphyre" and is prized like sapphire), beryls (includes emerald), jades and serpentines, as well as humble classes of stone such as quartz. Garnets and spinels -- both of which have been found in moon-rocks IRL -- are among Materans' most oft-worn gems, with the best, rarest colours being sought after enough to fetch prices in the league of beryl or jade. Lapis, olivine, zircon, and obsidians are other lesser gemstones typical of volcanic regions. Meershaum and andalusite aren't exactly rare, but they occur only at the bottom of boiling hot springs and can therefore be obtained only through magical aid -- or by enterprising kopru -- which greatly increases their price. Moonstone, a derivative of feldspar, is (of course!) very common on Matera ... except it's called pearlstone there, as HM races are in no position to see "the moon". :-)

Exotic Substances

Now that the Red Steel setting has set the precedent, no OD&D setting would feel quite complete without a few "magical minerals" of its own, that you can't find anywhere else. Matera is no exception, as it's got three materials which can be found there that are unique to the HM setting and have remarkable physical and/or magical properties. The one twist is that -- unlike vermiel, cinnabryl, and their umpty-odd alloys, mixtures, extracts and compounds -- none of these three Detects as "magic" in any way; in fact, two of them are 100% mundane substances which can actually be found in our own universe, while the third is magical only in the sense that it's got no counterpart IRL. Tough luck, trying to "dispel" these materials' special qualities.... ;-D

1) Resplendite: This is the Materan name for iridium, a platinum-like metallic element which was scattered all over the Nearside by the Mare Orientale comet, not long before Ka discovered the Hollow Moon and the Immortals began rendering it habitable. It's got a super-high melting point, for a metal, and is very brittle in its natural state, but can be worked via special gnomish or kopru smithing-techniques or through the use of magic. Resplendite is invulnerable to corrosion, such that it never succumbs to rust or acid ... not even if the effect is magical in origin. Steel items plated with resplendite also resist melting, getting a +8 to saves vs normal or magical fire. It's for both these reasons that the kopru go to great lengths to obtain resplendite, having their catspaws offer great wealth to those who sell or retrieve it: it's one of the only substances which can stand up to the boiling, sulphurous mineral waters of their hot springs on a long-term basis, hence a big asset for kopru toolmakers. (Also a potential weapon against them, which the kopru won't allow to remain in dryskin hands if they can prevent it!) Resplendite is a good material for constructing magic items that resist heat, rust, acid, or disintegration. This material is found all over the Nearside, but is usually too deep underground to mine on land, given that most of the setting's landscape has been buried under millennia of volcanic ash or lava in the time the cometary impact. On the crystalline seabeds, small fragments of resplendite can yet be discovered: buried in silt or beneath the bases of glass coral reefs; cemented into the abandoned tests of long-dead giant foraminiferans; encased in nodules of lighter metals, which condensed out of the seawater to ensheath the fragment in brass and iron; or even just sitting there, undisturbed, for thousands of years, patiently waiting to be stumbled upon.

2) Litholichten: The only lunar resource which a Mystaran has actually reported back to his home planet about -- although nobody believed Luftkapitan Kauser's report, for reasons which shall now become clear -- litholichten are a type of coarse quartz crystal which occurs both in the Nearside (now fairly rare, though they could once be found everywhere), and on the airless outer surface of Matera. Although it shatters much too easily for jewellers to perform fine work with it, this variety of quartz is desirable among any lunar race that employs non-magical vision (as opposed to infravision) as a primary or secondary sense. Most of these crystals have long since been harvested from the eastern half of the Nearside, where the trade-cities' demand for them is much greater than elsewhere, but there are substantial deposits of litholichten in the Mare Frigoris region, as well as smaller lodes to be had in the southwest, upland of Deslandres and Cynidicea.

Litholichten are non-magically luminescent*, glowing with a soft, silvery-bluish radiance that's much like moonlight on Mystara. Individually quite faint, the glow of multiple stones of this kind is cumulative, such that every 100 carats of litholichten lights a 1' radius area. A pound of stones will illuminate a 20' radius circle, with an intensity equal to twilight; at skybright, when outdoor conditions are already equal to twilight, litholichten make their immediate surroundings as bright as day, possibly causing pain to dark-loving races like goblins. A human or other night-blind creature within the radius of litholichten-light can see well enough to fight without penalties for darkness, although their vision isn't enhanced for anything which lies beyond the glow's radius (e.g. an opponent outside the light's range, should he/she be attacked with missiles from within the radius, still benefits from the night-blind character's "to hit" penalty for darkness). Because the stones' glow is so soft, a character who steps beyond its radius need not wait for his or her eyes to adjust to the dimness. The transition is so easy on the eyes, infravision-users continue to "see" heat after entering the light-radius; the stones, themselves, give off no heat as they glow. Underwater, their radius of illumination is only one-quarter as great. Their illumination can't penetrate fog or mist at all, although the litholichten themselves can be seen as spots of brighter fog/mist from distances of 2' or less.

Theoretically, litholichten can last forever, as their phosphorescent properties allow them to pick up ambient UV photons, and release them as visible light, indefinitely. If left in continuous darkness for weeks, the stones will gradually dim and go out, but they'll light up anew as soon as they are brought out-of-doors and can pick up more ultraviolet. Unfortunately, the chemical process which allows litholichten to glow is disrupted by contact with ferrous metals; iron atoms adhere to the stones' phosphorescent surfaces and interrupt the release of photons. Litholichten must therefore be excavated with brass or stone tools, stored in non-metallic containers away from iron objects -- which is why ol' Herr Kauser's breaking rocks for Heldannic fortresses, now! ;-D -- and mounted in sconces or portable lanterns of brass or copper, never iron or steel. Once a given litholicht, or a batch of them in a common lantern or sconce, have been touched by iron, they lose 1' of radius per hour until they are reduced to poor-grade, lightless quartz. They crumble into worthless crystalline grit, 1d4 days after going dark.

(* - Surprise! I didn't just make these things up; there are actual anecdotes about lunar quartz which demonstrated phosphorescent properties, physically glowing for several hours, after being collected by IRL astronauts with the Apollo program. These weird crystals really did glow a bluish-white colour that the astronauts compared to Earthly moonlight, and they really did gradually lose their phosphorescence after coming into contact with ferrous metal objects. According to the sources I've been reading, there wasn't anything special about the no-longer-glowing crystals' chemistry or structure, once they were brought back to Earth. It could well be that quartz which forms in an oxygen-free environment ALWAYS exhibits phosphorescence, and it's own planet's quartz that's weird, by the wider universe's standards. :-))

3) Murgvik Shards or Krystalle: Named for the Modrigswerg stonecutter who discovered these stones and first devised a means of mounting them in weaponry, these fragments of splintered rock are popularly known by the more-lyrical term "krystalle" (the "ll" is trilled). It's a pretty name for the material that makes up some very ugly weapons, although Murgvik shards also have their uses in carving hardstones such as granite, for those who can afford to have them mounted on handgrips as awls or chisels. The only place where Murgvik shards can be found on Matera is in the Rook and Cordillera Mountains, either inner world or outer, surrounding Mare Orientale. Many brave Materan adventurers have met their deaths, on the Oceanus Procellerum or in the boggy forests of Stygia, in bold and/or foolhardy attempts to journey into the Cordilleras and gather enough of these fragments to construct a weapon which will bring them victory over their foes. Murgvik shards in their natural state look like slender splinters of slightly opaque, black-tinted glass, rough around the edges and a bit irregular in shape; useably specimens vary in length from about two inches to as long as a human's forearm, although most are about as long as a human hand. They're obviously very sharp, and can cut through just about any material if you've got patience and don't mind that you'll probably injure yourself while doing so; but they really don't look like much to risk one's life for.

Appearances are deceiving. Murgvik shards are nothing less than splinters of the Materan Farside, smashed and scattered by the Mare Orientale cometary impact, sent flying into the moon's interior with more force than all of the Nearside's volcanoes erupting at once. Even as the shockwave of the impact sent the Cordillera and Rook Mountains bulging up around ground zero, the shattering crystal of the lunar bedrock exploded outward in a hail of narrow razor-shards, which sliced into the newborn mountains and drove themselves deep underground like a million superheated needles through butter. Most of them would remain permanently embedded in the encircling mountains' granite, but a small percentage came to rest in spots where erosion and ground-tremors would eventually bring them to the surface. It's these few bedrock-splinters, the ones that eventually work themselves free of the eroding rock and tumble down the mountainsides or get washed down by swift highland streams, which Materan shard-hunters gamble life and limb to retrieve. Individually, these fragments aren't much more than a nasty cut waiting to happen when you try to pick them up; but sufficient numbers can be mounted on a Modrigswerg-forged weapon's edge -- like a bizarre updating of the obsidian-edged Azcan war blade -- to create a non-magical cutting weapon that's the equal of some of the wickedest magic swords in the DMG. Not only do Murgvik shards retain the indestructible properties of Matera's crystalline bedrock -- while the metallic portion of such a weapon may be destroyed by spell or mishap, the shards themselves ALWAYS survive unless an Immortal deliberately destroys them -- but they are also incredibly sharp ... the closest thing to sci-fi monofilament wire which AD&D/AD&D characters are every likely to come across. Only the Modrigswerg of Matera have even learned to mount these things, without the shards' cutting their way right through the metal they're set into; anyone who lacks their skills is likely to lose fingers, merely by making the attempt! (Indeed, Murgvik was known as Murgvik Six-Fingers at the time of his death.) Because their material can't be broken or shaped to fit, individual shards must be carefully lined up to lie close to one another and form a single edge, each set into a socket shaped to fit its unique contours, and to grip it in such a way that blows don't drive it back into the metal. Scieranblades, as Murgvik-shard weapons are called, must be crafted individually, and the work cannot even begin until a complete set of shards has been assembled (five shards for ever hp of damage the desired weapon potentially inflicts; a dagger would require at least 20 shards for 1d4 hp damage, while a short sword needs 30 for 1d6). The moulder dwarves have been crafting these weapons for about seven centuries as of WotI, but there aren't more than a score of major scieranblades (i.e. not counting daggers or tools) in circulation at this time, plus another dozen or so which have been lost to their owners or to history. Most are swords of one type or another, but scieranblade axes, pole axes, daggers, spiked weapons, and cesti have all been designed or at least proposed at various times.

A scieranblade weapon's base damage is double what is normal for a weapon of its type. Strength bonuses to damage do not apply with such weapons, thanks to the constraint that the wielder not apply so much force the shards become jammed too far down in their sockets, but "to hit" bonuses and specialisation or weapon mastery benefits function normally. Scieranblades employed against an opponent who makes a parry/block manoeuvre have a %tile chance equal to their maximum damage (e.g. 16, for a scieranblade longsword) of cutting right through the opponent's weapon, minus 4% for each "plus" of magic which the parrying/blocking weapon possesses (artifacts and other scieranblades are immune). Likewise, the scieranblade-wielder may deliberately strike at the shield of an opponent and try to destroy it; the %tile chance of success is the same -- maximum damage minus 4% per "plus" of shield -- if a hit versus the opponent's normal armour class is scored. Deliberately striking at an opponent's weapon to destroy it is trickier, as it's usually quite obvious what the scieranblade-wielder is up to; there's a -4 "to hit" penalty when trying to cut another combatant's weapon in two, if they're not making it easy for you by parrying.

Because the material of which Matera's bedrock, and Murgvik shards, are composed is impenetrable to extraplanar beings, ethereal or astral movement, and other forms of planar overlap, scieranblades can strike creatures immune to non-magical weapons. In this respect, they are similar to red steel weapons. Against such creatures, their damage is reduced to normal for their weapon type -- i.e. not doubled -- although the odds of destroying an opponent's weapon or shield remain the same irregardless of whether or not that opponent is immune to mundane weaponry.

A scieranblade is perfect for cutting shackles from prisoners bound to dungeon walls, severing thick cables to drop one's enemies from the rickety bridge they've just chased you across, or (if you've got time) sawing your way through a portcullis that's fallen and trapped you in the villain's fort. Consider scieranblades to do triple damage to inanimate objects which aren't fighting back, provided it's shearing damage that's desired rather than bludgeoning or piercing. A scieranblade isn't much use for staving in a door, although it could possibly cut the hinges off if you're on the side of the door that has them.

Despite appearances, scieranblades aren't genuine magical items, just mundane weapons made of an extraordinarily sharp substance that's innately damaging to weapon-immune monsters (like silver vs lycanthropes). The blade's special powers cannot be dispelled, and work just fine within an Anti-Magic Shell or other magic-dampening effect. Once per Materan (18-month) year -- or once per ten adventures, which ever comes first -- a scieranblade must be tended to by an expert (Weaponsmith Skill 16+) non-Modrigswerg weaponsmith, or a Modrigswerg weaponsmith of at least average (Skill 11+) ability. Failure to have one's blade looked after at least this often gives a 5% chance per untended month, beyond the deadline, that a shard drops out of the scieranblade and is lost completely (35% chance) or must be re-mounted by its Modrigswerg maker (65% chance). So long as the shard is missing, the blade has a -3 to hit and cannot destroy opponents' weapons or shields. If a piece of a scieranblade's edge is lost beyond recovery, the only remaining way to repair the weapon is to find a new shard, disassemble the original weapon, and re-arrange the shards so that the replacement piece has a spot, then mounting them in their modified metal housing; this is essentially no different from crafting a whole new scieranblade.

Enchanted scieranblades are almost unheard of, but appropriate properties for such a weapon include Wounding or Sharpness, or the ability to destroy the armour one's enemy is wearing.